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From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Unhealthy Stench (was Diesel vs Gas ...)
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 00:11:31 EDT
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel

Hattmakr wrote:
> >From: Lab Rat
> <snip>
> >OTOH if
> >trucks were taxed to pay for the wear and damage they put on our roads a
> >lot of that stuff would be back on railroad cars ... but thats a
> >different OT subject.
> Friend, it costs, depending on registered GCVW, close to $800.00 a year to
> renew the tags on a tractor. All tractors must display and renew what is known
> as a fuel permit every year. The monies used by the owners or owner/operators
> of these rigs to buy these permits from the Gov't are the tax you refer to that
> pay for wear and tear on roads. Some rigs have one fuel permit displayed while
> others have numerous displayed.

So true.  I think that the correct statement would be "If cars were
taxed the same way as over the road tractors, there would be no cars
out there to get in their way."  State governments tend to regard
Semi rigs as nothing more than rolling piggybanks, subject to being
robbed at will.

I was talking to one of my customers last week who is a shipping
manager for Libby Owens Ford (LOF), the guys who make a whole bunch
of the glass in your cars.  He said that federal regulations require
them to ship a certain percentage of product via rail.  He said that
he could get a shipment of glass from his factory to the car factory
in a couple of days max and with minimal breakage.  OTOH, it takes a
minimum of of a month to make the same trip by train and when the
car arrives, much of the glass will be broken.  He said that they've
secretly instrumented rail shipments and have detected humps
(violently slamming cars together to couple them) as large as 30
mph.  He said that  they regard the loss as just the cost of doing
business in a regulated industry.  

This tidbit of info is for anyone who wonders why the trucking
industry kicked the railroad's asses up one side and down the other.

John (who really loves railroad stuff)

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Truck tire Carcass horror!
Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2000 02:35:12 -0400

George Miklas wrote:

> Someone said that banning recaps might drive up the cost of
> transportation... Well for truck transportation that could be
> true.  But what about train transportation?  You know, we live
> in a fast society that has to have everything immediately.  Even
> the auto makers insist on "Just In Time Delivery" so that they
> don't have to keep warehouses stocked for production.  If we
> only slowed down a little bit, why there is even something
> nostalgic about a train.

JIT is much more than just avoiding warehouses.  Consider, for
example, when a design defect is discovered in a subassembly.  With
JIT, only the devices in the pipeline have to be reworked or
discarded.  OTOH, contemplate a warehouse full of defective
gadgets.  Companies went to JIT because it's cheaper and not
necessarily faster.  I doubt that many people would be willing to
bear the cost of going backwards, no more so than if the world
reverted to one-at-a-time hand assembly.

I'm as big a train buff as there is but I also realize that
railroading in the US is past-tense and will not return, if for no
other reason than the railroads have given up so much right of way.
Can you imagine the screams of agony if someone proposed digging up
all those greenways and hiking trails and fiberoptic cable ways just
to lay track again?

The other problem is that the railroads never realized that they
were not in the railroad business but were really in the
transportation business.  Had a guest in my place the other day who
put it in perspective.  He was the logistics manager for Libby-Owens
Ford glass.  They're the guys that make most of the car glass
today.  He said that there was some government regulation that
requires them to ship 10% of their production by rail  He said that
they've learned to just write that 10% off as loss.  Apparently the
rail operators delight in breaking things and "Do Not Hump" signs
just encourage them.  He said that their engineering staff finally
gave up trying to build shipping containers that would withstand a
20 mph hump.

The other factor was time.  He said that he knew that he could get a
given shipment of glass anywhere in the country by truck in 3 days.
By rail it is 30 days minimum.  They move when THEY'RE ready and not
when the customer is ready.

Take away the government subsidy and railroading becomes past tense.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Permanent High Gas Prices
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2008 23:52:38 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 11 Jun 2008 01:52:15 GMT, "RAMĀ³" <> wrote:

>"Frank Howell" <> wrote in
>> And trains will come back. Anyone can see the future does not have a
>> place for long haul trucks. Long haul freight will be dominated by
>> rail due to "Economics dictates all."
>Dream On, Frank, Dream On.
>The vast majority of the rail infrastructure was converted into re-bar
>decades ago.
>While there are a few lines being rebuilt for freight use only, these are
>*very* few and *very* far between.
>Passenger rail is virtually a Yankee Monopoly with very few lines

You're correct, of course.  Worse than just ripping up the rails and turning
them into sardine cans is that the railroads have given up many of their right
of ways.  Many have gone to communications companies.  Those arrow-straight
routes sure do handle fiber optic cable nicely!  Many others have been given
over to local authority for use as "greenspaces".  That has happened to
several ROWs around here.  Other right of ways have simply disappeared,
developed over.

