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‘Trash’ Trains Quieter, Efficient - And Cleaner

Posted in: Front Page Stories, Bourne News
Aug 29, 2008 - 1:52:56 PM
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BOURNE- Residents living along the Upper Cape’s railroad tracks have been commenting on the changes that have been made to rail operations over the last eight months.
In January of this year, John F. Kennedy, president and chief executive officer of MassCoastal, took over the state contract and the running of the Cape’s “trash” train from outgoing Bay Colony Railroad.
Since then, he has renamed the operation the “energy” train. New, specially designed cars went into service, beginning shortly after MassCoastal took over. Those cars were specifically designed to carry freight, including the trash being hauled from the Cape to the SEMASS trash-to-energy facility in Rochester, Mr. Kennedy said.
They are larger than the ones used by Bay Colony, allowing the operation to downsize the number of cars it has to run on its Falmouth line.
They are also quieter, more efficient and airtight, keeping trash smells inside the containers.
Mr. Kennedy said that, given the amount of capital and effort that went into the upgrade, he and his employees thought the new cars were worthy of the name change.
Trains are also running an hour or so later on the main line that runs to SEMASS.
In order to please neighbors of the Rochester plant, the Energy Train is unloading trash at the back side of the plant during nighttime hours. That means he said, the trains can leave the Cape a little bit later in the morning.
“We’re trying to be less conspicuous,” he said. The operation is also, he said, trying to please all of the stakeholders in the operation, SEMASS, the state, the communities whose trash is picked up, and the neighbors whose homes are near the track.
He said he cannot please everybody. When the trains began to run later, the calls complaining about the early trains stopped. However, some others called to comment that they had liked being awakened by the train, which they had used as an alarm clock.
During the same time period, Mr. Kennedy’s other company, Cape Cod Central Railroad, tightened its operation, slightly reducing the number of trains stopping at Hyannis, but adding a Friday night dinner train out of Buzzards Bay. That has delighted both the Buzzards Bay Village Association and the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce.
Asked about the changes she had seen, Marie Oliva, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said, “The management and operation have improved dramatically.”
The Buzzards Bay train stop was a pilot program, she said, put together soon after MassCoastal took over the state freight contract, but it has proved as well-run and organized as the freight operation.
Ms. Oliva said she could not say enough about the improvement to the freight trains, themselves, the painting of the train platform, the tourist train stops in the Buzzards Bay area, and how easy it has been to work with the new management.
She said people have been coming to Buzzards Bay from all over the region to board the trains.
Mr. Kennedy reported that income from the freight operation proved to be greater than estimated and that the passenger trains stopping in Buzzards Bay have almost all been sold out.
Rising fuel costs have been a problem for the rail operation, as they have for most businesses, but Mr. Kennedy said railroads could spread those costs over a larger customer base than can other modes of transportation. Train ticket prices have only gone up by $1 this year.
Mr. Kennedy would still like to extend his tourist trains to Middleborough, something he began talking about long before he received the freight train contract. He said that even if commuter rail eventually comes to the Wareham/Buzzards Bay area, it will take quite a few years. He would like to run trains on that route in the interim.
This year, however, although he said 90 percent of his focus has been on MassCoastal, he has still been keeping a close eye on his passenger operation.
The lion’s share of his dinner and other tourist train customers live within a three- or four-hour drive of the Cape operation. He said he has begun hearing the newly coined word “Staycation,” instead of vacation. He would like to provide an economical and enjoyable way to provide that type of experience.
The Buzzards Bay Vitalization Association will be riding the Cape Cod Central Railroad’s rails next Friday. (9-5) at its Second Annual Dinner Train from Buzzards Bay to Hyannis. The railroad’s Elegant Dinner Train will depart from the Main Street Buzzards Bay Railroad Station at 6 PM, returning by 9 PM. Tickets are $75 per person and proceeds from the ride will be used to help transform the Bourne Town Park, providing a number of recreational opportunities and facilities for all ages at that location.