Amtrak NEC, Downeaster, Acela, & Long Distance

DBM

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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.
Yes, I'm sorry, in hindsight I'm sure my professor was gesturing down at the sub base, which I see now is almost directly across the river from Conn. College, just a mile away (along with the USS Nautilus museum!). The Electric Boat yard, being 2 miles dead downriver, I doubt is visible from the bluff upon which the college sits.

As you note, though, should the Soviets have been able to sneak in a multi-megaton ICBM payload at either location, the other one would've been just as incinerated...
 

jklo

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My theory is that people view houses on weekends, and so they think their new home is a 20 minute commuter.
I don't think anyone in NH would be deluded into thinking they could make work in Boston. Woburn, Burlington, maybe.
 

Riverside

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Central Corridor Study was an answer seeking a question. ... snip
Makes sense, makes sense. Off to crazy transit pitches (or "If you were God...") we go!

"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 really is remarkable. I mean, you look at the map on Wikipedia and it really does jump out at you how that corridor seems to actively avoid going anywhere large numbers of passengers would need to go. Like F-Line said, reusable parts here and there, but remarkably hard to use otherwise.

I don't think anyone in NH would be deluded into thinking they could make work in Boston. Woburn, Burlington, maybe.
Story time (with details changed both for privacy and because I can't remember them exactly). In the midst of house hunting, I came across a house that was being sold by a couple who had just recently purchased it. This was in the Greater Providence area, not far from 495. When asked why the quick turnaround, the realtor said that the couple had relocated from the Southwestern US, because one of them had gotten a new job... in Nashua.

This was pre-Google Maps, and what I had understood at the time was that the couple had seen the listing in Greater Providence, seen 495 running up around Boston to Lowell, and figured that that would be a reasonable commute (I think under the theory that circumferential highways like that out in the Southwest at the time tended to have quick-moving traffic).

Obviously it didn't work out. I don't remember what it was at the time, but I'd guess that that'd be a 2-hour drive, one-way.
 

jklo

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This was pre-Google Maps, and what I had understood at the time was that the couple had seen the listing in Greater Providence, seen 495 running up around Boston to Lowell, and figured that that would be a reasonable commute (I think under the theory that circumferential highways like that out in the Southwest at the time tended to have quick-moving traffic).

Obviously it didn't work out. I don't remember what it was at the time, but I'd guess that that'd be a 2-hour drive, one-way.
It's still 70+ miles. Even at clear traffic that's a pretty far distance.

Should add of course that there's been mapping websites long before Google Maps. Mapquest had been around 1996.
 

Riverside

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^ Yes -- my vague sense at the time was that it wasn't per se the length of time driving that was aggravating but rather how much would have been stop-and-go, or otherwise very slow.

And yes, I remember Mapquest (rather fondly), but I don't think Mapquest gave you the insight into those kind of driving conditions the way you do know with Google Maps, Waze, etc.

E.g. Mapquest might have taken the traffic into account and properly estimated the 2 hours. But if 45 minutes of that was bumper to bumper stop-and-go, I'm not sure you would've been able to tell with Mapquest, and that might have been a bit different than the expected 2 hours of smooth driving.

Of course, this is purely anecdotal, and a not well-remembered anecdote at that...
 

F-Line to Dudley

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It really is remarkable. I mean, you look at the map on Wikipedia and it really does jump out at you how that corridor seems to actively avoid going anywhere large numbers of passengers would need to go. Like F-Line said, reusable parts here and there, but remarkably hard to use otherwise.
Canadian National (nee Grand Trunk) had grander plans for the Central Vermont. The Southern New England Railroad was to fork off of it in Palmer and give it a direct route to Providence and the all-weather port there. But then the SNE's principal investor died on the Titanic when the line was almost done. Legend has it that J.P. Morgan pulled some fuckery with the bond market in protectionism for the NYNH&H network by suddenly making it 'hard' for Grand Trunk to line up replacement financing for the dead guy. Construction stopped end of 1912, and the states vainly tried for nearly 20 years to get work restarted until the '29 Crash iced those dreams. Most of the bridge steel was harvested for wartime scrap and the ROW was gradually encroached, but most of the grading is still there through Sturbridge, Southbridge, etc. You can still see the never-used bridge abutments in Millville at the triple-junction of the active P&W mainline, the trailed Air Line, and the would-be SNE main where they all simultaneously crossed the Blackstone River.

