Greenbrier train plans move forward! (C&O Locomotive #614)

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Greenbrier train plans move forward! (C&O Locomotive #614)

Postby WSH » Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:48 am

Plans are moving forward with Ross Rowland's infamous #614. If they can get by CSX's no steam policy they want to run regular service from Washington DC to White Suphur Springs WV. It will be interesting to see how two guys like Justice and Rowland with their deep pockets will fair against CSX!

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Several obstacles must be cleared from the tracks before the $15 million Greenbrier Presidential Express luxury train can begin carrying passengers from Washington's Union Station to its namesake resort in White Sulphur Springs.

But Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier resort, said he is confident nothing will derail plans to inaugurate the new service later this year.

According to the Pottstown Mercury newspaper in Pennsylvania, about half of a 38-person crew preparing 1950s-vintage Pullman sleeper cars for refitting as parlor cars on the Greenbrier Express was temporarily laid off in November, after a series of regulatory issues came to light. Work on gutting and refurnishing the cars, which once carried passengers between Los Angeles and Chicago on the Santa Fe Railroad's "Super Chief" route, is being done in a former Bethlehem Steel shop in Pottstown.

"We purposely slowed down the work because we felt like we were running ahead of ourselves in terms of getting all the regulatory approvals in place," said Justice. "We're back to working on the cars, and the train's moving ahead, although we're probably not working as intensely as we were at one time."

"The guys on the shop floor were getting ahead of the engineering that was needed to get the approvals we needed from the Federal Railroad Administration," said Ross Rowland, president of the Greenbrier Express Co., the firm rebuilding the rail cars.

"Part of the issue is that a relatively new set of FRA rules and regulations covers the complete rebuilding of passenger cars, like what we're doing," Rowland said.

Among other things, furniture used in the rail cars must be built and mounted to meet FRA impact standards.

Another hurdle that must be cleared is The Greenbrier obtaining use agreements for the 250 miles of track between Washington and White Sulphur Springs.

"A 100-mile section between Gordonsville and Clifton Forge, Va., called the Buckingham Branch, is single-track, making it basically a very busy one-lane road," Rowland said. CSX uses the Buckingham Branch to shuttle its empty coal cars back to the mines from eastern Virginia and coastal offloading ports, while sending loaded cars from the coalfields down its James River line.

Amtrak's Cardinal passenger train travels between Washington, White Sulphur Springs and points west three times weekly on the Buckingham Branch. To avoid additional traffic congestion on the already busy single-track section, it may be desirable to attach The Greenbrier Presidential Express to the rear of Cardinal, Rowland said, and follow the Amtrak train's schedule between Union Station and the resort.

Although the Greenbrier Express fleet includes C&O Locomotive No. 614, the last mainline passenger steam engine built in America when its last bolt was tightened in 1948, diesel locomotives are expected to power the luxury train, at least in its initial period of operation.

"At the moment, CSX has an ironclad no-steam policy" for locomotives using its tracks, Rowland said, due mainly to liability issues.

Rowland, a self-proclaimed "dyed-in-the-wool steam fanatic," said he hopes CSX will revisit its no-steam policy at some point to allow for at least the occasional use of C&O Locomotive No. 64. But he said he's not particularly optimistic about the rail giant changing its position.

The steam locomotive and a baggage car, both repainted in gleaming green and gold Greenbrier Presidential Express livery last summer, are now on display at the C&O Historical Society Museum in Clifton Forge. The locomotive, which pulled passenger cars between Richmond and Chicago in the late 1940s and early 1950s, will be on display at The Greenbrier's newly extended rail siding later this year.

Despite the obstacles the rail service faces, Justice said he is optimistic that the Greenbrier Express will begin operating sometime this summer.

"There are still some governmental hoops to jump through and some red tape to deal with, but I think we're real close to having everything resolved," he said.

"The response to the train has been overwhelming. People like the concept of being on the ground, in a train, relaxing in the style and tradition of The Greenbrier, and taking the time to enjoy the wonderful view that God has bestowed on all of us."

The seven parlor cars that will be a part of the Greenbrier Presidential Express will be named in honor of seven U.S. presidents who used The Greenbrier as a summer White House.

"Each parlor car will hold 24 guests, 12 on each side of the aisle, seated in overstuffed captains' swivel chairs," said Rowland. "The cars are being decorated by Carlton Varney, in The Greenbrier's Dorothy Draper theme. Each parlor car will have a chef and two servers. Guests will be served a five-course brunch, and be treated to the beautiful scenery of the Allegheny Mountains as they travel to White Sulphur Springs.

The luxury train will also include an open observation car, a rear observation lounge car with viewing platform, a kitchen car and baggage car.

"I like progress and technology -- don't get me wrong," Justice said. "But things move too fast in our society in a lot of ways. I think the idea of taking a relaxing ride in a passenger train helps us connect with the Norman Rockwell concepts we grew up with."

Operating at full capacity, the Greenbrier Presidential Express can carry up to 240 passengers. Round-trip fares are expected to be about $650.

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Re: Greenbrier train plans move forward! (C&O Locomotive #61

Postby Gadfly » Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:32 am

There's an inaccuracy here. "Last 'mainline steam passenger engine built'"? You are forgetting NW 611 completed in May, 1950.

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