Amtrak NEC, Downeaster, Acela, & Long Distance

F-Line to Dudley

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Also, the windows seem a tad small. Are they smaller than on Acela 1, or is it just an optical illusion?
Pretty sure they're actually larger by physical dimension, though the layout is significantly different so that may play with the perspective. A1's have double-pane windows twice as wide as they are tall, with portholes near the vestibules and a skewed overall distribution along the car. A2's are single-pane...taller but narrower, and more evenly distributed along the car.



The layout differences probably explain why they strike the brain as being more divergent than they actually are dimensionally. I doubt the view is much different inside-out from your seat. The A1's already start out with pretty sweet views and lots of natural light. If the A2's match or somehow improve on that it's all gravy.



Meanwhile, these Florida trains are slower than Acela but IMO look more modern to my eye.

Siemens Viaggio Comfort. That's what's being ordered for the do-over contract for Chicago Hub & California statie coaches, and that's your pole-position bidder for the 500+ Amfleet-replacement contract. No more shitty AmCan submarine portholes if this is your view from NE Regional coach class come 4 years from now. . .



Virgin/Brightline uses same exact Siemens Charger loco as Amtrak ordered. They just went with the wholly cosmetic aerodynamic nose, nose cover for the couplers, and no fixed snowplow (it being South Florida and all). Strictly for looks; the extra curves don't serve any real function. Amtrak's Chargers have a flatter face, perpetually exposed layover yard ground plugs and coupler for multi-loco lashups, and obviously the bigger all-weather plowblade.

 

Arlington

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I suspect that the passenger section is in its final colors, BUT the locomotive has yet to get its "fade into pixels" blue stripe as shown in these mocks, which would cure my objection
 

ceo

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Interesting that it has Scharfenberg instead of AAR couplers, at least in the one photo with the fairing retracted.
 

Arlington

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Interesting that it has Scharfenberg instead of AAR couplers, at least in the one photo with the fairing retracted.
As shown in this picture? Maybe the factory tooling, jigs, or tug vehicles are all Euro-standard?
By the time they were hauling it to Colorado for testing, it had AAR couplers on both ends

This is railfan coupler porn. Symptomatic of today's hook up culture. </dadjoke> On the left is at the mfr in NY, on the right is a screencap from this (fairly spectacular) in-transit video.
alstom_avelia_amtrak24amtrakvideoscreen_202001bnam.jpg
avelia.PNG
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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I think the carriage couplers and carriage-to-power car couplers remain native Scharfenberg for optimal compatibility with the Euro-native tilt mechanism, but the outward-facing nose couplers are North American-standard AAR so they can be towed by a rescue diesel in the event of a power outage or be manipulated by switchers and work equipment in the yard. The Acela 1's also have AAR couplers on the noses for the same contingencies.

Note: in contrast to the semi-permanently coupled Acela 1's that require breaking out tools to separate cars the Aveilas are real hot-swappable coupled sets that can change out cars in an instant. Should expand the schedule range a bit as they would be able to slim down off-peak or Night Owl runs to 6 cars vs. the standard 8, should they want to experiment with a red-eye trial schedule. And in general will help vehicle uptime enormously as the whole set no longer has to go down for the count because of a single minor fault in a single car like the hard-coupled A1's; the bum carriage or power car can just be swapped out during any old yard pitstop and be sent back on its merry way.
 

ceo

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Um, the carriages run on shared Jacobs bogies, as is clearly visible in the videos linked above, so I don't think swapping them out is going to be all that simple. The power cars have their own trucks, though.
 

ceo

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Most high-speed trainsets are articulated like that because it greatly enhances safety in the event of a high-speed derailment; the train is much more likely to stay upright and in a straight line.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Um, the carriages run on shared Jacobs bogies, as is clearly visible in the videos linked above, so I don't think swapping them out is going to be all that simple. The power cars have their own trucks, though.
Maybe not simple like swapping out an Amfleet with a gnarly puke stain on the floor for a clean one, but the Aveilas are genuine coupled lash-ups that are not bolted together like the A1's. I don't know if there's a sliding mechanism or what with the shared bogies but the Euro sets they're based on are absolutely separable and that feature is being imported unaltered for the U.S. version.
 

