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Monday, December 29, 2014

14-12-29 VIDEOS: SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip XIV

Well my web hosting is down for maintenance this week, but that doesn't matter because it's time for a Video episode and YouTube will be up and reliable even after the cockroaches have gone belly up. The subject of this video episode is the 14th Annual SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip, as seen in last week's still gallery.

In year's past I had always had to choose between shooting videos and shooting still because I only had one camera and, perhaps more importantly, one set of hands. Well that limitation has been lifted with my recent purchase of a GoPro Hero 3+ HD camera. Using its suction cup mount combined with a Silverliner V's railfan window I am able to get that up front view without needing to zoom or incurring the wrath of the crew. Also this videos are shot in 1080p HD, instead of the usual 720p generated by my still camera.

As you might remember, this year's trip ventured from Center City to Lansdale to Doylestown and then back to Wayne Jct. Originally catching a Silverliner IV train at Market East we were forcibly upgraded to an SL-V train at Temple University where my first video begins. I should mention that the sound track contains commentary from the MWT-14 participants so think of it as a bonus feature XD

Before we begin with the MWT content, I shot some test footage from the rear of an early morning PATCO train running from Haddonfield to Lindenwold. I was hoping to GoPro an inbound express run, but unfortunately due to a screwup I had the GoPro in single shot mode and failed in my attempt. Oh well, I guess there's next year :-\

The next video runs from Temple University through to Jenkintown with an unfortunate stop at North Broad...for some reason. However that is partly made up for with an express run between Fern Rock and Jenkintown. Sorry for the rattling noise, this was my first time using the suction mount.

Continuing on our outbound SL-V train makes the run from Jenkintown to Lansdale.

While the outbound train on the Doylestown Branch was SL-IV stock, the return trip brought forth another set of SL-V's. Here is a full video run down the branch from Doylestown to Lansdale.

Continuing on our inbound train runs from Lansdale to Glenside.

And finally Glenside to Wayne Junction. It's the next best thing to being there!

Now I wasn't planning to video the MFL, but I was presented with a rear facing RFW so why the hell not! It wasn't a full recording because the barrery died and then the mount kept falling off the window so that's the reason for all the jump cuts.

After transferring to a Route 10 trolley (by way of Fern Rock), I once again stuck my camer onto a window, this time facing out the back as our SEPTA K-car traveled from 19th St all the way to 63rd and Malvern. Fun times!

Just because the trip is over doesn't mean my work is finished. Here I travel back with David Greenburger and his father on their way to Woodscret where they parked and rode. I alighted early when the train reached Haddonfield.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed all the videos. The GoPro is a really amazing little gizmo that will ensure a steady stream of front and rear railfan window for your viewing pleasure.

14-12-29 PHOTOS: SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip XIV

Always feels a bit funny when I am posting the MWT photo set in the middle of summer, although I did manage to beat the six month mark ;-) Anyway, for those who remember this year's MWT returned to Doylestown for the first time since the very first MWT all the way back in the year 2000. The time commitment to get all the way out to the end of the R5 always discouraged me from adding it to the itinerary, however by including a headway long photo stop at Lansdale and then using D-town as the lunch stop everything worked out. The rest of the trip included a stop at Wayne Jct, a trip on the Route 75 and finally a Route 10 trip out to Overbrook to return via the PRR leg of the R5.

This was the first year with my new GoPro camera which I was able to use to great effect both on the railfan window of our Silverliner V equipped trains and also the MFL and Route 10 vehicles. You can find all the still photos here, but stay tuned for the video in a separate post.

Starting out on a reverse peak train to Lansdale, our Silverliner V threaded its way past the Huntington conga line of trains waiting to cram their way into Roberts Yard to pay over until the evening rush. Here we see an inbound train with SL-V #864 passing the backup on track #1 including SL-IV #144.

The train with #144 was actually third in line to enter the yard...hence the term.

Back in that first MWT the small group of 4-6 people managed to get invited into the cab of the Silverliner IV on the trip up. This time our SL-V provided the railfan view for "free". Here we see SL-IV #184 at the Wayne Jct double slips.

Having arrived at Lansdale I grabbed this shot of SL-V #882 on the rear of our train as it leads off to Link Belt.

The inbound train with SL-IV #412 soon arrived from the same intermediate terminal.

In the Lansdale freight yard a variety of Penn Northern power was laying over. Penn Northeastern hauls local freight on the SEPTA-owned former Reading Bethlehem Branch. Here is former CN GP-9RM #7210.

Also hanging out was a properly painted PN SD40-2W #5342.

