Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby CPSK » Sun May 27, 2012 4:59 pm

Hi;
I'm doing some research on MBTA lines using Google Earth, and found the "bottleneck" on the Fitchburg line at Waltham. The line is double track just east of Waltham, then single track for maybe a mile? Then double track again?
It appears that there is a siding in the area that is single track main, with one customer, but that siding may be abandoned... it doesn't appear to be in good shape looking at it from GE.
Can someone shed some light on this for me? It seems that the bottleneck would cause delays on the line, and it must be simple enough to re-align the main and continue the double track through.

FW
User avatar
CPSK
 
Posts: 474
Joined: Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:29 am

Re: Fitchburg line bottleneck?

Postby TrainManTy » Sun May 27, 2012 5:41 pm

The single track at Waltham is quite short (much less than a mile!) and would be easy to realign - if it were an issue. The boxcars you see on Google Earth were just storage for a local business and were scrapped about a year ago.

Trains are scheduled so that they do not interfere with each other on this section of line. I've been riding the Fitchburg Line for a year and a half now and have yet to even hear of any delay due to trains meeting here.
Tyler

All posts are my personal opinion. I do not speak for any organizations on this board.
User avatar
TrainManTy
 
Posts: 444
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:18 pm
Location: Worcester, MA

Re: Fitchburg line bottleneck?

Postby CPSK » Sun May 27, 2012 6:18 pm

TrainManTy wrote:The single track at Waltham is quite short (much less than a mile!) and would be easy to realign - if it were an issue. The boxcars you see on Google Earth were just storage for a local business and were scrapped about a year ago.

Trains are scheduled so that they do not interfere with each other on this section of line. I've been riding the Fitchburg Line for a year and a half now and have yet to even hear of any delay due to trains meeting here.

I'm just curious as to why there would be that short single track section. Was most of the line single track at one time, and wasn't enough room to double track through that area?
I have seen short stretches of single track on double track main where a bridge or tunnel is involved, but that's not the case here. Now, especially with the siding abandoned, fixing that would be so easy. But I guess, as you said, if there aren't any issues, why spend the money?
I've also noticed that the crossovers on that line are sharper (shorter) than those on the Lowell line for example. I make the assumption that the Fitchburg line is lower speed, or that trains don't normally have to use the crossovers.

FW
User avatar
CPSK
 
Posts: 474
Joined: Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:29 am

Re: Fitchburg line bottleneck?

Postby roberttosh » Sun May 27, 2012 6:38 pm

I am pretty sure it was done so that they could re-align a single track to the middle of the ROW so as to gain some height clearance under a bridge or two to allow for piggyback service. The single track stretch is more like 1/2 mile long.
Last edited by roberttosh on Sun May 27, 2012 9:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
roberttosh
 
Posts: 932
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2005 7:21 pm

Re: Fitchburg line bottleneck?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun May 27, 2012 6:41 pm

CPSK wrote:
TrainManTy wrote:The single track at Waltham is quite short (much less than a mile!) and would be easy to realign - if it were an issue. The boxcars you see on Google Earth were just storage for a local business and were scrapped about a year ago.

Trains are scheduled so that they do not interfere with each other on this section of line. I've been riding the Fitchburg Line for a year and a half now and have yet to even hear of any delay due to trains meeting here.

I'm just curious as to why there would be that short single track section. Was most of the line single track at one time, and wasn't enough room to double track through that area?
I have seen short stretches of single track on double track main where a bridge or tunnel is involved, but that's not the case here. Now, especially with the siding abandoned, fixing that would be so easy. But I guess, as you said, if there aren't any issues, why spend the money?
I've also noticed that the crossovers on that line are sharper (shorter) than those on the Lowell line for example. I make the assumption that the Fitchburg line is lower speed, or that trains don't normally have to use the crossovers.

FW


Fitchburg's got more antiquated hardware than any other line. It's the last remote-tower controlled line on the system. Everything's getting replaced with the current improvements project, and with the signal system getting a full 100% replacement end-to-end a lot of the interlockings and crossovers are getting shifted around. The line's getting a speed uprate to Class 4/79 MPH track end-to-end as well, which requires interlocking upgrades in several spots from the current slowpoke speeds.

As for Waltham, they fell just a smidge short of the funding to tackle that gap right now. The platform's got OK accessibility, so they had to prioritize South Acton and Littleton first under the scope of the big double-tracking project. They will go ahead and fix Waltham when they've got a moment to. It won't be too many more years because the ridership there is heavy enough to merit substantial station upgrades, and one of the very shaky overhead road bridges is due for replacement (no reason to double the track underneath when there's going to be heavy construction equipment rebuilding the bridge abutments). It's only 1/3 mile of single iron.

