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Sunday, July 26, 2009

09-07-26 PHOTOS: C&O Survey 2009 Part 2

Part 2 will cover Hinton, WV to Washington, DC with a few gaps along the way. These photos were taken from the rear of Amtrak's eastbound Cardinal (Train 50) and you can view the entire set at In the Huntington East ETT refer to the North Mountain and Washington Subdivisions.

So due to the actions of the late Senator Byrd, not only does The Cardinal pass through WV, it makes a stop about every 10-20 miles. Still in a state with few transportation options to reach the outside world the train is well patronized as you can see at from this picture of the old C&O Hinton Station. Also, it looks like the station has escaped the rebranding that began about a decade ago. Long live the pointless arrow.

Patriotism runs strong in West Virginia. U-S-A! U-S-A!! 

Epic beard man was also there to watch the train roll through, but fortunately he didn't try to start anything.

Departing the station we passed a coal train with two road units and a road-slug pair with a former GP30 as the road slug. How many of these things doe CSX have!!

This is a cute signal. It has to be placed close to the tracks to allow ling of sight through the tunnel, but that required the elephant ears to be trimmed a little.

 The tunnel in question is the Big Bend Tunnel. The 5000 foot twin bore was the site of the famous John Henry ledgend. This was the newer bore built in the 1930's and the only one still in use today. At Hinton the Main Line leaves the New River valley and begins to follow the Greenbrier River east towards the Allegheny summit. The Big Bend in question is in the Greenbrier River.

09-07-26 PHOTOS: C&O Survey 2009 Part 1

The last installment of my four part epic Railfan trip to Chicago in 2009 will cover my sleeping car trip on Amtrak's Cardinal in July of 2009. Due to CSX's retarded decision to start axing down the perfectly serviceable C&O era signals on the famous C&O Main Line through Kentucky and West Virginia I considered this part of the trip to be the real priority as I would take advantage of the rear placement of the sleeping car to try to document all of the remaining classic C&O signals on the route.

I lucked out is not having any private cars attached to the train, but in a moment of pure stupidity I failed to see how dirty the rear door windows were when I had a clear chance to clean them before Indy so combined with an overcast day most of the photos I took came out somewhat muddy. Fortunately there was no rain to screw things up even further.

Now I can easily assume that few people here are interested in looking at hundreds of pictures of signals, even if they are classic C&O signals, so I'll try to stick to some of the non-signaling related high points of the route. The C&O main was the other was heavy tonnage route across the Alleghenies designed to accomidate coal and ore trains traveling between the mines in West VA and the ports at Toledo and Norfolk. As such it has much better examples of railroad engineering than one finds on the B&O route used by the Capitol Limited. Unfortunately the C&O did not have the deep pockets of the PRR and the terrain of its route is a tad more imposing so the Cardinal does not enjoy the same high speeds as seen on the Pennsylvanian. For anyone who has ridden the Pennsylvanian the best comparison is 200 miles composed of what one encounters between Huntington and Tyrone.

The complete set of about 400 photos can be found here and covers the like from MP 513 in Catlettsburg, KY to MP 498 past Barboursville, WV, MP 458 at Charleston, WV to MP 398 near Covington, VA and finally between MP178 and MP150 on the Washington Sub near Gordonsville, VA. The photos are in roughly Chronological order, but between MP 413 and 409 there are a bunch of photos out of order due to the time stamps getting screwed up.

Another worthwhile reference for anyone who cares is this Ma href="">list of C&O signal rules. They are roughly equivalent to what one sees under NORAC, but have several big exceptions. Also you can follow along via the 2005 CSX Huntington East Division ETT downloadable here.

I am going to begin at KV CABIN in Kenova, WV. The C&O liked to call its tower "Cabins" and the moniker has persisted to the present day. KV CABIN was one of two interlockings on the Kanawha Sub that retained its pneumatically worked switch machines until it was re-signaled in 2010. Here in 2009 we see the 6-track wide eastbound C&O signal gantry with two three head entrance signals and one two head exit signal. The C&O almost exclusively made use of US&S style N single unit color light signals (think what you see on the Flushing Line) with large "Elephant Ear" backing plates.

I quickly switched to video mode due to the low light in order to capture the model A-5 pneumatic switch machines that powered most of the switches in the interlocking. Our train was only about 20 minutes late at this point and the time was about 6:45am in late July.

A few miles down the road we have the Huntington, WV station which features a gen-u-ine Amshack station. In 2006 I remember food being onloaded here for the Diner Lite cafe, but I don't know if that is still a standard practice.

 Next up was the other pneumatic interlocking, DK CABIN. Here we can see the facing crossover complete with silver painted A-5 machines and a ground mounted N-3 dwarf signal.

More A-5's, the still standing DK CABIN to the left and in the yard lots of coal.

Westbound C&O signal bridge at GUYANDOTTE with a bunch of Darth Vaders standing ominously behind. The track 1 signal is cleared for an approaching coal train. You can see the difference between the lamps needed for the C&O signal aspects and the Seaboard style aspects CSX is trying to standardize on.

