Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby SM89 » Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:26 pm

May I ask the obvious question: Why don't they settle on a standard car width? Why are passenger cars narrower than freight cars? I'm sure it's due to historical considerations, but I can't think of a compelling reason not to come up with a standard in this day and age. Cost shouldn't be the reason as the costs of trying to cater to both are definitely more.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby MBTA3247 » Fri Jan 30, 2015 12:05 am

The maximum loading gauge for passenger cars is only 2 inches narrower (10'-6") than that for freight cars (10'-8"), and the T's clearance diagrams for high-level platforms puts the platform edge 5'-7" from the track center, leaving a good three inches of clearance for just about any freight car to pass by without problems. Where you run into trouble is that railroads also occasionally carry wider loads than the normal clearance diagrams allow for. On lines that are designated as clearance routes for such loads, you're forced to use either low platforms or high platforms with folding edges. No one wants to deal with raising and lowering 800' of folding platform, hence the mini-highs.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Jan 31, 2015 5:36 pm

SM89 wrote:May I ask the obvious question: Why don't they settle on a standard car width? Why are passenger cars narrower than freight cars? I'm sure it's due to historical considerations, but I can't think of a compelling reason not to come up with a standard in this day and age. Cost shouldn't be the reason as the costs of trying to cater to both are definitely more.


It's actually not the car width that causes the issue with full-high platforms. It's car length. Large-capacity freight cars (right down to mundane stuff like larger boxcars) have wider turning radius on their axles to accommodate their longer length, which poses a clearance problem with full-highs if there is even the slightest curve. Both the longer AND the taller cars also have more tolerance on their truck suspensions for lateral movement than your average small car or passenger car, which also leaves them more susceptible to smacking the edge of a full-high. Which can damage the platform, cause a derailment, and certainly cause injury to people on the platform or the crew on the freight train if either happens. Therefore, the only practical options for ADA platforms on a designated freight clearance route are: passing tracks, gauntlet tracks (not used unless absolutely necessary because they're a little ham-fisted to operate and carry slightly higher derailment risk), or low platforms + single-car mini-highs.

Technically if the platform is tangent to neutralize the turning radius issue of the cars...and you pass by slow enough to neutralize the lateral movement of the cars...you can slip nearly anything past a full-high. But it's operationally impractical to inch...say...an autorack past a full-high at 0.5 MPH with multiple crewmembers on the ground attending to the move. 5 MPH is probably enough to create enough lateral movement potential to hit the platform. And in some of these places not having the full-high lets the freights do 40-60 MPH, so you're wildly on the side of total impracticality trying to force it like that; at a certain point of insanity it starts totally hosing the passenger schedules to NOT compromise with a mini-high. So you only see oversize moves in full-territory for special one-offs like electrical transformer moves where they get permission from the FRA ahead of time and have extra escorts onhand to make sure it's a safe passage. Sort of like when an oversize load is transported on an interstate highway. It's not something they're at all prepared to do on a daily basis.

Only the busiest freight lines are protected as clearance routes. You only see this exception on the lines that carry a lot of heavy interstate freight (CSX to Framingham, Pan Am to Ayer and Portland, Lowell Line to Boston Sand & Gravel) or provide crucial links to yards and interchanges (Framingham-Readville, Framingham-Mansfield-Attleboro-Middleboro). For the lines that carry strictly local freight in small amounts standard-dimension cars handle 100% of the need (e.g. Old Colony Line, Eastern Route to Salem, NEC to Westwood/Stoughton, Framingham-Everett, Franklin-Milford, Fairmount Line). And some types of cars like tankers (e.g. Quincy/Braintree), and the shipping cubes on well cars proposed for Marine Terminal in Southie via Readville-Fairmount Line either fit totally within standard dimensions at their very largest size (i.e. tankers) or, in case of single-stack well cars, will safely slip clear the hollow underside of a full-high without problems. The only place on the T where there's a brewing freight clearance incompatibility is South Coast Rail on the Fall River and New Bedford branches. The Ports of FR and NB will be equipped to take oversize loads when MassPort dredges those harbors, but the passenger platforms are all going to be full-high with no passing tracks. But since when has SCR not always chosen precisely the wrongest and most counterproductive possible thing when designing that turkey?



