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Saturday, October 15, 2011

11-10-15 PHOTOS: SEPTA Rodeo 2011

One again SEPTA was nice enough to invite a number of rail enthusiasts to its annual employee picnic and skillz rodeo located at the Fern Rock Transportation Complex. Like last year the Fern Rock shoppes held a number of technical displays, while outside joy rides and skills tests were being offered on the BSS cars. Over at the Fern Rock Regional Rail station a selection of SEPTA Regional Rail EMUs were displayed on the infrequently used third track.

As I had already attended the year before, I didn't feel the need to take a second set of photos of the same subjects. Also more parts of the shoppes were closed off than the year before which reduced the variety of photographic subjects in general. However I did make an effort to get some better quality photos of some of the technical displays. You can see all of the 2011 Rodeo Photos here.

First up is a Silverliner IV gearbox and drive assembly fresh from being rebuilt. The electric motor would be mounted to the exposed gear on the left and each truck would have two of these gearbox assemblies, one for each axle. Oh, don't let that small hole fool you as that is not actually one of those "unsafe" hollow axles.

Here we see a variety of Silverliner gearboxes returning from being rebuilt. The ones with the flat tops are for Silverliner II's and III's.

Exploded view of an SL-IV gearbox.

MFL M-4 car drive assembly with the wheels mounted. The Fern Rock shoppes handles the heavy gearbox overhaul work for all of SEPTA's rail fleets with the axle sets being trucked to the line specific maintenance areas.

M-4 gearbox exploded.

MFL M-4 car disc brake units both refurbished and unrefurbished.

BSS B-4 car tread brake unit that attaches to the units' GSI-70 trucks.

No this is not one of those suitcases used to arm nuclear missiles for launch. It is a test unit for the old GE supplied cam motor controllers for the BSS B-IV cars as they were originally delivered in 1980. Since the last Rodeo SEPTA completed its $11 million upgrade from cam DC controllers to IGBT chopper controllers, but the old test equipment was kept on for display purposes. 

View of the cam controller showing the high voltage contactors and their associated arc chutes.

The smaller cam unit for the control circuitry. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

11-10-06 PHOTOS: Silverliner II Consolation

On October 6th, 2011 the Philadelphia Phillies lost the 5th game of the National League Divisional Series in an embarassing and painful to watch 1-0 loss with the only run coming the first inning. Had that been my only activity that day it probably would have ranked amoung my most disappointing. However, before the the game I had gone out with Phil Nasadowski to help him get some footage for his Silverliner II 16mm film, and to both of our delights II's and III's were out and plentiful with several sets running all day on the R5 and more sets appearing in the peak periods.

I trip started at Jenkintown, having just missed a train of II's at Glenside. Jenkintown provided a handy parking space so Phil and I could just catch the first II to wherever and not have to worry about his car. When a train of II's did show up we rode them out to Paoli and then caught a different set back in to Center City before trying to find some set of II's on the R3 routing to West Trenton. We eventually had to settle on a train of IV's to Bethayres where another railfan met us and gave us a ride back to Jenkintown for us to set up camp and film the parade going past.

Anyway you can see the entire set of photos, which includes a PRR Main Line survey section due to a friendly crew providing a rear vestibule ride on the inbound R5 leg of our trip, right here.

After getting dropped off at Jenkintown to meet Phil one of the II/III replacements including SL-V single #715 shows up as a non-revenue test train.

Shortly there after a short turning SL-IV train with #411 pulled out of the pocket track at Jenkintown.

And proceeded to cross over south of the station after a bit of wrong railing.

The first train of II's soon arrived on a Malvern train with #252 in the lead.

This we took all the way out to Paoli station where we decided to disembark so I could get this photos of 252 ready to accept the Clear signal on the 12L at PAOLI interlocking.

#215 was the last car on that train here shown pulling out as a train of SL-IVs pulls in on #1 track.

The next eastbound R5 consisted of IV's with #153 on the front.

 The next outbound was also IV's with #385 and PAOLI tower in the background.

After that it was Keystone time with Metroliner cab car #9634 on point. Thanks to both the SL-IIs and III's those vintage Metroliners were the third oldest piece of equipment we rode that day.

After the stationmaster came out to accuse Phil, myself and another Amtrak employee we were railfanning with of being terrorists our fortune improved when Silverliner II #Ox100 arrived on an eastbound R5.

We were treated to a rear vestibule ride in #9007 which was exhibiting a bit of a black mold problem :-D

Saturday, October 1, 2011

11-10-01 PHOTOS: Altoona Wet

Late last summer it became apparent that the killjoys at Norfolk Southern were embarking on a project to resignal the entire Altoona terminal area which for the 100+ years have been under the auspices of ALTO tower, which I had visited previously in 2005. This was coming on the heels of a similarly mean spirited project to replace the PRR position lights up and around the horseshoe curve and unlike a number of other recent resignaling projects I was not going to be caught flat footed and therefore resolved to drive out the 3+ hours to Altoona to document what was there before it all came crashing down.

