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Friday, May 27, 2016

16-05-27 PHOTOS: Ardmore

Sometimes the best way to go railfanning is on your own two feet. After last year's successful LIRR walk from Floral Park to Queens Village I looked to repeat the experience a bit closer to home and a quick look at the map showed a pleasant walk along the old PRR Main Line between Narberth and Ardmore. This let me walk between two classic PRR signal bridges while the half hourly SEPTA service passed by.

Later I was treated to a Silverliner V railfan window ride on the return trip to Center City that I followed up with a session on the 30th St parking garage. As usual you can find the full set of photos here.

To start things off I was treated to a bit of wrong railing on PATCO to get around some MoW work between Ferry Ave and Broadway.

While walking towards Suburban Station I came upon the rebuilt Dillworth Plaza and its SEPTA City Hall/15Th St Station entrance. The difference was quite striking with grass replacing bare concrete and homeless replaced by suburban families. Way to go!

Progress was also apparent on the new Cynwyd Connection that will allow retirement of the increasingly derelict Valley Flyover. The connection is an oddly simple affair, utilizing the former Schuylkill Valley branch freight alignment. Why it took 22 years to implement I don't know.

SEPTA SL-IV #412 waiting to complete its station work at Narberth while staring at a Clear signal on the #69 Track 4 automatic signal that it would soon take.

Sometimes its hard to remember how wealthy the PRR was back in the day. This underpass was built back in the 19th century over some dikly local road, but due to the state of material science at the time, the only option was the granite arch bridge. Just look at the craftsmanship that was involved and think how many centuries it will probably last.

Between Narberth and Ardmore is Wynwood. The station is now mostly used by a cafe.

At the Church Rd overpass I caught an outbound R5 local with SL-IV #405 on the rear.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

16-05-22 PHOTOS: NS Savannah

The NS Savannah is the United States' first (and so far only) nuclear powered merchant ship. It was built around 1960, back in a time before Medicare and other social spending sapped our collective ability to do big/cool things. Part of the "Atoms for Peace" program, the NS Savannah was mostly a propaganda vehicle to convince the rest of the world that nuclear technology was about more than blowing up the Soviets (Hint: it wasn't). The Savannah had the additional distinction of being a passenger liner built just before such travel was rendered obsolete by jumbo jets and a loose cargo vessel built just before that was rendered obsolete by containerized freight. The ship was mothballed in 1972 due to the cost of operating the nuclear plant compared with oil fired ships...just before the 1973-74 oil crisis. Talk about not being able to catch a break! After being decommissioned the ship spent decades in the James River Ghost Fleet before being moved to the Port of Baltimore for preservation. There it is open occasionally for tours, including every year on National Maritime Day in late May. This year I was able to coordinate with nuclear enthusiast Phil Nasadowski to take full advantage of the open house and some additional rail related sights in the vicinity. You can view the entire set of photos here. The Savannah is best described as a Silver Age comic book come to life or, in perhaps somewhat broader terms, imagine what Tony Stark's yacht would be like. It's half luxury liner, half cargo ship and all nuclear powered.
The 60's styling doesn't hurt the impression much either. People forget that the Metroliners used to be this cool/advanced as well.
Not that some parts of the ship don't come across like your grandmother's house.
Here we see the most important part of anything in the Mad Men era...the bar. Note that the tables, which were also electro-luminescent, all come with integrated ash trays because back then smoking was good for you.
You won't find any computers in this control room. Here we see the main reactor control panel. Other parts of the big board controlled the steam plant and electrical system so it looks more complicated than it is. Also remember that compared to older steam ships this was miles ahead of their brass gauges and valves. 
The manual control rod control panel was the other nuclear specific part of the control console.
Once the steam is generated it was dealt with in the standard way. Here we see the engine room with a typical high pressure/low pressure compound turbine setup.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

16-05-12 PHOTOS: Donner Summit

Last two times I have traveled through Reno, NV I used Amtrak's California Zephyr. This time I was going via I-80's, which provided a slightly different perspective on the whole journey including the opportunity to stop off at the pass itself for a little sightseeing. Later I was able to spend a few minutes at the west end of the Sparks, NV yard catching some UP action. I should also mention that before leaving the safe confines of sea level, I made a quick stop off in Sacramento to check out their light rail system.

You can review the entire set of photos here.

My swing by the Royal Oaks RT Station was actually motivated by the desire to get lunch from an authentic street-side taco stand on Arden Way. While they stood in line I crossed the street to snag a headway's worth of RT photos. First to arrive was a westbound two unit Blue Line train of CAF SRV-1's #208 and #238.

Next to arrive was an eastbound Blue Line train led by Siemens U2A #134. The U2A vehicles resemble the later SD100 LRVs, but are mechanically the same as the earlier U2's.

Driving up I-80 certainly provides a different perspective of the Southern Pacific's overland route.

The Donner Pass is where the Southern Pacific's "Overland Route" crosses the Sierra-Nevada mountains at an elevation of 7135 feet. Here we see the western portal of Tunnel #6 on the original Donner Pass alignment that was abandoned by Union Pacific in 1996 after their SP merger in favor of the Track 2 alignment through the mile long Tunnel 41 located to the south. Note the remaining snowpack from the somewhat average winter snows. The previous winter of 2014-15 actually left the Sierra-Nevada mountains with zero snowpack. 

This alignment was actually part of the original Central Pacific transcontinental line starting from San Francisco and eventually meeting the Union Pacific in Promontory, UT. Unlike the generally flat UP route across the plains, this impressive feet of mountain railroad had to be cut and blasted by the hands of Chinese immigrants. 

Because this is California the walls of a highway abutment had been covered in street art.

Beware falling rocks!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

16-05-11 PHOTOS: Santa Clara

Normally when I head to the Bay Area I usually wind up at the San Jose Diridon station with its mix of Amtrak, ACE and Caltrain services. It's one of the largest stations in the west with probably more service of anything apart from LA's Union Station. Well this time I was looking for something a little different and therefore I figured that I would instead get dropped off at the Santa Clara station, one and a half stops up the line. Santa Clara is no slouch having been recently rebuilt to have a new third track island platform with a third track serving Amtrak and ACE trains that expanded capacity. It also sees some express movements, unlike San Jose where everything stops.

Another fun feature of this trip was my ability to ride Caltrain down to the town of Gilroy, about 30 miles south of San Jose. Normally this is impractical because Gilroy only get a peak direction service with three trains in the morning and afternoon. However this time I was visiting someone living in that area and I was able to spare them a long ride in to the airport.

You can see the full set of photos here.

We begin with Caltrain MP36PH-3C #927 appearing next to Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company heavyweight coach #87, on statis display at the former Southern Pacific depot.

Sitting just north of the Station were a pair of Union Pacific SD70M's, #4862 and #5131. There is still a new for road freight engines to serve local industry in the area despite the lack of any major yards of freight trunks.

The former Southern Pacific CLARA tower has been preserved and I assume will eventually function as a museum that one can visit. The tower was previously operated by Amtrak before being closed.

 The Altamont Commuter Express runs 86 miles between San Jose and Stockton in California's Central Valley. It is a peak direction service with only about 4 trainets in service. Here one of their 6 Bomber bi-level cab cars, #3305, pulls into the Santa Clara station for what is likely the first return trip of the afternoon.

Power is provided by MPI built F40PH-2C, #3101, seen here on the third track served by the new island platform.