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Saturday, September 25, 2010

10-09-25: SEPTA BSS B-IV Car Propulsion Upgrade

At the previously covered SEPTA Rodeo I got the full scoop on the new propulsion packages in the Broad Street Subway's B-IV cars. Last year on the Mid-Winter-Trip Phil Nasadowski noticed an odd chopper-like humm that would occur when the cars were under braking. The operator didn't know what was causing it, but apparently SEPTA has been implementing an 11 million dollar project to overhaul the original GE supplied cam controlled propulsion package with a new IGBT chopper system from Vossloh. A full AC traction package was considered, but not bought due to the cost of new motors so the IGBT's work in a similar fashion to the old thyristor chopper technology (wow, never thought I'd be nostalgic for thyristor choppers).

Each unit is equipped with 6 IGBT modules and replaced the old cam controller in the same space. The controller was designed specially for SEPTA and the B-IV cars and was not purchased off the shelf. So far 75 B-IV cars have been equipped. The buzz was an unintended side effect of the chopped DC current being fed through the dynamic brake resistor grids. I can post some pictures later along with a video of a B-IV cam controller being sequenced.

There were two people demoing the controller units. One was the chief tech guy in charge of the new AC stuff, the other was a maintainer for the PA Systems and destination boards who was so interested in the cam controller packages that he did the leg work to set up the demo even tho it wasn't his craft (Call the Union!!)

The cam controller packages are overhauled and rebuilt at the Woodland Depot and trucked back to Fern Rock. This mirrors the MBTA practice of rebuilding the cam controllers for its 1500-1700 fleet at the Everett Shops which haven't even had a rail hookup in 20 years. Also 10 of the B-IV propulsion units were given to the RRD to help keep the Silverliner IV's running as their cam control equipment shares components with what is found on the B-IV cars. Additional controllers are being thrown in the trash if anybody wants one.

This display was special for my gust because his father worked at GE Erie during the late 70's and early 80's and helped design components such as those. Today he works for NASA.

BTW the Fern Rock maintenance personnel were unaware that the BSS was the fastest "classic" subway system in the country and were quite pleased with the positive reputation.

Ok, here are two photos of the original cam controller.  If you are wondering what a cam controller is, it is a type of motor controller that uses a camshaft to make and break electrical contacts in response to the movement of the motorman's control handle. In a DC-DC propulsion system, motor rotational speed is a function of voltage.  The maximum amount of voltage that can be applied in this system is the 650 that comes straight from the third rail.  Just like you would never try to run your car with the engine directly linked to the wheels the motor controller gradually switches in more resistance (remember V=IR) so the train accelerates smoothly.  In addition the controller handles the transitions between the three major "gears" of a train, series, parallel and shunt.  Series means that the motors are connected in a daisy chain, one after another so each sees 650/4 volts.  If you want to go faster parallel increases the voltage to the full 650.  Shut weakens the counteracting electric field in the motor to increase balancing speed at the expense of torque. 

The camshaft is turned by what is called a "pilot motor" driven by the low voltage current that flows through the motorman's control and the train line.  Here we see the pilot motor and the lobed camshaft which push up the high voltage electrical contacts.  Behind the contact gaps are arc chutes that break any arcs that might form under load.  This is truly analogue electronics at its finest.  When you watch old sci-fi movies and the characters keep talking about "circuits", this is the sort of stuff they mean.  No bits and bytes, just physical stuff touching eachother. 

Here is the cam controller sequencer, which is a fancy name for the electronics that control the electro-mechanical cam components via the pilot motor.  This is the place you finally find some printed circuit boards, but again, its probably all analogue electronics so no microprocessors. For an idea of what troubleshooting these types of systems are like here is a little video on how to service an Ampex Quad video recorder. This whole unit dates from 1983/84 and while young compared to the stuff from the 1970's that is still running around some places I believe that GE is aggressively telling transit agencies that they will no longer support their old cam propulsion systems.

