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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

11-12-27 PHOTOS: SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip XI

Well this is clear evidence of the progress that is being made in clearing out by backlog of photos (despite an increase in production). I have managed to get the Mid-Winter trip pics out for viewing in under 6 months, and that's factoring in the additional delay between processing posting a writeup. This being said it is a shame that this year's trip was also somewhat marred by bad weather. While last year the culprit was a snow storm, this year it was plain old rain and clouds. This is actually the first time I can remember that the MWT was affected by rain. I guess it was bound to happen eventually.

Due to the impending retirement of the Silverliner II's and III's the focus of MWT XI was Regional Rail again. The trip started off with a run to Warminster via Glenside where there was about a 30 minute photo stop hoping to catch some inbound II's during the peak period. After Warminster the trip headed to Fern Rock for a BSS trip down to City Hall where a transfer would then be made to the MFL for a trip to 30th St Station. There the group stopped for Lunch before taking Amtrak's Keystone service out to Paoli, then an R5 back to Villanova, walking transfer to the Rt 100, which was taken out to Norristown before a final R6 run back downtown.

Sustained precipitation did not begin until Paoli, however the heavily overcast skies limited what could be done with photography so personally this became a video heavy trip. You can see all the photos that I did end up taking right here.

So, we're going to kick things off with a bang via this 6 minute video of our initial outbound R5 train heading north on the Reading main line between Temple University and Wayne Junction. What makes this fun is that our train was "racing" a deadhead move back to Roberts yard on the adjacent #2 track with SL-IV #140 on the rear. Deadhead is the operative term here as if you look closely you'll see the first SL-IV pair on the 4 car train has its pan dropped and is being pushed by the trailing pair. The race was marred by someone idiot scheduling a North Broad stop for our "premier service" R5 train. However a large backup of deadheads waiting to get into Roberts Yard at HUNTINGTON AVE interlocking made us victorious in the end.

Also note when a get a call from a friend warning me of a set of 4 SL-II's heading inbound he spotted at Fox Chase which then proceed to show up while I am still on the phone with him. Also note the Medium Approach signal being displayed to the next in line train at HUNTINGTON AVE to get into Robert's Yard. Remember to set the video to HD if it does not do so automatically.

The first photo stop was Glenside, which is sort of like Jenkintown only without the R3. Glenside was chosen over Jenkintown this year due to the Jenkentown photo stop on MWT IX and the generally poor sight lines in that station. Here we see our R5 train with SL-IV #341 about to take the signal at CARMEL interlocking.

Video of our train departing northbound.

One can never be assured of seeing SL-II/III's, especially in late 2011, however we would have about 6 opportunities to see one at Glenside and one of those paid off with an inbound R5 train with Reading car #9002 in the lead.

Hanging out on the rear was SL-III #225, not be be confused with Airport III #235.

#225 shown as it departs passing SL-IV #284 on the adjacent track.

Informal group photo of some subchatters on the platform at Glenside.

We would only get one train of II/III's that day as our R2 Warminster local arrived with #373 in the lead.

The Warminster Line could more accurately be called the Fox Chase line as our train approached LYNN interlocking.

Northbound through the re-signaled Grove siding north of the Willow Grove station. You know SEPTA if you are going to try to pinch pennies with your Go-No Go signaling, don't blow it all on a pointless cantilever mast.

The run between Hatboro and Warminster. This section of the line was an extension added on to the original Reading terminus at Hatboro where the substation is.

Warminster was empty save for our train laying over as is expected during the mid-day period.

#373 again at Warminster station.

Here on the southbound leg of the trip we see the entire double track section of the Warminster Line between LYNN and CARMEL interlockings. BTW make sure you listen to some of the background conversations in the videos. There are some interesting stories being told.

We got off at Fern Rock in order to have the traditional BSS express run downtown. Here we have an action shot of Fred G snagging a photo of #373.

Hanging out on the paltform at Fern Rock was SEPTA AEM-7 #2303, which as of late I always seem to run into.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

11-12-24 VIDEOS: Nostalgia Train HD

You might remember the last time I featured a Nostalgia Train themed YouTube playlist not only was the resolution a mediocre 640x480, my camera could only fir about 20 minutes of video on its 1GB xD cards forcing me to be really stingy about leaving the camera running. Well this time I have upgraded to 16GB SD cards that can store nearly 90 minutes of HD video each. Even better my YouTube account has been enabled for unlimited length videos (although at the time this was taken I was still at 15min).