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They have touted the future ability to add cars and grow the standard train set size from 9 to as many as 12, but given the shared bogies, they're going to need a crane or jack to lift the car when breaking consists. This may end up being both more flexible than the Acela 1 but clearly not as easy as conventional coupled coaches.
 

tysmith95

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Are there any plans to speed up the Metro North section of the trip? A faster Metro North trip would make the Acela more appealing than flying into LGA, currently though it's a toss up.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Are there any plans to speed up the Metro North section of the trip? A faster Metro North trip would make the Acela more appealing than flying into LGA, currently though it's a toss up.
There's not a whole lot large-scale that can be done, because the problem with MNRR territory is the sheer density of commuter service that uses all 4 tracks (i.e. the locals on the outer tracks, the expresses mostly on the center pair). It's where all the people are going, so unfortunately that's a feature much more than a bug. No matter what you to speed up one single stretch of track it only ends up the same race to catch up with the next single-file commuter run. So basically SE Connecticut will never be HSR-speed, nor is it ever intended to be such because you never want to skip where the people are. The paydirt is in racing out to a lead with faster trip times through the Jersey swamp and MA/RI, bank the savings through the slow churn in SW CT without squandering it, then come out ahead on the other side. That's why a Shoreline bypass (in less stupid fashion than NEC FUTURE studied it) is still a hugely high-leverage get, while big-city catchment bypasses in the absolute heart of the megalopolis really aren't (and, in many of the half-baked ideas NEC FUTURE came up with, did more actual harm than good with what catchments they ended up skipping).

To the degree you can improve CT speeds it is through improvements that mutually help MNRR to run more nimble so Amtrak more nimbly retains its schedules behind them for the breakouts on either end of New York and New Haven. State-of-repair stuff like replacing the movable bridges with non- speed-restricted replacements, the recently finished constant-tension catenary wholesale replacement which enormously improves the electrical reliability by eliminating wire-bounce brownouts that slow down the EMU's, extending all commuter platforms to 10 cars so max-size trains can board all-doors with fewer dwells, and doing fixed overgrade/undergrade bridge replacements that allow for less-jagged curves. Anything that can eliminate a potential MNRR delay risk ends up helping AMTK more than an outright plus change on the speedometer. Project-wise it's all real slow-churnover, non-sexy stuff. Curve bypass options are extremely limited with the surrounding density, and some NEC FUTURE options like straightening Bridgeport with an underwater tunnel are self-defeating because they pull the stations away from the CBD's that are generating the ridership. The only big-ticket item that'll be a real difference-maker is grade-separating "SHELL" interlocking in New Rochelle where the Penn and Grand Central routes converge to be a faster and no longer at-grade junction...but that's as much about keeping MNRR Penn Station Access traffic moving smooth as it is AMTK.
 

whighlander

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There's not a whole lot large-scale that can be done, because the problem with MNRR territory is the sheer density of commuter service that uses all 4 tracks (i.e. the locals on the outer tracks, the expresses mostly on the center pair). It's where all the people are going, so unfortunately that's a feature much more than a bug. No matter what you to speed up one single stretch of track it only ends up the same race to catch up with the next single-file commuter run. So basically SE Connecticut will never be HSR-speed, nor is it ever intended to be such because you never want to skip where the people are. The paydirt is in racing out to a lead with faster trip times through the Jersey swamp and MA/RI, bank the savings through the slow churn in SW CT without squandering it, then come out ahead on the other side. That's why a Shoreline bypass (in less stupid fashion than NEC FUTURE studied it) is still a hugely high-leverage get, while big-city catchment bypasses in the absolute heart of the megalopolis really aren't (and, in many of the half-baked ideas NEC FUTURE came up with, did more actual harm than good with what catchments they ended up skipping).