There are the only freight clearance routes the T has to worry about. Some aren't ADA or haven't been raised yet, but stations that have to be mini-high and stations that can go full-high because of pre-existing passing tracks are listed.
-- Worcester Line: Framingham-Worcester + Amtrak, Framingham-Albany.
Stations affected: Framingham, Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, Grafton (mini-high platforms). Worcester Union Station, Springfield Union Station, Pittsfield (existing passing tracks).

-- Fitchburg Line: Wachusett-Willows Jct., Ayer.
Stations affected: Ayer, Shirley, N. Leominster (mini-highs if/when all upgraded to ADA). Fitchburg (existing passing tracks). Wachusett (to be built on turnout w/passing tracks).

-- Western Route: Lowell Jct., Andover-Portland (MBTA and Amtrak).
Stations affected: Ballardvale, Andover, Bradford, Haverhill (mini-highs). Lawrence (existing passing tracks). Plus all Downeaster stops through Old Orchard Beach.

-- Wildcat Branch: all, Wilmington-Wilmington Jct.
No stations. Salem St. a former stop still owned by T; would have to be mini-high or turnout if rebuilt.

-- NH Mainline: all, Somerville-Lowell-Concord, NH.
Stations affected: all. Anderson RTC, Lowell (existing passing tracks). All others (mini-highs or non-ADA to-be-upgraded to mini-high)

-- Franklin Line, Walpole Jct.-Readville Yard
Stations affected: Endicott, Dedham Corporate, Islington, Norwood Depot, Norwood Central, Windsor Gardens, Plimptonville (all mini-highs or future mini-highs when ADA'd). Walpole (passing track on NE leg of wye). Fairmount Line Readville platform to be relocated a couple hundred feet north when it goes full-high so the freights turn out away from the station (Franklin-side Readville platforms have no freight).

-- NEC: Mansfield Jct.-Attleboro Jct. only
Stations affected: Mansfield (mini-high), Attleboro (passing tracks). Attleboro can go full-high with no track changes. Amtrak's plans call for installing a passing track at Mansfield, so that installation would happen in tandem with full-high platforms.

-- Framingham Secondary: all
Stations affected: Foxboro (current mini-high; proposed passing track)

-- Middleboro Secondary: all, Attleboro Jct.-Middleboro Yard
Stations affected: Taunton Depot stop on South Coast Rail (proposed passing track)

-- NEC, Boston Switch in Central Falls, RI-Davisville, RI
Stations affected: Providence, T.F. Green, Wickford Jct. (existing passing tracks, including when future 2nd platforms installed @ Green/Wickford). All proposed RIDOT infill stations (to have passing tracks).

-- Eastern Route, Somerville-Everett Jct. (i.e. Everett Terminal turnout )
(No stations, too short a distance on Everett side of bridge for any possibility of stations)


That's it. The Worcester Line inside Framingham is fair game for full-highs now at the 3 Newtons, 3 Wellesleys, and 2 Naticks now that the freights have vacated Beacon Park; CSX's Everett Terminal daily produce train does not use oversize cars. The Franklin Line from Walpole to Forge Park will no longer have any freight by year's end when CSX turns the Milford Branch over to Grafton & Upton RR; Norfolk, Franklin, Forge Park now fair game for full-highs. And in many other cases there's adequate room for passing tracks should they want to pursue a full-high reconfiguration should they ever want to pursue it:
-- Framingham (room for passing track along the wye immediately behind the platform)
-- Ayer (potential for center island full-high if 4th track added on south/wye side)
-- Bradford (potential when layover yard is relocated north to shift the platforms onto layover yard space and turn 1 or both mainline tracks into freight/Downeaster passing tracks)
-- Wilmington (both platforms shifted to south side of bridge abutments creates full room for center passing track)
-- West Medford (room to spread out and drop center passing track)
-- Norwood Central (room on ex- tri-track space to spread out and drop center passing track).
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby charding » Sun Feb 01, 2015 9:15 am