This year I was up in NYC early enough to be on the first northbound trip from Second Ave and I was able to shoot the entire run in two long shots that include the station stops. Unfortunately I was still learning my camera and I made the mistake of taking photos while shooting video, which my camera can do at the expense of disrupting the video. Another huge plus over my previous camera is that I can zoom while shooting video (the old one didn't want you to get zoom noises on the vid).

No need for playlists this time as I am just going to put everything out in the open. Also you might want to click through to YouTube to get for the best effect since resolution on the blog is set to 640c360..

We begin with a Goodfellas style continuous shot taken while I walked from the rear of the Nostalgia Train to the front, through the train itself. The train had only pulled in about 5 minutes before I had gotten there myself and it was still rather empty with the various volunteers getting ready and early bird railfans buzzing about. I was hoping for an uninterrupted take, but my father kept asking questions and one woman stopped me to help take her picture in the R-10 prototype, but I stuck to the rules of the continuous take and left them in :-)

Let's just dive into the main show with the 2011 Nostalgia Train's first run of the morning. Here in part one we get our lineup and proceed from 2nd Ave to 47-50th St. Check out the platform at 34th Street and try to spot the well known SEPTA personality. Unfortunately there were no instances of express running this year.

Part 2 from 47th-50th St through to Queens Plaza. Includes getting off the train at QP and capturing its move into the relay track there.

In this clip you can get a feel for what the NYCS was like in the days before dynamic brakes when even a standard station stop could fill a station with a haze of brakeshoe smoke (which back in the day was probably asbestos or something). By the end of the trip I was blowing all sorts of black gunk out of my nose.

Here we see the conductor working the doors between the cars between Queens Plaza and 21st Ely. In the second video check out some of the inter-car movement. Probably for the best that they now work in their own cabs.

More inter-car movement between 47th-50th St and 42nd St stations southbound.

Arriving at 34th St southbound with a D train racing us on the express track.

We will finish up with one last long video showing the Model Board at W. 4TH Street Tower as little green and blue dots magically turn into a real life Nostalgia Train down on the lower level. The shot continues with a ride all the way to 2nd Ave, although I had to zoom through the RFW giving a bit of the old Chicken Wire effect.

Well I hope you enjoyed the videos. Sorry again for any technical errors. It was my first outing and I should be able to do a lot better in the future.

11-12-24 PHOTOS: Nostalgia Train HD

If you remember from last week I mentioned that the set would be the last featuring my 2006 Olympus 510UZ camera*, well Christmas came a bit early on 2011 because in this set I will be out on Christmas eve riding the Nostalgia Train with my brand new Cannon SX30 camera with 35x optical zoom and 720p HD video capability. That's right, its time to ride the Nostalgia Train again...only this time in HD!!!

Now while I actually chose to concentrate on taking video this trip as underground lighting leaves a lot to be desired, I did take some still shots which can all be seen here. Also, while I will be featuring some videos in this post, stay tuned for a supplemental video only post that will contain the longer material.

I would like to begin with a quick side-by-side comparison of my old camera vs my new camera. The following two photos of the 526 northbound automatic signal on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor were both taken from the same spot on the Hamilton NJT platform at about the same time of day with the same zoom setting and of course both scaled to ~1280 pixies of resolution (although they are cropped differently). The first is my old camera and the second is my new camera. See if you can taste the difference.

Granted its no DSLR, but I can carry it around in a small bag, not be a juicy target for thieves or the anti-terrorist patrols, not have to buy thousands of dollars in accessories and I don't have to wear one of those tan photographer vests. BTW if you aren't tired yet of looking at the 526 signal, here it is again with Arrow III #1513.

I managed to catch a northbound train of Multi-Levels with ALP-46 #4645 on point. BTW I am still learning the proper ways set up my new camera as well as process the photos so forgive me if things are a touch out of wack for a few sets.

While hanging out at W4th Street waiting to transfer to an that would take me to 2nd Ave, I happened to catch the deadhead Nostalgia train end route to its initial terminal.

 Got some video too. Remember these are now all available in HD so remember to turn up the resolution if your device can handle it.

