Amtrak NEC, Downeaster, Acela, & Long Distance

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Many years ago I had a reverse commute from Medford to North Andover, which meant that every morning I drove past the miles and miles of inbound stop-and-go (mostly stop) traffic, and every morning I swore to myself that I would never, ever live where I had to commute into Boston by car. And this was in the mid-90s.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Moar paint porn...Amtrak releases updated renders of the Charger loco (national pool) livery: https://media.amtrak.com/media-images/alc42-charger-locomotives/







Like the front accenting a real lot, especially the red. Incorporates the best elements of the very attractive Sprinter Veterans-paint unit up-front. Really like the subtle homage to the old AMTK arrow logo on the sides, too.

Still think that much blue is a question mark for wearing accumulated gunk, when primary-silver Phase V has proven itself on the loco fleet over many decades to still look good when dirty. More conservative but still attractive would be inversion of silver and blue on the sides/middles, and blue at the bottom where the undersides are usually painted very dark.

I guess they're calling this "Phase VI" because of the maximum-fat blue stripe and extreme-thin red stripe, even though it doesn't bear a whole lot of resemblance to the Phase VI coach fleets.


Overall I'd say this is moving in the right direction vs. the somewhat formless first-take a couple months ago. The accenting is leaps-and-bounds more distinct now, even though it's still too much blue for my liking.
 

stick n move

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Those updated headlights look a billion times better than the ass ugly stock charger.


One of the ugliest machines ever created by man. Kind of crazy when brightline looks perfectly fine and the amtrak above as well. They can design decent looking locos, wtf is this.
 

Stlin

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Annoyingly, it looks like that's a "transitional" scheme; only 5 locos will get it. Also, the fact that the port and starboard sides of the loco aren't symmetrical bothers me.
Five of the first six locomotives will have this version of our current Phase VI paint scheme (a “livery” in trade terms) and one will be painted to recognize next year’s 50th anniversary of the inauguration of Amtrak service. A final livery will be unveiled later as part of a fleet-wide plan.

Frankly, I personally can't stand Amtrak's inability to settle on a paint scheme; I can excuse the dedicated sets and fleets, but where there's going to be any amount of fleet pooling, just settle on something, anything. In other words, why paint the Viewliner IIs and P32s in Phase III syrupy Americana when the rest of the fleet is phase IV/V? I commonly see a Phase V loco with a mixed train of IV and III. It just looks untidy. It's down right rare to find a wholly matched set, even ignoring the loco. Even when it is, it often doesn't line up.

Annoyingly, this is something the United merger under smisek got right; repainting the old battleship grey and blue rising liveries into the thoroughly uninspiring Continental livery got them a matching fleet fast. Amtrak should just settle on something fast, simple, and cheap; even the commuter rail has managed a coherent, *internally consistent* livery over the past 40 years.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Those updated headlights look a billion times better than the ass ugly stock charger.


One of the ugliest machines ever created by man. Kind of crazy when brightline looks perfectly fine and the amtrak above as well. They can design decent looking locos, wtf is this.
Wish I could say there was a prettier future from whence those were coming from, but Euroland's been beaten by the same exact ugly stick.

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Riverside

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Shifting gears for the moment: I've been creating a mental crayon map of potential medium-distance rail services in New England, and in the course of that was reminded about the Central Corridor Rail Line proposal. This is a proposal for some kind of rail service from New London to Norwich to Willimantic to UConn to Palmer to Amherst to Brattleboro over existing freight tracks.

And... I have so many questions?

First off, what kind of service is this meant to be? Commuter rail? Into New London, New England's... 135th largest city? (Roughly the size of Belmont or Wakefield.) (Though, to be fair, the New London-Norwich NECTA comes in a reasonable 9th place.) Downeaster-style medium distance? Okay but to where? And from where?

Second, why is Amherst/Brattleboro the northern anchor? Why not run into Springfield? That would at least give you a major anchor at one end and a minor anchor on the other. I suspect the reason for this is that it would require a switch addition at Palmer -- the southwestern quadrant of that crossing currently lacks a switch. That's fair enough, but this project would already require several million dollars of track upgrades to reach reasonable speeds, so adding a switch doesn't seem like the most unreasonable idea, especially to divert trains into New England's fourth largest city.

