Search This Blog

Monday, May 23, 2011

11-05-23 PHOTOS: Crescent Delayed

Well what goes down must come up and after taking the long way to Georgia via the A-Line, I embarked on my usual direct return trip via Amtrak Train 20, the northbound Crescent. Now normally this train is pretty useless for railfanning as even in May the train only hit usable sunlight at about Charlottesville and I had already covered that before. Moreover I am not usually able to stand in the rear vestibule and thus any photos must be through two panes of tinted glass further increasing the ambient light requirement.

This trip I managed to fall asleep somewhere south of Charlotte, NS and when I woke up about 5 hours later I was shocked to find my train not pulling into Charlottesville, but instead racing through southern Virginia just north of Danville. Apparently at Greensboto, NC something has happened to our second engine and it had to be set out, delaying the train for 2 hours and moving what would have been covered by darkness into the light of a bright sunny morning.

As the crew was occupied taking care of the increasingly restless passengers (or just avoiding them in the cafe car) I was able to head back to the rear vestibule excited by the opportunity to "cover" the Southern Main between Lynchburg and Charlottesville. I had tried to cover this territory once before by changing to the Lynchburg Regional, but I discovered that the last car in that train is kept closed until DC.

You can find the complete gallery of photos here, but even I'll admit that Southern style signal can be pretty dry so keep reading to see my top pics from the lot.

Well like I said it was a beautiful May morning with the light coming from just the right direction. Here my train is only a few miles from Lynchburg and we can see the type gotta fucking KIDDING ME!! They gave that guy his OWN INTERLOCKING!!! >:-O

Growl...anyway, moving on from Lynchburg the Southern Main Line trnds to cut against the grain of the local geography with several long steel viaducts over rivers running to the Northwest. Here is the longest across the James River, which has been reduced to a single track.

At least the NS dispatching was very well executed. Here is a southbound doublestack train with some new EMD SD70M-2 locomotives waiting for us to take the other main track at McVOR interlocking.

 A few miles later our train overtook another NS freight lead by SD70M-2 #2650.

Before doing the duck and weave at KINGSWOOD interlocking in order to pass a southbound NS mixed freight also waiting on our passage.

When the Southern RR single-tracked their main line back in the 1970's they relied heavily on the use of equilateral turnouts instead of the more traditional main and siding setup with Medium or Limited speed diverging routes. The result is that the home signal can both display a "Clear" route, and the distant can display Clear instead of Approach Diverging. Speed control through the turnout is accomplished via the line timetable which simply sets a 40mph speed limit through the interlocking. Here we see an example of this at the RED HILL interlocking and its southbound gantry.

Because I still hadn't eaten any breakfast and because I had covered the line north of Charlottesville in a previous trip I decided to retreat from the last car as we pulled through the C&O diamonds at JC Cabin. This is the route that the Cardinal takes. If it could turn onto the Southern Main here it could easily trip 30 minutes off its run.

I resumed taking photos at Manassas Park, but didn't really encounter anything interesting until just past EDSALL interlocking where NS cabin Car #555016 was attached to the rear of a local freight.

At Washington, DC I went forward to take a pic of P42DC #14 which pulled our train alone from Greensboro to here.

It was a weekday and MARC HHP-8 #4911 was hanging out next to K-Tower.

After #14 was pulled off it was replaced by AEM-7 #905.

Here is a video of that event.

Anyway, hope you all enjoyed the trip. Stay tuned next week for a trip to find some hidden CPL signals at Brunswick, MD.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

11-05-22 PHOTOS: Georgia Sidings

I'm sorry I have been presenting so many pics from rural Georgia, but I won't turn down an opportunity to visit a friend if it means being able to take Amtrak ;-) Hopefully next year I'll be able to take a trip into Atlanta including a MARTA ride. Anyway nothing to special here except some wonderful May photos of freight trains on the CSX Abbeville Sub and a new more night shots of the Amtrak Station in Gainesville.

If you are a glutton for signal photos you can review the entire set here which provides additional of both ends of the Seaboard Coast Line signaled Harper siding and the new interlocking built to serve the Pilgrims Pride plant in Athens.

