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Friday, June 29, 2012

12-06-29 VIDEOS: Farewell II the Silverliner II III

As you just saw in the proceeding post I attended the last two round trips of the coupled Silverliner II and III cars running on the Cynwyd Branch. Due to the fantrip-like nature of these ostensibly "revenue" runs and the very accommodating crew I was able to fully document the operation of both Silverliner II #9010 and Silverliner III #235 on the penultimate as well as obtaining rear vestibule and side window videos on the final run itself.

In addition to capturing High Definition video of the operation of these historic cars, you can also see the PRR cab signaling system in action as we run between BROAD and VALLEY interlockings on the historic PRR Main Line.

We begin on Train 1087 departing Suburban Station and running all the way to Cynwyd. This video shows the train climbing up and along the Chinese Wall to 30th St station, then out along the Main Line to the new K Interlocking before crossing into Amtrak territory at ZOO before heading up and over the valley Flyover to the SEPTA Cynwyd Line.

The soon to be retired Valley Flyover was used by Main Line PRR trains and Schuylkill Branch trains alike. Main Line track #4 was relocated off the flyover in 1994 and now slapped with a 5mph speed restriction the bridge will soon be replaced by a direct connection to the Main Line at PAXON.

Note the cab signal dropping as the train passes the signal on the far end of the flyover bridge. This is non-cab signaled territory and the conductor must use his key in the cutout box on the other side of the cab.

Next up we have the same sort of video only this time documenting SEPTA Silverliner III #235 on the head of Train #1088 as it returns to Center City from Cynwyd.

Included in this video is a detailed demonstration of the Pennsylvania Railroad Cab Signaling system. Watch as the train passes CP-JEFF and the cabs are automatically cut in and then go through a test sequence. Also watch as the SEPTA dispatcher pulls down our signal at the new K interlocking due to a heat kink and then when attempting to cross the train over, enters the wrong route requiring her to pull down the signal again and run time.

Next we have the Railfan Special express run from Cynwyd straight through to Market East. This would normally be a deadhead into the far end of Powlerton Yard, but special accommodation was made for the large number of people who turned out for this special event. Also in evidence are the large number of non-riding railfans camped out trackside for their final run photos.

The railfan special has to wait a bit at 30th St for some traffic to clear before heading through the Center City tunnel to Market East where I make sure to say farewell to both cars.

The fun didn't end there as we were treated to one more ride back to 30th St Station where I opted to fight the crowds at the front of the train for a head end video of this event.

The final moments of the Old Car era at SEPTA as #9010 and #235 discharge all their riders and pull into Powlerton Yard for the last time. Not as good a video as the May fantrip pulling out of Market East, but I guess everyone else could have the better shots back in the middle of the platform.

Well that's it for the Silverliner II's, but next week tune in for yet more Budd action as I go spend a day with some R32's on the A!

12-06-29 PHOTOS: Farewell II the Silverliner II III

Well we return to our regular programming with the final Farewell II the Silverliner II fantrip and I say Fantrip because that is effectively what it was despite taking place on a mostly revenue train. On June 29th the one remaining Silverliner II, Reading car 9010 and one remaining Silverliner III, Airport car #235, were to make their final runs on the Cynwyd Branch before leaving service due to an expiring ADA waiver concerning their lack of PA systems. While I had originally not intended to come up for the final ride, the day before it dawned on me that I was literally never going to get another chance to ride these cars (although that wasn't quite true) and there was no reason not to go. My decision to attend was influenced by the announcement that instead of stranding any "last riders" at Cynwyd, we would be allowed to return to Center City on what would normally be a deadhead move directly into Powlerton Yard. So I paid $150 for next day Amtrak tickets (two to three times the standard cost of an "official" charter trip I might add) and arrived in time to take two final day round trips on the old cars, the penultimate and ultimate.

You can see all the photos from this trip here and also stay tuned for a special video post to follow behind this one.

I arrived at Suburban Station in time for the third to last round trip, Train 1084, to arrive on track #5 at Suburban Station.

The Reading car #9010, sill sporting its original class designation on the door, was located on the west end of the train.

PC car #235 was on the east end.

235's lefthand cab.

9010's standard cab.

9010 was in a good mood as always.

Chuchubob and friends on board early, beating the rush.

Non-riding Railfans greet the penultimate train at Bala.

Penultimate outbound trip discharges at Cynwyd. 

Due to platform work at Cynwyd the train crew was prevented by a barricade from going to the end of the wire (or Ivy Ridge) for a additional photo stops.

