It's that time of year when we look back on the year just past and recount our memories of train trips and events involving trains that took place during the year.
Our OTOL railfan group met five times this year, a new record. We had the Big Apple RailFest 2006 in January, New Jersey RailFest 2006 in March, Montreal RailFest 2006 (including Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa) in July, Mid-Atlantic RailFest 2006 (featuring Baltimore and Philadelphia) in late August, and our one-day Keystone Excursion 2006 in mid-November. Reports for the last three events are coming soon.
Some of us also met for smaller fests at other times. It's always nice to see the comeraderie between various members of the group who get together and have their own planned outings on the trains in various places. Mike Hammond hosted a fest in October featuring Pittsburgh and the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad tourist line in Ohio.
Michael and I took a round trip to and from Florida in April, during which we rode in First Class both ways. Unfortunately, the notes to the end of that report were lost and the report may never see the light of day.
Amtrak went through its annual dance with underfunding. A new President took over at Amtrak and late in the year he purged some of the high level people who were there through previous administrations.
During the year, we saw cities like Denver, St. Louis, and Sacramento open additions to their light rail systems. Chicago opened to the public what had been non-revenue track connection in order to create its Pink Line heavy rail, part of which runs concurrent with a branch of the Blue Line.
On the commuter rail front, new starter lines began service in the Nashville and Albuquerque areas. A positive note is that both will expand in the coming years, and that progress was made towards construction of the Greenbush Line in the Boston area, a new FrontRunner service in Utah, and a similar service in the Denver area.
I rode enough Amtrak to maintain my Guest Rewards Select status for another year, clinching it in August during travel related to the MARF 2006 event. Michael, was also able to keep his Select status, but it took some back and forth pointless riding late in the year to bring his total of rail-earned points to exactly 5,000.
On a personal note, it was a very unstable year with my job situation. I knew going into the year 2006 that my employer was considering mass layoffs. I didn't know at the time whether they would affect me or not. When the news became official I was one of the people they decided to keep. However they offered me hours that were simply impossible for me to handle. So I requested to be put on the list of people who were leaving, thus opening up a position for somebody else who had originally been chosen to leave. The thought was that I would find a position closer to home involving less driving. As people did leave my company the end of June, it became immediately apparent that the company had made a mistake. Not only did they find themselves extremely shorthanded, but the people overseas who were taking our jobs on weekends were not fully grasping the work. I became a fixture at work on weekends so that I could continue to observe how our operation was being handled in Switzerland. The end date of my job was extended five months from late June to late November. Then it was decided that they would keep 4 more people, and I was extended indefinitely, albeit with uncomfortable hours. By that time we knew that those who had left the firm in June were unsuccessful in finding employment, so the further extension was accepted.
That's a bit off topic, but it laid the groundwork for my availability over the year to hold the above rail fests. It was remarkable that I was able to hold five events in 2006, when I didn't know if we would be able to do anything after our March gathering. Since I've now kept my seniority and the multitude of vacation days that go with it, I'm free to continue planning for such events in 2007 and beyond.
Were any significant rail events overlooked? And what memories do you have about train trips you took during 2006?