Here is the replacement IGBT unit from Vossloh. Sorry, but I don't think my flash went off for that one.Unlike the camshaft or the later chopper controls this uses processors and software to rapidly turn electric currents on and off via high energy semi-conductors. The more on the higher the voltage.  Simple as that.  The controller takes the same inputs from the motorman's control and simulates the output of the old cam control unit.  The match was perfect and the upgraded cars could run in multiple with the original cars without any problems.

Moving onto the video segment the first shows someone placing the controller into Parallel and the second with me running through the control points on the test rig in order. I believe they are Coast, Coast ?, Switching, Series, Parallel and Brake. Sorry about the sound, the background roar drowned out the cam noises.


Finally we have some additional closeup videos showing both the main high voltage contacts and then the smaller set of cams off to the left of the main group.  The first video is taken from behind the unit and you can see the arc chutes behind the contacts.

10-09-25 PHOTOS: SEPTA Rodeo 2010

Well I am back from my July 4th Weekend break with a really great set of photos. Once again the fact that these photos cover a well attended event exposes me to still being about 9 months behind, but that's a lot better than the 12 month backlog I had built up at its peak so I am making progress!!

Anyway in case you all forgot or missed the plethora of photos posted by more up to date Railfans, last September SEPTA invited a selection of about 200 rail enthusiasts to its annual "Rodeo" and Family Picnic at the Broad Street Subway Fern Rock shoppes. Now I know what you all were thinking, but the event turned out to be legitimate and it was not just some sting operation to arrest railfans taking pictures on SEPTA Property. The even consisted of three main sections. You had the BSS Fern Rock shoppe floor where many of the assemblies and heavy components of SEPTA transit vehicles were laid out for inspection. You had the BSS rolling maintenance shop where one could walk in and between BSS trainsets as they waited for minor inspections and repairs before being sent back out and then there was the Fern Rock Regional Rail station where examples of every piece of SEPTA rolling stock (except for PP coaches) was on display.

 Now this article will be missing one critical part of the show and that is information regarding the original BSS Cam Controllers and the new IGBT replacements. I feel this deserves its own special segment so if you are impatient you can see it here or just read this first and then view it next.

Anyway you can view the entire set of photos at this link. SEPTA vehicles will be near the top with Fern Rock interlocking and shoppe photos further down.

Alright, we'll begin with a sunny show of Fern Rock tower. The tower was made redundant a few years ago when its operations were taken under control by the dispatch office at 1234 Market, but before then it has hosted a US&S style unit level panel machine, which has fortunately been preserved. There is still a local control station available here for contingency plans, but it us normally under remote control.

While the pneumatic switch machines in the Fern Rock yard had been replaced with electric models back around 2003, the Fern Rock wye interlocking still retains its pneumatics, which were recently upgraded with A-10 machines salvaged from the MFL re-signaling. Here is the #21 switch and you can see the cover for the previous A-5 machine sitting nearby.

As this was a Saturday, Ridge Line train service was still running. Here we can see such a train begining its run around the loop track where one of the direct yard access switched has been removed. Don't worry, the other direct yard access switch and its super diamond are still in place.

Here is a video of the same train emerging from the tunnel portal.

Locals were also running and here we see an example as it emerges from the portal and poses in front of the 14LA, 14LC and 12L signals that divide the yard tracks from the signaled Main Tracks. These too date from 2003 when the terminal area was re-signaled. The original signals were much cooler.

The power operated yard switch machines were changed from pneumatic DA-10s to electric YM2000s back around 2003, but the point indicators remain in their original 1920's housings on high quality concrete bases, although with a modern LED upgrade.

The Fern Rock shoppes were full of everything that a BSS car could ever need. Here we see a collection of BSS axle sets with their attached gearboxes, but note the examples with disc brakes that come from some other vehicle.

As seen with those foreign axles above, Fern Rock is a repair facility for the entire SEPTA enterprise with things like wheelsets, brake packages and gearboxes being trucked in from other shoppes for rebuild and repair. Here we see a truck assembly from an N5 Rt 100 car on display.

