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Sunday, February 12, 2017

02-07-19 CLASSIC PHOTOS: Boonton Line

Notice I didn't title this "Montclair-Boonton Line". Back in the summer of 2002, the word came down that the old Erie RR portion of the NJT Boonton Line would be abandoned in favor of a new routing via the old DL&W Montclair Branch with electrification extended to Great Notch. As a result I set up with once and future Subchatter Spider Pig
to ride the entire "classic" Boonton Line before it passed into history. This was made a bit challenging due to the fact that there was no weekend Boonton Line service and very limited reverse peak service. Pigs and I met in Hoboken for the first afternoon Hackettstown train departing around 2pm, then caught a return train via the M&E.

There were a lot of storms out this day and they overtook us just after we got to Hackettstown so that's why there aren't any pix from the way back. You can view the set of pixs we did get here

To get to Hoboken on a weekday I had to catch a train from Meriden, CT, where I was attending school at the time. The Meriden siding was a scheduled meet and the northbound shuttle arrived on the scene first. Much like today, the Amtrak Springfield Shuttle trains were running with one Metroliner Cab Car, one Amfleet coach and one Genesis. Unlike today the Genesis was a P40 (#820) and still dressed in Phase IV paint.

The northbound shuttle train was also running sandwich style with three Material Handling Cars on the end because unlike the other shuttle trains, this was one #490, connecting to early morning "mail" train #190. Before Amtrak exited the mail and express business in 2005, mail cars would traverse the corridor en route to the USPS sorting facility in Springfield, MA.

Here are my old buddies at the Meriden, CT Station. When Amtrak re-signaled the Springfield Line ~1990 they installed New Haven style small target US&S H-5 searchlight signals on new style aluminum masts. In 2005 the H-5's were re-headed with target type LED color light signals. These are now currently being removed to support Rule 562 operation without fixed automatic signals in conjunction with the double track project and CDOT commuter service.

The unpopular GE B39-8 was predecessor to the equally unpopular B40-8. High horsepower 4-axle road power just never caught on with the major railroads so most of the B39-8's ended up being sold to GE's leading arm. #8565 here ran with the Connecticut Southern short line who had the contract for Springfield Line freight service. It pulled into the Meriden siding with #8579 to wait for the arrival of southbound Shuttle train.

That soon appeared with Metroliner Cab Car #9640 on the end.

Arriving at New Haven Station I encountered some of the FL-9's that were still in service back in 2002. Still, by that time they were being assigned to lesser tasks like shuttle service and, in the case of #2014 and #2024, hauling the wire train.

AEM-7 #920 is one of another class of locomotives that have since vanished from the NEC.

Well at least this hasn't changed...recent accidents aside.

Comet V? What's a Comet V?? In this pic the V's were still some years distant. The first Comet cab car I of the entire class, #5100, sits at Hoboken next to Arrow III #1321 ready to follow up a train.

There was still a strong commitment to MU operations on the Hoboken Division before everything was converted to push-pull and funneled into Penn Station behind. Arrow III's #1528 and #1330.

Comet I Cab Car #5130 had had grade crossing protection stripes applied, while #5133 was unmodified.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

16-09-01 PHOTOS: Downeaster Dome

Most years, Amtrak's sole remaining Great Dome car gets trotted out in the fall to provide leaf peepers with a better view on the Adirondack and (occasionally) Cardinal services. In 2016, NNEPRA, the governmental organization in charge of the Downeaster passenger service to Maine, hit upon the idea of booking the dome for a few weeks in August. One of the two trainsets would be equipped with the dome and it would be run on about half the weekday and weekend trains. As luck would have it, my annual Labour Day Boston trip involves a Dwneaster journey to New Hampshire, so the only action I had to take was moving back my departure from 5pm to 5:45pm.

If you didn't peek ahead and see all the photos last week, the full set is right here.

Former Great Northern dome car #10031 was one of 6 Great Dome cars ordered by the Great Northern in 1953 to upgrade service on the Empire Builder. It is currently the last dome car on the Amtrak roster, last seeing regular service on the single level version of the Auto Train.

Prior to my trains departure from Boston North Station, a strange Amtrak train consisting of P42DC #205 and a sister sandwiching a single Amfleet car was parked ahead of our trainset on the same track. It departed before ours was finished boarding and I still have no idea what was going on.

Our train was being hauled by Amtrak P42DC #140 and the dome car was placed behind the engine.

On the opposite train Rotem bi-level K-Kab-Car #1802 arrived at the head of an inbound MBTA commuter train.

Seating in the dome was at no extra cost and was first come first serve. The dome was open prior to departure and one did not need to maintain a seat in one of the regular coaches.

For anyone who has never ridden in Amtrak's Great Done, here's a video tour.

Speaking of video, I still had some space on my GoPro memory card so I found a way to rig it to the front of the dome to record a quasi railfan view of the Downeaster route between North Station and Haverhill. The first video includes the MBTA Lowell Line between North Station and the Anderson (Cooper) RTC. The second picks up from there and covers the Wildcat Branch as well as the Haverhill Line to just shy of the Bradford Station.