They've also got a big ADA backlog on the Lincoln and Concord stations also beyond the scope of the current double-tracking project, and it's a high (but expensive priority) to replace the 3 tiny/borderline-useless Weston stops with a large and very badly-needed Route 128 park-and-ride at Exit 26. So it's a safe bet that at some point in the next 10 years when there's a chance at more grants to chase that they're going to revisit the inner portion of the line out to 128 and Concord. Those inner suburbs need much better and more frequent transit, especially Waltham which is one of the largest bus hubs on the entire MBTA that's far isolated from any reasonably nearby rapid transit options.
F-line to Dudley via Park
 
Posts: 7111
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
Location: North Cambridge

Re: Fitchburg line bottleneck?

Postby TomNelligan » Sun May 27, 2012 7:12 pm

I am pretty sure it was done so that they could re-align a the single track to the middle of the ROW so as to gain some height clearance under a bridge or two to allow for piggyback service.


That is correct. The cut and the highway bridge just east of the station were the issue, and the single tracking happened more than 40 years ago to improve clearances for the B&M's piggyback business in and out of Boston. Now that the line is passenger-only, the second track could probably be restored, but the money would be much better spent elsewhere since the 0.6 miles of single track between Beaver Brook and Moody Street really isn't an issue on a line with only a moderate amount of commuter traffic and trains scheduled so as to accommodate the short stretch of single track.
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3180
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Fitchburg line bottleneck?

Postby CPSK » Sun May 27, 2012 10:06 pm

Thanks guys;
Very informative, and interesting.

FW
User avatar
CPSK
 
Posts: 474
Joined: Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:29 am

Re: Fitchburg line bottleneck?

Postby TrainManTy » Mon May 28, 2012 2:00 pm

CPSK wrote:I've also noticed that the crossovers on that line are sharper (shorter) than those on the Lowell line for example. I make the assumption that the Fitchburg line is lower speed, or that trains don't normally have to use the crossovers.


I've never ridden the Lowell Line, but the Fitchburg Line is for the most part a one-way signaled railroad. Trains run on the right, and no signals are provided for movements on the other track against the flow of traffic - the use of Form Ds is required. The crossovers are mostly hand-thrown, not part of interlockings, and are there only to bypass disabled trains or track work or for use in emergencies.
Tyler

All posts are my personal opinion. I do not speak for any organizations on this board.
User avatar
TrainManTy
 
Posts: 444
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:18 pm
Location: Worcester, MA

Re: Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby edbear » Mon May 28, 2012 9:21 pm

The Lowell Line was a poor relation to the Fitchburg until 1979-80. It was shut down for passenger operation for much of that period between Winchester and Lowell. In anticipation of construction of the Red Line Alewife Extension and B & M's loss of the Freight Cutoff, the Lowell Line was relaid with welded rail, bridge clearance improvements and signal upgrades. The B & M's main freight entry to Boston became Ayer-No. Chelmsford-Lowell-Boston. The Fitchburg west of Ayer was always State of the Art in track and signal; east of Ayer it is a different story except for the 1929-30-31 installation of the heaviest rail on the B & M at the time, 130#. The Fitchburg, East Deerfield to Boston also had the only cab signal installation on the B & M.
edbear
 
Posts: 416
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:44 pm

Re: Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby agarturbo » Tue May 29, 2012 7:40 am

Then you haven't ridden the 429 outbound (5:20 North Station departure). It regularly tangles with the 468 (inbound) in the Waltham stretch. The 429 - a partial express - occasionally waits up to 10 minutes for the 468 to clear Waltham, though the usual wait is 3-5 minutes. Lately, the 429 has gotten the better of the 468 and made it to Waltham first. Now the 468 is seen waiting for the 429 most days. However, either way, Waltham is a chokepoint. Now, is that because of the single track? Perhaps. However, since one train always has to wait for the other to clear the station, maybe it would still be this way even if the station and approaches were double tracked.
Trains don't run on schedules, son. They run on tracks.
agarturbo
 
Posts: 125
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 2010 1:34 pm

Re: Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue May 29, 2012 11:44 am

agarturbo wrote:Then you haven't ridden the 429 outbound (5:20 North Station departure). It regularly tangles with the 468 (inbound) in the Waltham stretch. The 429 - a partial express - occasionally waits up to 10 minutes for the 468 to clear Waltham, though the usual wait is 3-5 minutes. Lately, the 429 has gotten the better of the 468 and made it to Waltham first. Now the 468 is seen waiting for the 429 most days. However, either way, Waltham is a chokepoint. Now, is that because of the single track? Perhaps. However, since one train always has to wait for the other to clear the station, maybe it would still be this way even if the station and approaches were double tracked.


