MMA Prepares for Daily Ops in Canada with One-Person Crews…

MMA B23-7 2004 and VB-2 Remote work at Northern Maine Jct., ME.  Kevin Burkholder photo.
MMA B23-7 2004 and VB-2 Remote work at Northern Maine Jct., ME, while the remote operator is seen to the left of the unmanned locomotive while a cut of cars is backed into the yard.

HERMON, ME – MAY 9, 2012 – Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway has gained the final approval from Transport Canada for single-person crew operation in the Province of Quebec on the MMA.

MMA Veteran Crewmember Jim Young uncouples the VB-2 from MMA 8546.  Photo by Kevin BurkholderEd Burkhardt, Rail World Inc. President, speaking from Oswiecim, Poland, told ERN that, “While we have the general go ahead from Transport Canada, we now need to complete some training and a few other steps before we fully implement the single-person operations system-wide.”  He adds, “This is a big project and I’m really proud of our people for taking the lead for the whole country on this technology.”

The technology Burkhardt references are the remote technology that allows the single-person operations to function.  Most of the twenty-five operating employees on the MMA are remote-control qualified while the remainder will be in the next few weeks, according to Burkhardt.

MMA Remote Control 8546.  Photo by Kevin BurkholderThere are two locomotives equipped with their own remote control package, MMA B39-8Es 8546 and 8578, while the remainder of the fleet is remote capable from one of the four “VB” cars – ex-Canadian Pacific Railway cabooses that have been outfitted with remote equipment and MU cables that make these cars the remote host and allow any standard locomotive the ability to become remotely controlled.  The pair of locomotives are expected to use camera technology that will allow the engineer to see the opposite side of the unit should it wind up having to run long hood forward.  The VB sets always have a platform or accessible forward-facing low hood to allow better visibility.

Plans are being formulated to begin operating MMA Job 1 (Brownville Jct., ME to Farnham, Quebec) and counterpart Job 2 under the single-person agreement by mid- to late-June.  Following successful implementation of Job 1 and Job 2, the Newport, VT to Farnham, Quebec Job 710 will be phased into the single-person operation and then the remaining jobs and switchers.

MMA B23-7 2004 and VB-2 are switching Northern Maine Jct., ME in charge of employee Jim Young.  Photo by Kevin BurkholderBurkhardt says that once fully implemented, “this will give us the ability to operate Job 1 and 2 seven days-a-week, which is what is needed to handle the build-up of crude oil traffic off of Canadian Pacific Railway.

That crude oil traffic is expected to be taking off within the next month or so as the Irving refineries in Saint John, New Brunswick have successfully tested their 300,000-barrel capacity and plan on a steady flow of unit tank trains into the port.  Dispelling any previous rumors of Canadian Pacific Railway motive power running east of Farnham on the MMA, Burkhardt says that CP cites a motive power shortage of their own and the increasing demand for units to support their own booming crude business, which will preclude their use.

MMA will look to beef up and repair their current motive power fleet in anticipation of the unit crude oil trains. MMAL (MMA Lease) GP7R 21, MMAL GP7R 22, MMAL GP7R 25, MMAL GP9 73, MMAL GP9 100, MMA C30-7 3613, MMA C30-7 5018, MMA C30-7 5021, MMA B39-8E 8544, MMA B39-8E 8561, and MMA B39-8E 8592 are all out of service with various issues.  The MMA 3613 has a blown rod; while the 5018 and 5021 have a block and crankshaft failure respectively; MMA B39-8Es 8544 and 8561 have blown engines; while the B39-8E 8592 has a failed crankshaft.  All are at Derby with repairs being made to the units that are capable of being repaired more quickly.

Additionally, Rail World Leasing has a pair of ex-Canadian National SD40-2s on hand and ready for service at Derby Shops.  The RWL 5364 and 5374 are expected to be placed into service on the MMA in the near future, while additional motive power needs are evaluated and potentially sought.  Burkhardt says that at least three of the out of service units will be returned and with the additional RWL SD40-2s, the increased fleet size by five may be all they need to handle the growing traffic levels.  Additional six-axle GEs may also be eyed as “we prefer GE’s” said Burkhardt.

One more four-axle unit will be freed up when the Van Buren Subdivision sale is completed to the Maine Northern Railroad.  That deal is expected to be completed in June.

Full implementation of single-person crews on the MMA are expected to be realized by mid-July and will provide the railroad the flexibility to become a 24/7 operation capable of meeting increasing traffic levels.

2 Responses to MMA Prepares for Daily Ops in Canada with One-Person Crews…

  1. Sara F, Reply

    July 9, 2013 at 20:56

    And if the lone crew member should suddenly have a heart attack while driving this 77 car potential “bomb on wheels” – what then???? Will you be dealing with Lac Megantics all over the place?????

  2. Larry Fredeen Reply

    July 15, 2013 at 18:56

    Welcome to the world of very un-safe railroading. “Booming” business, and can’t afford to have proper crews… ??? A little RR that says they don’t care about the public’s safety, by their actions. More accidents, just waiting to happen! Very sad days coming to a once great industry… giving the RR industry and it’s proud employee’s a very ‘black eye’!

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