We begin with a video as poor CSX SD40-2 #8137 struggles on its own up the grade with 41 autoracks and a turbo that is clearly on its last legs. Talk about the little engine that could compared to todays big 4400hp road monsters.

This is more like it. Here we see C44-10W #5468 with two helpers heading north with a mixed freight at the MP511 automatic.

That help includes CSX #5939, a B40-8, the most powerful 4 axle road freight engine produced in North America.

 Here we see CSX SD40-2 #8805 about ready to knock down the Clear signal at the MP 511 automatic with another mixed freight train.

#8805 is being assisted by sister SD40-2 #8335.

Here we see the brand new dwarf signal for movements off the siding track at the new Pilgrims Pride interlocking, 800 feet south of the south end of the Fowler Junction siding. This signal is in the G/Y/R/L stack configuration which indicates the switch is good for slow speed (15mph) movements only. Under the more efficient NORAC system this signal would only need 3 heads and would also be able to handle Medium speed movements. 

The Abbeville Sub used to operate under train orders with a single main track with sidings. Meets with opposing trains were scheduled (or arranged via Train Order) at sidings such as this one at Harper. In the 1970's or 1980's this line was upgraded to CTC operation and crews no longer had to keep track of meeting points or line the switches at the entrance and exit of sidings. Harper is a "Signaled Siding" that allows trains to pull off on an indication better than Restricting. The siding at Fowler Junction is a "Controlled Siding", ie entrance and exit is dispatcher controlled, but the track is worked under Restricted speed rules. Since the original CTC project the code line was replaced by the ACTS digital radio system as evidenced by the tall antenna.

It's nighttime back at the Gainesville Amtrak station. Hanging out on the engine ready tracks for the local freight yard is NS SD40-2 #3437.

Also on hand was SD40-2 #6128.

Across Industrial Way in another yard is Southern high hood GP38-2 #5203 and two ex-BNSF lease SD40-2s.

Well I'll go out the way I started with a video. Here Amtrak P42DC's #53 and 14 come screaming to a halt with the northbound Train 20, whistling for the crossings on either side of the station.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

11-05-19 PHOTOS: A-Line Partly Cloudy

Once again it is time for another one of my twice yearly trips to Georgia and back. If you remember last time I was slightly irritated by the addition of private cars to the rear of train 79. The reason it was so irritating was because out of the 4 trips I have taken, that was the only one that had reasonable lighting. Most of the photos on this trip, like the other three where I could take photos, are grainy, dim or blurry because of the overcast weather so I'll be somewhat limited in what I can show. If you are interested in a rather grainy dim survey of the CSX RF&P Sub and A-Line between Fredericksburg and Selma, NC by all means go nuts, but you are probably best off just sticking to the featured pics shown below.

We begin in Baltimore where the new fleet of uninspired looking MP36 locomotives are now making up the majority of what can be seen leading the MARC trainsets.

However a few of the old hands are still poking about as evidenced by GP39-2P #72.

South of Fredericksburg I discovered that CSX has begun to cleanse the remaining RF&P signaling such as this example at HAMILTON. That would have been nice to get in the sunlight.

Waiting in the background for our train to pass was CSX C44-10W #5282.

A CSX high rail track inspection truck was out north of HN tower aka the Doswell Diamond.

 Upon reaching Richmond Staples Mill Road station I encountered the CSX Juice Train passing through GREENDALE interlocking (aka GN tower).

Managed to get some video of the juice train as well as we pulled into the platform.

South of Richmond on the CSX A-Line I got another kick in the gut when I saw that the stretch of track between the James River and Collier Yard south of Petersburg was also getting the old Darth Vader treatment.

Lost in this particiular project are the ACL vintage mast-bracket signals at NORTH COLLIER.

Here is more video of my train overtaking a CSX mixed freight train near TREGO interlocking across the border in North Carolina. Another ES44DC #5295 is on point.

