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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

16-12-27 VIDEOS: SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip XVI

Since I got my go-pro it's become a habit for me to accompany the Mid-Winter photo post with a special video post and this year is no different.

Due to the ongoing PATCO refurbishment project, I was extra keen to get another video from the front seat. Unfortunately, while I was able to get an unrebuilt trainset, it had decided to rain again so the video is somewhat marred by raindrops on the railfan window. I did take the extra time to ride the train all the way to 15th/16th and Locust as most years I jump off at 8th and Market to proceed directly to Market East. Also, this year's commentary was provided by special guest, Fred G.

My next long format video comes from my GoPro being mounted on the rear of a SEPTA Rt 34 trolley as it runs from the Angora loop to the 33rd St Subway Surface station. Please excuse the GoPro popping off the window from time to time.

The next two videos were taken on the Fox Chase line and show a student engineer being instructed on how to deal with the new ACSES PTC system, now in service on SEPTA. Because the cab door was open on this Silverliner V I was able to document exactly how much this hunk of junk gets in the way of the engineer. As promoted by safety scolds a PTC system should only intervene if a train is going to enter an unsafe condition, however we can see that the braking curves are ridiculously conservative as the engineer is able to easily get back below it with what could be described as mild braking.

Moreover, the way the information is displayed makes the engineer very timid as he approaches the various restrictions. Finally, the system fails to take into account the existing safety margins that were already built into the speed restrictions, resulting in the margin for error being doubled. This is the reason SEPTA recently had to increase the scheduled runtime of its trains by 4-5 minutes.

Finally, here's a little MFL railfan window action with a run from 46th St to 8th and market.

Well that's all the video content from the 2016 MWT. Hope to see you all again next year!

16-12-27 PHOTOS: SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip XVI

Despite running for 16 years, the SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip is still capable of doing something new. This year the novelty came from a ride on the Route 34 Subway-Surface line to Angora (of wool fame), which had been neglected for so long since it is the only trolley route that doesn't connect with anything. The trolley bonanza would continue with a more typical Rt 10-Rt 15 combo that then ran seamlessly into a Broad Street Line express run to Fern Rock and Back. The afternoon featured a quick Fox Chase turn followed by a photo session at Temple University. A planned express run all the way to Newark, DE was scrapped in favor of two additional photo sessions at the 30th St Station garage and the Market Street elevated. Attendance was about 12 or so with different people joining and leaving throughout the day.

I know it's July, but I wanted to once again thank everyone for coming, I hope you had a good time and I hope to see your all again next year! You can find all the photos here, the long format videos will come later in a followup post.

The weather was kind of gross that morning, which seems to be a pretty common occurrence for MWT's, but it wasn't raining heavily enough to make us miserable or make photos impossible. As usual I started things off with an inbound express PATCO run to Center City. With unrebuilt cars getting fewer in number this might be the last year where I can take advantage of the railfan window. This year Vickers car #282 did the honors.

These wonderfully analogue destination signs will also be a thing of the past.

The Route 34 just sort of heads off into West Philadelphia south of Market and above the Rts 11 and 13 to Darby. There is a walking connection to the R3 Angora Regional Rail station, which I probably should have made use of before now and will definitely have to keep in mind for the future. Here we see SEPTA K-Cars #9028 and #9044 pulling into the station track on the Angora Loop.

Here we see #9028 ready to depart back to Centre City.

In the West Philly trolley tunnel under the University of Pennsylvania Campus, trolleys are always arriving every couple of minutes. However they are never the ones you need :-) Here is a Route 13 Yeadon, encountered while Waiting for a Route 10 at the 33rd St station.

SEPTA K-Car trolley action at the 33rd St station on the Subway part of the Subway-Surface system. Note the LED Christmas lights on the special SEPTA Holiday Trolley. This would be the first of three encounters with the Holiday Car that day.

K-Car #9108 eventually picked us up from 33rd St. and transported us to Girard Ave where we would transfer to a Rt 15.

Anything for a good photograph, eh? PCC II #2334 and K-Car #9105 at Girard Jct.

