Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

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Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Komarovsky » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:27 pm

Hi all, I just got a job in Boston and I'll be commuting from Worcester to Back Bay daily. I have a few questions about rail ops/infrastructure on the Worcester/Framingham Line.

1. I've read several times that the track conditions prevent trains from going over 60mph. Is this completely down to track geometry, track condition or a combination of several factors? Also, how does the track condition on the CSX owned rails differ, if at all, from the MBTA own rails?

2. What sort of improvements are in store for the portion of the line that the state is purchasing (if any)? I've seen documents that state how much money is allocated for improvements to the line, but I haven't found anything on what the actual improvements are supposed to be. Will any of the proposed improvements result in a decreased travel time?

3. Speaking of improvements, the 3 or 4 times I've taken the P508 train for job interviews its been hauled by one of the new MPI locomotives. Has this just been a coincidence or is the P508 always pushed/pulled by one of the MPI locos?

Thanks for helping out a newbie to railroading!
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:50 pm

3. Certain sets generally fall into a routine sometimes and they don't change until something gets shuffled up (engine out of service or cars pulled out for maintenance, or whatever). So you might see the same exact set for the same train for a few weeks and then suddenly it changes and then the "new" set will stick around for a few weeks. However, since the Worcester had a little incident with a train taking 4 hours to get to Worcester, the MBTA/MBCR have done their best to make things look better by putting the shiny new engine on the Worcester Line as much as possible. (Basically just a very easy PR move)


As for the others... CSX basically sets the limit for what they see fit, not what they see fit for the MBTA. So the MBTA just has to follow along with the rules. When the MBTA owns the line all the way, you'll probably see the tracks upgraded and speed limit raised. And from what I understand, when CSX hands over Beacon Yard to Harvard, the MBTA will be able to double track that brief single track section.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby diburning » Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:01 am

1. The rail is CWR (continuous welded rail) which can be prone to heat/sun kinks. If you operate a train at a high speed over rail that has been heated by the sun, then it has the potential to damage the rail and/or derail the train. CWR does not have as much room to expand and contract as jointed rail does. Picture a towel on the ground, and a cat trying to run on top of it. The towel bunches up behind the cat before the cat goes anywhere. Same thing happens to the rails. From a maintenance standpoint, I think CWR is less expensive to maintain.

2. Although the MBTA now owns the line, it is still operated by CSX. CSX is responsible for at least part of the maintenance. Any plans for improvements will need to be coordinated between the two railroads (such as which tracks to shut down at which times for maintenance, who pays for it, etc)

3. It's an unofficial publicity thing. Since the Worcester line had that delay fiasco a few months ago, they have been keeping an MP36 on the Worcester line to show people that they are making an effort to improve service.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby 130MM » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:27 am

Komarovsky wrote:1. I've read several times that the track conditions prevent trains from going over 60mph. Is this completely down to track geometry, track condition or a combination of several factors? Also, how does the track condition on the CSX owned rails differ, if at all, from the MBTA own rails?


Maximum Operating Speeds are based on track geometry and signal spacing; which in turn is based on braking distances. Track geometry is limited by the combination of curvature and superelevation. There are tables showing the maximum speed for various combinations of the two. Speeds can be increased if the superelevation is increased. However, the length of the spirals governs how much superelevation can be added to an individual curve. Also, the curves themselves can be realigned, but most often that requires the purchase of adjacent land which is improbable in this case.

To respace signals to increase speeds would require a redesign of the entire signal system. If you move one signal, it affects the next signal and so on.

A lot of the speeds on the line are 60 passenger and 50 freight. This puts it into FRA Class 4. The maximum passenger speed for Class 4 is 80. Theoretically, the passenger speed could be raised to 80 without changing the level of maintenance except for the curves noted above. Though running trains 20 MPH faster would obviously require greater maintenance efforts.

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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby 130MM » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:38 am

diburning wrote:1. The rail is CWR (continuous welded rail) which can be prone to heat/sun kinks. If you operate a train at a high speed over rail that has been heated by the sun, then it has the potential to damage the rail and/or derail the train. CWR does not have as much room to expand and contract as jointed rail does. Picture a towel on the ground, and a cat trying to run on top of it. The towel bunches up behind the cat before the cat goes anywhere. Same thing happens to the rails. From a maintenance standpoint, I think CWR is less expensive to maintain.

2. Although the MBTA now owns the line, it is still operated by CSX. CSX is responsible for at least part of the maintenance.


