Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, Tadman, gprimr1, Amtrak67 of America

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Renegade334 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:28 am

Granted this is much further down the road (ha...infrastructure pun), if the desire is to get the DE to increase speeds speed in order to decrease time between POR - BOS, would would help more to get to that desired result?
Renegade334
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:42 am

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Cowford » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:15 pm

Increased track speeds, grade crossing elimination are all well and good, but the only practical way the DE is going to hit the 2hr POR-BOS holy grail (or even a 2:15 target) is by eliminating all (or all but one, maybe two) intermediate stops.
Last edited by Cowford on Fri Jan 06, 2017 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Cowford
 
Posts: 2622
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:34 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:30 pm

Renegade334 wrote:Would it be worth the time, effort, and money to reduce the amount of street crossings that occur in NH? Or is it more worth to do other types of rail upgrades? I feel like NH is the weak link in the POR - BOS line.


Depends if the crossing in question is inducing burdensome speed restrictions. I'm not as familiar with the NH ones, but speed restriction is a sore thumb with the pair by West Medford station on the NH Main near Boston. One of only 3 on the T commuter rail that still has a staffed crossing tender on-duty during the day because it's such a problem spot. Usually restrictions like that can get zapped by upping the comprehensiveness of the crossing protection and electronic doodads therein. West Med is a case where some grab-bag of. . .

-- quadrant gates
-- traffic light installs (there currently are none)
-- DTMF relays for precision-control of the gates during local station stops and precision-control of signal priority for dumping the traffic queues after the gates raise
-- plastic center dividers in the road to seal off possibility of running the gates
-- early safety warning for any cars stuck in traffic on the tracks

. . .can probably lift that restriction for express traffic like the DE in-total. And only some of that grab-bag (probably DTMF being the crucial one) would lick the problem, as the sightlines are good enough for the engineer that it's not a particularly unsafe crossing needing 100% of that kitchen sink of doodads. It'll still be a traffic-snarling crossing for the local streets, but it'll cease to be an issue for the train schedules. Unfortunately, the excuse constantly given by MassDOT for not addressing that crossing are that there's no fiber optic cable available nearby on the ROW to tie-in more sophisticated electronics. Hopefully that'll change when the Green Line Extension makes its way to College Ave. a mile down the street and gives the NH Main completely fresh cable plant the whole length of that extension. That'll put the fiber tie-in close enough to West Med to do something about it.


The other thing to consider are just the NIMBY's. When interfacing with a local road...or even a state highway where any improvements are going to get the local Legislaturecritters sticking their fingers in the pie...the railroad doesn't have much control over what roadside measures get taken to improve the crossing. It becomes an effective chaos vector for the locals who don't want even a second's driving inconvenience from signal priority around the gates, or who just want to suppress train traffic period, to drive an opposition wedge around crossing protection improvements. Even when those improvements slam-dunk make it BETTER for traffic by signal priority controlling the queue dumps in orderly fashion after a train, and even when those improvements slam-dunk make it SAFER for traffic. Notable examples of towns doing opposition against their own interests for turf warrage include:

-- Stonington, CT. Opposed any/all crossing eliminations on the NEC during the late-90's Acela prep as a wedge for lowering train traffic.

-- Springfield Line (multiple towns). CDOT paid for signal priority installs at traffic lights around various crossings, and the town DPW's came in right after the money was spent/installed to disconnect the priority. All because some old-man-yells-at-cloud type with a singular mouth as loud as a militia of thousands bitched and moaned about it to his Alderman Pothole, who then got the DPW on it. And the state could do nothing about it because these were town-control roads, and they got punked on the town's initial receptiveness to the install. One particular crossing that CDOT spent the money on had one of the worst violation rates of drivers eluding the gates in the entire state, so they weren't naive about spending that money either...they would save more money in liability by paying for the hardware. But the towns won't let them use the hardware, and there's no legal recourse because of how state law divvies up town vs. state jurisdictions.

-- Framingham, MA. The Worcester Line crossing pair in downtown is the most notorious on the MBTA, with the highest (albeit non-fatal and very slow-speed because on a station approach for all trains) accident rate on the system. All efforts dating back 20 years and still ongoing to do something, anything to increase the protection here have been stalled by town-level infighting. No one can agree on anything, so nothing gets done. That includes basic installation of side security fencing between the Bishop St. crossing and the Route 126 crossing to keep jaywalkers from shortcutting across the tracks...because enough people complain in town meetings about wanting their jaywalker's shortcut!

