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Thursday, March 4, 2010

10-04-03 PHOTOS: San Francisco 2010 - Part 2: Cable Cars

Yeah, you know I couldn't resist going back to San Fran and not having another jag on the cable cars. Those things are like railfan crack what with the eternal running boards and primo railfan views. Over my last two trips I had generally explored the system so this time I wanted to look at things a little more in depth. So I decided to spend a little time at the diamond crossing at California and Powell as well as to visit the cable car museum which, I discovered, does not charge admission so I didn't have to spend an afternoon there.

This part will have more pictures, not so much text, but I'm sure it will appeal to folks who like those kinds of things. Like last time you can view the entire set of San Francisco photos here, the Cable Car photos toward the photos.

We'll start off with a pair of videos showing MUNI #3 and #9 being turned at the Powell turntable. Yeah yeah its a tourist trap. Whatever.

Here we see #9 before it was turned in the tree lined terminal area.

#20 at Post Street with another car in sight at the top of the hill.

Which happened to be #21, shown here at the bottom of the great incline.

It's video time again as we climb the great incline to the summit at California Ave where we have the famous diamonds with the Cal Line.

The California Line is the one with the double ended cars like #60 here crossing eastbound.

The crossing is controlled by this cute little interlocking tower things which signals the northbound cars when they can begin their ascent because as they crest the top of the hill it is somewhat impractical for them to stop for crossing traffic. The crossing is a 4-way stop for road vehicles who must yield the right of way to crossing cable cars. The tower handles right of way for the cable cars with a small indicator panel.

Both directions of the Powell line stop on the north side of the street as #12 is seen doing here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

10-03-03 PHOTOS: San Francisco 2010 - Part 1: MUNI

Well with last week's Caltrain post this would arguably be Part 2, but I'm treating the photos I took in and around San Francisco while attending the 2010 RAS Security conference as a separate event. Unlike the last photo set where I could safely discard most of the photos as poor quality signal fluff, in this case most of the photos are of generally good quality and covering various transit vehicles so for the sake of everyone I'll split it up into two parts, the first covering the MUNI light rail system, the second the Cable Cars.

In this trip I decided to cover the one remaining line I had not yet ridden, the K Ingleside. I also covered the J Church returning from a brief layover at the Balboa Park station. The remainder of the photos were of course taken at various points along the F Market because who is going to railfan San Francisco and not hit up the F market.

You can view the entire photo set here, but this post will only be covering the first half or so of the photos.

I shall begin by showing the new tracking system implemented on the MUNI light rail system that shows the location of every MUNI trolley across its entire network, excluding the F Market. Hmm, how many instances of bunching can you count?

Here we see the West Portal portal with an inbound M Ocean with LRV #1413A.

There were quite a few LRVs stacked up at West Portal. Here we see two more including 1427A on an inbound K routing.

Approaching the M/K divide at St. Francis Circle we were being followed by an outbound M Ocean with #1460A. The St Francis Station features a pair of platforms on the central reservation, ADA mini-highs and a trailing point turnback.

The Junipero St alignment of the K features its own Right of Way similar to the Rt 36 Eastwick.

#1409B on Ocean about the make the turn onto Junipero.

MUNI #1432B at the Phelan Station which is located just south of City College.

Upon reaching Balboa Park we have my previous ride, #1510B, next to 1494B.

Monday, March 1, 2010

10-03-01 VIDEO: Let's Ride Caltrain (480p)

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. Well the Bay Area in March is nothing but clouds so I sort of had no choice but to root out the silver. In this case since reasonable still photography was out of the question I switched my camera into video mode and boarded the first Northbound Baby Bullet express train which, thankfully still uses Gallery car equipment. The baby Bullet service is equivalent to the Metro North New Haven super-expresses or NJT NEC Princeton Expresses. This particiular run made only 4 stops on the 60 mile run between San Jose and San Francisco, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Millbrae and 22nd St.

The run is almost entirely at 80mph as there are few of the curves that plague rail lines elsewhere and since railroad managed to squash NIMBY complaints they can run full speed over the grade crossings and through stations. Also because Caltrain does a good job with dispatching and scheduling we got clear signals the entire way from CP-JULIAN to CP-ARMY, which isn't so cool if you like interesting signal aspects.

I felt it was important to take this video because I wanted to show what will be destroyed if the line is rebuilt by the High Speed Rail nuts in the state. Gone will be the quaint downtown stations with trackside parking. Gone will be the tall stads of whatever sort of trees they have out west. Gone will be the accessible right of way that can be easily traversed without having to hike to a limited number of overpasses. This video will show that the Caltran Caltrain line is plenty fast already and does not need to be grade separated or run with Euro-trash MU cars.

If you would like some reference materials here is the original 2005 Caltrain Timetable and here is the 2007 update.

I began the video at Santa Clara because I was dealing with limited memory card space and I didn't want to waste video time showing the train crawling out of the San Jose Terminal so I just started filming at CP-FRANKLIN where the speed was already at 80mph. The first video runs between there and Mountain View. After the train passes the CP-DE LA CRUZ crossover north of the Santa Clara station look for the begining of the Speed Signaling territory which replaced the former Southern Pacific route signaling system. Past that we enter the southern 4-track passing zone where local trains which depart in advance of the expresses, are then passes by the expresses on the center tracks. This run however does not pass a local here. Oh that strange noise that occurs every time the horn sounds was some problem with the air system.

