Category Archives: News Current

The locomotive legacy of U.S. Sugar

A piece of Florida locomotive history has come home to the sunshine state after being away for nearly half a century. Steam Engine No. 148 arrived in Clewiston late last year, although not under its own power. The engine and its tender (fuel and water car) arrived from Colorado strapped to two railroad flat cars. Well, most of it arrived by rail.

“We were able to gather and collect most of the pieces that were already removed from the locomotive,” said Ted Dobrie, chief mechanical officer for U.S. Sugar, “and we crated and cataloged all that equipment and shipped all that back by truck. We’re just missing a couple of minor pieces that we’re going to have to track down.”

So, what does a 97-year-old steam locomotive engine have to do with a company in the business of growing and refining sugarcane? Quite a bit, actually. Founded in 1931, U.S. Sugar needed a way to transport sugarcane from about 187,000 acres of fields to its sugar mills.

“When we were started back in the early ’30s, rail transportation was how freight was moved, and there were very few roads of any sort out here,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar. “There certainly wasn’t a reliable network for moving sugarcane from the fields to the mill, so our company made a decision at the beginning to put in an industrial private railroad that linked our fields and mill.”

Faced with the same transportation problem that challenged cypress logging companies in Florida, U.S. Sugar pursued the same solution. The company installed about 120 miles of rail across its fields for its internal rail line. Then, to transport its products out as well as haul agricultural equipment and supplies in, the company began operating a short-line freight railroad called the South Central Florida Express, which connects with commercial freight railroads CSX Transportation at Sebring and the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) at Fort Pierce.

Between the internal and external lines, the company currently operates nearly 300 miles of rail. A decision originally made for expediency, the rail transportation infrastructure has turned out to provide efficiency for U.S. Sugar’s operations.

“Our trains are one of the things that set U.S. Sugar apart from our colleagues and competitors in the sugar business in the United States,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a transportation method, but over the years it’s become more a transportation advantage because we’re not having to put all that cane into tractor-trailers and haul it out on public roads. It’s much more efficient as well since you can haul up to 100 boxcars of cane behind a locomotive, and that one locomotive is the only part of the train using fuel.”


“Our CEO is a history buff,” Sanchez said. “He has a love of machinery and of anything historical, so to him it’s fascinating.”

The search eventually led to Monte Vista, Colorado, where No. 148 had been taken for repairs with the intention of operating it, once again, for tourist excursions. However, the 2008 economic downturn stalled the entire tourist railway project and work on the partly disassembled steam engine stopped. U.S. Sugar purchased the legacy locomotive and brought it back to its Clewiston shop for its own locomotive team to restore, using historical diagrams and photos from Bramson. Dobrie said some parts of the project will also require help from engineering consultants who specialize in steam engines.

Dobrie said the restoration could take up to a year and a half. After restoration, Sanchez said U.S. Sugar intends to obtain some period passenger cars and offer excursion rides to draw tourists to Clewiston.

“It’s going to be not only an amazing project, but it’s going to attract marvelous goodwill and bring national attention to United States Sugar,” Bramson said. “Not only do you attract thousands of people out to see the steam engine, but you generate an enormous amount of positive publicity for your company. What they’re doing is for very positive reasons, being most of all a major contribution to the incredible history of United States Sugar, Florida East Coast Railway and the state of Florida itself.”

Cuomo orders higher security measures on mass transit

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed an executive order that gives New Jersey and Connecticut law enforcement jurisdiction on New York’s public transportation services and facilities.

The order is aimed at allowing security and counterterrorism officials in both states to assist New York in ensuring public safety at locations traditionally targeted by terrorists, according to a press release issued by Cuomo’s office.

“With the busy holiday season in full swing, we are taking every precaution necessary to mitigate potential terrorist threats and keep people safe,” Cuomo said. “This order gives our partners in New Jersey and Connecticut greater ability to help patrol and protect our mass transit networks. Together we will continue to remain vigilant, and I urge all travelers to stay alert and safe throughout the holidays.”

The holiday season tends to be a time of heightened alert and risk of terror attacks as hundreds of thousands of commuters travel between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut each day via mass transit systems, including inter-state rail, bus and ferry systems.

