Jim Lord, Pentagon Papers, and RAILROADS

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i bet you're wondering what that railroad part is all about. well, it's like this. between the navy survey and the GAO report on the readiness of 21 biggest cities, the news is not reassuring. it's time to work harder on the contingency plans.

with regard to emergency power for cities, it has already been noted that there is a plan for ships to provide power, both in canada and the u.s. this is great for coastal cities, but what about the interior?

yet there is a ready source of power right under our noses, everywhere you look. i'm talking about railroad engines. in most cities, the railroad tracks run close to major facilities/businesses/hospitals that must have power, or run beside large buldings such as schools which would be suitable for shelters. railroad engines are therefore an excellent choice for a contingency plan, y2k or no y2k.

my husband jon suggested to our town that they consider using the local college and its church, which is already registered with the red cross, as a shelter, and that they consider the fact that the railroad tracks are only about 25 feet from the church and the dorms.

jon also called the President's y2k Council a couple days ago, and mentioned the idea of using railroad engines. they had not previously heard of the idea, but ran it by a couple of their technical people, who said yes, that would work. up till then, i had assumed that they knew.

it's late in the game, people. please tell me that there are some other people out there in emergency management or whatever, who thought of this also.

-- jocelyne slough (jonslough@tln.net), August 24, 1999



Your solution puts us on the horns of a dilemma.

Transportation (food & fuel) verses Electricity......

Also, I think most diesel locomotives are DC devices:


Inverters could be used for DC to AC but we don't have an big suppy of MegaWatt inverters....

In Summary:

Maybe a nice idea for local problems, but not a global solutions.

-- helium (heliumavid@yahoo.com), August 24, 1999.

well you're almost right. dc generators to ac traction motors. a step down transformer would due the trick. most sidings are with 200 ft of a power line... hmmm sounds like one reel of wire to me....

-- plain ol`joe (plain ol` joe2@kennesaw.net), August 24, 1999.


Even if it is "technically OK" if the PRIME MOVERS are tie up at local hot spots, how will the freight be moved?

We all need the fuel, food, and chemicals that the rails deliver.

No Rails = No Food?

This is at best a emergency QUICK FIX but not a GLOBAL solution.

-- helium (heliumavid@yahoo.com), August 24, 1999.


I remember the GALA event at the SFNY rollover in 98 in downtown San Francisco. They had Semi after Semi of PORTABLE (read can be pulled by a Semi Tractor with a WIDE LOAD sticker) all around the CIVIC center, and even with that there were power shortages to some of the lighting systems.

The Point: Gensets which are mobil can energize hospitals and other critical sites, but they will not be enough to make my TV and Microwave work.......

Things will get worse before they get better.

-- helium (heliumavid@yahoo.com), August 24, 1999.

Hardly a "quick fix". As a matter of fact, it's not a "fix" at all. Power plants must synchronize the phase of the sine wave before going on-line with other producers, else violent expolsions will ensue.

Unless I miss my guess, locomotives are not equipped for this function. Oops.

-- Dennis (djolson@pressenter.com), August 24, 1999.


You do not need to be sync'ed to power a "local" load.

Point taken, you can not reenergize the grid, but you might be able to power a hospital who's generator has failed.

But it is not a global solution, I agree with you!

-- helium (heliumavid@yahoo.com), August 24, 1999.

Jocelyne told me that she had posted to this forum, but she left out part of the reason for my idea. This idea is not to run a city, nor to ever be connected to the power grid, nor to run your TV sets.

The idea is to power a shelter that has the ability to hold several hundred to several thousand people. The power main would need to be DISCONNECTED from the power grid. Then power cables would be run from the locomotive to the proper points of connection. I sure would not run a computer, or fussy electronic equipment, but the power will run the heating plant, and the kitchen.

Yes I know that this blocks the rails, but guess what, a few days of power when it is below freezing to keep any body count down is more important than the short term disruption of the rails.

the engines, other than for the main drive motors, have 440 Volts AC, 220 Volts AC, and 110 AC. This is used by the passenger cars that use 110, 220, 440 volts AC. This means that you need to find a locomotove used in passenger service. It is a stop gap, but it is better than having people freeze to death.

-- Jon Slough (jonslough@tln.net), August 24, 1999.


It's an excellent idea, Jon. As far as too many locomotives being pulled out of service to use as emergency generators, that wouldn't be a problem, because there's lots of locomotives in moth-balls, that could be put back into service (assuming they start work on it BEFORE Y2K) to use for this purpose.

Better to light a single candle, than to sit and curse the darkness.

-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), August 25, 1999.

Read "The Ice Storm," published in 1998 by The Gazette (Montreal), text by Mark Abley, edited by Jennifer Robinson. Page 65 has a photograph of two CN diesel locomotives parked on a street in Boucherville, Quebec. They served as giant generators for city hall and a local school. Part of the caption states: "When the lights went out, people found all kinds of ways to keep warm and (to) keep things running."

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 25, 1999.

Does it bother anyone that KOSKY'S BOYS HADN'T THOUGHT ABOUT THIS? Yes it would cause other problems, but in some cases it would be just the ticket. How can we look to these people for answers?

-- FLAME AWAY (BLehman202@aol.com), August 25, 1999.

thanks, rachel! CN, huh? that doesn't sound like a passenger train. sounds very interesting. any chance of more details?

-- jocelyne slough (jonslough@tln.net), August 25, 1999.

This is a workable short-term asset for emergency shelters. For a longer term, this fix depends on a lot of other things working -- wellheads in the oil fields, pipelines, refineries, truck transport to provide diesel fuel to the locomotives involved.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), August 25, 1999.

Jocelyn, CN stands for Canadian National (Railway). I'm assuming they used trucks to position the diesel locomotives on the street; I'm also assuming these were "spares" that did not cause the railway to shut down. Sorry, no further details. But, if you have the opportunity to peruse the book of mostly photographs, it is well worth it! :)

Tom. Point well-taken. The trucking industry is one of my primary concerns; I began researching them in the spring of '98 by looking for websites and writing to various companies/organizations throughout North America. The few responses I got at that time indicated they had not yet heard of the problem. I've followed the trucking threads on this forum with great interest; consensus appears to be that the industry is in good shape. Time will tell.

I live in oil and gas country. We have a surplus in the ground; whether or not it will continue to make it through pipelines from the wellheads to refineries and through distribution to us is another question. Craig, who works in the industry, seems to think it will. I've seen/heard no public announcements indicating the oil and gas industry is ready. I've read the testimony to Industry Canada that leaves doubt in my mind.

One thing I do know is that at rollover time we could be at -30 C; we need both power and natural gas to keep warm. If either of those cease to operate, we are in deep trouble. :(

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 25, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr near Monterey, California

Supposedly, the big problem with the rails is the lack of manual switching equipment for backup operation in case there is a problem with the embedded chips in the automated switching equipment. If the trains can't be moved anyway, because of bad switches, they may as well be used for local emergency power generation, until the switching problem is cleared up. A stockpile of appropriate fuel would be required for such a plan to work.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), September 10, 1999.

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