Grand Junction Branch (The North/South Side Connection)

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Grand Junction Branch (The North/South Side Connection)

Postby 3rdrail » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:03 pm

I enjoyed Dick's post here on the Amtrak thread and was curious how a North Side consist would connect with the South Side to get to Southampton Street ?

by Dick H on Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:45 am

Until about a year or so ago, they had to take the Downeaster equipment
"across town" to the Southhampton St. facility in Boston to get a wash
job. I am not sure how often they tried to do that, but the equipment
looked pretty "gritty" at times, although I believe they did wash the
windows at Portland by hand quite frequently. Then someone at NNEPRA
had a better idea. Since the MBTA wash rack is at the Boston Engine
Terminal, outside of the North Station, NNEPRA contracted with the MBTA
to use that rack during the layover time at North Station. Of course,
there must be a cost for such use, but that probably is at least partially
offset by not having to take the train across town, and since the
Downeaster is a contracted service, there probably was an extra charge
for using the wash rack at Southhampton St.Dick H
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:12 pm

I'm not sure what your asking, do you mean how do they get trains from the north side to the south side? I'm confused because I'd have thought you would know. :p But they take the Grand Junction line just off the Fitchburg Line, not far past BET, through the MIT campus, across the Charles, switch and reverse in Beacon Yard, down the Pike, take the single-track curve (under the I-90/93 interchange) which allows them to go south without switching and reversing again at South Station, and there ya' go.

Not sure if that's what you meant or not, or if that was too confusing, but that's how it's done. :-)
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby 3rdrail » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:22 pm

Thanks, UrbEx. That is what I meant. And thanks for the complement re: my RR knowledge. (I know my traction much better ! :-D ) Your answer brings up another question, however. Wouldn't that be a long out-of-way route to just do a wash ? I guess that's what had me confused as I thought that there might have been a connection a little further in towards the city. Thanks again.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby tober » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:23 pm

Yup. I was about to write just what BostonUrbEx did. MBTA commuter rail equipment is shuffled around this way as well. Presumably at least some (and maybe all) of the Amtrak train crews assigned to the Downeaster are qualified on the Grand Junction and the South Station terminal area. Two somewhat related notes - I have wondered whether the NNEPRA or Amtrak has a similar agreement in place with the MBTA and/or MBCR to permit the Downeaster to take on fuel and water at BET if necessary. Also, the Grand Junction grade crossings at Cambridge Street and Broadway in Cambridge are good spots to railfan Downeaster and MBCR non-revenue moves as well as CSX going to and from Chelsea.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby 3rdrail » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:28 pm

tober wrote: Also, the Grand Junction grade crossings at Cambridge Street and Broadway in Cambridge are good spots to railfan Downeaster and MBCR non-revenue moves as well as CSX going to and from Chelsea.


I might visit that one myself one snowy day. That's a good one to remember as we often get a question from a visiting rail buff as to where are good spots to shoot pics. Thanks !
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:35 pm

It sure is a neat sight! Don't have any pics of my own, but here's a couple favorites of North-South moves:

http://photos.nerail.org/showpic/?20031 ... 133154.jpg

http://photos.nerail.org/showpic/?20030 ... 217259.jpg
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby tober » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:39 pm

Alas, no, there is no more direct connection between the north and south sides than the Grand Junction - which itself is modestly circuitous and, beyond that, as I understand it, is "FRA Exempt" trackage. This means, as I understand it, that trains on the Grand Junction must always proceed at restricted speed (able to stop within half the distance of vision and under no circumstance exceeding 20mph). There are numerous grade crossings in Cambridge, some of which have only lights and bells for protection, no gates. Whenever a Downeaster consist needs maintenance (other than minor work that can be performed on the platform at North Station) in Boston, it has to be moved to Southampton Street.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby 3rdrail » Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:05 pm

It really is amazing with the Federal money that went into the Dig that the Federal government didn't insist on even one track - above or below ground to connect North and South Station. I honestly never realized the difficulty involved with maintenance issues, etc. and thought of the "connector" as only a passenger issue (which I believe really is not much of a big deal). A great example of government's "form over function" approach. By the way, that second pic of the GP-9 at Mass Ave. in Cambridge is interesting. It's the only GP-9 that I've ever seen run by B&M, MBTA, or NH that didn't have the side dynamic braking housings installed.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby tober » Sat Feb 20, 2010 4:50 pm

I would certainly like to see a more direct north/south rail connection however it is my guess that engineering such a connection with a proper grade profile for railroad use would have been extremely challenging. Usually when this topic has been discussed, the major consideration has been the creation of a passenger-carrying rapid transit link between north and south stations, which would be easier but hardly easy. A railroad connection would almost certainly have to run at grade (or in a shallow ditch) because the approaches to a deep tunnel probably are not feasible.