Wow!! Now that's an explanation!! Thanx. On freight traffic on the Franklin line rather than Franklin-bound freight being dropped at the Walpole yard, CSX will, when the G&U finishes its track-work to Milford, dropped Franklin freight at North Grafton? Makes sense, although having grown up in Walpole, will miss some of the freight traffic through the Walpole yard. On the Foxboro extension, and I have to assume that it will happen, how will CSX handle freight traffic on this line while that portion of the line from Gillette to the Lewis Wye is upgraded - are there alternate routes?
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:27 am

Correct. G&U gets everything from Milford to Franklin Jct. + the Franklin Industrial Track. Which means they'll pass through Forge Park station but there'll be no freight whatsoever any longer through Norfolk and Franklin stations. Not that a small local once or twice week was a whole lot of freight traffic to begin with. And G&U doesn't need wide clearance through Forge Park for any of the customers in Franklin, so that platform is game for a full-high if they ever want to upgrade it.

CSX isn't affected at all by installation of any new passenger platforms at Walpole in support of the Foxboro extension. To the degree they even use the southbound wye at all they've got ample alternatives by going across the diamond to/from Walpole Yard and using the NE or NW legs of the wye to orient themselves (or just run the engine around in the yard...Framingham wye is so close they really don't need to waste time at Walpole Jct. orienting nose-first). No inconvenience. And the installation of a passing track is mandatory at Foxboro for making that a single-side full-high platform, so that's baked into any permutation of the extension. The only thing they can't do is poke any Walpole platform extensions past the switch for the NE leg of the wye, since that would foul the clearance route to Readville. Means that very short mainline platform at Walpole can feasibily be raised without screwing anything up...but it can't be lengthened at all because it's already pinned-in by the switch.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby charding » Sun Feb 01, 2015 2:54 pm

Thanx…but my question on the existing Mansfield-Framingham line is - will the line from Gillette/Foxboro to Walpole need to upgraded to meet MBTA commuter rail standards, whatever they, and, if so, will the line have to be closed during this upgrade period and, if so, what alternate routes are there for Mansfield-Framingham and vice versa freight? Once all is said and done, I hope the Walpole Union Station survives, is updated, and makes it the National Historic Register…spent, as I have said before, many of my formative years there.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby MBTA3247 » Sun Feb 01, 2015 8:24 pm

IIRC the speed limit on that line is 10 mph, so some trackwork will have to be done to make it suitable for regular commuter service. There's not much traffic over the line to begin with (somewhere upthread I think it's mentioned that there's only one freight in each direction per day), so that gives work crews a pretty good window of time to work on a stretch of track between trains, with no /minimal disruption to regular service. If, for some reason, they decided it would be better to shut down the line entirely during the upgrades, the alternate routes would be either Walpole-Readville-Mansfield or Worcester-Providence (via P&W)-Mansfield. Both alternatives I expect would be limited to nights-only due to passenger traffic on the Corridor.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby SM89 » Mon Feb 02, 2015 8:16 am

thanks for the explanation, F-line!
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby SM89 » Mon Feb 02, 2015 8:16 am

thanks for the explanation, F-line!
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby charding » Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:22 am

Roger that!! Thanx.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Feb 02, 2015 5:22 pm

charding wrote:Thanx…but my question on the existing Mansfield-Framingham line is - will the line from Gillette/Foxboro to Walpole need to upgraded to meet MBTA commuter rail standards, whatever they, and, if so, will the line have to be closed during this upgrade period and, if so, what alternate routes are there for Mansfield-Framingham and vice versa freight? Once all is said and done, I hope the Walpole Union Station survives, is updated, and makes it the National Historic Register…spent, as I have said before, many of my formative years there.


