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Thursday, June 17, 2010

10-06-17 PHOTOS: Capitol Limited Freight Spectacular - Part NS

Here is Part 2 of the westbound Capitol Limited trip I took with my father last Summer. The first part covered the former B&O route now owned by CSX between Washington, DC and Cumberland, MD. This part covers the former New York Central/Conrail Chicago Line now owned by NS between Ligonier, IN and South Bend, IN and then between Porter, IN and Chicago, IL. While I had very favorable sunlight on the first half of the trip, as the world turned the afternoon front lighting turned to morning back lighting so unfortunately almost all of these photos have less than optimal lighting and by less I mean these photos generally suck. However they aren't blurry and useless, just backlit with odd colors. I tried my best to fix the problem in post, but there was only so much I can do.

The photos cover two ranges of the Chicago Line, the first from CP-397 through to CP-437 in South Bend and the second from milepost 489 through to milepost 516 in Englewood, IL. I began where the railroad took a slight turn to the north and got the morning sun away from shining directly into the back of my train. The omitted section was where NS had already carried out a re-signaling project and I decided not to waste my time. I will attempt to pick out the most informative of the photos, but if you don't mind viewing photos with some technical difficulties I urge you all to view the complete set here.

The super-set of photos from both parts CSX and NS will be available at this link.

We begin at CP-397 in Ligonier, Indiana. This is a facing point half-crossover on the former Conrail Chicago Line. The New York Central was a early adopter of CTC technology and its entire Albany to Chicago main line is dotted with little oddities such as half crossovers or asymmetric block lengths depending on direction. This interlocking has also seen a bit of modification including the addition of two traffic light style masts on #1 track, but the retention of the NYC era masts on #2 track, including an old bracket mast. The two traffic lights were installed at different times (one is a darth, the other is not) so either there were issues with the structural integrity of the original equipment or this interlocking is prone to derailments.

In the background we can see that the Gerber St grade crossing has been removed for rehabilitation.

The Freight Spectacular bit wasn't confined to the CSX portion of the run. Here we see NS SD70N-2 #2678 with an eastbound mixed freight train in Millersburg, IN.

Here we see a late model New York Central style signal gantry at the 418 automatic approaching Elkhart, IN. That line of darkness is a squall line that marked the leading edge of a line of severe morning thunder storms that my train was to pass through.

When it rains it pours here at the Elkhart Amtrak Station showing the mini-NYC gantry that guards the east end of CP-421 that marks the east end of Elkhart's Robert Young Yard and and the junction with the Kalamazoo Branch which crosses the outer Track 1 via a diamond to connect directly with track #2.

Based on the track alignments you can tell which was the original route and which was added later.

Bad news for the old NYC Bracket Mast at CP-423, but fortunately it is only a partial re-signaling. Robert Young yard it off to the right.

West end of the Robert Young Yard at CP-425 showing a classic NYC gantry that has had its footings reconstructed instead of being replaced by some new signal gantry. Reduce reuse recycle is what I always say.

A somewhat blurry photo taken in the rain of CP CEFX lease unit #1040 approaching Elkhart.

Another freight is in line to the Elkhart terminal with NS C40-9W #9363 in the lashup.

NS C40-10W #7521 is at the head of a long string of empty hoppers and coil cars on the third track at CP-435 with its iconic NYC late model cantilever mast.

Where the New York Central and former Grand Trunk Western (now CN) lines cross just west of the now closed South Bend Union Station we have CP-437, which used to be the site of BEND tower which lasted well into the 1990s before being closed and demolished. 

We resume at Milepost 489 which marks the resumption of Conrail era signaling on the Chicago after a long section of NS meddling for little apparent reason. The last few miles on the run into Chicago is blessed by the usage of Michigan Central small target GRS model SA searchlight signals which were Conrail's standard signal throughout the 1980s. A little bit east of here the interlockings around Porter, IN had brand new tubular gantries using this type of signal, but NS decided to butcher them anyway just because of some Federal money to upgrade the line for Michigan passenger service. The 'D'boards are due to the possible use of push-pull equipment in commuter service as required by the Delay in Block rule.

If you are the B on the original NYC milepost just behind the signal mast stands for Buffalo where the mileposts reset back to Zero after counting up from New York City.

We have small target searchlights at interlockings too, like these examples at CP-490.

Overtaking another NS C40-10W east of Gary, IN with #9636 on the lead.

And SD70M-2 #2695 with another doublestack train. Like CSX, NS was doing a good job of giving our train the railroad.

Crossing ahead of the NS stack train at CP-497 we see another stack train over on the parallel CSX (former B&O) main line. has this been 2005 I could have just as easily been over on that line arriving at Chicago via Amtrak's Three Rivers which used the B&O route between Chicago and Youngstown, Ohio. This was also the site of the famous Curtis complete CPL bracket mast. The Chicago Line also has bracket mast envy, but they seem to be using them incorrectly. ;-)

More power visible over on the CSX main with SD40-2 #8442 and C40-8W #7728 pulling a coal train.

NS C40-9W #9222 hauling a string of uncovered steel coils in hopper cars approaching the Clark Road grade crossing railfan hotspot in Gary, IN.Better get those coils delivered quick before they get rained on!!

Parked behind 9222 and its train was UP SM70ACe #857x.

