Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

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Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby Otto Vondrak » Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:38 am

I have conflicting information as to when Conrail ceased operating the commuter trains out of South Station. One source has it as 1977. Another has it as 1983. Can someone help me pin down the correct information? Also, what factors led to Conrail getting out the operation and having B&M bid on the contract?

I'm also looking for photography from the brief Conrail period in Boston. Anything that shows Conrail engines pulling commuter trains, I'm interested in. Please contact me by PM is you have photography you'd like me to consider for publication.

Thank you!

-otto-
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby TomNelligan » Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:07 am

The B&M took over from Conrail as the MBTA's contract operator for South Side service on March 15, 1977. Conrail wanted a big increase in its subsidy, roughly triple the previous amount, which was a lot more money than the MBTA wanted to pay. That was due to a mandate in the 4R Act that required Conrail to be fully compensated for any commuter services it operated, although Conrail and the MBTA differed greatly on what an appropriate amount was. The B&M, which was already the contractor for the North Side service, was happy to step in since it needed the revenue the commuter contract provided. The pre-Guilford B&M wound up doing an excellent job managing the operation.

Photos of Conrail-lettered diesels pulling MBTA trains will be pretty rare since the GP9s, E-units, RDCs, and coaches used by Penn Central in the South Side operation were sold to the MBTA at the time of Conrail's startup in 1976. I seem to recall that there was one 4000-series ex-NYC E8 with CR lettering that ran briefly in commuter service -- I don't remember if it was a loaner or a late acquisition -- but most of the diesels went directly from PC to MBTA lettering.
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby bmcdr » Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:51 pm

Tom, you are correct, there was only one ex NYC-PC E-8 used in Conrail southside service. The number escapes me, but it was painted black with the Penn-Central lettering painted over and "CR" emblems on the nose and one on each side near the back It was only around for a short time and it was not one of the ones sold to the "T". All the E-8's sold to the "T", as you know, were ex PRR-PC in the 4200 class, the ex NYC unit seemed to disappear soon after the B&M started using there own power to make up for the shortcomings of the southside loco roster.
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby Tadman » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:52 pm

Didn't PRR units play better with the NH cab signal system, leading to a PRR-based roster? I thought I heard that's why ex-NYC units never ran on NH lines after 1968.
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby TomNelligan » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:59 pm

Yes, PRR diesels had cab signals that were compatible with the NH's system between New Haven and Boston. Only ex-Pennsy E-units and ex-NH GP9s could lead trains on the three South Side MBTA commuter routes of that period that utilzed part of that trackage (Providence, Stoughton, and Franklin). All of the E8s that the MBTA purchased were 4200-series ex-PRR units. The Needham branch used a separate track between Back Bay and the junction at Forest Hills, and the ex-B&A Framingham line was separate too (which is why the D&H PAs were assigned there when they were leased in 1977-78). During its pre-F40/FP10 power-short years the MBTA also leased a B&M freight GP9, bought a steam generator car from CN, and used them on both the Needham and Framingham lines.

Ex-NYC diesels could and did run on NH lines without cab signals, which was most of the railroad, or run as trailing units on the Shore Line.
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby Otto Vondrak » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:42 am

Thanks, everyone. Conrail's involvement in Boston was indeed brief. I have a few photos from folks that show "CR" stenciled diesels (including the E8) in service in the Boston area before the B&M "invasion."

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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 » Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:16 pm

Tom, you mentioned that there were cab signals on the mainline as early as the New Haven days, when were cab signals first established on the mainline?
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby TomNelligan » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:02 pm

Cab signals on the New Haven went back to the steam era, but I don't have an exact date. I have a 1948 employee timetable that shows cab signals in use between the outskirts of New Haven and Cranston, RI, and the system was later extended to Boston. The NH also had a different (electrically incompatible) cab signal system on the Springfield Line, and shared PRR-style cab signalling on the Hell Gate Bridge line (New York Connecting RR). You might be able to get better dates from someone on the NH forum.
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby Otto Vondrak » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:08 pm

Did the MBTA subsidy of commuter trains begin during the Penn Central era?
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Re: Conrail operation of South Side commuter trains

Postby TomNelligan » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:16 pm

Otto Vondrak wrote:Did the MBTA subsidy of commuter trains begin during the Penn Central era?


No, it was back in New Haven RR days. The MBTA began subsidizing B&M commuter trains in January 1965 and entered into a similar agreement with the NH six months later, in June 1965. Both railroads had received ICC permission to drop much of their remaining Boston commuter service and the newly-created MBTA stepped in to preserve it. There were a lot of operational and equipment changes between 1965 and the time when things pretty much settled down in the late 1970s, but that's when public payments began.
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