Friday, December 26, 2014

PHOTOS 14-12-26: High Line Phase III

With the partial opening of Phase III of the New York Central High Line it was time to plan another trip to New York City to photograph it. Usually during the holiday season I am in an around the city for Nostalgia Train purposes, but this year I was interested in a bit better transit service and to hook up with some fellow Subchatters who prefer to spend their weekends outside the city limits, so I scheduled my trip for Boxing Day instead.

My secondary mission on this trip was to photograph some of the surviving interlocking towers on Metro North property due to some recent rumblings about demolition and I was able to cover both the former New York Central MO tower in Mott Haven and the former New Haven SS22 in New Rochelle. You can find both the tower and High Line photos in one gallery, right here

We begin with southbound RiverLINE LRV #3501a arriving at the Bordentown Station. With its $1.50 fare and free parking, even traveling with 2 people is cheaper than paying to park at Hamilton.

Who’s that hiding off to the side at Trenton? Why that’s SEPTA AEM-7 #2306 with its bomber trainset. Due to the quasi holiday SEPTA was operating a modified timetable that did without the express runs.

MO Tower, situated at a wye junction en route to a major downtown terminal, is likened to the ZOO tower of New York City. Prior to the 1970’s the tower also controlled the Central’s Mott Haven coach yard complex which was located to the north and was since overbuilt by housing towers. The tower was closed during the 1980’s resignaling projects and was boarded up about 10 years ago when the C&S forces were moved into trailers.

Like most late model Central interlocking towers, MO was equipped with a GRS Model 5 pistol grip type interlocking machine. These machines were not very space efficient compared to the US&S counterparts resulting in rather bloated lever counts which in turn required very long towers. Note the Central era tower placards still denote the proper name of the interlocking.

Of course more than a few trains did pass by the area while I was taking pictures of the tower. Here Shoreliner I #6213 brings up the rear of an outbound push-pull trainset on track 1. I think many of the push-pulls were deadheads to Hibridge Yard as they tended to stop on track 1 for a while before continuing on.

One such trainset was hauled by P32AC-DM #216 with Shoreliner IV cab car #6221.

Inbound push-pull trainset with Shoreliner III cab car #6304 and P32AC-DM #208.

A few M-2/4/6 trainsets could still be found serving the morning rush.

But M7’s were by far the norm.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

14-12-04 PHOTOS: Aurora Express

Early last December I was presented with an oppurtunity to take a supplimentary trip to Chicago and since it involved a rare (for me) weekday hotel stay I finally had a chance to get some video of a METRA Aurora Line express run. Like the LIRR and NJT, METRA now runs a zoned express service on its popular Aurora Line. The outermost zone starts at Aurora and makes only two additional stops at Route 59 and Napperville before running express all the way into Union Station. Of course getting out to Aurora in time for even the final such express departure at 8:06am takes a bit of doing, especially when I was coming in from near O'Hare airport. Fortunately, in order to position sufficient trainsets for its aggressive service MERTA must make use of frequent reverse peak express trains and the 7:01am departing outbound train departing Union Station which would turn for the 8:06 ran express all the way to Downers Grove giving me two runs for the price of one.

Of course I didn't stop there. After arriving back in Chicago I hoofed it over to the Van Buren St station where I caught an Electric Line train to the Riverdale stop which was then only a short walk away from the famous Dolton Junction, a manned tower with the last pure mechanical interlocking machine in North America. Capping everything off I managed to get quite a bit of railfan view action on the return METRA Electric train.

You can find the exciting full set of photos here.

We begin with a reverse railfan view of the outbound express run between Cicero and Dowers Grove.

At Belmont we pass an inbound train on Track 3 with F40PH-3 #112 pushing on the rear.

Lisle is the first station in the second service zone and an empty trainset with two F40PHM-2's providing power is loading passengers beofre its scheduled departure.

In the Eola yard area, some of the few remaining CBQ era searchlight signals on the line are slated for removal. The signal on track 3 is displaying Stop and Proceed after the passage of another inbound METRA train. Trains not short turning at one of the intermediate terminals run empty from the Yard in Aurora.

My ride for the inbound and outbound trips was gallery cab car #8588.

I had originally planned to use my new GoPro, but I forgot some of the mounting hardware and my normal camera provides for nicer looking videos. I filmed the entire run from Aurora, cutting out the dwell time at Route 59 and Naperville. Upon departing Naperville the train developed a fault in the MU line between the cab car and the engine and had to reboot the locomotive to clear it up. From there the ride was uneventful, but the late am departure meant a derth of conflicting traffic and we were routed straight 3 all the way into the Union Station complex.

After getting back I made my way across town to the Van Buren St station on the Electric Division. Having previously used the Randolph Street terminal, I was surprised by the ornate decoration and passenger flow infrastructure located at a station that is completely invisible from street level.

My electric train of classic Highliners soon arrived and I was off to Riverdale.