Unfortunately my schedule in the fall of 2011 was quite full and combined with the fact that many people didn't know when the project would be completed and that there was a Fall Foliage running out of Altoona and around the Horseshoe Curve on October 1 I made the choice to pick that weekend for my trip. I say unfortunately because the weather was just a few hairs short of completely unworkable with a light to moderate drizzle falling over the entire day with ambient lighting about what you would expect. Doublely disappointing was that my first trip was in only slightly better conditions so it looked as if every time I was to go to Altoona the clouds would roll in and the sky would open up.

Anyway armed with a pair of cameras, one a high resolution DSLR, I set out in the wee hours of Oct 1 in order to make it to the "Brickyard" automatic signal west of town to snag a picture of the Bennett Levin PRR E8's passing under it. After that I would head downtown to take as many photos of ALTO tower and its related signaling as I could and then I could head out to see if CP-ANTIS was part of the re-signaling project as it's interlocking hardware dated from 1981 instead of the 1970's or before for the rest of the Altoon Terminal. All said and done I took about 500 photos that day which are all visible in the full gallery.

We begin at the Milepost 238 automatic known as "Brickyard" which is also the distant to SLOPE interlocking, which itself is under direct wire control from ALTO tower. This section of the main line has three tracks, the outer two running under Rule 251 with only the center track #2 being bi-directional rule 261. Both eastbound signals on tracks 2 and 3 can display / over / for Slow Speed moves at SLOPE as SLOPE has a very short signal distance to ALTO and will display Slow Approach instead of Approach when a Stop signal is displayed at ALTO. The Approach Medium indication available on track #1 is for 1 to 2 diverging moves at SLOPE.

The MP 328 signal gantry was in a bad way with the uprights separating from the concrete footings and 1930's era signaling with tar impregnated cotton insulation around the signal cable wires. Still the replacing it with cheap Darth Vader masts on an ungainly 4 track wide cantilever is just insulting the the home of the PRR, especially for a railroad that recently installed brand new N&W PL's in its home of Roanoke, VA. Anyway all of the signals up and down the eastern slope are approach lit and were able to provide warning of the approaching Foliage Charter. 

PRR E8 #5711 was heading the charge up the grade. The charter's route was to head up and around the curve before heading back through Altoona, up the N&BE to Lock Haven and then down the Buffalo Line to Harrisburg before returning to Altoona (I think).

On the rear was Bennett Levin's PRR 120 and a couple other PV's providing the first class consolidations behind 4 Amfleets and one Metroliner Cab Car.

Unfortunately I left the Brickyard just a few minutes too soon as the Eastbound Pennsylvanian rolled by as I was waiting to cross the main line at the grade crossing just south of the signal location. Amtrak P42 #51 was providing the power that day.

After parking at the Altoona Railroaders Museum I walked over to the 17th St bridge which provides an uninterrupted view of ALTO interlocking and tower. The tower which dates from the first decade of the 20th century was deceptively given a new coat of paint just a few years ago by NS. Here we can see the eastbound signal gantry directly adjacent to ALTO tower and governing movements on tracks 1 and 101, which is just a short siding between here and SLOPE, as well as the new 3 track cantilever replacement. The new ALTO interlocking will encompass the space between here and the western limits of SLOPE and get rid of the old pusher pocket and replace the right handed yard ladder with a new universal crossover arrangement with the helper tracks pushed off onto the south side of the line. 

It wasn't too long before the E8's showed up again. #5711 was still in the lead as there is a loop track west of the Horseshoe Curve at CP-UN. The charter was run in conjunction with the annual Altoona Railfest which wasn't very festive due to the rain.

Here is a video of the move passing through ALTO interlocking.

Here we have PRR 120 passing under the famous ALTO westbound signal gantry which dates from the Penn Central era when the State was installing the 17th St bridge and needed to move things around a bit.

Heading in on track #2 right behind the Charter was an NS helper twin pack composed of SD40-2's 6312 and 6301. Here they are making a diverging move from track #2 into the helper pocket although their final destination would be the Altoona Yard.

Video of the helper set making the diverging move.

Of the 5 tracks the ALTO beam gantry spans, the center one is a pocket track designed for helper sets like 6312/6301, seen here diverging onto track 1, to lay over and be attached to the rear of through trains before they begin their assault on the eastern slope.

A rather wet ALTO as seen from the rear quarter. The whole area is highly accessible from local roads, although be prepared to hug the curb as the "PRR Expressway" lacks both sideways and a shoulder on that side.