So when sizing up the NH crossings most ripe for crossing protection improvements that would tame speed restrictions, grade on a sliding scale of Operation Chaos potential. It'll be way worse in some towns vs. others. And probably unfavorable overall.



I doubt you'll find a single crossing that truly needs outright elimination. There's already been a lot of them trimmed over the years all up and down the corridor...bridged-over state highways, local streets with redundant access on the grid cut in two, and so on. B&M did a very aggressive elimination blitz during the mid-50's on the NH Main and other heavy-traffic lines in the Boston area as a company-wide modernization effort for the new era of car traffic interactions, and generally kept the pressure on right to the end on outright closures. With the gradual postwar evolution towards traffic consolidation on the freight main, that push continued across Central MA, NH, and southern ME. Compared to 60 years ago the crossing counts are way lower overall, generally limited to least-concern roadways and the most-expensive toughies too disruptive to bridge, and relatively few that stick out like a sore thumb as "This is ridiculous redundancy!" needing an immediate blocking off with jersey barriers. Drivers may be stupider, and local traffic may be heavier...but for the trains, there's not a whole lot left that are killing the schedules because the railroad was on-the-ball from very early on about whittling-down the crossing density and targeting the ones that were hurting schedules. Now the room for improvement is not so much outright eliminations, where few really rise to the level of mission-critical vs. nice-to-have/surplus-to-requirement (West Med pair will cross that outright elimination threshold convincingly after another 20 years of rail traffic increases, but it's not quite time for that megaproject). Rather, it's the advances in technology like smart crossing equipment, signal priority, and the like which can make up the gap. MA and Amtrak have been pretty aggressive about paying the premium for really good crossing equipment on ever-increasing number of routes; it's totally worth it in liability and schedule savings. NNEPRA probably needs to start looking to that as part of its bucket list of continuously churning Western Route improvements. Not tippy-top of the bucket list, as there's lots more urgent bread-and-butter stuff taking priority. But the trending towards smarter crossings is inevitable, the drivers keep getting dumber so liability rates keep rising, and there's hard data available on which roads have a LOS poor enough (and evolving poorly enough) to benefit from some queue management before it induces a train speed restriction. Put together a rough priority list of crossings where the investment is a pretty convincing net gain projected over 20 years of traffic trends...filter for the NIMBY towns who are too ornery and have too much power to block...and start a constant low-level push to start flipping crossings. OTP will gradually get better as a result, and OTP will weather traffic increases a lot better as a result. It's not a big project, just an annual part of doing business to tackle 1 or 2 crossings for protection upgrades every fiscal year.



FWIW...the only one on the whole route (outside of West Medford, which is all in due time) that would *potentially* rise to the level of priority elimination is Congress St./ME 22 in Portland. I get that the adjacent location of Union Station was the reason why that one survived the 20th century while all others on the corridor of equal traffic levels, urban location, and general criticality were systematically eliminated. But it's a pretty fugly outlier and wouldn't be too convoluted to build up the rail embankment and bridge over. North leg of the Mountain wye eventually converging right at the crossing and future likelihood of there needing to be a 3rd running track spanning the back-to-back wyes for traffic sorting is just going to make it way more complicated over time with very slow-moving traffic.

But MEDOT is not MassDOT in depth of funding resources, so grade likelihood accordingly vs., say, a West Medford on how many more decades it'll be before they can stick a sorta-frill that near the top of a funding pile.
F-line to Dudley via Park
 
Posts: 6424
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
Location: North Cambridge

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby east point » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:01 pm

Does anyone have the accident rate for each of these crossings. Needs comparison with each passenger train and each freight
east point
 
Posts: 332
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:50 pm

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:27 pm

The FRA's official crossing inventory has a log for accidents on each crossing: http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofS ... addbf.aspx. Caution, though: it's a time-consuming exercise in frustration to deep-dive the list to get the answers you want from the crossings in question. Ton of data noise (closed crossings still on the roster, private vs. public crossings, etc.) to filter out, and some accident logs have such extremely old incidents on them that they're beyond any practical date cutoff for ascertaining rates or present-day risk. You pretty much need to export to spreadsheet and play around with it for a couple hours to boil it down point-blank to the specifics of your question.