16-09-01 PHOTOS: Braintree

On my most recent trip to visit Boston, which took place over this past Labour Day Weekend, I found myself with an additional 45 minutes to kill on top of the usual 90-120 minute layover between the Regional arrival at Boston South Station and the Downeaster Departure from Boston North Station. This was because Amtrak's Great Dome was running on the Doneaster and because there is only one of them it was scheduled on the later 5:45 departing train instead of my usual connection of the 5pm departing train. Anyway I decided to use this bonus layover time to rectify a long running problem I had with the MBTA rapid transit network, mainly that I had never been to Braintree on the Red Line.

Now this wasn't because I had never ridden the Braintree Branch of the Red Line, because I had, but only as far as Quincy Adams. Back when I was in Boston more frequently, Wikipedia and smart phones had yet to exist and nobody I was with could tell me if trains arriving at Braintree dumped riders outside with no way to return for free. This was especially important information because the Braintree extension exit fare system was still in effect so getting dumped out a la Wonderland would result in not one but THREE additional fares to get back. This resulted in my choosing to exist at Quincy Adams on my one and only previous excursion down the line.

Visiting Braintree was also doubly important due to the impending replacement of the Classic Red Line rolling stock in favor of Chinese junk. You can find photos from the entire trip here.

The trip began in Baltimore with MARC HHP-8 #4911 still hanging on to life as it arrives with an early morning local train.

My Regional Train 172 was running to schedule and we met a southbound counterpart at Wilmington with ACS-86 #922.

Temporary signals at HAROLD interlocking as it is rebuilt for ESA.

PRR Position light signal bridge at HAROLD.

Additional signs of "progress". 

Providence and Worcester GP38 #2010 hangs out with Amtrak P42DCs #100 and #104 and GP38H-3 #522 at the New Haven motor storage yard.

Metroliner Cab Car #9640 was attached to a Springfield Shuttle trainset.

Amtrak P42DC #108 was shuffling around before or after a power change.

At Boston South Station I caught an Acela Express trainset with sequential power cars, #2012 and #2013.

To escape the heat underground, I hopped an Ashmont train to JFK-UMASS where I caught an outbound MBTA train on the Old Colony with F40PH-2C #1065.

16-09-01 VIDEOS: Amtrak NEC

So since Amtrak moved Business Class to the rear of Regional Trains, I realized I had been rather lax in taking advantage of the previously inexpensive real window access after the point that I became equipped myself with a GoPro. However, all is not lost because thanks to the new Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card I come into regular possession of class upgrade coupons and so I have been provided with a shot at redemption.

This past Labour Day weekend I utilized one such coupon on a trip to Boston on Amtrak Regional Train #172 and was able to capture sufficient rear facing videos to cover the NEC between the Martin Airport and New York Pennsylvania Station. This will nicely dovetail with my existing video covering the Shore Line between Mill River and South Station, which I was able to complete with the Mill River to Old Saybrook segment on this run.

Due to some camera issues the first segment begins approximately at Martin Airport and continues to Wilmington. Interesting points to note includes being sandwiched by an empty NS oil train and a southbound Acela express just south of Newark, DE.

The next video begins at Wilmington with the southbound Train 79 across the platform and continued on to Philadelphia. Due to the TML operating on track 2 between HOLLY and HOOK, we have to cross over to the local track for that stretch, right before passing a southbound SEPTA local just shy of Lamokin.

Monday, August 8, 2016

16-08-09 PHOTOS: Austin City Limits

Known by many as the only civilized city in Texas, Austin is a cultural hub and home to the University of Texas. However, when it comes to rail transportation, Austin finds itself somewhat lacking compared to other megalopolises such as Huston and Dallas-Ft. Worth. To this end Auston looked to supplement its Amtrak station and network of bike routes with one of those newfangled, European style light commuter rail lines and on a recent trip to the city for a conference I got to try it out. You can locate all the photos about that and the heavy rail action here.

Austin's Capitol MetroRail is a 9 stop commuter line using 6 FRA "compliant" Stadler GTW railcars. Fare collection is a typical proof of payment affair with two fare zones and a $7 day pass. Service terminates at a downtown station across from the convention centre that's actually about 4 blocks from the true downtown and a few more from the Texas state capitol complex. Here car #103 lays over at the aptly named "Downtown" station.

Only two vehicles are needed for the 1+ hour mid-day service frequency. The trains pass at the Kramer station, which is also used as a crew relief point. As you can see there is a minimally acceptable railfan view. 

Mid-day service terminates at the Lakeline station, with peak period trains continuing to Leander. This is likely necessary to make the two vehicle load line work. The service is contracted to Herzog Transportation Services. 

The maintenance depot and yard is located mid-way along the line at Serta. This is where most of the fleet, including #106 here, hangs out during the day.

