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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

10-11-24 PHOTOS: A SEPTA Thanksgiving

In another annual custom that has become a yearly tradition each year I meet up with Chuchubob on the Wednesday before thanksgiving to go driving around the Philadelphia area with an eventual stop on Amtrak Northeast corridor to catch the somewhat augmented schedule of Regional and Keystone train rushing people back to their families. SEPTA also gets in on the action with 6 car trains on the R7. In years past we had used the day to visit some of Bob's good friends at the SMS Lines Pennsylvania Division in Morrisville, PA or staking out the Bristol, SEPTA station, but this time around I was looking to be a bit more ambitious. With the impending retirement of the Silverliner II's and III's as well as ongoing re-signaling operations on the Doylestown Branch there was a lot that needed to be documented away from the NEC and therefore after summoning Bob and its eldermobile we were off to drive a circle around the Philadelphia metro area.

The full photo log of this trip can be found here or just stay tuned and read on for a sampling of the best and brightest. I know this post is going to be long, but please at least skim through to the end because a lot of the Silverliner II and Amtrak action will be down there.

We begin with this photo taken of the PRR Arsenal Branch as it passes over the Sure-Kill Distressway just south of Center City. This was the freight line that linked the PW&B and West Philadelphia Elevated at ARSENAL tower with the Greenwitch Yard serving the import/export facilities on the Delaware River and South Philadelphia industry. This beefy overpass was built back in the 1970's when GG1s were still using the line along with the yearly Army-Navy passenger specials that brought thousands of fans directly to JFK Stadium.

Anyway we drove directly to Lansdale where the old signals were still standing at LAND interlocking.

Soon after a northbound R5 Doylestown train of Silverliner IV's showed up with #412 bringing up the rear.

Waiting on the station track with S-IV #344 on point was a Landdale terminating trainset getting ready for the next southbound departure. 

Which is soon did, crossing the non-automated grade crossing directly south of the station.

CSX was still in charge of local freight operations and a pair of Geeps with GP38-2S #6159 was hanging out with its partner north of the station. This unit had been a GP40-2 and was downrated to 2000hp to save maintenance costs. This unit started life as Chessie System/Western Maryland unit #4260.

Hanging out with #6159 was GP40-2 #6224.

The departed SL-IV train was soon replaced on the station track by another train of SL-IVs including #454 shown here.

The Lansdale Substation retains its original 1930's equipment including two 22kv to 12kv autotransformers that emit a pleasing 25Hz hum. 

Leaving Lansdale and its empty storage yard behind we made a stop a few miles up the road at the Link Belt station, which was named for the a tracked construction machinery factory owned by the company of the same name. The station is co-located with a Controlled Point appropriately named CP-LINK which was displaying clear in the northbound direction for the next train to Doylestown. This Controlled Point served as a holdout signal to allow trains to pull north of LAND interlocking without needing to have traffic thrown all the way to CP-FORREST. This Controlled Point was taken out of service in August 2011 when the new controlled siding a half mile to the north was placed into service.

Even though the Rule 261 ABS signals were still in service along the line, at some point SEPTA decided to replace the old electro-mechanical searchlight signals with the solid state Unilens variety.

For decades opposing trains on the branch had passed each other interurban style at the CP-FORREST passing siding. CP-FORREST, like CP-BELT, was a controlled point, not an interlocking and features spring switches on either end of the passing loop with automatically operated absolute signals governing the trains. Located just south of the highly acute Rt 202 crossing here we see the northern spring switch which is set in the normal position. With the opening of the new Link belt siding the north end of this siding was removed.

Northbound trains would be routed into the siding where if the track to Doylestown was free of opposing movements this stacked dwarf signal would display a Medium Clear. With the opening of the new Link belt siding this signal was removed along with the northern spring switch.

Southbound trains were governed by this now rare example of a Reading style bracket mast. The signal governs the southbound main track because of the presence of a doll arm with a blue reflector that indicates that there is an intervening track between the signal and the track that signal applies to. When the siding was decommissioned this signal was temporarily turned into an automatic before eventual replacement by Rule 562 operation.

Reverse angle of the bracket mast and another regular mast for northbound movements that happen to not take the passing siding. Signals at CP-FORREST are not symmetric as none is provided for southbound movements off the passing look.