To the degree you can improve CT speeds it is through improvements that mutually help MNRR to run more nimble so Amtrak more nimbly retains its schedules behind them for the breakouts on either end of New York and New Haven. State-of-repair stuff like replacing the movable bridges with non- speed-restricted replacements, the recently finished constant-tension catenary wholesale replacement which enormously improves the electrical reliability by eliminating wire-bounce brownouts that slow down the EMU's, extending all commuter platforms to 10 cars so max-size trains can board all-doors with fewer dwells, and doing fixed overgrade/undergrade bridge replacements that allow for less-jagged curves. Anything that can eliminate a potential MNRR delay risk ends up helping AMTK more than an outright plus change on the speedometer. Project-wise it's all real slow-churnover, non-sexy stuff. Curve bypass options are extremely limited with the surrounding density, and some NEC FUTURE options like straightening Bridgeport with an underwater tunnel are self-defeating because they pull the stations away from the CBD's that are generating the ridership. The only big-ticket item that'll be a real difference-maker is grade-separating "SHELL" interlocking in New Rochelle where the Penn and Grand Central routes converge to be a faster and no longer at-grade junction...but that's as much about keeping MNRR Penn Station Access traffic moving smooth as it is AMTK.
F-Line -- that actually makes no sense

The density of people along the rails for Amtrak is not particularly relevant as the people either drive to the station or they can take a CR into a place like New Haven

for Metro North sure from New Haven on in there's an old station there where ever about 100 years ago there was a clump of people living who wanted to commute into NYC. The cut off for commuters was when it took about an hour or so to get home. That has not really changed whether its cars, trains and cars or trains and feet or bikes. The only real exception is Tokyo where 4 hour commutes are not considered extreme.

So all you need to do is make sure that only express type trains use the Express tracks. The ones that stop in every crappy [if expensive] hamlet in Fairfield County] they can continue to use the outside tracks and stop every mile or so. Note contrary to what F-line said -- very few people would board Amtrak in any of the CBD's along the way if it were not for an abundance of available parking. Outside of NYC and Boston and perhaps a bit in Providence the ridership drives to the railroad station they don't live within walking or biking distance.

Full disclosure: in the mid 90's I was working on a project in Stamford CT just up the street from the railway station -- so I did sometimes 3 trips a week for many weeks on end between Stamford and Boston hybridizing between Metro North and Amtrak
 

F-Line to Dudley

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F-Line -- that actually makes no sense

The density of people along the rails for Amtrak is not particularly relevant as the people either drive to the station or they can take a CR into a place like New Haven

for Metro North sure from New Haven on in there's an old station there where ever about 100 years ago there was a clump of people living who wanted to commute into NYC. The cut off for commuters was when it took about an hour or so to get home. That has not really changed whether its cars, trains and cars or trains and feet or bikes. The only real exception is Tokyo where 4 hour commutes are not considered extreme.

So all you need to do is make sure that only express type trains use the Express tracks. The ones that stop in every crappy [if expensive] hamlet in Fairfield County] they can continue to use the outside tracks and stop every mile or so. Note contrary to what F-line said -- very few people would board Amtrak in any of the CBD's along the way if it were not for an abundance of available parking. Outside of NYC and Boston and perhaps a bit in Providence the ridership drives to the railroad station they don't live within walking or biking distance.

Full disclosure: in the mid 90's I was working on a project in Stamford CT just up the street from the railway station -- so I did sometimes 3 trips a week for many weeks on end between Stamford and Boston hybridizing between Metro North and Amtrak
The whole universe does not run through New Haven. The 4 Amtrak stations in MNRR territory swing a collective 1.2M in annual AMTK-only ridership: New Haven with 627K annual, Stamford with 410K, New Rochelle with 91K, Bridgeport with 87K. All four are Top 100 AMTK ridership stations in the U.S., with New Haven #16 and Stamford #28. And Stamford actually did 40% more Acela boardings than New Haven in 2018 being a much more upscale market than NHV, so in no way is any of this structured as "everyone take a seat behind New Haven". Stamford is the second-busiest MNRR transfer station after Grand Central, and Bridgeport is a major MNRR diesel transfer point pooling Shore Line East and Waterbury Branch termini with future-planned Hartford Line termini service. These 4 stations filet the distance up I-95 equidistantly where large swaths of population wouldn't have enough time to fight the traffic if there were any fewer AMTK stops. Smack in the Tri-State area you bloody cannot expect to drive more than 20 miles to an intercity stop and not have it take hours to get there and park; divvying up the corridor in quadrants is the only way to handle it.