Some of the BSS trucks on display were those still attached to BSS cars, like this one seen on a car-lift. Hmmm, not sure I exactly trust that little wooden chock to keep the car from rolling off there :-/

Here we see one of the M-4 trucks that had to have half of their brakes removed for the cars to make weight. If you wonder why the system slowed down after the M-4s were introduced, don't blame the new signaling system, blame the pathetic friction-only brake performance.

The BSS trucks are wonderfully simple compared to the high tech M-5 and N-5 examples. Note the use of "package" type tread brakes that were a step up from older cylinder designs and newer disc designs. 

Hmmm, I'll touch that third rail shoe if you touch it first. The General Steel Castings logo means that most of this truck assembly was made in America. WOO!!

BSS cars needing heavy repair are rolled into the back of the shop where they can be hooked up to 600V jumper cables.

Moving over to the Rolling Maintenance shop where inspections and light repairs are carried out we find...AHHHH!! THE DEVIL CAR!! RUN!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

10-09-24 PHOTOS: Sevens and ACES

Last autumn both the economy and business at the Atlantic City casinos were still in the pits so the financial viability of the NY-ACL ACES service was being increasingly called into question. Therefore I felt it was incumbent upon me to fuck over the $35 and actually try the service on a one way trip from New York City to Atlantic City followed by a quick ACL line train back to Lindenwold. Because I wasn't about to simply waste my time taking Amtrak to NYC then the ACES train straight to AC, I planed some activities around the only interesting thing remaining on the NYC Subway, namely the railfan window equipped 7 train.

Now I was hoping to carry out a nice photograph line survey with shots of all the stations and signals, but the weather was less than cooperative being overcast and misty so therefore while I was able to get photos I was unable to check off the whole definitive line survey box. Still it;s subway stuff and there's a lot of people who will drool those sorts of pics so here there are along with a few video clips, what I could manage from the side of the ACES train and what I could get in Atlantic City.

The entire set of photos are located here in chronibetical order.

We begin in the underground portion of the 7 with some video of my train departing the Tines Square terminal, crossing over to the correct track and continuing to 5th Ave.

We continue from 5th Ave to Grand Central.

Now a year earlier I had taken video in the Steinway Tunnels between Grand Central and Jackson Ave and again from Jackson Ave to Hunters Point so I won't bore you with them again. But I did get some new footage as we exited the tunnel portal and traveled from Hunter's Point to 45 Road passing two inbound 7 trains in the process.

And then from 45 Road to Queensboro Plaza. The general idea was that with suck sucky light it would be best to capture some video for a playlist I will eventually compile convering the entire express run. Because there is no express service before Queensboro Plaza I could shoot the video on a run of the mill local train such as this. In this segment we pass another inbound 7.

Waiting at the 420 signal at Queensboro Plaza we encounter both an outbound N train departing from across the platform and a 4th inbound 7 train diving down to the lower level.

Time for some more video as we pull out of QB Plaza (N train still adjacent to us) and take the take the switch to the local stop before finishing up at 33rd St.

Just short of 46th Street we pass the 5th inbound 7 of the journey.

And a 6th approaching Woodside.

Here we see the somewhat recently closed tower at 65th St.

Another inbound 7 passes us while waiting at 75th Street.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

10-09-04 PHOTOS: Flugtag Philadelphia

Last Labour Day weekend the Red Bull Flugtag event came to the Camden waterfront, just south of the Benn Franklin Bridge. As I was traveling home from my previously documented trip to New Englande I had the opportunity to attend the event by walking over the BFB instead of taking my usual PATCO train from 8th and Market. Now normally I wouldn't be posting about an event that barely qualifies as transport related let along rail transport related here on this forum, but where the Ben Franklin Bridge is involved PATCO is involved as well.

Unfortunately the Flugtag organizers were setting the "flights" off in conjunction with eastbound PATCO trains running across the bridge so it was a bit difficult covering both, but I did the best I could and cam away with some pleasing results.

This set of photos is a lot smaller than normal, but you can see the whole thing here.

The southern pedestrian walkway on the bridge wasn't too crowded, but there were was a healthy crowd all along the suspended span watching the proceedings. Here you can see the west anchorage complete with a traffic jam on the bridge and one of the iconic signal gantries spanning all 7 lanes.

