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Sunday, October 30, 2016

16-10-30 PHOTOS: Autumn Express - Reading Line

At CP-BURN, located in eastern Allentown, Amtrak's Autumn Express turns onto the former Conrail Reading Line, which runs between Allentown yard and a junction with the Harrisburg Line just outside of Reading, PA. For a named "Line" (under the Conrail system), it is actually quite short, only about 30 miles from end to end, but as a link in the east-west trunk to the Port of New York and New jersey is handles a large volume of traffic.

The timing of this trip was especially important because the double track Reading Line was slated to be re-signaled from ABS Rule 251 to CTC Rule 261 and taking a train over it allowed me to survey all the classic searchlight signals in one go.

You can find the full set of photos here.

A spike of railfans had set up at CP-BURN to watch the special rise out of the hole and then cross over to westbound track 2.

The nominal subject of this photo is the eastbound MP33 distant signal to CP-BURN, however way back at the crossing is former West Jersey informal railfan trip specialist Kevin Painter.

Large group of railfans out for the train in East Allentown.

Some cars wait for interchange on the Perkeomen Branch that diverges at Emmaus Jct.

Another big crowd is on hand at a railfan park in Macungie, PA, the home of Mac trucks.

Power crossovers at CP-ALBURTIS. This interlocking was re-signaled around 2007 and will be re-signaled again for the CTC. 

Former Reading Mertztown Station building.

The new crossovers at CP-LYONS will help fill the gap between Alburtis and Blandon. 

They will replace the single trailing crossover at the old LYONS Temporary Block Station, seen here with an eastbound autorack train.

16-10-30 PHOTOS: Autumn Express - Lehigh Line

After sitting out the 2015 Amtrak Autumn Express due to its distant location in the NY Capitol Region and complete lack of same day connection to/from trains to NYC, I was much more receptive to the 2016 offering which was going to originate and depart from New York City. The route would follow the former Lehigh Valley Railroad to Allentown, PA before switching to the former Reading "Valley" route from there to Harrisburg. This alternative to the PRR's several routes between New York and Harrisburg was made possible by the general consolidation of Northeast carriers into Conrail and Amtrak's anti-freight attitude. While I had traveled part of it on the 2014 Autumn Express, the lines between Newark and Reading were un-surveyed and in significant need of attention.

The only way for me to get to NYC in time to properly board the 8am departing Autumn Express was to take Train 190, departing Baltimore at 3:50am. This came the day after I had just traveled to Harrisburg to photograph the Autumn Express from the outside and later attended a Halloween Party. This is the first of several posts documenting the 2016 Autumn Express and it will cover the trip over the former Conrail Lehigh Line between Newark and Allentown, PA. Next week I'll cover the Reading Line between Allentown and Reading before finally covering both the NS and Amtrak Harrisburg Lines.

You can find the full set of Lehigh Line Autumn Express photos here.

Starting at Baltimore the track bridges were out for some MoW work on tracks 4, 5, 6 and 7. Unfortunately Amtrak never seems to be able to line up its track bridges properly in the MARC zone. The crew became so confused that at one point opened up on the low level (and out of service) Track 3!

The platforming at New York Penn Station worked a bit better as our train was adjacent to the Autumn Express trainset on track 10. As I was an alighting ticketed passenger I was able to go up for some pre-board photos of the power that consisted of Amtrak Phase III Heritage P42 #145, Amtrak Veterans P42 #42 and Amtrak Veterans ACS-86 #642.

Metroliner First Class Conference Car #6800 was also still on the leading end of the trainset, which would mean I would benefit from a rear facing railfan window!

Over on adjacent Track 8, ACS-86 #600 sat sprawled across A interlocking's #111 switch.

After departure the train stopped briefly at Newark to take on more passengers. The train was so long that my position in the rear was almost sitting on the draw span of the DOCK movable bridge! While waiting a westbound NJT train appeared with ALP-46 #4623 in the lead.

Some lucky railfans at the "Union" (Townley, NJ) NJT station caught a once in a lifetime meet as the Autumn Express passed an eastbounf NS freight with Erie-Lackawana heritage SD45-2 #1700 being transported behind the road engines. Furthermore, at the end of the consist were three NJT split-level cars being delivered new or from Sandy repair.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

16-10-29 PHOTOS: HARRIS Autumn Express

So Amtrak scheduling its 2016 Autumn Express on consecutive days earlier in the season had a number of great benefits. The first was that the leaf color was better, the second is that an October date meant that HARRIS tower would still be open and the third is that I could go photograph the train on one day and then ride it the next. The route would have a New York City departure and then make a large circle using the Lehigh Valley/Reading route outbound and then returning via the PRR route through Philly. On the Saturday I drove out to Harrisburg to both photograph the train and visit the HARRIS Tower museum and then on Sunday, as you will soon see, I rode the train myself. This arrangement not only checked off my Amtrak Autumn Express train photos, but also my annual HARRIS tower visit.

You can find the full set of photos here.

I started my day hanging out in HARRIS tower, occasionally pausing to photograph various passing NS trains. At one point I caught this meet between NS C44-9W's #9484 and #9389 and NS ES44DS's #8145 and #8051.