Passenger rail is a loser anywhere except the NE where the quality of life is
low enough anyway that packed into cattle cars with 200 folks you'd not
otherwise associate with on a bet doesn't have that much impact.

Then there is the lingering and probably permanent monopolistic attitude of
the railroads.  "We're the railroad, we can do anything we want whether you
like it or not".

I had an interesting chat with the traffic manager of a kraft paper mill when
I was driving.  At this mill there were two rail sidings and probably 15 truck
docks.  There was one freight car on one siding but we were lined up waiting
for dock space.  While I waited we chatted.

I asked him why he didn't use more rail transport.  After all, rail seems
perfect for something as heavy as paper.  7 of those huge kraft rolls
constituted a legal load for a semi truck while a rail car can hold more than

He noted that he'd sent the dispatch request for my truck that morning,
probably 4 or 5 hours earlier.  It took him two days to get the train car.  He
said that I'd be at my destination before they'd come get the loaded rail car.
And that while all they have to do is run a forklift into a trailer for truck
transport, with rail they have to tow the loaded rail car out to the siding.
The railroad won't come get it.  That means a switch engine or tugger and
people to operate them.  He said that rail service (sic) had always been that
way and probably always would until it finally fades away.

If the railroad management ever gets it collective head out of the 19th
century, I could visualize a lot more multi-modal freight.  Semi trailers and
CONEX boxes (marine cargo containers) on rail cars, barges, etc.  Even if they
manage to move into the 21st century, there still remains the lack of right of
way AND the lack of vertical clearance.

It's still not terribly economical to multi-mode freight only one level deep
and most rail routes can't handle the double stacked CONEX containers.  A few
routes have been upgraded but even if they wanted to, the process of raising
the height of the numerous rail tunnels will be a long and expensive process.

In the future I can see electrified highways.  Perhaps overhead lines
trolly-style.  Semi trucks would be the first candidates for this.  Electric
propulsion when on the highway and diesel on surface streets.

Of course, THAT will require a massive catching-up effort to the electric grid
to make up for the last 30 years of doing nothing.  Too bad there's no way to
identify those who ever opposed a nuclear power plant and then turn their
power off to make it available for transportation!

Of course, all this assumes that this run-up in energy price is permanent.  I
don't think it is.   We may never see $2 a gallon gas again but I bet that
it'll go back below $3 within a year.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Permanent High Gas Prices
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2008 17:02:30 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 11 Jun 2008 06:24:57 -0600, "Ron Recer" <> wrote:

>> It's still not terribly economical to multi-mode freight only one level
>> deep and most rail routes can't handle the double stacked CONEX
>> containers.  A few routes have been upgraded but even if they wanted
>> to, the process of raising the height of the numerous rail tunnels will
>> be a long and expensive process.
>Sounds like you haven't seen the newer cars that carry stacked containers
>and are about the same height as regular box cars.  The wheels are in front
>and behind the containers allowing the bottom of the lower container to sit
>lower than the axles.  We see a lot of them along I-80 in NE and I-90 in MT
>where the RR parallels the interstate.

You did note that I said "most" routes and not "all".  Some have been
upgraded.  Not all that difficult in the western plains.  A bitch in the
Rockys, Sierras and Smokeys.  In fact, if the traffic managers and railroad
people that I've talked to are correct, it probably won't happen, at least in
our lifetime.  In Texas I hauled quite a number of CONEX boxes to intermodal
terminals where I watched them being stacked onto rail cars.

>Lots of RR traffic on both of those routes.  Almost continual coal trains
>along I-80.  I have heard that 50-60 trainloads of WY coal move east every

Of course.  Nothing has ever even come close to touching rail for coal
haulage.  The amount of coal a large power plant burns is staggering.  If very
old memory serves, Cumberland City, TVA's largest, burns a car-load of coal in
something like every 6 minutes.  100 car unit trains parade through the
facility continuously.  A rotary dumper turns each car upside down to empty
the coal - through the bottom was much too slow.  This happens without
decoupling the car.

To put the size of this plant into perspective, the boiler's combustion
chamber is 14 stories tall.  The forced draft fan that provides combustion air
is driven by a 35,000 HP steam turbine.  That's just the fan.

I was at the plant briefly on an assignment to balance that turbine rotor.  It
was far too far gone for my ministrations, having already tossed a blade, and
exploded a few days later.  The generator's output was so large that TVA ran
it until it literally couldn't run anymore.

One of my first jobs at Sequoyah nuclear plant was to start up the water
treatment plant years before construction was finished, so that deionized
water could be trucked to Cumberland City to make up for steam leaks.  TVA was
trucking in water from all over the system to keep the plant up until they
could arrange replacement generating capacity.

