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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

06-12-27 PHOTOS: SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip VI

You know I could make a lot of excuses why it took me 4 months to get these pics processed, but the one I choose was that it took some extra time to get used to processing the pics from my new digital camera...yeah, that's it d.d b.b. Um, also, I posted this somewhere else and forgot to post it here. Anyway, here it goes.

I am sure that most of you know the story or were actually present for the trip, but for the benefit of those who will read this on my blog, the SEPTA Mid-Winder trip is an annual railfan trip which I put on in the week b/t Christmas and New Years. This was the 6th trip and drew around 18 participants...a new record!

The trip started at ye olde Ayn Rand Transportation center in Camden and proceeded via RiverDOGGLE to its Trenton terminus. From there we battled our way through the partially deconstructed Trenton train station to get to the platform where the NYC division of SubChatters would arrive. We had some time before our ::shudders:: Bus would arrive so we used the time to photograph some Amtrak trains.

After a short bus ride and a walk we arrive at the West Trenton station in time to catch a CSX local freight depart from the Trenton industrial track. After that we had a little less than an hour before our R3 train would depart. We went to a local eating establishment and they were able to seat and serve 13 of us in about 35 minutes. We got out of there just in time to catch our train and I even had some time to photograph TRENT tower.

From West Trenton I got a taste of the horrible new signaling system SEPTA has been installing. They have gone for a Metro North style Rule 562 operation without wayside signals. Due to the lack of real home signals SEPTA trains have to crawl at 30 mph for at least the 2000 feet and sometimes the entire block before the diverging movement. We got to experience this crawl both at NESH interlocking and then later at JENKIN. At least when we got to WAYNE we were once again treated to original Reading signals upgraded with new LED's.

After having to deal with an asshole engineer on the second leg of the R3 trip to Media, we disembarked and began the short walk to the Rt 101 trolley stop. After a group photo it was off on the Rt 101 to 69th St Terminal, and after a bathroom break it was off on the MFL through downtown to the Girard station. This station is special because it is the place where one can transfer to the old Rt 15 trolley and its PCC 2 cars. A PCC 2 arrived within 5 minutes and from there we took it to Broad St.

The last official part of the trip was a traditional jaunt on a Broad St Subway express train up to Fern Rock, around the loop then back down to Walnut-Locust. After the remaining members of the trip transfered to PATCO we had an unfortunate incident where 3 of our party were pulled off the train by the cops due to the complaint of an
unknown PATCO employee. The cop was cool tho and after some brief questions let the Subchatters go.

Anyway, enough description, you can find the pics here and please click on the link because my new camera took a lot of very good ones.

Here comes the first component of the trip..a RiverLINE train at the Ayn Rand transportation center.

 Once at Trenton I snagged this photo of a westbound Regional behind AEM-7 #928.

 Here is the train that most of the NYC based trip participants arrived on hauled by ALP-44 #4404.

The 10x optical zoom on my camera in unbelievable! Here is FAIR tower from the platform.

Monday, December 25, 2006

06-12-25 PHOTOS: A Few Random Examples

Hey, I rounded up some bits of random pix that I figured I might as well post. They are mostly pics that for one reason or another were never processed in the normal here they are.

You can see them all at:

The headline pix of course involve a 4-engine lite movement on the Atlantic City Line. These were actually the very first pictures taken with my new camera.

Here are the first three which include 4302, 4202 and 4215.

And all four.

GP40PH-2 #4214 on a revenue train passing the PATCO substation in Crows Woods.

 Here's a picture I took while waiting around in Suburban Station showing BROAD interlocking and the track re-alignment for the Center City Commuter Tunnel project with its two large island platform layout.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

06-11-23 PHOTOS: SMS Thanksgiving 2006

This batch of photos represents a milestone in the history of Jersey Mike's railroad photography. No, it's not setting some backlog record (yes, I know it 2 months late), but these are the last batch of photos taken by my old Olympus C-3020 3.2 MP digital camera with 3x optical zoom. This camera has my primary tool for documenting and sharing my railfan experiences with the world for almost 5 years. It's replacement is another Olympus, a UZ-something with 7.1 MP and 10x optical zoom. Oddly enough my new camera cost $100 less than my original one. Let's hope I can get the same sort of superior service I came to expect from the old one.