PCC II #2334 and K-car #9010 passing at Girard Jct.

Morning group shot of MWT XVI participants @ Girard Jct.

Friday, December 2, 2016

16-12-02 VIDEOS: North Central Races

So the video portion of my Chicago trip will include my morning round trip into Union Station via METRA's North Central Service. This commuter rail service was resurrected in 1996 on former Soo Line tracks then owned by the Wisconsin Central. In 2001 ownership passed to Canadian National with METRA operating as a guest using their own crews. A downside of METRA operated trains is that Metra's own crews will close off the front car with the railfan window outside of peak periods. This is one major reason I seek out opportunities to travel inbound towards Chicago during the rush.

I'll actually first want to begin with a video taken from the rear of my Capitol Limited train shortly after departing Washington, DC. I was able to record from Kensington to Germantown on the CSX Metropolitan Sub before rain covered the rear window and I completely lost light.

I started my trip at the O'Hare Transfer METRA station. While METRA is faster than a comparable CTA Blue Line trip, the service is much less frequent and requires a shuttle bus connection.

My inbound train was led by an 8500 series gallery cab car.

There are actually two morning express runs scheduled just a few minutes apart and I accidentally got on the first of the two when I had intended to ride the second. While the first train, #106, made an additional stop at River Grove, it turned out to be a much better ride. This is because #106 is scheduled to "race" inbound Milwaukee-West line train #2216 immediately after it rounds the North Central connection at Tower B-12. Despite our stop we not only managed to catch the MILW-West train, but also passed it heading into big junction at Western Ave!

Also note the unique *Y*/G Advance Approach Diverging signal indication that was installed on the line during a recent re-signaling project.

At Tower A-2 we were stopped to wait for crossing traffic on the UP-West line.

Just like a drag race the operator at Tower A-2 gave trains #106 and #2216 side-by-side Clear signal indications and we were off to the races again. This time my train stayed in the lead, but was ultimately stopped at Union Station while #2216 was allowed to go in ahead of us because my train #106 was early.

Unfortunately, the approach to the north side of Chicago Union Station has been overbuilt for a new urban park. Maybe cities should realize that watching trains is a form of recreation :-(

As expected, on the return the rear-facing cab car was closed and I pretty much had nothing to do. Getting off at the Rosemont, IL station I grabbed this shot of METRA cab car #8502 as it passed through CN JCT 19 interlocking.

Well that's everything I have for this video supplement. Next week it will be time for the 2016 SEPTA Mid-Winter Trip!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

16-12-01 PHOTOS: North Central Limited

So every year I try to make it out to Chicago and after a 2 year hiatus I would once again be patronizing the Capitol Limited in the process. Unfortunately I would be taking the train in the westbound direction during the month of November, which meant that I was pretty much out of light upon departure from Washington, DC. Further on, light travel closed the rear coach so I lost my other chance at train-based photography. However I was able to patronize the new First Class Lounge at Chicago Union Station and get some photos of the CUS yard complex from Roosevelt Ave while walking to Trader Joes.

The video content from the trip will come in a followup post and consists of a North Central Service express run inbound to Union Station from O'Hare. You can view the full set of photos here.

The engines for my Train 29 that day were Amtrak P42DC's #51 and #133, seen here sitting at the long platform with K Tower at the end.

On the opposite track was MARC MP36PN-3C #16.

As this was the height of the evening rush, a VRE gallery car trainset hauled by VRE MP36PH-3C #V65 made its way from Ivy City to the lower level of Union Station.

Out on the old B&O main line, between the new crossover at MONTROSE and the station stop at Rockville, we had a friendly race with a set of classic style WMATA equipment on the Red Line.

Due to the time of year and the crappy weather I lost light pretty quickly, but I did manage to snage these interesting photos of the Metropolitan Grove and Germantown MARC stations. Come on Germantown, install some LED lighting already!

Skipping ahead to Chicago, Amtrak P42DC's #76 and #67 were both at the Lumber St locomotive shoppes.

P42DC #133 at the end of its run in Chicago Union Station.