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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

14-05-20 PHOTOS: VTA Express

The last time I was in San Jose back in 2008 I made ample use of the region's ample Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail system. Built at throughout the 1990's .Com boom, the VTA Light Rail has seen some of its fortunes decline as the city he was meant to serve failed to see the growth that was anticipated. Even with housing prices exploding in nearby San Francisco, the second tech boom of today has failed to make the city less of a ghost town after hours because for some reason Google workers would want to pay more and drive more to live at the opposite end of the bay.

Well this year a conference that I attended last year moved to San Jose this year to reduce costs and that meant I would have the better part of the week to get out and see what fun I could make a fairly typical and bland light rail system. spoiler alert, there wasn't much I could do, however the VTA did provide convenient connections to the San Jose Diridon Station, home of Amtrak and Caltrain, as well as the Caltrain Tamien station south of the city. The one interesting thing the VTA itself had to offer was an extress service running from the Ohlone-Chynoweth station on the Santa Teresa Line north along the CA 87 corridor to downtown. I was able to try the express run for myself by getting up sufficiently early to make it down to Ohlone-Chynoweth and then catch the express train back.

You can find the full set of photos here

I'll begin at the San Jose Diridon Station which is one of the southern termini for the Caltrain service as well as Amtrak's Capitol Corridor. Here we see Caltrain F40PH-2CAT #901 sitting next to Amtrak F59PHI #2006. Apparently the F59PHI fleet got some sort of ECO Engine rebuilding even thought they were already equipped with 12-710's.

Here is MPI built F40PH-2C #922 also laying over at Diridon. With a build date of 1998 this was probably one of the last F40's ever made.

Well this is odd. Apparently Amtrak has taken to using P32-8WHs on the Coast Starlight. #510 sits behind P42DC #206 along with Heritage baggage car #1237.

Here is a video of a little three way I caught at the end of the San Jose platform. First a departing northbound Caltrain local departs track #5 and lights up the Christmas tree signal gantry at CP-SHARK. Next to it a Caltrain deadhead powered by F40PH-2CAT #916 heads back towards the Caltrain yard north of the station on track #6 under Restricting signals. Finally the aforementioned Amtrak Train 14 arrives on track #1.

Same Train 14 departing under an Advance Approach indication at CP-JULIAN CP-SHARK.

Here we see VTA LRV #914 about to depart Ohlone-Chynoweth towards San Jose. The signals at this station were interlocked with the pedestrian crossing protection.

Here is a little video montage of operations at Ohlone-Chynoweth including the arrival and departure of Almaden shuttle trains.

LRV #938 was on Almaden Shuttle duty. The ~1 mile spur serves a major mall and residential area south of where the Blue Line curves off to continue its route down a freeway median.

Specially wrapped "Express Service" LRV #995 pulls into Ohlone-Chynoweth. Hmmm, wonder if they have had trouble with people mistaking it for a local. The service runs express all the way to the convention center.

Here's a good place to insert a montage of some videos I took downtown.

The VTA uses some of the cheapest signaling I have ever seen. There is no reverse direction signaling, there is no ATC, no ATC, no cab signaling and not even providing for reverse direction signals...even at interlockings. A fixed reflector is used instead.

I went back to Ohlone-Chynoweth later that afternoon for better lighting. Here is an inbound Blue Line train with LRV #957 entering the station.

LRV #938 again at the Almaden terminal.

Why does the VTA suck to railfan? Nuff said.

Back at Ohlone-Chynoweth shuttle LRV #938 prepared to depart past a Y/L Diverging Approach signal.

VTA LRV #999 at the Tamien Station.

The Tamien station serves as a terminus for a number of Caltrain trains. The single island platform serves one station track and one main track. The Tamien station was built in 1992 along with the Santa Teresa light rail line from which a direct connection is provided. In addition to a storage yard south of the city some of the trainsets layover on the station tracks. Here is a video of one "Baby Bullet" set following by a standard set stuffing themselves into the station track.

Here is a still photo of Bombardier coffin car #112 at the end/front of the first trainset.

Here is gallery cab car #4024. 

Baby Bullet trainset as seen from the light rail station with purple trees and mountains in the background.

Southbound VTA LRV #991 facing a Clear signal at Tamien. Max speed is 55mph.

Alum Rock bound LRV #945 at Tamien.

Amtrak Capitol Corridor cab car #8309 at San Jose Diridon.

Here again is the Caltrain yard deadhead move departing San Jose Diridon as Amtrak Train #14 arrives and then departs.

The next morning on my way to the airport I visited Diridon station again. Here we see a trainset departing towards Gilroy or Tamien.

F40PH-2CAT #917 sitting on track #5.

Another Capitol Corridor cab car #8312.

F40PH-2CAT #918 arriving from points north.

North end of platform 3 with Baby Bullet cab car #116 and gallery cab car #4012.

MP36PH-3C #927 on track #4.

Time for one more Caltrain video with two northbound trains departing.

We wrap things up in San Jose with #917 again pushing towards a clear signal at CP-SHARK.

While yes that is all from San Jose, the trip is over until I get home from the airport. Here is another video montage of late night trains at the BWI Rail Station. Amtrak HHP-8 #653 arrives with a northbound Regional and waits around while a southbound MARC local with MP36PH-3C #35 platforms on track #3. Then a southbound Regional blasts through the station with AEM-7 #907 before a northbound MARC local finally stops with MP36PH-3C #22 and cab car #7848.

Next week I am off due to my 4th annual transcontinental Amtrak trip, but wen I do return you can all expect a trip to Manassas, VA...or something involving a big wall collapse.

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