They had similar aims at trying to muscle into Boston, with Grand Trunk being one of the roads licking its chops at the Central Mass's home-run swing as a major Boston & Albany competitor in intercity. That unfortunately got upended at the last possible second when the Hampden Railroad connecting the CM to Palmer went into receivership within days of its "golden spike" ceremony and first test train. It similarly was scrapped for the value of its steel, and Grand Trunk/CN never got their money shot to parlay Central VT traffic onto it.

Grand Trunk/Central VT were also were the alliance partner with B&M over the Northern Route in NH for the original North Station-Montreal service...same zombie route that inexplicably keeps coming up on "HSR" crayon maps despite being the absolute antithesis of high-speed, no thanks to that wasteful VTrans study a decade ago. Had a reciprocal freight alliance with Fitchburg RR (conveyed to B&M) on the Cheshire Branch spanning Fitchburg Line at top of Ashburnham horseshoe to Bellows Falls. Later on in the 20th c. the alliance decayed and B&M forced you to sit until your ass was numb and you were starving for a snack in a regular old commuter RDC all the way to White River Jct. then hit a transfer to the far ritzier Montrealer coming up from NYC, but that cross-ticketed two-seater lasted all the way until 1967...way later than nearly all other B&M intercity service.

So they came oh-so-close on a couple of tries...and noteably these were 1910's-1920's empire-building schemes long after the other big boys had gotten fat and lazy and were mostly lighting bundles of money on fire playing wild Wall Street hedges instead of tending to their meal tickets. Had these things panned out the mid-20th century would've had a different power structure. CN creaked under the weight of a collapsing industry just like everyone else come the 60's and 70's, but they never totally wiped out like their Northeastern U.S. counterparts. And in the process of never wiping out they also never let deferred maint take hold on the Central Vermont...which is why it was tabbed to come to the rescue for the Montrealer 35 years ago when conditions hit breaking point on the Guilford/PAR Conn River Line.


Because the robber barrons of the RR monopolies had a sick sense of humor, by the 10's New England was intentionally divided to be anti-competitive: NYNH&H had an outright monopoly on CT/RI, and all points in MA basically south of US 20/Boston Post Road. B&M had the outright monopoly on everything in NH/ME to Portland and Mt. Washington. Boston & Albany, being a "quasi-" (*wink-wink*) autonomous cog of the New York Central behemoth, got the dominant east-west lane and control of majority of the northside-southside linking branchlines spanning B&M and NYNH&H so they could fix business as the perennial matchmaker. Aside from maybe 3 or 4 paper-barriered indie shortlines in the whole of the Southern New England (of which MA's own Grafton & Upton is the only survivor), that was the division of spoils. EXCEPT...that NYNH&H got a little too big for its britches in the '10s and tried to temporarily take control of B&M. That got slapped back hard by the feds, who couldn't possibly crane their necks far enough in the other direction to let antitrust that blatant slide with a bribe.

