Amtrak NEC, Downeaster, Acela, & Long Distance

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,816
Reaction score
724
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 4 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.
At least when the major SGR projects are complete you are left with a higher-capacity RR than it has ever been at any time since the atrophy-years NYNH&H in the mid-1960's. It can't be overstated what >50 years of tying one hand behind back on deferred maint has done. The gains are indeed significant from the cruft rollback. The cat replacement project is particularly underrated for service reliability, as summer "wire sag" season used to be torture for all the heat-related speed restrictions that would get slapped all up and down the line. When wire contact reliability faded, it was the multi-pantograph EMU sets that took it on the chin which completely effed up the single-fire express lane for Amtrak. 3+ months of the year you couldn't maintain service reliability commensurate with the other 9 months of the year. That madness is gone now. The segue straight into WALK Bridge replacement off the final completion of the constant-tension cat megaproject puts a few more years of construction staging between having that newly gained full-service capacity, but it's a worthwhile wait because that bridge will likewise be a thinner/sturdier deck with higher clearance, with variable-height raisings that will extremely-rarely need to go to full height (since squat barge traffic is the bulk of Norwalk River's maritime use), and faster-overall raisings with far less glitchy resets. Stamford-Norwalk is the second-busiest segment to New Rochelle-Stamford...so proportionately that bridge is biggest single capacity improvement on Segment #2. Just as SHELL separation + Cos Cob replacement are the biggest on busiest Segment #1.

It's all downhill and wind-at-backs from there. Norwalk-Bridgeport is comparably a much more manageable segment because all the max-density Stamford locals have long since dropped off, the Danbury trains have dropped off, and you haven't yet picked up any Shore Line East, Waterbury, or (future) Hartford Line slots until Bridgeport. Bridgeport-New Haven is the easiest because wetlands and a *little* relaxing of the megalopolis density give it comparatively much lower station density and not quite as much signal-block density, so the moderate service uptick and increased presence of diesel locals does no harm because passing opportunities are comparably much more relaxed. The biggest needs here are mainly extending all platforms to 10 cars commensurate with Stamford-west to minimize dwells through 30 more years of projected growth. The handful of remaining 4-6 car stubby platforms extract their own inefficiencies on EMU sets that routinely run longer than that. The bridge replacements east of Norwalk could even be done as fixed spans if the feds were willing to pump extra into Devon and Sagatuck fixed replacements for changing the approach grades and rebuilding Westport Station on a higher elevation (so far in all plans they've been anti-help and are sacking ConnDOT with majority share, so hope is not as of yet a good thing). If that's done 2 more bona fide speed restrictions (if not exactly consequential number of openings) get zeroed out, and New Haven-Norwalk dispatching more or less zeroes out any bridge opening potential in the schedule since 1998-construction PECK Bridge in Bridgeport is a far-and-away least concern that only opens 2-4 times per month (if that).


The signaling density constraint is real. There is very good reason why this is the last NEC segment of all to have PTC go live; keeping the interplay with the cab signals at "do no harm" baseline took years of additional design work because traffic density was already sitting at technological limits. Survey the world and you won't find a comparable analogue for how tight the packing is on the express tracks of a 4-track RR. In any other application the service pie has a lower proportion of commuter expresses and higher proportion of intercity/HSR than here...and so the terms of the signal layout start with looser blocks that can differentiate a much higher overall express-track speed vs. the local tracks, all else being equal. This is not one of those cases where bureaucratic competency or Jetsons Shit signaling is going to open up a new speed tier that doesn't already exist. Nobody else is forced to 'run against the taillights' on margins this tight, and traffic modelers with world experience will be quick to point out that the New Haven Line is a legit world's-trickiest in service layering that will behave much the same even in perfect laboratory conditions. The delicate balancing act is predicated on well-behaved single-file of all Amtrak and all NHV expresses on those extremely crowded west-of-Stamford center tracks where every train is making no more than one intermediate stop. "Do no harm" was the best you could hope for with PTC interoperability, and now that we more or less have that with the finished PTC install it's now it's up to cueing up changes like SHELL interlocking separation and Cos Cob replacement to carve out any more headroom for 'running up against the taillights' at tightest laboratory margin.