And yeah -- those track upgrades are mucho necessary. I went and dug up the timetable for the last passenger service to run over those tracks: Amtrak's Montrealer (now Vermonter) in the early 90s. Allow me to screenshot the relevant section:

Vermonter 1992.png


The New London-Amherst leg is 85 miles, and took three and a half hours (average 24 mph) going southbound. Amherst-Willimantic is 56 miles and took two hours (average 28 mph), while Willimantic-New London took 95 minutes to travel 29 miles (average 18 mph). Northbound was a little bit better, managing to shave 35 minutes off the New London-Willimantic leg, but still taking over three hours to go 85 miles (average 28 mph).

No wonder the train was an overnighter -- it turned the MTL-NYC run into a 14-hour journey by crawling across half of Eastern Connecticut only to double back!

(If you are wondering whether that Willimantic stop really slowed things down somehow, it did not. The 1989 timetable, when trains ran direct between Amherst and New London, is 3 hours and 15 minutes southbound, and somehow exactly the same amount of time running northbound as was scheduled in the 90s.)

So, obviously those track upgrades are a must.

Now, a few ideas and comments.

First, to me this proposal seems much more sensible if it includes service to Springfield. Palmer is 14 miles from Springfield, Stafford is 27 and UConn is 38. (Roughly equivalent to Framingham, Westborough and Worcester, respectively.) The density is nothing like Greater Boston, but the travel times would at least be reasonable (assuming track upgrades). Combine that with the moderately higher density at the other end of the line in Willimantic, Norwich and New London, and you might actually have something worth more than 1 daily round trip.

Second, Amherst to me seems unlikely to be begging for direct rail service to the Quiet Corner in Connecticut. And likewise, anyone traveling from Hartford, New Haven, New York or beyond would likely ride to Northampton instead and pursue last-mile transport from there. But, as we've discussed previously, it strikes me that there could possibly be demand for service from Amherst to the eastern parts of the state. Students can make day trips to Boston, and Boston/Metro-West residing professors can commute out a couple of times a week for lectures. Perhaps one early morning trip in each direction and one evening trip in each direction, Amherst-Boston, enough to get you to either location for a 10-3 working day; and then maybe a midday trip or two that is achieved via transfers at Palmer.

Which brings us to Idea the Third: boy is the topology of this line inconvenient! At the southern end, you have Norwich and Willimantic which both could conceivably be of interest to Providence commuters, and maybe barely of interest for Boston supercommuters -- Norwich moreso of the two, being only 12 miles north of New London. New London is a little less than 2.5 hours from Boston on an all-stops Regional, and about 1.5 hours on an Acela which runs express to Providence. You could maybe swing a Willimantic-Norwich-New London-Providence-Boston journey in 2 hours, which could actually be competitive with driving.

But.

The tracks are pointing the wrong way at New London. Willimantic and Westerly are both "railroad east" of New London. So you'd have to do a reverse move (or a timed transfer). It's not impossible, but it is lamentably inelegant.

There's a similar problem at the other end as well. UConn is about 24 miles away from the junction at Palmer -- a bit further than Amherst's 19, but not crazy. And while UConn doubtless has fewer students from Massachusetts than UMass does, there presumably would still be some use for rail service to the nearest big city, Boston.

But. Again. The tracks are pointing the wrong way at Palmer. You could do a reverse move or a timed transfer, but... it's only a 1 hour drive between Worcester and Storrs. Insofar as the Boston-Amherst idea is marginal, the Boston-UConn idea is sadly all the more so.

So where does this leave us?

I'd suggest three service patterns:
  1. Springfield-New London;
    • all day service
    • designed for commuters at both ends, as well as commuters going to UConn;
    • assuming 45 mph service (which hopefully is an underestimate), this would be a 90 minute journey, well in the commuter rail realm, particularly as few riders would travel end to end;
    • with luck, include a timed transfer at New London to support (super-)commuters to Providence and Boston from Norwich and Willimantic
  2. Amherst-Boston;
    • two daily trains in each direction, early morning and late afternoon,
    • journey time of maybe two hours,
    • intended for non-daily supercommuters and students
  3. Amherst (or Brattleboro)-New London;
    • 1 mid-day trip in each direction
    • scheduled around timed transfers at Palmer to Boston-Springfield service;
    • gives Amherst mid-day rail service as well as a link to UConn -- enough to support students going for overnight events, that kind of thing;
    • the most "long distance" style service of these three, would also be more appropriate for extending to Brattleboro and points further in Vermont, since the need to adhere to something like a 9-5 schedule isn't as strong
But -- absent all that -- and in particular absent the switch at Palmer -- I'm scratching my head a bit here. I mean, I love trains, and I'm pretty much always in favor of running them everywhere. But this line (as Brattleboro-New London) cuts across literally the only remaining density gap in BosWash and almost seems to actively avoid linking in to anything else.

