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Saturday, April 30, 2016

16-04-30 PHOTOS: Baltimore Trenches

The topography of Baltimore is oddly hilly as the Chesapeake Bay runs right up to the interior highlands instead of rippling around the coastal plain as is the case elsewhere along the NEC. Moreover, the position of the harbor forces the nominally north-south railroads to cut east-west across the local drainage profile, resulting in the various trenches and tunnels that the city has become famous for. Here are some photos taken along the former B&O Baltimore Belt Line, around Penn Station and on the northern half of the light rail line.

Because of the stiff grade and frequent tunnels, the Baltimore Belt Line was the site of the world's first main line electrification back in 1896, with electric locomotives assisting steam engines between Camden Yards to Clifton Park to reduce the amount of smoke in the confined spaces. Back in 2014, a retaining wall along 26th Street in Baltimore collapsed onto the tracks and while the railroad was operational within 48 hours, the street took nearly a year to fix as the city had to dig down to track level and pour new concrete foundations to fix a chronic sinkhole problem that was the root cause of the collapse. Here is the reuilt street and retaining wall adjacent to the single track main line.

Here we see brand new CSX ET44AC #3269 emerging from the Charles Street tunnel. This is basically a Tier IV emissions compliant ES44AC, which may assist with some tactical smoke and soot issues, but will only make carbon friendly rail transportation less compeditive with road vehicles.

Here you can compare #3269 with C40-8W #7331. The ET44's have several times the cooling capacity to service the intercoolers needed to reduce the tempature of the charge air to reduce NOx and a particiulate filter fitted to the exhaust stack. It is no wonder that NS has chosen to rebuild older units than put up with the EPA's bullshit. 

Speaking of rebuilt units, here is CSX SD40-3 #6507 being towed behind the two road units to some new yard assignment. Note the remote control lights.

Later on a pair of eastbound CSX C40-10W's, #5265 and #5307 emerged from the Charles Tunnel 

Another C40-10W, #5434, passed by in the trailing position of a westbound train.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

16-04-16 PHOTOS: New Brunswick

In late 2011, WB tower in Brunswick, MD was closed and the interlocking there was rebuilt. A recent hiking trip to Harper's Ferry was the first opportunity I had to return to Brunswick, MD and check out the changes. During the week Brunswick is a busy stop and terminal on the MARC Brunswick line. During the weekend it is popular with outdoors types looking to to cycling on the C&O Canal trail or boating on the Potomac River. Railroad wise it is the defacto CSX freight terminal for the Washington, DC area and also hosts a major MARC serving and storage facility.

You can see the full set of photos here.

Harpers Ferry, WV sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and was an early industrial hub, hosting a government small arms production facility up until the Civil War. There are three railroad crossings of the Potomac in evidence today. The easternmost was the original alignment and today exists only as piers. In 1868, after a total of 9 wooden bridges were destroyed during the war, an iron Bollman Truss bridge was built and served until 1894. At that point the middle steel truss bridge replaced it. Later in 1930 that in turn was supplanted by the girder bridge which also eliminated a sharp curve through the station area. The 1894 bridge continues to support the CSX Shenandoah Sub as well as the Appalachian trail.

While hanging out on the Maryland Heights, an eastbound manifest train with CSX ES44AC's #704 and 820 passed underneath. While the heights offers an excellent view, parking is extremely limited and it helps to get there as early as possible before the tourists arrive.

Located about 6 miles to the east, the town of Brunswick still hosts a classic B&O train station that still functions in its intended capacity on weekdays for the commuter service to Washington, DC.

The old interlocking plant utilized pneumatic switch machines which were somewhat resistant to the occasional Potomac River flood. The new plant also made sure to elevate the critical interlocking hardware. Also, in an effort to simplify the logic for trains existing the yard an automatic exit signal was provided on main track #1. It is currently displaying Approach Medium for a stop at WEVERTON interlocking. 

Since the B&O main line tracks sandwich the yard and the MARC parking lot, a second platform is provided for inbound tracks. Outbound trains stop in front of the station building.

CSX ET44AH #3355 and AC4400 #349 lay over in Brunswick Yard.

 Also in the yard was CSX AC4400 #69, fittingly seen from the rear, and GP38-2 #2803.

Because of the MARC operations, WB tower was the last tower on the old B&O main line east of Pittsburgh to close. Not only could CSX defray the cost of the tower by billing it to MARC, they also correctly assumed that the state would eventually kick in the money to replace it. Until the end it contained a US&S Model 14 interlocking machine. 

A local railroad museum is hoping to eventually preserve the tower.

Although the MARC Brunswick service is weekday, peak direction only, it is still a significant operation. Trainsets that originate at Brunswick are shown here laying over for the weekend. Among them is one of the remaining MARC passenger Geeps,#74, a GP39-2H.

I returned from lunch at the Potomac Street Grill to find a westbound train of empty coal cars rolling out of the yard on what is typically used by MARC trainsets. 

Remains from the old interlocking plant can still be found in the parking lot.

Although a signal was displayed east on track 2, I had to get to another engagement and couldn't sick around to see what would show up.

Next week I head back out to California and pop by the Santa Clara station area.