While still ascending the bridge the first PATCO train passed and I was able to get an ok picture of it with the large mass of boats on the river in the background.

After moving closer to the action I staked out a spot and sent my friend ahead to find a better one. At this point another PATCO train passed. They were running 6 car trains that day on a roughly 10 minute headway.

I also got some video of its passing.

My friend called in with a better spot so I moved ahead pausing to take a picture of the east tower and its integrated signal gantry. I am not sure I am aware of another bridge with such early examples of integrated traffic control structures.

From the Bump Out where the tower interferes with the regular position of the walkway I was able to get a much less obstructed view of passing PATCO trains such as this shot of a train as it crests the summit of the bridge arch also showing the extent of the crowd that lined the walkway.

Here is a reasonable close up shot of PATCO #287 as it descends the grade eastbound.

Same train continuing on towards the east anchorage with more people lining the walkway.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

10-09-01 PHOTOS: Downeaster Dover

Over Labour Day 2010 I took a trip up to the Boston area to visit a friend who lived in Portsmouth, NH. While I had ridden the Amtrak Downeaster service to Portland, ME and back in 2006 and been able to visit both the Dover and Durham stations when I was in town for a wedding in 2009, this would be my first purposeful trip on the Downeaster. My plan involved taking a Regional train to Boston and then complete the self-transfer to North Station where I would wait for the Downeaster. Due to Amtrak's issues with tight connections I believe I had an hour or two to kill waiting at BON and due to the MTBA's anality about hanging out on platforms I only had a relatively short window for Photos. However I made the most of my time.

You can see the comparatively short gallery of photos right here.

Now I was hoping to be able to take photos out the back of my Regional as we traveled up the Shore Line. I'm not on that line often and when I am the last car is more likley than not to be closed. Well good news was that the last car was not closed. The bad news was that Amtrak's company car, #10001, the Beech Grove, was attached to the back of my train. While some people would be thrilled at this, I was going to be limited to photo sessions at NYP and BOS. Here we see 10001 with some Amtrak officials at Penn Station. Date and time noted.

At this point the Amtrak folks were nice enough to give me a little tour of 10001. Inside is a rear seating area, then three bedrooms, each of which appeared to have beds with double mattresses in them, then finally a kitchen area. I was told that the Grove was being moved up to Boston for some meeting between with Federal officials, some of which would be boarding at New Haven along with a Pizza delivery to re-fuel the movers and shakers in the company car. Here we see 10001 at New Haven. Note the larger sized Amfleet II windows in at the observation end of the car.

Also at New Have was Amtrak P40 #843 in SLE service.

Now I called Rich Green who posted about the 10001 move on SubChat and Fred G said he would be able to meet the train at Old Saybrook. Now I figured he'd be on the opposite platform due to sight lines and the angle of the sun, but alas he was on the near platform and I missed taking a literal railfan photo.

Since there wasn't much going on at Electric Boat my next chance for an interesting photo was when my train finally arrived at BOS and I could head back for more photos of 10001. Here we see the business end of 10001 with MTBA F40PH #1065 on an adjacent track.

Here is a side view of the observation platform with both #1065 and GP40MC #1115 in the background.The hump on the roof of 10001 contains a camera for conducting line inspections.

Full view of  F40PH #106.

Parked ahead of our Regional train on BOS track 8 was class leading K-Car split level #1700 with MBB euro-car #1524 on adjacent track #7.

After self-transfering to North Station, in an effort to kill time I took a little walk along the east side of the terminal towards the Charles river hoping to get some reasonable vantage point for photos. All I came away with was this picture of MTBA F40PH #1032 on the #1 track at BON.

When my train was finally announced and I could be a "ticketed passenger" on the platform I had about 15 or 20 minutes to linger at the end of the track 7/6 platform. Here you can see Amtrak P42 #173 at the head of my downeaster train with MTBA GP40MC #1125 on track 8. Note the effect that Main black flies have had on the Atrak locomotive compared to the Geep which stays safely in Massachusetts.