Somehow the Trains Keep Running.
A wonderful incident occurred during a recent Vancouver-Toronto run by VIA Rail’s train #2, The Canadian. A group of railroaders were on board as passengers and a good thing they were, too. While in British Columbia and heading for Jasper, Alberta, the train suddenly came to a stop. The problem was traced to one of the dome cars where a vent valve in the braking system had given way and the train could not proceed until it had been repaired. Since this was apparently an unusual occurrence, no spare valves were avialable and the outlook was for a long wait until a new valve could be brought to the remote site.
Ah, but help was just a few cars away. Allen Rider, a recently-retired employee of the Norfolk Southern, was one of the passengers and went up to the disabled car to see if he could help. After consulting with the second engineer, Rider broke off a branch from a tree at trackside, whittled it down to the approximate size of the valve, drove it into the hole and secured everything with duct tape. After a successful brake test, The Canadian resumed its run on into Jasper where a replacement valve was installed.
Photos are by Allen Rider himself and taken from a detailed story about the incident by Malcolm Kenton in the current issue of TRAINS magazine.
Meanwhile, the entire Metro system in Washington, DC, was shut down for 24 hours on Wednesday to give authorities time to inspect key electrical connections throughout the entire system. The shutdown meant that thousands of commuters were forced to find alternate means of getting to their jobs. It was again clear that the people who have the greatest need for public transportation and who bear to most inconvenience and hardship without it are those who work for low wages.
Most of the rest of us can skip work if we have to or telecommute for a day. Many of us do that anyway, either occasionally or on some kind of a schedule. But if you work as a janitor or as a security guard or as a housekeeper in a hotel—part of an essential workforce—you have to be physically present to do your job. And if you can’t get there, you don’t get paid.
I haven’t seen any official estimates as to what the shut down cost the DC economy, but it’ll be a bunch. It can only be hoped that this incident will serve it remind the Members of Congress that public transportation—whether it’s the Metro or BART or the Long Island Railroad or Amtrak—is an essential component to local and regional and national economies.