Expanded Virginia Regional Service

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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby east point » Sat Oct 20, 2018 10:26 am

All these proposals depend on the Long bridge limitations being raised. That does not appear able to rise until 10 - 15 years in the future ? Until more tracks across Long bridge (4 ) are built the present limitations will remain in place. As we understand it one more RT slot is available but VA DOT wants to use that for a second train to Roanoke ?

How to mitigate this problem ? VA DOT will have to bite the bullet with a lot of money ! The DOT might be able to get another RT slot if all the track from the 1st avenue tunnel to Alexandria was 4 tracked except for Long Bridge ? Another way would be for trains to split at either Alexandria or Richmond depending on destinations; A 16 - 18 car train at WASH US would be difficult to handle and could not operate at present north of WASH.

To split / combine at ALX, RVR, or RVM would require one or two pocket tracks at each of those stations to store an Amtrak assigned switcher. That would require DOT to pay for pocket tracks, switcher plus spare, switching fees, etc. Then at least 2 reliable locos on train from WASH to split location. Or a spare loco at the location. , Do not think DOT would consider it a prudent way to spend money ?
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby WhartonAndNorthern » Sat Oct 20, 2018 6:28 pm

njt/mnrrbuff wrote:I don't know much about the specifics about the surrounding highways and roads around the Suffolk Station area but it sounds like that city would good to have a station. It's not super close to Norfolk but at the same time, it's probably within an easy drive from many smaller towns in the Hampton Roads region.


I looked into this a few years back since it looked strange not to have any stations between Richmond and Norfolk. In reality, there isn't much out there besides Suffolk. However, I believe there are plans to shift the passenger trains to the ex-Virginian ROW so they didn't want to invest in new infrastructure.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby The EGE » Sun Oct 21, 2018 6:04 pm

Why do they plan to do that? East of Suffolk, it's a lot to rebuild just for a slightly straighter/less crowded shot. West of Suffolk, it would add a lot of running miles.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Station Aficionado » Sun Oct 21, 2018 6:55 pm

Interesting to see so many of the same topics/issues still being talked about. A few points on recent postings on Virginia service:

1. Chesapeake/Suffolk station. When the train to Norfolk was inaugurated, VDRPT said they would, at some point, establish at stop in the Bowers Hill section of Chesapeake (lots of open land along the tracks and ready access to 664—the sort of place usually favored for park-and-ride type stations). Nearly six years on, I don’t think anything has happened. As for the Virginian ROW, while it may have been mentioned as a possibility some years back, I don’t know of any current plans that involve building a dedicated passenger corridor between Norfolk and Petersburg.

2. Acca Yard/Main Street Station/Bellwood Sub. The stated goal is that eventually all Amtrak service that terminates in Richmond or continues south or east (except the Auto Train) will stop at Main Street to provide service to downtown Richmond, in addition to Staples Mill. Currently, only the Newport News trains stop there. To make a Main Street stop feasible for other services, two major pieces of infrastructure word need to done—an Acca Yard bypass (benefitting trains terminating in Richmond, those continuing to Newport News, and those headed further south [including the Norfolk train]) and rebuilding the Bellwood Sub (benefitting only trains headed further south).

As designed, the CSX (RF&P) mainline goes right down the middle of Acca Yard. That’s a very slow trip, and one often interrupted by freight movements. MAS is 25mph and, in my experience, that speed is merely aspirational. To avoid the congestion, CSX and the state got together to build a line that bypasses Acca on the west side of the yard. Construction did begin on this and it was supposed to be completed this past spring. Does anyone know the status? Once complete, Amtrak is supposed to be able to pass through at 40mph, with many fewer fouling freight movements. It’s also a precondition for extending trains that terminate in Richmond to Main Street. The Acca bypass has lots of benefits for intra-Virginia service.

In contrast, the primary beneficiaries of rebuilding the Bellwood to passenger standards will be passengers to/from points further south (especially North Carolina), although it would also benefit the Norfolk train. I think that’s why it is further down on the priority list. The Bellwood was a passenger route in pre-Amtrak days for SAL, but IIRC, SAL moved from Main Street to Broad Street in the late ‘50’s. I don’t know if they continued to use the Bellwood for passenger movements after that.

