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Sunday, October 30, 2016

16-10-30 VIDEOS: Autumn Express - Amtrak Harrisburg Line

Rear vestibule access on the Autumn Express didn't just mean I could take great pictures out the back, I could also shoot video. In fact, thanks to my GoPro, I could do both at the same time. Although the NS freight route was the rare mileage, I saved my limited battery and memory card capacity for the faster / more exciting eastbound Amtrak Harrisburg Line run, including the NY->Pittsburgh subway. While in theory this line does have a railfan view from the Metroliner Cab Cars, the Autumn express run would be, well, express, and who can say no to that.

We begin with our departure from the former PRR Harrisburg Station. With me in the vestibule was an older gentleman and a kid, both railfans and sources of interesting commentary. This video includes a segment of wrong railing between STATE and ROY, where we return to track #1 to pass train 43, the westbound Pennsylvanian. We then proceed to RHEEMS interlocking where we cross back over to track #2.

Now because the eastbound Pennsylvanian and a westbound Keystone needing to do their thing at Lancaster before we tied up the platform, we were put on track to and then ran at reduced speed in order to kill time. I had gone to take a nap then returned to see the train moving at Restricted speed. At the time I assumed it was a signal problem, but actually they wisely wanted to keep the foliage train moving, even at a crawl, to avoid having the lookie lous stare at the same tree for half an hour.

After the easily amused railfans got their faux arrival photos at Lancaster, we departed and proceeded to run express all the way to Newark, New Jersey. This video just captures the part through to Downingtown where I cut it to change batteries in order to get the old PRR Main Line without a disruption. Note the new PARK interlocking, the old PARK tower and the still active THORN tower. Also note the closed Irishtown Rd crossing because stimulus money.

Now this video is something special. Like I said in the previous post, because of work in BRWN MAWR interlocking, our train was routed on Track 3 eastbound through PAOLI interlocking and then on to OVERBROOK. Not only are reverse movements on Main Line track #3 (the only Rule 261 track) uncommon, but since this video was taken, both tracks 2 and 3 through Paoli station were cut and removed to make way for an island platform :-( Also included in this video is the trip through the NY-Pittsburgh Subway (although that was also included as a stand-alone in the previous post).

Because of the catastrophic backlighting, I basically gave up on video and photos after we joined the NEC. I had previously shot GoPro video on the route and didn't see a need for another, worse edition. However I did get one short segment capturing SHORE interlocking and the Frankford Jct curve.

Well I hope you enjoyed my little rare millage trek across PA. Tune in next week as I return to the NS Reading line for some close up photos with friend of Subchat, Kevin Painter.

16-10-30 PHOTOS: Autumn Express - Amtrak Harrisburg Line

The final part of my trip on Amtrak's 2016 Autumn Express will cover Amtrak's Harrisburg Line, aka the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Amtrak would use the old PRR route to return the Autumn Express to New York City and with speeds up to 110mph the travel time would be a fraction of what it took to get out on the overall shorter freight route. Because of the faster travel time, Amtrak was able to schedule a special photo stop at Lancaster to allow the passengers to get out and take photos of the giant Autumn Express trainset as it backed up and then made a repeat arrival. After that it continued on to Philly, utilizing the famous New York->Pittsburgh Subway to access the westbound NEC. Unfortunately a North Philadelphia stop was not provided for those passengers needing to return to the philly area or points south.

You can find the photos from this section of the trip here, just scroll down about half way until you see the Harrisburg Station.

 The Harrisburg Station complex had recently been rebuilt with a new layout, new signaling and concrete ties on all the station tracks. Here we see the catenary inspection car sitting on track 5, just behind the PRR caboose and GG1 #4859 that are on display under the Harrisburg trainshed.

Departing through the new, simplified STATE interlocking. In addition to the tower being closed, parallel routes were eliminated and others were raised to 30mph from 15mph. Track 8 was also eliminated as a through track leaving track 4 as the only other through track aside from the high level platform tracks 6 and 7. This was likely necessary to support wide freight and equipment movements.

Here we see the graceful curve leading up to the Royalton flyover that allows the old log grade freight tracks to relocate to the west side of the right of way in order to branch off towards Columbia, PA. Located at the end of Harrisburg International Airport's single runway, the hulk of a a Convair VT-29B Samaritan used for fire training can be seen in the background.

After crossing over at ROY interlocking, we met Amtrak P42DC #96 with the westbound Train 43, Pennsylvanian waiting for its turn to proceed.

This squat structure is actually the old PRR LANDIS interlocking tower in Landisville, PA. A small table type interlocking machine installed controlled a diamond crossing with the Reading Company's Columbia branch. Long removed, it was one of the few at grade diamond crossings on the eastern part of the PRR Main Line.

