Tom O'Connor Group

Economic and management consulting firm

Labor Day, Always the First Monday in September



Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September celebrating the economic and social contributions of workers.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

It was first nationally recognized in 1894 to placate unionists following the Pullman Strike. With the decline in union membership, the holiday is generally viewed as a time for barbecues and the end of summer vacations – and time to go back to school in Fairfax County.


Independence Day, 2016


Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain.

Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and, regionally, “Yankee Doodle” in northeastern states and “Dixie” in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.

A bit of audio for your listening pleasure, as played by Vladimir Horowitz…

National Flag Day



On June 14th, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19 year old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance.

He chose this date because Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. This observance was also the beginning of Cigrand’s long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day.

The crowning achievement of his life came at age fifty when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nation wide observance of Flag Day.

Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act Of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Waubeka Wisconsin.

National Moment of Remembrance



The National Moment of Remembrance, established by Congress, asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m., local time, on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for a duration of one minute. The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday. The Moment does not replace traditional Memorial Day events; rather, it is an act of national unity in which all Americans, alone or with family and friends, honor those who died in service to the United States.

As laid out in Public Law 106-579, the National Moment of Remembrance is to be practiced by all Americans throughout the nation at 3pm local time. At the same time, a number of organizations throughout the country also observe the Moment: all Major League Baseball games halt, Amtrak train whistles sound across the country, and hundreds of other nationwide participants remind Americans to pause for the Memorial Day National Moment of Remembrance.

Memorial Day 2016


Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.

The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

A tribute to the men and women who fearlessly defend the freedoms we all enjoy. God bless them.


A quick reference:


Flying Scotsman trip back on after Network Rail U-turn



The Flying Scotsman’s planned trips in Borders and Fife are to go ahead after earlier being cancelled at short notice.

Track operator Network Rail said on Friday that the famous steam locomotive would no longer be able to undertake planned tours on Sunday because safety assessments had not been carried out on some lines in time. Scotland’s transport minister, Derek Mackay, accused the rail body of “appalling incompetence” and started talks to restore some of the route.

He later tweeted: “Solved. Flying Scotsman will run on Borders and Fife. Questions remain on how it came to this, but thanks a solution was found.”

The Network Rail chief executive, Mark Carne, offered a “wholehearted and sincere apology” and said an investigation into Friday’s cancellation would still take place. “Overnight and through today, our engineers and analysts have worked hard to find a way to get the necessary safety checks and engineering assessments done,” Carne said. “I am pleased to say that we have been successful and are now able to reinstate the original planned tours of Flying Scotsman in Scotland on Sunday.

“I wholeheartedly and sincerely apologise for the consternation caused by the premature announcement yesterday. Once the tours have been safely and successfully run, I will be instigating a full investigation into how this problem occurred on our railway in Scotland.”

The locomotive is due to arrive at Edinburgh Waverley from York on Saturday and earlier plans would have seen a vintage diesel engine take over for Sunday’s trips on the new Borders Railway to Tweedbank and across the Forth Bridge.

The cancellation had dismayed hundreds of rail enthusiasts planning to see the recently refurbished steam engine. Excursion operators Steam Dreams said Network Rail had known about the trips for months but left work “until the last minute”.

Built in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in 1923, Flying Scotsman pulled the first train to break the 100mph barrier in 1934. The National Railway Museum in York bought the locomotive for £2.3m in 2004 before work got under way on its decade-long restoration two years later.

Network Rail was forced to pay out almost £60,000 in compensation when dozens of train services were delayed by people encroaching on the track during the refurbished train’s inaugural run from London to York on 2 February this year.

Mackay said: “This is welcome news and, as a result of concerted local action, I hope that many people will now get to enjoy the experience of Flying Scotsman returning to Fife, Midlothian and the Borders.

“This, however, does not explain how we ended up in this farcical situation, nor will it comfort the many people who have been looking forward to this day and have had to amend or cancel travel plans at the last minute.

“This is not the end of the matter, I am still committed to seeing a full investigation into the reason why the initial work by Network Rail GB was not completed in time and how it was mishandled so badly.”



Today is the Former Train Day



National Train Day was a holiday started by Amtrak in 2008 as a method to spread information to the general public about the advantages of railway travel and the history of trains in the United States.