But, yeah, it is all recorded and publicly accessible for anyone who wants it.
F-line to Dudley via Park
 
Posts: 6424
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
Location: North Cambridge

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Renegade334 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:23 pm

First off...your response was quite eye opening. Like I said, I am pretty new to this stuff but becoming more an more obsessed. The more I read of your response...the more I am looking at my list and could see a large reduction that I would still argue could use full separation and not just better protection.

Secondly..
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:...as there's lots more urgent bread-and-butter stuff taking priority.


What types of things are priority for NNEPRA currently? If this is a stupid question, I understand. Is there any place to see this 'list'?
Renegade334
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:42 am

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:30 pm

Yes, you can see some of NNEPRA's current projects at http://www.nnepra.com/nnepra-projects.

Other than the Royal Junction Siding (scroll down to bottom) the others are complete or very close to it. Beyond that it looks as if there are two projects in the "obvious" column after that (in no particular order): north leg of wye track connecting to the Portland Transportation Center and some double track or very long passing sidings around Wells.
gokeefe
User avatar
gokeefe
 
Posts: 8994
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:28 pm
Location: Winthrop, Maine

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:05 am

gokeefe wrote:I think the Siemens trainset is the most obvious option to seriously consider.

Worth noting that per reliable information this trainset is PRIIA/NGEC compliant in virtually all respects.


Yeah, it is, but are there alternatives?

What's the status of the Mafersa coach fleet? Are they to be retained by ConnDOT after SLE buys new stuff?
How about VIA's HEP-1 fleet?
Are there Horizon coaches which could be rebuilt?

Granted any equipment which is in this group will need a pretty serious rebuild (new interiors for Intercity svs, HVAC, wheels/trucks, brakes, MU/elec, ACSES for cabs), but I'm just brainstorming as to what could happen outside of a brand $panking new fleet, which seems a little outside the realm of reality as it is today.
This possible equipment procurement could just include coaches/cabs/cafes first, with Locos to be leased as they are much more common. As far as 'future-proofing' is concerned, even Heritage eqpt Amtrak ran on the NEC in the 80's could go 105mph. That seems more than fast enough for even the future DE's needs.

True, AMTK really doesn't care for specialized fleets, but:
1)with a full rebuild they could be made as standard as possible.
2)NNEPRA's own fleet could possibly free them from the AMTRAK tether, as there are other operators (Herzog, Veolia, Keolis, IP). The DE's unique in that it's not really connected to the contiguous Amtrak system.
FCM2829
 
Posts: 119
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:42 am
Location: Portland, ME

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:40 am

FCM2829 wrote:
gokeefe wrote:I think the Siemens trainset is the most obvious option to seriously consider.

Worth noting that per reliable information this trainset is PRIIA/NGEC compliant in virtually all respects.


Yeah, it is, but are there alternatives?


No. There is no way in hell that NNEPRA is pulling an NCDOT and buying unicorn custom equipment for the DE. Does anyone suggesting this nonsense have any awareness of how small Maine is in financial wherewithal? This service doesn't have a growth vector--at all--if they aren't lockstep with the national pool fleet. Which is tight as hell right now and about to get tighter with Nippon-Sharyo's now apparently fatal belly-flop on the bi-levels. But everyone on the East Coast is in that boat. And it will be resolved someday not overly distant when the PRIAA single-level order goes out for bid. They will be getting their share of modern coaches, plus the new default-spec bag/coach/cab cars to replace the NPCU's.

What's the status of the Mafersa coach fleet? Are they to be retained by ConnDOT after SLE buys new stuff?


Yes. All of those are moving to the Hartford Line. And probably staying for some indeterminate time on the small contingent of past- Old Saybrook runs since New London schedules can't increase until Amtrak replaces the CT River Bridge and CDOT constructs a relocated non-curved high level platform at NLN that's gapless for the M8 EMUs' quarter-point doors.

How about VIA's HEP-1 fleet?


