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Thursday, June 8, 2017

17-06-08 GUEST PHOTOS: Alaska - Part 1

This summer my friend got a special 30th Birthday gift that involved flying to Alaska, taking the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali National Park and then continuing his trip from Denali to Fairbanks.  Both he and his father are both rail and outdoor enthusiasts so this combination was extra special for them.  They were also nice enough to act as correspondents for this blog and made sure to take plenty of photos of rail related stuff along their journey.  I then sorted and edited their work so I can present it to you all now.

The ARR is a state owned and supported operation running some 500 miles from the coast inland to Fairbanks.  It runs an extensive passenger operation with trains running both northbound and southbound out of Anchorage to accommodate a tourist-heavy crowd.  Freight operations include coal and commodity trains that unload at various ports as well as through service to the lower 48 via rail barges that run to Seattle and Vancouver.  You can view a gallery with all the photos here.

The Anchorage Station has an art deco design with an "open yard" type platform area.  A temporary ADA high level platform has been installed to accommodate the growing number of elderly on package tours.



Power for the first leg of the journey on the Denali Star was provided by a pair of SD70MAC-H, numbers 4319 and 4322.  These are pretty much standard freight SD70's, but have 480v HEP generators installed.  Depending on the status of METRA's F40C engines, they can be at times the only operating 6-axle passenger power in the US.



The trainset for the Denali Star had a mix of high level, single level and heritage stock.  Two cars on the end were owned by a cruise outfit doing their own thing like a PV operator. The high level cars are of a new design produced by the ill-fated Colorado Railcar. The luxury train provides a number of classes with the upper tier getting access to the high level dome and the lower tier the single level cars and dome.  Despite large size of the Last Frontier, the 400 mile route can be covered in about 12 hours so no sleeping accommodations are required. Meal service is however.



The high level done provides an open air viewing platform from which all sorts of railfan friendly shots can be obtained.  The baggage car contains some sort of HEP unit, made less necessary by the HEP equipped locomotives. 



It's amusing how even in Alaska there are suburbs. 


 ARR is making a lot of investments in its plant including this bridge replacement.


The line provided a lot of great views.  From some locations one could even see Russia from the train!


The ARR has also been investing in CTC, replacing the former Direct Traffic Control system on the southern part of the system. Here the Wilderness Express cars on the rear of the train pass under a new signal bridge.


Around Milepost 193 the train encountered a pair of sister SD40-2's (#3001 and #3002) working the Kashwitna gravel tipple.



The station at Talkeena demonstrates how the train works to shuttle tourists from the air and sea ports to the interior of the state.  Note the lineup of tour buses waiting to take passengers to their final destinations.



Talkeena is also the southern end of the Hurricane Turn, which is a true flag stop service for the Hurricane River valley that lacks any road connections to the rest of the state.  Residents can literally flag down passing Hurricane local trains from anywhere along the track.  Here we see the more business like ARR station in Talkeena.


North of Talkeena the line is still operated by TWC (formerly DTC).  Meets much be scheduled and one train manually lined into the siding.  Here at MP 235 the Denali Star is being switched into the Chase Siding.


The meet appears to be with a southbound train being run for Princess Cruises to/from Healey, AK  with SD70MAC-H #4318 on point.


Princess Cruise high level cars behind the ARR locomotive.


Hurricane marks the north end of the flag stop local service and has also been upgraded with a CTC island covering the passing siding there.



The Hurricane Gulch bridge is one of the more spectacular trestles on the route. 



At the BROAD RIDGE siding the two Denali Stars pass with  ARR SD70MAC-H #4321 leading the southbound train.


The other trainset also hosts a number of Wilderness Express hi-level cars on the rear.  Note the ARR permits passengers to use the open vestibule dutch doors on the single level cars.



The first class passengers do get meal service in a spacious single level, bi level car.


He should probably post some scenery photos like these along the Nenana River.  The train has passed over the drainage divide so now the train is heading with the flow of the river.



