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Saturday, October 10, 2015

15-10-10 PHOTOS: Port Jervis Line

It doesn't get much better than celebrating a wonderful Columbus Day weekend with a classic railfan road trip. After all, riding transit is best done on a weekday, when the service is frequent and express trains are running. On weekends the personal motor vehicle is the far better option for getting around. On this particular trip I enlisted the help of a fellow Subtalker to cruise around Rockland and Orange counties following the Metro North Port Jervis Line, Presented by New Jersey Transit, from Harriman all the way to Port Jervis with stops at Moodna, Hudson Jct, Middletown, Otisville and Port Jervis.

You can check out all the fall foliage tinted photos right here or keep reading for a photo-history of the Metro-North Port Jervis Line, Presented by New Jersey Transit.

The Harriman Station is located at the site of what was once known as Newburgh Junction as it was the point where the Erie RR Main Line branched off towards Middletown and points west from the Newburgh branch to Newburgh, NY. In 1908 the Erie completed the Graham Line a low grade freight cutoff that extended from the Newburgh Branch to parallel the old Main Line on an alignment 7 miles longer, but with no level crossings and drastically reduced gradients.

In 1983 the fledgling Metro-North Railroad shifted traffic off the old Erie "passenger" Main Line to the Graham Line to share costs with Conrail, who still owned and maintained the freight route as part of its Southern Tier route. The old passenger line through downtown Monroe, Goshen, Chester and Middletown was then abandoned. Here you can see the split between the old Passenger Main Line, now reduced to an industrial track, and the Graham Line at the newly rebuilt CP-HARRIMAN.

The old CP-HARRIMAN actually had the switch for the passing siding located near the south end of the single platform making it difficult for trains using the siding to discharge passengers. The rebuilt interlocking relocated the turnout a few hundred feet to the north, but left the old switch and siding stump in place as a dump track. Also left was the old Conrail vintage relay hut and Erie vintage pole line. The 1950's vintage CTC code line was once a chronic source of unreliability with routes taking as much as 20 minutes to come up after the dispatcher requested them. 

Here we see an eastbound PJL train rounding the bend at Newburgh Jct to make the Harriman Station stop. Lead vehicle is a 6700-series Comet V cab car. I don't know the exact number because MNRR is too good to put identification on the front of its rolling stock. 

Power was provided by MNRR F40PH-3C #4908, which is pooled with NJT equipment as part of the service agreement. While trains operating on the line are not strictly required to be owned by MNRR, all the trainsets I encountered were MNRR so I suspect someone sent a memo.

Here is a video of #4908 and its train departing Harriman.

Trains no longer stop at the Central Valley station, but the station still stands, now used by a fresh fish wholesaler.

Like CP-HARRIMAN, CP-CENTRAl VALLEY was recently rebuilt, but the old Erie vintage concrete relay hut still stands along with some of the old pole line.

The Moodna Viaduct is a 3200 foot long crowd pleaser spanning the Moodna Creek just south of the Salisbury Mills station. With a maximum height of 193 feet, it the highest and longest railroad trestle east of the Mississippi River. Here a westbound train crosses the viaduct with MNRR F40PH-3C #4907.

One can drive up to and under the viaduct on Otterkill Road. The viaduct was constructed between 1904 and 1908 by the Erie Railroad as part of the Graham Line and was opened for service in January 1909. Steep and curvy railroad alignments that made freight cutoffs like the Graham Line necessary were originally constructed because Engineering feats like the Moodna Viaduct were not possible using 1860's technology. Still, even in the gilded age cost was still a consideration and the Moodna viaduct was built as a single track structure.

 The bridge provides spectacular views of the valley, which in the fall becomes popular with fall foliage enthusiasts.

A vintage Erie-Lackawanna searchlight signal stands guard at the east end of the Salisbury Mills station.

Like other freight cutoffs constructed during the golden age of rail transportation, the Graham Line is completely grade separated. Here is the overpass at Shea Road. One might notice similarities with future Erie merger partner DL&W's Slateford Cutoff in northern New Jersey. 

The ongoing Port Jervis Line re-signaling effort shows the wastefulness common with public infrastructure projects. Note the difference in infrastructure between the amount of kit installed by Conrail vs that which is being installed by Metro-North. I guess if Federal taxpayers are footing most of the bill why not install backup generators at every signal location and separate huts for communication gear and interlocking equipment.

At Hudson Jct an eastbound deadhead equipment move showed up on the siding track, however with over 20 minutes until the westbound passenger train was due I decided to use the time to head to the Middletown Station instead. Note the equilateral turnout.

The Junction in Hudson Jct is from the former Lehigh and Hudson River crossing and connection. The L&HRR was a bridge line connecting the industrial Lehigh Valley region with New Englande manufacturing centers via the New Haven't Maybrook yard and Poughkeepsie bridge. The general collapse of industry in the Northeast doomed the route and today only the segment south of the PJL is used by the New York, Susquehanna and Western as part of its freight route into the NY Metro Area via the old Erie Main Southern Tier route. NYS&W freight trains join the PJL on the line to the left and run to the NS interchange at Binghamton.

ESPN B23-7 #5114 had given up its usual gig working special sports trains and was instead hauling local freight for the Middletown and North Jersey shortline railroad. The current Campbell Hall station was the site of the junction of the Erie Kington, NY branch and the Lehigh and New Englande line to Maybrook Yard. Today it is the base for local freight operations for those lines that survived the bridge route collapse.

