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Sunday, June 23, 2013

13-06-23 PHOTOS: Limited Enthusiasm

Well its time for the 11th and final part of my third annual cross country Amtrak Trip featuring the Southwest Chief. As in the other trips I will be once again traveling back to Washington, DC via Amtrak Capitol Limited. This year thanks to the resignaling efforts of CSX there are only a handful of B&O CPLs left for me to enjoy so as the title of this piece reflects this leg of the trip is starting to become more and more of a time kill. Nevertheless there was more than a little freight train action to keep me occupied combined with the ongoing doublestack clearance project so lets get on with the show.

You can find the full set of photos here.

We begin after breakfast at the Connellsville Amtrak station where a troop of Boy Scouts has just disembarked for a trip.

Connellsville Yard power with the old VI Tower in the background.

While this area had been re-signaled years ago GREENE JCT held out as an island of CPL signaling. Unfortunately this would be my last trip past the CPLs.

Due to a wrong camera setting I had some problems getting photos of the conga line of trains that were lined up at GREENE JCT waiting for us to clear up. I did manage to fix it in time for this long hood shot of C40-10W #5458.

Past the right of way split at Confluence I got some pictures of the clearance work inside the Brook Tunnel

The brick lining is being bored out and replaced with shotcrete. Not sure why CSX is bothering to clear the route for doublestacks. At 22mph average speed shippers know to just use NS.

West end of the single track segment at the new Fort Hill interlocking which replaced the older Shoo Fly Interlocking. This single track segment has been a bottleneck on the former B&O main line route for about 50 years now. The removal of the two tunnels it was built to accommodate will allow full double tracking.

Site of the old Shoo Fly tunnel. Was this really cheaper than just boring it out?

 Removing the Pinkerton Tunnel was just a wee bit more involved. 0.0!

Former B&O station at the Rockwood Wye.

The ex-B&O station in Myersdale, PA used to host the Capitol Limited. I am uncertain when the stop was eliminated.

Tunnel boring equipment outside the western portal to the Sand Patch tunnel.

Here we see the B&O Allegheny Summit which at 2283 feet above mean sea level is the highest of the three Allegheny crossings. The summit occurs in the middle of Sand Patch interlocking which includes a crossover with a helper pocket. While not as high as the 7000 foot summits on the Raton Pass route, the double track main line certainly lends this one more gravitas. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

13-06-22 PHOTOS: METRA UP West Chicago

Well it is intermission time in my third annual cross country Amtrak trip featuring Train 4, the Southwest Chief. This year the target of my Chicago layover was JB Tower in West Chicago where the EJE Main Line crosses the Three Track former CNW "UP West" main line at grade. However one must still eat and see old friends in the Windy Apple, not to mention kill any time waiting to eat and meet old friends. This is why there are also going to be a good deal of CTA photos included in this set.

You can view all the photos here.

We begin with a video this time. While catching a Purple Line Express for a short loop trip I discovered that the rear cabs of the 4-car trains are halved by default so I decided to catch one and film a reverse RFW video all the way from Merchandise Mart to Howard. Unfortunately I would soon discover that what would be a rocket fast express run is barely faster than a local due to mile after mile of baffling speed restriction. WTF CTA?

Returning from Howard I took still images including this one of a northbound Red Line local train with 2600-series #2878.

Northbound Purple Line express train with 2400-series #2510.

Southbound Red Line local train being passed at Sheridan.

Northbound 5000-series Red Line train at BELMONT interlocking.

Interested in what a brand new 5000-series truck looks like? Too bad. See on #5256 at Belmont.

2600-series and 5000-series Red Line trains pass at Belmont.

WTF...Red Line trains running on the Green Line? What kind of crazy mixed up world is this! Train announcement board at 35 Bronzeville IIT.