Silverliner III #235 from behind.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

12-06-17 PHOTOS: Capitol Bummer

Well after a bit of a delay it is time to showcase the final installment of my 012 Cross Country trip via the California Zephyr. Of course I got off the Zephyr and in Chicago and after a day of railfanning in the Windy Apple it was time to finish the trip up via Amtrak's Capitol Limited. To explain the title of this photo, set compared to a year previous this trip was a lot less uplifting due to a variety of signaling and infrastructure changes that considerably degraded the value of the much more mundane dash across the eastern half of the country. I guess one silver lining is that I no longer have to get up early to take pictures of endangered CPLs or the remarkable engineering of the Magnolia Cutoff, but of course if there isn't anything to see from the train it might be better to just take Southwest the rest of the way.

so what specifically was to greet me on this trip? Well we started with an hour delay out of Chicago due to a power failure at the 21St drawbridge. Then of course CP-513 is poised to lose its position light signals just like CP-509 already has. HICK tower is now closed so another victory for video games over real railroading. All but one of the small target Michigan Central style semaphores between MP 495 and CP-487 were changed to large target semaphores. CSX of course removed the position light signals and pole line between ORLEANS ROAD and HANCOCK on its main line in West Virgina and of course the are busy blasting out the Magnolia Cuttoff tunnels in a vain attempt to compete with the new Panama Canal route which will destroy their slowest in North America intermodal service. WB tower in West Brunswick was closed and the almost brand new CPLs on the Metropolitan Sub were all removed due to a rush of stimulus dollars that ensures that MARC trains operating their peak direction weekday service have the ability to cross over every 2 miles.

You can see all the photos of the above bad news here.

Like I said we began in Chicago where it was time to hurry up and wait for the stuck drawbridge. While creeping on signals we were passed by an inbound Aurora Line train with METRA F40PH #141 pushing on the rear.

We were soon joined by the outbound Texas Eagle lead by P42 #179 and now second in line to cross the bridge.

Another pair of Amtrak P42, #182 and #52, sitting on the Lumber St wye track getting ready to turn a train.

Heading past the site of the old 21st St tower we were joined in our passage over the now functional drawbridge by a BNSF coal train.

Lead by BNSF ES44AC #5940 and SD70MAC #9952

Here is the trip across the 21st St bridge in video form.

The new MP 519 automatic signals break the single block between CP-519 and Amtrak's 21St St interlocking into two.

NS C40-10W #7606 handles a double stack intermodal train alone on approach to CP-ENGLEWOOD.

The position lights at CP-513.

The quad draws at CP-509.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

12-06-16 PHOTOS: Chicago Racine

Well its time for halftime in my second cross country trip and this time around I did not try to make a same day connection between the Zephyr and the Capitol Limited, even thought it turned out we could have made the connection. Still, it wasn't a big deal because my friend had booked a room using some Holiday Inn rewards points and that resulted in a night's stay at what turned out to be the ultimate railfan suite at the Sun Times building. The room occupied the corner of the top floor, right under the satellite dishes and provided perfect overhead views of the CNW station, CNW station approach, Union Station Milwaukee approach as well as both the CNW and Milwaukee Road Western trunk lines.

I am not exactly sure how we got this room and one would probably be hard pressed to request it without paying at least something close to its market price, but this and many of the other rooms near that southwest corner with an outside window will not disappoint the railfan traveler.

Now, the reason for the title of Chicago Racine is because my one goal during this layover was to hike out and take some photos of the location on the former Milwaukee Road approach to Union Station known to local railfans as Racine as it is the site of the Racine Ave grade crossing. What makes "Racine" special is a majorly beefy PRR Position Light signal gantry that is one of the few indications of the routes PRR heritage as part of the old Panhandle Route.

Today the Racine signal bridge is the eastbound home signal for the METRA MORGAN ST interlocking, remote to Tower A-2, and I made due to document both that and the westbound searchlight signal gantry at Green st. You can find these and all other manner of exciting METRA and CTA photos right here.

Now, while we had an amazing railfan room I unfortunately had enabled one of the "dumbass" settings on my new camera and completely forgot about it, which caused it to take horrendous photos in this particular light. Fortunately I had the DSLR to take most of my photos with, but ones like this shot of Milwaukee Road F40C #611 was of far poorer quality than I would have liked. Don't worry, we'll run into old #611 later.

Here we see an inbound Amtrak Hiawatha Service train passing under Halstead St with cabbage car #90221 and P42 #119.

View from the hotel room of the downtown loop as a train of Boeing built 2400 series El cars pass in front of the new Boeing world headquarters.

Two CNW division Metra trains pass at the former Clinton Street interlocking plant on approach to the old CNW station.

Northwest Corner of the loop with views of both the Brown and Pink/Green elevated lines as they cross the Chicago River.

Looking down the western trunk lines at night with a train cleared for movement on Track 1 all the way to Tower A-2.

CTA train crossing the Lake Street bridge at night.

Boeing building and Sears tower at night.

Here we see a Tropicana wrapped 3200 series El train at the Merchandise Mart station.