In what turned out to be my scoop of the trip I caught brand new VRE MP36 under delivery from Idaho behind the two UP freight locomotives. It arrived on the VRE property a few days later. 

The NS/UP V50 delivery mixed freight was parked waiting through CP-501 which is sort of the gateway to Chicago from the east. At CP-501 the Three Rivers would finally get off of CSX for the last dash into Union Station. Here is the 4-track Penn Central era signal gantry protecting the western entrance to the interlocking.

CP-502 is where the Indiana Harbor Belt branch line crosses the 3-track Chicago Line at grade. There is also a 2-track turn off for Chicago Line trains to reach the IHB yard.

CP-502 is popular with railfans and I caught a pair out that day. They were probably just as jazzed to have caught V50 under delivery as I had been.

Unfortunately things were not all smiles and sunshine as I caught HICK tower in the process of being closed and turned into CP-503. Using a 1980's style panel HICK controlled not only its own interlocking, but also CP-502 and CP-100 on the IHB. Here we see the Penn Central era gantry getting some new Darth Vader type signals as the Chicago Line shrinks down to two tracks for the drawbridge.

HICK tower and its remaining draw span. The 4-track NYC line used to support two bridges over a barge canal, but today there is only one bridge for the Chicago Line and another for the parallel EJE line in service. The interlocking was also being re-configured slightly to support a third track between here and CP-505.

The westbound NYC era mast signals at HICK. These signals would be removed and the third track to the right re-connected. The crossover in the foreground would be made redundant by another on the other side of the draw span.

NS C40-10W #9??? and BNSF C44-10W #7556 sit waiting to get its lineup at HICK as my train passes by on #1 track.

One of the more devastating losses with the HICK re-signaling will be this new style B&O CPL bracket mast on the B&O freight tracks north of the Chicago Line. These tracks were reached via trackage rights from CP-501.

NS is once again displaying its fetish for cantilever signals with the new eastbound signals at HICK, to be re-named CP-503 as per the relay box between the two lines.

Continuing bad news as the classic three track NYC style signal gantry at MP 504...

...will be replaced by another PoS Darth cantilever.

CP-505 will also be reduced to track #2 only as track #1 lacked any interlocking appliances. The NYC style mast E/B signals will also be removed and replaced.

The long S-curve between CP-505 and CP-506 is where the Chicago Line changes from the NYC to the PRR alignment. The railroads used to parallel each other between here and Chicago and the PRR T1 Duplexes would race the NYC S class Niagara. Today this S-curve is a symbol of the sorts of changes that the Penn Central and Conrail mergers brought to the physical plant of both railroads.

I was in for a ride at CP-506 as my train changed from track #1 to track #3 to bypass the General Hammond-Whiting station platform tracks.

While CP-506 has New York Central signals on the east side, it has a wonderfully preserved 4-track PRR signal gantry on the west side. This gantry appears to be safe...for now.

Our passage through CP-506 seems to have uncorked the bottle. Amtrak P42 #35 with an eastbound Wolverine Service train has received a Clear aspect on track #1 while an NS local freight has a Slow Approach pulled up to move onto track #2. We are looking through CP-507 which had new PRR PLs installed in the 1980s and past the General Hammond-Whiting station platform.

Another BNSF coal train, this time headed eastbound with aluminum coal cars and ES44DC #6365 waits patiently at CP-509 for our train to pass by. Another top notch performance by NS dispatchers threading us through this mess of freight trains without a single bad signal.

CP-509 is where the 4+ tracks of the parallel PRR and NYC main lines come together to cross the Chicago Ship Canal. This site was known as the "Quad Draws" due to the 4 side by side vertical lift drawbridges that stood here. Today only one span remains active and the tracks must squeeze together to pass through. Here is the last remaining Quad Draw with the main Cantilever Span of the Chicago Skyway looming behind it.

Until a few years ago this interlocking too supported a pair of 4-track PRR PL gantries until it was ruined by NS. Touted as a capacity building project no part of the interlocking was reconfigured for higher speeds or decreased routing conflicts.  Note that three of the 4 signals still require Medium speed movements.

A bit more good news with the safe-for-now CP-513 that has PRR style signal gantries on both sides of the plant. This interlocking will probably be killed when a ramp is built between here and the Illinois Central main (visible below the bridge) for downstate trains to escape the reverse move over the St. Charles Air Line.

CP-ENGLEWOOD is where the PRR crossed the former Rock Island main line in a crazy 4x3 diamond junction right next to Englewood Union Station, which was sort of like the Metropark of the Chicago area until the neighborhood turned to shit. The crossing is actually controlled by the METRA Rock Island dispatcher which has priority over all the NS and Amtrak trains on the former PRR alignment.

We get one last big dose of PRR with the eastbound signal gatry at CP-ENGLEWOOD. Only two signals are on the gantry with one being a dwarf and the other being a mast high signal.

The backlighting begins to subside as our train makes the clubhouse turn towards Union Station. Unfortunately it was time for me to return to my sleeping compartment and prepare to disembark at Union Station.

Well I hope you enjoyed the trip. Sorry about the awful backlighting, but given all the changes taking place on the line I really had no choice and besides, then I would have missed V50.

Anyway next week I ride the Metra Electric and the Chicago 'L', style tuned!!!

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