Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

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Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby philipmartin » Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:18 pm

We hear about trains in New Zealand and their woes. Here one about trains where I work. This is the opposite of an isolated incident.
Yesterday the Long Island Railroad had third rail problems getting in and out of Penn Station.


http://www.amny.com/transit/nj-transit- ... 1.13468357
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Re: NJT

Postby george matthews » Fri Apr 14, 2017 11:55 pm

philipmartin wrote:We hear about trains in New Zealand and their woes. Here one about trains where I work. This is the opposite of an isolated incident.
Yesterday the Long Island Railroad had third rail problems getting in and out of Penn Station.


http://www.amny.com/transit/nj-transit- ... 1.13468357

This story seems to be about a New Jersey train, not a Long Island train. Doesn't a NJT train use overhead?
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Re: NJT

Postby philipmartin » Sat Apr 15, 2017 11:00 am

Penn Station in New York was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad around 1910. The approaches to it are under the two rivers on either side of Manhattan island. Both approaches were originally electrified with 600 volt DC third rail. The Long Island Rail Road, which was controlled by the PRR, came in from the east, and the PRR Came in from the west with a short stretch of third rail to Manhattan Transfer, east of Newark, New Jersey. Motive power was changed between steam and electric there.
In the 1930s, with the help of the government, the PRR put up an 11000 volt AC catenary between Washington, DC and New York City and between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, PA, which is on the Northeast Corridor. The PRR then ceased using the third rail west of New York City. The LIRR continues to use it; it has no AC trains.
The former PRR lines west of New York City are now Amtrak - long distance - and portions NJ Transit in the state of New Jersey. Both continue to use the catenary system erected by the PRR, although at 25000 volts AC on some portions of NJT.
The tunnels under the rivers on either side of Manhattan are electrified both by third rail and overhead wires, although third rail trains no longer run west of Penn Station. The overhead wire east of Penn Statiyon is used by Amtrak and NJT to reach Sunnyside coach yard and the Northeast Corridore between Boston and New York, (the former New Haven railroad.)
Yesterday's problem occurred when an NJT train under the Hudson River lost power. I don't know the reason. Amtrak has two tunnels under the Hudson; when one is blocked, they run both ways through the other: DELAYS.
The problem turned into a real circus in the packed station when an Amtrak policeman tasered an unruly passenger, and people thought that a shot had been fired. People abandoned their bags and headed for the doors.
Last edited by philipmartin on Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NJT

Postby philipmartin » Sat Apr 15, 2017 12:57 pm

george matthews wrote:
philipmartin wrote:We hear about trains in New Zealand and their woes. Here one about trains where I work. This is the opposite of an isolated incident.
Yesterday the Long Island Railroad had third rail problems getting in and out of Penn Station.


http://www.amny.com/transit/nj-transit- ... 1.13468357

This story seems to be about a New Jersey train, not a Long Island train. Doesn't a NJT train use overhead?

This story is about an NJ Transit train stalled in a tunnel. It's an overhead wire train. I only mentioned the Long Island Railroad third rail problem the previous day to illustrat that we are having a lot of problems in Penn Station just now. I could have mentioned two derailments there in the last two,or three weeks.
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Re: NJT

Postby george matthews » Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:04 pm

philipmartin wrote:Penn Station in New York was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad around 1910. The approaches to it are under the two rivers on either side of Manhattan island. Both approaches were originally electrified with 600 volt DC third rail. The Long Island Rail Road, which was controlled by the PRR, came in from the east, and the PRR Came in from the west with a short stretch of third rail to Manhattan Transfer, east of Newark, New Jersey. Motive power was changed between steam and electric there.
In the 1930s, with the help of the government, the PRR put up an 11000 volt AC catenary between Washington, DC and New York City and between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, PA, which is on the Northeast Corridor. The PRR then ceased using the third rail west of New York City. The LIRR continues to use it; it has no AC trains.
The former PRR lines west of New York City are now Amtrak - long distance - and portions NJ Transit in the state of New Jersey. Both continue to use the catenary system erected by the PRR, although at 25000 volts AC on some portions of NJT.
The tunnels under the rivers on either side of Manhattan are electrified both by third rail and overhead wires, although third rail trains no longer run west of Penn Station. The overhead wire east of Penn Statiyon is used by Amtrak and NJT to reach Sunnyside coach yard and the Northeast Corridore between Boston and New York, (the former New Haven railroad.)
Yesterday's problem occurred when an NJT train under the Hudson River lost power. I don't know the reason. Amtrak has two tunnels under the Hudson; when one is blocked, they run both ways through the other: DELAYS.
The problem turned into a real circus in the packed station when an Amtrak policeman tasered an unruly passenger, and people thought that a shot had been fired. People abandoned their bags and headed for the doors.
"What fools these mortals be!"