Normally I wouldn't have many serious complaints about a low cost commuter rail starter line, however the whole CapitolMetro is rendered useless by a 40mph top speed, even in the cross country portions away from downtown Austin (where the speed drops to between 10 and 25mph). The RoW is not particularly curvy and is also fully signaled, so I'm not sure what their excuse is beyond not wanting to upgrade the former freight line it runs on to anything above Class 2 standards. Compared to the NJT RiverLINE, which would like to increase its speeds to 70mph, CapitolMetro is simply a joke. To illustrate the point, here is 4 minutes of side-video taken between Howard and Kramer.

#103 back again at downtown. Platforms are of the low, level boarding type.

#103 departing downtown on another run to Lakeline.

Austin's only heavy rail action comes on the aptly named Union Pacific Austin Sub, which is a single track line snaking its way up from San Antonio. Here UP ES44AC #8226 and SD70MAC #5192 roll by the iconic Austin City Power Plant with a merchandise train in tow.

Friday, July 29, 2016

16-07-29 PHOTOS: Savage Meet

In recent years CSX has made a number of infrastructure upgrades to its Capitol and Metropolitan Subdivisions that host weekday commuter operations from Maryland's MARC service provider. I should probably mention that this was probably not done out of the goodness of their heart, but because they got some sort of State or Federal money to make the upgrades. Because the Capitol Sub between DC and Baltimore had already been sprinkled with State funded crossovers back in the 90's, the upgrades there mostly served to improve freight service. One major bottleneck was the bulk auto delivery terminal in Jessup, MD. Trains of autoracks would have to foul the main line as they stretched through PA TOWER interlocking due to the shortness of the yard lead.

The solution was a new third track between the auto terminal and SAVAGE interlocking, about 2 miles to the south. This third track passes through the Savage MARC station and effectively eliminates the bottleneck. While funding for all day service on the MARC Camden Line has not materialized, one additional afternoon round trip, turning to DC at the popular Dorsey Park and Ride station, was added. This created a meet between the first DC bound train from Baltimore and the early Dorsey turn train out of DC in the vicinity of the Savage station (they are in fact separated by 4 minutes on the timetable).

In addition to the Savage meet I have photos from the Amtrak BWI Rail Station and CSX freight action on the Baltimore Belt Line.

In fact let's begin at the BWI station with a typical midday consist of new split level Bombardier coaches sandwitched between MP36PH-3C #17 and single level cab car #7756.

I was at BWI at a busy time with Train 79, the southbound Carolinian, running on the center express track with ACS-86 #651, being followed by a more typical Regional pulled by ACS-86 #663.

 An non-stopping Acela trainset soon passed by on the local track with power car #2019 in the lead.

 Followed by a northbound Regional pulled by ACS-86 #609.

When the MARC train I was waiting for finally showed up, it was led by single level cab car #7749.

I happened to be in Baltimore for the large Artscape arts festival, and while seeking out some shade under the old B&O Mount Royal Station trainshed I caught a pair of GE ES44AC;s (#881 and #3174) working hard up the grade from the Baltimore waterfront to the highlands north of town. Back in the age of steam these tunnels and this grade combined to force the B&O to install the world's first Main Line electrification system to provide a smoke free assist to through trains as they battled the grade.

CSX C44-10W #5256 pops out of one of the short tunnels under Mt Royal Ave and into the trainshed as it brakes a manifest freight down the hill.

Some CSX MoW equipment was occupying the North Ave passing siding.

Here are a pair of trains traversing the Jones Falls viaduct that also crosses the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. The first westbound train is led by CSX AC4400 #92 and the second by C44-10W #5228 and ES44AH #958.

Monday, July 4, 2016

16-07-04 PHOTOS: Local Color

Sometimes that which you see every day so blends into the background that it becomes easy to ignore. With the impending rebuid of the classic PATCO cars, I have been making more of an effort to take photos of my local transit scene. Here are some I took around the July 4th holiday period.

Here is a train of unrebuilt Vickers PATCO cars, with #261 and #261 leading and trailing, wrong railing at the Haddonfield station on a weekend day.

The wrong railing was going on overnight too as seen crews worked to rebuild the direct fixation system on the Westmont viaduct, as seen this video of a train featuring PAtCO Car #268. The operator had better be careful to not get pulled over due to a faulty tail light.

Lit signals at SOUTH RACE interlocking indicate that a train is approaching. The Approach Medium indication is for a diverging move at RACE interlocking.

At the side of the old Utica Ave station in Westmont, NJ, an NJT Atlantic City Line train passes by powered by PL42 #4021 with Comet V cab car #6059 on the rear. The train advanced on an Approach Medium to a Medium Clear signal at RACE interlocking where it would make its Cherry Hill, NJ stop.

Amtrak tends to schedule ACL trains to pass just west of SHORE interlocking on the NEC. This creates about a 20-30 minute gap between opposing trains. Today things were running to schedule so here is a southbound train with Comet V cab car #6047 and PL42 #4010.

Here we find SEPTA SL-IV #296 at Market East station.