1. While CWR is more prone to kinking than jointed rail; that is not to say that jointed rail doesn't kink. There is no more potential to damage rail by running a train over a rail at high temperatures than any other temperature. If it were, Amtrak would be changing rail a lot more than they do now. Improperly installed and maintained CWR will bunch caused by the wave action of the rail as well as braking force. However, if it is done correctly it will not bunch.

2. CSX currently maintains the entire B&A.

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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Komarovsky » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:34 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:And from what I understand, when CSX hands over Beacon Yard to Harvard, the MBTA will be able to double track that brief single track section.


Are there any other portions of the line that are similarly bottlenecked by single tracking?
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:25 pm

Komarovsky wrote:
BostonUrbEx wrote:And from what I understand, when CSX hands over Beacon Yard to Harvard, the MBTA will be able to double track that brief single track section.


Are there any other portions of the line that are similarly bottlenecked by single tracking?


No, the Worcester Line is fully double-tracked except for that 1/2 mile where the yard leads cannibalized some of the former mainline tracks. That's a really easy fix involving upgrade of the first yard lead next to the mainline to full passenger speeds, and a little reconfiguration of switches to retire the yard tracks and consolidate things. Easy enough that they'll do it the second CSX is fully out of there; it's not a significant enough expense that they'd be too strapped to fund it in-house. Their new CSX Worcester yard is proceeding at a brisk pace pretty much on-schedule, so heavy freight ops will probably start to draw down in another year and give the T some schedule openings. The yard might not completely close until 2014, a couple years behind schedule, because their other new/expanded yard in Westborough still hasn't begun construction because of permitting issues that are dragging along painfully slow. They're unlikely to completely shutter Beacon Park until Westborough is done-done just in case disaster strikes on completing that project, but we should start seeing the traffic get lighter and lighter when Worcester's done and the state has completed its bridge-raising work in western and central MA to allow double-stack clearance into Worcester.

As previously noted the CSX dispatching is the main constraint on speeds and passenger ops right now, and that's also waiting on the full completion of the Beacon Park relocation before the dispatching tilts advantage: passenger. I don't know if the T is completely wresting control of the dispatching away from CSX, but at the very least there'll be passenger priority now and enough breathing room opened up to substantially increase schedules. More, actually, than South Station can hold at the moment so dispatching won't be the primary constraint any longer. Most freight will now stop at Worcester and not even enter MBTA territory, with a subset continuing the short distance to Westborough and a smaller subset still continuing to Framingham Yard. Only 1 daily freight--to Everett terminal via the Grand Junction Branch--will still be going to Boston in off-peak hours after Beacon Park is closed.

The last residual bottleneck they have to fix is that the Boston-Framingham segment of the line still runs on old wayside signals, while the rest of the southside and the Framingham-Worcester portion of the line have been operating with cab signals for close to 20 years. Train spacing can be a bit tighter with cab signals, so it's a necessary part of the post-Beacon Park closeout work to fill in that gap on the system's second-busiest commuter rail line if they want to run more trains. Also would prevent any chance of a close call the line had last year when two trains avoided a head-on collision by only a few hundred feet because of a blown wayside stop signal while a stretch of 2nd track was being worked on. That kind of mistake can't really happen with stop-enforced cab signals, which makes it safer to run the kind of tight headways the line badly needs.


Somewhat low-bottleneck but still quite beneficial project that's also due to begin is a road project at Framingham station to eliminate the worst of the line's remaining 4 grade crossings. Traffic queues frequently get backed up onto the tracks at that intersection abutting the tracks, it's a mere couple feet from the station so the gates are down a long time, and it's also mere feet from CSX Framingham Yard and the junction with CSX's major southbound freight line. Real congestion nightmare at peak hours that places some limits on how many rush-hour trains the T can send through there, and has some minor drag effect on train dwell times at Framingham station when the road's hosed with backups. I believe MassHighway has secured mostly-complete funding to begin constructing the road underpass with a targeted 2015 start.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Komarovsky » Fri Jul 08, 2011 5:43 pm

Thanks for the information guys!

F-Line:

I'm originally from NJ on the part of the M&E where grade crossings aren't an issue, so I had no idea that they played a roll in scheduling.