South end of the Nostalgia train shortly after its arrival at 2nd Ave. Note the nearly empty won't stay that way for long!!

North end of same.

I'm in position at the Railfan Window as some platform bound railfans get a few photos of their own.

The train after arriving at Queens Plaza.

Approach Restricting indication for the move into the layup track.

Friday, November 25, 2011

11-11-25 PHOTOS: West Trenton Lunch (Holiday Extra Dinner)

Every Thanksgiving week I have a little tradition wherein I head out with Chuchubob and see what is plying the tracks on the day after or day before Thanksgiving. 2011 would be no different, but unlike previous years this would probably be the final Thanksgiving for the Silverliner II's and so instead of camping out at Bristol or some other NEC location we decided to hit up West Trenton during the lunch period to see if we could catch anything there, either in the yard or in service.

When that strategy didn't prove to be successful we fell back on the NEC with a stop off at Bristol, and while in 2010 we had managed to catch some II's and III's, this year turned out to be a disappointment as well although there was more than enough Amtrak traffic to make up for it.

Finally in a bonus segment I return to Baltimore's Penn Station to catch the annual arrival of a 3000 series Amtrak Holiday Extra with leased NJT Arrow III equipment. I also manage to catch a northbound 3000 series train with leased MARC equipment...but catching a MARC trainset in Baltimore Penn Station isn't a huge deal.

You can see the entire set of photos here as usual.

I arrived at West Trenton to find new signal footings and a new crossover being put in place at TRENT interlocking. While TRENT is controlled by SEPTA, it and the Trenton Line is owned by CSX and SEPTA regional rail trains must share it with a great deal of CSX freight trains, which has been a source of friction for some time. TRENT interlocking's sole purpose is to allow SEPTA trains to get in and out of the West Trenton yard and conduct end of run turns. It consists of a single trailing point crossover and yard lead.

This has lead to problems when one of the two tracks SEPTA shares with CSX between here and CP-WOOD are out of service due to the lack of a universal crossover between the limits of the double track that stretched from CP-WOOD to CP-WING, two miles east of TRENT. Anyway it appears that CSX or SEPTA or someone is planning to rectify this problem by installing a second crossover and re-working TRENT interlocking. This will probably mean the replacement of the Conrail signals (that in turn replaced the Reading signals in 1994) with CSX style Darth Vadar signals. :-(

Of course the closed TRENT tower won't be going anywhere as it still serves as the SEPTA crew base, but what will be missed is the eastbound three lamp dwarf stack governing wrong direction movements on 261 track with an innovative use of lamp position that uses Approach limited as its least restrictive aspect for straight moves (with medium clear for diverging) and Medium approach for both straight and diverging movements as dwarfs can't display straight Approach.

Anyway, back to the trains. SEPTA Silverliner IV Pair 438/437 were sitting on the first yard track waiting to pull out and head back to Center City.

Also in West Trenton yard was SEPTA AEM-7 #2303, which I later ran into during the Mid-Winter trip.

Also laying over in the yard was SL-IV #434.

#438 soon pulled into the West Trenton station to pick up passangers for its on time departure, while a Clear signal was pulled up on the eb TRENT mast signal indicating an approaching freight movement that was being slid in before the next SEPTA local was scheduled to arrive.

CSX freight train symbol Q418 soon arrived on the scene with CSX GP50 #8550 and former UP C40-8 #9026 towing CSX GP38-2 #2516 behind them. The UP unit had been sighted the previous day by Chuchubob in Pavonia Yard or at Cove Road.

It didn't take long after the freight train had passed for the next outbound R3 local to arrive, a Restricting signal into the yard already displayed.

The three car local with SL-IV's #401, 402 and 184, then took the signal and headed into the yard.

At this point it was time for lunch at a nearby establishment frequently used by railfans and when we returned a full headway had passed with a new SEPTA two car local with SL-IV's 124 and 125 in consist seen here departing for the yard past the same Restricting signal.

After emerging from the restaurant we found some fellow West Jersey railfans (including the omnipresent Dave Homer) milling about seen here as #124 relays into the yard. Also note the position of the new crossover and the existing signals in this zoom view.

At the other end of the interlocking one can see how SEPTA has recently extended the overhead wire to allow trains to more easily relay on the main tracks with the new crossover and extended interlocking. This extended several carlengths beyond the old Reading signal bridge that used to be the old AC Motor Stop point.

