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The Macaroni run

By Sonny Long
June 18, 2009 at 1:18 a.m.

Above and right, two brand new Kansas City Southern Railway locomotives ride the Rosenberg Line, formerly knows as the Macaroni Line. The locomotives were pulling 75 cars carrying grain from the Missouri area. The line was originally constructed in 1882, but service was discontinued in 1985. The line was  reopened Wednesday.

Crossing safety

Six Steps to Safety at Highway-Rail Crossings:

1. Approach crossing with care. Slow down when you see an advanced warning sign, the round yellow sign with a black "X."

2. Prepare to stop. Turn off fans and radio, roll down windows. Look and listen for a train in both directions.

3. Stop at least 15 feet from nearest rail, but not farther than 50 feet.

4. If it won't fit, don't commit. Trains extend beyond the width of the rails at least 3 feet on each side. If your vehicle has a trailer, remember the additional length.

5. Cross tracks with care. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, use a gear that will not require shifting until you reach the opposite side. 6. If your vehicle gets stuck on the tracks, get out immediately, and away from the tracks.

Locate the emergency phone number. When you are safely away from the tracks, find the railroad's emergency phone number and the DOT identification number posted near the crossing, or call local law enforcement or 911.

Train Crossing Safety Warnings

Kansas City Southern, working in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation, has taken the following actions to promote safety at railroad crossings along the Victoria to Rosenberg rail line.

Fifty-two sets of flashers/gates and KCSR emergency notification signs have been installed at public at-grade crossings. One more set of flashers/gates will be installed at the shipper facility near Kendleton.

Crossbucks with a stop or yield sign, reflective striping and emergency notification signs have been installed at the remaining public at-grade crossings.

In advance of each public, at-grade crossing is an advance warning sign with pavement markings and stop bar markings applied on paved roads.

In addition to these warning devices, signs and markings, all trains approaching public at-grade crossings are required by federal regulation to sound their horn a minimum of 15 seconds before reaching the crossing, regardless of the time of day.

Operation Lifesaver

To help prepare communities along the line for the restoration of rail services, Kansas City Southern has partnered with Texas Operation Lifesaver to promote rail crossing safety with a media campaign and presentations throughout the corridor. Operation Lifesaver educates drivers and pedestrians to make safe decisions at rail crossings and around railroad tracks.

As train operations begin, regardless of whether the crossing is public or private or what type of warning sign is in place, motorists and pedestrians are urged to always expect a train. In addition, pedestrians are urged to stay off railroad rights-of way. Do not walk along the track or trespass on railroad rights-of-way, and only cross the tracks at designated crossings.

Several trained presenters are available to make presentations to schools, trucking companies and local industries. To schedule a presentation contact Texas Operation Lifesaver at 800-362-2210 or txol@hot.rr.com.

By The Numbers

56 - Bridges along the Victoria to Rosenberg line

89.4 - Miles of rail installed, including three sidings.

44,400 - Wood ties installed.

202,000- Concrete ties installed.

263,000 - Cubic yards of dirt used.

533,000 - Tons of crushed rock and gravel used.

SOURCE: Kansas City Southern

The Macaroni Line is back in business.

Kansas City Southern Railroad opened the Victoria to Rosenberg rail line Wednesday with six to eight freight trains a day expected to use the stretch of railroad that includes the newly revitalized tracks. The tracks also pass through Wharton, El Campo and Edna.

Known as the Macaroni Line because that is what the Italian workers ate when building the rail in 1882, the line will reduce the current route from the Pacific Coast of Mexico to Kansas City, Mo., by about 70 miles. KCS had been using lines belonging to Union Pacific Railroad that are also used by Amtrak.

KCS refers to it now as the Rosenberg Line.

"Certainly we are thrilled at the opening of the line," said Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi. "We encourage all citizens to be vigilant since these lines haven't been operational in many, many years. Safety is the No. 1 issue."

Bypasses proposed in both Victoria and El Campo that would divert the train traffic away from major roadways are still on the drawing board.

"KCS is still committed to pursuing the Victoria and El Campo bypasses in the future. Right-of-way must be acquired first. Preliminary engineering has been done," said Warren K. Erdman, KCS executive vice president for corporate affairs.

KCS and the Texas Department of Transportation have a memorandum of understanding on the construction of future bypasses. The railroad is also waiting on word from the Federal Railroad Administration on a rail relocation grant. The grant will allow right-of-way acquisition to begin in El Campo. Other than that, there is no precise timeframe on construction of either bypass, Erdman added.

Pozzi said the Victoria bypass is vital.

"I look forward to the day they can bypass the route they are using," said the county judge. "I would like to see it happen sooner rather than later, but I also realize it will take cooperation between Kansas City Southern, the highway department and, in some cases, private landowners. We need to move forward and get that done."

The opening brings rail service to the communities along the line and needed rail capacity to South Texas to reduce highway congestion and the number of trucks on Texas highways.

The restoration of the line will also make this part of the state more economically competitive, leading to future economic opportunity and jobs, according to a news release from KCS.

The total project, including an intermodal shipping facility at Kendleton, about 10 miles north of Wharton, costs $173.5 million.

Train operations will begin gradually in order to allow motorists to adjust to the restored service. In the first few days of operation, trains will run a maximum speed of 10 mph over all public crossings. The maximum authorized speed will increase to 25 mph beginning June 29.

Except for segments of the line where there will be speed restrictions, maximum train speeds will increase to 40 mph beginning July 13. Beginning Aug. 1, the maximum authorized speed will increase to and remain at 49 mph.

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