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Piedmont & Northern Railroad


monsoon

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In the days when these trains were running there was also a manufacturer of these kinds of vehicles in Sanford, NC called Edwards Rail Car Company. Pictured here is one of their rail buses. I am not sure if they built vehicles for the line in Charlotte, but it's interesting none the less that we once had not only electric rail transet here in NC, but vehicle manufacturing also. As you might know, CATS is forced to purchase it's light rail vehicles from either Germany, Japan or Canada as there are no domestic manufacturers of light rail cars now.

(This company basically went out of business just after WWII, but was re-founded in 1997 in Alabama.)

Edwards_Model_20.jpg

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As you might know, CATS is forced to purchase it's light rail vehicles from either Germany, Japan or Canada as there are no domestic manufacturers of light rail cars now.

Seimens (a German company) builds North American light rail vehicles in Sacramento.

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Seimens (a German company) builds North American light rail vehicles in Sacramento.

Yes, I know. All federally funded rail project require a certain percentage of the assembly to occur in the USA. Hence, all of the above countries have opened assembly plants in the USA to meet those requirements.

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Jon Bell has an interesting page concerning this railroad. Apparently there is a museum devoted to it in Greenwood, SC. It includes some of the cars that used to run on this line. (well not sure if it was the CLT or the GSP portions)

On a somewhat related noted, I discovered the predecessor to the Thomas bus company in High Point (they make the yellow school buses) also used to build these kind of rail cars. They built a number of the trolley cars still in use on the New Orleans trolley system until hurricane Katrina flooded them. New Orleans is one of only two transit systems in the USA that did not dismantle its original street trolley system as we did in Charlotte. The other system is, of course, San Francisco.

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On a somewhat related noted, I discovered the predecessor to the Thomas bus company in High Point (they make the yellow school buses) also used to build these kind of rail cars. They built a number of the trolley cars still in use on the New Orleans trolley system until hurricane Katrina flooded them. New Orleans is one of only two transit systems in the USA that did not dismantle its original street trolley system as we did in Charlotte. The other system is, of course, San Francisco.

Hmm, there are a few other examples. For example, many branches of the Green Line in Boston are in fact Boston's original streetcar lines. Philadelphia has a pretty substantial trolley network still operating. Newark's City Subway was also built as part of the city's streetcar network.

The South Shore line in Chicago and northern Indiana had its roots as an interurban line, but only two pieces of evidence pointing at its roots remain: The fact that it is powered by DC electric wires, and the fact that it runs in the street in Michigan City. Otherwise, it more closely resembles a modern commuter railroad. They used the original 1920's era interurban cars until about 1981 or so, when the government took over operations of the line and bought new rolling stock.

There's Toronto, too, but that's in Canada, not the US.

But you do make a valid point - almost every city had trolleys at one point, and almost every city shut them down and pulled up the tracks.

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New Orleans and San Francisco are the only two systems that never closed and/or changed their equipment. NO was running the original Thomas built trolley's and SF of course has the cable cars. All of the other systems mentioned are either restored, or the routes were used by other transit technologies, or they are restored.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw a notice there is going to be a workshop this evening to discuss plans for reopening this line between Charlotte and Gastonia.

Phillip O. Berry recreation center on Tuckaseegee Road in Charlotte. It runs from 5-7 p.m.

Thanks for the headsup! My company owns some land near the old terminus. I'm going just to see if there's any relevance to us.

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They didn't reveal anything exciting. There are three parts of this project:

  1. Reactivate the line between Gastonia and Mount Holly for short line freight rail service. This portion of the line would be for freight service, and NCDOT would get revenue off of this line, hence their desire to build it. They will start construction this summer.
  2. Restore the Belmont spur forshort line freight rail service with possible passenger service to Mt Holly. This section would be for the dinner car that has been discussed in this thread.
  3. Restore the rail line between Mt. Holly - Charlotte (Cedar Yard). This section will NOT be used by freight trains, and NCDOT would not pay to restore the lines. Any/all funding would come from a private citizen. This citizen is interested in running passenger cars on the line at some point, but in the near term he wants to be able to park some passenger cars at Cedar Yards for tailgating during Panthers games similar to the Cockabooses at USC.

    They said that if passenger service was pursued there would be more public meetings.

So we pretty much had everything right in this thread.

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  • 6 months later...

Some signs of forward progress on the Gastonia-Ranlo portion of the line. Public hearings for the closure of several at grade road crossings are scheduled for tomorrow.

http://www.gastongazette.com/news/crossing...oad-street.html

There is no specific source for this quote but it does suggest Gaston govt support for commuter rail to Charlotte:

"Eventually, local leaders hope the railway could carry commuters the full 23 miles from Gastonia to downtown Charlotte."

