Penn Station Emergency Repairs: Trackwork, etc.

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Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby adamj023 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:17 am

Hello. I've been hearing about problems in Penn Station for awhile now. I am confused why this seems to be the problem area when other areas with third rail electric and railroad ties and track aren't problematic in the system?

Other areas have had track work and tie replacements and even electric work, yet why does Penn Station which requires same maintenance seem to be getting passed over and on top of that, when they admit the problems, they don't just schedule a replacement project with a fixed time frame like other areas of Amtrak.

Take Springfield, MA. Amtrak has annoinced the work which has been slow going and delayed but at least they have announced time frames for that work. With Amtrak and Penn Station they seem to refuse to set a timeframe with real projects.

Is there an issue with Amtrak unions specific to Penn Station? It just doesn't make sense.
Last edited by adamj023 on Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby Ridgefielder » Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:27 am

Not saying it's a direct cause, but you have to consider that Pennsylvania Station is a couple of orders of magnitude busier than any other station in North America. Grand Central gets close; but there, the traffic is spread out across 67 platform tracks instead of Penn's 21. And Penn is operating at something like 150% of original design capacity. The track structure simply takes a pounding, day in and day out. And there's no window to close the place for maintenance: the Long Island Rail Road runs 24/7/365.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby Greg Moore » Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:36 am

And even if you ignored the LIRR (which you can't), stuff approaching from the North (Empire Service) or West (NJT/the rest of the NEC) has limited options on what tracks they can potentially use. So, you're limited in what you can shut down and for how long. For example, Empire Service has a single track approach and effective access to 3 tracks.
NJT, for push-pull, wants just 4 tracks.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:45 am

Today The Times has an article on issues confronting Penn:

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/nyreg ... risis.html

Fair Use:

.Today, Amtrak finds itself at a crossroad: Is the 46-year-old national railroad at the cusp of a new era of investment as it pushes to build a train tunnel between New York and New Jersey — one of the country’s largest infrastructure proposals — or will service deteriorate to levels that could damage the economy in the corridor between Washington and Boston.
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Penn Station Emergency Repairs: Trackwork, etc.

Postby JamesRR » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:04 pm

Last night, I was boarding on Track 6 and noticed the eastern part of Track 7 was completely ripped out - ties and all. Is this part of a larger track work project? Unusual to see part of a station track removed. I wondered if it's part of the recent inspections/repairs they are doing as a result of the two derailments (which is causing standardized delays now on weekends and weekdays).
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Amtrak Penn Station Track Work

Postby MNCRR9000 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:21 pm

From the New York Times

Brief, Fair Use Quote:
After two derailments at Pennsylvania Station in New York, Amtrak officials are considering closing tracks at the station for an extended period to make long-term repairs — a drastic move that would cause huge disruptions for tens of thousands of commuters, according to officials who were briefed on the plans.

Officials at Amtrak, which owns and operates Penn Station, say the infrastructure at the terminal has become so brittle that it urgently needs a major overhaul. The closings would most likely prompt extensive delays and route changes for two of the nation’s largest railroads, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, which rely on Penn Station.
Last edited by John_Perkowski on Thu Apr 27, 2017 11:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Formatting, compliance with Fair Use.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby bratkinson » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:41 pm

In two words: Deferred Maintenance.

There's always been bigger fish to fry when it comes to track and overhead maintenance in the NEC. Like any big corporation, and even state & local governments, if they 'save' some dollars doing less maintenance this year and usually divert the funds to other projects, management comes out looking good. Sometimes the maintenance dollars get spent for improvements that are more for public relations gains than actual train performance benefits. The unfortunate reality is there just isn't enough money to keep the NEC in good condition from WAS to BOS.

As anyone who 'survived' the Penn Central knows, too much deferred maintenance will come back and bite you big time! REALLY BIG time in the case of the PC! And now, Wick and crew have to face the music and shut down parts of NYP for lots and lots of repairs, affecting everyone that passes through.
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Re: Penn Station Trackwork

Postby 35dtmrs92 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:44 pm

If service is going to be reduced into NYP on a medium-term to long-term basis anyway to redo the station tracks and probably the interlocking plant, I don't think it's that much more of a leap to piggyback the North River tunnel rehabilitation into the work window. From an operations perspective, I think that would be ideal, since the railroad would have four tracks under the Hudson the minute the new tubes are in operation.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad

Postby adamj023 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:48 pm

No. Not deferred maintenance or diverting to other projects. The State or NY and NJ pay Amtrak for maintenance of Penn Station. This is well funded in advance. NJ is withholding payment to Amtrak and will be suing and I expect NY to follow as well. I commend Governor Christie on this issue. A tie maintenance project for Penn Station tracks would not been a long project. LiRR has done concrete ties and rail resurfacing or replacement projects as well as inspection. Apparently the Federal Railroad Authority has found numerous track defects as well.