The west side of the loop was shut down for track work resulting in some very interesting routings as Brown Line trains turned into Orange Line trains at 18th St. Here we see a video of this move.

My first encounter with a 5000 series train on the run from the look to Clinton St. suck!

The reason we find a PRR Position Light signal bright both at Racine at the Western Ave interlocking about a mile west of here is because this use to be the "Panhandle Route" into Chicago. Much like the New York Central obtained two independent routes into the Windy Apple via both the Michigan Central and Lakeshore & Michigan Southern, the PRR had its regular main line via Fort Wayne, and a backup line via Columbus and Indianapolis. The latter, entered the city from the south east and headed north through 75th St Jct and Brighton Park crossing before reaching the CNW line at Western Ave and curving back east to reach Union Station from the north end. The PRR thusly put its stamp on the signaling between Western Ave and Union Station.

Here, not part of Morgan St interlocking, the signal bright displays Clear indication on the 6R signal for an inbound METRA commuter train.

Friday, June 15, 2012

12-06-15 PHOTOS: Iowa

This week we travel through the Battleground State of Iowa as my trip across the country on Amtrak's California Zephyr continues. Now unlock the previous states between here and California, I had been to Iowa once before when in 2000 I spent about 10 minutes traveling across the southeastern tip on Amtrak's Southwest Chief as it made a station stop at Fort Madison. This time I would be spending almost an entire morning in the state as I had breakfast in Omaha and lunch in Burlington. My survey starts a few miles west of Creston on the tail end of the rain front and ends at Ottumwa where the signaling got boring. There will also be a second session between Burlington, on the Mississippi River and Galesburg, IL.

You can see the entire survey here. The generally gray weather helped mask the color correction problems I had been having, but as the sun came out into Illinois they became much more apparent.

We begin at Creston, where we see a classic Chicago, Burlington and Quincy signal bridge at the boundary between CTC and DT ABS territory just west of the station. Now unlike single direction ABS which we have encountered several times before on this trip, this is the more rare case of double track bi-directional ABS. Marked as DT ABS on the timetable it may look like CTC with signals facing both ways on both tracks, but it is most definitely not CTC. Traffic control is handled manually just like under single track bi-directional ABS lines (sometimes known as Rule 271) so trains must work under both signal indication and get a track warrant. This is because there is no way to set traffic on the lines so the signals will only reflect their adjacent block state so the signaling will not prevent Mexican standoffs of two trains routed towards eachother on the same track. The second major difference (as far as I can tell) is that none of the hand crossovers or industrial sidings have electric locks provided, again, relying on the procedural control of the dispatcher and track warrant system.

Anyway here you can see two absolute signals entering CTC territory and on the reverse two permissive automatic block signals. However to pass them all trains need to have a valid track warrant. This is also the boundary between the Creston and Ottumwa Subdivisions so there is also a change of radio channel here. The timetable makes several references to some sort of tower Operator in the Creston area, but aside from these two entrance signals there are no other interlocking appliances or controlled signals for the operator to control so that's a puzzler.

Here is the old CBQ Creston station which now appears to be a restaurant. 

It is adjacent to the current Amtrak station and BNSF crew base. 

BN GP35M #2967 switches cars in the Creston Yard. 

One of the many BNSF SD70MAC's #9575 is in the lead position on one of the trains in Creston yard. 

BNSF ES44AC #6188 on the front of a long coal train proceeding westbound on track #2 at Afton, IA.

As originally built the long stretches of DT ABS worked just like regular ABS lines with interlocked crossovers few and far between. In recent years BNSF has been adding CTC style crossovers on the sections of DT ABS track to give them more CTC-like capabilities which is being taken advantage of by my train. However without the traffic control functionality and locked switches the space between the crossovers remains ABS, not CTC as evidenced by the "Begin CTC" signs on the signals. Unfortunately BNSF is getting lazy with its interlocking names so here we see the brand new CP 318.

ATSF painted C44-9W #751 proceeding westbound at Thayer. 

The doohickey on the back of the freight train at the Thayer crossover is a special MoW pile driver car. The pile driver is not currently mounted. 

Here is another of these units parked in a siding at Osceola, this time with the pile driver in place. 

Osceola, IA Amtrak station. 

As new CTC crossovers are built, many of the old ABS style hand crossovers are being removed.

This section of the main line between Osceola and Ottumwa would often split into twin rights of way so if you suddenly see a single track that's what happened. 

MoW crew going on duty at Chariton.

CBQ station turned BNSF crew base at Chariton. 

Here we see a Herzog built "Multi Purpose Machine" running a slot train east of Halpin, IA. #170 here was a former EMD Geep that was given a cowl type enclosed body with side and end doors. It is designed solely for MoW work pulling things like slot trains and ballast cleaners. 