Someone can hopefully tell me why I'm wrong and why this actually makes sense.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Central Corridor Study was an answer seeking a question. That's the easiest way to explain its paper existence. There really is not any captive audience such that there's a "corridor" to be served there at all. It's mainly that NECR wanted freight investment to get 286,000 lb. loading capacity down to the docks of Port of New London...had large self-funding gaps to fill in MA and CT in that quest...and was looking at passenger overlap that. . .
  • in 1989 (when CN owned the Central Vermont) used the whole CV mainline New London (split from NEC) to Cantic, QUE (split from Adirondack corridor), after the Montrealer was re-routed away from the Conn River Line due to failing track conditions and Amtrak's court loss vs. Guilford/PAR in eminent domaining the line. Amherst opened on Day 1; Willimantic added as infill in '91. The whole end-to-end corridor was maintained to 59 MPH passenger, though because it was unsignaled there were no passing sidings and freight interference caused large NB vs. SB timetable disparities.
  • in 1995 (same year CN sold out and NECR was formed) was chopped to just the half the CV main, Palmer-St. Albans with the truncation of the Montrealer to St. Albans, reinstatement of Springfield Line service, and the infamous Palmer reverse. Willimantic stop lost. Track class between St. Albans and Cantic was allowed to lapse from Class 3 (59 MPH passenger) to Class 2 (30 MPH) from deferred maint since there was only one freight train left on the far-north CV's schedule.
  • in 2014 chopping Palmer-Northfield for the relocation back to the Conn River (in planning since 2010), with loss of Amherst stop.
That was, to say the least, concerning trending for NECR being able to live large off gov't fun bux in its pursuit of a tall-clearance, heavy-loading freight corridor at one of the highest incumbent trans-New England freight speed limits. While they were richly compensated by VTrans' incremental improvements on the core Vermonter route throughout the 2000's and 2010's (and now have quietly re-upgraded north-of-St. Albans with VTrans funding in prep for the Montrealer's imminent return), half their mileage wasn't schlepping off pax investment anymore. So let's say they "wholeheartedly encouraged" a bunch of CT and MA local legislators to go fishing for some study money for a corridor work-up, with eager batting-of-eyes that they might even be willing to run some of the service since they were such a nice, helpful, and neighborly RR (*cough*...who might even know where to pick up a used Budd RDC or two...*cough*).

That's about the sum of it. They did a complete due-diligence corridor study and found...exactly what you see there. Which is not a whole lot. The line conveniently runs right next to Mohegan Sun Casino, through downtown Norwich, Yantic where I-395 and CT 2 meet, in Willimantic, at an I-84 park-and-ride site (CT 32, Tolland/Willington town line about 25 mins. outside of Hartford), Palmer at the old Union Station, downtown Amherst, and the pretty little village of Millers Falls, MA before merging in with the Conn River at the MA/VT state line. It's a nice collection...just unfortunately no one's idea of origins & destinations to fit on a single schedule. The only schedule pairings you can come up with that stick are basically "a collection of dinkies"...NLN-Mohegan-Norwich, or 84-Willimantic (for UConn, which is not particularly near the rail line), or Palmer-Amherst. Not even something like the New London-Norwich-Worcester NYNH&H/Penn Central Shoreliner that ran on the present-day P&W until 1971.

The Central Vermont follows the CT/MA 32 highway corridor...the longest 2-lane state highway in New England (and an original New England Interstate) that has no paralleling expressway running within 20 miles of its catchment. Major road...but even in the most bugfuck crayon-drawing era of proposed highways it *never* once had an expressway proposal dreamt up for its corridor. This is mainly because of the "collection of dinkies" problems. Along Route 32 most of the passenger trips are extremely short-haul before diverting elsewhere. It's only a 'corridor' per se for trucking, where it is quite busy (albeit not enough to oversaturate 2 lanes) New London all the way to Keene, NH. Hence, ensuring the continued survival of the Central Vermont freight main, because NECR has lots of evenly-spaced steady customers the whole length and shortline Mass Central RR on the MassDOT Ware Secondary out of Palmer has a nifty little transloading franchise going for it up on 32 out to Barre.