Today I am featuring photos from what has become an annual tradition, a trip with Chuchubob to the SMS shortline in Morrisville, PA. The SMS switches cars in the Penn Warner industrial park using a Baldwin S-12 dating from 1953. SMS runs other switching services in South Jersey and operates the largest fleet of Baldwin locomotives in the country. S-12 #301 replaces an older DRS-4-4-1000 dating from 1949 in 2005 so this was my second ride on #301.

While normally the crew doesn't have any work to do on the day before thanksgiving, today we lucked out and not only did they have to do some spotting of cars at the various local industries, they even went up to the NS interchange to pick up/drop off cars from the Morrisville yard there.

After picking up some tank cars chuchu and I rode in the cab as they delivered the cars to some industry where we were educated in how strong the sloshing effect can be in half-filled talk cars.

Time was running short so we left SMS and got some breakfast at the Treetop Diner, before taking the Penna turnpike to the NS Abrams yard. From there we proceeded to the Wayne station to pick up a friend of mine and them we sent by the Stafford R5 station for some pics of the station and of a SEPTA train that went by.

You can find the whole batch of photos at:

As always a brief photo tour.

Here is SMS S-12 #301 at a crossing.

NS GP38-2 #5280 passing the SMS interchange.

NJT hi-railers stringing overhead wire on a new segment of Morrisville NJT Yard.

NS C40-9W #9029 running elephant style delivering the cars for SMS interchange.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

06-11-12 PHOTOS: C&O Cardinal

If you remember my post about the rare millage detour on the Lake shore Limited you might have wondered how I got back from Chicago. Well, I booked a sleeper on the Cardinal with the intention of photographing out the back of the train along the C&O Main line especially the New River Gourge.

Now I booked the sleeper primarily because the sleeper is typically on the rear of the Cardinal, but this time it was on head end. Another issue was that out of Chicago there were two private cars on the back, but luckily they were cut off in Cincinnati. Unfortunately I didn't notice this until nearly Charleston, WV, but the morning was dark and shitty anyway so I didn't really miss much.

My interest in the C&O main line is that it is almost completely unresignaled from C&O days with big old elephant ear US&S colour light signals with big 5" lenses. Also, the C&O was a noted user of pneumatic switch machines and I wanted to see if there were any pneumatic interlockings left.

Now, due to the shitty weather I missed some of the neatest part of the line between Russel yard and Huntington where you have 3-4 tracks with massive C&O signal bridges. I started taking pictures at the famous St. Albans railfan hotspot and while there were railfan out on the ground, from my motiving train the pictures weren't turning out so good yet.

Still, between there and White Sulphur Springs I took a great deal of exciting, yet rather gray photos. My ultimate goal was to photograph the 2200 foot Allegheny summit of the C&O main line, but a number of other ppl had come back to the last car for pictures and the conductor got pissy and kicked us all out :-(

Still, the crew was generally cool and I had carte blanche to take pics from the vestibule window of my Viewliner. Because the Cardinal has been operating without diner cooked first class food for some time now they did a much better job via a vie preparation than I had seen on the LSL a day earlier. of course like always the other travelers in the sleeper were very nice as were the geese back in coach (as opposed to my last Cardinal trip where I was stuck with a family from the no-fly list who thought it reasonable to bring 3 screaming children on a 23 hour train ride.

We were only about an hour down of our scheduled arrival time into DC, which is pretty good for a train that takes a full day to get from Chicago to DC. I had just enough time to grab my kit and run over to the regional train that we were normally scheduled to be tied up behind for the trip to NYC. The other interesting bit was that Amtrak seems to have made a serious scheduling error in that the westbound train is more than 50 min down then they can't re-crew in Charlottesville. We had to preform a flying re-crew at a small siding about 12 mines east of there.

