Providence Line Electrification

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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby boblothrope » Mon May 02, 2011 4:59 pm

digitalsciguy wrote:Gillian Wood, MBCR Chief Customer Service Officer, who has worked for Veolia running various rail services in and around London, seemed convinced that diesel power, more specifically our current diesel ops, is necessary for the severe New England winters that plague the area. In the UK, they primarily use EMUs and DMUs to run very frequent commuter rail service and don't usually have problems, but also don't encounter as much snow as we get here. Does available modern electric or diesel equipment pose any problems with providing the power necessary to operate in (reasonably) heavy snow conditions?


Well, how well does Amtrak's electrification handle snow on the Providence line?

Montreal gets more snow than Boston, and the Deux-Montagnes commuter rail line is electrified.

Chicago, NYC, and Philly also seem to manage.

Then there's all of northern Europe...
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby digitalsciguy » Mon May 02, 2011 5:55 pm

boblothrope wrote:
Well, how well does Amtrak's electrification handle snow on the Providence line?

Montreal gets more snow than Boston, and the Deux-Montagnes commuter rail line is electrified.

Chicago, NYC, and Philly also seem to manage.

Then there's all of northern Europe...


Ehhhyeaaaah, I respect Ms. Wood's experience in the commuter railroad industry with her years of service abroad with Veolia, but also realise she's more experienced in management than engineering. I was recently reading this paper[PDF] on high speed rail operations in winter climates from Sweden, who more than likely receives more average annual snow accumulation than Boston. The document points out several snow condition mitigation efforts that are seen nowhere in the MBTA system, let alone the Providence Line. Considering current Amtrak operations on the corridor and anticipated increased traction power with the new Amtrak locos on order (unless I've read all the numbers wrong - I assume the increase in traction power is from more efficient power and traction technologies), it would appear there's no problem with catenary-powered electric ops in push-pull configuration, as many on here have noted. Quickly going back to the study from Sweden, the document succinctly highlights many regular issues and attempted solutions by Scandinavian railroads, including ice buildup on equipment and snow accumulation on tracks.

To pull out what 3rdrail has said of funding: I'm giving MassDOT and Sec. Mullan another year to see where their priorities lie, what with the new state organisation being many parts road builders, few parts transit/railroad operators. While I mention the availability of federal dollars, this recent article in The Economist highlights the issue with (or at least the fact that) decreasing share of state and local funding in infrastructure and increase in dependency on federal monies. There's no doubt that a similar $3 billion fast-track (no pun intended) rail investment programme similar to the highway-centric programme being implemented state-wide right now would return greater benefits to the Commonwealth's GDP, especially if those monies were put towards a Providence Line EMU pilot project. It's just a matter of convincing those who believe that more roads are the answer to road traffic...

We currently live in a time where there are hundreds of proven stock designs that run in similar environmental conditions, many of which could be easily modified to comply with or be petitioned for exception to FRA regulations, so it's not infeasible or financially impossible for any sort of pilot programme to prove the simple viability and efficiency of fast, reliable EMU service in this corridor. At this point, I'm a bit at a loss as far as what else we haven't fleshed out on this topic. How serious are the issues with man-power/expertise to maintain additional electric rollingstock that don't currently exist/need to be reallocated at the MBTA or MBCR?
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby MACTRAXX » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:45 pm

Everyone: After noticing that NJT will be phasing out their use of their ALP44 locomotives could this be the opportunity for MBTA/MBCR to perhaps acquire or lease 8 to 12 of these locomotives if they are deemed fit for service to offer electrified
Providence Line service? If an agreement with Amtrak can be worked out this just may work...

Any thoughts about this? MACTRAXX
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby madcrow » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:42 pm

MACTRAXX wrote:Everyone: After noticing that NJT will be phasing out their use of their ALP44 locomotives could this be the opportunity for MBTA/MBCR to perhaps acquire or lease 8 to 12 of these locomotives if they are deemed fit for service to offer electrified
Providence Line service? If an agreement with Amtrak can be worked out this just may work...

Any thoughts about this? MACTRAXX

Given that they're phasing out the ALP-44s because they're just plain old and unreliable, I would hope that the T doesn't even think about that particular option for electrification.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:16 pm

madcrow wrote:
MACTRAXX wrote:Everyone: After noticing that NJT will be phasing out their use of their ALP44 locomotives could this be the opportunity for MBTA/MBCR to perhaps acquire or lease 8 to 12 of these locomotives if they are deemed fit for service to offer electrified
Providence Line service? If an agreement with Amtrak can be worked out this just may work...

Any thoughts about this? MACTRAXX

Given that they're phasing out the ALP-44s because they're just plain old and unreliable, I would hope that the T doesn't even think about that particular option for electrification.


Too early. 2 related things really need to fall into place for an electric purchase to start looking attractive:

-- Amtrak seeks to act on its stated need for an electric maintenance facility in the Boston area.
-- RIDOT's build-out of South County Commuter Rail is underway and they start mulling rolling stock purchase decisions, which you would think would prioritize electrics unless it proved cost-prohibitive.