They did the same 10 MPH to 79 MPH upgrade on the much longer Conn River Line for the Vermonter, and Pan Am freight still ran on a regular schedule. 2 trains per day offers up a whole lot of hours. It's not like the track goes out-of-service. Replace every nth tie. Pull up some lengths of old rail. Install a couple lengths of new CWR. Bolt it at the end of the work shift temporarily to the nearest length of old stick rail so the trains can run until the next work shift. When the rail's installed, run the tie machine to do a more intensive swap-out of the old ties the new rail is sitting on. And the freights still run at 10 MPH on track warrants until you get the new signal system installed last.

It's done without shutdowns on lines a whole lot more active than the Framingham Sub. And we're only talking 5 miles of single track with 1 grade crossing, and interlockings only at Walpole Jct. and Foxboro station at the switches to the passing track and the adjacent layover yard-to-be.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby BandA » Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:37 pm

Platform specs for commuter rail follow what the PRR & NYC used at Penn Station and Grand Central 100 years ago. Maybe "oversized" freights are wider than they were back then?? "California cars" are wider high level passenger cars so that they don't need the mini-highs.

The "T" seems unwilling to consider gauntlet tracks, which would solve these problems.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby The EGE » Mon Feb 02, 2015 7:48 pm

Gauntlet tracks have a reputation for causing derailments; I'm not entirely sure why.

The MBTA has generally chosen to place full-high platforms on lines without oversized freight - to date the majority of installations have been the Old Colony Lines, Greenbush Line, Fairmount Line, and the Southwest Corridor. It's cheaper to just build a mini-high, and until recently those were sufficient for most stops. MBTA Commuter Rail boardings at established stops have roughly doubled in the last three decades, so many of those stops that were fine with a mini-high in the 90s are now slowdowns.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby MBTA3247 » Mon Feb 02, 2015 8:18 pm

BandA wrote:Platform specs for commuter rail follow what the PRR & NYC used at Penn Station and Grand Central 100 years ago. Maybe "oversized" freights are wider than they were back then?? "California cars" are wider high level passenger cars so that they don't need the mini-highs.

The standard widths for railroad equipment, afaik, haven't changed since 1900 or so. When we talk about oversized freight, we're not talking a few inches; we're talking about cargo that overhangs the side of the car by a foot or 2 on each side. You either need a low-level platform or a mini-high with foldable platform edges to permit such cargo to pass by.

California Cars are based on the Superliners, and are about the same width as anything in the MBTA's fleet. The don't need high-level platforms because the doors are low-level only, making them completely incompatible with any railroad in the northeast.
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Re: Foxboro Commuter Rail Extension

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:03 pm

Well, the T would've done full-highs everywhere oversize freight-be-damned were it not for the fact that these wide clearance routes are designated in perpetuity as such under interstate commerce grounds with the freight carriers having right of appeal to stop any infringement. Guilford/PAR voluntarily waived its protection on the Eastern Route when Lynn went up, and on the inner Fitchburg when Littleton and South Acton went into design. Conrail consented to it on the Old Colony main, and CSX consented to it on Fairmount (because it doesn't care about Port of Southie as much as the state seems to) and now is allowing Worcester inside of Framingham as fair game. But they did warn the SCR Task Force to not ruin its Middleboro Secondary clearances at Taunton Depot, which is why the design change for a passing track got forced there. And Conrail did tell the T coldly to not even think about doing full-highs on the new outer-Worcester intermediates unless it was prepared to tri-track.

