Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby rovetherr » Sun May 08, 2016 1:58 am

jp1822 wrote:We've heard about this extension "hoping to be" for MANY years now. Hopefully this will finally get it done. I think though they should have considered a stop at Shelbourne as it is a self-contained little town like Middlebury where one can walk to museums, stores, and lodging. Buses from Burlington are somewhat seasonal at best to Shelbourne.

The problem with a stop at Shelburne is its proximity to Burlington. It is 7 miles from Shelburne to Burlington by rail. And I know that Castleton and Rutland are similar in distance, however the operational considerations for both locations are quite different. The Castleton stop is in a permanent (and quite slow) speed restriction due to a series of sharp curves at the station. Shelburne on the other hand, is in 60 mph territory with no permanent speed restrictions close by. So a stop at Shelburne will cost far more time wise than Castleton currently does. The current bus schedules to Shelburne have fairly dense coverage for 6 days of the week, with only the commuter bus' 4 round trips running on Sundays.

One major obstacle was the junction at Rutland - which was similar to how the Vermonter had to operate in order to get north up to St. Albans at Palmer Jct. Hopefully they will be able to construct a true "Y" at Rutland so no back up maneuver will be needed.

The issue with a wye connecting the CLP Mainline Sub and the VTR Northern Sub is that it is in Center Rutland, about 1 1/2 miles short of the Rutland station. The best solution would be to have the train come up from the south via Hoosick Jct and continue on. But that is in the far distant future, if ever. The train could turn on the wye in Rutland yard proper, but once it arrives in Burlington, will have nowhere to turn unless they continue on to Essex Jct. So it looks like some sort of cab car/added loco/cabbage set-up will be part of the plan for the near to middle future.

Likewise, I like the Friday early evening departure from NYC to Rutland and the same southbound from Rutland on Sunday. However, in order to be passenger friendly, it would seem that the northbound Ethan Allen would have to leave NYP at around 3:30 pm in order to make it up to Burlington, VT before midnight (and vice versa). Whether this would be the normal schedule - not sure.

The schedule will certainly be interesting, the slots in and out of NYP are fairly locked in, so it would be logical to have any changes be made on the Vermont side of the train. However, that is going to be cutting into the rest period of the crew, possibly to the point where they will not be able to make rest for the return trip. I'm not privy to the discussions going on in the AOT about the service, so perhaps there is an operational plan drawn up, but just not released yet.

Would the train set layover at the yard just south of where Burling Union Station is?

I believe that is the plan, the train set would be serviced there instead of in Rutland. Since there is only one track at the station, laying over at the platform would be an issue when the NECR local comes into Burlington to make interchange, usually done at night to avoid the Vermonter and road freights on their mainline during the day.

I'm hoping the extension does finally happen, however even if it flounders the track work has helped us on the freight side quite a bit. Run times are down, so we have that much more time to be able to perform work along the line, or still be able to make it back to the home terminal when things go wrong and fall behind "schedule".
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Sun May 08, 2016 8:56 am

I am looking forward to this new service, especially being able to travel directly to Burlington by rail. Of course, there are obstacles and they vary according to route.

1. If the train continues to operate on the current route, serving Saratoga Springs and Castleton, probably the big issue is the location of the wye in Rutland. It sounds like it is a little far west from where the current station is, but not too shabby-maybe like about 1/2 a mile.

2. If the train gets rerouted through Mechanicville and North Bennington, there would probably be a few circuitous turns especially from where the right of way passes through Mechanicville to just east of where it crosses the Hudson River. There are many pluses such as being able to take a train directly to the Bennington area. In addition, when the Ethan Allen approaches Rutland, it would be pointing in the proper direction to where the wye is.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby rovetherr » Sun May 08, 2016 10:28 am

Here is a quick MS Paint schematic of the Rutland area, for reference. It is, obviously, not even close to scale :-D and is missing yard and customer tracks. For reference, Center Rutland is MP 56, Rutland Station is approx. MP 54.3, the north leg of the Rutland wye is at MP 54.
Rutland Tracks.jpg
Quick diagram of the Rutland area.