Friday, June 21, 2013

13-06-21b PHOTOS: Chicago Racetrack

Both Amtrak Trains 3/4 (Southwest Chief) and 5/6 (California Zephyr) make use of the former CB&Q main main between Galesburg, IL and Chicago and have since the Cameron Connector was built for the BN/SF merger in 1996. Last year I took a series of photos along this route which comprises the BNSF Mendota and Chicago subdivisions from the rear of Train 6. Due to the time of day, cloud conditions and a few other factors almost all my photos were compromised to such an extent with backlighting and purple tint that I didn't even bother to post them up anywhere.

This year, for the 10th pat of my cross country trip via the Southwet Chief I had a somewhat uncommon opportunity to turn the tables on the potentially disastrous afternoon lighting and also avoid shooting a duplicate set of photos. Our train happened to not be equipped with a transition sleeper behind the heritage baggage car. As a result there was a forward facing railfan window from the standard type Superliner that overlooked the roof of the baggage car. Now, this isn't a perfect RFW view and for much of any trip with such a view the window will quickly accumulate a thick coating of bug splat and exhaust soot. However in a second lucky turn of events my train encountered a massive line of rain while on the Mentoda Sub and a good hour of blasting the front window with 80mph raindrops managed to clean it of all the dirt and debris.

Therefore for the final leg of the trip between Aurora and Chicago I too photos from the front of the train. Now shooting angles were still an issue with the two engines and baggage car still in the way, but as I was looking to take pics of the surviving searchlight signal bridges the engines and car would not obstruct my view for that purpose.

You can find all the photos from this set here. If you don't like photos skip to the end for a pretty sweet video of the same material.

I tried a few practice shots approaching Galesburg where my train passed a westbound BNSF freight waiting for us to clear up at GRAHAM interlocking with C44-9W #4180 in the lead.

Fast forward to the end of the Mendota Sub after my train took the approach signal at Montgomery interlocking I got this shot of Burlington Junction SW9 #900 and GP18 #181.

Entering the Chicago Sub we were back into CBQ Searchlight territory. Here my train takes the Diverging Approach signal at AURORA interlocking.

NS ES44AC #8006 heading westbound in AURORA interlocking.

Whatever was blocking our path seems to have vanished. Clear signal at West Eola. 

Blasting down the express track in Eola yard.

For the station stop at Naperville, we crossed over on a Diverging Approach west of the station. While completing the work an outbound METRA commuter train arrived with F40PHM-2 #196 pulled in.

Taking up the express track east of the station was a westbound BNSF freight with ES44C4 #7096 on the front.

The BNSF Signal Aspect system is a strange chimera due to the merger history. In many cases the name of the signal no longer reflects how the signal is used in practice. The recent resignaling project on the line also included some interlockings being upgraded with 50mph turnouts. This results in a Y/G "Advance Approach" signal in advance of the R/G Diverging Clear. However "Advance Approach" is an Artifact Title as the rule for "Advance Approach" instructs trains to proceed preparing to enter a 50mph turnout and nothing about stopping at a second signal. I'm sure at some point on either the B, N, S or F Y/G probably did have something to do with Advance Approach as it is known on ever other railroad, but today it is almost exclusively used for 50mph turnouts. UP is much more straightforward and named their Y/G aspect "Approach Clear 50".

More CBQ searchlight signals with some Christmas Lights at East Leslie. 

MP 22 automatic searchlight signal gantry with looming replacement.

13-06-21a PHOTOS: Missouri

This week we have reached part nine of my third annual Cross Country Amtrak trip this time involving the Southwest Chief. After departing the hustle and bustle of Kansas City we reach the long "boring" stretch across the state of Missouri. This segment will cover everything starting from the Sibley Bridge and continuing through the Mississippi River crossing at Ft Madison, IA and then a bit on into Illinois.

You can find all the photos from this set by clicking here and then scrolling about a third of the way down. For those who didn't notice the first part of the set was covered in my post from last week.

Right off the bat we encounter an example of the sort of ATSF signal infrastructure that BNSF should reusing more often instead of scrapping. Oh, notice that we are back in ATS territory with a 90mph speed limit...for about 6 miles.

Near the town of Orrick we are passed by a westbound mixed freight train with C44-9W #4108 in the #2 slot.