Nothing's going to ever make Palmer-Amherst-Northfield fungible again for passenger. It's too quick and easy to run campus shuttle buses from a Palmer Inland Route stop on the B&A, and from the new Vermonter stop at Northampton. You do more working the 2-seater with greater service densities than you ever will with the one-seat. Palmer-Willimantic is also damn near useless. UConn is a shuttle bus trip any which way from the downtown Willimantic stop because the land-grant campus was originally founded as an agricultural school...on a bunch of farm fields far from the rail line. So even the close passage by I-84 Exit 70 for a Pn'R lot isn't going to do any good for a campus dinky because rail-to-bus transfer is required somewhere along the line. Easier to stay all-bus (including from Palmer if that AMTK stop happens). New London-Norwich is way too short for a commuter run, and Mohegan Sun has not shown any interest in setting up a NLN-casino dinky for the short distance required.


And NECR's fortunes have turned sharply. They were acquired by Darien, CT-based Genessee & Wyoming in 2013...then brokered an alliance with Providence & Worcester and Vermont Rail System called the "Canadian Gateway" pumping goods from Canadian National in Cantic and Canadian Pacific in Whitehall, NY (via VRS to Bellows Falls) to Worcester hub. Got a huge infusion of cash to increase their loading weight and vertical clearances at *exactly* the same time the states were loading up for bear on the Vermonter upgrades, and got ConnDOT to spend big to upgrade the P&W connecting branch between Plainfield and Willimantic. Genessee & Wyoming then took control of P&W in 2017 to kick things up a notch, and ConnDOT made a big splash upgrading all of NECR's tracks cross-state for the heavy loading weight and retained fast speeds they so coveted. MassDOT chipped in on the most recent CIP to infill Palmer-Northfield uprates, so now the Central Vermont is basically the best freight lane it's ever been in history. Depending on who buys PAR, there may be a secondary run on NECR either trading hands or brokering new alliances.

Outstanding overall...but it's the same zero for CT/MA passenger as ever. And that really isn't going to change.


The *ONE* and only game-changer is if the rail gap between Manchester and Willimantic is ever re-filled, either by NEC FUTURE re-studying the Midland/I-384 highway alignment or ConnDOT attempting a reactivation of the Manchester Secondary to Willimantic. Because then Hartford-New London commuter rail has a legit real-deal corridor to tap as a reliever for the overstuffed northerly route miles of CT 2.

Figure stop roster of these via the Manchester Secondary and TBD path to Willimantic:
  • Hartford Union Station (transfer to Hartford Line, Naugatuck Valley/HFD-Waterbury, Amtrak)
  • East Hartford Center
  • Buckland Hills
  • Manchester Center
  • Vernon
  • Bolton
  • Andover
...then from junction with the Central Vermont:
  • Willimantic
  • Yantic (CT 2/I-395)
  • Downtown Norwich
  • Mohegan Sun
  • Uncasville
  • New London Union Station (transfer to Shore Line East, Amtrak)
Electrification probably A-OK too since NECR's autorack-and-stacks route to Worcester peels off at Willimantic from the north with WLL-NLN being plain old 17 ft. tall Plate F. Plus this can be an immediate Day 1 user of the first build phase of inland HSR routing while Amtrak + states still have additional phases to plow through connecting Willimantic-Plainfield and Plainfield-Cranston at high speed before the first intercity train uses it. Now ^^that's^^ a corridor that'll rake on real-world commuter/RUR utilization. Hell...it'll put a bunch of those deathtrap fly-by-night private casino buses that swarm Hartford Union bus depot clean out of business. The Hartford hook really, really differentiates it as a higher-demand 'get'.

But make no mistake...it's a conjoined corridor that requires a solve for the Manchester-Willimantic gap. And solve for the gap more or less requires the full weight of an NEC FUTURE second-look to get any momentum behind it, so that's an extremely tall order. Half-chunking the Willimantic-south portion unfortunately looks just as diffuse as the Central Corridor studies if that's all there is to play with.
 
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jbray

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Because then Hartford-New London commuter rail has a legit real-deal corridor to tap as a reliever for the overstuffed northerly route miles of CT 2.
Can you expand on this, because I don't follow the logic here. As someone who grew up on the Route 2 corridor, almost none of this addresses the last miles of RT 2. With the expressway ending in Norwich, most of what you are talking about serves the Route 6 folks headed into Hartford. Commuters in Hebron, Marlborough, Colchester, East Hampton, southern Lebanon, those coming in from the route 11 junction from Salem and, most importantly, Glastonbury and East Hartford aren't going out of their way to utilize this. The line you're talking about is north of 84. Meanwhile, most commuters along the southern part of this corridor are headed to Groton or New London for work, not really clogging up Route 2 West. It's not zero, but I cannot see how this will dramatically improve Rt 2 in East Hartford.