Next we run from Mountain View to Menlo Park. The Menlo Park station replaced the one closed by the Pennsylvania Railroad when it opened MetroPark in the late 1960s although it is not very convenient for Menlo Park residents to use.

Next we have the run from Menlo Park to San Carlos. Due to constraints of storage space I cut the video at CP-DUMBARTON to a previously recorded front end video taken in 2008 in sunnier weather. San Carlos was not a stop for the train I was riding last year. This segment contains the previously grade-separated bit and you can see how much less scenic it is compared to the traditional portions of the line.

This video picks up at San Carlos at the full track speed of 80mph and runs to the BART connection at Millbrae.

Next we have the run from Millbrae to 22nd St. There is a small cut after Bayshore due to my needing to swap out memory cards.

Finally we have the short hop between 22nd St and the 4th and King street terminal. We pass a southbound train in Tunnel Number 1 which releases a wee amount of diesel exhaust into the confines of the tunnel, but it is nothing to really bother electrifying over. On the compact signal gantry into CP-COMMON we see the proper way way to pull off Medium Approach Slow with R/Y/Y, Also note the double slip switches and pneumatic point machine in the 4TH ST interlocking as well as the new lunar marker lights installed for the Terminal Slow Approach and Terminal Slow Clear indications which basically drop slow speed from 20 to 15mph.

So I mentioned that Caltrain changed to a speed signaling system in 2004. Well they decided to implement a brand new set of signal rules, inspired by NORAC and Seaboard, but with a few tweaks to eliminate several problems therein. For example R/Y is now Medium Approach while Restricting uses a flashing red. The clever boffins who designed this new system also designed Amtrak's high density cab signaling between Portal and A on the NEC so double gold star to them. The Caltrain system is the best non-position signal aspect system in North America today and Caltrain went even futher to ensure that almost all interlocking signals had 3 full heads, all distant signals had 2 full heads and all simple block signals had 1 full head weather they needed all those lamps or not.

Anyway I mention this because I have two additional videos taken at night between Millbrae and San Francisco that show a diverging route taken at CP SIERRA and CP TUNNEL. I provide a little commentary on this one and for the record I was right, Limited speed on Caltrain is 50mph, as opposed to 45 in the east.

Here is the segment between Millbrae and just past Tunnel 3 where my batteries suddenly died. This was the last northbound express train of the night.

And between 22nd St and the King Street terminal. In this case I was wrong the R/Y/Y was Medium Approach Slow, now Limited Approach Slow.

Anyway let me know if you would like to see me go back and voice over some commentary to these videos or if you would like me to stick with my usual policy of allowing the route to speak for itself. I really don't want to narrate the videos live because it makes me look like I'm talking to myself :-
If you want a more Cinematic experience you can watch the whole thing with one click by invoking my Let's Ride Caltrain playlist here.

10-03-01 PHOTOS: Caltran Caltrain III

Last March I was once again sent out to the West Coast on my employers dime to attend a week long conference in San Francisco. As always I took an early flight to give myself about 6 hours on Monday to ride the Caltran Caltrain down to San Jose to see a friend there. Unfortunately this is the crappy time of year in the Bay Area where the weather is uniformly gray and wet and this day was a particularly bad example. However I was not to be deterred and came away with quite a few good photos, even if they aren't quality.

Many of the photos were simply a third pass at documenting the signaling and stations along the route and because of the general "gray" quality of the pics I don't plan to subject any of you to them, but if you have an interest just follow the link to the main set of photos and check them out. I documented ever signal and interlocking between San Fran and San Jose.

The photos document a trip taken from the Millbrae Station to the San Jose Diridon Station, which also serves Amtrak and the Altamont Commuter Express and then a second trip from the 4th and King St Terminal to San Carlos.

You can find all of the photos at the following link.

Also if you want to keep track of where things are a fairly up to date track diagram can be located in the 2007 Caltrain ETT Suppliment.

We kick off with F40PH-2CAT #918 in push mode with a mid-day local just north of Hayward Park.

Someone at the yard must have been trying to be clever as F40PH-2CAT #919 was pushing behind the following local just north of San Antonio.

The preserved CLARA tower is still standing next to the recently re-configured CP-COAST north of the Santa Clara station with some Caltrain maintainers standing by.

 Since I had last been here the new yard and maintenance area north of San Jose had been completed. Here we see the new shop building with some gallery cars and F40PH-2 #907 hanging out behind it.

Also in attendance in the yard with trainsets are numbers 908, 916 and 906.

Moving through CP-JULIAN at the northern throat of the San Jose terminal we see that the leads to the old yard tracks west of the station have all been cut since my last visit. Moroever the old yard isn't just disused, its been completely ripped out.

Arriving at San Jose the Track 2 signal on the "473 Bridge" in CP-JULIAN was already displayed for the next northbound train.

On the adjacent Track 4 was an Amtrak California trainset with Superliner Cab Car #8313.

On the storage track 6 was another Amtrak California trainset with Superliner Cab car #8307.

There must be some maintenance issues as standard Amtrak P42 #177 was subbing for the more usual Amtrak California branded equipment. In the background we also have MPI built F40-2CAT #920.

The other trainset is also using substitute power in the form of P42 #13.

Behind #13 on Track 6 was one of the Baby Bullet trainsets lead by Bombardier Coffin Car #112.

I believe that #920 was behind the next northbound train. That would mean that on this day we would have trainsets powered by 918, 919 and 920 one after another.