At CA JCT we encounter the NS Kansas City District. Between here and WB JCT the line is operated under joint NS-BNSF authority with NS maintaining track #3 in the three track segment and track #2 in the two track segment. The NS line was a former Wabash route and at some point in the past the Wabash teamed up with the ATSF to save a bit of money where their main lines ran parallel to eachother.

Former ATSF station at Henrietta, MO.

At HARDIN the third NS maintained track is folded into the two track ATSF main. All tracks between WB and CA are dispatched by BNSF even if NS maintains them. You can see in this overhead view how the old Wabash main was tied into the ATSF main west of town and then how east of town the two-track line splits with one track using the Wabash alignment and the other track using the ATSF alignment. In this photo you can see the NS signal on track 2 and the BNSF signal on track 1 at HARDIN.

Ray Carroll Co-op GP9 #6550 hanging out at Norbourne, MO. This unit switches a nearby grain elevator.

The joint track area is fitted with both BNSF and NS mileposts. Here we see BNSF milepost 395 (to Chicago) at the NS MP 219 automatic signal.

The re-signaling crews were out in force at WB JCT because apparently we can have nice things.

A 4-GE lashup at the front of a doublestack train races towards the clear signal at WB JCT.

Former ATSF station at Carrollton, MO with the end of the previous intermodal train passing through the Wakenda Creek truss bridge near the MP 386 automatic signal. Note that we are back in ATS territory and that means 90mph speeds all the way to Fort Madison.

A whole lot of GE units on the wide RoW section near Bosworth. Due to a temporary speed restriction my own trains P42's let out a belch of soot as they accelerated back up to track speed.

Of course the entire line is being re-signaled with the interlockings lingering on a bit longer than the automatics. Looks like I just missed out on catching some of the former ATSF automatic signal bridges in service.

13-06-21 PHOTOS: Kansas City

It's time for part eight of my third annual Cross Country Amtrak trip this time involving the Southwest Chief. One can't take pictures at night so after a good sleep and a hearty breakfast our journey fast forwards to the Kansas City Bi-State Operating Area. I got to the back of the train as we were departing from the large BNSF Argentine Yard complex west of the city and this set will cover the trip through Kansas City and all the way until my train crosses the Missouri River.

You can find the full set of photos here

We start as our train finishes up at the fast fuel pad which I believe is the second refueling stop on the trip, the first being at Albuquerque. As this is an actual fuel pad and not just a truck the operation is completed in far less time.

BNSF C44-9W #1051 leading a train on one of the departure tracks.

A trio of Webb Asset Management geeps including aan ex-CN GP40-2W.

Freshly painted BNSF GP39E #2742 next to ATSF painted GP39-2 #2784 sitting at the Argentine yard engine terminal. #2742 is a rebuilt GP30 that involved an engine upgrade from 567 to 645 power assemblies and removal of the turbocharger in exchange for a roots blower. 

Pair of SD40-2s #'s 1721 and 1891 with #1721 in ATSF paint. The reason for so many freshly painted locomotives is that the yard is possibly due to the nearby ATSF/BNSF heavy overhaul facility in Topeka.

More engines sitting around at Argentine including Canadian Cabbed SD60M #8131, BN painted GP39E (rebuilt GP35) #2766 and NS C40-8W #8346.

UP SD70M #3792 at the east end of Argentine yard.

ATSF Warbonnet #636 also departing Argentine yard eastbound.

A few hundred yards down the track is a warbonnet sandwich with BNSF C44-9W #1105 as the meat. Unfortunately this 4-track trunk line is in the process of being resignaled.

SANTA FE JUNCTION is actually under the jurisdiction of the Kansas City Terminal railroad which knits together the many yards and main lines that make KC the third major rail hub in the center of the country. Along with Chicago and St Louis this is where trains are handed off between lines east (NS) and west (UP, BNSF). As a quasi independent operating unit the KCT has retained a number of old school features in its core interlocking complexes like pneumatic switch machines and searchlight signals. While the classic brick interlocking towers have been closed. this tower is located just a few feet to the west of the Kansas-Missouri state line.