Anyway, all the photos are posted at:

Most are listed by subdivision and then milepost. This means they go in reverse order of my trip and you go west (as I go east) as you scroll down and they you go back east again :-\ Heh, oh well.

Here's a quickie photo tour.

The cantilever signal is a C&O trademark and the old C&O main line through WV and KY is littered with them.

A little further along the main line splits with one track on each side of the New River. Not the walkway to keep locals off the tracks.

A little past that is WV's most famous tourist attraction, the New River Gourge bridge.

Next is Thurmond with its downtown which uses the railroad RoW as its main drag.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

06-11-11 PHOTOS: Lake Shore Detour

In November I took a trip on the Lake Shore Limited out to Chicago. As we passed Toledo we learned that there was a massive derailment on the Chicago line resulting from a collision b/t NS and CSX freight trains. This had our route to Chicago completely blocked.

While most people would be pissed off at the prospect of a 6 hour Amtrak delay I was in fact excited because instead of being bustituted we were going to be detoured over an alternate route, and a freight-only, rare-mileage route at that! I was catching the Cardinal out of Chicago later that evening and since I was going to spend the day railfaning anyway I might as well railfan on Amtrak from the comfort of my sleeping car accommodation.

Our detour route was to go between CP-482 in Porter, IN and CP-502 in Gary, IN. This would take us over what is now the CSX Porter Branch. The porter branch was the former Michigan Central main line into Chicago, but with the NYC takeover of the MC fell into a secondary freight access role. It was given to CSX in the Conrail breakup and hooks into the IHB in Calumet, IL.

Now, the real bottleneck for this detour was getting a CSX pilot to come out and help navigate our train over this "foreign territory". Amtrak knew this was going to take a lot of time and as we weren't the only train out there, we combined with Train 29, The Capitol Limited, at CP-435 near Elkhardt, IN. The 50 some miles went rather slowly as we were now about 24 cars long and had to make 4 stops at South Bend. At Porter things got even more interesting with Michigan service trains 635 and 651 being attached to the end of our our already long behemoth train.

There became a problem with the dispatchers not knowing what to call our train. One referred to it as the Amtrak Train 49, 29, 635, 651 combo, but this was soon shortened to just the Train 49 combo special.

After waiting at CP-423 on the Porter Branch for everything to get settled and for some freights to clear, we finally got our super-long passenger extra under way. I originally thought we were just going to go down to the CSX main crossing at Willow Creek and make a reverse move onto CSX and follow that on the old Three River's route to the Chicago Line connection at CP-501. Instead we continued all the way to the EJE crossing at IVANHOE where we switched over into IHB territory.

From there we passed CALUMET Tower and CP-100 before rejoining the Chicago Line at CP-502 which is next to HICK tower. We continued to the Hammond Station where trains 651 and 635 were cut off and the pilot transferred to two combined eastbound Michigan trains. We stayed combined with train 29 through the quad draws at CP-509 and all the way into the terminal. The reason Train 29 was coupled to us and not the other way round was that Train 29's crew went dead on hours at 21ST ST interlocking, just short of the station.

You can see all the pics from my little detour at:

Here's a little illustrated tour of the detour. 

We started out at CP-435 with Train 29 hooking onto us. The engineer was not used to yard work and rammed us pretty hard on the couple attempt.

Next our super-train paused by the MC bracket signals at CP-482 in porter, IN for the MI service trains to hook on.

The crew of this IHB train could not believe their eyes when we crawled through. One remarked on the radio that we looked like a freight train.

The operator of CALUMET tower was out on the steps taking photos.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

06-11-04 PHOTOS: TUCKAHOE Tower Centennial

Two months ago today was the 100th birthday of TUCKAHOE tower in Tuckahoe, NJ. This tower was built by the reading railroad in 1906 and was closed by NJ DoT in 1983. For almost 20 years it stood vacant and 1998 it was a real handyman's dream.

However, CMSL Tony was operating his fleet of 1950's Budd RDC cars only 10 miles down the track and his had his sights on bigger and better things. Part of this was the restoration of the old Tuckahoe station for a second RDC service between there and Richland, NJ and the adjacent TUCKAHOE was given some restoration as well.