A final point on Main Street: there ought to be Thruways (shuttles, buses, whatever) between Main Street and Staples Mill for every train to/from the north and between Staples Mill and Petersburg for every train to/from the south. I assume that there must be some issue with local taxi companies that prevents this from happening.

3. Long Bridge. I think it’s undeniable that as train volumes grow, more capacity (i.e., more tracks) will be needed. The immediate question is whether there is room for more passenger trains today. We are told that there are no more slots for trains to cross the bridge. But what does that mean? In my non-professional eyes, it’s hard to believe that it means that additional through-put of trains is physically impossible. Spend some time at Long Bridge Park in Arlington, and notice the gaps between movements. It’s no doubt a busy line, but it's not the Portal bridge. I think the more accurate interpretation is that CSX won’t make more passenger slots available unless they get more money. I suspect that when the state wants to get serious, an accommodation acceptable to all parties will be reached.

More immediately, I second the idea of combining consists. But I’m not sure that pocket tracks are necessary. I’ve pointed out before what our neighbors to the north do: J (for joined) trains. VIA dispatches two complete consists (loco + cars) joined together leaving Toronto for Montreal and Ottawa. At Brockville, the consists are separated, one going to Montreal and one to Ottawa. The long southbound platform at Alexandria would seem to be a fine place to separate consists headed to Richmond and Charlottesville/Lynchburg/Roanoke. But I freely admit there may be technical problems with this that are not apparent to my amateur eyes.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Oct 21, 2018 7:28 pm

Station Aficionado wrote:Interesting to see so many of the same topics/issues still being talked about. A few points on recent postings on Virginia service:

1. Chesapeake/Suffolk station. When the train to Norfolk was inaugurated, VDRPT said they would, at some point, establish at stop in the Bowers Hill section of Chesapeake (lots of open land along the tracks and ready access to 664—the sort of place usually favored for park-and-ride type stations). Nearly six years on, I don’t think anything has happened. As for the Virginian ROW, while it may have been mentioned as a possibility some years back, I don’t know of any current plans that involve building a dedicated passenger corridor between Norfolk and Petersburg.

Not to mention, it would be a waste of money to move from the ex-N&W to the ex-VGN west of Suffolk, with the money spent on Colliers Junction and the universal crossovers several years ago. Better to add another track and offer to help rebuild the VGN for freight use, so to clear out space for 90/110 Amtrak running.

Station Aficionado wrote:More immediately, I second the idea of combining consists. But I’m not sure that pocket tracks are necessary. I’ve pointed out before what our neighbors to the north do: J (for joined) trains. VIA dispatches two complete consists (loco + cars) joined together leaving Toronto for Montreal and Ottawa. At Brockville, the consists are separated, one going to Montreal and one to Ottawa. The long southbound platform at Alexandria would seem to be a fine place to separate consists headed to Richmond and Charlottesville/Lynchburg/Roanoke. But I freely admit there may be technical problems with this that are not apparent to my amateur eyes.

CSX already has a pocket track (a siding really) a mile west! Waste not, want not. https://goo.gl/maps/xuA42KZBKZn Joined trains would also be a lot easier with two cab cars, one leading the Cville section and one trailing the NPN or vice versa.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby KTHW » Sun Oct 21, 2018 8:00 pm

Station Aficionado wrote:Interesting to see so many of the same topics/issues still being talked about. A few points on recent postings on Virginia service:

1. Chesapeake/Suffolk station. When the train to Norfolk was inaugurated, VDRPT said they would, at some point, establish at stop in the Bowers Hill section of Chesapeake (lots of open land along the tracks and ready access to 664—the sort of place usually favored for park-and-ride type stations). Nearly six years on, I don’t think anything has happened. As for the Virginian ROW, while it may have been mentioned as a possibility some years back, I don’t know of any current plans that involve building a dedicated passenger corridor between Norfolk and Petersburg.

2. Acca Yard/Main Street Station/Bellwood Sub. The stated goal is that eventually all Amtrak service that terminates in Richmond or continues south or east (except the Auto Train) will stop at Main Street to provide service to downtown Richmond, in addition to Staples Mill. Currently, only the Newport News trains stop there. To make a Main Street stop feasible for other services, two major pieces of infrastructure word need to done—an Acca Yard bypass (benefitting trains terminating in Richmond, those continuing to Newport News, and those headed further south [including the Norfolk train]) and rebuilding the Bellwood Sub (benefitting only trains headed further south).