The railroad tie which went bad was many years old and went through extremely bad weather conditions. It was known way in advance this would be disasterous. We are fortunate there was not an incident with mass casualties.

Amtrak does not need more funding, it already gets congressional subsidies. What we need is less comgressional subsidies and more dedication to the North East corridor which this was. We also need Amtrak to look for more creative ways to improve profit margins. The new Amtrak diner menus are a good start.

http://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/201 ... _back.html
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Re: Penn Station Trackwork

Postby adamj023 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 6:45 pm

JamesRR wrote:Last night, I was boarding on Track 6 and noticed the eastern part of Track 7 was completely ripped out - ties and all. Is this part of a larger track work project? Unusual to see part of a station track removed. I wondered if it's part of the recent inspections/repairs they are doing as a result of the two derailments (which is causing standardized delays now on weekends and weekdays).


I read they were doing a concrete foundation on Track 7. I presumed this was railroad tie work. They said it would take a couple of days to finish.

Apparently the FRA found safety defects on the tracks at Penn Station as well. So it looks like this is a start of a much larger project. Not sure why they started with Track 7 first.

One day in our dreams they will fix every single issue and have high speed service with brand new train sets.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby 35dtmrs92 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:01 pm

Um, YES, deferred maintenance caused by underfunding of both NJT and Amtrak by both the state and federal governments.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:33 pm

A terminal station,in constant use by 3 RR's makes it very hard to take tracks or switches out of service to do rail/tie replacement.
Add to that the brackish water Sandy put in the tunnels and backflowed thru the stormdrains,was the "hidden" damage that has come home to roost.
Amtrak has for years on end been repairing/replacing the mess left behind by PC in Penn Station and Sunnyside yard.
The rebuilding of Harold Interlocking and the LIRR's ESA project demands don't help.
Everybody seems to forget that Amtrak has centralized a bunch of towers all over Penn and Sunnyside into PSCC,a joint operation
with the LIRR. It takes time to replace and upgrade all the switch controls and signal systems thru out Penn station
This area was never "high" speed track,15 mph was the "highest" speed possible thru all the puzzle switches of Penn station.
There were(and still are) bigger issues along the NEC that need to tended to,including the Gateway tunnels and Portal Bridge.
MN and ConnDOT have to deal with "Walk" moveable Bridge in Norwalk that Amtrak uses to reach Boston.
The $$$$$$ needed was not always there to fund projects,in some cases "make it work" patch repairs was all Amtrak could do
to keep the NEC fluid enough to work!
Should they have started tie replacement in NYP earlier,maybe,It was on the "to do" list,but they "owed up" and are tending to
what need to be done as safely and fast as possible under "cramped" and busy traffic conditions in Penn station.
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Re: Penn Station Trackwork

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:44 pm

The amount of damage that Sandy left behind will need to shut down each or the North(Hudson)River tubes for months of rebuilding,
as NYCTA has had to with each of their East River Tunnels.
Amtrak and LIRR will also need to rebuild all 4 East River Tubes if and WHEN LIRR's ESA line to GCT goes online.
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby BandA » Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:02 pm

I'm assuming that the track inside Penn Station and in the tunnels is stick rail on wooden ties. How old on average? I'm assuming the ties are basically turning to powder from age or Sandy. Are the rails worn out/fatigued?

Since this is low speed track, I assume it gets relatively less concern than high-speed track. Also, I've read around here that PC & other railroads and contract situations, they will fix the track first because it is easier, and leave the complicated time-consuming stuff like switches for later. So if this work requires delicate engineering or blacksmithing, and they only have a generic track crew, it's gonna be put off...
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Re: Penn Station infrastructure - why so bad?

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:37 pm

Believe Amtrak has a dedicated,but small track crew working NY Penn and Harold/Sunnyside yard areas.
But with the rebuilding of Harold Interlocking along with LIRR track crews and contractors on the ESA project just adds to the work load.
If and when the bridges of the LIRR Montauk cutoff are removed,they will be on standby if the LIRR contractor screws up and there's track damage,
the repair will be done quickly and safely as possible.
Replacing the rails/ties on the platform tracks is a somewhat easy job,the hardest will be rebuilding all the puzzle switches in Penn under traffic
and working with signal dept and the ET dept (Overhead and 3rd rail) to get it all done.
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