That does model out as for-real good enough for the NEC FUTURE service layer cake, and then with the Stamford-Norwalk, Norwalk-Bridgeport, and Bridgeport-New Haven segments being of comparatively lower-difficulty dispatching makes the backfill work across the rest of the corridor more or less academic. Nothing unique those segments will throw Amtrak's way will ever match the difficulty of maintaining max-tight margins to Stamford. But it was a long time coming to see as much light at the end of the tunnel as we even have now with the new catenary, WALK replacement, and SHELL + Cos Cob graduating to the realm of real nuts-and-bolts funding arguments rather than fantasy/conceptual argument. The solves for readying the New Haven Line for NEC FUTURE are much more concrete and actionable than pretty much everywhere else...including Gateway NYC which the Heritage Foundation zombies populating USDOT leadership are now trying to vainly kill yet again. Stay on-focus and we can settle up the CT megalopolis bucket list in realistic due time.
 

RandomWalk

Active Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
728
Reaction score
75
Back in my mid-spent youth, devouring railroad books at the local public library, I seem to recall the tale that the NYNH&H was trying to assemble the ROW for an improved main line in the early 20th Century. However, the post-WWII decline led them to sell portions of it to CT for I-95. Given my inability to rediscover the reference, I assume it’s urban legend, but I would appreciate confirmation by one of the more knowledgeable folks here.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,816
Reaction score
724
Back in my mid-spent youth, devouring railroad books at the local public library, I seem to recall the tale that the NYNH&H was trying to assemble the ROW for an improved main line in the early 20th Century. However, the post-WWII decline led them to sell portions of it to CT for I-95. Given my inability to rediscover the reference, I assume it’s urban legend, but I would appreciate confirmation by one of the more knowledgeable folks here.
Oh, they absolutely had plans to continue electrification straight to Boston, quad-track the Shoreline, and implement modern-to-this-day cab signaling across the whole works. The company Board of Directors authorized the project, but the Depression thwarted those plans from being enacted. NYNH&H made a lot of foolish side investments outside their core biz in the Roaring Twenties during the market bubble, including launching proxy wars to try to buy itself a trolley interurban monopoly in Southern New England a mere handful of years before that whole mode of transit went completely splat. So they got wiped out harder in the '29 market crash than nearly any other RR and first hit the skids in bankruptcy by 1935...many years earlier than the Pennsy and NY Central systems they were eventually merged into. Part of the restructuring plan involved finishing the NEC expansion job while restructuring out less-profitable assets...but then WWII hit, the feds nationalized the RR network, they had to hold onto all their money-losing branches (albeit with generous fed assistance), and there wasn't enough domestic labor around to kick off any major capital improvements projects. Postwar the feds abruptly withdrew wartime control (huge mistake...they should've "pulled a Conrail" + split off public-ized passenger services right then and there in 1950 instead of waiting 20 more years of decline for the Penn Central disaster to force the issue). That immediately sent all the Eastern RR's into a tailspin they never recovered from, with a second stint in bankruptcy tabling all of the New Haven's grand plans on the Corridor. Though they never, to the very end, gave up on Boston electrication as an overarching goal.

The New Haven fared better than most of their contemporaries at staunching the bleeding of passenger counts by aggressively renewing their rolling stock, and started to simplify their once crazy-complicated NEC schedulebook (full of short-turns, named trains, and train-number transfer matching for plotting even dirt-simple trips) into the way more intuitive commuter local, commuter express, intercity local, first-class tiers that have more or less stuck to this day. So New Haven Line trips sustained and in some segments improved their margins during that era...but it was all for naught because the company was still suffocated by hundreds of miles of cost-bleeding branchlines and bankruptcy slowing their ability to petition the feds to get rid of the baggage. By their last decade lineside physical plant was already well into deferred maint mode, ready for the bottom to completely fall out during the Penn Central ownership era.