East of Maxon interlocking there is a short stretch of pure single direction ABS track that runs all the way to Ottumwa. Now with single direction ABS there is no need for traffic control, however BNSF rules still require trains to get a Track warrant even in the signaled direction so I don't really know what's up with that. This section of the line was actually getting a full CTC upgrade so these cute ABS searchlight masts with the pointed finials won't be around for much longer. 

Another MoW critter is sitting just west of what will be a new interlocking at the ISU Switch. As we passed the ABS signals it was fun to watch them upgrade

Thursday, June 14, 2012

12-06-14b PHOTOS: Moffat Letdown

During my 2011 trip on Amtrak's Empire Builder, crossing the Continental Divide in Montana on the BNSF Northern Transcontinental route was an epic experience. The line was double tracked and there were snow sheds, a smattering of tunnels and probably the best part was at the point of the summit you got this wonderful sign that let you know that it was downhill all the way to the Mississippi River. That's the way a high point should be, double track, helper turnbacks, epic engineering that lays the mountains low. These sorts of summits are seen in the east coast at places like Galitizin, Sand Patch and Allegheny and even on the West where the Great Northern Crosses and Cascade range or on this very trip where the Southern Pacific crossed the Donner Pass.

With all this one would think that crossing the Rocky Mountains via the 9,000+ foot high Moffat Tunnel route would trigger the same sort of epic feelings. There's a 6 mile tunnel just like in the Cascades, lots of tunnels and even a twisty turning horseshoe curve. Unfortunately the reality was a huge letdown. It wasn't just that the line was single track and that the summit was inside the tunnel, although that played a huge part of it. The main letdown for me was that there was no sense of accomplishment as you went to and from the summit. Trees and steep canyons blocked any view of the mountains and the line was severely curvy with around 30 tunnels between The summit and Denver. There was no sense that the railroad was overpowering the geography, but more like it was trying to sneak through it.

On top of this the light was failing and the steep canyon walls and backlighting was affecting the quality of the photos I was able to take, although I was able to hold things together pretty well. We also passed a good number of trains sitting on various sidings between the tunnel and Denver, including that coal train that had gone through the tunnel ahead of us.

While clearly not as fun as the last several sets of photos they are still quite interesting and you can find them all here. Honestly I found covering this section of track a bit of a slog, mostly due to all of the tunnels which I am obligated to photograph entering, exiting and then wide angle exiting.

We begin by leaving Winter Park where we had had an extended stop to allow a coal train to clear the tunnel and then for the tunnel to be vented out. Not much in the way of infrastructure, but the long platform allows for both sleepers and coaches to conduct station work at the same time.

Side window view of my train as it sloooooowly climbs the twisty route up to the tunnel and the summit of the DRG&W Moffat Tunnel line. Prior to the tunnel's construction Rio Grande traffic used the now out of service Tennessee Pass route which went via Pueblo and with a summit of over 10,000 feet was the highest crossing of the Rockies. That route was taken out of service after the UP/SP merger, although it has not been abandoned in case the tunnel suffers a catastrophic problem. 

We get another helping of small target searchlights as we pass the west end of the Winter Park siding, just west of the tunnel portal. 

The sharp curve at the west portal features another repeater signal for the east end of the Winter Park siding and a high car detector, although at this point such an alarm would be of limited value. 

The Moffat Tunnel was built in 1928 and named for Doctor Who writer and show runner Steven Moffat. The tunnel is 6.2 miles long and much like its contemporary Cascade Tunnel the Moffat uses a vent plant on the eastern end to clear the tunnel of exhaust gases. Unlike the cascade tunnel the Moffat was not electrified and worked with a ventilation scheme from day one complete with a sliding door that seals the east end and blows gases out the west. The Moffat tunnel is also faster than the Cascade with a top speed of 40 mph instead of 25.

In this video you can see Amtrak Train 6 entering and then exiting the tunnel. You can also hear the announcement asking passengers not to move between cars as it will let in the trapped diesel exhaust. However they also ask everyone to remain seated for some reason like going through a tunnel was somehow akin to reentering the Earth's atmosphere or something.

Here is the money shot of the Moffat Tunnel vent plant and eastern portal as the train exits. Unlike the horizontal sliding Cascade tunnel door, I believe the Moffat Door goes up and down. Like the Cascade it takes about 15-20 minutes to blow out all of the fumes. The tunnel also includes a smaller tunnel that carries water from west of the divide to the east to supply Denver with drinking water.

We caught up with the coal train we had been following at the Tolland siding with SP painted AC4400 #6150 as part of the helper group. 

A UP painted AC4400 #6855 was in the lead. 

Water rushing downhill along the tracks at MP 40. 

Westbound portal of Tunnel 30. That number counts upward from Denver, which is only 40 miles as the railroad flies. You can see the density of tunnels here

Tunnel 23 was one of several unlined tunnels. 

While tunnel 21 had been given a liner and end caps in 1945.