Due to a conflict with the northbound Train 90 at Rocky Mount we were forced onto track 2 at BATTLE interlocking. Unfortunately the Rocky Mount station only has a platform on track #1 forcing a reversing move at CHARLIE BAKER interlocking. A year prior to this our train had to perform a similar "pull-in" move a BATTLE. You'd think they could just install some duckboards at Rocky Mount or something. Anyway, here we see the Medium Clear signal for the reverse move at CLARLIE BAKER interlocking.

Our conductor acting as the eyes for the engineer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

11-05-06 VIDEOS: Let's Ride NYC Subway Episode 9 - J Train Eastbound

Well I had so many videos from that R42 trip that I ended up splitting them up into two Let's Ride episodes, one westbound, which I posted earlier, and one eastbound, which I will showcase now. The Westbound trip had the superior shots, not only because it wasn't backlit, but also because I could collect an entire set in the tunnels as well as the Willy B and the M Train meet at Mrytle. However I don't want to just discard these eastbound videos into the ashcan so here they are.

This trip is actually a composite of two trips. The first from Marcy Ave to Jamaica Center and the second from Broad Street to Essex. Due to the back lighting I initially though videoing most of the eastbound trip would be a good idea until I realized how incredibly boring the local runs were. So boring in fact that I probably won't even embed all of the videos in the platlist. However I am sure all those many rabid fans of the line will enjoy it nevertheless.

So, if you would like to view the entire platlist check it out right here. Just hit play and you'll see all the videos in order.

So the story of these videos actually begin at the end of the trip where Rich and I were waiting at Broad Street for the next train back to Essex so that we could transfer to an orange M to get up to Midtown for lunch. We were surprised when our trusty old R42 trainset pulled into the station. After going a stop or two I decided to start getting some tunnel videos in the opposite direction and so we begin with Fulton St to Chambers St.

A Chambers we cross over two tracks to reach the Willy B line from what used to loop around and head over the Manny B. Note the doubleslip switch. Then we break through what used to be a wall at Canal Street onto the rationalized alignment that converted a 4-track line into a two-track one.

Here we are going from Canal to Bowery. Unfortunately I could not complete the set of videos all the way to Essex because the train operator decided that because we were railfanning in both directions that we had to be some sort of terrorist threat and opened the door to inform us that "taking pictures was illegal since 9/11". I told her to call the police and walked back to be prepared to exit the train at Essex. The bitch actually tried to hold the doors closed waiting for the police, but after a few minutes she gave up and we walked down to the F platform instead of waiting around for the M.

Cutting back to a point earlier in the day, here we have my train of R42's approaching Broadway Junction from Chauncey St showing the west end of the junction complex.

As was featured in the photo essay here is the trip from Broadway Junction to Alabama Ave where we can see the R160 that should have been running in our slot descending the ramp into the yard in place of our set of R42s.

11-05-06 VIDEOS: Let's Ride NYC Subway Episdoes 8 - J Train Westbound

Anyone who just saw my R42 trip post is already familiar with the story of how I caught an R42 leaving Manhattan in the morning and then managed to ride it all the way out to Jamaica and back. In fact you have probably seen a few of the videos from that run that I embedded in the photo essay. Well it simply wouldn't be fair to let all those other deserving videos just sit lonely on YouTube without some bit of promotion.

This post will cover the first of two "Let's Ride" episodes westbound from the Jamaica Center to Broad Street. However unlike some of my other "Let's Ride" episodes these playlists are not complete records of the entire line as the mostly local J train would be a downright bore as it trundled from local stop to local stop. So therefore the video coverage is limited to special events like interlockings and junctions as well as the tunnel sections of the line.

So here we have the entire playlist for the Westbound Episode 8

We begin leaving Jamaica Center and traveling to Stuphin Blvd. Here you can see the brightly lit 1980's tunnel and the distance between Jamaica Center and the crossover that trains terminating there used to cross tracks. Jamaica Center was not intended as the lines terminal, it just turned out that way due to funding cuts, so the interlocking wasn't intended to serve a terminal. Therefore instead of being right at the end of the platform it is a good distance down the tunnel. This is a major factor limiting tph on both the E and J/Z lines.