At this point my friend reached Danali National Park.  In Part 2 of this trek we'll cover the continuation of his journey from Denali to Fairbanks!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

17-05-27 PHOTOS: Paw Paw Tunnel

The Paw Paw Tunnel is a 3,118-foot-long (950 m) canal tunnel on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Western Maryland between Hancock and Cumberland.  Work started on the tunnel in 1836, although by the time the canal opened for service in 1850, the competing B&O railroad had been operating for over 8 years!  Still, railroad technology was still rudimentary and the railroad was only able to match the canal's rates by 1870.  The Canal continued in operation until 1924 at which point it was shut down and eventually preserved as a linear park between Washington, DC and Cumberland, MD.

Also included in this set are some nearby photos of modern day CSX operations on the former B&O main line.  You can see the full album here.

Access to the tunnel is from the east end where there is a parking lot and campground. The western portal is full of embellishment as this would be been an engineering marvel of its time.  There is a small put-in so that people can paddle small craft through the canal if they so desire.  An info board provides additional context about why the canal choose the tunnel route as opposed to following the bendy path of the river.  In terns of time and effort of construction, the idea probably backfired.


Detail of the keystone and inscription at the top of the western entry arch.


Eastbound interior view with flash and without.  The old towpath is what has made made this a natural trail conversion.  The adjacent Western Maryland RR trail project is stalled due to the need for engineering work to make the bridges and tunnels compatible with pedestrians and cyclists.





Approaching the eastern portal from the west.


Most of the tunnel is lined with brick.  The stone blocks are only at the ends for show and to support unstable rock.


Eastern portal is built like the western one.




You can see how trying to build a cut through the mountain was quickly proving to be unsustainable.


These large blocks of slate have been stabilized with tie bolts.


The opposite side of the cut. made of looser material, recently gave way and slid down into the canal, blocking it.


The eastern approach to the tunnel has three sets of locks to elevate boats to the level of the Potomac river on the other side of the bend.  This is lock number 66.


A boy scout troop had camped on an around Lock 62.  This shows the western gate structure that saw some concrete reinforcement before it was removed from service.


Across the Potomac River on the West Virginia side, one finds the CSX Cumberland sub.  ORLEANS ROAD interlocking was where the previously 4-track line allowed westbound trains to choose between the original, low grade, alignment that followed the river or the newer Magnolia Cutoff that literally cut off a number of river bends through a series of bridges and tunnels.  As freight locomotives became more capable the low grade route was abandoned and the line reduced to 2 tracks.  Here we see a Clear indication on track 2 for an eastbound train.


The Cumberland Sub between Hancock, WV and Cumberland, MD was part of an early B&O CTC project in the 1950's with ORLEANS ROAD included as the first interlocking west of the manned tower at HANCOCK.  The interlocking was re-signaled around 2012, but an adjacent property owner bought or was given the former eastbound B&O CPL bracket and it sits on his yard to this day.





Soon enough an eastbound merchandise train appeared with two CSX ES44AH's. #3136 and #719.



While exploring the old bracket signal I made a new friend! He was a bit shy however ;-)


Heading back to Baltimore I caught CSX AC4400 #271 on the Baltimore Belt Line exiting the Charles St tunnel.


Some BWI rail station action with Acela Express power car #2038 and MARC MP36PH-3C #23.



Southbound weekday MARC local with cab car #7845 meets northbound MARC express with MP36PH-3C #35 at the Amtrak/MARC BWI station around 4pm.


Finally, I made a pit stop in Salem, NJ to photograph Washington Union Terminal Company RS-1 #59.  The unit is in increasingly poor condition along with the rest of the former PRSL Salem Branch as the county tries to restore the line and attract new business to replace the departed Anchor Glass.


The old PRSL freight house still stands, but the yard has become completely overgrown.



Well that's it for this week.  Next time we have a special guest photo set from the Alaska Railroad.