Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfield)

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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby J.D. Lang » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:46 am

Somehow if God grants me the strength to make it back to School for my 60th during 2021, I think I will see an abandoned railroad.


I’m afraid that has a good possibility of coming true. I just can’t see the status quo going on forever. I fear that at some point something bigger will happen where someone will have to step in and take some action (FRA, St. of CT.?). I could see a point where G&W (P&W) getting the Maybrook from Derby Jct. to Danbury and either HRRC retreats to Canaan-Pittsfield or another operator takes over that area with the rest between Boardman’s and Canaan returning to railbanked status. The state of CT. may have to come up with the coin to buy the Maybrook section but I don’t see any way right now that the state of CT. could come up with the money to help any other operator who would want to operate the whole Berkshire corridor because of the cost involved just to bring the track back to a state of good repair for reliable class I status. It would be ashame to lose this corridor but it is being run into the ground.

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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:03 am

FWIW...CDOT did ballpark out state-of-repair costs in the 2012 State Rail Plan, appendix itemizing Housy-related wishlist. That was drawn up back when P&W's STB dispute was still raging hot, and the Plan is due for revision in another year so we'll get an update soon with new priorities no doubt influenced by the need to re-route freight around the Walk construction. Itemization is not separated out by Berkshire vs. Maybrook, but given that most of the mileage quoted here is Danbury-Caanan, extract by % and it's not a back-breaker by any means.

PRIORITY 1 - $21M over 5 years - Replace 7.5 miles of rail at several locations between Derby and Danbury, installation of 9 miles of rail between Canaan and New Milford, expand a storage track in Canaan, renew three railroad crossings in Canaan, installation of 92,000 new ties.

PRIORITY 1 - $80M over long-term (split $20M first 5-year installment, $60M over later 5-year Rail Plan revisions) - Replace 70 year old or older rail, old track materials, and ties: Provide for annual phased rail renewal to replace worn rail.


OK...so lets say the first one breaks down to one-third Maybrook, which is probably generous given the Berkshire-specific line items. $7M. Not bad when P&W actually has some enthusiasm to use this permanently and use it to seek new opportunities around Danbury. Despite the track barely being operable now that's not far off from what the Valley Line freight rehab Middletown-Hartford cost over a longer span of increments. The second item is a rolling investment just related to stepping up the pace of SGR until eventually keeping pace with it. That's not going to factor much in achieving minimally operable Class 1 track Derby-Danbury that serves all P&W needs, as P&W has the resources to contribute a bigger share to the tie program than Housy and has been doing similar work quietly on its own dime on the lower Air Line. So that one's probably a bit less than $20M/3 = $6.6M over 5 years. I bet to get the Maybrook permanently stabilized for the Danbury local to a standard that P&W can work with for the long term, and do it in time for the Walk project, costs less than $10M.

FWIW...the state has under-spent considerably on the Berkshire repairs for the rolling tie/rail replacement program because of the fallout from the whole "disappearing rail" scandal of several years ago when a CDOT grant is presumed to have ended up applied on the then private-owned track in MA. The state cut them off after those shannanigans, so that line item is very obsolete with most of its cost un-awarded.


It's a bailout for sure, but we all knew years ago that Housy's aftermath would involve a taxpayer bailout of the track conditions. Walk is the first trigger that puts any pressure on actually doing that job we've known was coming. The Berkshire bailout costs are going to be much harder to justify, but Housy isn't going anywhere on the Berkshire nor is the Berkshire as high a priority as Derby-Danbury so that'll be in a holding pattern many years longer. What we've got here is pretty much the going rate we've known all along for rolling back the damage on the Maybrook. It's going to be sunk cost, but $7-9M is hardly what you'd call a boondoggle when P&W ends up making good, immediate, and long-lasting use of the improvements.
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby Jeff Smith » Fri May 26, 2017 9:25 am

Looking west instead of south: iberkshires.com

So it looks like the state is giving up on the Housy because CtDOT is not interested.