The black line, as labeled, is the often talked about west leg of the wye at Center Rutland. As you can see, as you head east on the CLP, and make the turn north onto the VTR you miss the Rutland station by about 1 1/2 miles. That also doesn't take into account the topography of the area. The rail line sits well above the floor of the river valley in that area and would require a rather large bridge built through an existing neighborhood to span the gap. Not worth the money to end up missing the station anyways. If you are traveling north towards Burlington from N. Bennington there is no need to use the wye in the yard since the train will be oriented the correct way anyways. There are two big issues with turning at Rutland, one the time lost running into the classification section of the yard and making a reverse move, all at restricted speed on tracks with limited sight distance (ie slow going), and two, once you get to Burlington, there is nowhere to turn the train unless you take an hour-plus round trip to Essex Jct and back.

The PAS line from Mechanicville to Hoosick Jct is twisty, and mostly 25. With some amount of money named by them, rather large I'm sure, the line could be brought up to class three and support one additional pair of trains a day. The south end of the VTR is twisty as well, but laid out in a manner that will support class three speeds, again with a certain amount of money.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun May 08, 2016 3:42 pm

njt/mnrrbuff wrote:I am looking forward to this new service, especially being able to travel directly to Burlington by rail. Of course, there are obstacles and they vary according to route.

1. If the train continues to operate on the current route, serving Saratoga Springs and Castleton, probably the big issue is the location of the wye in Rutland. It sounds like it is a little far west from where the current station is, but not too shabby-maybe like about 1/2 a mile.


The train is gaining a cab car with the extension because Burlington has no turnback other than VRS's roundhouse in the freight yard, which is too cumbersome a maneuver for Amtrak to use and will be on the opposite end of the yard from where the open space exists for installing a couple layover pads. They won't have the option for wyeing at the north end unless they put the "Phase 1.5" extension plan on the table to rehab the 7-mile NECR Burlington Branch and add Essex Jct. as the last stop. Probably a safe bet within a few years after since it's a gimme on cost/benefit, but well outside the scope of the current work.

Since they'll already have the cab car for Burlington, they're not going to bother with the Rutland wye for revenue service and will just change ends at the station. Therefore, northbounds will run loco-first into Rutland, then cab-first into Burlington; southbounds will run loco-first out of Burlington, cab-first out of Rutland. Subject to change if Amtrak objects to running southbounds cab-first into NYP, in which case they'll change it up. Either by doing engine switches @ ALB on this route instead of letting the dual-mode run all the way to the end of the line like current practice, or insisting that Rutland wye does have to go into revenue service. Which will entail upgrades to the wye track, installing gates on its two currently unprotected grade crossings, and probably extending the track a couple hundred more feet so they're future-proofed for variable-length consists. As is, it's barely long enough to turn a current EAE consist; stick a baggage car on it during peak ski season and they'll need some extra footage.

2. If the train gets rerouted through Mechanicville and North Bennington, there would probably be a few circuitous turns especially from where the right of way passes through Mechanicville to just east of where it crosses the Hudson River. There are many pluses such as being able to take a train directly to the Bennington area. In addition, when the Ethan Allen approaches Rutland, it would be pointing in the proper direction to where the wye is.


Right now the current plan is to do two routes: 1) a brand new train doing Mechanicville-Burlington in one shot catered to the Vermont-only audience, and 2) the existing EAE cut back to Rutland serving primarily the New Yorker audience. Saratoga Springs' desire for service is driving the split plan. It's only if Amtrak objects to the equipment demands of a second route where everything would get combined under the single Mechanicville-Burlington umbrella, and only if the Saratoga Spring'ers really really like Burlington where the EAE would continue doing the Rutland reverse. Most likely when all these pieces fall into place you'll have the new route plowing straight up to Essex Jct. without need for a cab car, and the New Yorker-centric EAE back to terminating in Rutland without need for a cab car. Any which way, the 'fugly' reverses being induced by Phase I to Burlington are a temporary condition likely to go away after the first 7-10 years.

rovetherr wrote:The PAS line from Mechanicville to Hoosick Jct is twisty, and mostly 25. With some amount of money named by them, rather large I'm sure, the line could be brought up to class three and support one additional pair of trains a day. The south end of the VTR is twisty as well, but laid out in a manner that will support class three speeds, again with a certain amount of money.