Reinstating something that replaces the old trolley service that went from Main Street in Glastonbury up through East Hartford into Hartford would be the best solution to easing congestion in the section you're referring to given that traffic only really starts to build around Exit 8 and amplifies at the junction of Route 3 at the border of East Hartford which is where the historic service existed.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Can you expand on this, because I don't follow the logic here. As someone who grew up on the Route 2 corridor, almost none of this addresses the last miles of RT 2. With the expressway ending in Norwich, most of what you are talking about serves the Route 6 folks headed into Hartford. Commuters in Hebron, Marlborough, Colchester, East Hampton, southern Lebanon, those coming in from the route 11 junction from Salem and, most importantly, Glastonbury and East Hartford aren't going out of their way to utilize this. The line you're talking about is north of 84. Meanwhile, most commuters along the southern part of this corridor are headed to Groton or New London for work, not really clogging up Route 2 West. It's not zero, but I cannot see how this will dramatically improve Rt 2 in East Hartford.

Reinstating something that replaces the old trolley service that went from Main Street in Glastonbury up through East Hartford into Hartford would be the best solution to easing congestion in the section you're referring to given that traffic only really starts to build around Exit 8 and amplifies at the junction of Route 3 at the border of East Hartford which is where the historic service existed.
It straddles both corridors. Hartford-Willimantic is obviously the reliever for 84/6 and the bigger overall commuter rail share. The graft-on of the Central Vermont leg makes sense primarily for:
  • ...makeup of the probable CTrail network and schedule layout. Hartford Line service flavors current/future--New Haven-Springfield, Hartford-Bridgeport, Hartford-Greenfield--all chunk out at about 60 miles end-to-end. So does Hartford-Devon Transfer via Waterbury. So does Shore Line East New Haven-Westerly. They're all about 60 give or take, usually with a major inflection point or ridership overchurn somewhere in the middle of the schedule such that the 60-mile chunks are an amalgamation of "corridorlets" that the RUR-like service plans churn through like a conveyor belt. And 60 miles give-or-take usually with some mixture of higher-speed and slower-speed territory across each schedule (such as faster Springfield Line vs. slower Conn River, faster Springfield Line vs. slower Highland/Waterbury, etc.). If Hartford-Willimantic is an eventual addition to the system (via NEC FUTURE or otherwise), you've got a ~30-mile/8-stop leg begging to be conjoined to some other half to fit that same "corridorlet" conveyor belt motif. One such option can be running an I-84 paralleling Waterbury-Willimantic churn with Hartford as the midpoint linchpin, keeping a more rigid East-West orientation spanned with frequencies. Another that fits the mold like a glove...would be continuation from Willimantic to New London where the +30 miles makes for another almost exactly even 60 mi. HFD-NLN.

  • ...hitting the densest continuation of any past-Willimantic options. Everything else continuing east to Plainfield (either on the extant Willimantic Secondary or cleanroom HSR corridor) is going to be playing entirely in the Quiet Corner where there really isn't too much to tap. The Central VT southbound has the largest density pockets in eastern CT to tap, including bona fide existing commutes like Norwich-Hartford and any-time casino traffic.

  • ...as an upgrade prospect once you go through the pain of getting to Willimantic in first place, the Central VT (with its density advantages) is the lowest-hanging fruit for upgrade. Fast incumbent speeds of Class 3/59 MPH and not enormous number of grade crossings because of all the time spent on riverbanks. Only needs a signal system + passing sidings to lift up to Class 4/79 MPH, and while the geometry is curvy the very wide station spacing helps lots with the acceleration penalty. As described in last post, if HFD-WLL is Phase I build of the Midland Hartford-Providence HSR bypass, CTrail service here HFD-NLN can be a Day 1 user while the remaining HSR touches to P&W in Plainfield and NEC in Cranston are additional (if slightly less controversial) design-build phases lagging several years before the first thru Amtrak train can tap it. NECR's autorack and double-stack traffic from the north also diverts over P&W to Worcester here, so the WLL-NLN 30 miles of Central Vermont main also requires no special freight clearance under wires.
This one can be a little hard to conceptualize, because we're used to thinking of transit proposals as self-contained things. But if this is wrapped up in the whole way bigger NEC FUTURE second-look studies about Shoreline bypasses, one of the sticking points is going to be how you amortize immediate value out of the bypass corridor right from Phase I when it's going to be at least a 3-phase build to get your way to Providence. The amortization aspect of that whole megaproject makes the low-hanging-fruit of the Central VT to NLN and its shoe-fits compatibility with CTrail schedule chunking a very attractive prospect. That wouldn't be the prevailing thinking if you were looking at this as a solo commuter project...but consider the landscape of potential BIG moving parts here and the pressure fed + states will be under to show value-for-money ASAP.​


