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Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

Friday, July 1, 2016

16-07-01 PHOTOS: TRAFF

CP-TRAFF in Trafford, PA is located at the east end of the former PRR Pitcarin Yard, just outside of Pittsburgh on the old Main Line. Today the yard has been mostly gutted and now stands as Norfolk Southern's Pittsburgh area intermodal terminal. However what Conrail designated as the Pittsburgh Line, still runs through it all carrying 40-60 trains per day. While CP-TRAFF lost the last of its high position light signals in the late 1990's, it still features a lot of heritage elements as well as a great place to catch more dynamic rail action. Included in this set are a number of photos taken in downtown Pittsburgh where the other members of my party had decided to stop for the day. You can view the full set of photos here.

The interlocking logic dates from the Penn Central era of the early 1970's and was installed as part of a general West End CTC project stretching from Johnstown to Pittsburgh. The all relay plant has held up well over the years, even if it requires a bit more physical space than modern installations.

Another throwback would be the compressor hut supplying air to the pneumatic point machines. Popular in the days before reliable mains power was available in rural areas and household voltage buried wires could be reliably insulated, air operated interlocking plants are facing extinction both in North America and abroad due to the increased maintenance requirements. 

Conrail blue is still flies proudly next to the 4W mast signal, displaying an Approach indication for an upcoming westbound movement on track 2.

In due time a doublestack intermodal train shows up with NS SD70ACe #1075 in the lead, SD70ACe #1001 behind and ES44AC #8136 in the number 3 position. I'm sure 1001 makes some sort of emoticon, but so far it has not gained the same notoriety as NS "barcode" unit #1111.

As the doublestack train braked to a halt for the Stop signal at CP-WING, a helper pack consisting of SD40E's #6312 and #6308 drifted past as an eastbound manifest train roared by on track #1.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

16-06-18 PHOTOS: Desirable Streetcars

New Orleans has come a long way since it was destroyed in 2005. By the time of my visit in 2009, all three of the streetcar lines were back up and running. Six years later a new line had been built to serve the Union Passenger Terminal and another line was under construction to serve the French Quarter.

When I visit New Orleans in 2015, my friend I was staying with lived in the 7th Ward, which was not served by the current streetcar system. However she since moved to Mid-city, only a block from the Carrollton Ave junction on the Canal St line, so this year when I traveled into downtown I could do so in style. You can find the full set of New Orleans streetcar photos here.

We begin at Carrollton Jct with outbound Red car #2014 destined for the City Park branch about a block away from making the turn.

A bit of a jam up soon occurred after I was picked up by Red car #2006, as outbound Red car #2012 met inbound Cemeteries car #2001.

Canal St Line Red Car #2009 traverses the still new junction with the new Loyola Ave - Union Station branch.

#2009 then fight through traffic on Canal St to turn off onto the Loyola Line.

Passengers pouring out of Red car #2006 at Baronne St.

Waterfront Red car #462 passing by Jackson Square.

Friday, June 17, 2016

16-06-17c PHOTOS: Gulf Coast

In the final segment of my 2016 transcontinental Amtrak Long distance trip I travel from the sweatbox city of Beaumont, TX to Lafayette, LA and ultimately New Orleans. The route follows the gulf coast and the narrow spit of land that curves to the south of the Crescent City. Due to catastrophic backlighting I aborted the survey at Lafayette. You can find the full set of photos here.

About 2 hours east of Houston, Beaumont is the last crew change point and smoke stop on the Sunset Limited route. It is also the hottest place I have ever been with a suffocating humidity that defies belief.

The Beaumont station area has fortunately retained its classic searchlight dwarf signals.

Passing through the complex interlocking east of the station was a train led by NS SD70ACe #1160 and containing AC4400's #6150 #5760 and a few TIPX juice cars.

Doublestacks on the end of the same train passing through a high and wide car detector and a pair of signals operated by Kansas City Southern as part of a joint operation scheme.

Vertical lift drawbridge over the Neches River.

Passing a lashup comprised completely of UP SD70M's and SD70ACe's on the Connell siding.

UP SD70M's #4404 and #4213 on the Francis siding. 

The Orange, TX station close to the border of Louisiana. Once again I would like to remind my readers that El Paso, TX (5 photo sets ago) is closer to Orange, CA than this point.