With respect to GP9 1921, I don't think it was alone in not having the side-mounted dynamic brake resistor housings (and I think it probably did not have dynamic brakes at all). According to the NETransit equipment roster, GP9s 1920-1925 were ex-BN, acquired (by what would have been at the time still B&M I think) in 1983 and disposed of by 1988 except 1921 which was retained for work service until 2005. I found this picture of 1920 taken shortly after its acquisition (I think that's the original BN livery with the removal of BN's markings and the addition of a T logo) with no visible dynamic brake resistor housings:
http://photos.nerail.org/showpic/?200801161007501162.jpg

On the other hand, this post-MBTA picture of 1922 has the housings:
http://photos.nerail.org/showpic/?2001021115183223030.jpg

I believe that work service GP9s 902 and 904 (ex-SEMTA) never had the dynamic brake resistor housings either.

This is getting totally off-topic, but... does anybody know if any of 1920-1925 ever had HEP (or steam generators?!)? My guess is that they did not (and that indeed there would not have been room to fit the HEP generator aboard) and that in revenue service they always pulled (de-powered) RDCs (as in that picture) which presumably made their own hotel power.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby MBTA3247 » Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:28 pm

tober wrote:This is getting totally off-topic, but... does anybody know if any of 1920-1925 ever had HEP (or steam generators?!)?

Those units are much too old to have had HEP, which only appeared after the formation of Amtrak. Dunno about steam generators.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby sery2831 » Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:29 pm

tober wrote:Yup. I was about to write just what BostonUrbEx did. MBTA commuter rail equipment is shuffled around this way as well. Presumably at least some (and maybe all) of the Amtrak train crews assigned to the Downeaster are qualified on the Grand Junction and the South Station terminal area. Two somewhat related notes - I have wondered whether the NNEPRA or Amtrak has a similar agreement in place with the MBTA and/or MBCR to permit the Downeaster to take on fuel and water at BET if necessary. Also, the Grand Junction grade crossings at Cambridge Street and Broadway in Cambridge are good spots to railfan Downeaster and MBCR non-revenue moves as well as CSX going to and from Chelsea.


The T pays for the fuel at BET and Amtrak cannot get fuel at BET. I believe they fuel locos in Portland. The Amtrak units have large tanks so they probably are never in danger of running out.

I am going to move this thread to the New England forum unless we can tie this into a MBTA discussion.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby ferroequinarchaeologist » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:07 am

>>Dunno about steam generators.

If any MBTA GP-7 or -9 had steam generators, the lower half of the long end's chisel nose would have been squared off to accommodate the equipment. You can probably find pix on the net of several B&M GP-7s that were configured this way. Accordingly, the pix of 1922 shows that it did not have steam generators.

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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby jaymac » Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:48 pm

sery2831-
sorry to continue off-topic...

ferroequinarcheologist-
EMD and ALCO road-switchers equipped with builder steam generators had them located in the short hood. There was a visible exhaust stack which, depending on the road, might either stay in place or be removed and patched if the generator was later removed. On EMD geeps with the less-than-full-height bump-out on the end of the long hood, those units were equipped with a train-lighting-only early form of HEP, usually for commuter service. If you have or can get access to it, Jerry A. Pinkepank's The Second Diesel Spotter's Guide has photos and a short text documentation on p. EMD-55.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby jamesinclair » Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:02 pm

3rdrail wrote:It really is amazing with the Federal money that went into the Dig that the Federal government didn't insist on even one track - above or below ground to connect North and South Station. I honestly never realized the difficulty involved with maintenance issues, etc. and thought of the "connector" as only a passenger issue (which I believe really is not much of a big deal). A great example of government's "form over function" approach. By the way, that second pic of the GP-9 at Mass Ave. in Cambridge is interesting. It's the only GP-9 that I've ever seen run by B&M, MBTA, or NH that didn't have the side dynamic braking housings installed.


Perhaps if one day we ever get light rail down the greenway it can be worked out so MBTA/Amtrak non-revenue moves could use it at night.
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Re: North/South Side Connection

Postby 3rdrail » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:34 pm

jamesinclair wrote:Perhaps if one day we ever get light rail down the greenway it can be worked out so MBTA/Amtrak non-revenue moves could use it at night.


It would have to be special rail - wide, flat headed and deep flanged, a cross between AERA and MCB, but I'm not holding my breath.
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