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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

09-05-12 PHOTOS: Capitol Limited Dreams

Over the last few months I posted a series of photos from my trip out to Pittsburgh last year along the old PRR Main Line and then from my travels around the city. Well now it's time to return back east and for this leg of the journey I took Amtrak's Capitol Limited which with its Superliner equipment provides a rear facing railfan window that allows for the sort of line surveys I enjoy doing. The Cap is so good at this that I have actually surveyed this line about 4 or 5 times before so I really don't feel the need to bore everyone by highlighting the same old B&O CPL signals again so I'll just keep things short and save everyone some time.

The survey can be found here arranged chronologically for easy following along.

Catching the Capitol Limited in Pittsburgh is no easy feat as its scheduled departure is about 5:15 in the morning. As such I had to get up sometime around 3:30 and catch the very first morning bus that ran downtown on Forbes. Fortunately my chariot of the masses arrived and deposited me a few blocks from Penn Station with enough spare time for some photos. Here we see the west end of the Pittsburgh station platform with the old CP-WEST PITT relay box taken shortly before the Cap arrived.

The trainset for the eastbound Pennsylvanian was waiting patiently under the trainshed for its 8am departure.

Departing Pittsburgh the Capitol Limited takes the Bloom Connector to the old B&O P&W Sub, which was the original route of the B&O between Pittsburgh and New Castle. The line is overland and twisty and for many years the B&O retained traffic rights over the generally superior Pittsburgh and Lake Erie route. After CSX purchased the P&LE in the early 90's almost all of their traffic shifted to the P&LE route leaving the P&W to eventually be leased off to two short lines and the signaling removed. Anyway, even back in B&O days the road used the P&LE main line between McKeeysport and Braddock, PA and to this day the old P&LE flavor remains evident for anyone bothering to look out the back of the train.

The old P&LE route consists of four back to back interlockings the first of which is BRADDOCK where the P&W curves away from the P&LE route. The P&LE line will cross to the far bank of the Monongahela over a bridge that has always been single track as in P&LE days this was the far southern end of its route and didn't warrant a second track. Between 2003 and 2005 the interlocking was re-build to provide a straight route for trains on the P&LE while moves to/from the P&W had to diverge. Also about that time the 2-track P&W was reduced to a single bi-directional track and the nearby GLENNWOOD tower was closed.

Here my train makes the diverging movement from the single P&W track onto P&LE Track 1 at BRADDOCK interlocking. BRADDOCK is of a double ladder configuration and also note the rust on the second P&W track as it is now used to store surplus "coke express" hopper cars.

Next up in DEMMLER interlocking which provides access to the west end of Demmler Yard, which was the P&LE's main yard in this area directly serving the USS Edgar J. Thompson steel mill. This interlocking is a full crossover with yard lead and hosts a P&LE signal gantry at each end with traditional searchlight signals.

At the other end of Demmler Yard is RIVERTON interlocking with another full crossover and yard leads. It is a popular railfan spot and notable for the unique three-mast cantilever on the west end covering both main tracks and a yard lead. Unfortunately I just saw a photo indicating that the westbound mast signals are being replaced by a new cantilever despite being in very good condition. Let's hope that the rest of the searchlights at RIVERTON are not under threat of replacement.

Here my train takes a diverging route from track 1 to track 2.

You never know what is around to suddenly appear out of the fog when railfanning. Seconds after having passed the westbound signals at RIVERTON I passed a special Amtrak shop move from Bear, DE to Beech Grove, IN consisting of a P42, 5 800 series P40's and two Amfleet I's. What amazingly good luck!!

Next up is McKEEYSPORT interlocking. This was once the terminus of the short lived PATrain commuter service from the old B&O Pittsburgh Station, but today the interlocking only has a single switch on track #2 for a former P&LE branch down the Monongahela river valley. The P&LE/B&O main line hangs a left and takes off down the Youghiogheny River valley. Hang in to the end of the video because CSX recently replaced a searchlight bracket mast at the east end of the plant with brand new searchlight mast signals!!! Ugh, why can't CSX be consistent!