You claim to have spent significant commuting time on all of the services through here. How was it not so completely self-evident that you were surrounded by ground-zero megalopolis such that this enormous density's mechanism of transit access makes no sense to you??? This is what SW Connecticut freaking is, and the gravity well it exerts on every mode of transpo...including how expensive it is to fly out of JFK.


How exactly are you going to clear the center express tracks of MNRR traffic? Have you looked at a New Haven Line schedule lately? The GCT-New Haven express runs make exactly as many NEC stops between New York and Stamford as the Northeast Regionals: one. Amtrak hits New Rochelle; MNRR expresses hit Greenwich. They're doing exactly what you say should be the best practice, so the railroad is already service-stratified to max efficiency with no additional game changers to consider. Everybody is already single-filing it nonstop at top speed, and no one is getting fingered on those center tracks for being the slowpoke. There are simply too many freaking one-stop express trains in a row on the NEC express tracks west of Stamford for anyone to bust out of the single-file line at >90 MPH, nor any Jetsons Shit signaling tech to pull out of the hat to magically make it an instant 100+ MPH operation when it's already near its technical limit for block density. When those MNRR trains are hauling at least as many if not more people per slot than the intercity trains while making the same time, there is no "birthright" to one party sacking the other's schedules by punting them to the slow lane clogged amid the dizzying density of all-stops GCT-Stamford and NHV-Stamford locals. Everyone has to get where they're going in one piece or chaos burns it to the ground. By the time those commuter trains do start picking up skip-stops east of Stamford, traffic levels have dropped so far off overall that passing meets here are already an order of magnitude easier than running up against the taillights on the nonstops west-of-Stamford.

Claim 'birthright' for intercity trains by disrupting that breakneck commuter flow to the slow lane, and those punitive measures boomerang right back in Amtrak's face in the form of exploding platform dwells at their 4 intercity stops. When the commuter crowds can't move, those platforms gridlock and all that effort to run up the speedometer superficially between stations gets puked right back all over the schedule by not being able to leave stations as quickly. Margins are thin enough to begin with that they either started a war for an inconclusive draw...or even take a step backwards overall. It's a fool's game to try to 'punish' MNRR to intercity spoils...and, yes, the very surrounding density of that part of the megalopolis is the be-all explanation why. Amtrak knows it, which is why they are so adamantly clear about the speedometer only being a blunt instrument to wield outside of NY-NHV while good behavior for all traffic is the be-all goal inside of it. And every third-party traffic modeler who's taken a gander at the New Haven Line has come to the same conclusion, saying Jersey and the Shoreline are where earth-moving makes the pound-for-pound difference and New Haven is where running a tighter ship to eliminate uncertainty does all the heavy-lifting.
 
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citylover94

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This is a bit of a crazy idea but would it be worth eventually looking into making the NEC in MNRR territory six tracks to provide more capacity or is that more of a 100 years in the future consideration?
 

whighlander

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This is a bit of a crazy idea but would it be worth eventually looking into making the NEC in MNRR territory six tracks to provide more capacity or is that more of a 100 years in the future consideration?
Citylover -- there are a couple of places in Stamford CT where there is no room for even one more track -- googlemap first Stamford Place
A key element of the links that make the BOS-WAS into one contiguous unit lies in a narrow sliver bounded by Long Island Sound and I-95
in that narrow space there are railroad tracks, ultracapacity fiber optics and some structures - -the whole thing would have to be redone at enormous expense
 

Arlington

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Usually additional tracks on the Metro-North are discussed in terms of a 5th passing track, and elsewhere in Connecticut, the occasional two track bypass (Groton-New London)
 

F-Line to Dudley

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HSL across Long Island and then the Sound might be cheaper...
Except the LIRR mainline is very nearly as bad for service density, doesn't have a single intercity catchment as big as omitted Stamford (remember: Stamford outslugs New Haven by wide margin on Acela-specific boardings, so commuter vs. regional vs. HSR demand isn't scaling here at the same rates for each service tier). And most of the paths they could trace across the North Shore inlets to a tunneling trajectory ended up being curvy as hell. NEC FUTURE couldn't come up with a cross-Sound routing that kept its service margins, so that idea is pretty much dead.