As Readville is the only logical spot for Amtrak's facility, there's a golden opportunity for the two agencies to partner on a shared electric maintenance space. And that space can serve heavy repair needs for RIDOT, while Providence area would likely have their main yard and general maintenance. That's a nice way of pooling costs between 3 overlapping agencies on the corridor, and the T or Amtrak could always end up getting the operator's contract for South County CR as RIDOT is probably not ready to go it alone for a starter system. You'll definitely get larger economies of scale this way with the facility support that makes an electric loco order more attractive. Wait till the end of the decade when the facility and equipment purchase questions are going to be due for actionable decisions from Amtrak and RIDOT. The T is in one way or another going to be a direct or indirect party to it. And it would time roughly when they have to start making procurement decisions on how to replace the Geeps.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby FP10 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:49 pm

I would love to see a straight up trade, the T getting the HHP8s and a maintence contract in exchange for the readville land. Even with them being retired last they will have a lot of life left in them, and a rebuild might take care of the software issues. They would be great for express service, which the Providence line desperatly needs.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby danib62 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:55 pm

FP10 wrote:I would love to see a straight up trade, the T getting the HHP8s and a maintence contract in exchange for the readville land. Even with them being retired last they will have a lot of life left in them, and a rebuild might take care of the software issues. They would be great for express service, which the Providence line desperatly needs.

They'd be a waste on express service. You'd want them on local trains where the snappier acceleration can really help schedule times.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby BandA » Mon May 14, 2018 3:51 pm

Electrifying the Fairmont Line (aka Dorchester Branch?) is gonna be expensive / probably not worth it.
Electrifying the Providence Line depends on getting a fair price for the electricity from Amtrak, getting electric locomotives that are less expensive than diesel locomotives (good luck), finding a place to store & service the trainsets on the south side (good luck). Actually electrifying the Providence line is a good idea assuming the cost issues get resolved.

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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Mon May 14, 2018 6:33 pm

It is a no brainer that Providence Line should use electric motive power. The catenary is there so let's use it MBTA. The electric locomotives would be able to accelerate a little better than a diesel although those HSP-46 units have good aceleration, even with a longer train with all bilevels. While the Fairmount Line has the stops very close to one another, there probably isn't much need to electrify it as that stretch isn't super long
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon May 14, 2018 8:08 pm

BandA wrote:Electrifying the Fairmont Line (aka Dorchester Branch?) is gonna be expensive / probably not worth it.


finding a place to store & service the trainsets on the south side (good luck).


I believe that first bit is worth it because of that second bit. Fairmount is electrified to store sets at Readville and ferry them back and forth to South Station. And, of course, giving the Fairmount corridor fast, frequent, emission-free transportation would be great, too. Plus it's not that long, and *might* be able to piggyback off of existing substations.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby andrewjw » Tue May 15, 2018 1:02 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:
BandA wrote:Electrifying the Fairmont Line (aka Dorchester Branch?) is gonna be expensive / probably not worth it.


finding a place to store & service the trainsets on the south side (good luck).


I believe that first bit is worth it because of that second bit. Fairmount is electrified to store sets at Readville and ferry them back and forth to South Station. And, of course, giving the Fairmount corridor fast, frequent, emission-free transportation would be great, too. Plus it's not that long, and *might* be able to piggyback off of existing substations.

You can't even piggyback the Providence line off existing substations - they're only powerful enough for Amtrak service. They were forward-thinking enough to leave room in the substatoins to install additional hardware enough to have capacity to run MBTA trains, but MBTA has never installed this hardware. This considerable fixed cost to operate electric service has been one of the main barriers.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby jamoldover » Thu May 17, 2018 2:05 pm

The other problem with electrifying Providence service is that the Providence Line doesn't exist in a vacuum. Trainsets are shared between the Providence Line and the Worcester Line (both need sets with maximum capacity due to ridership). Electrifying the Providence Line means either adding time for engine changes multiple times/day when sets switch between the two lines or needing to purchase additional trainsets to handle existing schedules that then end up sitting idle for half the time - i.e., a waste of money.

Using dual-mode locomotives might be an option, but the only ones currently out there are the NJT/AMT ALP-45's, which don't have the greatest reputations for reliability. If you want to spend lots of money on improving commuter service (not something I'm opposed to on principal), let's make it money worth spending. How about (I know this is off-topic for this thread, but...) adding service to existing routes, or adding routes that connect some of the spokes of the existing system (examples: Worcester-Framingham-Mansfield-TF Green on existing operating ROWs; Framingham-Lowell taking back the abandoned line that's now a bike trail; Worcester-Ayer-Lowell-Lawrence on existing operating ROWs, etc.) which would encourage more people to ride who now have to drive suburb-suburb for commuting.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby MattW » Thu May 17, 2018 3:25 pm

That sounds like a simple planning issue more than anything. MARC runs two types of equipment, NJT, LIRR, MNRR all have diesel and electric fleets. Heck, NJT has EMUs, electric locomotives and diesels.
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Re: Providence Line Electrification

Postby BandA » Fri May 18, 2018 1:15 am

I think the T literally doesn't have any (built) coachyard space to store more sets. Electric sets can be stored in the basement of large commercial developments, easier than diesels. Would an electrified Fairmont line do anything for Amtrak (decrease NEC congestion / redundancy?) that they would be interested in contributing?

There's enough service on the Providence Line to justify having their own trainsets... perhaps with advanced rapid coupling/decoupling to support short midday trains. As I and others mentioned before, Amtrak allegedly wants too much $ for access to catenary & electric locomotives seem to be more expensive than diesel despite being simpler. Possibly supply/demand.

[OT] Framingham-Lowell might be interesting for service in say the 50 yr timeframe...or innovative technology service.
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