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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

17-06-21b PHOTOS: Nevada West

So you should know the drill by now.  This is my third trip eastbound on the California Zephyr and I'm trying to cover all the remaining gaps I missed in my 2012 and 2014 surveys.  In this post I will be covering the former Southern Pacific Nevada Sub that runs eastward out of Reno.  Since 2015 all of the old Searchlights were removed from the western end of the subdivision, however the eastern end was re-signaled by the SP in the 1990's and UP decided to keep it in place when adding the necessary PTC components.  As luck would have it, two previous dinner-periods each disrupted full surveys of this portion of the route so I was actually able to add something useful to my existing record.

There isn't much train wise in this set as we pretty much ran across the desert without meeting any opposing traffic.  Train traffic these days tends to move in waves and I guess that late afternoon is not one of these wave periods.  You can view the entire set here.

Let's start out with something for those power systems nerds.  In the town of Argo, NV, the Path 65 HVDC line crosses the UP Nevada Sub.  The line carried hydro power from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California via a 1 Gigavolt pole-to-pole HVDC system.


In my previous posts I mentioned the drought reversing wet winter the Sierra Nevada region had experienced.  Here are some pop-up oasises that popped up along the tracks in what is ordinarily a salt pan.




Traffic still crosses the Nevada Sub at highway speed at the US 95 grade crossing where a an accident a number of years ago left three Amtrak passengers and crew dead and the train on fire.



In the Southern Pacific re-signaled zone, PTC antennas had been added, but little else had changed.  Incidently, the chosen PTC solution was sold on the basis of not having to touch each and every signal location, unlike a cab signal based system because wireless.  Looks like the system was being oversold.






The large town of Lovelock does not feature a controlled siding, but does have a number of industrial tracks .



A UP MoW truck was hanging out just past the downtown trackage that had a 40mph PSR on it.


Back on the open road and passing through empty desert scrubland.  Note the old Nevada Sub alignment still visible to the right.


17-06-21a PHOTOS: Over the Top

This was my third trip on Amtrak's California Zephyr crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains, however it took a road trip to the summit of the Donner Pass back in 2016 to make me appreciate just what an amazing feat of engineering this route is.  Built in the 1860's, this route basically ascends from sea level to a maximum elevation of approximately 7100 feet.  To this day it still ranks on the short list of highest railroad main lines in the world.

Photo wise the third time was not going to be a charm as the re-signaling project that was underway in 2014 had now been largely completed, wiping out most of the Southern Pacific vintage searchlight signals.  However, due to my previous photo surveys, I could take a little time off to enjoy the scenery and clean up any of the stuff I missed on prior journeys.  For example I had always wound up eating lunch when the train was passing through the large Roseville yard area.

Anyway, you can find the full set of photos right here.  Enjoy!

 Approaching Elvas Jct a westbound manifest train was being headed up by new ET44AH #2668 and veteran SD70M #5123.


 Here is a string of empty center beam cars passing under the re-used 3-track signal bride at Elvas Jct while a few bits of MoW equipment hang out on the third main track..


The End of Train was crossing the truss bridge over the American River.


The Sacrimento Light Rail Blue Line was built along the Southern Pacific right of way northwest of the city.  Here a train of CAF SRV-1 cars head inbound towards the city.


Older Siemens SD-100 cars hanging out next to the shoppe complex.


Approaching the Roseville shoppes our train passes a deadline of stored UP GE power including AC4400 #6220. Note the radiator grilles are all covered over with sheet metal.




Parked out behind the former Southern Pacific shoppes at Roseville were SD70ACe #8387, ET44AH #2730 and GP60 #1090.


On shoppe track #7 was UP SD70M #3900.


On an adjacent storage track was a lineup of "icebreaker" GP38-2 locomotives including UP #574.  These are equipped with pop-up metal framed to knock ice out of tunnels and special high visibility windows.


Next to those was still active UP AC4400 #5405.


Last time we had to take track #2 through the yard resulting in a costly backup move to serve the single station platform.  However I got some nice closeups of the former Southern Pacific rotary plows and ice equipment.  This time track #1 was free and this was the best shot I could manage.