So chalk their thwarted electrification/expansion timetable up to a lot of rotten-luck timing vs. world events, an excess of pre-Crash stock buying stupidity that put them under more duress...earlier...than their counterparts when the market party was over, and the same two decades of policy malaise that left the RR's and fed RR policy utterly unable to evolve until the Penn Central bankruptcy shocked the system.


UConn Library, BTW, has hundreds of thousands of pages of scanned NYNH&H company records stored online. Some of them detail these electrification and Shoreline capacity plans, and some of the most useful stuff on there is the huge cache of property valuation slides for literally every parcel across the Corridor and most of the Southern New England branchlines. It's often more useful to search those old property files than current public records because they're so extremely detailed. Fortunately/unfortunately it's such an overwhelming document dump searching it can be a real chore if you don't know precisely what you're looking for. The "good finds" often come via word-of-mouth online from individual people who managed to stumble on something neat in there rather than search having pinpoint accuracy.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,816
Reaction score
724
Downeaster gets some fed fun bux for congestion mitigation upgrades. . .

Will add a second platform + up-and-over ped access to Wells Station. And extends what's currently a 2-mile stretch of double-track passing siding through Wells Station south by 4 miles to span the distance to the next siding in North Berwick, for a total of approx. 7 miles of DT. Eliminates one of the bigger sources of freight interference delays north of the MA state line, and preps the Western Route for adding the 6th DE round-trip in the next 18 months.
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
Do I read the schedule right? Today a DE 683 calls on Wells northbound at 2:53p and then DE 686 calls on Wells Southbound at 2:59p? Basically they both need to be at Wells' single platform at the same time. And again at 6:48p Northbound 685 nearly-meets Southbound 688 (calling at Wells at 6:55).
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
The pixelated loco stripe and door surround are a big improvement now that they have been painted on as planned
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,816
Reaction score
724
The pixelated loco stripe and door surround are a big improvement now that they have been painted on as planned
That's the second completed set heading east to (Wilmington?) for static testing at Amtrak inside the yard. First semi-painted set is at USDOT test track in Pueblo doing running tests.

Third set I believe is also ready to move. Think that one's also going east for static/computer testing. None of them are certified for road testing yet, so only way you can get a glimpse is by getting lucky from a train passing Wilmington Shops if they just so happen to park it in a visible part of the yard.
 

stick n move

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
6,765
Reaction score
1,084
Its pretty cool seeing an Alstom hsr train in the US. It just looks legit, whether speed/service really improves much or not, that look is associated with HSR trains.

I honestly liked this better though with the black stripe over the windows.



Regardless though the new one does look good. Especially the red stripe at the bottom in the video above, it looks slick. Also in that video interestingly the thin red stripe carries on between both sets of trains old and new, pretty cool.
 
Last edited:

Jahvon09

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2011
Messages
1,583
Reaction score
19
Its pretty cool seeing an Alstom hsr train in the US. It just looks legit, whether speed/service really improves much or not, that look is associated with HSR trains.

I honestly liked this better though with the black stripe over the windows.



Regardless though the new one does look good. Especially the red stripe at the bottom in the video above, it looks slick. Also in that video interestingly the thin red stripe carries on between both sets of trains old and new, pretty cool.
I do also!!
 

bakgwailo

Active Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2016
Messages
959
Reaction score
56
Acela's are (supposedly) canceled, Regionals down to 40% of normal service levels. Amtrak's page no longer seems to have the cancellation notice for Acela, though.


 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,816
Reaction score
724
Acela's are (supposedly) canceled, Regionals down to 40% of normal service levels. Amtrak's page no longer seems to have the cancellation notice for Acela, though.


I don't know if that's the entirety of the story behind the Acela cancellations. Amtrak employees mentioned online over a week ago that 4 of the 20 Acela sets have been pulled from service and sent to the Bear, DE repair facility. Now, normally Wilmington, DE is home shop for the Acelas and electric locos. Bear is located 5 miles off the NEC on a diesel-only branchline that requires a switcher to shove any all-electric equipment down there, so it's usually not done with anything pantograph-equipped unless it's got major body surgery to undergo. Besides relieving Wilmington of some duties on Amfleet coaches that can be hauled by diesel, Bear is mainly a wreck repair shop, heavy components refurb center, and boneyard for wrecked or retired equipment awaiting dispersal. If any Acela sets are making visits there, it has to be because something is so very wrong with them they aren't going to leave anytime soon. Wilmington would've parted out the sets and reassembled the best power car and carriage remainders into something that could go back on the road quickly. These 4 sent to Bear clearly aren't going to be parted out and slapped back...whatever repair they're in for is major and long-term.

