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Monday, August 22, 2016

03-07-11 CLASSIC PHOTOS: NYC Subway Bronx Trip

In my early years as a railfan I had a somewhat different focus than I do now because I could still find excitement just getting out and riding new lines as opposed to getting out to document something before it is thrown onto the scrap pile. Combined with the limited amount of storage available for camera I wound up riding more and taking fewer photos. Oh, that's the other thing. Without a 9 to 5 job and free time during breaks in school, riding more was something that was still something I could do.

In July, 2003 I decided to take a trip to New York City from Philly in order to catch a (2) train to the end of the line at Wakefield – 241st Street. Since there was no RiverLINE I had to go via SEPTA, which saved a little time, but cost quite a bit more money. To fill the remainder of the day I popped over to Hoboken for a quick ride on the HBLR's surface route through Jersey City before returning via the PATH.

You can find the full set of remastered photos right here.

Starting at 30th St Station an HLCX powered train trundled by on the High Line as Circa Center construction was getting under way. If you are doing the "things that aren't here any more drinking game" take a drink for HHP-8's, Amtrak express cars and SD40-2 led road freights.

SEPTA had closed its interlocking towers a few months before and the communications bugs were still being worked out. This time nobody bothered to call ZOO to tell him that the R7 was running on track 4 instead of track 3 and we wound up being mis-routed down the Harrisburg Line. Fortunately we got stopped at the 64R signal and were treated to a trip over the K-ladder and Berry track after the Train Director at ZOO ran time.

This train was likely the last revenue movement over the #2 Berry track that was taken out of service shortly thereafter and eventually ripped out about 10 years later. The Berry tracks were used by freight trains running over the High Line in the PRR era.

Enemy R142 at the Simpson St curve on the (2) (5).

(7) Signed Redbirds sitting in the E. 180th St yard for some reason.

The 6R signal at E. 180TH ST interlocking.

R142 test train at Mosholu Parkway on the (4)

The set included car #1211.

West 4th St tower.

NJT Comet III cab car #5010 with Arrow III #1516 sitting behind at Hoboken Terminal.

Pair of Comet I cab cars #5108 and #5128 at Hoboken Terminal.

The new HLBR Hoboken Light Rail station.

Friday, May 27, 2016

16-05-27 PHOTOS: Ardmore

Sometimes the best way to go railfanning is on your own two feet. After last year's successful LIRR walk from Floral Park to Queens Village I looked to repeat the experience a bit closer to home and a quick look at the map showed a pleasant walk along the old PRR Main Line between Narberth and Ardmore. This let me walk between two classic PRR signal bridges while the half hourly SEPTA service passed by.

Later I was treated to a Silverliner V railfan window ride on the return trip to Center City that I followed up with a session on the 30th St parking garage. As usual you can find the full set of photos here.

To start things off I was treated to a bit of wrong railing on PATCO to get around some MoW work between Ferry Ave and Broadway.

While walking towards Suburban Station I came upon the rebuilt Dillworth Plaza and its SEPTA City Hall/15Th St Station entrance. The difference was quite striking with grass replacing bare concrete and homeless replaced by suburban families. Way to go!

Progress was also apparent on the new Cynwyd Connection that will allow retirement of the increasingly derelict Valley Flyover. The connection is an oddly simple affair, utilizing the former Schuylkill Valley branch freight alignment. Why it took 22 years to implement I don't know.

SEPTA SL-IV #412 waiting to complete its station work at Narberth while staring at a Clear signal on the #69 Track 4 automatic signal that it would soon take.

Sometimes its hard to remember how wealthy the PRR was back in the day. This underpass was built back in the 19th century over some dikly local road, but due to the state of material science at the time, the only option was the granite arch bridge. Just look at the craftsmanship that was involved and think how many centuries it will probably last.

Between Narberth and Ardmore is Wynwood. The station is now mostly used by a cafe.

