Bob Lieblong, Senior Vice President of Operations at MNR, joined the November 2010 meeting of the MNRCC. Mr. Lieblong has been with the Railroad 38 years, having started as a trackman in 1973. He was pleased to give a few performance statistics through October 2010: 97.8% On-Time Performance (OTP); seven 100% OTP days; and a mean distance between failure (MDBF) of 140,000 miles versus the 115,000 miles goal.
He brought the Council up to date on the Railroad’s preparedness for “slip slide” (falling leaves on the tracks). Several innovations are aiding in operations during this fall season: two “waterworld” cars (built in-house) have been created containing water tanks to pressure wash the tracks; an impact detector, for advance maintenance warning, was installed in the Park Avenue tunnel at 86th Street which detects flat wheels, reports the degree of the problem and identifies the specific car through a reader tag attached to the equipment; and “scrubbers”, high rail pick-up trucks with brushes, are used on branch lines and short distances. The most problem areas are the Upper Harlem line where there is an abundance of vegetation and the lower New Haven line. Although, he noted, this can vary from year to year.
For winter issues a lot of prep work is done. Snow bags are placed on couplings to keep them from freezing. Track switch heaters are now all electric and thermostatically controlled. Third party contractors clean the yards, parking lots and platforms. There was a pilot platform heater program at Harmon, but it proved ineffective as the platform is just too open to the elements. Notice of delay situations are now sent to Customer Service (a change from Corporate Communications) with the estimated delay time and the number of trains impacted. Customer Service then sends out email alerts to riders.
As anticipated, Mr. Lieblong commented on the new M-8s scheduled to be put into operation on the New Haven line. Currently, 22 cars are in New Haven undergoing testing. There should be one or two put into revenue service by the end of 2010. The total order of 300 cars will be received in regular deliveries and completed by mid-2013. There is an option for 80 more cars which needs Connecticut’s approval. As the M-8s go on line, the old M-2s will be retired and disposed of. Mr. Lieblong indicated they have little value except for scrap. The option for the 80 additional M-8s, if activated, will be used to replace the small M-4 and M-6 fleets.
He cautioned that there is a lot of construction on the New Haven line where the catenaries are very old, particularly past Norwalk. There are also several moveable bridge projects. All of this work should be completed by 2015. The questionable electric supply for this area has been solved by a recently signed agreement for a new New Haven substation. In the same vein, Mr. Lieblong reported that the New Haven rail yard (needed for the new M-8s) is coming slowly but moving forward. Read more about the new M-8s here.