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Sunday, October 30, 2016

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.

Here is a video of Amtrak Train 42, the eastbound weekend Pennsylvanian, passing the Autumn Express at speed just shy of LITITZ interlocking, west of the Lancaster, PA station stop. Train 42 also had a private car in tow that had traveled out to Pittsburgh a day or two before.

C&S worker at LITITZ interlocking.

Riders pack the Lancaster, PA platform to get photos of the three special scheme Amtrak units hauling the 2016 Autumn Express.

Despite the notable handicap of being closed, CORK tower was still looking to be in pretty good order.

Amtrak Phase III Heritage P42DC #145, Veterans P42DC #42 and Veterans ACS-86 #642 re-arriving for the camera.

The 1920's vintage Lancaster station also houses Amtrak's C&S training facility.

View of Amish country adjacent to the PRR Main Line.

Preserved Conrail caboose #21153 in Christiana, PA.

Amtrak's THORN tower with the operator watching us pass.

Because of track work in BRYN MAWR interlocking, our train was given the honor of running on PRR Main Line track #3 eastbound between PAOLI interlocking and OVERBROOK interlocking. Track 3 is the single reversible track on this part of the line and because of the 4-track configuration, eastbound movements on track 3 are pretty rare. As a bonus, the movement on track 3 through the Paoli station is now impossible because of an ongoing reconstruction project that has removed both through tracks in order to build a high level island platform. I'm sure in 20 years they'll get to rebuild it again in order to eliminate the bottleneck hindering SEPTA service to Lancaster.

Switch work at BRYN MAWR.

SEPTA local with SL-IV #373 at Ardmore.

Crossing back over to track #2 at OVERBROOK.

The soon-to-be-decomissioned Valley flyover that used to take Main track #4 over track #2 and the Bellmont Yard.

Entering the famous Pittsburgh Subway at ZOO interlocking with a Keystone train getting the signal to proceed right after we cleared the interlocking. Note how the interlocking was built to give the east-west passenger trains not stopping at 30th St station a straight route through this part of ZOO and onto the Valley flyover. Back in the Golden Age of passenger rail the PRR did whatever it could to shave precious minutes off the Broadway's run time in order to compete with the rival 20th Century Limited.

Today the Pittsburgh Subway is used for a variety of non-revenue movements and is also Amtrak's Philly area turning wye. The rail is jointed and speeds are between 5 and 15mph.

Here is a rear facing video documenting the trip through the New York->Pittsburgh Subway with narration.

Passing ZOO tower before turning onto the NEC.

Due to catastrophic backlighting, I decided to just relax on the journey up the NEC. Here is one last photo of Amtrak ACS-86 #635 at New York Penn Station. Although the Autumn Express pretty much arrived on time, after the time it took to grab something I eat it was almost time to catch my train back south.

Don't worry, there is still more Autumn Express action as next week I will post a set of Amtrak Harrisburg line videos taken during the run.

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