This year was the 100th anniversary of the tower, and Tony, not wanting to pass up an excuse to grandstand celebrate not only bought a cake, not only rounded up surviving PRSL employees from local retirement facilities buy managed to bully Conrail to allow him to run two of his RDC's under their own power to Richland and back.

Now usually the Lehigh Valley F Units or PRR #7000 are the star of the show with the RDC acting as a glorified cab car, but for this birthday they would run to Richland on their own, the first time in 23 years.

Anyway you can find my photos from this special event at:

And here are some teasers for all you ppl who hate to click on things.
Oh, if you want to compare my new pics of the tower with my 1998 pics they can be found here:

LV 528 sure looks pretty, but she and PRR 7000 had to step aside for the RDC's.

The guest of honour on her 100th birthday. That was only slightly younger than the median age of the railfans in attendance :-D

Saturday, October 14, 2006

06-10-14 PHOTOS Buffalo Line Interlockings

The Buffalo Line is like a massive living museum of PRR Signaling. The line was resigned for CTC sometime back when the PRR was in charge so neither the PC, Conrail or NS have seen fit to change anything. In fact, most of the relay huts have little keystones on them. Moreover, there are pneumatic interlockings everywhere, even where you wouldn't expect, i.e. at interlockings with only 1 or 2 switch machines.

On my way home from chasing the Fall Foliage express I was able to stop and take pictures at CP-LINDEN, CP-SOUTH LINDEN, CP-RIVER and CP-KASE and I would have hit some more had I not needed to catch a train at Harrisburg.

You can see all the signally goodness at:

Oh those, LINDEN, SOUTH LINDEN and RIVER make up a wye just south of Williamsport, PA. Here's a little diagram I found.

Since then the second track now starts at LINDEN instead of SOUTH LINDEN. Oddly enough, despite the 1980's re-alignment, a pneumatic switch machine was installed.'s a little tour.

This pedestal signal used to be on the through track, but when everything was re-aligned it can only display diverging routes. Still, the lamp for the CLEAR aspect has been retained!

The air-plant at LINDEN has a pipeline and everything even tho it only used to serve a single switch.

The PRR signal gantry at LINDEN.

 SOUTH LINDEN used to have a turnout onto the siding here, but it was moved to LINDEN.

06-10-14 PHOTOS: Chasing the Flaiming Fall Foilage Spectacular

Question? What CAN'T someone do in a first class accommodation in a preserved, PRR painted, private railway car?

Answer! Take pictures of your excursion train as it flies along the Susquehanna valley up the former-PRR Buffalo Line.

While over 1000 (mostly geriatric) railfans crammed themselves aboard 10 Amfleet and 4 private cars for the Harrisburg NRHS Flaiming Fall Foilage Spectacular, an equal number of (much younger) railfans decided to stake out places lineside to photograph and/or chase the train. Of course chasing the train was no easy feat with a linespeed of 50mph, railfans frequently had to exceed Class 6 speeds on local two lane roads in order to keep up!!

My team of myself (navigator) and another railfan I know (driver) won the "hard core" award for successfully chasing the FFFS all the way from CP-WYE (MP306) to CP-LOCK HAVEN (MP 194).  In addition to pics of the NRHS Special I took time to document many of the Buffalo line interlockings and signals. The NS Buffalo line is a bastion of PRR Position signaling and pneumatic switches so of course, how could I resist :-D

All the photos are located at:
I started out at 5am at ROY interlocking on the Amtrak Harrisburg Line. Heh, signal-fanning at 5am...that's hard core. Here is a photo of the ROY relay hut still sporting a Penn Central sign. The air equipment is still there to support the #15 switch, which is the only pneumatic switch left in the interlocking after Amtrak ruined things :-(!!! You can even see the penciled in number for when the interlocking gets completely re-signaled (91B vs 5B). Come on, who can tell me that electrics are cooler than pneumatics.

Wow, feel the history. CP-ROCKVILLE, 109 miles from Suburban Station in Philadelphia. Unfortunately CP-ROCKVILLE has also been converted from pneumatic to electric switches.

