Amtrak / Intercity Rail Discussion Thread

Arlington

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On the TGV between Switzerland and Lyon there are definitely places where speed + slope = flying up and down (floor pushing up, followed by a floating sensation)
 

Arlington

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So, F-Line, I take it you are an Alternative 4 or 5 kinda guy? (added CSX tracks with a few near-alignment straighenings an 1 off-alignment bypass)
 

jklo

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It is complex, and anybody planning intercity trains for New England is going to have to try to model first order effects
-AVs will do a great job of making SPG-BOS less painful by car
-AVs will compete with the train as a "I can work and rest because somebody else is driving"
Totally off topic, but AV's getting to that level is super bad for Boston and the area because it greatly mitigates Boston's advantage of mass transit. Plus liability wise it might be tough for an people mover AV in snow.
 

ceo

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TGV trains are intentionally overpowered so that they can take 4% grades at speed, which greatly reduces construction costs. They have so much momentum that the grades don't even increase power consumption that much. Of course, on the Pike ROW the constant grade changes are still going to make people seasick.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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TGV trains are intentionally overpowered so that they can take 4% grades at speed, which greatly reduces construction costs. They have so much momentum that the grades don't even increase power consumption that much. Of course, on the Pike ROW the constant grade changes are still going to make people seasick.
Overpowering a fleet is somewhat of a necessity when you've got a lot of routes traversing mountains, which mainland Europe certainly has. They can justify it on scale because it's hard to run a national carrier in France without confronting a whole lot of Alps in the process. It's a crappy proposition, however, once you start getting into exceptions to the rule because having to always operate extra power raises operating costs. CSX confronts this in the Berkshires where Middlefield Hill, the tallest grade on the B&A, requires a helper loco to help push the big intermodal trains over the grade. It requires a staffed job out of Pittsfield where the helpers are constantly shuffled up and down the hill to wait on a pocket track to attach in-motion to the passing freight and help push. For decades this was regular practice but CSX abolished the helper job in the early-00's because it was too costly, opting to run smaller trains with more up-front power instead. That was before the double-stack clearance project when they were very bearish on the New England market and the state was angsting about the noises they were making about dis-investing in the region. Now business is so booming and growth so long-term brisk they've brought the helpers back and see them as a small price to pay for uncapping train lengths. But there's a very sharp dividing line in cost escalation: either profits are so good the extra power is gravy, or it's not worth it at all...no in-between.

I can't see it being worth anyone's while on a state-sponsored route like the Inland to always have to run a double-draft (double-ended power) set for the sake of some Emerging HSR-like speeds through the Worcester Hills and Berkshires. It would bludgeon operating costs for that to be the only justification for that. Amtrak's last 2 diesel purchases--the ongoing Siemens Charger order and the mid-90's GE Genesis purchase--all had specific aims on reducing the number of schedules that needed multiple-loco lashups. As is virtually no state-sponsored routes run with more than 1 loco anymore, and long-distance trains are pretty strictly rationed to 2-loco setups where one is providing all-hauling power and nothing else while the other is strictly no-haul and all-electricity for the coaches...LD's being much more electricity-hungry than corridor routes with all the diners and sleepers in the consists, the added rider electricity and plumbing/water pumping usage on overnight trips, and the added HVAC demands of crossing into different climate zones en route all combining to require a dedicated generator in the set. But even the trips that cross the Rockies and/or Sierra Nevada that used to need 3 locos have been pared back to just the LD's with the highest farebox recovery like the Empire Builder and will soon be permanently and forever relegated to the alternating haul + generator setup when the new Siemens locos replace the less-efficient old GE's. Double-drafts for hauling just bleeds money. So, unfortunately, does having to order overpowered EMU's whose tractive effort and electrical requirements end up way outside of the commuter norm and require much more expensive parts supply chain and much more intensive maintenance standards to keep in day-to-day shape for tall climbs.

The NEC being as flat as it is is one reason why 125 MPH Northeast Regionals can maintain such an insane profit margin: they can do it all on only 1 loco in pull-only mode because there's virtually no grades anywhere on the route. Curves of course are the problem with maintaining speed on the NEC and straightening/bypassing them the be-all/end-all of a higher-performance NEC. But that's why it was so mind-boggling that NEC FUTURE ignored basic physics and chose some bypasses that introduced brand-new grades like that I-95 Shoreline bunny-hop greatly complicating the process. Maybe the already double-ended Acelas with their tandem power car setups can do good on that without excessive fleet-side mission creep, but it's going to accomplish nothing for the Regionals except make them way more expensive to run if the new grades have to make them run double-draft or force a higher-horsepower/heavier/more maint-intensive fleet renewal. The U.S.'s population density clustered to the coasts and Chicagoland means thankfully we don't have a ton of outlier scenarios where crossing a mountain range is the basic cost of doing business a la TGV. And it also means that mountainous metro areas like Denver generally don't have commuter rail density stretching far enough outside of the flatter city limits to have to plan for running electric commuter or corridor-intercity service on cost-bleeding grades with cost-bleeding fleets. But it does mean that it's a very unfavorable economic environment for accommodating exceptions to the rule like a state-sponsored route that tries to confront 100 miles of rolling hills head-on. That's not going to work here. And the fact that some places in the world can make it work does not inform the relative scruples of trying to force-feed it here. Scales and service mandates trace out the differences on where it does and doesn't work.
 
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whighlander

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I think I agree. And given that trains made up of AVs will be safer and more fuel efficient (drafting off the car(s) ahead) it is clear to me that we face an infrastructure bill coming up to rebuild the MassPike to maximize the SPG-WOR-BOS connectivity that I think is needed.

The MassPike seems like it is going to need 2 tiers of road service and rail down the middle (so you can safely/efficiently do 110mph+ speeds)

It is unclear to me what the 2 tiers of road will be
  • AV vs Non?
  • Small (cars) vs Big (truck) (and is an trainline of AVs "big"?)
  • SOV vs HOV (where HOV = Bus & trainline?)
But moving passenger rail to the median of the Pike will also permit/allow more investment in better double-stack freight to carry things that trucks now carry.
Arlington -- I think that you may be onto a germ of an idea -- there is just one significant problem
When the Pike was laid out there was some sort of internal feud between the Boston and Worcester pols -- as a result -- Worcester didn't get a good connection to the Pike [neither downtown Woosoxvile nor the Worcester Airport]

Follow the existing Pike layout and you preserve the bypass of Worcester

So perhaps doe your Highish Speed Rail -- you run Boston to Framingham via the Pike ROW then cut to the existing rail to Worcester to continue to Springfield
 

George_Apley

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Arlington -- I think that you may be onto a germ of an idea -- there is just one significant problem
When the Pike was laid out there was some sort of internal feud between the Boston and Worcester pols -- as a result -- Worcester didn't get a good connection to the Pike [neither downtown Woosoxvile nor the Worcester Airport]

Follow the existing Pike layout and you preserve the bypass of Worcester

So perhaps doe your Highish Speed Rail -- you run Boston to Framingham via the Pike ROW then cut to the existing rail to Worcester to continue to Springfield
His idea sounds pretty moot given the grades involved. In any case, no one wants to skip Worcester, the idea was to jump onto the Pike alignment after Worcester.
 

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