It's almost certainly the one-way signals and the bottlenecks. That'll get much better when they finish the CTC signal system.

Make no mistake...they want to double track Waltham. It's less hassle operationally, and once the outer portion of the line is flowing better there's a lot of potential to add more short-turn service on the inner stops. That will start to put a heavier load on Waltham, enough that settling up the 1/3 mile of single is a good investment. Plus if full-high platforms are going to be in the line's future most places Littleton-east, Waltham is a priority upgrade for that which they'd almost certainly do as double-tracked. I doubt we're waiting all decade to see this little segment fixed. But it's not even close to the line's biggest choke point...the single from South Acton to Ayer and the 19th century signal system are huge constraints. It's going to seem like a whole new line when those new track circuits start signaling the whole thing at Class 4 speeds for the first time ever.
F-line to Dudley via Park
 
Posts: 7111
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
Location: North Cambridge

Re: Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby sery2831 » Tue May 29, 2012 12:23 pm

agarturbo wrote:Then you haven't ridden the 429 outbound (5:20 North Station departure). It regularly tangles with the 468 (inbound) in the Waltham stretch. The 429 - a partial express - occasionally waits up to 10 minutes for the 468 to clear Waltham, though the usual wait is 3-5 minutes. Lately, the 429 has gotten the better of the 468 and made it to Waltham first. Now the 468 is seen waiting for the 429 most days. However, either way, Waltham is a chokepoint. Now, is that because of the single track? Perhaps. However, since one train always has to wait for the other to clear the station, maybe it would still be this way even if the station and approaches were double tracked.


I am the Conductor on 468 three days a week. The situation is more of a schedule issue though. And it will be resolved with a new schedule change in the near future. 468 now regularly operated 6-10 minutes late after waiting for 429.
Moderator: MBTA Rail Operations
User avatar
sery2831
 
Posts: 5127
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:15 pm
Location: Manchester, NH

Re: Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby octr202 » Tue May 29, 2012 12:39 pm

Fitchburg may have the most antiquated signal equipment, but is it that much worse than Oak Grove-Reading on the Western Route? Isn't that still pure ABS with no reverse signalling and hand-thrown crossovers as well? And it's all jointed rail (and rough in some places!). ;-)
Wondering if I'll see the Haverhill double-tracking finished before I retire...
Photo: Melbourne W7 No. 1019 on Route 78, Bridge & Church Streets, Richmond, Victoria. 10/21/2010
User avatar
octr202
 
Posts: 4142
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 8:13 am
Location: In the land of the once and future 73 trackless trolley.

Re: Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby 130MM » Wed May 30, 2012 7:48 am

octr202 wrote:Fitchburg may have the most antiquated signal equipment, but is it that much worse than Oak Grove-Reading on the Western Route? Isn't that still pure ABS with no reverse signalling and hand-thrown crossovers as well? And it's all jointed rail (and rough in some places!). ;-)


The irony of this is that not too long ago the section from Fells to Ash St. was some of the best track on Commuter Rail. Everything got better around it.

On the issue of Waltham station, one of the major problems with double tracking is where to put the platforms. With the need (requirement? design standard?...) for full length, high level platforms, the location of these platforms becomes an issue. The distance between Elm and Moody Streets is shorter than the standard platform, there really isn't room east of Elm St. for two tracks and two platforms, and west of Moody Street, while the right of way does open up possibly allowing a center island platform, it would be a long way from the rest of the downtown.

DAW
Last edited by 130MM on Thu May 31, 2012 7:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
130MM
 
Posts: 469
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2004 1:57 pm
Location: Wakefield, MA

Re: Single Track at Waltham on the Fitchburg Route

Postby jonnhrr » Wed May 30, 2012 2:16 pm

The ideal solution would be to grade separate Moody St. and possibly Elm St. which would also help with traffic congestion at train time. Admittedly expensive, but if the improvements result in more train frequencies the traffic congestion problem will get worse (like Framingham).

Alternatively it seems platforms just West of Moody St. would still be reasonably close to downtown. Might be an issue for how you get a bus stop near the platforms, which might require some property taking.

Jon
Avatar Photo - P&W local from Gardner to Worcester at Morgan Rd., Hubbardston
User avatar
jonnhrr
 
Posts: 1036
Joined: Sun May 30, 2004 5:58 pm
Location: Sabattus ME USA

Next

Return to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: dieciduej, Google [Bot] and 7 guests