As designed, the CSX (RF&P) mainline goes right down the middle of Acca Yard. That’s a very slow trip, and one often interrupted by freight movements. MAS is 25mph and, in my experience, that speed is merely aspirational. To avoid the congestion, CSX and the state got together to build a line that bypasses Acca on the west side of the yard. Construction did begin on this and it was supposed to be completed this past spring. Does anyone know the status? Once complete, Amtrak is supposed to be able to pass through at 40mph, with many fewer fouling freight movements. It’s also a precondition for extending trains that terminate in Richmond to Main Street. The Acca bypass has lots of benefits for intra-Virginia service.

In contrast, the primary beneficiaries of rebuilding the Bellwood to passenger standards will be passengers to/from points further south (especially North Carolina), although it would also benefit the Norfolk train. I think that’s why it is further down on the priority list. The Bellwood was a passenger route in pre-Amtrak days for SAL, but IIRC, SAL moved from Main Street to Broad Street in the late ‘50’s. I don’t know if they continued to use the Bellwood for passenger movements after that.

A final point on Main Street: there ought to be Thruways (shuttles, buses, whatever) between Main Street and Staples Mill for every train to/from the north and between Staples Mill and Petersburg for every train to/from the south. I assume that there must be some issue with local taxi companies that prevents this from happening.

3. Long Bridge. I think it’s undeniable that as train volumes grow, more capacity (i.e., more tracks) will be needed. The immediate question is whether there is room for more passenger trains today. We are told that there are no more slots for trains to cross the bridge. But what does that mean? In my non-professional eyes, it’s hard to believe that it means that additional through-put of trains is physically impossible. Spend some time at Long Bridge Park in Arlington, and notice the gaps between movements. It’s no doubt a busy line, but it's not the Portal bridge. I think the more accurate interpretation is that CSX won’t make more passenger slots available unless they get more money. I suspect that when the state wants to get serious, an accommodation acceptable to all parties will be reached.

More immediately, I second the idea of combining consists. But I’m not sure that pocket tracks are necessary. I’ve pointed out before what our neighbors to the north do: J (for joined) trains. VIA dispatches two complete consists (loco + cars) joined together leaving Toronto for Montreal and Ottawa. At Brockville, the consists are separated, one going to Montreal and one to Ottawa. The long southbound platform at Alexandria would seem to be a fine place to separate consists headed to Richmond and Charlottesville/Lynchburg/Roanoke. But I freely admit there may be technical problems with this that are not apparent to my amateur eyes.


2 things:

1. I drove over Acca today and the bypass looked almost done. From what I can see the tracks look like they’re almost done, no idea if they’re connected to the rest of the tracks at the South end of the yard.
2. NS used to have a decent sized yard in Alexandria that I believe it inherited from the Orange and Alexandria RR. Though much of it is built over, there’s still some abandoned tracks and spare ROW to store trains in addition to the CSX sidings on the opposite side of the yard. I’ve always thought that once the new Long Bridge is built that MARC/VRE could store run through and midday sets there, but I think the idea about splitting Amtrak trains is interesting.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby WhartonAndNorthern » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:14 pm

The EGE wrote:Why do they plan to do that? East of Suffolk, it's a lot to rebuild just for a slightly straighter/less crowded shot. West of Suffolk, it would add a lot of running miles.


Here's an article I saw on this. The proposal was to connect to the ex-VGN slightly west of Suffolk. Maybe it was to avoid coal train conflicts in the final miles.

http://www.virginiaplaces.org/rail/high ... mpton.html
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Matt Johnson » Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:46 pm



For now, passenger service to Norfolk will be at conventional speed over existing Norfolk Southern freight rail tracks between Petersburg-Norfolk. Unless a separate passenger-trains-only track with advanced signals can be financed and constructed parallel to the current freight rail line, trains on the straight stretch of rail from Petersburg-Suffolk will be limited to 79mph. That speed limit was established after two trains crashed at Naperville, Illinois in 1946. Before the Interstate Commerce Commission imposed speed limits based on signaling capabilities of different stretches of track, some passenger trains in the Midwestern states traveled as fast as 110mph

I wonder if PTC will potentially allow a bump up from 79 mph to 90 mph where track alignments allow.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:57 am

Having all of the Amtrak trains that stop at RVR serve RVM is very important. People want to be dropped off as close to Downtown Richmond as much as possible, not twice a day.