Because we were running early and due to platform availability issues at Lancaster, we had to wait for both the eastbound Pennsylvanian and a westbound Keystone to pass before we were able to proceed through CORK interlocking. Train 42 was being hauled by P42DC #97 and the Keystone was being trailed by Metroliner cab car #9638.

16-10-30b PHOTOS: Autumn Express - NS Harrisburg Line

So the final "rare mileage" part of the 2016 Autumn Express was run over the NS Harrisburg Line between CP-WYOMISSING JCT, just west of Reading and CP-CAPITOL in Harrisburg. Of course this segment of track had been trodden before by the 2014 Autumn Express, that actually came and went over the route in both directions. Of course this year I was able to take photos out hr back whereas before I was not. You can find the full series of photos at the top of this photo set here.

After running up the ramp from the Reading Line, out train entered the Harrisburg Line at CP-WYOMISSING JCT. The Harrisburg Line between Reading and Harrisburg had been run under Rule 251 ABS up through the Conrail era, but a CTC project was one of the first orders of business for NS due to the 40-50 trains a day that traversed the line to serve both the New York and Philadelphia markets.

Although not as well known as the Reading Main Line between Philadelphia and Reading, the old Lebanon Valley Branch, as it was called, boasted a lot of Reading station infrastructure for both New York and Philly bound passenger services. Here we see old Reading stations in Wernersville and Lebanon.

 After crossing over at CP-DORF, we passed an eastbound merchandise train with a trio of NS locomotives including former Conrail C40-8W #8396 and a 5000 series SD40-2, and one unidentified Reading and Northern EMD.

The Penn Supply Milard quarry has a small fleet of ex-road power to shift the long aggregate trains through its loading facility. Here we see long time power B23-7 #250 and SD40M-3 #6521 along with a newly acquired ex-UP SD40.

A short distance away in the receiving yard was NS C40-9W #8865 and SD60E #6916. Both classes are common in the Harrisburg area.

In Palmyra, a cut of cars was being prepared for set-out by some road power including NS C44-9W #9519 and SD60 #6707. Note the osage oranges all over the track. 

NS GP38-2 #5303 was working the Hershey yard with a former Conrail cabin car. As you might surmise, the Hershey yard mostly supports operations for the Hershey company that has many plants in and around the Hershey, PA area.

16-10-30 PHOTOS: Autumn Express - Reading Line

At CP-BURN, located in eastern Allentown, Amtrak's Autumn Express turns onto the former Conrail Reading Line, which runs between Allentown yard and a junction with the Harrisburg Line just outside of Reading, PA. For a named "Line" (under the Conrail system), it is actually quite short, only about 30 miles from end to end, but as a link in the east-west trunk to the Port of New York and New jersey is handles a large volume of traffic.

The timing of this trip was especially important because the double track Reading Line was slated to be re-signaled from ABS Rule 251 to CTC Rule 261 and taking a train over it allowed me to survey all the classic searchlight signals in one go.

You can find the full set of photos here.

A spike of railfans had set up at CP-BURN to watch the special rise out of the hole and then cross over to westbound track 2.

The nominal subject of this photo is the eastbound MP33 distant signal to CP-BURN, however way back at the crossing is former West Jersey informal railfan trip specialist Kevin Painter.

Large group of railfans out for the train in East Allentown.

Some cars wait for interchange on the Perkeomen Branch that diverges at Emmaus Jct.

Another big crowd is on hand at a railfan park in Macungie, PA, the home of Mack trucks.

Power crossovers at CP-ALBURTIS. This interlocking was re-signaled around 2007 and will be re-signaled again for the CTC. 

Former Reading Mertztown Station building.

The new crossovers at CP-LYONS will help fill the gap between Alburtis and Blandon. 

They will replace the single trailing crossover at the old LYONS Temporary Block Station, seen here with an eastbound autorack train.

16-10-30 PHOTOS: Autumn Express - Lehigh Line

After sitting out the 2015 Amtrak Autumn Express due to its distant location in the NY Capitol Region and complete lack of same day connection to/from trains to NYC, I was much more receptive to the 2016 offering which was going to originate and depart from New York City. The route would follow the former Lehigh Valley Railroad to Allentown, PA before switching to the former Reading "Valley" route from there to Harrisburg. This alternative to the PRR's several routes between New York and Harrisburg was made possible by the general consolidation of Northeast carriers into Conrail and Amtrak's anti-freight attitude. While I had traveled part of it on the 2014 Autumn Express, the lines between Newark and Reading were un-surveyed and in significant need of attention.

The only way for me to get to NYC in time to properly board the 8am departing Autumn Express was to take Train 190, departing Baltimore at 3:50am. This came the day after I had just traveled to Harrisburg to photograph the Autumn Express from the outside and later attended a Halloween Party. This is the first of several posts documenting the 2016 Autumn Express and it will cover the trip over the former Conrail Lehigh Line between Newark and Allentown, PA. Next week I'll cover the Reading Line between Allentown and Reading before finally covering both the NS and Amtrak Harrisburg Lines.