Now, as for HFD-NLN demand? It's kind of artificially repressed today because of CT 11 sitting there half-finished after 50 years and 395-to-2 not being direct-accessible from New London at all from 95S because of the mangled one-way interchange. We'd have meatier demographic data about that potential if the state would only make up its fucking mind on tolling before the heat death of the universe, since that was how recent Gov. Malloy proposed paying for the finish-up of Route 11 at long last and completing the missing half of the 95/395/(11) interchange. The historical rail routes, because of the Springfield Line's one-way westbound junction in New Haven, haven't been able to link New London to Central Connecticut on a less-than two-seater since the last time the Central VT main south of Willimantic hosted NYNH&H + CN run-thru service out of Hartford during the Depression. But the thru-and-thru demand does exist to some latent degree. 2 wouldn't be the head-and-shoulders most likely expressway in the state for you to get killed by one of those maniac casino buses if that weren't true, there wouldn't be such bellyaching about finally finishing 11 if that weren't true, and there is a bona fide daily commute audience from Norwich to Hartford. Doesn't take an enormous amount of reading between the lines to speculate that if the historically bunkered travel gappage to points south of Norwich weren't so tortured to navigate around that the commute market to/from Central CT would distend further southeast (diffusely if you're glass-half-empty person, less-diffusely if you're glass-half-full).


Nothing is really going to help the local-most clusterfuck around Glastonbury that locks the expressway each afternoon. That's a product of the I-491 beltway leg never being built through Glastonbury, and CT 66 never becoming an extension of I-691 through Middletown and Marlborough. There were never any historical rail ROW's through the east-of-river/southeast Hartford 'burbs until you get to the Air Line in Portland which sticks to the boonies of Hampton & Colchester pointing the wrong direction, so this is always going to be a congestion area unhelped by any transit unless there's a miracle bus solution someday (not likely with the space they have to work with). So the only real pivot for helping the daily Glastonbury clusterfuck is to take more thru-and-thru loads heading Norwich or further off of 2 so slight edge is taken off the purely local-orientation jams. 2 can be not-nice to drive on a heavy shopping weekend, too, when the locals are out running errands and the casino kill-buses are running at fullest force. Anything that streamlines there with a load reduction of thru-and-thru trips is thus the only real help you can offer. HFD-NLN w/casino rail service does direct-target that to some degree. And "some degree" is all you really need given that building such a service is going most likely to be a footnote in the grand Midland HSR bypass build hullabaloo rather than any traditional homegrown transit advocacy.

Which I guess gets back to the point of Riverside's original inquiry: the Central VT is a potentially useful asset, but only as a collection of parts because the Central Corridor Study already found there was no "corridor" to speak of here. What you do with it is all about the shotgun marriages to bigger things and buffing out bigger things' leverage...like fashioning Midland Bypass Phase I into an instant CTrail chunked pattern. It's always going to look like an iffy prospect otherwise if you're evaluating it by the same metrics as a traditional corridor...that's just the Central VT's lot in life.
 

stick n move

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Wish I could say there was a prettier future from whence those were coming from, but Euroland's been beaten by the same exact ugly stick.

Bombardier TRAXX MS3


Siemens Vectron


Alstom Prima
h

Stadler EuroLight
YIKES!!!

So these Amtrak locos are going to only have 5 in this paint scheme, but the important question is will the others have the new headlights? I dont care so much if the rest have the other paint job as long as they have this new front face. Oh god I hope so... they actually look good.
 

DBM

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Central Corridor Study was an answer seeking a question.
"How can we *imagineer* a passenger rail service that somehow manages to pull off the truly inspired feat of traversing 120+ miles of interior southeastern New England without coming remotely close to servicing metro Springfield (pop. 692,000); metro Worcester (pop. 923,000); metro Hartford (pop. 1.214 million); metro Providence (1.604 million); or metro New Haven (pop. 862,000)--while at the same time connecting nodes that aggregate to a population that is ... [*checks notes*] 3.48% of that of those metro areas combined?"
 

