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Sunday, November 9, 2008

08-11-09 PHOTOS: PAT Light Rail Loop

What do you get when you take the PATH and remove the H? Well first you get a "port" that's 981 miles from the nearest seacoast. Second you get an extensive light rail system that was once posted a fleet of 666 PCC streetcars. Third, you get an antiquated fare collection system that puts SEPTA to shame.

That's right, last Armistice Day I took a trip to Pittsburgh. You already saw the pics from my trip out over the PRR Main Line, so now its time for my pics from what I actually did in the city. Much of my trip was defined by what I could get away with vis-a-vie the fare collection system. My friend was a CMU student who could ride as much as he wanted for free. For everyone else, there is no day passes, paper transfers and a zone based fare system that kicks in on the light rail for very long trips. The lack of a pass meant that I was unable to get on and off at will. That I always had to take a bus to/from CMU really made me wince at plunking down yet another $2 fare for additional stopovers.

Anyway, my plan involved a Sunday loop trip on the light rail system. I would take the scenic 42S out to Washington Jct (the furthest one can go on a base fare), railfan there for a bit, then return via the 47 Overbrook Line. The 42 Beechview route involves a good deal of street running. The Overbrook Line always ran on a dedicated RoW and had to be completely rebuilt during the 1990s due to several trestles threatening to collapse.

I hung out at the rear of the vehicle taking pictures out the reverse railfan window and most of my photos are of the fairly mundane line tour type, but I did get a good 30 min at Washington Jct and also took a few videos.

You can peruse the large selection of photos here or just stay tuned to view a choice selection.

My trip started at Steel Plaza which was built on the alignment of a former PRR railroad tunnel which provided some opportunity for some "night" photos.

On the outbound leg of my journey I didn't take many photos until we were on the street running segment of the Beechview Line. Here is the Boustead stop on Broadway Ave.

The line eventually switches to a private RoW as seen here at Kelton.

From there we had to wrong rail at Dormont Jct due to work in the Mt. Lebanon transit tunnel.

The tunnel was constructed so that the LRV's could bypass the narrow street running portion in the Mt. Lebanon business district.

The tunnel ends at the Mt Lebanon station where we returned to normal running.

Even in November there were some lingering fall colours.

The next major feature was Overbrook Jct where the 47 route joins at a flat interlocking.

Finally I got off at Washington Junction for an extended layover to transfer to an inbound Overbrook Line 47 train. Here we see a 42S line trolley headed by #4201 making a stop at the station.

And here is a video of that same LRV departing full of Steelers fans ready for the game later that day.

The Junction part of Washington Junction is here where the 47L route to Library branches off. This line is completely unrebuilt with jointed rail and trolley wire. You can see the 61 entrance signal.

Washington Jct also includes a turnback track for short service. This was also a terminal for the last PCC operated route in Pittsburgh, the 47D Drake. A loop was here for that service until the early 2000's. Here the 14N signal displays a Clear indication for a departing LRV.

 I should mention here that of course all of the signaling equipment was supplied by US&S, a company based locally in suburban Pittsburgh.  The Port Authority Light Rail lines is the only North American appearance of the Westcab brand of intermittent train control technology.  Like the older Automatic Train Stop technology developed by GRS, Westcab made use of inductive coupling to transmit up to 9 indications to passing rail vehicles. The technology was more popular in Europe, where it is still used throughout Spain as their ASFA train protection system and even on the Pittsburgh Light Rail system Westcab is only in service on the 42 route, the rebuilt 47S route being given continuous cab signals/ATC. Here is an example of a Westcab inductor unit, mounted away from the centerline of the track to provide for directionality. You can spot others in my other Route 42 photos.

 I am not sure which indications the light rail system is making use of or what effect they have on passing trains, but there is an ATS reset box in the cab area of all the Light Rail Vehicles.  The PA Light Rail could only use it for Stop signal enforcement, but could also incorporate a slow speed function at caution type signals.

 At this point I should explain how the fare system works in Pittsburgh. There is a "free ride zone" downtown. To support this one pays as you exit leaving downtown and pays as you enter riding toward downtown. Furthermore, to avoid having to put fare collectors in the second car of a two car light rail train a farebooth is provided to either make the entire platform a fare paid area or just the second car portion of the platform. This means that only certain stations can support the second car, so if you get on a second car downtown and your station isn't supported, you're SOL.

On weekends and off peak only single unit trains are run so the farebooths were all closed. Here is the closed farebooth on the Washington Jct platform.

 Still at Washington Junction here is LRV #4212 both arriving and departing on a 42S Route towards Pittsburgh


After having transferred to the 47S train we took the other route at Overbrook Junction. Here is the new Overbrook Junction station.

Because all of the stations on the Overbrook line were rebuilt in the 90's they unfortunately look the same. Here is Killarney station. Speeds on the line are disappointingly slow for something build new only 10 years ago. Top speed is little better than 30mph and as you can see here, 15mph through stations.

Some of the route runs parallel with an adjacent busway.

In other places you can sort of appreciate how the old Overbook line used to work as a rickety mostly single track perched on a hillside.

Finally my train came off the Overbrook Line via a flyover at South Hills Junction.

Of course most people know about the famous South Hills Junction. Here is the south end of the main route with the 12S signal displaying a proceed indication for a 42S train about to depart.

What makes South Hills Junction famous is the double track scissors crossover between the transit tunnel line, the main line, the Rt 52 line and the Rt 52 stub terminal. Most trains simply run from the tunnel to the main line.

There's even a interlocking tower on hand to control things.

Next comes the Mt. Washington Transit Tunnel. Originally built as a trolley tunnel in 1973 it was given a concrete roadway and turned into a general purpose transit tunnel for both LRVs and buses.

Here is a video taken through the entire 3500 foot length of the tunnel and the approach to Station Square station.

This leads to the former PRR "Panhandle Bridge" which was used by the PRR's Panhandle Route to Chicago. It had this name due to its route through the panhandle of West Virginia.

Again I took a video that not only caught a southbound LRV, but also an NS double stack train on the former PRR freight line across the river.

Before we get back into the downtown tunnel we pass through the First Ave tunnel.

Now, before I conclude I wanted to feature some photos I took at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, which at 535 feet tall is the tallest academic building in the Free World.

When I was there they had lit up the outside as part of some art project. The effect was pretty cool.

Just like it says on the tin, the inside was modeled after a cathedral. Somewhere I heard there is a chapel of knowledge, but I wasn't able to find it.

Anyway, that's it for now. Next time the 300+ photo set from my return from Pittsburgh.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, great coverage! Two comments... The US&S/Ansaldo ATS override units aboard Pittsburgh's LRVs are used only to "key by" red/stop & proceed ABS signals under certain conditions. At home signals displaying red/red/absolute stop, the operator must request dispatcher permission to continue... Re your caption for the Mt. Washington Transit Tunnel, as the linked WIki entry explains, it was opened for trolleys in 1904 but reopened for both LRVs and buses in 1973 as part of the newly built light rail system on parts of the old trolley right of way.