No. The HEP-1's are staying with VIA as an LD fleet since they're in good condition for their age. And VIA uses an oddball standard HEP voltage, so their stuff would need minor mods to be used with any U.S. passenger carrier's locos. Don't even think about looking to the HEP-2's either...most of those are Amtrak Heritage garbage passed secondhand 2 decades ago, and VIA management is sounding all kinds of alarm bells that either the gov't ponies up for all-new rolling stock or these ruins gets retired without replacement in 2025 hell or high water.

Are there Horizon coaches which could be rebuilt?


No. Not with Nippon-Sharyo crapping the bed. Every one of those is stuck in Midwest service indefinitely until they find a solve for the bi-level fiasco. Very unlikely anyone's going to rebuild them, either, since there's little money to be made anymore rebuilding Comet-class single-level coaches with all commuter rail agencies in purge mode of the 90's-and-earlier Bombardier & predecessors' makes. With only about 7 dozen cars in service they won't fetch that good a unit price for a full overhaul...not nearly as good as the 500+ brand new single-level cars will fare on per-unit cost. The Horizons are very appropriate fodder for the likes of Iowa Pacific who play in private niches; they can milk a lightish-duty extended life out of those cars very easily. But they're done in national intercity service after the new cars start arriving, and nil for interest as secondhand commuter rail stock.

Granted any equipment which is in this group will need a pretty serious rebuild (new interiors for Intercity svs, HVAC, wheels/trucks, brakes, MU/elec, ACSES for cabs), but I'm just brainstorming as to what could happen outside of a brand $panking new fleet, which seems a little outside the realm of reality as it is today.
This possible equipment procurement could just include coaches/cabs/cafes first, with Locos to be leased as they are much more common. As far as 'future-proofing' is concerned, even Heritage eqpt Amtrak ran on the NEC in the 80's could go 105mph. That seems more than fast enough for even the future DE's needs.


They get exactly this on the next-gen pool fleet. We don't need to overthink this. Their timing's been thrown into chaos by N-S and CAF both having problems with their ongoing orders, but the PRIAA specs--all 500+ pages of them--deliver every single feature you're mentioning here in the economy of scale that lets the state-sponsored routes buff out their reserves handsomely for absorbing growth. You can find those docs online; they're painstakingly detailed. Everybody's got to wait, and no states--least of all Maine--can afford to jump ship from that order. So just be patient. They'll get what they need in the configurations they need just like every other state in East Coast territory.

True, AMTK really doesn't care for specialized fleets, but:
1)with a full rebuild they could be made as standard as possible.
2)NNEPRA's own fleet could possibly free them from the AMTRAK tether, as there are other operators (Herzog, Veolia, Keolis, IP). The DE's unique in that it's not really connected to the contiguous Amtrak system.


1) No...they really can't. Because everything that's old and a little bit different becomes harder to maintain with time as parts supplies dwindle. And parts supplies are going to dwindle over the course of a standard 15-year life extension as generic commuter rail flats from the mid-90's & earlier get purged en masse and are no longer manufactured new. That's exactly what's killed the Heritage Fleet...too heterogeneous a fleet of baggage car makes with slightly different out-of-stock parts to fabricate to have even considered a rebuild if the frames were structurally up to it. Unless a state-sponsored route opens up a whole factory to maintain its stuff like WSDOT did with the Talgos or outsource a 100% full-service maint & management contract that Amtrak never has to touch like NCDOT...Beech Grove doesn't want to maintain unorthodox equipment anymore and will gouge the states that make them do so going forward. They don't even want the Pacific Parlour Cars on their responsibilities anymore, and are going to insist when the Superliner III's come up for order that the West Coast states either order conventional S3 configured lounges or find somebody else on their own dime to do the Parlours.

Again...Maine isn't within orders of magnitude big enough to go it alone. They are shackled to a % share of the humongous PRIAA next-gen pool if they want anything at a per-unit cost that'll give them scale to grow. They can't pretend they're bigger than they are. Pulling an NCDOT and going custom...is pretending they're way bigger than they are. The finances won't wash.