Norfolk Southern is expected with near-certainty to be buying out Pan Am's 50% ownership of the Pan Am Southern partnership from Mechanicville-Ayer in the next 2-4 years to assume sole ownership of the line. In which case it'll be upgraded to the same Class 4/50 MPH freight spec as the D&H South mainline & other etc. that feeds them into Mechanicville from Harrisburg. That's their 'company default' running speed for self-maintained major intermodal corridors, and the PAS main will be going double-stack to Ayer in the next 5 years when they enlarge the Hoosac Tunnel. For whatever strange reason known only to NS they like to settle on 50 MPH freight...not Class 3/40 MPH and not full-blast 60 MPH Class 4. So if Phase II comes after NS assumes control and does its cookie-cutter defaults, then they probably don't need to do anything for speeds because other than a short straight segment between Valley Falls and Eagle Bridge a passenger train would never top 60 MPH. Just some obligatory double-tracking in spots to keep NS from getting antsy about train meets. Obviously if VTrans is in a hurry and can fund it faster NYDOT's going to have to help NS with the Class 4 upgrades, since NS will play its leverage if the timing of its 'company default' speed upgrades coincides close enough to construction starts on the passenger project. I'd bet on this scenario since Phase II probably isn't going to take 10 years, and NS can have a plenty fast intermodal route gerrymandering its self-funded speed upgrades in Massachusetts first to squeeze some delicious public funds out of New York.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby Balerion » Tue May 10, 2016 8:32 am

A number of articles about this extension quote VT state officials as saying it will take four years to complete. That seems like an awfully long time to me, considering that funding has been secured for both rail upgrades and platforms in Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington. What's the hold up? Or are VT officials just being cautious, underpromising so they can overdeliver?
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby gokeefe » Tue May 10, 2016 9:41 am

I think they still need to do some of the engineering (6-12 months). Arranging federally compliant procurement contracts for sums of this amount takes about 6-12 months. And construction will probably extend through two construction seasons in Northern New England (2 summers = 24 months total). Sounds about right to me.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue May 10, 2016 10:41 am

Balerion wrote:A number of articles about this extension quote VT state officials as saying it will take four years to complete. That seems like an awfully long time to me, considering that funding has been secured for both rail upgrades and platforms in Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington. What's the hold up? Or are VT officials just being cautious, underpromising so they can overdeliver?


Caution, definitely. They're doing this on small money, and having to bundle the upgrades lockstep with freight grants to ensure they have maximal spread of funding sources available. VTrans is small enough that they can really only maneuver point-to-point on their own volition.

Second is simply the matter of stations. They're not ready yet. Sites haven't been finalized in stone for some of them. Stops need to go into design. VTrans has to share those designs with VRS for input because this is a freight clearance route with few opportunities for passing tracks, meaning these new stops have to be built with ADA retractable-edge mini-highs that the freight crews and/or station staff can flip into the retracted position in between passenger slots. They need Amtrak's input on how the cab car assignments are going to work, and full confirmation on whether Rutland wye isn't or is going to be needed for changing ends...because if Amtrak says yes they have to upgrade the wye track for revenue service.

There's also the matter of those 'trial' flag stops they were thinking of doing as additional intermediates on the extension, since it's going to take them additional years and more funding shots to infill their desired stop selection...not to mention actually picking station sites and culling the list of towns that'll produce enough ridership to be worthy of funding for an infill. They need to get an answer on what ADA accommodations they have to make at those flag stops, and whether they can get away with a 6' x 4' slab of bare pavement at a grade crossing with a portable wheelchair lift chained to the fence as means of doing those 'taste test' trials to inform their future permanent intermediate stops.