What was the one RR in the whole land that wasn't in on this triple-empire fix? Why, the Central Vermont of course! The big three deemed it a critical cog for maintaining the appearance of competition...and it looked so small-and-plucky being paper-owned by a regional U.S. holding company when it was really Canadian gov't-supported transcontinental behemoth CN all along! So by virtue of being anointed the proverbial neutral Switzerland of New England freight lanes (even though CN was fully in on the joke) they've been beneficiaries of good traffic favors and helpful alliances ever since...right up to present day. And future days to come, because as noted here and in the PAR Sale thread current carrier NECR is going to be a white-hot alliancing target in the post-PAR regional power struggle. And that's how you get a line whose entire southern half avoids every population center like the plague staying more year-to-year stable than anything around it, and always having some new trick up its sleeve for staying relevant in an industry of hard knocks.
 

fatnoah

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F-Line to Dudley

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Arlington

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For document nerds: Long Bridge Project: Final EIS/ROD Document (DC DOT's official project site)

Long Bridge is HUGE. (at about 2 o'clock on the rim of my red circle, below)

Imagine if Boston had a NSRL, but it was only 2-track, owned by CSX, and half-full of doublestacks. That's today's Long Bridge.

It is the weak link in the connection between the Northeast Corridor (at DC) to all of
  • VRE Commuter Rail (mostly inside the red circle), and allowing MARC to run to places in Northern VA like Crystal City/Pentagon
  • Amtrak Virginia (NEC-extension) services to the Blue Ridge, Richmond, and Norfolk-Newport News (yellow-on-brown, below)
    (Many of these trains to Lynchburg, or Norfolk, or Newport News originate in Boston)
  • North Carolina (Piedmonter & Carolinian services, yellow-on-green)
  • Amtrak Long Distance (that needs to put South Carolina and Georgia more firmly on the route map)


    and the Raleigh-Charlotte-Atlanta megalopolis (aka Piedmont Atlantic or Metrolina-Atlanta megaregion)
    NS-CSX-megaregions-map.jpg
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Other NEC bridge news:


Amtrak applying for USCG permission to permanently change Dock Lift Bridge in Newark's status from a moving to a closed bridge. Dock is a twin lift span over the Passaic River abutting Newark Penn Station that carries 4 Amtrak tracks and 2 PATH tracks. Passaic River is very nearly unnavigable because of silt runoff, and between 2004-2014 there were zero requested maritime openings of Dock (barge traffic has increased substantially--but temporarily--since with a one-time NJDEP river-dredging project). This move to sunset the moving span would get Amtrak out of having to do a Sunday morning test opening every single week in readiness for boat traffic that isn't there, save them the trouble of having to have an on-call repair crew when the test opens don't close correctly, and extend the lifespan and maintainability of the otherwise decent state-of-repair span by simply retiring the machinery to fuse in place.

Unclear what the Coast Guard thinks of this. If it's allowed the retirement of Dock and funded/scheduled replacement of Portal Bridge reduces the number of remaining moving spans from NYC to D.C. to just seldom-opened Susquehanna River Bridge in Perryville, MD. With extreme-poor condition Susquehanna on the unfunded mandates list for replacement by a fixed span, we're now sitting at second-to-last step for a 100% traffic-separated southern NEC main.


Also unclear how Dock's closure will affect NJ Transit's two Passaic River movable crossings upstream: Newark Draw on the Morristown Line, and Lyndhurst Draw on the Main Line. Both similarly feature near-zero requested maritime openings, but if the navigation channel is legally lowered to the level of Dock in a fixed position it may allow NJT to reciprocally retire one or both of its other Passaic moving spans. As well as NJDOT retiring the I-280 lift bridge next to Lyndhurst Draw, one of the few grandfathered movables left on the entire Interstate system.
 

ceo

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Comes now an outfit called AmeriStarRail, who along with being spectacularly unimaginative in the naming department, have a proposal to take over the NEC as a private operator and introduce various new, "innovative" services. The most locally relevant of these is they want to run some NEC service up the Inland Route to North Station via the Grand Junction, then continue up the Downeaster route to Brunswick ME.

They also propose closing two tracks at NY Penn and converting them to extended platforms with "platform flatcars", so they can have people exit the train on one side and enter on the other, like this. And run some service from the Empire Corridor out to Ronkonkoma on the LIRR.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Comes now an outfit called AmeriStarRail, who along with being spectacularly unimaginative in the naming department, have a proposal to take over the NEC as a private operator and introduce various new, "innovative" services. The most locally relevant of these is they want to run some NEC service up the Inland Route to North Station via the Grand Junction, then continue up the Downeaster route to Brunswick ME.

