R8 Newtown Service Restoration Efforts

Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

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Postby Matthew Mitchell » Wed Aug 31, 2005 11:16 pm

jfrey40535 wrote:Joseph Casey (who is that?)

Joe Casey is SEPTA's Treasurer (Moore's old job) and formerly their budget guy. We may not agree with him all the time, but he's OK, and he'll try to give you a straight answer, which looks like the case here, allowing for a modest level of spin.

That said, it's interesting that this response is coming from budget rather than planning or RRD. Kinda shows you who wears the pants in this family...

And the use of 1980-83 ridership to justify SEPTA's foot-dragging on restoration is something of a red herring, as the line was in turmoil and service was pretty bad. What's a lot more important is the amount of development in that part of Bucks since then.

Newtown and Southampton are definitely pro-rail, but a letter won't hurt--keeps the topic on their minds.
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Postby R3 Rider » Thu Sep 01, 2005 9:21 am

So first he says...

I should remind you that the Newtown portion of the line is not electrified, is a single-track operation with bolted rail, and has no viable signal infrastructure in place. If restoration of the line were to advance the capital expenses would be extensive and would address changes made over the years that may affect rail operations in this corridor.

But then he adds...

3. SEPTA maintains the position that restoration of the Newtown branch is possible. Indeed, the Capital Budget has a placeholder figure for restoration.

So which is it? Newtown has nothing they want -- no catenary, single-tracked, bolted rail, no signals -- so why are they holding on to it? Because unless Gee Dubya and/or the local municipalities suddenly get visits from the Ghost of Railroads Past, Present, and Yet to Come, there will never be any money to get the Newtown branch into the shape they want it to be.
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Postby limejuice » Mon Sep 05, 2005 1:26 am

SCB2525 wrote:I honestly don't think the ROW is wide enough to support this. The rail goes between people's properties in a lot of areas and I doubt they'd want some of their lawn "Eminent Domained" to put a trail.


Actually, it is. Whether or not the neighbors are aware, the ROW in most places is at least 56' wide. 26' to the east of the center-of-gauge and 30' to the west, at minimum. But putting a jogging trail smack-dab next to a windy 60mph railroad in the age of litigation somehow strikes me as problematic. Think of what a 15 mile long fence will cost. Now think of what a very sturdy 15 mile long fence will cost. And I don't know where to begin with getting that trail across Ayres Junction. But it would be neat.
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Postby Launcher » Sun Oct 09, 2005 10:47 pm

I took bus rapid transit in Pittsburgh a few times. It's not so bad. It's better than a bus on a highway or street. However I know you all are anticipating a train restoration and will settle for nothing less. Got to use the environmental case. Is a train not cleaner to run than 10 diesel buses?
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Postby jfrey40535 » Sun Oct 09, 2005 11:54 pm

the ROW in most places is at least 56' wide. 26' to the east of the center-of-gauge and 30' to the west, at minimum. But putting a jogging trail smack-dab next to a windy 60mph railroad in the age of litigation somehow strikes me as problematic. Think of what a 15 mile long fence will cost. Now think of what a very sturdy 15 mile long fence will cost.


If they do convert to a busway, I would expect a jogging/bike trail to follow. Similar to the Rt 103 busway. If the Newtown ROW really is 56', then its already been encroached on by homeowners in Southampton just south of the station. They have their cute little fences butting right up against the ROW, and the Knowles Ave extention on the other side. Someone encroached there.

The whole thing with the busway, a point I'm trying to make with the planners is that it probablly isn't cheaper than a railroad. It costs alot to build, if its going to be concrete, which lasts longer than asphalt. Plus it needs guardrail, traffic control at intersections and special signage to keep private cars out.

If the railroad is restored---as diesel, you figure things like ties last 20 years. Not electrifying saves $10,000/year in catenary maintenace costs too. Unfortunately there are as many busway websites as there are light rail which tout the efficiency of each mode. Its my gut feeling that a train will attract more riders in a suburban environment than a bus.

