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Sunday, May 24, 2015

15-05-24 PHOTOS: Hudson River Walk

Ok, I know I am rather late to the party on this one, but I finally had a chance this past Memorial Day to head on up to Poughkeepsie and take a walk over the Mighty Hudson on the former New Haven Railroad Highlands Bridge. My trip also involved a ride on the Metro-North Hudson Line to Croton-Harmon as well as a return trip via Amtrak's Empire service to Poughkeepsie. I would also like to thank fellow Subchatters Alex and Amanda for hosting me on this adventure.

Photos of the trip can be seen here.

I kicked off my journey catching Regional Train 162 hauled behind ACS-86 #622.

Hudson Line express service on the weekend is the province of diesel hauled trains and mine was no exception. Here is Shoreliner IV cab car #6313 in the trailing position as the train departs for points north.

M7 MU's #4093 and #4229 hanging out with friends in the Croton yard. 

P32AC-DM #203 and #222 hanging out under the sanding tower at Croton.

Fromt of M7 #4209.

P32AC-DM #226 passing in front of HM tower.

CDoT owned Shoreliner I cab car #6223 in the trailing position as it heads into the ready service yard. Note the mis-matched lettering with one being in the new old Penn Central font. 

The Walkway over the Hudson added a few historical touches like this old searchlight signal.

The bridge provided an excellent view of the stored MNRR P32AC-DM trainsets. In residence that day were #'s 224, 205, 209, 216 and NH painted 229.

View of the Mid-Hudson bridge from the walkway.

It's pretty amazing how well the bridge has held up over the years despite all the deferred maintenance. God bless 19th century over engineering. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

15-05-23 VIDEOS: Caltrain Morning Express

For years I had been trying to get a good railfan video of a Northbound Caltrain Baby Bullet express. Usually I catch the 4:45 train departing San Jose as it consistently runs with gallery car equipment instead of the railfan un-friendly Bombardier coffin cars. However, on two previous occasions my video attempts were less than successful. Between 2006 and 2012 I was limited by my standard def camera. When I upgraded that I was thwarted by dirty front windows that made for generally poor videos.

This time I was catching a flight out of Oakland which provided me with an opportunity to catch a morning express run. However, as I mentioned before, I had no idea which of the trains would run with Gallery Car stock. For two mornings I staked out the San Jose Diridon Station, watching the morning rush and each time I encountered only Bomber trainsets. On the day of my departure I was down to the last run of the morning and I had to make a choice between catching a limited stop semi-express train or rolling the dice on the lst Baby Bullet. Failure would mean no railfan window (and a wasted trip) or an all-stops local. Still, Caltrain only has so many Baby Bullet trainsets so my luck had to improve.

Desperate for some degree of inside information I asked the conductor of the fimal semi-express train if the next Baby Bullet would have Gallery car or Bombardier equipment. He didn't know, but went ahead and made a call, informing me that the last train of the morning would indeed have Gallery Cars. So nearly 7 years after I first started trying to make a quality Caltrain RFW video I finally succeeded. Enjoy.

After transferring to BART I rode across the bay to the Coliseum station where instead of transferring to the AirBART bus, I would complete my journey on the $400 million AirBART...cable car? That's right, it looks like that someone in the capitol planning department used the April 1st version of the RPF because instead of building some sort of monorail or people mover to connect the rail transit station and the Oakland Airport, AirBART is a modern day cable car built by a European ski lift maker. Here is a video of the complex switch mechanism throwing over at the Coliseum terminal.

The AirBART cable cars work just like most other airport people movers, just instead of using electric motors, it uses a cable running between the rails. Cars automatically change cables at each end of the terminal and then again at the power house in the middle of the run. You can see how it works in this 8 minute video that captures a westbound run.

Well, that's it for my supplemental video post.

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.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

15-05-07a PHOTOS: H-Minus

Well a rear end ride from Washington to Selma via the RF&P and A-Line was going to be hard to beat and yeah, even though the crew change was in Raleigh, NC, extending my rear end pass for a few more lines, the former Southern Railway H-Line between eastern NC and Greensboro lacks both the traffic and the railroad infrastructure of the CSX route. However I did spot a few trains in addition to all of the capacity improvements that are currently being constructed courtesy of NCDoT. To make sure you aren't bored I'll also throw in photos and videos from Greensboto, Gainesville and Washington, DC.

You can find all of these photos right here.

We begin with a view of the Selma, NC station and diamond crossing where the Southern crosses the Seaboard.

 With my better camera position I was able to take better photos of the signals, not that it did much good given that about 10 years ago the entire line was partly rebuilt to support multiple passenger round trips per day. Here is POWHATAN interlocking at Milepost 100 (from Greensboro). Prior to the rebuild I believe that the line was run under Rule 271 (TWC-ABS) with manually operated sidings.

Although the state services stop at Raleigh, NS demanded that the state pay for a new passing siding just east of town so that freight trains had somewhere to hold clear of the to-be-built Raleigh Station complex. 

You can see why the siding was requested as an NS road-slug pair with slug #700 hangs out with its life partner, GP40-2 #3102 on an industrial lead waiting for our train to pass.

Between Raleigh and Fetner NS has trackage rights over the former Seaboard S-Line. Here we are looking once again through two panes of tinted back at the Raleigh skyline and the famous diamond crossing at Boylan.

