Remember those old locomotives from Maryland

that the T hailed as a temporary solution to the commuter rail's reliablity problems.

Well, I've learned from a reliable source (retired MBCR employee who's a friend of mine) that, at the direction of T management, the MBCR has taken all those locomotives out of service, and they will be heading back to Maryland early Saturday morning.

The reason for this - mechanical problems that made the locomotives too unreliable to operate.

Perhaps the T and MBCR should have taken heed of this statement from a 1980s ElectroMotive Division advertisement - A 40 year old rebuilt locomotive is still a 40 year old locomotive.

Ed. note: MBTA says no, not the case. See comments for the T's response.



    Free tagging: 


    MBTA says it never intended to keep the locomotives

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    I asked Joe Pesaturo at the T about this. His response:

    The information you have posted from "roadman" is completely inaccurate. The lease agreements for the so-called Maryland engines have expired, and MBCR no longer needs them to meet the service schedule requirements. While the locomotives (from the MTA) were in service, MBCR crews had time to perform the engine maintenance work that was necessary to restore several of the fleet's existing locomotives to service.


    Since you are the owner of

    Since you are the owner of the site and at least control the front page... aren't you able to add "editorial edits"? Instead of just commentating. I mean you brought this post up to the front page yourself right (come to think of it, where do blog posts go anyway, I also just come here to read the latest news).

    MD vs ID?

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    I believe those engines are now owned by Motive Power Industries of Boise, not the Maryland MTA. MPI manufactures locomotives and may have accepted the 4 old EMD units as a partial trade from the state of Maryland. MPI subsequently leased the engines to the MBTA, so they would be going back to Idaho as opposed to Maryland.

    blogs for noobies

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    Since you are the owner of the site and at least control the front page... aren't you able to add "editorial edits"? Instead of just commentating. I mean you brought this post up to the front page yourself right (come to think of it, where do blog posts go anyway, I also just come here to read the latest news).

    Well, he did add an edit, but unlike a traditional editor, Adam doesn't layout the articles here, ie, he didn't make a decision to "bring [the story] up to the front". Web logs (like all log files) just scroll indefinitely, in temporal order. In the case of blogs, they read most recent entry at the top, and grow older as you read down.

    Or, as it has said at the bottom of the UHub front page for quite a while:

    "The news never stops, it just rolls off the home page. More."

    Which raises a question.

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    AFAIK, while the T has new commuter rail locomotives on order, the total number that already have arrived on the property (not counting the three Utah engines currently in service) and can be put into service tomorrow is zero.

    Also, given the hype and hoopla the T made about acquiring these locomotives in the first place, why are they sneaking them back out of town without informing the riding public of that fact? Especially given that they will have less equipment available for use (even if they're just for stand-in replacements when their equally old locomotives fail in service).

    Unless (and sorry for being so cynical here) the T tried to negotiate an extension of the lease with MPI and was rejected.

    There doesn't need a press release for everything

    There was good reason why information was given about the acquisition in the first place, since the service was sucking and these locomotives were going to help.

    Now that the service has been relatively good for the past few months, what difference will sending out a press release do?

    I don't understand why you think this is some conspiracy.

    It's called transparency and

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    being accountable to the public. Especially, as I pointed out in another follow-up post on this thread, the T specifically announced to the public that the ex-Maryland locomotives would be placed in service until the throngs of new locomotives on order have actually arrived.

    I never said this whole thing was a conspiracy, just that the T is taking an unexpected action and should inform the public of that. This decision is very suprising to me, given the original reasons the T stated when they made such a big deal about getting these locomotives in the first place - remember the huge press event where Davey pasted a T decal on the side of one of these locomotives at North Station.

    Also, part of the reason the T and MBCR got into problems with commuter rail is that they don't have any reserve equipment to fill in when there are mechanical issues. If you believe Joe P's response to my original post, they now have enough reliable equipment for daily operation to allow these engines to be held in reserve.

    Yet, they're sending them back because they feel they don't need any reserve equipment. Further proof of what happens when you let accountants (like the T's current acting general manager) try to run a transportation system.

    And, with all due respect, why are you - like most of the Boston press - so willing to take the MBTA's word on this, given when there's evidence that this was a sudden decision?

    And no, I wouldn't expect Joe P. to reveal the likely true reason why the T is sending the locomotives back. But, it bothers me that the "offical reason" given contradicts the original reasons they stated for leasing the engines in the first place


    It's called a waste of resources

    With all due respect, there is no evidence this was a sudden decision and no I don't think the T has a responsibility to inform us of every little detail of running the system, nor do I think most people have that expectation. Hell, I'm fairly interested in transportation issues and operations and I don't think the T is hiding anything. For some reason you seem to, which is fine, but I think most people would rather the T focus their efforts on informing the ridership when there are actual impacts to service.

    A poster has given very detailed information on why these locomotives weren't needed anymore. Shouldn't the T be spending our money not paying the leases on equipment they don't need anymore? Again.... what's with the conspiracy theories?

    With due respect, can you say "double-speak"

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    When the MPI (ex-Maryland) engines arrived, I recall MBTA and MBCR managers specifically stating the locomotives were acquired to provide additional (and more reliable) equipment to improve commuter rail on-time performance until all the new locomotives were delivered.

    Not a single mention was made in either the T's press release or any of the news reporting, nor have I noticed this since, that other equipment would be taken out of service for major overhaul.

    And it was always my understanding that the MPI lease for the ex-Maryland units would be in effect until the majority of the new locomotives from MPI were delivered and in service.

