Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

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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MACTRAXX
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Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by MACTRAXX » Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:26 am

Everyone: September marks the 20th anniversary of the completion of SEPTA's "Railworks" project in which
the former Reading trunk line was rebuilt between Wayne Junction and the Center City tunnel during two
shutdown periods: six months (April-September) in 1992 and four months (May-August) in 1993...

This project included new rail,ties and catenary on all four tracks and rebuilt and/or new bridges on that line
along with a new Temple University station and a small relocated North Broad Street station...

During the shutdown period three lines on the Reading side ran to and from Fern Rock: West Trenton,Warminster
and Lansdale/Doylestown along with some through diesel service to 30th Street during peak periods...The other
three RDG side lines Chestnut Hill East,Fox Chase and Norristown were closed for the duration...

This project was completed on time and in budget and I feel that this was one of SEPTA's best improvements
of the Regional Rail system in their history...

Does anyone have any memories and comments concerning "Railworks" and its impact on SEPTA RRD service?

MACTRAXX
EXPRESS TRAIN TO NEW YORK PENN STATION-NO JAMAICA ON THIS TRAIN-PLEASE STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING TRAIN DOORS

Clearfield
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by Clearfield » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:42 am

I believe that Matt Mitchell can offer some insights, as it was DVARP that pushed hard to have the diesel service during the shutdown.

Without DVARP shaming SEPTA into running the diesel service, commuters would have been forced back into their cars or taking a long bus ride.
"The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few, or the one".............. Spock

My opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of any organization, Association, or Authority.

Patrick Boylan
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by Patrick Boylan » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:03 am

I rode one of those diesel trains, outbound 30th St to Langhorne. It was not incredibly well populated. If I remember correctly there were only 3 diesel round trips. The Langhorne-West Trenton one's probably not a good one to use to measure utility, since West Trenton passengers still had the transfer to the subway at Fern Rock option.

Again if I remember correctly at least one of those other 2 diesel round trips went to Fox Chase. Regardless of to whom you give credit I think only 3 trips a day didn't have much influence on anyone's commuting choices. Didn't each of the ex Reading lines have at least 3 trips an HOUR at peak times?

JeffK
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by JeffK » Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:08 am

I'm sure I'm up for the Wet Blanket Award, but remember that despite how efficiently the project was carried out it was mostly a rebuild-in-kind design. Switches, signals, etc. were put back exactly where they were in the days of the Blueliners rather than being adjusted to take advantage of the SLs' higher speeds.

I forget exactly who said it - Matt? - but someone described the results as "a brand new 1931 railroad".
Requiem for it's/its, your/you're, than/then, less/fewer. They were once such nice words with such different meanings...

MACTRAXX
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by MACTRAXX » Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:33 am

Good start all!

PB: The Fox Chase diesel service was an experimental service that was run during August and September
of 1992 utilizing two 2-car trainsets being pulled by two of SEPTA's diesel switchers...This was something
that DVARP had fought for to provide service to a line that was closed for the Railworks project but
because of low ridership this was not repeated during the 4 month 1993 shutdown period...

During both Railworks shutdowns there were two peak period runs from both the Lansdale/Doylestown
and West Trenton lines to 30th Street Station...

JK: That mention of a brand-new 1931 railroad sounds like something that the late John Pawson had
said about the Railworks project and looking back he was right...

MACTRAXX
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ex Budd man
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by ex Budd man » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:04 pm

As I recall, diesel trains ran into 30th St. station via Conrail's freight line at the south end of Roberts yard. I rode it once, it was an interesting trip.
"I may not have a brain, but I have an idea!" BOB, benzoate ostylezene bicarbonate.

dreese_us
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by dreese_us » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:40 pm

I thought they ran from Fox Chase using NJ Transit U34CH's, one actually made it into Septa colors. One also suffered some sort of crankshaft failure, probably why no diesel service in 93. I think they also tried 60 and 61 with one of the push pull sets, but they were also not very reliable at the time.

MACTRAXX
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by MACTRAXX » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:32 pm

D: SEPTA did lease two U34CH locomotives from NJT -they were 4154 and 4158. One was painted by SEPTA
dark blue with yellow numerals and SEPTA logos and the other stayed in the NJT color scheme.

The U34CH's were used on the through trains from Doylestown and West Trenton...

Yes-RL1 locomotives 60 and 61 were assigned to one of the through runs-they ran as a pair remembering
that they were 1000 hp units and their glorified bus diesel engine sound stands out in my mind...

The experimental Fox Chase runs used the small switchers - 51 and 52 were used there I believe...
I only rode that service once during what I remember to be a six week period...SEPTA put out a
special timetable folder for these trains that is probably one of the most obscure timetables that
they have issued in their history...

MACTRAXX
EXPRESS TRAIN TO NEW YORK PENN STATION-NO JAMAICA ON THIS TRAIN-PLEASE STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING TRAIN DOORS

25Hz
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by 25Hz » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:51 pm

JeffK wrote:I forget exactly who said it - Matt? - but someone described the results as "a brand new 1931 railroad".
Gonna agree there. I remember that I had to cancel several personal, family, and school trips because of the disruption, and today a trip takes the same amount of time.

Pardon my intense sardonicism on the matter.
Next stop the square, journal square station next!