At the Church Rd overpass I caught an outbound R5 local with SL-IV #405 on the rear.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

16-05-22 PHOTOS: NS Savannah

The NS Savannah is the United States' first (and so far only) nuclear powered merchant ship. It was built around 1960, back in a time before Medicare and other social spending sapped our collective ability to do big/cool things. Part of the "Atoms for Peace" program, the NS Savannah was mostly a propaganda vehicle to convince the rest of the world that nuclear technology was about more than blowing up the Soviets (Hint: it wasn't). The Savannah had the additional distinction of being a passenger liner built just before such travel was rendered obsolete by jumbo jets and a loose cargo vessel built just before that was rendered obsolete by containerized freight. The ship was mothballed in 1972 due to the cost of operating the nuclear plant compared with oil fired ships...just before the 1973-74 oil crisis. Talk about not being able to catch a break! After being decommissioned the ship spent decades in the James River Ghost Fleet before being moved to the Port of Baltimore for preservation. There it is open occasionally for tours, including every year on National Maritime Day in late May. This year I was able to coordinate with nuclear enthusiast Phil Nasadowski to take full advantage of the open house and some additional rail related sights in the vicinity. You can view the entire set of photos here. The Savannah is best described as a Silver Age comic book come to life or, in perhaps somewhat broader terms, imagine what Tony Stark's yacht would be like. It's half luxury liner, half cargo ship and all nuclear powered.
The 60's styling doesn't hurt the impression much either. People forget that the Metroliners used to be this cool/advanced as well.
Not that some parts of the ship don't come across like your grandmother's house.
Here we see the most important part of anything in the Mad Men era...the bar. Note that the tables, which were also electro-luminescent, all come with integrated ash trays because back then smoking was good for you.
You won't find any computers in this control room. Here we see the main reactor control panel. Other parts of the big board controlled the steam plant and electrical system so it looks more complicated than it is. Also remember that compared to older steam ships this was miles ahead of their brass gauges and valves. 
The manual control rod control panel was the other nuclear specific part of the control console.
Once the steam is generated it was dealt with in the standard way. Here we see the engine room with a typical high pressure/low pressure compound turbine setup.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

16-05-12 PHOTOS: Donner Summit

Last two times I have traveled through Reno, NV I used Amtrak's California Zephyr. This time I was going via I-80's, which provided a slightly different perspective on the whole journey including the opportunity to stop off at the pass itself for a little sightseeing. Later I was able to spend a few minutes at the west end of the Sparks, NV yard catching some UP action. I should also mention that before leaving the safe confines of sea level, I made a quick stop off in Sacramento to check out their light rail system.

You can review the entire set of photos here.

My swing by the Royal Oaks RT Station was actually motivated by the desire to get lunch from an authentic street-side taco stand on Arden Way. While they stood in line I crossed the street to snag a headway's worth of RT photos. First to arrive was a westbound two unit Blue Line train of CAF SRV-1's #208 and #238.

Next to arrive was an eastbound Blue Line train led by Siemens U2A #134. The U2A vehicles resemble the later SD100 LRVs, but are mechanically the same as the earlier U2's.

Driving up I-80 certainly provides a different perspective of the Southern Pacific's overland route.

The Donner Pass is where the Southern Pacific's "Overland Route" crosses the Sierra-Nevada mountains at an elevation of 7135 feet. Here we see the western portal of Tunnel #6 on the original Donner Pass alignment that was abandoned by Union Pacific in 1996 after their SP merger in favor of the Track 2 alignment through the mile long Tunnel 41 located to the south. Note the remaining snowpack from the somewhat average winter snows. The previous winter of 2014-15 actually left the Sierra-Nevada mountains with zero snowpack. 

This alignment was actually part of the original Central Pacific transcontinental line starting from San Francisco and eventually meeting the Union Pacific in Promontory, UT. Unlike the generally flat UP route across the plains, this impressive feet of mountain railroad had to be cut and blasted by the hands of Chinese immigrants. 

Because this is California the walls of a highway abutment had been covered in street art.

Beware falling rocks!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

16-05-11 PHOTOS: Santa Clara

Normally when I head to the Bay Area I usually wind up at the San Jose Diridon station with its mix of Amtrak, ACE and Caltrain services. It's one of the largest stations in the west with probably more service of anything apart from LA's Union Station. Well this time I was looking for something a little different and therefore I figured that I would instead get dropped off at the Santa Clara station, one and a half stops up the line. Santa Clara is no slouch having been recently rebuilt to have a new third track island platform with a third track serving Amtrak and ACE trains that expanded capacity. It also sees some express movements, unlike San Jose where everything stops.