Here we have the nice line run from Stuphin Blvd to 121st St through the deep bore tube under the LIRR tracks. At the end I terminated the video early because we had to slow down for the trackwork at 121st St.

Here we see the east end of Broadway Junction as we depart Alabama Ave.

Now we see the west end of Broadway Junction in the eastbound direction as we travel to Chauncey St. Can anybody explain why with a straight track and no trains ahead of us this service is SO PAINFULLY SLOW??!! In Philly the MFL hits 50 mph on similar stretched of track...and that was even prior to the rebuild!!

Ah, here is the best video of the bunch. The J train switches to the express track and makes a timed meet with an inbound M train at Myrtle Ave just as the M train is switching onto the local track previously used by the J. Give it a second look, its amazing.

That money shot is followed by a second as my train hits the express run between Mrytle and Marcy Ave's. Unfortunately we get creamed by an speed restriction coming into Marcy.

In the longest video of the series we travel up and over the Williamsburg Bridge to Essex Street. At least we are traveling faster than the traffic.

In the tunnel now, Essex to Bowery through the re-signaled portion of the line.

Bowery to Canal Streets.

Canal to Chambers. This is the station where loop service would branch off to the Manny B.

Twisting and turning Chambers to Fulton.

And finally Fulton to Broad. Hope you enjoyed the trip, stay tuned for the eastbound episode tomorrow.

11-05-06 PHOTOS: R42 Round Trip

Ah the R42. The last product built by the St Louis Car Company that actually worked and star of the 1971 hit movie The French Connection. Once slated for retirement 50 of the 400 cars got a reprieve when the abysmal quality of the following St Louie produced R44's forced their early retirement. Today those final 50 escaped to the IND Eastern Division where they tend to work in the peak periods only. If you need a railfan window and if you can find them, maybe you too can ride, the R42.

Seeing as I don't live in the city the only way for me to get there in time is to take Amtrak into Newark, PATH it downtown then run to the J/Z at Fulton Street. Even with this plan the timing was going to be close as I would only be able to catch the last one or two R42 trainsets returning from their rush hour runs to Broad. Even if I was to catch them they would certainly pull back into East New York yard to wait their return to service for the evening peak.

I arrived at Fulton in what I believed was planet of time, but alas trainset after trainset of useless R160s passed by until I assumed that the morning was a wash and I might as well continue on in an inferior vehicle, de-training for the photos I needed.

To see what happened after that you can check out the full photo set posted right here, or keep reading below.

I was to meet Rich Green that day, who in usual fashion was running late, so instead of meeting downtown I just hopped off at Marcy Ave which was closer to where he would be coming from. Due to the Williamsburg Bridge and the HSBC bank dome its pretty hard not to take good pics at Marcy, even if they involve R160's, such as this westbound J train.

Headed my way on an M train was another train of of the new sterile beasts.

Trains stopping at Marcy get to have the motormen play tower operator using this punch box where they can choose a local or express routing.

Just as I was resigned to an entire day of mediocre subway fanning low and behold what trundles down the Willy B ramp, but a shiny train of retro sheek R42's on a K routing. I couldn't believe my eyes and I thanked god that Rich was late least I would have ended up on the previous R160 I had been riding.

 Once on board the front view was a bit disappointing due to both the position of the sun and a good layer of water droplet scuz. However it was far superior to the smear-o-vision on the R160's, one of which is seen here on an express J train headed westbound south of Mrytle Ave.

Everybody loves Myrtle Ave with its pair of single slip switches and diamond crossing.

Assuming I was now on the laast leg of the trip in this trainset I opted for some video out the front as that was impacted by the backlighting less. However as we approached Broadway Junction I noticed that my original R160 trainset was sitting on the middle track and we were to platform on the usual eastbound track.

In an absolutely startling turn of events, while staring at a Clear indication on the 356 signal I watched as the trainset that should have consisted of R42 pull into the yard, while my trainset, which should have been R160s was allowed to continue on towards the Jamaica Center.