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Monday, December 27, 2010

10-12-27 PHOTOS: SEPTA Snow Day

Well I guess it should be expected that when one runs a railfan trip in the middle of Winter, weather disruptions might occasionally occur. After 9 years of reasonable December weather the 10th SEPTA Mid-Winter trip brought with it an intense northeast blizzard that hit the area on the day before the trip was to take place. With much of the city transit operating on special schedules and travel from places like New York disrupted I made the decision to postpone the trip by a day. However, with Fred G already in town and a scheduled run of the then new Silverliner V's still scheduled there was no point in letting the day just go to waste so I ventured out into the city with Chuchubob and to see what we could find.

Now while the Blizzard was over the following day there were high winds and cold temperatures so in addition to a nice coating of white, the wind was whipping up great clouds of power that would swirl and drift. To make the conditions even more interesting the sky was partly clear so you had a combination of great light and snow bits in the air. The result was a superb day for taking photos, although SEPTA would have something to say about that later.

Anyway you can see the entire set of photos at the following link. You'll need to scroll down a little bit past some semi-related photos taken at OVERBROOK interlocking that I am saving for another time.

So our story begins with Fred G, Chuchubob and I all meeting at Market East to catch a scheduled R6 train to Norristown. The snow was playing hell with the schedules so upon heading down to the platform as discovered that not only was our train late, but it would not consist of the promised Silverliner V's :-( Fortunately what did arrive was a mixed set of II's and III's so we happily gave up on the new stuff to take a ride in the old, which in our case was reading car #9016.

Departing Market east our train made a strange crossover from Track 2 all the way over the track #4, which was normally used for inbound local trains and rarely saw outbound moves. Upon emerging from the Center City Tunnel the cause for all the delays became apparent with snow blowing everywhere and drifting against the tracks. Here we see the #22 automatic signal on the Reading Viaduct with the uncommon situation of Clear signals on tracks 1, 2 and 4 northbound.

Upon arriving at Temple University station the crew made the announcement that this train was going out of service because it was not actually the train we thought it was. This train was the previous R6 that had simply been so delayed (as an R2 into the city) that it was just going to be terminated. Fortunately there would be another R6 pulling in behind us. Anyway I got out and took a picture of the #24 signal gantry with two Approach Mediums and a Clear and a pair of Silverliner IIs hanging off the platform.

Bob and Fred were close at hand shown here getting out of LVANIA car #218.

 Yes this train was compliant with SEPTA's no solid S-II trainset policy with S-III #227 sitting in the middle of the consist.

On the end of our train was S-II #263 with cute little mounts of snow piled on the roof access steps.

Just as we were bracing ourselves for some ugly set of Silverliner IV's low an behold the scheduled Silverliner V run shows up on track #4 right behind our previous train (thus the reason for pulling up so far). Here we see the prototype single unit #701.

This photo is pretty special as it shows the front of #263 framed by the Silverliner V's railfan window and the silhouette of the SEPTA quality assurance tech who was assigned to make notes of the run from the front seat. As a side note all of the following photos are taken from the second railfan seat in the Silverliner V.

 #263 then departed Temple U north on #4 track, kicking up snow as it proceeded to Robert's Yard.

Inbound trains were confined to #3 track such as Silverliner IV #186 seen here south of North Broad.

And S-IV #428 squeezing under Broad Street.

After waiting a moment to get our lineup at 16TH ST junction we proceeded north and I discovered that the reason for the strange routing was that the point heating system at the interlocking plant had failed and most of the switches had frozen up. I took some video as we proceeded through the interlocking to give a better sense of the wind blown snow condition going on outside. It seriously looked like the arctic out there!!

Approaching the interlocking from the north was an inbound R6 train with Silverliner IV #301 on point.

At the Allegheny station, SEPTA's crack flying snow shoveling squad was out in force.

The railhead simply vanished in places with all the blown powder flying about such as here at East Falls station.

The power lines built over the RoW create a tunnel effect on the Manayunk viaduct with the Roxborough antenna farm in the background.

The Ivy Ridge S-curve.

Another inbound R6 with S-IV #380 about to pass the Miquon ABS crossover.

Aside from the point heating at 16th St there seemed to be no other signaling issues. Here auto #217 does its thing with a Clear indication.

The double right of way at Conshohocken. Today the former PRR route is now a trail, but it could be re-used as part of electrified service to Reading.

A gust of snow punctuates the Approach Medium indication on the home signal at FORD interlocking. This is where Norfolk Southern trains run on and off the Morrisville Line via a connection that was installed by Conrail to get its trains off of the old PRR Main Line. Previously east-west freight trains would run via the Trenton-Cutoff from the PRR Main Line. When Conrail wanted to get off of Amtrak's Harrisburg Line it constructed this connecting track that allowed it to travel via the Reading route. NS trains cross the Schuylkill at CP-NORRIS, enter SEPTA territory at KALB, run through the Norristown TC then exit SEPTA territory here at FORD.

If you remember the previous October #701 was sent to Canada for cold weather climate testing. Had they only known they could have saved some money!! XD Anyway look how the SL-V's have both tread brakes and disc brakes on each wheel. Unless they are planning to run them at 125 mph is there any reason for all this extra weight and complexity??

Speaking of the devil a westbound NS doublestack train rumbled through the Norristown Transportation center. These trains operate to/from the intermodal terminal built on the former PRR Morrisville Yard.

Our train was 30 minutes late into Norristown, but due to the layover time at Elm St the return trip was right on time with #802 in the lead.

View of the high voltage "tunnel" east of the Wissahickon station.

 Signal 204 with a Reading style lower "pill" style lower signal head displaying an Approach Medium indication.

The 202 signal is distant to 16TH ST and features a rare double pill layout as the best indication it can give is Approach Medium, but in this case it is displaying plain approach. In the background is the former home signal for NORTH PHILADELPHIA interlocking on the Chestnut Hill West branch which was converted into the 52CH automatic when the interlocking was re-signaled. 

The reason for the Approach was due to a Restricting signal at 16Th ST due to an odd routing through the interlocking to cope with the frozen switches.

We had to cross over to the outbound track on the advance turnout due to problems with the double slip switches. Maintainers were on hand with brooms to keep the points of this one switch free.

 Here we see the crux of the problems at 16th St in the form of completely frozen double slip switches.

Exiting 16th St junction we pass the 30 signal gantry on 4 track now in the proper direction.

Outbound Silverliner IV train with #445 dicking up the powder at North Broad.

Because of the intense wind on the Reading viaduct I switched back to video mode for the trip back to Center City. Here we see the segment between North Broad and Temple University Station.

And Temple University to the CCT portal.

At this point Chuchubob had to go home and I went with Fred to ride the BSS where Fred proceeded to have his little incident with the off duty cop, which I won't bother to go into again here. Due to that sort of killing the rest of the day I had plenty of memory card space left to blow on some PATCO videos which I will post in a follow up thread.

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