For the next 6 miles the C&O has 3 main tracks and our train has been routed onto track 3. This is the fast portion of the route with speeds varying between 60 and 80mph. The line follows the generally flat terrain along the Ohio River, the Teyas Valley and New River before Charleston. Here is the 3-track signal gantry at MP 500. This is 500 miles from downtown Richmond, VA.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

09-07-25 PHOTOS: Metra and Chicago Rail

In the penultimate installment of photos covering my 2009 trip to Chicago I took a little loop trip using the CTA Blue Line to connect with the METRA Milwaukee North line at Mayfaire. I had previously taken a loop trip involving the Green Line and UP West Line at Oak Park and was anxious to try the same with a train that would head into Union Station to get some pics of Western Ave interlocking from the other route. I was also eager to try to track down some Budd 2200 series cars which had been unceremoniously banished from the loop and placed on the Blue Line.

The set of photos can be viewed here in chronological order.

To make the connection to the Milwaukee North line at Mayfaire one has to take the Blue Line to Montrose then walk west about 2 blocks. I was initially disappointed that my train did not appear to have any 2200 series cars in it and I lacked time to wait for one to show up, but low and behold there was a pair buried in the middle of the trainset. Thanks CTA :-(

While making the connection a ran into a woman who was a little off her rocker. She evidently mistook my taking a picture of the CNW overpass for taking a picture of her. I tried to explain, but she sort of froze in place and proceeded to glare at me. I walked on and about half a block later she was still glaring at me so I decided I might as well earn the animosity directed at me and needless to say I evoked the desired performance from the kook.

Mayfaire Interlocking is where the 2-track Milwaukee North line crosses the 3-track CNW Northwest Line. It's a little hard to see the 6 sets of diamonds from track level at the home signal on the Milw Line, but they are there.

The 4th track on the w/b signal gantry is from another UP line heading to the south. Mayfaire is controlled by the operator at CY tower.

The Mayfaire station is spartan to say the least with a SEPTA style shelter on one side and a bus shelter on the other.

Looking the other direction we see GRAYLAND interlocking where the UP branch line crosses. That interlocking is remote from METRA Tower A-5.

The announcement came that my train would be about 8-9 minutes late so I was to get a little bonus when the signal cleared for the Northbound train I would have otherwise missed. It was being pulled by MP36PH-3S #411.

Friday, July 24, 2009

09-07-24 PHOTOS: CTA Kensington

So in Part One of my 2009 Chicago Trip I covered the trip on Amtrak's Capitol Limited from Washington to the Windy Apple. Now in Part Two I take some time to explore the city with a special railfan excursion on the Metra Electric line to 115th St - Kensington.

Kensington is not just a station, but an important interlocking on the Metra-Electric line where both the NICTD South Shore Line and Metra Electric Blue Island Branch split off. It is also the end of the 4-track section of the Electric Line which contrary to east coast practice puts the locals on the inner tracks and express trains on the outer. Until recently KENSINGTON interlocking hosted a manned interlocking tower to not only handle the busy METRA and NICTD lines, but also the adjacent CN-IC freight main line that makes use of the interlocking plant since the two services were united in the Illinois Central days.

This set of photos will cover my METRA trip to Kensington and then subsequent riding of the CTA lines in the loop district. I also took a lot of tourist type photos of Chicago, but I will refrain from going too in depth with those as I am shifting non-railfan related content to my Facebook account.

So we begin at Monroe St near the the Art Institute of Chicago where the Electric Line emerges from the cavernous Randolph St Station and into the light of its lake shore route to the south. More of the former Illinois Central yards and terminal complex had been open air, but they had been more recently covered by the new Millennium Park. Still from Monroe one can still catch a lot of good action and in this photo we see some of the new NICTD gallery electric MU's next to a classic METRA Hi-liner. The NICTD cars are returning to the yard between here and Roosevent Ave and the Hi-Liners are laying over on a station track.

Like the R40/42's you can see that the St. Louis Car built Hi-Liners are beginning to suffer from some roof rust. Here we are looking south toward Van Buren with the Art Institute sky walk connecting its two halves which are bisected by the electric line. 

The pantographs of a Hi-Liner are more robust than a typical light rail vehicle, but not the equal of an east coast electric.

Much of the thick copper catenary wire for the 1500v DC electrician system probably dates from the 1920's when it was first installed, although there is some evidence of renewal.

If anyone is wondering what a Hi-Liner looks like inside here you go, They are basically just like a gallery car only a little bit shorter and with a ramp up to the center doors which have to accommodate high level platforms.

Upon arrival at Kensington I was met by an inbound NICTD single level train which looks surprisingly similar to the MARC owned single level K-Cars. Here NICTD #34 is ready to depart northward.

Shortly behind the northbound South Shore train was a southbound headed up by NICTD #42.