Increased manpower and overall law enforcement presence will allow governments throughout the region to protect public safety and provide an additional reassurance to commuters, Cuomo’s press release said.

The order was issued on Dec. 8 and will remain in effect for 30 days.

Obama Takes On Guns and Racism in Emotional Eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney

President Obama on Friday delivered an impassioned call for America to confront gun violence and racism during his eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine victims of a massacre at an African-American church.

In a personal address that touched on a number of social policies, Obama concluded with the cadence of a preacher — and surprised the 5,500 mourners at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C., by breaking into song, leading the congregation in a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

After Obama finished, clergymen in the arena called him “Reverend Obama.”

The president memorialized each of the nine victims of the shooting but also called the incident a wake-up call for the nation to address not only gun violence, but racial inequality and a broken criminal justice system.

He called Pinckney, a personal friend and supporter of Obama’s, a “good man” who “lived by faith” and believed that actions, and not just words, were needed to better his community.

“It would be a betrayal to everything Rev. Pinckney stood for if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again,” Obama told the crowd of mourners.

“To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again,” he added.

The president also waded into the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, calling it a symbol of “systemic oppression and racial subjugation.”

“For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens,” Obama said. “By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.”

Obama praised South Carolina’s Republican leaders for seeking to remove the flag from state grounds, but said there was much more that needs to be done to heal the nation’s racial wounds.

He called on Americans to recognize racial prejudices in their everyday lives, not just overt expressions of racial hatred.

“So that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal,” Obama said.

With nearly 50 members of Congress, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), looking on, Obama reiterated his call for stricter gun laws, saying the nation has “been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.”

“Sporadically, our eyes are open,” during mass killings, Obama said, listing mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and Charleston. “But I hope we also see that 30 precious lives are cut short by gun violence every single day.”

Friday’s funeral service marked the seventh time in his presidency Obama has traveled to a community shaken by gun violence.

People stood for hours in long lines to get into the arena. Obama, who traveled to Charleston along with first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden, was scheduled to meet with the families of victims and survivors of the shooting.

Obama said Charleston had risen above the motives of the accused shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year old white man who allegedly told police he intended to start a race war.

“It was an act … that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin,” Obama said.

“Oh, but God works in mysterious ways,” he added. “God has different ideas. He didn’t know he was being used by God.”

The speech capped a pivotal week for Obama’s presidency. The White House was triumphant in celebrating a major victory in Congress on trade and two Supreme Court decisions that upheld the president’s healthcare law and legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

The mood was different earlier on Friday, when Obama stood in the Rose Garden and declared that justice had arrived “like a thunderbolt” for same-sex couples.

“Today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we have made our union a little more perfect,” Obama said.

“It’s been a significant morning, it’s been a significant couple of days, and it’s certainly been a significant month for not only the president and the administration, but for the country,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One.

But the elation was tempered by the tragedy in South Carolina. Obama acknowledged the slow progress when it comes to guns and race, but called the tragedy in Charleston an opportunity to push for broader change.

“We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it,” the president said. “But God gives it to us anyway. And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.”

A Big Year For General Electric Shareowners: GE Store, New Focus, Great Ideas


The LEAP engine, which took its maiden flight last fall, has 3D printed parts and components made from next-generation materials called ceramic composites.

GE’s industrial shift also brings benefits like the GE Store. “It means that every business in GE can share and access the same technology, markets, structure and intellect,” Immelt writes. “The value of the GE Store is captured by faster growth and higher margins; it makes the totality of GE more competitive than the parts.”

The GE Store allows the company to take FAA-certified alternators from its jet engines and use them to build better oil pumps. It can also use medical imaging technology to inspect subsea pipelines. “No other company has the ability to transfer intellect and technology as GE can through the Store,” Immelt writes.


A group of analysts who recently visited GE’s research headquarters in Schenectady, N.Y., seem to get the point…

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Location of Democrats Abroad Meeting Changed


Due to a last minute logistical limitation with our host, Le Comptoir de l’imaginaire, Democrats Abroad France – Riviera Chapter is changing the location of our elections.  The new location is listed below and is where previous Political Wines have been held.  The date and time remain unchanged.  We apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause.