So they only care about this protection on certain lines where the clearances are returning a clear profit. You can argue that CSX probably shouldn't have consented on Fairmount because 50-year needs at the ports can no longer be realized. And Guilford definitely got criticized roundly for wrecking North Shore freight in small part by being lackadaisical about Lynn's full-high installation (which is old enough that it didn't even include the standard platform-edge overhang that allows low-slung trailers to slip under). But they generally don't care unless they can count those wide loads in $$$ of profit. And right now those places in MBTA territory are dead-obvious to count: the bigtime intermodal mainlines (outer Fitchburg, outer Western Route, outer Worcester, NEC from Central Falls to Davisville/Quonset ), yard-to-yard connections (Framingham Sub, inner Franklin, Mansfield-Attleboro + Middleboro Secondary), and 1 designated north and south route to Boston (NH Main + BET + Everett Terminal northside; Readville southside...and coulda/shoulda/didn't Fairmount). There are no purely local-customer jobs profitable enough--with very notable exception of the Boston Sand & Gravel behemoth--to require high-capacity cars with the wide turning radius and/or lateral-movement shocks that are incompatible with full-highs. It's very easy to bottom-line like that. Take Readville and Middleboro Yard...those are the absolute 'floor' where a Class I or II carrier cares one whit about their loading capacity (and exclude the very profitable Braintree/Port of Quincy pickups because those are 100% tankers, and tankers have virtually universal full-high compatibility).

And yes, sometimes it's not even "standard" freight car dimensions that force the issue but also the loads themselves. Have a standard-dimension trailer or boxcar and it's fine carrying certain loads...but load it up with goods that by their very nature overhang the car (such as a trailer where there are straps overhanging the load to secure it to the car) and suddenly it's wide clearance. Even if the same exact car on its next trip out of the yard is going to get filled with a load that's perfectly within standard dimensions, and pass through a whole line's worth of full-highs. Same exact car...but on that job it clears the platform and that other job it doesn't. So when looking at, say, Foxboro as a clearance route you also have to factor in who exactly are the customers who get served by what passes through that station. It's not like there's a whole lot, but if CSX is adamant about protecting it clearly there's somebody in Mansfield, Attleboro, Taunton, or Middleboro who gets deliveries of something that overhangs (and it probably is something like overtopping a standard-dimension boxcar, sticking out the sides of a standard-dimension lumber rack, or requiring straps on standard-dimension flatcar). Go railfan the platform a few days a week when CSX runs and it'll probably become obvious which cars are the oversize ones making regular appearances on that train during the average week. Even if it isn't every day or every couple of days.


As for gauntlets...I don't know how much the derailment risk is elevated, only that it is elevated enough that RR's don't like installing/maintaining them unless they absolutely have no choice. They're a lot more maintenance-intensive than a fully grade-separated passing track and induce a speed restriction. On the East Coast you typically only see them around island or single-track full-highs, like on the few NJ Transit stations that overlap freight mains. On an island if the freight car derails on the gauntlet it'll always fall away from the platform or get leaned up by the platform edge with passengers being able to safely jump back. With side platforms and the gauntlet swinging out to the center there's slightly increased risk that a derailing freight car is going to tip over and strike the far side platform with a lot more force and injury potential than if it got stopped by the near-platform's edge. Again, not an unacceptably high risk...just a P.I.T.A. enough that risk-averse commuter and freight RR's avoid those types of installations at all cost. Or get very pissy at each other when that is the only way.

For example, you could theoretically get the entire Lowell Line EXCEPT for Winchester Ctr. outfitted with full-highs with passing tracks for not-huge money. 1) Spread the West Medford platforms out for a center passing track where there's ample room to; 2) Eliminate useless Wedgemere station traded in for better ped access to Winchester Ctr. and a "94A" bus pinging Winch Ctr./West Med/College Ave./Davis Sq. with GLX and Red Line transfers; 3) trading useless Mishawum for a much higher-patronage Montvale Ave. infill constructed with Anderson-style passing track; 4) shifting the Wilmington platforms to the south side of the bridge set back enough for a center Downeaster + Haverhill express + freight passing track; 5) plopping the vacant third bridge deck back over Mt. Pleasant St. at N. Billerica station then setting the over-wide inbound platform back closer to the station building for a passing track. That takes care of all those. But you'd have to install a gauntlet at Winchester to raise those side platforms...and it's way the hell up on the viaduct over the town center, with the gauntlet switches perched over the Main St. rotary. That's not going to ever be worth the T's and PAR's risk aversion; relatively speaking, that station would be at the high end of the risk and P.I.T.A. maint scale for gauntlets.
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