Which immediately begs the question of just how many ailing sets are in the remaining 16. This same veteran employee on RR.net who's usually impeccable on his stuff says the sets are increasingly being band-aided on the day-to-day in increasing deferred (major) maintenance so AMTK can try to get through the next year before the Aveilas arrive skirting the contractual triggers that automatically bring in the Bombardier techs as part of that tortured Service & Support agreement that's made blood enemies out of both sides. BBD is currently playing a game of legal chicken on the retired HHP-8 locomotives stored in Bear, saying that because the lease isn't over on them Amtrak has been illegally stripping them of parts to feed the (similar-design) Acela power cars. This is forcing AMTK to go to inane lengths to repair a bunch of locos that will never be used by anyone on the face of the earth ever again (because they are lemons with capital 'L') to keep itself from wasting more money seeing the whole thing blow up in court. The Acelas get sucked straight into that same toxic contractual vortex...hence the keep-away tactics with Bombardier. It's clearly not working if a quarter of the A1 sets are now mothballed and a powerful odor is wafting out of Wilmington on the sudden "temporary" sidelining of all the others while NE Regionals keep chugging along without nearly as-drastic a service shorting. The last thing they need right now is another battle front to open in the war with Bombardier, but that may indeed be the case. The A1's are aging in dog years, and it's very likely they've uncovered something fleet-wide that needs immediate fix...so entanglements ahoy.
 

Norval Elliot

New member
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Messages
42
Reaction score
13
Upon leaving the verdant hills yesterday, Amtrak's Vermonter unofficially became the New Havener owing to the suspension of its service north of NHV.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,816
Reaction score
724
L.A.-Vegas HSR...Take XVII...secures a wad of new private financing in a latest/greatest bid to un-vaporware itself:


This latest incarnation of XpressWest is now owned by Virgin Trains USA (co-owners of Florida Brightline) and sourced by certifiable train nut Richard Branson's backing unlike the previous cash-poor incarnations, so it stands a somewhat better chance of "breaking the third dimension" than the rotating cast of tilting-at-windmills outfits who tried this before them. If still not exactly what any rational observer would call 'good' odds. Certainly their 2023 service target is laughable by any measure since it's only sitting north of 30% design; that timeframe shouldn't be taken as any more than a typically Branson-esque over-the-top PR stunt. But a few more cash dumps and some favorable regulatory luck (see glacial-but-breathing "progress" on Texas Central for how much time chew gets lost solely in FRA approvals, nevermind the mountain of other paperwork that takes forever) and 2033 might look aggressive-but-realistic. They already secured tax-exempt construction bonds in California for the tie-in @ Palmdale with CAHSR Operating Segment 1 (the part that's still shovels-in-ground proceeding after Gavin Newsom axed the rest). Being mostly empty desert ROW along I-15 with few mountain passes (CAHSR Phase I does all the brutal work crossing the Sierra Nevada) it should be an effective test for cost-management and whether public-private enterprise can tighten the bolts on slovenly U.S. construction costs.

Unlike Brightline which is glomming onto one of the country's most heavily used freight corridors with fast diesel service, XpressWest is expected to be all-electric from Day 1. Though Virgin could conceivably stock it with diesel Brightline trainsets for a 'soft' opening until a completed south end of CAHSR gives it an effective hook for Phase II'ing the electrification. Direct service to Los Angeles is still contingent on electrifying Metrolink's commuter main to Riverside and a commuter-outlying portion of the Amtrak Southwest Chief route for the slow-speed last connection, which CAHSR will 'mongrel'-upgrade for high speeds at some TBD point after Phase I is complete. A completed XpressWest ROW is also thought to be a vector for restoration of the Amtrak Desert Wind L.A.-Vegas-Salt Lake City-Chicago route, chopped during the 1997 bloodbath of Clinton Admin. LD train cuts. The DW has consistently ranked Top 5 on defunct/suspended Amtrak routes most desireable for restoration.
 