Also, its interesting how Worcester and Westboro have taken quite different approaches to CSX's expansion projects. When CSX announced that they were going to be moving the majority of their freight ops to Worcester, the city (with the exception of a few residents/councilors) welcomed them with open arms. The expansion in Westboro seems to be much more protracted and unhappy (probably because they aren't in such desperate need of redevelopment). That said, I'm shocked that the DEP approved the Worcester expansion with only a ENF (albeit a very very long and detailed one). My old job was an environmental policy analyst and I had to interpert the ENF, Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports for the restoration of service to Worcester in the 90 (something that in my opinion entailed a far smaller environmental impacts than what CSX is going to be doing now).
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby obienick » Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:02 pm

Another constraint is all the stops in Newton along the Pike are all on one side. I believe the stops are one the south (Pike) side of the ROW. This makes the T and CSX use RH running in the morning and LH running in the evening and it limits the ability for two inbound or two outbound passenger trains to pass.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby diburning » Sat Jul 09, 2011 10:19 am

Yes and no. Usually, trains stopping at the Newton stops operate on track 2 regardless of direction, and trains that don't stop at the Newton stops operate on either track, but usually Track 1 if going west.

130MM wrote:2. CSX currently maintains the entire B&A.

DAW


Yes, on the most part, but the MBTA still sends wash train (still counts!)
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby CSX Conductor » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:15 pm

diburning wrote:
130MM wrote:2. CSX currently maintains the entire B&A.

DAW


Yes, on the most part, but the MBTA still sends wash train (still counts!)

The wash extra is MBTA's responsibility because it's purpose is to treat the rail with a chemical that reduces wheel slip which is an extra measure, not a requirement.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby diburning » Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:49 pm

They treat it with a chemical? I thought they only shoot water on it to wash away the gunk from the mashed up leaves? They wash the lines every 2 weeks or so in the fall....
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Arlington » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:04 pm

I thought I'd "revive" this thread as a place to discuss the Framingham/Worcester Line especially under MBTA ownership and operation (the other two lines are titled about CSX and Amtrak dispatching)

The occasion is this article from Today's Boston Globe:
http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/fra ... _rail.html
Boston Globe wrote:The MBTA expects to increase the number of weekday train trips between Boston and Worcester this fall, soon after the state closes on a $50 million deal with railroad company CSX Corp. to buy 21 miles of commuter rail track along the Framingham-Worcester line, officials said.

A total of seven weekday roundtrips are set to be added to the current 13 trips made between Boston and Worcester, according to T spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

Three of the new trips are expected to launch soon after the final deed transfer from the deal with CSX is made, he said. The transfer, expected to happen in October, will grant ownership of the tracks to the state’s transportation department and control to the MBTA.

Within a few months after the transfer, at least two more trips will be added, including one that would run on an “express” scheduled to and from Worcester, Pesaturo said.

The remaining trips are expected to roll out sometime in 2013, after the T receives new bi-level coaches that are currently being manufactured, he said.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:34 pm

Arlington wrote:I thought I'd "revive" this thread as a place to discuss the Framingham/Worcester Line especially under MBTA ownership and operation (the other two lines are titled about CSX and Amtrak dispatching)

The occasion is this article from Today's Boston Globe:
http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/fra ... _rail.html
Boston Globe wrote:The MBTA expects to increase the number of weekday train trips between Boston and Worcester this fall, soon after the state closes on a $50 million deal with railroad company CSX Corp. to buy 21 miles of commuter rail track along the Framingham-Worcester line, officials said.

A total of seven weekday roundtrips are set to be added to the current 13 trips made between Boston and Worcester, according to T spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

Three of the new trips are expected to launch soon after the final deed transfer from the deal with CSX is made, he said. The transfer, expected to happen in October, will grant ownership of the tracks to the state’s transportation department and control to the MBTA.

Within a few months after the transfer, at least two more trips will be added, including one that would run on an “express” scheduled to and from Worcester, Pesaturo said.

The remaining trips are expected to roll out sometime in 2013, after the T receives new bi-level coaches that are currently being manufactured, he said.


It's 1 month from tomorrow when domestic transloads end forever at Beacon Park. That reduces the east-of-Framingham freight to just the Everett dailies, the small scraps of odds-and-sods that'll be left at BP until the main yard closes at year's end, and light engine moves to the engine house for refueling. And then next year (whenever CSX works out its deal to pull out of the engine house), just the single Everett round-trip. Hard to believe, but we're actually crossing into the 11th hour on this whole grand Boston freight phase-out. It's the MBTA's ball next month.
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Re: Framingham/Worcester Line Questions

Postby Komarovsky » Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:46 pm

I'm glad that riders of this line are finally able to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully they'll be able to do some track upgrades to allow full 79mph operations all along the line and finally make the train competitive time wise with the mass pike from the Worcester area.
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