2) This is even more fanciful. Again...how can such a small state afford to go it alone apart from the pool? Would any private operator be able to provide the quality-of-service of an Amtrak, or the fleet scale of the next-gen PRIAA order? What you're suggesting is even more of a divorce from the network than the kooky Hoosier State arrangement that was a whole lot of joint intervention to keep a key route from being abolished for stupid political reasons. One that many of the stakeholders hope is temporary. A wholly voluntary choice by NNEPRA to go it alone is not going to get the same level of accommodation, including on cross-ticketing. It would be suicidal to do it.

Again...self-awareness of how small they are forces them to seek paths of least resistance and stronger stakeholder coalitions as NNEPRA's only viable means for growth and the infrastructure that feeds it. The fantasy that it's somehow easy--much less easier--for them to go it alone is just that: fantasy not rooted in reality. If go-it-alone wasn't anything but way more expensive than being a link in the nationally-pooled chain, more states would've done it by now. It's pretty much nation's-largest Caltrans capable of swinging that big a stick. Other than Cali, who are a whole equipment procurement unto themselves, it's not clear that the Talgos are paying off because WSDOT is extremely opaque about its balance sheet for that fleet. NCDOT is just a strange, strange, strange outfit about the premium they're paying...including now wanting a mere half-dozen of some extra costly special-design PRIAA bi-levels with transition sleeper ends so they--and only they--can couple their bi's to flats. And the whole Hoosier State situation was just politics at its pettiest; the best we can say is thankfully the route is still alive. With those as the only comparisons...what evidence is there that tiny NNEPRA is going to make the finances work any better for them??? None.
F-line to Dudley via Park
 
Posts: 6424
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
Location: North Cambridge

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:07 am

I totally agree that "custom" equipment in the same vein as what NCDOT has done is out of the question.
gokeefe
User avatar
gokeefe
 
Posts: 8994
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:28 pm
Location: Winthrop, Maine

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Renegade334 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:10 pm

FCM2829 wrote: The DE's unique in that it's not really connected to the contiguous Amtrak system.


Granted this is a small subset of what you said and F Line already responded to most of it...but the hope is that for a NSRL that would in fact connect DE to the Amtrak System.
Renegade334
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:42 am

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:24 pm

So, to sum up:
Don't buy any $%#@boxes.
Don't buy any oddball stuff (nothing's really out there worth buying anyway).
Stick with Big Daddy ATK otherwise you'll get burned/rubbed out.
Sit on hands until shiny things arrive in due time. Ignore tiny windows, spotty HVAC, doors which open/close poorly, and roof which may sometimes leak. & oh yeah malfunctioning control stands/wiring on F40bags.
Realize we're not the only ones in the world.
Dang.
FCM2829
 
Posts: 119
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:42 am
Location: Portland, ME

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby TomNelligan » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:58 pm

Renegade334 wrote:
FCM2829 wrote: The DE's unique in that it's not really connected to the contiguous Amtrak system.


Granted this is a small subset of what you said and F Line already responded to most of it...but the hope is that for a NSRL that would in fact connect DE to the Amtrak System.


North Station may be physically separate from the rest of the Amtrak system, but Downeaster equipment is serviced at Amtrak's Southampton Street yard along with NEC-assigned trainsets and the Lake Shore consists, so in that sense the route has always been integrated. Presumably any new equipment that might be acquired would also be serviced at Southampton Street, especially since the MBTA's North Side shop at Boston Engine Terminal is currently over-capacity with just keeping the commuter fleet running.
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3116
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby electricron » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:03 pm

Doesn't MBTA run Comets that are nearly identical to Amtrak Horizon cars, except having mainly 5 abreast seating vs 4 abreast seating?
I could see Amtrak running Horizons on the Downeasters to free up Amfleets for the ever expanding demand for NEC services. Shucks, Amtrak could even provide a custom livery for the Downeaster's Horizon cars. There are cafe food service cars in Amtrak's Horizon fleet as well. Larger windows, same seats, similar rolling stock MBTA uses, I believe they will fit in well in Maine - assuming Nippon Sharyo ever builds the new midwwestern bilevel cars to release them from duties there.
electricron
 
Posts: 3387
Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:35 pm

Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby jcpatten » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:50 pm

From what I've heard about the Horizon coaches, we don't want them in Maine: they deal terribly with winter conditions.
jcpatten
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2004 7:31 am

PreviousNext

Return to Amtrak

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 29 guests

cron