La Canne à Sucre / Sports 11
11 promenade des Anglais 06000 NICE

Please join us on 12 JUN 2015 (Friday evening) at 19h00 to cast your ballot.  Immediately following our voting, we will host a unique film screening of California State of Mind directed by Sascha Rice. If this change prevents you from submitting your ballot in person, you may still send your signed ballot (see PDF attached) and a photocopy of your American passport to our official Elections Monitor by midnight 11 JUN 2015:


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Time to sell GE Stock? NO! Time To Buy

Oh! The business news is full of all kinds of news on the General Electric Company. The biggest part is about getting out of the Financial Services business.

Lot of Wall Street experts immediatley say sell your stock!

Our resident expert on GE, the Ancien Hippie (who will further comment on this story when “the dust settles”) feels that it is only following the pattern of “constant renewal” that has been going on since the company started in 1892.  In 1932, General Electric Capital Corporation was formed to help families buy home appliances. Then somebody got the idea that it could also finance jet engines. Then the whole thing just went viral. Now out it goes.

GE's Jeffery Immelt
GE’s Jeffery Immelt

Read CEO Jeffrey Immelt’s full story on what he is up to.  Read what he is telling employees and pensioners.

Immelt is going back to basics. He is concentrating on the “core businesses” that made General Electric great.

Others saw the problems with the GE Capital Corporation

If you have never seen a concise history of the General Electric Company, read here.

Nice to see that Jeffery Immelt is running the company, not Goldman Sachs and Warren Buffet


Florida East Coast Role In State of Florida

Not too many railroads have been instrumental in the development of their home State. Yes, we can find a few like the New York Central in NY State. One we can definitely point to is the Florida East Coast Railway in Florida.

Early on, Henry Flagler built many important Florida projects.

The Casa Marina Resort sits in an enviable spot on one of the few beaches in Key West, a town built on an ancient coral reef that’s not conducive to long stretches of sand. This is a geological fact that many tourists don’t appreciate. And although the resort sits next to a rocky shore, it has water views nonetheless, a rare amenity since most of Key West’s most fashionable inns are landlocked by million-dollar, tin-roofed conch houses.It occurred to me that the Casa’s guests in the 1920s stayed here for a few days before taking the island ferries to Havana. In the late ’20s and ’30s, they flew Pan Am’s propeller planes to Cuba. I wondered whether Key West would once again be a gateway to Cuba, only 90 miles away — certainly a short distance for a high-speed ferry. The Casa Marina was the vision of Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler, who promised the citizens of Key West he would build a luxury hotel here to accommodate the passengers arriving on his Overseas Railway. The railroad officially opened when a steam locomotive pulled several passenger cars including Flagler’s private railcar, Rambler, into the new terminal at Trumbo Point in Key West at precisely 10:43 on the morning of Jan. 21, 1912. His railroad from Miami went over 42 bridges including his masterpiece — the Seven-Mile Bridge. He had finished an engineering feat called the Eighth Wonder of the World by those who considered Flagler a visionary, and Flagler’s Folly by naysayers. Key West was the last stop on the Overseas Railway, which itself was the last segment of his Florida East Coast Railway that ran the length of the state from Jacksonville to Miami. Along with the railroad, Flagler built some of the state’s most fabulous hotels: the Ponce de Leon (now part of Flagler College) and the Alcazar, now the Lightner Museum, in St. Augustine; the Palm Beach Inn, destroyed by fire in 1903 and rebuilt and named The Breakers in Palm Beach; and the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami. He put new seaside towns on the national map, attracting an elite group that included John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor, J.P. Morgan, William Randolph Hearst and Andrew Carnegie. He had built a railroad to nowhere, which subsequently led to creating a somewhere.


But now the tradition continues. Florida East Coast Railway / All Aboard Florida is building high speed passenger rail between Miami and Orlando. Many of the towns and cities are complaining about this and that. Instead, the construction will have favorable fallout. An example is in Palm Beach. At least 17 of urban designer and “walkability expert” Jeff Speck’s ideas to improve downtown West Palm Beach can be done right away, and should, a city committee says. After Speck submitted his 101-page report in the fall, a committee began meeting weekly, Rick Greene, director of development services and a member of the group, said.