Last edited:

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,291
Reaction score
450
Wiould this be a good time to take one Hudson River tube out of service maybe over a weekend to do some interim repairs?
 
Last edited:

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,816
Reaction score
724
More new paint job porn. . .

Amtrak releases mock-ups for the ongoing national order of Siemens Charger diesel locos: http://www.highspeed-rail.org/Documents/Annual Meetings/2020/Amtrak Procurement presentation NGEC (1).pdf. (Also some Acela II interior mock-up shots in the same presentation).



This is different from the delivered statie Chargers and their custom Midwest , Cali, and WSDOT/Cascades paint jobs. This is what you'll see pulling long-distance trains, Virginia and Springfield NE Regionals post- engine switch, the Downeaster, and Pennsylvanian post- engine switch...any purely national routes or statie routes that source power from purely national equipment bases. The NY/VT Empire Corridor pool of dual-mode replacement locos (expected to bid later this year) is the only other statie equipment base expected to get its own custom paint like the others.


I dunno...that's a lot of blue. I'm not sure how I feel about that, since it's hard to picture any Amtrak stock in memory that trades in primary dark colors. Usually the locos have always gone heavy on the silver body to match the stainless steel coach fleets.

These are the paints the current Genesis fleets sport. From L-R . . .
  • Phase I (original 1972 SDP40F "bloody nose"): P42DC Heritage unit.
  • Phase II (1974 GE E60 and Amfleet "fat stripe"): P32AC-DM dual-mode Heritage unit.
  • Phase III (1976-present, "thin-stripe"): P40DC Veterans' Memorial Heritage unit. Scheme is elsewhere found on new Viewliner II's and some Amfleet/Superliner repaints. Veterans' unit does a different take from the original '91 P40DC Genesis Phase III delivery scheme by doing black nose instead of silver nose.
  • Phase IV (1993, original P42DC Genesis scheme) P42DC Heritage unit. Original delivery scheme for bulk of Genesis order, though the once-silver nose looks like it got some dark grey treatment.
  • Phase V (2000-present) generic Genesis scheme. All diesels except for the 4 above Heritage units painted this way (all Genesis P40DC, P42DC, P32AC-DM units + all spot revenue Dash 8's now mostly relegated to work duty + most work trains). Midwest Siemens Charger statie units and Siemens Sprinter electrics use derived variants of Phase V. (Note: no locos have ever been done up in Phase VI, the current blue-dominated stripe scheme on most Amfleet, Viewliner I, and Superliner coaches)

1585773311900.png


Phase III is the general consensus hands-down best one they ever had, which is why it's lasted 44 years and is making a comeback with the new Viewliners. I've seen the Vets' Heritage P40 with the black nose leading the Lake Shore Ltd. and it is sharp as fuck in real-life...absolutely one of the best-looking pieces of equipment to ever fly the AMTK flag. The black nose and nose/roofaccents, seen most often on the electric Sprinters are definite keepers any which way. Logo and number placement is equally prominent as the Sprinters...like. But I really don't know about all that blue. Silvery Phase V has worn so well over the years it looks good even when caked up in dirt and bug splatter. Either a faithful miming like the Sprinters or a 'speckled' adaptation like the Midwest Charger would've been eminently safe. And failing that, anything in Phase III stripes looks great by default and meshes effortlessly with whatever is behind it. So I'm not sure that overdose of navy contrast is going to look so hot pulling a bunch of silver stainless steel coaches...but I'll allow myself to be impressed by a real-life pilot unit.
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
4,686
Reaction score
148
With this be a good time to take one Hudson River tube out of service maybe over a weekend to do some interim repairs?
Theyve taken one tunnel out of service every single weekend since Sandy to do repairs.

8 years, no end in sight, no progress reports, and no accountability.
 

Top