Brief, fair-use:

State Senate Accepts Amendment To Study Passenger Rail to New York
...
Some four years ago, former Gov. Deval Patrick had pushed a plan to purchase and upgrade the Housatonic Rail line and the state followed through with purchasing and starting to perform upgrades. That line was eyed to go south to Connecticut and into New York City.

"Connecticut has indicated a lack of interest in upgrading their tracks," Hinds said of the current state of that plan.

Hinds' amendment will now ask to consider other options, particularly looking at heading west and connecting with the current Amtrak lines south of Albany, N.Y.

"This one in particular is a direct Berkshires to New York," Hinds said. "This is essentially laying out a strategy of how we get there."
...
A second component of the bill is to have consideration given to implementing seasonal passenger rail services. In 2013, a program was started to run extra trains from Boston to Cape Cod during the tourism season. Hinds is looking to replicate that successful program in the Berkshires.

The amendment requires the study to be done between this October and completed by next March. The working group must also included the mayor of Pittsfield, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, and existing rail stakeholders.
...
Next stop, Willoughby
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby Jeff Smith » Fri May 26, 2017 9:32 am

New thread on Pittsfield service: viewtopic.php?f=126&t=165466
Next stop, Willoughby
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri May 26, 2017 11:22 am

Ohh look a study, just Mass, no interest from CT or NY
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby GirlOnTheTrain » Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:20 am

Scuttlebutt on the Facebook: Pan-Am brought a flat down the Waterbury branch to the wye with the Maybrook in Derby and Housy ran over the Maybrook to pick it up this morning. Allegedly people were getting pictures, keep an eye on the links below (or that group in general) for said pictures.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/104858662883600/permalink/1354454497924004/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/104858662883600/permalink/1355085034527617/
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby GirlOnTheTrain » Thu Jun 01, 2017 1:28 pm

They're also apparently hauling the E9 Danbury Rail Museum has in NYC paint someplace north on the Berkshire...busy day ;)
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby chrisnewhaven » Thu Jun 01, 2017 3:44 pm

Thanks for the heads up, I caught it several times from Danbury to New Milford. To re-cap, Pan Am left an idler flat at Derby yesterday (Wednesday), and Housatonic came down today to grab it (and reportedly left a different car in Derby for Pan Am to pick up). They booked it to Danbury in under 2 hours, left the idler at Berkshire Jct, went to the museum to grab the E-9, then reassembled everything with NX-10 (returning from Hawleyville) to head north as one train. Final consist was 3600 leading 3602 nose-to-nose, the E-9, the idler flat, 4 empty centerbeams, and 5 full C&D cars.

Could this activity in Derby be the beginnings of a Pan Am interchange?

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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby Backshophoss » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:53 pm

Wonder if this has something to with the Walk Bridge rebuild/replacement?
Wonder if ConnDOT forced the issue of reopening the Newtown-Derby Jct section,or was PAR planning to file paperwork to
abandon Derby Jct as an interchange point?
At least "for now" there's a way to keep freight and MN emergency Equipment moves fluid while the Walk Bridge project is underway.
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby NaugyRR » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:12 am

Is the E-Unit headed to North Adams?
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:24 am

OK; let's see if I can get this almost 76yo head wrapped around the development:

1) Pan Am "makes the going great" with its trackage rights over MNR/CDOT Waterbury-Derby.

2) Existing HRR trackage Derby-Newtown has been reported as out of service

3) HRR recently accepted traffic in interchange from PAR at Derby and handled it onward to Danbury.

Now with this report, which I cannot confirm or refute, I'd guess the Newtown-Derby segment was patrolled and was found to meet FRA Class I standards (10mph). So this enquiring mind wonders does this mean that Housy has decided there will be enough interchange traffic to maintain (well, whatever THEY call maintain) such, or is this motivated by having an alt-route for whatever freight moves through Norwalk while the bridge is being reconstructed?
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby chrisnewhaven » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:03 am

Naugy, the E-9 is reportedly heading to Clifton Forge, VA.