Just west of Fetner work has started on curve and level crossing elimination.

Work is also progressing on the new Clegg siding, curve reduction and crossing elimination project.


The new Durham passenger station was opened on the north (left) side of the tracks, replacing an older multi-modal bus station to the south.

At Mebane, NC we passed an eastbound freight in the hole with NS SD60 #6626 an a 9xxx-series GE unit for power.

Signal problems at MEBANE interlocking required us to get talked by a Stop signal. Some local railfans were on hand with their scanners to document the situation. 

15-05-07 VIDEOS: Train 79 GoPro

So last week I threw up my videos from a vestibule ride taken on Train 79 between Alexandria and Selma. However thanks to my capitol upgrade I am now able to offer both stills and video taken at the same time. With a suction cup mount and sufficient batteries I can stick up my GoPro on the rear window and let it record as I shoot away with my regular camera or just sit in my seat using Amtrak's WiFi. On this run I was able to capture the entire RF&P Sub and about half of the A-Line between Richmond and Selma. I would have taken more, but GoPro cameras eat battery power like candy and despite having a total of 5 batteries they were pretty much drained by the time we turned onto NS.

We start off at Alexandria, VA, departing southbound as Train 20, the Crescent, performs its station work on the opposite track. Unfortunately I had another issue with a corrupted video file transfer and then a later file transfer that resulted in the loss of the original file so most of this video between Alexandria and Qhantico lacks audio. Look for the work on the new third track as the train approaches Quantico.

Continuing on from Quantico to Fredericksburg, the third track work continues down to about the location of ARKENDALE interlocking.

Between Fredericksburg and Doswell, VA we pass by additional third track work and the site of the new VRE Spotsylvania Station. Eventually we are forced to stop and wait at NORTH DOSWELL for northbound traffic as one track is blocked for MoW work. By this point I was making a better effort to get the radio chatter on the video.

Once we had the railroad again Train 79 crossed over the Doswell diamond and proceeded towards Richmond via the street running in Ashland, VA (where Train 79 does not stop).

If you read my trip report you'll remember that I mentioned how between Richmound and Petersburg I was all excited to have caught the Strates carnival train, but later discovered I had left the lens cap on. Well here is that video presented as an audio adventure. My recommendation is to run it in parallel with the video that lacks audio ;-)

Given battery constraints I wanted to be able to record coherent chunks of the route and there was just no way I would have enough juice to last the hour or more from Petersburg to Rocky Mount. So I decided to capture the chunk between Rocky Mount and Selma, but to help ease battery issues on future runs I also recorded the segment between Petersburg and Collier Yard. Note the new BX interlocking where the Amtrak Norfolk Regional branches off to Norfolk.

Starting up again at Rocky Mount we enter the South End sub and pass by the Rocky Mount Yard on the way to Voit Wilson, NC on the 2-track main line.

It's back to mostly single track in our last video of the day we head to Selma, NC where Train 79 turns off onto the former Southern Railway H-Line. I had a little problem with the battery dying just minutes before we reached Selma, so that's what the odd jump cut is about.

Hope you liked the videos. Look for more in the future covering the Amtrak Shore Line between Old Saybrook and Boston.

15-05-07 PHOTOS: A-Plus

For the last 6 years I have been making a bi-yearly trek down to Georgia to visit an old college friend who had wound up getting stuck down there. Ever since the first trip I have taken a somewhat circuitous route using Train 79, the Carolinian, to first travel to Greensboro, NC then transferring to Train 19 the Crescent. Well on the verge of having these trips go on hiatus due to a change in my friend's employment status I was finally provided with an opportunity to ride in the rear vestibule instead of having to shoot through two panes of glass. Sure I had been able to snag some quality shots here and there, but this would give me one last chance to survey a route that I have sort of surveyed to death, albeit in grainy and tinted form.

You can see all the photos from my ultimate trip down the CSX RF&P Sub and A-Line right here.

As always we start with a power change as ACS-86 #609 was replaced by P42DC #115 while workers load up a Viewliner II baggage car.

In a second first for this trip I discovered Viewliner II baggage car #61034 taking the place of the run down Heritage baggage car I had grown accustomed to.

At the opposite end of the platform Amtrak AEM-7AC #918 was hanging out in photographic distance from MARC HHP-8 #4912.

Passing the northbound Crescent Train 20 at Alexandria with P42DC #147 on point and Viewliner II baggage car #61021 on the rear.

Phase IV heritage painted P32-8W #515 and autoracks at the Lorton AutoTrain terminal.

The groundwork is being laid for the new VRE Potomac Shores station north of Quantico.

Nearby the RoW was being expanded for the third track project that will help alleviate congestion between CSX freights and passenger trains.

At Fredericksburg, FB interlocking was being expanded to handle the improved VRE service while a classic RF&P interlocking tower looks on.

VRE trains have always traveled about 5 miles beyond Fredericksburg to XR interlocking where the the layover yard is located, but that distance will be wasted no longer with the new Spotsylvania Station.

We were stopped for about 10 minutes north of Doswell to allow a pair of trains to clear a section of single track running between there and Elmont. The second train was a CSX stone run with SD40-2 #8376.

The tower and diamonds at Doswell.

High railer at ELMONT.

CSX road power, including C40-8W #7396 at Acca yard.

Remote control capable yard engine SD40-2 #8256.