If they can get the Petersburg to Norfolk stretch up to 90 mph initially, that would be a start, I guess.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Alex M » Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:41 am

In addition to reviving Main St. station in downtown Richmond, plans call for a wye to be built above AM junction and a three track layover yard to be located at the old Brown St. yard site. I am certain CSX would like to see this done.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:45 am

Matt Johnson wrote:I wonder if PTC will potentially allow a bump up from 79 mph to 90 mph where track alignments allow.

PTC should allow for 79+ since it would include an Automatic Train Stop feature - that allows 90 mph on the Southern Transcon. Should even allow for 110 if the crossings get quad gates. Whether NS will allow is another story, and it sounds like their price is a third main.

Honestly though, that’s a cheap investment for the payoff. Much cheaper than a tunnel under Hampton Roads like I’d prefer, even knowing that’s a foolish dream.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Arlington » Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:11 am

mtuandrew wrote:Or you buy yourself a Suffolk stop by using a dual-mode Charger & skipping the WAS engine change, and earn another 15 minutes besides. That’s plenty to move to the Bellwood and not lose a second.

For the same reason that the trains dwell at NYP, they'll always dwell at DC, even southbound: Crew Change, *lots* of hand-luggage-laden alighting-then-boarding (at low tunnel-entrance platforms), Catering, Watering. I doubt the cost of dual modes would be worth eliminating the engine dance that happens mostly in parallel with a lot of other stuff.

And northbound, there's the mandatory schedule-padding that is entirely so that a train that's delayed by NS or CSX can still be slotted into its scheduled place on the NEC. Engine change isn't the win here, but better reliability in NS/CSX territory might one day let them reduce the northbound padding.

The better investment in faster regional service is probably more high-level platforms, which would probably nip a minute per stop, particularly the variable dwell times for those unpredictable problems that un-level boarding cause.
Last edited by Arlington on Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:36 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby Arlington » Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:30 am

If Virginia thought it had $500m to spend on expediting trips and building ridership, I'd prioritize:
1) Legal fees to ensure that CSX doesn't foul the Acca bypass :P
2) Newport News Downtown Station (great connections by interstate and urban grid)
3) Bowers Hill Station as the ideal "beltway station" for most of southside
4) Some mix that helps NS offload coal on to alternative routes, or adding sidings/signals that get Suffolk-Petersburg up to 110
5) Structured parking & better access at Staples Mill

Having "test run" the drive to NFK station, and actually done the morning departure from NPN (having started at Sandbridge beach, in VA Beach), I can say that the Bowers Hill Station--given its access from the confluence of I-664, I-264 "reverse commute", and I-64, is super-well chosen as "the beltway stop"

For most of south Hampton Roads, Bowers Hill would probably let folks sleep in an extra half hour (between cutting out the drive to "downtown" and intercepting the train just as it is about to start its sprint to Petersburg.
(nice maps at http://www.virginiaplaces.org/rail/high ... mpton.html)
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby dgvrengineer » Mon Oct 22, 2018 3:00 pm

WhartonAndNorthern wrote:
The EGE wrote:Why do they plan to do that? East of Suffolk, it's a lot to rebuild just for a slightly straighter/less crowded shot. West of Suffolk, it would add a lot of running miles.


Here's an article I saw on this. The proposal was to connect to the ex-VGN slightly west of Suffolk. Maybe it was to avoid coal train conflicts in the final miles.

http://www.virginiaplaces.org/rail/high ... mpton.html


Nice find on the article. Lots of good information.
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Re: Expanded Virginia Regional Service

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Oct 22, 2018 3:28 pm

Arlington, those all sound like great suggestions. I'd also add

4a) get VA HSR off the ex-N&W at Kilby (east of Suffolk) onto the ex-VGN, then build and lease-back the line from NS from Kilby to South Norfolk when complete. Triple-track the N&W west of there.

And this isn't necessary, but
-- 4b) offer Suffolk a matching grant of $1m or $2m to build or renovate a station for passenger use, with limited parking because Bowers Hill would serve as a car park.
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