Plus if you build a busway that connects with the R3 or R8 at Fox Chase, you still have the transfer to deal with. I still say bring the train back as diesel. When funds become available, then electrify. But get the thing running.

I'm writing to Arlen Specter next to see if I can get him interested, or at least involved. He was helpful with Quakertown, maybe he can help us here too. We all know it will take political will to get this moving. Everyone has talked about it, there is just no action. The results of the BRT study will be interesting, but I'm not looking forward too it.

Anyone think the bus/biker lobby may have been involved in pushing for this BRT study?
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Postby limejuice » Sat Oct 29, 2005 7:15 pm

Correction: the right-of-way is 54' in most places, 24' to the west and 30' to the east. On high fills or at stations, it may be as wide as 100' - 50' on each side. Anyone that has built a fence on this property has done so in error. I recently ran into a problem with a neighbor of the line on which I work who had installed one of those invisible pet fences right to the edge of the ballast, even though the guys got like 100 acres there and his next-door neighbor's deer fence is built to the *actual* edge of the property. We could have been a-holes about it, but just decided to let it go. Well he didn't actually bury the cable and just spiked it along the surface. So when we came along there to install new ties, the cable got ripped out by the tie handler. And then I get woken up at some ungodly hour because the crossing gates are mysteriously stuck down. I go out there and find the damn invisible fence wire shunting the rails. I figure his dog got loose and he blamed us. Oh well!

So I was poking around the Newtown terminus area a couple weeks ago. The station ain't there no more. I did find the foundation of an old water plug and the switchstand that would have switched between the west and north legs of the wye that once was there.

I was thinking about freight possibilities. Because of the economical climate, government involvement in bringing the Newtown line back from the dead is more or less imperative. The capital dollars for reactivating this line for rail tansit can't be justified. But what about freight? With Frost-Watson extinct, you're surely not hauling anything up that far. But there's no small amount of industry in Southampton. There probably isn't enough potential business bringing in bulk materials by the carload that would justify the cost of rebuilding. Perhaps a warehousing facility along Knowles that would act more or less as an agent for the neighboring industries. Feasible?

And I'd appreciate replies from insightful forward thinkers within the realm of realism. Those of you who are career nay-sayers can ignore this post, move along, and find something else to condemn. :wink:
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Postby jfrey40535 » Sun Oct 30, 2005 1:28 am

Hey Lime, for the longest time I've been trying to find out when the last of the freight busines dried up on the line. There are a few warehouses near County Line station that couldn't have been built any earlier than the late 60's, both of which had freight sidings. The former James River plant also had a freight siding. I remember, in the early 80's the sidings being out of serivce, although still connected.

I'm guessing when the Reading went under, so did the freight business. I wonder if NS/CSX has/had any right to operate on the line, or if those rights went away when Conrail stopped operating in 1981. I always thought a joint freight/passenger venture on the line would make it worthwhile to consider rebuilding, but I'm sure the freight companies would want the government to pay for it.

There are quite a few ROW encroachment violations in Southampton. Just ride down Knowles Ave in Southampton across from the Giant supermarket and take a look. No 54' there. Those people Im sure will be the first to protest a train or busway popping up there, so I'm taking the liberty of mailing them a informational postcard telling them that SEPTA is thinking about putting a bus in their backyard. If nothing else, maybe that will end the busway study, which may now be in progress.

Its too bad retail chains like Giant and WalMart never considered using rail for direct delivery to their stores, I'm guessing their delivery chain is too far oriented towards truck.
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Postby PARailWiz » Sun Oct 30, 2005 1:57 pm

Be careful stirring up the NIMBYs - if we ever get to the point where restoration of rail service is a possibility, you may find them at your own door.
The picture to the right is a photo of Silverliner I 246 located at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA.
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Postby jfrey40535 » Sun Oct 30, 2005 2:57 pm

Under the current circumstances, I am applying the logic "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Effort to restore train is going nowhere. Building busway would be detrimental. Best case senario: they would prefer a train over the bus and would petiton for it. Worst case, they don't want anything and the busway will not be built. Regardless, if they don't want anything, they're going to protest it no matter what happens. I'd like to see the train come back, and I'll do whatever I can to ensure the busway does not get built.
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Postby Nasadowsk » Sun Oct 30, 2005 11:11 pm

<i>Not electrifying saves $10,000/year in catenary maintenace costs too.</i>

Now, go calculate the lost ridership due to slower diesel service and no direct center city service.