The early afternoon is when both the eastbound and westbound Pennsylvanians. The westbound specifically can tend to hang out for a bit thanks to all the schedule padding. Here we see Train 42 with P42DC #96. Behind it P42DC #92 sits coupled to Metroliner Cab Car #9647 as protect power.

A few minutes later Amtrak P42DC #96 departed Harrisburg with Train 42 through the newly rebuilt STATE interlocking, that had just been cut over a few days prior closing the old STATE tower that had been in service for 79 years.

After Train 42 departed, a mid-day westbound Keystone train arrived with Metroliner Cab Car #9636 and ACS-86 #663.

I had re-positioned myself to the now re-opened Mulberry St bridge in order to get some photos of the Autumn Express as it turned off the Reading Valley Branch at CAPITOL tower. Although it was only a few miles away, it was delayed by congestion and while waiting I caught this light engine move heading off the wye track from the Lugan Branch led by NS C44-9W #9803.

Two of the Three units in the light engine move, #8877 and #8880 were NS C44-9's, the last "standard cab" GE's built. 

The cause of the delay soon appeared in the form of a westbound merchandise train led by NS SD70ACe #1012 and C44-9W #9705.

Following behind was the 2016 Autumn Express powered by Amtrak Phase III Heritage P42DC #145, Veterans P42DC #42 and Veterans ACS-86 #642. This was followed by Metroliner conference car #6800 and about 12-14 coaches. Fun fact, the ACS-86 had more power than the two P42's combined.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


So last fall I was invited to a little shindig down at the Jersey Shore and my route to get there passed through both 30th St Station and the critical PRSL junction of Tuckahoe, NJ. Funny how I can always turn most roadtrips into an excuse to do something rail related. Anyway, move over Chuchubob, cause I'm covering the South Jersey scene this week. You can find the set of photos here and be assured that there is more than tired signaling photos.

I had some extra time getting off the train so I walked across the Schuylkill River and down to the linear park built on the east bank. The sun was just right to generate this light show on the underside of the PRR arch bridge.

Up on top I got what would be my only photo of a SEPTA SL-V replacement lease set consisting of SEPTA cab car #2408, a cut of MARC I coaches and brand new Amtrak ACS-86 #696.

The next day I got down to Tuckahoe in time to catch the CMSL crew having lunch in the shadow of the former Reading Company TUCKAHOE tower (built 1906).

Of course PRR GP9 #7000 and CNJ GP7P #1523 on hand in front of the tower.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

16-10-08 PHOTOS: Hudson Line Signals

This year for my Columbus Day road trip I stayed on the east side of the Hudson River, then went north a bit up the former New York Central main line until I had passed CP-75 and entered what is now Amtrak territory. Because of the change of ownership, it is likely only a matter of time before many of the classic NY Central signaling elements are replaced so I wanted to try and get my photos in before that happens. Thanks to Alex and Amanda for providing transportation on this road trip. Some of their photos and videos are included in this set. Speaking of which, you can find the full set of photos here

The Hyde Park station is located 79 miles from GCT and 361 miles from BCT. It basically served one family, the Roosevelts, who compound was just a little ways up the road. Today the station has been preserved as a rail history museum and stands just shy of the MP 79 signal bridge.

Two miles to the north, what Amtrak Empire Service Train #281 hauled by Amtrak P32AC-DM #703, the Northbound Adirondack, passes under the classic NY Central intermediate signal bridge at Milepost 81. Also, a quick note.

I've always wondered why the station at Rhinecliff, NY is so darn nice. It's not a large city and doesn't seem especially affluent. Was the Central just that wealthy to overbuild it's stations or did some railroad executive live nearby? Anyway, the station offered baggage services, has an ornate waiting room and has a concourse that once led to two island platforms (now one).

Someone might want to call Amtrak, because I think I found all their missing step stools. 

Here we catch eastbound Empire service train #238 hauled by P32AC-DM #700.

From the south passenger walkway here is #700 with Train 238, ready to depart Rhinecliff.

And off it goes, throwing off loads of deep throated audio in the process.

A few minutes later Amtrak P32AC-DM #708 passed through CP-89, just north Rhinecliff, the with westbound Empire train #233.

Friday, October 7, 2016

16-10-07 PHOTOS: Whitlock Ave and GCT

In pursuit of my ultimate goal of trying to get some video from the front of a Harlem Line M3 set I wound up with some time to kill so I took a quick trip up the (6) train to Whitlock Ave to get some photos of the Bronx River viaduct and the adjacent signals on the Amtrak Hellgate Line. Then I wandered about GCT until it was time for my Harlem Line train to depart. You can find the full set of photos here, starting about halfway down.

We begin with an inbound (6) Train at Whitlock Ave led by R62 #1745.

In front of the Pellham Bay Line viaduct over the Bronx River is the former New Haven Railroad Westchester Ave station. Currently abandoned, it may see renewed use with plans to send MNRR trains to Penn Station. 

Outbound 6 train heading over the bridge with R62 #1720 in the trailing position.

The inbound 6 local train I decided to take back to Grand Central was led by R62 #2025.