17-06-21 VIDEOS: Capitol Corridor and Donner Pass

So as this was my third trip over the California Zephyr route, I was looking to do something a little different.  An obvious answer was to include video as the last time I had made the run in 2014 I had not yet purchased my GoPro camera that can record video out the back while leaving my hands free to operate a still camera.  Because much of the Zephyr route is either slow or rather unexciting, I chose to video the parts of the trip that stood to be the opposite.  California's Capitol Corridor is an 80mph sprint between Martinez and Sacramento with the Zephyr running express with only a single stop in Davis.  Also, the Donner Pass route between Switch 9 and Truckee might be slow, but the scenery is spectacular with tunnels and bridges and classic signals and even a horseshoe curve!  So sit back, block out some time and enjoy what make up some of the best parts of the Zephyr experience.

We start on the Capitol Corridor at the city of Martinez.  I didn't bother starting the video at  Emmeryville because the first 30 or so miles of the Corridor has a 30-40mph speed restriction due to curves and other line geography.  Pulling out of the Martinez station the eastbound Train 6 will climb up to cross the famous Suisun Bay Bridge, then turn to the east where it will pretty much enjoy a straight shot to Davis with an 80mph speed limit.  Note the new Fairfield/Vacaville station being built about halfway through the video.



After departing Davis, CA with its classic searchlight signals still in place, the Zephyr makes the short hop over to Sacramentowhere, after crossing the I Street Swing Bridge, it enters the new station platform complex that was built to eliminate an S-curve and heavy freight trains having to rumble through the passenger tracks.



Next the Zephyr tackles the world famous Donner Pass.  This section of track was built by imported Chinese labour back in the 1860's and still ranks as one of the world's highest rail lines with the summit topping out around 7400 feet. The video starts at the start of what used to be a CTC island at SHED 9 interlocking and continued up and over the summit and through the 3 mile long Tunnel 41, completed in 1925.  Ultimately the new "Track 2" alignment through the tunnel would replace the 1860 route and the famous "Chinese Wall" at the summit when Union Pacific shut down Track 1 in the 1990's. The video Cuts at SHED 47 where I had to perform a battery change.


The final video picks back up from SHED 47 and documents the horseshoe curve used to descend the train from the pass down to the town and station stop of Truckee, CA.  The Southern Pacific searchlight signals here were replaced in 2014, but the old bridges have remained in place due to the remoteness of the terrain.



Well that's it for this video special.  Next week I'll post the still photos from the Donner Pass portion of the run.  If you want to see the Capitol Corridor stills check out the previous post.

17-06-21 PHOTOS: Capitol Improvements

Third time's a charm eh?  Yes, this is indeed by third trip on Amtrak's Train 6, the California Zephyr, and any of who follow my work might wonder why I might need three complete back-of-train surveys of the same route.  Well first of all, on any specific trip I might miss something or I might take a soft photo.  I've also upgraded my camera equipment over the years and likewise, California / Union Pacific have applied some upgrades to the California Corridor as well, so ultimately my work is never really finished ;-)

This set covers my trip from the initial terminal of Emmeryville, CA to the state capitol, Sacramento.  Speeds are 30-40mph on the initial twisty section along the Bay, but once across the Suisun bridge, speeds increase to 80mph for almost the entire rest of the trip.   You can compare it with my 2014 trip and my 2012 trip.  You can find the full set of photos here.

Passing the Richmond BART yard, I spied a trainset ended with 'A' cars.  These original 1968 vintage cars are relatively rare as only 60 were built, (30 trainsets) compared with 500+ 'B' and 'C' cars.  Today the newer 'C' cars are preferred to lead trains at non-peak times as they can be coupled into longer sets more easily.  Unlike the 'C' cars, the 'A' card do provide a reasonable railfan view.  Just FYI, when making a BART connection with Amtrak, the Richmond Station provides a direct transfer.  Emmeryville is some 2 miles from the Ashby BART station.


Since my last ride in 2014, the number of trackside tent cities have increased dramatically.  This is one major downside to living in an area without bitterly cold winters.



One improvement since 2014 was the addition of a new interlocking (GIANT) that provides an interlocked connection with whatever BNSF line serves the port of Oakland.


Freight train passing on track 2 as Train 6 skirts the San Francisco bay.


Running behind the freight was southbound Amtrak Train 11, the Coast Starlight.  Power was a typical P42DC+P32-8WH lashup with Amtrak #72 and #510.



Near the Carquinez Strait bridge complex we pass through an old school sugar refinery.  These remain common in most port cities to this day.


