PTC may sideline Pennsy E-units after May excursion

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Bennett Levin's E8 No. 5809 arrives at Streamliners at Spencer in May 2014.
Trains: Jim Wrinn
PHILADELPHIA — The owner of two notable Pennsylvania Railroad streamlined diesels says the Dec. 31 Positive Train Control deadline will force him to retire the locomotives from mainline excursion service.
In an interview with Trains Newswire, long-time private car and excursion train operator Bennett Levin says the cost of installing and maintaining PTC equipment on his Tuscan red PRR E8s Nos. 5711 and 5809 is excessive for two units that see operations once or twice each year. “Based on what we know at this time, there’s no practical way to continue,” he says.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society earlier this week announced a 100-seat parlor car special with the units running from Philadelphia to its 50th annual convention in Altoona, Pa., May 9, and returning May 13. “This very well might be the final outing with the … units as a result of Congress’ unfortunate and untimely PTC mandate,” the brochure says. Levin says the wording refers to PTC, which he calls an unfunded Congressional mandate that resulted from a fatal 2008 commuter railroad accident in which the engineer should have been doing his job and not using his cell phone.
He estimates the cost of PTC in six figures per unit. “Nobody is going to spend that kind of money,” he says, adding that uncertainties about the future of private car operations on Amtrak is yet another potential barrier.
Levin has run his locomotives and passenger cars mostly for charities, including for the Barriger Library, the Lexington Group in Transportation History, and American Railroad Superintendents Association. “They’re good for the industry,” he says. “Good for everybody.” "They proudly represent the zenith of passenger rail travel in America". Most notable were the Liberty Limited private car trips put together for wounded servicemen and women at Walter Reid Army Hospital to travel to the Army-Navy football games in Philadelphia.

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