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Friday, May 22, 2015

15-05-22 PHOTOS: VTA Take Three

Every so often I end up in Sunny Downtown San Jose for a conference and in my free time I find myself looking to explore the local VTA light rail system. As far as railfanning goes the VTA is pretty lackluster with bulkhead cabs and rather plain, boxy vehicles. It also has one of the cheapest signaling systems I've ever seen, but the operators are friendly and it is certainly better than nothing. Way back in 2008 on my first visit to the city in 2008 I rode the VTA out to its farthest terminus at Santa Teresa, and the green line end to end from Mountain View to Winchester. Last year I took advantage of the new express service with a side trip on the spur to Almaden. This left only the Blue Line to Alum Rock as the only part of the VTA system I had yet to ride and when presented when another conference opportunity I knew what I had to do.

You can check out all the photos from that ride plus all sorts of others from the San Jose rail system right here and of course read on for the narrated tour.

Looking to save a fare I decided to walk down to the train station from my hotel early on the first morning, catching VTA LRV #970A on the way.

What was at the San Jose Diridon Station? Caltrain, and lots of it. Here we see MP36PH-3C #924 pushing north with a baby bullet trainset.

Gallery cab car #4001. 

My ultimate goal was to catch a northbound morning express train using gallery car equipment that I could shoot a head end video from. Caltrain is pretty consistent about using the same equipment from day to day and I wanted to see if any baby Bullets were going out gallery, like the 4:45pm train I typically catch.

Unfortunately all the gallery car trains I saw that first morning were limited to local trains. Here is a trio of F40PH's I saw pushing these locals and limited service trains, #909, #919 and #901.

Here is a video montage of that first morning's action.

On day 2 I boarded VTA LRV #980A to Alum Rock.

Like I said the VTA sucks for on-train fanning 980A is again at Alum Rock with 959B on the rear of the 2 unit train.

Alum Rock terminal interlocking. Straight departure speed is 15mph and diverging speed is the oddly specific 8mph.

Arts in transit.

Due to the pathetic photo ops at Alum Rock I got off at the Tasman junction to wait out a headway before returning back downtown. Tasman is located at the north end of the central trunk line where the Alum Rock and Mountain View lines split.

The Tasman T-junction. To the right, Blue Line to Alum the right, Green Line to Mountain View. That big red circle on the left is actually a fixed stop "signal". Also, again with the 8mph. WTF.

VTA LRV #953B headed towards Mountain View.

VTA LRV #953 triggers the GRS model 5F point machine at the Tasman Station and takes the diverging route towards Mountain View.

When the next inbound train arrived breathed a sigh of annoyance when I say it was a pull-in run terminating at Gish. Oh well, I was hungry and I took what I could get. Vehicle is VTA LRV #901B.

Operator checks the train to make sure everyone was out at Gish.

10 more minutes and I finally was able to get on a train back downtown. 943A obliged me on its way to Santa Teresa. 

Later that night I went down to Diridon Station again for some night photography. Here is Amtrak F59PHI #2001 with a Capitol Corridor train.

Capitoliner cab car #8303.

Here we have a video as Caltrain F40PH-2CAT #905 departs the San Jose Diridon Station northbound with an early evening local train to San Fransisco. Watch the approach lit signals on the northbound signal gantry at CP-SHARK light up as the train occupies the block.

Here, Caltrain F40PH-2 #902 departs the San Jose Diridon Station northbound with a deadhead move to the Caltrain yard north of the terminal area after the Gallery Car trainset had finished service for the day.

Due to a quirk in the interlocking logic a Restricting at CP-SHARK also gives the train train a Restricting indication on the dwarf at CP-ALMEDA. Also watch the approach lit signals on the northbound signal gantry at CP-SHARK light up as the train occupies the block.

Now while time constraints forced me to fly out on Delta, my preferred airline is Southwest and I managed to book a return flight out of Oakland...which provided me with an excuse to take Caltrain to San Francisco early the next morning. This time the hunt for a Gallery Car equipped express was real so I went out an hour or so early, hoping to strike gold.

Here we see a Baby Bullet trainset making a timed connection from a local arriving from Gilroy and points south

ACE commuter train arriving from Altamont with F40PH-2 #3102 on point.

The Bombardier bi-level cars purchased from Metrolink were already in service in the Baby Bullet trainsets. The capacity need was so great the cars have yet to be repainted. This example is seen here with Caltrain MP36PH-3C #928.

ACE bombardier cab car #3306.

Caltrain gallery cab car #4003 at the head of another local. I was starting to get worried at this point. If the last Baby Bullet of the morning didn't have gallery equipment I would be stuck on an all stops local...completely useless for video.

Caltrain F40PH-2C #922 propelling the limited stop local northward.

As I waited for my last shot at a pure express run video a Capitol Corridor train arrived with Amtrak F59PHI #2005.

Of course I was also taking video on my second morning at Diridon.

So...did I catch the Gallery Car train I needed for my video? Tune in next week and find out!

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