Middletown and New Jersey pained caboose #380 was coupled up behind ESPN #5114.

MNJ GP9u #773 was sitting on the Campbell Hall engine track.

MNRR F40PH-3C #4911 arriving at Campbell Hall with a westbound PJL train.

MNRR Comet V cab car #6709 on the end of the westbound train. The second track is a non-signaled siding that ends at a hand operated switch past the freight yard and NYO&W truss bridge. The controlled part of the siding ends about 2 miles to the east at CP-HALL.

For former New York, Ontario and Western station/Headquarters still stands in downtown Middletown, NY. The NY&OW had the distinction of being the first US railroad abandoned in its entirety back in 1957 meaning that the O&W station sign has been abandoned in place for nearly 60 years!

Howells Junction is the place where the old Erie passenger Main Line re-connected with the freight Graham Line. Unlike Newburgh Junction, no obvious sign of the old passenger route remains. 

CP-HOWELLS features a rare surviving Erie RR cantilever signal for eastbound movements.

Howells Jct escaped re-signaling even in the Conrail era and retains its original Erie relay plant.

The Graham Line is 7 miles longer than the old passenger line. This resulted in a break in mileage when the two lines were merged into one. To prevent confusion with the miles that would overlap on the new and old alignments, the prefix 'SR' (for "Short Route") were added to the mileposts between CP-HOWELLS and CP-SPARROW, west of Port Jervis, indicating that they were measured via the shorter passenger main line. The original milepost, also seen here, lacks the 'SR' designation, instead showing 'JC' for Jersey City.

A Medium Clear signal was displayed on the 48R signal to route the next westbound train into the 5 mile section of double track between here and Otisville where it would pass the next scheduled eastbound. Many people consider this to be the western end of the Graham Line, however the original Erie alignment continued west of here, through the mountain gap at Otisville and then down towards Port Jervis. The Graham Line continued west through the Otisville tunnel, reaching its ultimate end on the slope towards Port Jervis. You can see how the two alignments compare here. Although the revised Port Jervis Line was 7 miles longer, the straighter alignment of the Graham Line allowed for faster speeds up to 80mph which kept total trip time virtually unchanged. 

For everyone's reference, here is a head end video clip taken on a westbound PLJ train traveling between Middletown and Otisville around 2002 showing this segment of the Graham Line. Again note the significant cuts and fills, lack of grade crossings and surviving Erie bracket signals on the two-track segment.

The small platform at Otisville includes a single duckboard extension for cross-track boarding.

The eastbound train was running on time and arrived at Otisville first with MNRR Comet V cab car #6709 in the lead.

MNRR F40PH-3C #4911 was providing power.

The 56RA searchlight signal on the other track then displayed a Clear indication for the westbound train. The Otisville tunnel was single tracked for clearance purposes back in the Erie days with an equilateral turnout on either side of the 3000 foot long tunnel. The current CP-OV reflects this in that the relay hut and eastbound signal are located on the western side of the tunnel. The new CP-OV will be located entirely on the eastern side.

It appears that the #4908 trainset I had seen earlier in the day at Harriman had finally returned.

The trapezoidal fuel tanks on #4908 and the other MNRR F40PH-3C's were a were a result of the life extension rebuild.

MNRR Comet V cab car #6713.

CP-BC in Port Jervis, NY contains another instance of the "lowest yellow" style Restricting aspect preferred by the Erie RR. Instead of using R/Y Restricting as seen in NORAC, yellow had to appear in the lowest position on a three head signal. Where the expense of a second/middle signal head was not needed, a gap could be left instead.

The foundation of what I assume was BC tower was still visible. The holes were for pipes running from mechanical levers out to the switches.

Erie painted New York and Greenwood Lake RS-3 #935 was hanging out at the old Erie engine terminal in Port Jervis.

Erie painted E-unit #836 was sitting on the still operable turntable.

Comet V #6713 and the other MNRR trainsets were laying over in the Port Jervis yard.

Located on a yard track, the Port Jervis station is even more austere than Otisville.

The two main tracks at Port Jervis are signaled under single direction Rule 251 ABS. PJL trains exiting the yard at the hand operated switch should not a Form D track warrant since breaking the track circuit and waiting the required time is sufficient to "seize" the block back to CP-BC where the train can enter CTC territory. Note the former Erie bracket signal showing Approach for main track #2. 

The entire open area in the previous photo was once occupied by the Erie's substantial Port Jervis terminal facilities including the Port Jervis Station.

Former Erie MP 87 bracket signal with the Shawangunk mountain ridge as a backdrop. Due to the extra length of the Graham Line the Port Jervis service is a whopping 95 miles, making it the longest commuter rail service in the country. The "Port" in Port Jervis stems from its position on the Delaware and Hudson canal system that brought anthracite coal down from the miles in the Delaware river watershed.

Erie bracket 87-2 in silhouette.

 Two additional MNRR Port Jervis Line trainsets sitting in the shadow of the 87-1 bracket signal.

Well that's the end of the trip! Nothing left to do except drive back and laugh at the peepers stuck in traffic on Route 6. Tune in next week for a spooooooky trip to HARRIS Tower.

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