Another fun feature of this trip was my ability to ride Caltrain down to the town of Gilroy, about 30 miles south of San Jose. Normally this is impractical because Gilroy only get a peak direction service with three trains in the morning and afternoon. However this time I was visiting someone living in that area and I was able to spare them a long ride in to the airport.

You can see the full set of photos here.

We begin with Caltrain MP36PH-3C #927 appearing next to Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company heavyweight coach #87, on statis display at the former Southern Pacific depot.

Sitting just north of the Station were a pair of Union Pacific SD70M's, #4862 and #5131. There is still a new for road freight engines to serve local industry in the area despite the lack of any major yards of freight trunks.

The former Southern Pacific CLARA tower has been preserved and I assume will eventually function as a museum that one can visit. The tower was previously operated by Amtrak before being closed.

 The Altamont Commuter Express runs 86 miles between San Jose and Stockton in California's Central Valley. It is a peak direction service with only about 4 trainets in service. Here one of their 6 Bomber bi-level cab cars, #3305, pulls into the Santa Clara station for what is likely the first return trip of the afternoon.

Power is provided by MPI built F40PH-2C, #3101, seen here on the third track served by the new island platform.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

16-04-16 PHOTOS: New Brunswick

In late 2011, WB tower in Brunswick, MD was closed and the interlocking there was rebuilt. A recent hiking trip to Harper's Ferry was the first opportunity I had to return to Brunswick, MD and check out the changes. During the week Brunswick is a busy stop and terminal on the MARC Brunswick line. During the weekend it is popular with outdoors types looking to to cycling on the C&O Canal trail or boating on the Potomac River. Railroad wise it is the defacto CSX freight terminal for the Washington, DC area and also hosts a major MARC serving and storage facility.

You can see the full set of photos here.

Harpers Ferry, WV sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and was an early industrial hub, hosting a government small arms production facility up until the Civil War. There are three railroad crossings of the Potomac in evidence today. The easternmost was the original alignment and today exists only as piers. In 1868, after a total of 9 wooden bridges were destroyed during the war, an iron Bollman Truss bridge was built and served until 1894. At that point the middle steel truss bridge replaced it. Later in 1930 that in turn was supplanted by the girder bridge which also eliminated a sharp curve through the station area. The 1894 bridge continues to support the CSX Shenandoah Sub as well as the Appalachian trail.

While hanging out on the Maryland Heights, an eastbound manifest train with CSX ES44AC's #704 and 820 passed underneath. While the heights offers an excellent view, parking is extremely limited and it helps to get there as early as possible before the tourists arrive.

Located about 6 miles to the east, the town of Brunswick still hosts a classic B&O train station that still functions in its intended capacity on weekdays for the commuter service to Washington, DC.

The old interlocking plant utilized pneumatic switch machines which were somewhat resistant to the occasional Potomac River flood. The new plant also made sure to elevate the critical interlocking hardware. Also, in an effort to simplify the logic for trains existing the yard an automatic exit signal was provided on main track #1. It is currently displaying Approach Medium for a stop at WEVERTON interlocking. 

Since the B&O main line tracks sandwich the yard and the MARC parking lot, a second platform is provided for inbound tracks. Outbound trains stop in front of the station building.

CSX ET44AH #3355 and AC4400 #349 lay over in Brunswick Yard.

 Also in the yard was CSX AC4400 #69, fittingly seen from the rear, and GP38-2 #2803.

Because of the MARC operations, WB tower was the last tower on the old B&O main line east of Pittsburgh to close. Not only could CSX defray the cost of the tower by billing it to MARC, they also correctly assumed that the state would eventually kick in the money to replace it. Until the end it contained a US&S Model 14 interlocking machine. 

A local railroad museum is hoping to eventually preserve the tower.

Although the MARC Brunswick service is weekday, peak direction only, it is still a significant operation. Trainsets that originate at Brunswick are shown here laying over for the weekend. Among them is one of the remaining MARC passenger Geeps,#74, a GP39-2H.

I returned from lunch at the Potomac Street Grill to find a westbound train of empty coal cars rolling out of the yard on what is typically used by MARC trainsets. 

Remains from the old interlocking plant can still be found in the parking lot.

Although a signal was displayed east on track 2, I had to get to another engagement and couldn't sick around to see what would show up.

Next week I head back out to California and pop by the Santa Clara station area.