As an idea that's always going to tickle the imagination just like cross-Sound expressway bridges/tunnels have tickled the imagination for 70 years it will continue to be a perennial conversation piece. But it never ends up adding up to sum of parts on closer analysis. I don't think we're done studying this at the big-picture level per se...but each additional look doesn't end up pushing it in a direction that starts producing "Eureka!" answers for the toughest questions of un-served demand that come up each time. Much like three-quarters century of cross-Sound highway bridge vaporware, a conceptually always-compelling idea that nonetheless becomes self-inhibiting to planners as soon as the briar patch of fine-print questions prove to have no easy answers.

Usually additional tracks on the Metro-North are discussed in terms of a 5th passing track, and elsewhere in Connecticut, the occasional two track bypass (Groton-New London)
Grade separating "SHELL" interlocking is the big one. Right now the Hell Gate/Penn side used by Amtrak and to-be used by the coming minority of MNRR Penn Station Access trains has a painful 30 MPH restriction at the flat junction, while the GCT side used by the MNRR New Haven expresses has a 60 MPH restriction. Crossover layout is squished way back of the junction making Amtrak have to do the hardest crossing work, with high chance of getting stuck behind a slowpoke Stamford-or-New Caanan local (the biggest by-far share of overall west-of-Stamford service) en route to New Rochelle Station because they go over the junction 30 MPH slower. New Rochelle then has a funky platform layout set by those constrained Penn vs. GCT crossovers that explains in part why Amtrak stops there for their lone before-Stamford intermediate but the MNRR New Haven expresses have to keep skipping on to Greenwich. There's zero flexibility, and bad timing at the junction causes bunching galore that has little/no room to reset itself before Stamford. This is the largest-share source of "bad behavior" problems where express trains making only 1 intermediate stop before Stamford should inherently be able to keep out of each other's way...but often don't and get entrapped in bunching hell.

"SHELL" separation would clean that mess up thoroughly by trenching the Hell Gate/Penn tracks underneath to direct-feed into the center express tracks, while moving at least 40 MPH faster than today. That way AMTK never has to worry again about getting stuck behind a slowpoke all-stops local to New Rochelle and having to make corrective action before Stamford. Acelas would also gain enough extra speed to beat the New Haven express into the junction so pure chance doesn't put it behind a Greenwich-stopping express while it runs nonstop to Stamford; dispatch can time the Acela for priority over the commuter express without penalizing the express's schedule because a few MPH throttle is all it takes. Northeast Regionals would then be able to run up ever closer to the taillights of a NHV express at the junction since they'll be stopping at New Rochelle while the NHV express opens up a spacing lead into its Greenwich stop that is fail-safe from being squandered before Stamford. And there are supposed to be TBD station layout changes to New Rochelle Station for more platform tracks to assist with the flexibility...probably changing the side + island layout to touch all tracks instead of 3 out of 4 like today.

In ancient times SHELL to Mamaroneck Station was ex- 5-track territory when the long-defunct New York, Westchester, & Boston line co-mingled with the NEC before turning north to White Plains. No appreciable stretch of 5th running track is going to be possible with the space required to grade separate SHELL and redo the New Rochelle platforms. North there's an extremely rarely used layover yard, which may be reanimated for a small slice of Penn Station Access 'city zone' trains that surge frequencies at the new Bronx intermediates to quasi- rapid transit service levels but terminate inside NY out of the way of all other trains rather than continue to Stamford. Those should, because of the station reconfig and slack space just north, be able to slide in and out with no conflicts to any other traffic. Track 5 space is then fungible for a very short distance to help with extra sorting space coming in/out of New Rochelle for additional resiliency.