F-Line to Dudley

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"How can we *imagineer* a passenger rail service that somehow manages to pull off the truly inspired feat of traversing 120+ miles of interior southeastern New England without coming remotely close to servicing metro Springfield (pop. 692,000); metro Worcester (pop. 923,000); metro Hartford (pop. 1.214 million); metro Providence (1.604 million); or metro New Haven (pop. 862,000)--while at the same time connecting nodes that aggregate to a population that is ... [*checks notes*] 3.48% of that of those metro areas combined?"
It was very much an of-its-time study, with gratuitous egging-on from NECR to get itself some hawt freight fun bux. They ended up getting all the freight fun bux they wanted in the end, just because of the buff economics of signing that "Canadian Gateway" alliancing deal into Worcester Hub. You won't hear much about passenger service that's non-Montrealer or not a very formal commuter rail proposal (VTrans, etc.) out of the mouths of NECR flaks these days. Ever since Gennesee & Wyoming bought them out from previous holding company owner RailAmerica they've been subject to the much tighter top-down control that G&W exercises from corporate HQ. RailAmerica tended to gave their subject RR's more leeway to entertain experimentation than the new regime. So there's not going to be any more of this "maybe we just happen to acquire a couple refurbbed RDC's and take some payola from Mohegan or UConn for casino and Gampel Pavillion game-day dinkies" talk. And since little bit services like that are pretty much the only worth-trying takeways from the Central Corridor study, it's pretty much D.O.A.

Doesn't matter...it's a very healthy freight corridor. They just signed a big deal at Port of New London docks for staging a series of special-escort high-and-wide moves for transporting wind turbine parts from CSX via Palmer to one of the renewables speculators who's erecting a wind farm on the Sound from an assembly site at the docks. And they'll be the subject of furious speculation in outflow of the PAR deal on new alliancing. That CTrail HFD-NLN prospect if-and-only-if Willimantic is connected is the only passenger scheme with any upside, and it may be eons coming because of the stiff prerequisite for healing the Manchester-Willimantic gap. But no matter...the Central Vermont main is going to be a high-quality major cross-New England freight line under somebody's series of alliances basically forever so there's no "use it or lose it urgency" here. It'll always be there as relatively low-hanging fruit if someone ever manages to chunk something together worth running. The fact that the Central Corridor study didn't find anything for this current mobility era doesn't mean there won't be chances at second looks in another more amenable era.
 

DBM

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They just signed a big deal at Port of New London docks for staging a series of special-escort high-and-wide moves for transporting wind turbine parts from CSX via Palmer to one of the renewables speculators who's erecting a wind farm on the Sound from an assembly site at the docks.
I should've intuited that the super-duper tricked-out port infrastructure at New London/Groton would've exerted such a gravitational pull in the freight world... presumably some amount of that is a legacy of Electric Boat's having assembled Armageddon-in-a-can there [i.e. the modern American nuclear sub fleet] and everything that was required to sustain those operations?

[fun/terrifying anecdote: many years back I did the excellent maritime studies program at Mystic Seaport, and one of our research libraries was at Conn. College. One day our professors drove us to the library, and as we were walking up a steep lawn with sweeping views of the EB installation in the Thames below, one of the professors said: "Stop and turn around. You see that Electric Boat facility way down there in the river? During the Cold War, more Soviet ICBMs were targeted on that spot than anywhere else in North America." Recently I did some Googling of "New London Soviet Cold War target" and found some publications that seemed to support that claim but alas I can't track them down anymore.]
 

F-Line to Dudley

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YIKES!!!

So these Amtrak locos are going to only have 5 in this paint scheme, but the important question is will the others have the new headlights? I dont care so much if the rest have the other paint job as long as they have this new front face. Oh god I hope so... they actually look good.
Probable yes on the headlights, because they look so similar to the Sprinter headlights that it's probably the same exact part + casing. Spare parts warehousing scale is going to rule significantly in favor, and that may have been a specific Amtrak change request since they're auditing the shit out of their warehousing efficiency for this whole next-gen bundle of fleet procurements.