I'll have to say that this plant was one of the few places I've ever been
where a little fear crept into the back of my consciousness.  3500 psi steam,
red hot steam pipes, wearing strap-on oak shoe soles to keep your shoes from
melting, seeing structural steel cut by steam leaks and walking in certain
areas waving a broom ahead, looking for the straw to be cut off by an
invisible steam leak that would do the same thing to your body will do that.
The guys that work there every day have balls of tungsten carbide!


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Permanent High Gas Prices
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2008 21:22:05 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:33:58 -0700, "Frank Howell" <> wrote:

>I went to Portland Or last weekend to go to Powell's bookstore(world's
>largest) and watched MAX in action. MAX is the light rail system that is one
>part of Portlands mass transportation system. Very high level of service.
>Trains run every 5-15 minutes from about 4:30 a.m. to midnight. The newest
>segment will be up and running in '09. Not cheap at about 3 billion, but it
>does work.
>They are fully intergrated with the bus system. There are 16 bus routes that
>run every 15 minutes or less. The rest of the 93 routes operate on a less
>frequent schedule.

Atlanta's MARTA runs like that but it's still a lousy way to get around unless
you like to and are able to walk a lot.  It's a lousy way to get around for
everyone carrying cargo.

Atlanta (and Portland too, I think) make it even worse by not allowing
bicycles and non-handicapped scooters onboard.

I would have used MARTA a lot when I lived in Atlanta had they allowed my
scooter onboard.  I am NOT willing (even when I was able) to walk several
blocks in the heat to get to my destination, especially when I'm carrying a
briefcase, laptop and other stuff.  It's a quality of life thing that I'm not
willing to tolerate and apparently neither are most folks.

I would have enjoyed the down-time during transit to read or listen to
something or just nap but not with the long walk at each end.

The central and largest problem with mass transit everywhere is the old
authoritarian thing again.  The 'crats think that they can force people to
bend to accommodate the way THEY want to run things instead of figuring out
how to run the system to accommodate the customers.

One major accommodation would be an intermodal system where people drive their
cars onto rail cars and drive off at their destinations.  Put the cars on
sideways and probably 10 could be fitted to each rail car.  Oh, but it's so
much easier to don the blinders and pretend that people are cattle and build
rail cars accordingly.

People won't stand for major declines in their quality of life for long so if
energy prices stay high and income doesn't follow or other compensations get
made, political heads will roll.  People will NOT suddenly be herded into
cattle cars to get to work.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Permanent High Gas Prices
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2008 23:09:21 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 11 Jun 2008 17:24:05 -0700, "Dave \(The Other\)"
<invalid@invalid.invalid> wrote:

>On the face the fares seem reasonable.  $1630 for two people round trip.
>That is if you wish to sit in a seat for three days with no bed and no
>shower.   Just adding the minimum sleeping accommodations bumps the price to
>almost $6000.  Of course, for six grand you get meals included.

Holy Christ!  I had no idea.  I wonder what it would cost to get the shower
and actual HOT meals?

I couldn't resist spreadsheeting what it would cost a friend and me to make
that trip in my motorhome.  Street Atlas sez that it's 5356 miles round trip
from Atlanta to Seattle using "shortest routing" so...

Fuel cost
5356        Round trip miles
$4          fuel cost per gallon
12          miles per gallon
446.33      Gallons used
$1785.33    Cost of fuel for entire trip

Time Required
50           mph average speed while in motion
15           hours driving per day
7.1	     Days in the saddle
11.4	     Calendar Days

$5           cost, each meal
3            meals per day
$133.90      Total cost for meals

$100         Snacks, occasional toll, perhaps some propane

11.4              Days
$2019.23          Total Trip cost

Meal cost assumes me cooking for two in the MH for each meal.  If I increase
the daily driving time to eighteen hours a day and the average speed to 60,
the driving time shortens to 7 days and $1860 trip cost.  With two people, 18
hours' driving a day is no big deal.

So for three times less money and four to eight days more time I can do the
trip on my own schedule, sleep in my own bed, associate with only those people
that I want to AND have a vehicle to drive and a place to sleep when I get
there.  And, of course, the food'll be better!

On the train side of things, figure in the rental car and motel for however
many days you're there to complete the train ride cost. And they wonder why
people don't ride Amtrak very much...

Until now I thought that a cross-country train trip might be fun but at those
prices, no friggin' way!

>Another one Seattle to San Diego.  I can currently fly with no notice for
>$700 for two.  The overnight train from Seattle to San Diego, which would be
>great, would cost $2526 for two.

Yet another reason to ignore Amtrak.  The one advantage that train travel used
to have over air, not being treated like a criminal and no body cavity
searches at security (sic) checkpoints, will be going away if the Homeland and
Transportation Insecurity gestapo have their way.

>If Amtrak is subsidized, where is the money going?

It's government.  Need you look further?


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