It was held each year on the Saturday closest to May 10, the anniversary of the pounding of the Golden spike in Promontory, Utah which marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S.

Events were held at major Amtrak stations as well as railroad museums across the country and often have passenger cars and model railroad layouts on display. The largest events took place in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.

National Train Day was discontinued after 2015 due to budget cuts within Amtrak.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations honoring family members, such as Father’s Day and Siblings Day.

In the United States, celebration of Mother’s Day began in the early 20th century.

It was in 1905 when Mother’s Day was finally introduced successfully by Anna Jarvis. She started a dedicated letter writing campaign to declare an official Mother’s Day. Through Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, the first Mother’s Day was observed on May 10, 1908.

This day, to honor Anna Jarvis’s mother grew into a National Observance until in 1911 every state participated. Soon it was spreading internationally and on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday to be held on the second Sunday of May.

Don’t Forget!



Amtrak crash shows U.S. anti rail-collision system may have gaps



Sunday’s fatal Pennsylvania Amtrak accident may have exposed possible blind spots in a nationwide collision prevention system that is meant to stop crashes on U.S. railroads.

Amtrak last year became the first U.S. railroad to fully install “positive train control” (PTC) systems on its routes, a congressionally mandated technology that uses antennae on locomotives and sensors on tracks to monitor trains’ precise location and prevent collisions.

A dilemma facing railroads is whether to spend funds expanding PTC systems to service vehicles like the backhoe involved in Sunday’s crash, or put money into upgrades of aging rail infrastructure.

Officials are still investigating how the backhoe working on the tracks was struck by a Georgia-bound train in Chester, Pennsylvania, killing two construction workers and sending 35 people to hospital.

It is not yet known whether the vehicle had a PTC device. Some railroads have considered installing them on maintenance equipment. It is not clear if Amtrak has done so, experts said.

“If you have a vehicle that’s not riding the rails, but on the shoulder or across the rails or on rubber tires alone and you don’t allow the circuit to know you’re there, you’re outside the PTC system,” said Allan Zarembski, a professor at the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering who specializes in rail safety.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether the train’s PTC system functioned properly in Sunday’s collision, a spokesman said. An Amtrak spokesman declined to answer questions about whether the railroad’s PTC system was designed to detect service vehicles on the tracks, citing the NTSB investigation.

The U.S. rail industry has spent about $14 billion installing PTC equipment, though Congress last year extended the deadline for full implementation by three years to 2018.

There are several varieties of PTC systems in use in the United States. Amtrak’s is focused on controlling train speeds; development began in earnest following a 1990 incident in which one of the carrier’s trains derailed in Boston and struck a commuter train, injuring more than 400 people.

Amtrak finished installing the system following a May 2015 derailment about 20 miles (30 km) north of Sunday’s crash site caused by an engineer speeding into a curve, which killed eight people and injured 43.

While locomotives signal their position automatically in the PTC system, work crews need to place a device on the tracks to alert the system to their presence.

Still, high-profile accidents like the recent Amtrak crashes or the February 2015 incident in which a Metro-North commuter train in suburban New York hit a car, are exceptions in an industry that has largely reduced fatal accidents, experts said.

“The routine accidents have been taken care of. The rails, the wheels are safer than ever before and the people have been trained. Yet there are still mistakes that occur,” said Steven Ditmeyer, a former Federal Railroad Administration official who now works as a rail consultant.

FRA data show that 15 passengers and 11 employees died in rail accidents last year, marking the deadliest year since 2008, when a Union Pacific Corp (UNP.N) train crashed into a Los Angeles MetroLink commuter train, killing 25 people.

Far more people are killed by illegally crossing passenger tracks, which claimed 162 lives in 2015.

For Ditmeyer, the most effective way to bring those accident numbers lower is to invest in significant maintenance and replacement on rail routes like the Northeast corridor between Washington and Boston, which has not had a major upgrade since the late 1970s.

For companies, the issue is cost effectiveness, whether they should spend money on infrastructure or expand the PTC system – especially in the busy northeast.

“It’s a multibillion-dollar, multiyear program to get the Northeast corridor up to full strength,” Ditmeyer said of needed upgrades.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Andrew Hay)