Mr. Norman, correct on all three points. No one seems to know what the track is rated for, who inspected it, or when. The earliest notification something was up was when Pan Am dropped the flatcar on Wednesday. Of note, Housatonic 3600 and the flat car made it from Derby to Berkshire Junction in about 2 hours (left Derby around 10:50, arrived Berkshire Jct 12:50). It's roughly 25 miles by rail between the two points (using the google maps measuring tool), so an average of 10 mph east of Newtown and slightly faster west of there sounds about right.

It would not surprise me if the long term plans are to get Providence & Worcester service to Danbury back on this route to avoid all the upcoming work in Norwalk. The exchange with Pan Am is the surprising bit. I'll post here if/when I hear the car dropped in Derby is picked up by Pan Am.

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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby J.D. Lang » Sat Jun 03, 2017 7:58 am

I too was very surprised to hear about these moves. I had thought that the Maybrook was OOS between Botsford and Derby Jct. They must have had to do a fair amount of work to run over that section in terms of tree clearing, cleaning out the flangeways on all of the grade crossings and repairing any washouts. I too wonder if CT. DOT is pressuring them to reopen the line for the stone trains. The PAS interchange is also interesting. Either way reopening that part of the line for the stone trains or any other freight for that matter is going to take some serious money and I wonder WHO is going to pay for that. Should be interesting to follow this.

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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby FLRailFan1 » Sat Jun 03, 2017 8:16 am

Is there any business on the Maybrook line between Derby and Danbury. Also, the old HRRC line to Bottsford, what business was there? Trying to model that old branch - calling it the Bottsford Branch...
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Re: Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfi

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Jun 03, 2017 8:22 am

The acute need for the Derby-Danbury Maybrook is re-route of the P&W Danbury locals, not the overnight stone trains to Fresh Pond. The Danbury local runs during the daytime during commuter traffic and pulls its reverse onto the Danbury Branch right after crossing WALK Bridge. That's time of day when the WALK construction project is going to be at its most nightmarish, since 2 tracks on the old bridge + approaches are going to be OOS while they construct the adjacent new bridge and there'll likely be some wild temp-shift S-curves around the construction staging areas on either side.

The New York stone train runs in the wee hours when MNRR is idle and the only other things active within 50 miles are the last NE Regional of the night and the CSX local restocking Cedar Hill. That one P&W should have no problem running no matter how speed-restricted the WALK construction warzone is. After all, you'd have to do a hell of a lot more spending than just operable Derby-Danbury track to get to Fresh Pond. The Danbury Branch isn't certified for six-axle power like the New Haven Line now is, so it's not practical to do a Devon-Derby-Danbury-Norwalk re-route on the overnight.

It'll be expensive, but you're talking minimally operable Class 1 track so that's not a megaproject by any means. Housy's upgrade bucket list in the last CT State Rail Plan unfortunately didn't separate out Maybrook vs. Berskshire tie, rail, surfacing, and grade crossing replacements...instead throwing them into systemwide line items. But you can extrapolate from that list what the Derby-Danbury shares would be by playing the track-mile and crossing count percentages, then take a little off the top by giving it a "stopgap-only" discount for netting acceptable minimums instead of lasting state-of-repair. The state should be able to afford that sum, especially with WALK truly offering no acceptable alternative for that P&W day job.

Since P&W does very much want to use the Maybrook permanently as its route to Danbury, the differences between acceptable minimum operating track for the WALK project and the sort of permanent-service Class 1 upgrades that P&W put into reactivating the Valley Line Middletown-Hartford to chase new business can be hashed out in small increments later. There's no time pressure on getting P&W truly 'good' 10 MPH track it can use permanently; that can come in little drips and dribbles as they go along. Right now the financial priorities for CDOT are just 1) keep the Danbury day job away from WALK construction while 2) keeping P&W safely upright in the process.
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