You can find the full set of Lehigh Line Autumn Express photos here.

Starting at Baltimore the track bridges were out for some MoW work on tracks 4, 5, 6 and 7. Unfortunately Amtrak never seems to be able to line up its track bridges properly in the MARC zone. The crew became so confused that at one point opened up on the low level (and out of service) Track 3!

The platforming at New York Penn Station worked a bit better as our train was adjacent to the Autumn Express trainset on track 10. As I was an alighting ticketed passenger I was able to go up for some pre-board photos of the power that consisted of Amtrak Phase III Heritage P42 #145, Amtrak Veterans P42 #42 and Amtrak Veterans ACS-86 #642.

Metroliner First Class Conference Car #6800 was also still on the leading end of the trainset, which would mean I would benefit from a rear facing railfan window!

Over on adjacent Track 8, ACS-86 #600 sat sprawled across A interlocking's #111 switch.

After departure the train stopped briefly at Newark to take on more passengers. The train was so long that my position in the rear was almost sitting on the draw span of the DOCK movable bridge! While waiting a westbound NJT train appeared with ALP-46 #4623 in the lead.

Some lucky railfans at the "Union" (Townley, NJ) NJT station caught a once in a lifetime meet as the Autumn Express passed an eastbounf NS freight with Erie-Lackawana heritage SD45-2 #1700 being transported behind the road engines. Furthermore, at the end of the consist were three NJT split-level cars being delivered new or from Sandy repair.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

16-10-29 PHOTOS: HARRIS Autumn Express

So Amtrak scheduling its 2016 Autumn Express on consecutive days earlier in the season had a number of great benefits. The first was that the leaf color was better, the second is that an October date meant that HARRIS tower would still be open and the third is that I could go photograph the train on one day and then ride it the next. The route would have a New York City departure and then make a large circle using the Lehigh Valley/Reading route outbound and then returning via the PRR route through Philly. On the Saturday I drove out to Harrisburg to both photograph the train and visit the HARRIS Tower museum and then on Sunday, as you will soon see, I rode the train myself. This arrangement not only checked off my Amtrak Autumn Express train photos, but also my annual HARRIS tower visit.

You can find the full set of photos here.

I started my day hanging out in HARRIS tower, occasionally pausing to photograph various passing NS trains. At one point I caught this meet between NS C44-9W's #9484 and #9389 and NS ES44DS's #8145 and #8051.

The early afternoon is when both the eastbound and westbound Pennsylvanians. The westbound specifically can tend to hang out for a bit thanks to all the schedule padding. Here we see Train 42 with P42DC #96. Behind it P42DC #92 sits coupled to Metroliner Cab Car #9647 as protect power.

A few minutes later Amtrak P42DC #96 departed Harrisburg with Train 42 through the newly rebuilt STATE interlocking, that had just been cut over a few days prior closing the old STATE tower that had been in service for 79 years.

After Train 42 departed, a mid-day westbound Keystone train arrived with Metroliner Cab Car #9636 and ACS-86 #663.

I had re-positioned myself to the now re-opened Mulberry St bridge in order to get some photos of the Autumn Express as it turned off the Reading Valley Branch at CAPITOL tower. Although it was only a few miles away, it was delayed by congestion and while waiting I caught this light engine move heading off the wye track from the Lugan Branch led by NS C44-9W #9803.

Two of the Three units in the light engine move, #8877 and #8880 were NS C44-9's, the last "standard cab" GE's built. 

The cause of the delay soon appeared in the form of a westbound merchandise train led by NS SD70ACe #1012 and C44-9W #9705.

Following behind was the 2016 Autumn Express powered by Amtrak Phase III Heritage P42DC #145, Veterans P42DC #42 and Veterans ACS-86 #642. This was followed by Metroliner conference car #6800 and about 12-14 coaches. Fun fact, the ACS-86 had more power than the two P42's combined.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


So last fall I was invited to a little shindig down at the Jersey Shore and my route to get there passed through both 30th St Station and the critical PRSL junction of Tuckahoe, NJ. Funny how I can always turn most roadtrips into an excuse to do something rail related. Anyway, move over Chuchubob, cause I'm covering the South Jersey scene this week. You can find the set of photos here and be assured that there is more than tired signaling photos.

I had some extra time getting off the train so I walked across the Schuylkill River and down to the linear park built on the east bank. The sun was just right to generate this light show on the underside of the PRR arch bridge.

Up on top I got what would be my only photo of a SEPTA SL-V replacement lease set consisting of SEPTA cab car #2408, a cut of MARC I coaches and brand new Amtrak ACS-86 #696.

The next day I got down to Tuckahoe in time to catch the CMSL crew having lunch in the shadow of the former Reading Company TUCKAHOE tower (built 1906).

Of course PRR GP9 #7000 and CNJ GP7P #1523 on hand in front of the tower.