It's not a particularly complicated project, but they're playing their risks close-to-vest and that's a prudent strategy for managing a successful launch of an extension that has to live within pretty conservative resource margins. They also know that getting this right and managing it smartly directly correlates with how fast they'll be able to accumulate funding for the Phase 2 Rutland-south expansion project. Hit the right notes on this launch and show results on their financial management and the feds are probably going to smile on them for accelerating Phase 2.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby gokeefe » Tue May 10, 2016 11:15 am

This is one of the few instances that I can imagine where a state has been able to take a year by year incremental approach to capital improvements and eventually succeed in restoring service. It's a pretty impressive testament to Vermont's determination and their ability to take the long term view in their political process.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby east point » Tue May 10, 2016 11:54 am

A second loco seems excessive. What ever happened to the Amtrak proposal to rebuild a few AEM-7s into cabbage cars ? That would solve the NYP clearance problems.
Could lead Ethan out of NYP reverse with loco leading out of Rutland, AEN-7 lead out of Burlington. loco lead out of Rutland into NYP.
AEN would need to be wired to change loco <> third rail and diesel.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby gokeefe » Tue May 10, 2016 1:44 pm

I think Amtrak is trying really hard to avoid creating new car classes as noted so often and so eloquently by F-line. Those proposals were desperation moves without a doubt. They get new cab cars that can handle the conditions and have sufficient crashworthiness. The biggest change of all appears to be that the new configuration eliminates the pass through doors and makes the cars stub ended. Not the end of the world to lose the kind of flexibility that would rarely be used by Amtrak.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby Allouette » Tue May 10, 2016 2:09 pm

At one time the tail track from the wye at Rutland continued to a point near where the lines to Whitehall and Burlington split. If I remember correctly it was the original Clarendon and Pittsford line. After it washed out in one or another of Otter Creek's floods the current joint line was established.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue May 10, 2016 3:07 pm

east point wrote:A second loco seems excessive. What ever happened to the Amtrak proposal to rebuild a few AEM-7s into cabbage cars ? That would solve the NYP clearance problems.
Could lead Ethan out of NYP reverse with loco leading out of Rutland, AEN-7 lead out of Burlington. loco lead out of Rutland into NYP.
AEN would need to be wired to change loco <> third rail and diesel.


No, no, no. They are not making more cabbages out of everyone's personal favorite models of ex- locomotives. Cabbages were a mid-90's desperation move when they had no fiscal means of procuring real cab cars. They weren't some aspirational result of greater organizational efficiency via repurposement of old dead hulks. Amtrak NEVER wants to be put in that situation again. That's why they padded the Midwest bi-level order with lots of cabs, and will do the same when the ginormous Amfleet/Metroliner replacement procurement comes. They're done with running taxidermied ex- power as a band-aid for their funding woes.


The EAE also isn't going to run with a second loco. Only the Vermonter does that, only in winter season, and only as a result of the hazards of the White Mountain terrain during winter. Western Corridor is mostly in the Champlaign Valley west of the mountain slopes in relatively flat land. This route will never need the extra "angry mountains" protection of a second loco like the Vermonter needs 4 months out of the year.
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby Dick H » Tue May 10, 2016 3:35 pm

There is a controversial reconstruction of two bridges over the railroad in
Middlebury, stated to begin this year, but has opposition for all the issues
that will effect the downtown area. This issue could also effect the length
of the overall track upgrade.

http://www.wcax.com/story/31238331/midd ... rs-worried
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby twropr » Wed May 25, 2016 8:33 pm

Does anyone know whether the tunnel on the VTR at Middlebury has been enlarged?
Where is the 11-miles of track that will be renewed by the TIGER Grant?
Is most of the VTR Rutland-Burlington welded or stick rail?
Thanks!
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Re: Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed May 25, 2016 11:17 pm

Tunnel enlargement and rehab is at 60% design with final construction scheduled to complete by 2019 at $40M price tag, per VTrans' February board meeting minutes.

VTrans has a project map of exactly what infrastructure they're upgrading: http://rail.vermont.gov/sites/railroads ... eb_CWR.pdf. There's still 3 remaining stretches of stick rail staying for the time being because it's in good condition and certified for 60 MPH. Majority of the upper corridor already is CWR, so the 11 miles of new installations plug gaps on the north end where the rail replacement raises the speeds to an even keel.
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