The bracket mast is equipped with long since deprecated US&S style NP type modular target units with a Reading style "pill" type lower head for call-on / Restricting aspects. These were US&S's answer to the more popular GRS model G type target signal.

The Spring switches consist of a standard US&S electrically lockable hand throw unit with a shot back drive an a Cleveland Track company Mechanical Switchman hydraulic point restoration unit that acts as the spring part of the spring switch allowing the points to be trailed through then held in position until the train movement is finished. 

Procedures for trains passing at CP-FORREST begin with a northbound train taking the southern spring switch which is set to the reverse position.

The train, in this case lead by SL-IV #304, then waits in the passing loop while the southbound signal at CP-FORREST displays a Clear indication indicating that the branch between here and CP-LINK is free of opposing movements.

The southbound train, here with SL-IV #412 on point, then arrives at the siding and crosses the Rt 202 crossing.

The southbound train passes the northbound which is held on the siding.

The northbound then gets its signal and prepares to depart the siding.

It trails through the spring switch and continues toward Doylestown with single unit SL-IV #184 on the rear. This system worked for decades all without any need for dispatcher intervention, but apparently this setup was too reliable and uncomplicated so SEPTA felt the need for a more traditional interlocking / passing siding at a point that split the line into 1/3 - 2/3's instead of half and half.

Moving on to Doylestown we find a lonelyy single unit SL-IV #413 sitting uncoupled at the end of the station track.

CP-DOYLE is displaying a Clear indication for the next southbound departure which will meet the next northbound at CP-FORREST and the cycle will continue. Far in the background you can see the remains of the Doylestown substation which caught fire many years ago and was never repaired resulting in a permanent power restriction on the line.

On the way back from Doylestown Bob and I decided to stop at Woodbourne SEPTA station which is a local Railfan hotspot. We were not disappointed as the next inbound R3 train turned out to be composed of II's and III's with #252 in the lead.

We were then treated to a demonstration of the "Holdout procedure" used at R3 stations where trains on track #2 must platform across track #1. Here SL-IV #407 on track #2 holds short of the station and waits while the southbound train with SL-II #260 completes its station work.

 260 et al then departs and #407 pulls in.

The conductor checks to make sure the track is clear before the passengers are then allowed to discharge.

The train then departs and proceeds to take the Clear signal at CP-WOOD with SL-IV #424 on the rear.

Our last destination that was the obligatory NEC station to watch the evening parade of long thanksgiving trains. While the Wednesday Rush is far more subdued than Sunday's with far fewer regional extra and 3000 Holiday Series trains than in years past, it still is a pretty good show with long Amtrak trains and extra length R7s. This year we decided to stop off at the Cornwell Heights Park and ride complex right off Woodhaven road. Although not featuring signals or an interlocking this station does come with an PRR era electric substation which can provide an interesting backdrop.

The 1930 vintage substation is in remarkably good condition with a lot of original equipment although some of the section disconnects have been upgraded with modern insulators.

First up was a northbound Keystone train with Metroliner cab Car #9636 on point and AEM-7 #934 providing the power.

Next up was southbound Acela Express with power car #2022 in the lead and #2011 on the rear.. Note all those thick cables running between the track impedance bonds are the traction return current feeders that connect to the substation transformers. 

 A short while later it was a northbound Acela Express that arrived with #2014 on point.

Turning to take a picture of #2019 on the rear what happened to round the curve but a southbound R7 train of Silverliner IIs and IIIs with Reading class car #9001 in front!!

The train consisted of 4 SL-II and one III on the north end.

The excitement didn't end there as the third car of the train was PENNSLVANIA car #269!! 269 and 9001 were still running together since their appearance on the Silverliner II charter about a month earlier.

In accordance with SEPTA's policy to irritate local Railfans SL-III #223 was on the rear to ensure that the train would not be solid IIs.

Wrapping up the day we were not able to get lightning to strike for a third time and the next northbound R7 consisted of 6 Silverliner IVs with #365 on the tail.

There are more photos to be covered in the set, but as you might have seen this post has grown a little long so stay tuned for a supplemental post of special holiday photos.

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