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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by glennk419 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:30 am

MACTRAXX wrote:
Yes-RL1 locomotives 60 and 61 were assigned to one of the through runs-they ran as a pair remembering
that they were 1000 hp units and their glorified bus diesel engine sound stands out in my mind...

The experimental Fox Chase runs used the small switchers - 51 and 52 were used there I believe...
I only rode that service once during what I remember to be a six week period...SEPTA put out a
special timetable folder for these trains that is probably one of the most obscure timetables that
they have issued in their history...

MACTRAXX
The RL-1's were used due to the fact that they have HEP. The SW's do not have HEP and could not have been used to power the Bombers.

Pretty sure that SEPTA actually leased three NJT U34CH's with two being used for passenger service and the third for work train service, I believe on the Norristown Branch which received concurrent work while shut down to regular service.
Glenn

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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by Matthew Mitchell » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:53 am

JeffK wrote:I forget exactly who said it - Matt? - but someone described the results as "a brand new 1931 railroad".
John Pawson.

As usual, he backed up his points with specific evidence: in this case the slip switches retained in 16th St. Junction and the reverse curve on track 4 at Temple.

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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by Matthew Mitchell » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:00 am

MACTRAXX wrote:This was something that DVARP had fought for to provide service to a line that was closed for the Railworks project but because of low ridership this was not repeated during the 4 month 1993 shutdown period...

During both Railworks shutdowns there were two peak period runs from both the Lansdale/Doylestown
and West Trenton lines to 30th Street Station...
The Lansdale/Doylestown and West Trenton detour trains ran only in 1993. With more time to prepare, SEPTA was able to do something more substantial than the Fox Chase trains (not to slight Fox Chase...).

The point of the alternate service wasn't to accommodate all the passengers, it was to provide an alternative to driving to the passengers who did not want to ride the subway or make two transfers to get to their destination.

MACTRAXX
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by MACTRAXX » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:37 am

Glenn: Do you know what the third U34CH unit number was?
It was a good move for SEPTA to do trackwork on the three closed RDG side lines during Railworks...

The one time I recall riding the Fox Chase experimental train I remember we ran from the upper level at 30th Street
and as previously mentioned it was two Bombardier coaches being pulled by one of the SW1 switchers - I now wonder
myself how they were able to provide the HEP necessary...I rode an afternoon trip along with John Pawson and some
other DVARP members who were interested in these runs...

Matt: Thanks for jogging my memory-I now remember that the Fox Chase experimental runs were to see if it was
feasible to offer through service to 30th Street Station during the 4 month 1993 shutdown...

I remember that those through trains to Doylestown and West Trenton ran from 30th Street's lower level-tracks 9 and 10
were used...

My favorite story concerning leased equipment was this: SEPTA had approached Amtrak to lease one or more F40PH
units for the 1993 thru service...I remember that F40 413 was selected (a former GO Transit unit that was used
in commuter service) and during clearance testing shot the catenary line on the grade leading to the 21st Street
portal...SEPTA was going to lease Amtrak one or two of their AEM7s in a "trade" and after this incident SEPTA returned
F40 413 back to Amtrak and decided not to pursue using any F40s...

During the 1993 lease of the NJT U34CH's at least one SEPTA AEM7 - I remember it being 2303 - was sent to NJT and was
used on Newark District electrified runs to Long Branch and Trenton...

Yes-those were interesting times for SEPTA Regional Rail...
MACTRAXX
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Patrick Boylan
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by Patrick Boylan » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:34 am

I believe you mean the Suburban Station's 20th St portal. I have many times taken 20th St above and 21st St below SEPTA's tracks between 30th St and Suburban Station, the portal's definitely at 20th St, not 21st.

jb9152
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Re: Remembering "Railworks" 1992-93 20 years later...

Post by jb9152 » Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:50 am

I was one of the two RRD Stationmasters assigned to FRTC during Railworks. My enduring memory of that time is the folks who learned that they could forego the BSL "connection" shown in the timetables, ride a slightly later train, and still make the RRD train if they ran like hell (which they often did, despite my Station Attendants' entreaties to slow down).

I remember during rush hour we made "cheat sheets" for ourselves which showed the connecting BSL train for every RRD departure, plus the "unofficial" connections that got in late and had all the runners. On the platform, we'd dispatch trains "manually" from the station during the afternoon peak; trains did not leave until they were instructed to close doors, and got a hand signal to proceed. I had an RRD radio to communicate with the trains and the RROC, and a BSL radio to listen to the subway trains announce their block numbers to Fern Rock Tower as they exited the portal and came around the loop. We checked off the BSL blocks on our cheat sheets as they hit the platform. I also had a SEPTA City side radio on simplex to communicate with the rest of the station staff, announce when trains had departed, etc. It was quite an operation, and was actually kind of fun at times.

We *hated* the diesel trains. They were invariably late out of town, so we put them over on the "0" track to get them out of the way of the Silverliners. Some passengers began to realize that these trains were late every day, so they'd wait even *later* downtown to get on the BSL and get to FRTC. Then, they'd run like hell up the ramp from the BSL platform, across the RRD concourse, and down the steps, trying to get on a train that was 15 minutes late already, and "accelerating" out of the station at about 3 mph, struggling the whole way. They'd be banging on the doors as the train crept along, and we had to tactfully (or not so tactfully) shoo them away from the moving train every evening.

I have many more stories, including the very irate, ready to fire someone high SEPTA official that got very angry every time he'd arrive late and miss the West Trenton diesel. 8-)

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