The next interlocking is SINNS and is the former division post between the PL&E and B&O Keystone subdivision. Until recently that meant the change from searchlights and Rule 261 to CPL's and Rule D-251. I lucked out twice on this little string of videos as first I caught the Amtrak shop move and then two interlockings later I managed to capture a CSX freight on the adjacent track with the Sinns defect detector sounding off for my own train. All in all it is one of the best videos I have ever shot at least from a compositional point of view. XD

CSX had been re-signaling the last segment of B&O CPL ABS signaling on the Keystone Sub and I was eager to do what I could to document it. Unfortunately the wee morning hours were not only dim, but foggy, which made for generally poor photographic conditions. Still I pressed on as it would be unlikely for me to get another chance. Here we see the MP 307 signal EMBLEM.

The CPL signals at YOUGH SLOPE. It is in foggy conditions such as these where the B&O CPL system excels as the new darth vader type traffic lights can quickly become obscured. The death knell for this segment of ABS was the old pole line and power supply that has become too costly to maintain.

The sleepy railroad town of West Newton.

The CPL signals at WEST NEWTON have been a local railfan hotspot for years.

6 months prior the new holdout signals at JACOB CREEK had not yet been placed in service. As of May 2009 they marked the extent of that fiscal year's re-signaling effort.

When CSX re-signaled the segment between Connelsville and Rockwood in 2007 they left the single-direction ABS in place. This part of the line is getting a full bi-directional upgrade, but no new CTC interlockings are being installed leaving a 30 mile gap with only hand crossovers like this one at the LAVENIA DTC block limit. Solar panels eliminate the need for a railroad run power line and coded track circuits are used in place of a pole line to transmit track occupancy information.

West of Lavenia an MoW platoon was getting ready for the day's work.

Since VI tower at Connelsville had been closed and re-signaled I used this opportunity to go and get breakfast in the dining car. I returned to my post upon departure at Cumberland where I caught the Cap overtaking a CSX manifest freight lead by #7833.

The CPL's return at WEST HUMP interlocking adjacent to the Cumbermand Yard hump.

Crossing over at MEXICO we scoot past another CSX freight waiting patiently at the westbound bracket signal with AC4400 #474.

Passing under the modern 3-track B&O CPL gantry at Dan's Run we pass yet another CSX freight.

Uh oh....looks like CSX is looking to replace the eb CPL masts at OKONOKO :-( I don't know why as they appear to be in very good condition.

It wouldn't be a Cumberland Sub survey without pictures of the CPL brackets at Magnolia.

B&O 3-track classic style signal bridge at Grasshopper Hollow. This was fortunately spared when HANCOCK tower was closed.

 Speaking of HANCOCK, all trace of the tower and its manually worked points have been erased.

Between Hancock and Cherry Run the RoW is three tracks wide. Here we overtake CSX C40-10W #5292 and a manifest freight at Sleepy Hollow.

Here is the end of the Harper's Ferry tunnel that most people don't usually see.

Let us now take a brief video interlude to watch as my train runs the full length of the CSX Brunswick Yard from WEVERTON interlocking on the west end to EAST BRUNSWICK interlocking on the east end with the still active WB tower in the middle.

The sun was nice enough to re-appear as my train passed the CPL signals at HIGH ROCK.

The Old Main Line meets the Metropolitan Branch at Point of Rocks.

My train was absolutely clobbered by speed restrictions as it passed some MoW activity on the Met Sub.

 Ran into a triplet of lite engines waiting outside of Derwood interlocking with AC4400 #251 in front.

New signals surround the Rockville station to avoid the Delay in Block rule.

The CSX line sandwiches the DC Metro Red Line at Silver Spring.

A CSX freight patiently waits on the Wye track for our train to clear up at QN Tower as we switch into the DC union station complex.  CSX C40-10W #5310 is in the #2 position.

VRE Geeps lay over in the ready yard.

AEM-7 #945 is playing the role of "that random engine sitting outside of K Tower" today.

The "K Bridge" at K Tower with an Amtrak SW series switcher moving through the plant.

And my epic journey is finished at K-Tower.

Well it's been a wild ride to Pittsburgh and back comprising almost 1000 photos. Stay tuned for our regular programming schedule to return with more mundane fare involving a trip to a National game via MARC.

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