They also propose closing two tracks at NY Penn and converting them to extended platforms with "platform flatcars", so they can have people exit the train on one side and enter on the other, like this. And run some service from the Empire Corridor out to Ronkonkoma on the LIRR.
Board Bios section: leveraged buyout bankruptcy lawyer...ex-SEPTA consultant brainchild of their early-80's diesel cuts...Amtrak "Rainbow Era" president who retired in '78...70's-era "maximal decay" PATCO president.

Yeah...seems legit. :poop:³
 

Tallguy

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And how much are they offering to lease this profitable franchise?
 

jass

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Comes now an outfit called AmeriStarRail, who along with being spectacularly unimaginative in the naming department, have a proposal to take over the NEC as a private operator and introduce various new, "innovative" services. The most locally relevant of these is they want to run some NEC service up the Inland Route to North Station via the Grand Junction, then continue up the Downeaster route to Brunswick ME.

They also propose closing two tracks at NY Penn and converting them to extended platforms with "platform flatcars", so they can have people exit the train on one side and enter on the other, like this. And run some service from the Empire Corridor out to Ronkonkoma on the LIRR.
As someone who sometimes takes NJT into Penn Ive tweeted about the bottom idea before. One of the reason ops are so bad is because it can take 10 minutes to clear the platform, and they cant let anyone down until this happens. So it can take at minimum 20 minutes to turn a train around.

And it feels super dangerous.

 

Riverside

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There were other vaguely interesting ideas in that proposal. Through-running Empire Service to Ronkonkoma (presumably using dual modes running diesel for much of the journey) isn't something you stumble across every day, and I was intrigued by the thought of using Hoboken as a terminal for intercity service from Washington/Virginia. Not sure how well that would really go over in NYC, since it's another 20 minutes to get to Midtown, and you don't net any savings in getting down to the World Trade Center either. But would save you slots at Penn and in the Hudson Tunnels.

Portland to New York via North Station and Springfield gets bandied about every so often, and doesn't seem totally bonkers to me. I'd rather see the Grand Junction used for LRT, but until and unless that happens, it wouldn't be the worst thing to glom on to a couple of Inland Regionals.

If the tracks were ever upgraded to passenger speeds (and a new platform built at Worcester if you wanted to stop there), you could take the "scenic" route by way of Lowell and Ayer, to rejoin the B&A at Worcester. That ROW gets awfully curvy in places, but, after plotting it out on Google Maps, looks like it may actually be a bit shorter in terms of actual track distance. Plus it avoids the reverse move at North Station. But, like, it also avoids North Station, so... basically instead of getting Boston-NYC + Maine-NYC passengers, you'd just get Maine-NYC, which seems unlikely to be enormous. Maybe Amtrak could swing it as an overnight service, especially if it originated further north yet in Maine... leave Bangor 9:30 pm, arrive in Portland by 11pm, Lowell by 1am, Worcester at, I dunno, 2:30am, Springfield at 3:30 am, trundle into NYC at like 6:30am.

But, I mean, that only seems imaginable in some sort of retro-futurist world where passenger rail enjoys a renaissance and resurgence.
 

jass

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Amtrak to Hoboken I dont think would happen unless the Hudson tunnels are flooded
 

Arlington

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F-Line to Dudley

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Amtrak to Hoboken I dont think would happen unless the Hudson tunnels are flooded
Pretty sure at previous mentions of such a thing that NJT--after being revived off the floor with smelling salts--has said exactly as much. Hoboken has no capacity to give for regular service adds, and is only practical to offer up in a dire-most service emergency. Mainly because you can assume that NJT service isn't going to be running full-tilt @ HOB in a biblical flood event, either, so the only times AMTK would need the temporary lifeboat would be times when NJT is running well below 100% @ HOB for the same natural disaster service disruption reasons.
 

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