This long 6-car train then proceeded to do what makes KENSINGTON interlocking famous...cross over 5 mainline tracks, 4 of which on diamonds. The 4 diamond tracks belong to the CN-IC freight railroads and are also used by Amtrak Illinois service trains and the City of New Orleans. 

Speak of the devil, but look what soon appeared. Amtrak train 390, the Saluki arriving from various points downstate led by P42 #127. This is one of two daily Illinois sponsored round trips in addition to Amtrak's CofNO.

Unlike many of the other midwest service trains this was not equipped with a F40 Cabbage Car.

 Standing silent over this whole mess of trains is KENSINGTON tower. While the tower was recently closed the interlocking was not re-signaled as the interlocking had already been re-signaled years ago, but control was kept with the local operator. As you can see the think bundles of cables heading from the all relay interlocking equipment for the field stations are still in service. Over on my other blog I have a special on Kensington tower with inside shots.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

09-07-23 PHOTOS: Capitol Limited Reverse

Over the years I have come to make a habit out of taking photos from the back of Amtrak's Capitol Limited on the former B&O Main Line due to the presence of a Railfan Window and a daylight run. However those familiar with my work may have noticed that all of those photo sets were taken in the eastbound direction as for whatever reason I just tended to take other trains out west.

Well last year in conjunction with my eastbound trip via the Cardinal I was in a position to take the Capitol Limited heading west and this opened up a brand new perspective on the sights and CPL's along the former B&O Main Line. Hopefully all of you will be as interested as I was to finally see some of your favourite CPL signals in a whole new light.

The full set in roughly chronological order can be found here if you wish to follow along between the photos I feature in this post.

Well upon leaving DC my train hit a bit of an isolated thunderstorn at Rockville, but fortunately the skies cleared at Point of Rocks providing that magical late afternoon lighting phenomia where the sun peeks in under the edge of the dark rain clouds. Here are the eastbound signals at Point of Rocks with the PoR station in the background.

That rainstorm fresh feeling persisted through the Point of Rocks and Catoctin Tunnels

Passing through Brunswick Yard I spotted the MARC historic fleet which between then and now was completely vanished :-(

Due to the remaining rainspots on the RFW I opted to take video for what ended up being a rather underwhelming, speed-restricted trip past WB Tower and the Brunswick MARC station. Note the use of pneumatic point machines at WB interlocking.

A few miles later I was shocked to discover that the decrepit CPL distant signal to WEVERTON interlocking has been replaced by a brand new CPL mast unit. Woo Hoo! Love that fresh paint.

Due to the drought of CPL signals between there and HANCOCK I went back to my sleeper for about an hour. On my return I caught what was relained of HANCOCK interlocking after the mechanical tower there was closed and demolished in 2007.

It was refreshing to finally be able to photograph the front side of half of the CPL's on the route that I had previously only had rear shots available of. One good example of this was the mixed Interlocking-Automatic bracket mast at Grasshopper Hollow.

Or B&O CPL gantry at Ambrose. BTW the left side of the right of way is a public road.

The late July evening sun began to seep into the Potomac valley at Sideling Hill.

Here lighting up the CPL Brackets at Turkey Foot.

Some of the views out the back were simply spectacular and sometimes an opposing freight move would help compliment the photo.

Friday, July 3, 2009

09-07-03: PHOTOS: High Line Budds

So last Fourth of July the West Jersey Chapter NHRS was planning one of their informal trips to NYC to check out the new High Line Park that had opened not long before. I used this as another opportunity to try to catch as many RFW rides on the older equipment before they vanished and for this trip I decided to tackle the C train and its 1962 Budd R32's.

Blah, blah, blah you can see all of the photos here:

Before we reach the headline event on the way to NYC I made a little side trip on Philly's Market-Frankford Line to check out the completed Market Elevated rebuild. It was basically as bland and sterile as the Frankford Elevated as evidenced here at the new 52nd St station.

 The famous section of Elevated track with the open trackbed in Darby Borough has been closed in to match the rest of the El.

Millbourne had been reopened and gone were the wooden platforms and crossover walkway. At least one could change directions without leaving fare control now. Here #1150 makes a station stop.

Wow, very fancy digs. I'm sure the stations 7 regular riders will be very happy with all of the improvements.

The next day I took the RiverLINE to the new Trenton Nsit Center.

I got off at Newark Penn Station to transfer to The PATH. Here the 90LA signal is showing approach over the single track bridge at DOCK.

At Chambers St on the (A)(C) I noticed that a new Panel had replaced the GRS pistol grip machine in the old Chambers WTC tower and I tries my best to get some non-blurry photos.

 After stopping for a bite to eat with the others in my party on 14th St we walked to the High Line Park. Although the rail elements were a bit...reproductionish, it was still a well executed piece of urban engineering.

I know they didn't want the green elements to get trampled, but I felt there were way too many "keep out" zones as I would expect in a public park. Perhaps it should be renamed High Line botanic gardens. Playing frisbee up there would certainly be interesting.