Needham Line Questions / Discussion

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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby johnpbarlow » Mon Dec 19, 2016 8:53 am

KB1KVD wrote:Those are indeed switch heaters, and they are a forced hot air type running on either natural gas or propane. A lot of locations around the railroad have them already installed except for the gas.


The switch at the Needham Heights station is indeed heated as a snowball I placed on the rail melted within 15 seconds.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby BandA » Mon Dec 19, 2016 11:17 am

Sounds like a burn hazard, lol
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby johnpbarlow » Mon Jan 23, 2017 6:18 am

While out for 7500 steps of exercise, I had a chance encounter with Sperry Rail Service SRS 125 (Doodlebug built for Lehigh Valley 92 years ago!) which was testing the Needham line Sunday 1/22/17. Here's a short video of it backing down from end of track at Needham Heights, crossing Rosemary St, likely headed back to Boston (perhaps testing sidings on its way?):

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpbarlow/31621443864/in/dateposted-public/

BTW, I had a very pleasant chat with a Keolis employee who was supporting the Sperry adventure and he told me the switch heater for the hand throw switch at the Needham Heights station is electric powered and the covers are temporarily installed for the winter time, which is why the storage crate sits next to it on the RoW.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:28 pm

It seems as though the Sperry car is almost constantly testing the MBTA system. Why is it the MBTA doesn't just purchase their own and run their own diagnostics? Just curious on how it pays off for them to use Sperry's services.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby TomNelligan » Mon Jan 23, 2017 5:32 pm

The ultrasonic and electromagnetic test equipment used by Sperry is highly specialized and requires well trained operators. I'm pretty familiar with it because I worked for many years in hardware tech support for one of the companies that supplies it. Sperry is North America's largest provider of rail inspection services and they know what they're doing because they've been in the business for 85 years. In theory the MBTA could purchase the necessary equipment and hire and train operators to run it, but most North American railroads and transit operators have long chosen to contract with Sperry. Thus I suspect that's been proven to be the most efficient solution for periodic rail inspection.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Mon Jan 23, 2017 6:01 pm

In actuality, Sperry is only here for a few days out of the year inspecting the tracks. The rest of the time, their inspection vehicles are traveling all over the US. It's not cost effective for the T to buy such an expensive vehicle and keep employees trained on it when it's only going to be used for a few days a year.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Jan 24, 2017 2:22 pm

Yeah...it takes an insane amount of training to get certified--and stay certified--on the kind of high-tech inspection equipment the SRS cars use. Whereas any generalist in the track dept. can get quick certifications on running a geo train and be up for an in-house inspection assignment when the Amtrak Corridor Clipper car & associated equipment makes the rounds. The SRS staffers are more like certified hospital ultrasound med techs...but with a high-level engineering degree also required because the 'patient' being examined is forged steel ribbon. To give some sense of just how rare well-qualified rail ultrasound techs are in the industry, Sperry staff actually live onboard their signature yellow DMU's throughout a "residency". There's dormitory and kitchen space onboard, and they trade off shifts to cover as much mileage per day as possible...limited only by dispatching slots. The sperry.com website has a nice "A Day In The Life of a Sperry Driver" employee recruitment video giving a beginner's overview of what they do. They also do plenty of regular localized inspection work with hi-rail equipment using employees across the experience spectrum...but their premier doodlebug service is its own rolling laboratory and hotel room.

To scale such slow-moving inspection movements over hundreds of thousands of route miles it pretty much takes a company that can base all its operations on those "always-on" residencies to be able to perform the task with any sort of cost-effectiveness. Especially when you factor in the level of staff qualifications required, and the rapid advances in technology that get those ultrasound machines (and associated staff qualifications) upgraded to greater complexity every few years. Maybe there's one Class I colossus out there like a UP or BNSF that has the scale to somehow manage this task efficiently enough in-house, but even Amtrak and the eastern Class I's like CSX and NS contract all out to Sperry. If Sperry and its exceedingly few competitors didn't exist, this sort of necessary function would pretty much have to be federalized and absorbed straight into the FRA because of how singularly unusual and specialized it is. Probably the only reason it hasn't been federalized is because Sperry has managed to carve out 85 years worth of expertise and self-profitability providing this one very specific service...and do it better than the FRA ever would in-house, so there's never been a reason to touch what works.


Sperry world headquarters is near the end of the Metro North Danbury Branch...midpoint between Bethel and Danbury stations: https://goo.gl/maps/agZYybz2Qq32. Commuters to/from Danbury will see their signature yellow doodlebugs parked next to the carhouse by the Shelter Rock Rd. grade crossing, so they're a very frequent sight all across Fairfield County when they're en route at normal speed from HQ to their next eastern residency assignment. Ditto Springfield Line and the B&A whenever they're en route to Eastern MA, Greater Portland, and Northern ME. We definitely get a lot more doodlebug sightings in this part of the country being so close to their primary routes-of-origin.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby EdSchweppe » Sat Feb 04, 2017 5:47 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:The sperry.com website has a nice "A Day In The Life of a Sperry Driver" employee recruitment video giving a beginner's overview of what they do.

Neat video - thanks for the pointer! One minor nitpick: the Sperry Rail Services website is http://www.sperryrail.com/; http://www.sperry.com sells boat shoes.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby highgreen215 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:39 pm

How many doodlebugs does Sperry operate? Surely there's more than one.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Feb 05, 2017 12:00 am

highgreen215 wrote:How many doodlebugs does Sperry operate? Surely there's more than one.


All-time roster is here: http://trainweb.org/elso/SRSROST1.HTM. Dated...from 2010...but if you parse the notes column you can ID the ones in current or very recent active service. Sperry's doodlebugs get rebuilt over and over again to immortality, so chances are if a unit was rostered 7 years ago it's very likely still kicking around today.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby johnpbarlow » Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:58 am

Is this some sort of shunt cable? Seen at Needham Heights commuter rail station at 1000 this AM. There was no MoW person in sight.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby Rbts Stn » Sun Aug 27, 2017 6:24 pm

There were a number (10? 12?) of MoW workers at Junction at 2PM today (Sunday). I may have been there having some ice cream when they showed up in their pickups with chainsaws and all got out of their trucks and back into other ones and headed off to parts unknown.

The ice cream was delicious. They did not partake.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby johnpbarlow » Mon Aug 28, 2017 9:29 am

Their loss!

24 hours later, the "shunt cable" has been removed. So perhaps Keolis signal workers were doing PTC prep work and needed to simulate a train occupying the Needham Heights track circuit?
Last edited by CRail on Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Unnecessary quote removed
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby Diverging Route » Mon Aug 28, 2017 2:13 pm

johnpbarlow wrote:Their loss!

24 hours later, the "shunt cable" has been removed. So perhaps Keolis signal workers were doing PTC prep work and needed to simulate a train occupying the Needham Heights track circuit?


Way, way too early for that. The first step along the ROW is to install poles and cable. The equipment and software to be tested is much later in the process.
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Re: Needham Line Questions / Discussion

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:20 pm

A shunt is required for foul time or Line 4 if it is to be obtained for 30 minutes or more, or can be used at a foreman's discretion if it is for less time than that. This device would be one method of obtaining a shunt.

This became a strict rule following the 2007 incident in Woburn where several MOW workers were killed and injured. It is only intended to be a secondary line of defense and should be redundant to dispatcher blocking devices, but it is a good measure.
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