The Buffalo Line starts at CP-WYE, which is located at the north leg of the east Rockville wye. CP-WYE is complete with position lights and air switches. In fact the air plant has seen some work.

The PRR E-8's are in the lead!

Monday, October 9, 2006

06-10-09 PHOTOS: Far rockaway Circle

On Columbus Day I hooked up with Pigs and went on a little circle trip. I started at Penn Station and took the LIAR out to Far Rockaway and simply returned via an A train.

My goal was to try to get an M-1 on the LIRR and then an R-38 on the A. I arrived at Penn Station early as to have my choice of trains to Jamaica. I wanted for 40 minutes before giving up and catching an M-7...however had I waited one more train I could have gotten an M-1/3 (although I would not have had any time at Jamaica for photos).

At Jay I met pigs and transfered to an M-7 out to Far Rock. It was my first M-7 ride and i discovered that they are absolutely useless for railfanning. There is literally no point to to railfanning in an M-7. You're better off staying at home. They are a waste of time and money.

At Far Rock we made the walking transfer b/t the Far Far Rockaway and Near Far Rockaway stations to pick up the A train. I worried having to wait some time for an R-38, but we were lucky and only had to wait 1 headway. We also saw the R160 on it's field trials (Boooo!!). I did not realize that the building at the end of the platform was MOTT AVE tower.

We boarded the R38 and despite the window being rather dirty, I got good front end shots all the way to the portal at Euclid Ave. That's pretty much it for the trip. I will post samples below.

All the photos can be found at:

 The Jamaica Yard complex as seen from the eastbound Main Line flyover.

JAY tower still routing trains through the interlocking after 70+ years in service.

HALL tower with M-3's and the triple deck relay hut trying to re-wire the interlocking. I like the old brick package.

 Doubleslip switch in HALL interlocking.

Rear of VALLEY tower controlling the junction of the Babylon Branch, West Hempstead Branch and Far Rockaway branches also on a 1930's era US&S Model 14 machine. 

Monday, September 4, 2006

06-09-04 PHOTOS: Albany Circle

Over Labour Day I drove with a friend in a circle around the Albany Area exploring various interlockings with a stop off at Super Steel to view the stored Turboliner trainsets.

The trip included XO tower in Mechanicsville, CP-RJ in Rotterdam Junction and CP-VO in Vhoorheesville.

You can find all the photos at:

Here is a short narrated tour of what I saw.

Not too much Turbo in these Turboliners as they sit parked at Super Steel.

 Many were still shrink wrapped to keep out the rain.


Dual position third rail shoe that works on the under-running NYC rail or the overrunning PRR rail.

XO tower in Mechanicsville. Former D&H tower at the throat of a large yard which has also been ripped out. Now a simple interlocking (CP-467) where the former D&H line now operated by Canadian Pacific links with the Guilford Rail System freight main line.

Monday, August 21, 2006

06-08-21 PHOTOS: South Jersey Tour

Several months ago I took a small road trip around South Jersey with a friend from Boston. We started off near Trenton with some photos of MILLHAM tower, then wandered down to Cove Road at CP-HATCH for some RiverLINE photos. Finally we headed east to Winslow Township home of the South Jersey Railroad and the Cedarbrook Bunker. Tomorrow I hope to head out to one of the Abandoned NIKE Missile bases which once surrounded most large American cities.

If you remember the old Bell System, you might not know that all those monopoly profits went into building a long distance network that was literally bomb proof, Atomic Bomb proof. Across the country there exists to this day a network of bunkers to keep the phones working in case of nuclear attack. They were linked by a series of microwave relays and L4 co-axial carriers. So next time when you're shouting "Can you hear my now" into your Cell Phone, think of what "6 9's of service" used to mean.

The other cold warriors in South Jersey are the SJRR's fleet of Alcos. Granted most of them are Canadian imports, but it's close enough. You don't see any imported diesels from Lada or Gaz.

The whole group of pix is at:

If you want to learn more about the old Bell System go to

And a brief tour...