Moving on to Bristol we find Amtrak ARM-7 #927 with an extended holiday Regional consist bowling along westbound towards Philly.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

11-11-19 PHOTOS: High Line Extended

Three years ago I headed up to NYC to check out its brand new High Line linear park (not to be confused with the "real" High Line that is still carrying freight trains in West Philadelphia). Well last year I had tickets for War Horse on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and it seemed like a perfect time to take a side trip to explore Phase II of the High Line which runs up to the blip out around the West Side Yards.

In addition to the High Line I managed to snag some great photos out the front of a NJT Arrow III train on the NEC, which prompted the conductor to demand I delete the photos or he'd call the police. Long story short I have the photos and the police never showed up. if you would like to see said photos, "illegal" and otherwise, click the link here.

We begin the day at the Hamilton NJT station with Amtrak HHP-8 #663 hauling northbound with a Silver Service train.

If you didn't see it the first time I posted the video there was also a bit of ticket drama where a family in a hurry forgot to let all of their $20 a pop NJT tickets print out prompting this kind soul to run after then...and then run after them again (too late that time) to give them the tickets. BTW I was skipping a headway due to an early arrival at the station and not wanting a local. In the photo you can see the family rushing past ALP-46 #4649, and then the consequences in the video.

During the wait a southbound train with #4603 pulled into the opposite platform.

Not sure why NJT is using the Push-Pulls on the local trains and the Arrow III's on the express trains, but whatever. Here A-III #1424 pulls into the Hamilton Station.

So what happened on the Arrow III is that the crew forgot to close the door to the vestibule cab allowing me to take some really nice photos of the NEC signals as well as the occasional Acela Express trainset.

Approaching Princeton we see the relocated 472 automatic signals which allows trains stopping at the station to clear the block behind them, which had been a bottleneck before. Yes, the top PL LED lamp has failed.

NASSAU tower just north of the Princeton Station.

Amtrak AEM-7 #934 with a southbound regional.

MIDWAY interlocking and its pneumatic point machines.

Alright, at that point the disk conductor decided to intervene so we now get to skip ahead to the High Line. Here we see some cargo containers on the un-rehabilitated section north of 30th St that the Parks Department are trying to protect from German submarine attack.

The High Line was pretty crowded that day. Here we are looking north at 28th St.

11-11-19 PHOTOS: Streetcar Santa

Ah the BSM...that place down the street that I don't go to as much as I should because its just down the street. Well last December I had two good reasons to head down to the old BSM. The first was a special event day in November that drew in folks from the Philly area like Chuchubob and the second was when a bunch of friends from Hopkins revealed themselves as closet trolley buffs and we all took a spin on the trolleys in December when the special Santa trips were running. This set of photos combines both of those trip and you can see them all, right here.

My apologies to Dan Lawrence as I do not know the intimate details about each car. He can feel free to fill in any gaps, but the writeup will mostly focus on the pictures and not the cars' backstories.

Anyway we begin with a MARC single level coach #7755 hanging out in Penn Station waiting for the state to get its ass in gear and fund weekend service.

The special Saturday event was a PCC celebration which had the BSM's whole collection out on display like ex-Baltimore care #7303.

The day was also to celebrate the newly restored SEPTA PCC #2168, seen here on one of the car barn tracks.

The former SEPTA work-car #2187 has been painted out of its SEPTA orange and into a red scheme that promotes the Streetcar Museum.

Prior to it going into service we see the freshly painted PCC being backed out of the carbarn reversing through a wire frog.

#2168 sitting under the CSX freight line bridge.

Snow sweeper C-145 was also out n display. 

Each sweep brush is actually attached t a complex motor-gearbox setup which i why one used special cars for this activity.

C-145 from the opposite end which currently lacks a brush unit.

The BSM's flagship PCC #7407 which has been joined by #2168 on the loop track.

Car #417 was originally built as a Baltimore city horse (or cable?) car in the 1870' and then was eventually converted to electric operation in the 1890's. On the verge of being furry restored to operation, #417 will be the oldest operable streetcar IN THE WORLD using its 187's build date. I believe the BSM also lays claim to the world's oldest non-operable car, a 1850's horse car. If that is ever restored I know some ppl at a draft horse rescue that might be interested in providin motive power for it.