    When the 5 units were leased

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    When the 5 units were leased from MPI there was a backlog of 1000-1017 series F40PHs out of service for work. These are the units that are going to be replaced by the 20 new units on order. In part because we had a mild winter (and thus fewer weather related problems for the loco fleet in gerneral), MBCR crews were able to catch up and repair almost the entire backlog of F40PHs that were awaiting work.

    Also, the top-deck overhaul program for the 1115-1139 GP40MC locomotives is winding down. This was a multi-year overhaul program that had 6 units out of service at any time for work. That number is now down to 2 out of service at any time and should be 100% finished later this year.

    On top of that, major engine block repairs required on units 1066 and 1074 are underway.

    Between all of these efforts, there is now no need for the extra locomotives. 2 of the leased units were already returned to MPI earlier this year, and the last 3 are now out of service.

    It might have been your understanding that the lease units would be around until the new units arrived, but it was never the understanding of the MBTA or MBCR that that would be the case. You know what they say about people who assume.

    So, why didn't the T mention anything about

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    all this ongoing locomotive work at the time they leased the MPI engines? They specifically stated at the time to the public and the press that the ex-Maryland locomotives would be in service until the new locomotives had arrived.

    And, see my previous comments about why having some reserve equipment might be a good idea.

    Read above again, the ability

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    Read above again, the ability to repair the substantial backlog of work on the 1000-1017 units was in part because we had a mild winter which reduced failures and increased the amount of money and labor hours that could be allocated to the backlog. A mild winter in 2011/12 and the ability to catch up on the backlog quicker than expected is not somthing that could be assumed back in spring 2011 when the lease was first announced. The leased MPI units have been removed from service gradually, the first two units were sent back several months ago, and the other 3 remained in service longer while the maintenance backlog was reduced.

    Is the MBTA supposed to send out a press release every time a locomotive has a major repair completed?

    No but...

    > Is the MBTA supposed to send out a press release every time a
    > locomotive has a major repair completed?

    ... they could at least send out a tweet. ;~}


    Answer me this then

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    How would issuing a press release stating something like "The MBTA and MBCR have just completed the overhaul of several commuter rail locomotives, which will improve the reliabilty of service for our riders. As a result, the engines we leased from Motive Power Industries last year are now not needed and are being returned." hurt the MBTA's image with the riders, the press, or the public in general?

    Something doesn't quite add up here, and I suspect the truth is somewhere in between Joe P's response to Adam and my source's original comments.

    The out of service 1001-1017

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    The out of service 1001-1017 units were not overhauled, they were repaired. Several had had major component failures which were repaired. A press release about something like that would appear nowhere.


    It shows how bad and

    It shows how bad and underfunded the maintenance is at the MBTA when they can't keep 30-40 year old trains even running, when airlines can keep 30-40 year old MD-80s running and flying in an efficient, safe, and cost effective manner. If they're unable to keep these just running, just imagine all the safety shortcuts they're making on both the commuter rail and T maintenance programs.


    A matter of stakes

    I think a lot of that boils down to the perception of what's at stake. When a locomotive fails during operation, usually the worst that happens is delays in the system. When an MD80 fails during operation, one has to have awkward conversations with NTSB explaining why a few hundred people are dead.

    We may think being two hours late to work is the end of the world, but it's just peanuts compared to air travel.


    No I completely agree, I'm

    No I completely agree, I'm just saying that if the airlines can function at on-time rates that are near record even with 30-40 year old aircraft and constant pressure to get by as cheaply as legally possible on maintenance, that the MBTA should at least be able to keep trains running when the temperature is below 30 or above 90 even with government maintenance guidelines and less at risk.



    Wait. . .

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    I'm flying in 40-year-old airplanes?

    Not 40 year old MD-80s..

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    Maybe 32 year old MD-80s though. They first went into service in 1980 and were produced until 1997...


    (It's unrelated to this

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    (It's unrelated to this story, but) I'd like to see the T buy some electric locomotives for the Providence line.

    Electric locomotives are faster, cleaner, cheaper to operate and maintain, and more reliable. The difficult and expensive part is putting up the wires, which Amtrak already did.


    I used to live in SEPTA territory--northern Delaware--and the Silverliner EMUs were one of the nicest bits about that transit agency. The rapid acceleration of EMUs makes them a nice option on lines with closely spaced stops. (Not sure how stop spacing on MBTA commuter rail compares to SEPTA's.)

    One of the reasons MUs, electric or diesel, aren't popular in the U.S. is that the FRA requires treating each of them like a locomotive in terms of servicing and inspection. It's cheaper and easier to use a locomotive and coaches. We really need to revisit the topic of railroad safety and regulation in this country, and compare it to what's done in Europe. The need for heavier coaches and frequent inspections is really holding us back, and we don't appear to be any better off in safety terms than railroads elsewhere in the First World for it.

    I believe the locomotive

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    I believe the locomotive inspections are only required for EMUs with cabs. If they build some without cabs, those shouldn't have that burden.

    In the case of electric locomotives or EMUs on

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    the Providence Line, it's much simpler than that. The MBTA has stated in the past that they do not want to invest in electric locomotives or EMUs for Providence service because either would be specialized equipment that they couldn't use on any of the other commuter rail lines.

    Yet again, this is the type of decision you get when you let accountants run a tranportation system.


    Its more complex than that.

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    Its more complex than that. Besides the lack of consist flexibility, the MBTA would have to build a repair facility for electric units and would have to wire up parts of their storage yards that are not electrified. That plus the initial equipment purchase costs starts to become a lot of money to spend to speed up what is already the fastest ride in the entire system while the maintenace backlog systmwide is substantial and underfunded. Rebuilding deteriorated bridges and replaceing life-expired equipment (like the Red and Orange line fleets) should be a higher priority than speeding up the already swift Boston-Providence commute.