MILLHAM tower in Hamilton NJ is located on a straight stretch of NEC that used to contain a complete 4-track interlocking. Ultimate the interlocking was removed during one of the NECIP's as Trenton area freight traffic declined, but was partly compensated for by the construction of the new Amtrak HAM interlocking about a mile to the east.  MILLHAM was controlled by what became the prototype "corridor" style tower built in 1941 which replaced many older plants.  The peaked roof is a new addition to shield the leaking flat roof. 

RiverLINE unit #3501B at Cove Rd.

The bunker at Cedarbrook. The pryamyds are vents and the brown thing on the concrete post is a gamma ray detector to alert the ppl inside to a nuclear blast.  It's amazing the quality of service we got when AT&T was still a monopoly.  Even after a nuclear war the old network would have still functioned.

Old microwave relay horn antennas. If you hook your laptop up to one of these you can get 802.11b wireless up to 30 miles distant. 

Saturday, August 5, 2006

06-08-05 PHOTOS: Reading Country USA

About a month ago I took a trip with a friend up to Reading Country in central-eastern PA. This has been one of my earliest railfan haunts back in the late 1990's, but I had not been back there since and I was eager to visit a few of the places and see how they had changed.

The old Reading system used to be quite impressive with a uge network running through the foothills to gather up anthricite coal for use in home heating systems. Today, north of Reading, the once vast network is nothing more than a patchwork of secondard tracks, but its still an interesting anvunique system full of legacy infrastructure. It has been my lifelong goal to walk through all 7 Reading tunnels and after this trip I am up to 4.

First stop was CP-PHOENIX in Phoenixville. This interlocking composes a brief single track segment through the Black Rock tunnel. The east end of the portal still had its Conrail era small target searchlights, but the west end revently had the Reading signals replaced with a Darth Vader, both at the home signal and the distant. Still, NS appears to be showing no plans to convert the line from 251 to 261 operation. Rule 251 is such a welcome relief in this world which has become overrun with CTC.

Moving on, I stopped by the site of the old Reading Outer Station in downtowne Reading. Unfortunately the station burned down in the 1980's and the last time I was there there was just a big enpty patch in the middle of the wye that served the station. Well boy was I surprised when I found that it had been filled in by some Dept of public works building. don't worry, there's still plenty of room for yards for the future SVM. While there I took photos of CP-OLEY and CP-CENTER.

Next stop was the Reading and Northern yard at Port Clinton. The R&N runs the former Reading main line out to Sunbury PA and also the Cormer Lehigh Valley main line from M&H Jct to a point past Scranton. their offices, shoppes and dispatching centre are located at Port Clinton.

Other fun bits there include a vintage US&S M3 switch machine and this neat hillside logo.

Moving on, my next goal was to walk through the currently abandonned Lofty tunnel. However when we got there, the RoW was flooded and i lacked deep water footwear.

Not to be defeated, we drove to the still active Tamaqua tunnel and after a bit of hiking in tick country we located the north portal. The tunnel offered a nice blast of natural AC as we walked through to the south portal.

The next stop on my trip was the towne of Tamaqua PA with the historic Tamaqua Station and the less historic Reading and Northern station.

Finally, the last stop was BIRD tower in Birdsboro. BIRD is where the Reading Main Line joins with what is called the Turkey Path, an alternate 3rd track to bypass reading city. Is also used to provide access to the Wilmington and Northern line to Wilmington. The RoW here is 4-tracks wide and the interlocking used to be very complex. The tower housed the air compressor for the pneumatic switches and you can still see some of the pipes. However today BIRD interlocking only has a single switch between the Turkey Path and the #2 S/B main line.

You can see ALL the photos at:

My SEPTA train enters Bryn Mawr interlocking under a SLOW APPROACH due to an Amtrak Keystone cab-car test train passing in front of us.

The closed yet still standing BRYN MAWR Tower with a Stop and Proceed indication on the bracket mounted position light. 

 My SEPTA train deposits it at Wayne with Silverliner IV #349 in the rear position.

Searchlight dwarf signal at CP-CENTER.

OLEY Tower at the neck of Reading Yard.