Other than that you simply won't find the room for extra tracks. I-95 before the CT state line cannibalized the NYW&B's extra side-running tracks on the ROW when it was built, which is why they are bolted together here. You might also have a short sorting length you can squeeze in at Greenwich Station for additional resiliency on the express single-file where NHV expresses are stopping but all of Amtrak is non-stop. That helps a little, but the lengths of space available are so uniformly small that they slot in the category of micro-adjustments...nothing remotely game-changing. The whole way to Stamford the NEC is either sharing cut/embankment with I-95 or they're splitting for insignificant lengths so 95 can bypass a downtown that is wall-to-wall massed against the NEC. On that whole stretch the most consequential dispatch assist is replacement of ancient Cos Cob drawbridge with a faster-moving, adjustable-height, more reliable lift span that slashes bridge openings sharply back on the stopwatch and also sports a thinner/sturdier deck than the current bascule to let smaller speedboats slip under without triggering an opening. Of the 5 movable bridges in SW Connecticut, Cos Cob is responsible for 50% of all New Haven Line maritime openings because of the heavy pleasure boat traffic in Cos Cob Harbor. Norwalk--fully-funded for shovel-ready replacement as a new lift--does 25% (mostly cement barge traffic), and the other three split the remaining inconsequential 25% on the lightest-traffic Bridgeport-New Haven segment. A new Cos Cob lift would have somewhat lower total quantity of openings with the extra couple feet of speedboat clearance, and allow dispatch to pack trains much tighter around openings because lifts are inherently fast and there's rare enough tall-mast traffic here that it would rarely need to lift all the way. As a "good behavior" and dispatching precision aid that state-of-repair replacement ends up being more meaningful than any short Track 5 sidings you can cram in there.


So in the end, doing the "SHELL" grade separation megaproject and a whole lot of unsexy stuff like bridge renewal hits the target where NY-Stamford can live just spiffy inside a 'Superduper 2040 HSR' service universe. Very little of the bucket list here requires the level of overthinking that the Shoreline bypass or 200 km/h NY-DC does...which is perhaps why there's such temptation to overthink MNRR territory regardless. Really, it 'works' in context of all of the service goals of the NEC at-large if trains are simply better-behaved on the express tracks through the SW CT megalopolis. Those 4 intercity stations have to be served in service-fileted fashion in order to handle the loads or give anyone in that part of the megalopolis fighting chance to survive the last-mile trip to the station. So the goal was always "marathon not sprint": keeping even pace where all demand actually stacks rather than loading up for some singular NY-NHV sprint that leaves an outright majority of the megalopolis' demand laying on the table.
 
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BostonBoy

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Full disclosure. I worked the Corridor for 42 years. One of the constraints on MNRR is that it has not been at 4 track capacity for just about all of my years working it. There was a time when MNRR contemplated going to three tracks east of Stamford and downgraded the speeds on track 2 because they stopped maintaining it. After some improvements financed by Amtrak, the tracks were upgraded , just in time for a massive catenary project, which has further restricted capacity. All of this work was occurring while the Acela was introduced, and Metro North growth was exploding; all good things. I know for a fact that transit times can be reduced ( with an experienced engineer who knows where to cheat) but speed observance is now much more strict ( as it should be). As the catenary project finally comes to completion, we will have further track restrictions to re-build South Norwalk movable bridge. There was a time when MNRR dispatchers were not kind to Amtrak,especially the Acela. I think we were looked upon as an added burden. One Rail Traffic controller used to routinely chime " ties go to he home team", when we were made to wait for MNRR moves. Also, I do believe Amtrak is better treated on MNRR after the RTC's got to know the Amtrak crews they knew who could make a run and not ball up the works. Further cooperation is sure to increase if and when MNRR runs to Penn Station on the Hellgate Line. Speeds CAN be increased on MNRR,but the tracks will have to be maintained to higher standards than currently employed by MNRR, and civil track restrictions CANNOT be protected with the cab signal system. It treats a 45 MPH curve like a train and unnecessarily slows down traffic for much longer distances than with the PTC system Amtrak uses on tracks it owns.
 
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BostonBoy

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Further, The signal system that MNRR upgraded to is geared towards slower speeds and higher frequencies .
 

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