I think this topic is more suitable on a forum away from "Worldwide" - which is devoted to non-American railways. But what it illustrates is the unfortunate state of American railways which, despite the boosterism we are all too familiar with, are not at all keeping up with world trends and are in need of a period of large scale investment to bring them up to date - something I hear Trump is opposed to. I suggest that one goal in the NY area would be to standardise electric power on the world standard thus avoiding the problems of the various voltages in the NY city area of too many different electrical standards having to be installed in Pennsylvania and Grand Central stations area. Whether you need new tunnels between NY City and New Jersey is another question that arises from time to time. I would not be surprised if the rather old tunnels are unsuitable for a modern rail system. The failure to modernise the tunnels is something that has prevented many modern features which would avoid the all-too frequent problems of trains passing through. I quite like travelling by train in the US but you must realise that my pleasure comes at least partly from experiencing a rather old fashioned system.

Of course we have a similar problem in Britain, where the Severn Tunnel with its constant leaks of sea water render electrification very difficult. There would be a good case for its replacement with a new, waterproof tunnel suitable for electrification. One alternative possibility would be to build a new overground route, possibly using a route abandoned some time ago when a ship demolished a railway bridge further up the Severn.

But as a world class city, New York needs a modern, efficient rail system rather than the historic one that has lacked modernisation.
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Re: NJT

Postby philipmartin » Sat Apr 15, 2017 5:04 pm

One of the derailments that I referred to was caused by rotten-out ties, (sleepers,) allowing the rails to spread under the train, as I understand it. All the other improvements that you mention will not give people a more comfortable ride; it's already comfortable; but they will increase our taxes and debt even further. The physical plant obviously needs to be renewed. Working on this railroad, I am aware of failures occurring every day.
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Re: NJT

Postby george matthews » Sat Apr 15, 2017 6:15 pm

philipmartin wrote:One of the derailments that I referred to was caused by rotten-out ties, (sleepers,) allowing the rails to spread under the train, as I understand it. All the other improvements that you mention will not give people a more comfortable ride; it's already comfortable; but they will increase our taxes and debt even further. The physical plant obviously needs to be renewed. Working on this railroad, I am aware of failures occurring every day.

You confirm my beliefs that the American railway system needs an enormous amount of modernisation investment to bring it up to world standards. Generally my experience has been that speeds are not all that fast. The aim of investment should be to get more people on to trains and fewer in aeroplanes. Moreover electric trains don't emit CO2 - something we all need to reduce as quickly as possible. If the tracks are as poorly maintained as you suggest that is something that needs to be improved. The US could achieve a modern rail system, as found for example in Europe or Japan, but only if your governments decide to.
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Re: NJT

Postby philipmartin » Sat Apr 15, 2017 9:26 pm

If we followed your line of reasoning, George, the US would become just another impoverished socialist country.
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Re: NJT