Ok, so let's say a monthly from Septa costs $70. I think this is right, corrections welcome. Now, let's say that diesel operation, because it's slower, less desireable, noisier, less reliable, attracts 10 fewer monthly riders over electric. That's $700 less a month.

Now, 12 months...that's 8,400 lost Vs 10,000 saved, or $1,600 saved. Now, assume you lose X discresionary riders a month over electric...

Maintenance wise? It's not worth it. Capital? It may/may not be. Long term? Let's face it, sooner or later it's likely gonna have to get wired anyway. Cheaper to do that when you don't have a train buzzing by every hour...

This assumes 'standard' diesels in the US, i.e. a converted freight loco + a few bomb cars. Of course, with a modern DMU unit like the GTW2/6s on the Riverline, this changes since you get electric performance, a lower than bus noise/emissions footprint, and level boarding. And if you had low platforms on the CC tunnel stops, you *might* get away with running a unit that clean through there every hour - don't bet on it though. But that's illegal in the US without major jumping through hoops, and forget running around Silverliners or touching the corridor. And a viable DMU that meets FRA still doesn't exist in the US (though if not for the FRA, the IC3 or FLIRT or even GT2/6 would be ideal here).

Within the confines of the FRA? Electrification makes sense. In the real world? No. But real life equipment isn't available to Septa in this case.
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Postby jfrey40535 » Sun Oct 30, 2005 11:47 pm

a viable DMU that meets FRA still doesn't exist in the US

Sure it does, its called a RDC. Sorry, had to say it.

I really don't care how they bring it back, but the fact remains it will be very capital intensive. New start in every sense of the word. SEPTA's fault for letting it get that way. Everything was there, SEPTA let it go to $*%!. If they can cut corners to bring it back, ala Route 15 style, so be it. Do the line in halves, FC to Southampton Phase I, Southampton-Newtown Phase II, whatever. The service is needed, we need politicians on board to get it done. Unfortunately the feds are mired in their own messes, state is broke, city is useless, so here we are 22 years and counting with the ROW being reclaimed by nature, encroachers and NIMBYS. Plus there are 3 gazillion other projects ahead of it. So maybe by the time I'm sitting in a wheelchair in some nursing home, my great-grandson can take me for a ride on it on opening day.
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Postby Nacho66 » Wed Nov 02, 2005 9:23 pm

Don't count on it...
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Postby glennk419 » Thu Nov 03, 2005 9:27 am

jfrey40535 wrote:Hey Lime, for the longest time I've been trying to find out when the last of the freight busines dried up on the line. There are a few warehouses near County Line station that couldn't have been built any earlier than the late 60's, both of which had freight sidings. The former James River plant also had a freight siding. I remember, in the early 80's the sidings being out of serivce, although still connected.



I remember freight service on the line well into Conrail, often using a SW1001 or SW1500 still in RDG paint. The last freight customers on the line were in fact James River Paper (now ETC) in Southampton where you can still see some of the rails and Frost Watson in Newtown. I believe Strathmans may have also received lumber at one time via rail with boxcars spotted on the siding alongside Southampton station. Other sidings along the line that survived into relatively recent years were at Huntington Valley station, the Southampton coal pier that is now covered by the beauty salon (bumper post still intact) and another coal pier at Buck Road.
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Postby jfrey40535 » Thu Nov 03, 2005 4:31 pm

And to think just one big frieght customer would have kept the line open.

It was probablly fairly easy to do daytime frieght runs prior to the 1981 conversion to rapid transit since the line only saw a handful of runs every day. That at least tells me the freight probablly dried up by 1980.
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Postby Launcher » Tue Nov 08, 2005 3:36 pm

Nasad, the monthly's are almost twice $70 from Newtown zone. In the ballpark of $130.
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