DOLTON JCT is a large at-grade crossing of the Indiana Harbor Belt, B&O Chigaco Terminal, the PRR's Panhandle Route and the Chicago and Eastern Indiana. Today the PRR Line has been ripped out and the C&EI is owned by Union Pacific. Here we can see the tower looking east along the B&O route. 

When I arrived, a train on the Union Pacific with CSX power was waiting to proceed over the 2x4 set of diamonds. In short order it resumed its journey with C40-8W #7764 and #7802.

The large interlocking tower was constructed in 1943 using a 172 lever US&S mechanical lever frame salvaged from elsewhere as a war emergency measure. In it's prime the plant could boast 20 diamonds, and although that number has since shrunk to 10, it is still enough to resist the forces of automation. More information about the interlocking tower and plant can be found here

Sunday, November 30, 2014

14-11-30 PHOTOS: Halethorpe Holiday

While the day before Thanksgiving 2014 brought cold wet and snow, the Sunday after brought sunshine, extra trains and NJT Arrow III trainsets venturing well south of Trenton. Previously I had looked to a field adjacent to the NEC at the end of Runway 10, but recently Airport police have started kicking people out of that area so I needed to find a new location. The obvious choice was the new MARC Halethorpe station that now features long high level platforms, signals at one end and weekend commuter train service.

You can check out the full set of photos here.

I was on station from about 2:30 PM to 5PM in order to catch both NJT trainsets. A group of young railfans was also on hand to check out the action. First up is some sort of southbound Regional hauled by ACS-86 #611.

A 100mph PSR "scab board" was hanging in the catenary for a curve south of the station.

WINANS interlocking is in service on tracks 1 and 'A' and marks the southern end of the 4-track section between here and BRIDGE. Previously most MARC trains would stay in track 1 and platform across track 'A', which was mostly used by local freight and some MARC locals. With high level platforms this move is now impractical and all stopping trains must negotiate the 45mph diverging move at WINANS and the associated 2 mile speed penalty approaching it. The smart thing would have been to install an 80mph turnout, but as you know there's never enough $$ to do things right the first time.

Passing northbound Acela train #2248 with power cars #2023 and #2025.

Southbound Regional with AEM-7 #921 on track 3.

Southbound MARC local #487 with bi-level cab car #7854. MARC service on Sundays is on a 2 hour headway.

ACS-86 #606 with southbound Norfolk Regional #157.

Holiday Extra #1057 showed up only about 20-30 minutes late with NJT Arrow III #1462 leading. Unfortunately I blew the subsequent meet with a northbound MARC local.

 MARC MP36PH-3C #23 and cab car #7855 on either end of northbound MARC local #486.

Southbound AX #2251 approaching with #2017 on track 3.

Followed shortly by northbound AX #2266 passing by on track 1 with #2016 on the rear.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

14-11-26 PHOTOS: Levittown

It has been a long running tradition of mine to head out with Chuchubob for some NEC railfanning on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Typically there are some Amtrak extra trains running along with generally increased consists. Unfortunately this year an early winter storm created hazardous driving conditions so I hit upon the idea of taking SEPTA Regional Rail to the Levittown (Pennsylvania) Station on the NEC to catch the mid-day parade of trains.

Originally planning to stay for two SEPTA R7 headways, the cold and general miserableness caused Bob to throw in the towel after just a single hour. Also the poor photographic conditions resulted in most of my product being in the form of a video montage. Still I have enough photos to throw up a full set. You can find the link to the full gallery here.

We begin at Levittown having just slighted from SEPTA Silverliner IV #352 as it stares at the 632 automatic signal.

Bringing up the rear was Silverliner IV #421.

The Levittown station was built along with the stereotype suburban community in the 1950's.

Tunnel bored under the NEC. I still don't see why this method of crossing the tracks is less preferable than building those stupid overpasses with the elevators on each end. 

The station interior was already in the holiday spirit. Unfortunately SEPTA can only afford to staff the station for a single shift and the agent was already in the process of locking the place up a little after noon.

One headway later outbound SEPTA R7 pulls in with SL-IV #458 in the lead.

The slanted platform canopy shares a design with the Curtis Park station on the R2.

Having laid over in Trenton, our outbound trainset returns with SL-IV #421 now in the lead.

Like I said, due to the poor weather conditions, all of the Amtrak action was captured on video that I then spliced together into a handy Montage. Sorry I don't have information on which train was which, but Amtrak was running out of order so Bob was only able to figure out what was what after the fact. Note the amount of snow on the front of the now training Metroliner cab car that was leading in from Harrisburg. This illustrates the location of the rain-snow line west of the city. Also note the difference in brightness between the AEM-7's traditional headlamps and the new LED headlamps on the ACS-86.