Keep in mind as well...this is basically the "Version 1.1" design refresh of the SC-44 Charger that's already been in-production baking in lots of lessons-learned from the first-wave orders. Decimal-point version updates are basically the new thing with the big modular 'families' of rolling stock, because they're so computerized to begin with that literal software/firmware upgrades are almost more consequential than the minor physical refreshes. What you'll see is that after the ALC-42 has been tested to death, Siemens is just going to switch its SC-44 assembly line that's selling like hotcakes over to the "Version 1.1" platform and there'll no longer be any distinct model difference. If the T has to order 25-30 commuter SC-44's to replace the end-of-life GP40MC's (since RUR is going to put even more demands on the next 20 years of diesel bodies even with a substantial-size EMU dip + scale-up), then we're probably going to get the updated "Version 1.1" roll-up by-default. Distinction will whittle down to just an intercity flavor with a larger fuel tank and some software optimizations for portioning out HEP electricity to power-hungrier long-distance sets full of diners/sleepers that cross multiple climate zones on-trip...and then the smaller fuel-tank commuter + statie-corridor version with firmware that apportions electrical budget for shorter stop spacing (e.g. balancing starts acceleration vs. brief full-power AC/heat blast when the doors close after a station dwell). Otherwise it'll be the same exact thing, probably carrying the updated headlights unless some existing Charger user has really got a warehouse stocked of the old style that they want to keep. The carbody has already been modded for serving up the modular compartments for the dual-mode order that AMTK plans to buy for New York Empire (third-rail) and the Virginia Regionals (pantograph); those modded compartments are just inert on the straight-diesel version. So they're already thinking that much far ahead with what 'family' modularity updates they're pre-baking into the ALC-42.

It's still going to have a flat fucking face and the body of a tractor-trailer truck with tacky screen doors on the side. You saw what's dominating 80% of Euroland new-buys now...that's pretty much the look you're going to have to put up with for the next 15 years. Amtrak and most commuter agencies of course have no functional use for the cosmetic nose cones that Brightline and VIA Rail have ordered because it's a looks-only maint premium and isn't worth the trouble of needing to slide a mechanical cover to access the layover yard electric plugs at the end of every shift. Pretty much all the flat-fucking-face Euroland uglies have that buy option too...and it's just as seldom-exercised because short-haul routes over there likewise have to access the plugs and couplers too frequently on a regular day to bother with 100% cosmetic hinges that do break from frequent use. Nose covers are always going to be more the realm of integrated trainsets like HSR where the nature of the service tier doesn't entail fumbling around for the plugs as often.
 
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ceo

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I'd have thought they'd be more likely to target the naval submarine base a couple miles up the river. Though, as they say, close counts in horseshoes and nuclear weapons.
 

jbray

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I know it's probably 1000% for practical reasons, but I like the look of the ES 64 U2 better because of the double cab. This with the double end would be pretty awesome.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I know it's probably 1000% for practical reasons, but I like the look of the ES 64 U2 better because of the double cab. This with the double end would be pretty awesome.
Diesels aren't ever double-ended, though, because there's too much guts in the engine room to spare a second cab within the length limits. You've got the bi-directional freight units with semi-enclosed engines (i.e. they have the outdoor catwalks instead of full body-width indoor engine rooms) that can run backwards/"butt-forward" from a rear-window control stand in the regular cab (like the T's GP40's could do before they were converted to passenger units)...but never an outright second cab.

Electrics, on the other hand, are historically more often than not completely and fully-double ended because there's fewer onboard components serving up the extra space to duplicate the cabs at each end.


^^note also the second pantograph for the opposite running direction





 

jass

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Two wholly subjective/impressionistic anecdotes to illustrate just how bad the situation is for those NH-based car-bound commuters slogging up-and-down 93 each day:

1.) In 2006 I was in a modestly long-distance relationship, dating someone who lived in Hollis, NH, immediately adjacent to Nashua. I decided to experiment one morning and see what it was like to drive to my job in the North End from there, after staying overnight. I left at 6:45 am or so, I reckon. No traffic congestion issues heading southbound on 3 until I hit the 495/3 junction at Chelmsford--which probably took me 25-30 minutes to negotiate, crawling at 5 mph or less. At 7:15 am in the morning. While still 22 miles from Downtown Boston. I can't even begin to imagine how wretched that convergence was during the 2012-2019 boom years before COVID hit.

2.) In 2013, driving home to Waltham from a Columbus Day weekend in Montreal, on Columbus Day, I made it to the part of 93 in the Derry/Windham area where it drops from 3 lanes to 2. On a federal holiday, at dusk (probably 6 pm), traffic northbound was heinous--a 5 mph-slog. And to think of what those poor people had already endured, just to brave 93 northbound from that absolutely murderous stretch from Charlestown through the 128 junction at Reading--only to hit that clusterbeep.

But hey, I just found this after some cursory research. No more lane reduction around Derry/Windham--problem solved! No way this will cause induced demand, unh-uh!
My theory is that people view houses on weekends, and so they think their new home is a 20 minute commuter.
 

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