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Friday, July 3, 2015

15-07-03 PHOTOS: Septaration

When Conrail was forcibly removed from the commuter rail business by Ronald Regan in 1983 the result in most places was a clean divestment of hundreds of track miles with no practical value to a freight railroads. However in a small handful of locations, main line freight operations continued to share track with full service commuter rail lines. One such location was in Philadelphia where parts of two SEPTA Regional Rail routes ran on Conrail's Trenton Line. Whereas prior to 1983 when Conrail commuter trains were run in between Conrail freight trains by Conrail tower operators, after 1983 Conrail trains were suddenly being dispatched by SEPTA operators whose primary focus was making sure commuters got to their destinations on time. The situation was further complicated by further agreements regarding track and wire maintenance. The result was that nobody was happy with freight sitting around waiting for slots and commuter trains sometimes left waiting for slow moving freights.

In 2008 CSX convinced SEPTA to split off its R8 Fox Chase service from the Trenton Line between CP-NEWTOWN JCT and CP-CHELTENHAM JCT by converting a shared two track line into two non-shared single track lines. This left only the 6 miles of R3 West Trenton trackage between CP-WOOD and CP-TRENT as the only shared section between SEPTA and CSX. In 2013 SEPTA sensed an opportunity provided by the ill-conceived PTC mandate to claim that their trains would not be able to run on a line equipped with CSX's PTC system. When the State of PA increased transit funding, SEPTA promptly used the windfall removing the operational inconvenience despite the fact it would reduce capacity for both passenger and freight by creating stretches of single track operation.

With the project nearing completion in the summer of 2015, I ventured out with Chuchubob to not only document some of the to be decommissioned Conrail era signaling, but also SEPTA and CSX operations on the shared Trenton Line.

We begin with CP-TRENT itself, here showing the northbound track 1 dwarf signal displaying Medium Approach for an approaching SEPTA R3 train. Work can be seen in the background on the right of way for the relocated CSX single track which would loop around the SEPTA yard. The main line crossover outside of interlocking limits was installed in 2012 as part of SEPTA's original plan that either involved a shared interlockings both here and at CP-WOOD, or didn't involve any separation at all since, unlike say rail gauge, PTC systems are not mutually exclusive. However, I guess when you're playing with house money, why not spend it.

Here we see SEPTA Silverliner IV #101 arriving at the head of a 5-car R3 West Trenton train. All trains were running on the inbound track to practice the single track future of the line. Of course SEPTA probably sees that as a positive since it will provide an excuse as to why service cannot be increased.

Here is a short video of the same train relaying on the #1 main track. The revised separation plan involved the former through tracks being converted into yard tracks and two yard tracks when being removed for the relocated CSX track. This would eliminate the ability for the SEPTA dispatcher to turn trains on the main and give them signals more favorable than Approach through West Trenton station.

SEPTA SL-IV #290 laying over on the main next to the old TRENT tower which now serves as a crew base for the terminal.

It is not uncommon for the SEPTA dispatcher to sneak CSX freights through during the mid-day lulls. Here CSX SD50 #855s leads a C40-8W at the head of a short merchandise freight train.

SL-IV headed back towards Philly and a Clear signal indication on block signal 31S. When TRENT tower was closed ~1994, Conrail installed short 1-mile block signaling between here and CP-WOOD to increase capacity. 

The first stop in Pennsylvania is Yardley where I caught SL-V #822 making its station stop before rolling past automatic signal 301S displaying a Clear indication. CSX has already removed the corresponding signal on track 2, since the removal of passenger traffic will preclude the necessity of short signal blocks. 

The SEPTA Yardley substation uses vintage components that date back to the 1930's. 

A new interlocking was under construction at Yardley for a restored third track to run between there and CP-WOOD to give SEPTA back some of the double track capacity that was being lost. Between here and Neshaminy Falls, the origional Reading RoW was 4 tracks wide (with all 4-tracks under wire), only shrinking to two to accomidate the Delaware River bridge. 

At the Edgewood Rd crossing, Bob and I found the SEPTA wire train with Comarrow I cab car #610.

SEPTA BL15 switcher #51 was powering the wire train.

Outbound R3 West Trenton train passing the wire train with SL-IV #109 in the lead.

The intermediate signal at MP 29 will be the only signal on the new CSX track between CP-WOOD and CP-TRENT, replacing 4 previous block signal locations. The old track 1 signal has been moved to the right of the new track 1 and fitted with a doll arm to indicate a track intervening between itself and the one governed by the signal. When the project is complete the wayside automatic signals will be removed with the line run entirely by cab signals.

Here the same outbound R3 train with SL-IV #291 passed by the signals. Note the mounting points for the old Reading signals on the catenary gantry in a 2+2 Rule 251 ABS configuration.

MP 28 signal at Stony Hill Rd displaying a Clear indication for an approaching SEPTA train. This is also the distant signal for CP-WOOD.

SEPTA SL-IV #139 crossing Stony Hill Rd.

At CP-WOOD, work was under way to straight rail the CSX Trenton Line with a nort-facing connection to the SEPTA CP-WOOD to accomidate local freights and NS trains heading on and off the Morrisville Line. Meanwhile, further north in NJT country, there has been no similar bellyaching about the joint Raritan Valley Line - Conrail Lehigh Line trackage. 

The separation project won't change the status of the holdout stations on the West Trenton line south of CP-WOOD. Trains will continue to board and discharge across active tracks, as SL-IV #331 is seen doing here, between Woodbourne and Neshaminy Falls.

As I waited at Woodbourne, a northbound CSX freight appeared with C44-10W #5345 and AC6000 #689.

As if 10000hp wasn't enough, CSX SD40-2 #8160 was in the mix to lend a hand.

Finally here is a video montage of all the signal action I captured that day.

Next week tune in as I hit up the former Conrail Pittsburgh Line in its namesake city.

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