Postby johnthefireman » Sun Apr 16, 2017 3:11 am

Unusually, I find myself agreeing with George on most of this. Much as I love the experience of travelling on US long-distance trains, the system as a whole is a shambles, and as George says, much of the enjoyment is due to the quaintness of the rather old-fashioned system. Likewise the metro systems. While the new metros in certain cities are not bad in themselves, they are so limited in their scope and there is little in the way of an integrated metro, bus and tram (streetcar) system such as you find in most of the developed world (and indeed major cities in many developing countries, eg Bangkok). Older systems like in New York are creaking at the joints and are struggling to maintain capacity, which is not in itself unique, as London, for example, is facing the same problems. But the difference is that London is investing billions of pounds in upgrading the system (eg Thameslink, Docklands Light Railway, trams in Croydon, extensions and upgrading to the underground system, Crossrail, London Overground, Oyster cards, extending step-free access across the capital, lengthening platforms, upgrading signalling and power supply systems, etc) whereas New York apparently isn't. As I have said elsewhere, US society over many decades has made a conscious or unconscious policy decision to prioritise, subsidise and, some might even say fetishise, the private automobile over and above public transport.

On the other hand, the US freight network seems to me to be much better developed than the passenger network, again a conscious policy decision, I presume. Your freight trains do run very slowly, though; in Europe I would say freight trains generally run faster.

I don't wish to enter into politics, but some of the best integrated transport systems in the world are in rich nations in Europe and Asia which are far from "impoverished socialist countries". Note also that for good or ill, many countries have privatised their railway systems, which could hardly be called socialism.

I also agree with George that the Wordwide Railfan forum is probably not the place to discuss NJT, which already has its own sub-forum, but as with many topics this one has developed and insomuch as we are now apparently comparing the US system with worldwide systems, it's probably more appropriate to do so here than in one of the US fora.
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Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby David Benton » Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:20 pm

Seems this thread has evolved into comparing American Railroads , to railways in other countries. I can see Philip's original post was to show us they have problems there as well as the rest of the world(specifically New Zealand).
I think we can justify discussing it in this here, but no politics. The socialist/ capitalist labels are a bit redundant now anyway, As John pointed out , many "socialist" leaning countries have privatised their railways.


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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:33 am

On the other hand, the US freight network seems to me to be much better developed than the passenger network, again a conscious policy decision, I presume. Your freight trains do run very slowly, though; in Europe I would say freight trains generally run faster.


One interesting question to be resolved is whether freight and passenger services can mix. In Britain the rail system is overwhelmingly passenger designed, and freight has to adapt to the passenger needs. In many cases it runs at night. Perhaps in the US passenger services could be sent on lines without freight, and designed for much higher speeds than the current lines which are mostly rather slow. That of course is the solution implemented in Japan.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby David Benton » Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:59 am

I don't think there are any lines without freight. Even the NEC has a few freight trains, Philip will know better.
I have seen some propose linking up branchlines to make a passenger route, but i would think the track would mean a slow ride.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby deathtopumpkins » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:31 am

David Benton wrote:I don't think there are any lines without freight. Even the NEC has a few freight trains, Philip will know better.
I have seen some propose linking up branchlines to make a passenger route, but i would think the track would mean a slow ride.


There are portions of the NEC with no freight, and there are a decent number of northeastern commuter lines with no freight. The MBTA, LIRR, Metro-North, SEPTA, and maybe NJT have lines with zero freight service. Plus several others have either dedicated passenger tracks (e.g. Metra Electric) or portions of lines that are only used by passenger trains.

If you limit your scope to intercity rail, there's still portions of the NEC, and possibly some scattered bits around the country, e.g. near large terminals.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:23 am

David Benton wrote:I don't think there are any lines without freight. Even the NEC has a few freight trains, Philip will know better.
I have seen some propose linking up branchlines to make a passenger route, but i would think the track would mean a slow ride.


But note the Japan model. I don't think their High Speed lines - Standard gauge Shinkansen - have any freight. They are entirely for high speed passenger. In the US case that might be a solution for the Boston-New York-Washington DC route. High speed without freight. And by High Speed I am thinking of airline killing 200 mph at least. There are several European contractors who could build such a system.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby johnthefireman » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:50 am

george matthews wrote:There are several European contractors who could build such a system.


True. But it's the Chinese who seem to be leading the world in building high speed lines at the moment. I believe they have about twice as much high speed rail mileage as the whole of the rest of the world put together.
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