In this view you can see the old and new Carquinez Bridges.


Passing what I believe was Amtrak Capitol Corridor Train #531 with Superliner cab car #8314.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

17-06-20 PHOTOS: Bay Area

Since I had such a good time riding Amtrak's California Zephyr back in 2012 I followed that up by taking my father on a cross country trip in 2014 and after that went well I decided to do the same with my mother in 2017. As we have family in the Bay Area and she has a close friend in Denver, the Zephyr actually made logistical sense to transport us between two groups of people she had not seen in a while as well as from a scenic entertainment point of view. As usual, the time zone difference combined with an early flight would mean that we would have a day to enjoy San Francisco before traveling to Emmeryville to catch the Zephyr. We flew into Oakland, so the transport modes included BART and Caltrain with a hint of MUNI on the outward leg and then just BART and Caltrain to get to Amtrak.

You can find the full gallery of photos here.

Getting off the plane in Oakland, instead of having to take a special premium fare bus to connect with BART and the Colosseum station, one can now take the premium fare AirBART elevated people mover.  


The line uses unmanned pods to transport passengers between the two endpoints. 





The line was built by ski lift manufacturer Doppelmayr, because the Bay Area just can't get enough of cable cars. The power house is located in the middle of the line and uses two tow ropes per direction.  Vehicles stop at the power house and change from one rope to another.




Westbound AirBART pod on the viaduct over Hegenberger Rd.


The Oakland Colosseum where the Las Vegas Athletics baseball team currently plays.


BART C car #2545 platformed at the BART Colosseum station.


While on BART I caught a Capitol Corridor train rounding the bend between Emmeryville and downtown Oakland. Power was being furnished by P42DC #43.


Cab of a C car showing the restricted forward view for passengers.  The new rolling stock should substantially improve this situation.


My BART train at the Embarcadaro Station.  Sometimes its easy to forget how large the BART windows are.


MUNI LRV #1460B on an N routing at the upper level Embarcadaro station.


Here is another MUNI N-Line LRV, 1508A, approaching the Branna St Station on the Embarcadaro.


Caltrain gallery cab car #4024 lined up at King St. Station with the rest of the trainsets ready for the evening rush.


Because the Bomber sets are mostly used for peak period express trains they tend to hand out at the terminals all day.  Here we see sister coffin cab cars #117 and #116 standing next to eachother.


Power for the gallery trains consisted of F40PH-2CAT #904 and #909.


My train had its route lined up through the 4th St terminal interlocking.


That day the yard power at South San Francisco were a pair of GP60's, #1092 and #1096.


Caltrain Bomber cab car #116 at San Carlos.


Soon after I continued the streak when cab car #115 appeared on a northbound train.  Note the former Metrolink coaches that have been leased by Caltrain to increase the length of their "Baby Bullet" express trains.



Caltrain MP36PH-3C pushing the long express train northward out of San Carlos.


Caltrain uses an interesting system of limited express trains, each of which serves a different basket of stations.  Therefore to connect with BART at Millbrae, we had to catch a train from Redwood City.  While waiting for our train a number of others passed through, some stopping and some not.  Trains that did not stop continued through at the line speed of 80mph.






Our northbound limited express was powered by F40PH-2CAT #919, seen here departing Millbrae.


BART tries to provide an accross-the-platform transfer for northbound riders at their Millbrae Station.  We would be catching a Red line train for a one seat ride to the Ashby Station.


Roof of BART car #1593 seen here at the Ashby station.  While the Emmeryville Amtrak station was theoretically within walking distance, the 1-2 mile distance would have cut the connection too close so I just called an Uber.  Technically the connection point between BART and the Zephyr is the Richmond Station.


A Southbound Amtrak Capitol Corridor train is scheduled to arrive right before the Zephyr pulls in.  This was being powered by a typical Amtrak California F59PHI (#2010), however behind it was brand new SC44 Charger #2104.


These units were being run in tandem in case there was any sort of failure that might delay a revenue train.  You can see how short in height the new units are.  I suspect that the cramped interior will lead to maintenance issues that will ultimately impact reliability.


In our last photo today we see Amtrak California cab car #8307 departing the Emmeryville Station.


Next time tune in as we take yet another Capitol Corridor trip between the Bay Area and Sacramento.