A contiguous route from Mount Mourne to Gastonia with uptown serving as the central stop sure would be cool (I don't think the two lines are connected at the terminus).

Edited by kermit
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I wish that they would open the P&N line to CR service, or the NS line. I think the corridor would be perfect for Commuter rail. It would provide a dedicated ROW form of transit to the West that is more geared toward lower ridership numbers (rather than streetcars which were suggested based on lower ridership but are not dedicated ROW). If the line went out to Gastonia rather than terminating at the airport, I think that would bump ridership up significantly and may even qualify the line for federal funding. Just my $0.02.

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  • 4 months later...

The reopening of the line has been pushed back to March 2011 due to, bizzarely, the discovery of a new pot of money for historic revitalization from the federal highway admin. Application for the cash requires a historic inventory of the line.

The end of the article strikes a pessimistic tone about passenger service on the line -- the current contract with the short-line operator prohibits passenger use.

http://www.gastongazette.com/news/-43655--.html

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  • 9 months later...

Patriot rail will begin freight service on the line (between Ranlo and Gastonia) in the 'first quarter' of 2011. NCDOT will refurbish the remainder of the line in the spring.

Patrioit has a 20 year agreement to run freight on the line (and maintain it).

"we look forward working with local interests, including the Gaston County Economic Development Commission and NCDOT, to attract new customers to the P&N."

I know speed / track quality is a major issue but I do wonder at what point passenger service would generate enough revenue to make it attractive for an operating shortline with little freight traffic. Wouldn't a little additional operating revenue be better than none at all?

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Always glad to see another railroad coming.

For passenger service: I'm guessing that the terms of the deal require the track to be maintained, at relatively low cost, only up to the standard required for low-speed freight trains. Maintaining track at a standard required for any passenger trains that go fast enough to be competitive with other passenger modes of transportation probably requires much more expensive track maintenance.

Some short lines welcome passenger train service operated by Amtrak or another carrier, but the only short lines I know of that operate their own passenger trains run only excursion trains.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've heard that the Charlotte Trolley is going to study the possibility of relocating to the P&N line. It would connect Third Ward (Cedar Yards) to Seversville.

What a great idea, but it leads to lots of questions that I am sure they won't answer until the study is completed.

Are the rails still in place? What vehicle will they use (will it be the restored trolly rather than the replicas which will be working on the Elizabeth streetcar line)? Will they attempt some actual revenue service / park and ride for panthers games? It is tragic that the route into the old terminal in 3rd ward can't be reestablished.

One downside would be the lack of visibility on the route -- very few folks will ever see it running.

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The rails are definitely still there. The key issue is whether the current project to improve the line all the way to Gastonia will improve the bridge over Irwin Creek. The greenway connection that will be made through Cedar Yards is going to use the bridge, but I don't think there are any major structural improvements with that project. There will be a lot of coordination if this thing move forward.

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I know speed / track quality is a major issue but I do wonder at what point passenger service would generate enough revenue to make it attractive for an operating shortline with little freight traffic. Wouldn't a little additional operating revenue be better than none at all?

The expense of starting any sort of passenger service is VERY high. First you need to build the stations, and even if it's just a simple platform it's still a pretty good capital expense. Then you need reliable equipment and backup equipment. No one will use your service if they can not depend on it.

Best cast for any sort of passenger service is maybe a dinner train. But even then where are you going? What is the view of? And maintaining a semi-decent dinner train would be expensive.

I think the Charlotte trolley group using the east end near the Cedar yard would be a good option. They have the equipment and the experience running that sort of operation. Not to mention putting part of the P&N back under wire would be just amazing.

TH

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Interesting, but I have to ask…for what purpose? Just to run the restored #85 somewhere? I am sure the people of Wesley Heights will welcome the trolley running through our neighborhood, but it seems like a large undertaking for a one mile trip.

Also, who will uncover the tracks under I-77 and along the greenway? They are currently buried under gravel. And will the greenway still be open to pedestrians with an active trolley running?

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  • 4 months later...

Freight trains should start moving on the P&N by September.

Patriot Rail will be responsible for operating, maintaining, and marketing rail service on the P&N and will pay the state a base rent, plus a percentage of rail revenue.

Freight service will be at the 10-15 mph level but will connect to both CSX (in Pincoa) and NS (in Gastonia).

http://www.gastongazette.com/news/-57465--.html

Add a connection to Charlotte and speed it up to 40-50mph (admittedly no small feat) and we would have a viable commuter line....

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  • 8 months later...

I am all for the P&N restoration, but I have no idea how this is going to make money. There is not one single existing buisness on that line that has a connecting siding or spur. Not only that but I can't find a single existing buisness that has a product that could benifit from rail service.

The only customer that I know of is a ethanol transloading facility that is suposed to be built, seems like a lot of work for one customer.

TH

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