NEC Rail travel memories

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NEC Rail travel memories

Post by Hostler » Fri Mar 19, 2004 12:04 am

Back in high school, got to do some railfanning on the old PRR MP-54's. My father had a student who's father was an engineer on the Pennsy. He ran K-4's, some GG-1's but was nearing retirement and wanted a closer to home run. He ran MP-54 trips from Jersey Ave to Penn Station NY. I spent part of an afternoon and made a round trip with him in the cab. You wouldn't think, but those old cars can get up to high speeds with enough running room. Although they had no speedometers, the could easily do about 75+. I did ride them many times from Rahway commuting to Penn station in the sixties and seventies until the Arrow II and Arrow III's replaced them all. I also commuted many years on the Arrow cars from MetroPark and Rahway to Newark.


more NEC memories

Post by Hostler » Fri Mar 19, 2004 10:29 pm

During the '70's I commuted from Rahway/Metropark to Newark. When I commuted from Rahway I usually saw a special express run of 8-10 ArrowII cars. This was a well know run since it was written about in some newspapers. I believe it originated from Trenton, made a stop at Princeton Junction and maybe New Brunswick. From there it ran flat out to Newark then New York. When it passed throught Rahway it was wide open and was probably going close to the century mark. I know that ArrowII and III's could easily cruise 85-90 mph and on fairly level track hit 100, I know, I've seen it done on more than one occasion. When I commuted out of MetroPark, I caught one of two trains. One was about a 7:40 am local train, the other was an express at about 8:00 am. I tried to catch the this one. The express stopped at Metropark and ran express to Newark, sometimes on the west bound express track. If the engineer didn't have to switch tracks, he ran wide open until the Elizabeth 'S' and wide open until Hunter. If we had to switch, he ran slower to Rahway (only about 75 max) slowed for the change and wide open to Elizabeth. He would arrive at Newark about the same time or just behind that 7:40 train. I eventually had to give up on this train and beacause parking at Metropark was filled up by this time. It was great while it lasted.



Post by Hostler » Sat Mar 20, 2004 11:43 am

Another commuting memory Newark to Rahway/MetroPark was the evening run. I would catch the 5:45pm for the 5:55pm. Generally the first one was packed, the second was less so. The 5:45 went straight to Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway, MetroPark and beyond. The 5:50 went N.Elizabeth and Elizabeth, Rahway and to Perth Amboy. From Elizabeth to Rahway high speed, the engineer would let the Arrows run flat out until just before North Rahway by the Merck plant and slow for the stop at Rahway. He would pass the local at Linden at speed, talk about a shock wave. Elizabeth to Rahway is a slight grade, the engineer would try to hit the century mark, but usually came up short, about 95 mph top. One day he held it past N.Rahway, hit a 100, hard braked and overshot the platform by two cars. Talk about smokin' those brakes. Another time I was heading to MetroPark from Newark. Normally we traveled about 75 between the two stops, but one day we went about 35 and then crawled up behand a set up Arrow's at MetroPark. I noticed on the other train that one of cars were sitting low in relation to the platform. I though there was a problem with the suspension. The next day a story appeared in the newspaper, that train lost a wheel around St Georges Ave at the Rahway/Colonia border. The wheel traveled down the embankment (about 20Ft high) went across the road into a mall parking lot. Luckily it didn't hit anything. The article said the wheel weighed 800 pounds. The train at that point was going over 50. The best part is the engineer never noticed the loss of the wheel and continued at 75 mph to MetroPark when upon stopping, the car sat down. Imagine, no wheel at that speed.


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Post by Gilbert B Norman » Sat Mar 20, 2004 3:44 pm

At posts that I have made about the Forums, I have often noted how some Locomotive Engineers "known for their 'intpretations' of authorized speeds".

I believe Mr. Hostler is sharing with us a number of similar experiences.

The one time that I ever set foor in the cab of a steam locomotive was during August 1956 at Hervey PQ. The Fireman was fluent in English and I can recall asking him where was the speedometer. Well to put it mildly, there wasn't one - that is what the mileposts and one's watch was for. More on this trip is at Rail Travel Memories NY-Kapitichuan Club thread.

Suffice to say, 2 mph overspeed was not going to bring about a service application as is the case with Amtrak and other trains controled by the ASCES system in place today on the NEC.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Sun Mar 21, 2004 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.


Post by Hostler » Sat Mar 20, 2004 10:13 pm

In my posts, I mentioned the speeds the Arrows attained. These are from the actual speedometer reading in the cabs. Arrow II and III are mostly married pairs, a few single Arrow III's built. All the speedometers in all the cabs were usually active. In the 70's you could usually ride the vestibule, in most cases the crews let you, but that has all changed. Since the trains were usually pretty filled, I prefered riding in the vestibule, especially the cab ends. With the exception of the Trenton-Newark high speed, and the Metropark-Newark express, I saw those speeds obtained by observing the speedos. Riding these units for years at 5 days a week you get to know the sounds, movements, the feel as these cars get to these speeds. I remember reading specs on the acceleration rates, brake rates, top speeds many years ago. I don't know what speed restrictions are in place now, but speeds of 75-100 mph was the normal at the time for the North East Corridor, as I remember, since the trackage was built for speed.


NEC Memories

Post by Hostler » Sun Mar 21, 2004 11:25 pm

I been talking to a friend of mine who is an engineer with NJT. Although he does not run on the NEC, he says the Arrow III's are now limited to 80mph max, I guess partially to age, these units went into service around 1976 and have been through one rebuild already. So the old days of century mark cruising are over, was fun while it lasted.


Metroliner run

Post by JoeG » Fri Apr 02, 2004 10:17 am

In 1969 I rode the Metroliner between NYP and Washington. On the westbound trip the engineer let me ride with him in the cab. There were novelties like a digital speedometer and an alerter that made him move every 30 seconds or so to prevent a penalty application. He also had a list of short and long mileposts on the cab wall, and explained that, over the years, with line relocations, etc, many mileposts we not a mile apart. The variation was something like 4000 to 6000 feet. This explained some improbably fast timings I'd made using mileposts--I'd often wondered what had gone wrong.
The Metroliner also had 2 onboard techs whose job was to keep it running. They had very elaborate electronic test equipment. The metroliner was ahead of its time in that its electronics were newly-designed and not reliable. I assume that's why they had a relatively short service life.

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Post by CSX Conductor » Wed May 26, 2004 10:40 pm

Although Amtrak's A.C.S.E.S is a very good piece of safety stinks as far as allowing absolutely no variation of he speed limit as Mr. Norman posted earlier. (not even 1 MPH!!!!)

We have to just laugh when we permission to open-up a switch from a siding or industrial track and occupy a track onthe NEC and the Amtrak dispatcher tells us "Ok to open up and head East, as long as you give us a good move". Yeah, we'll give you as good a move as the A.C.S.E.S. will let us. :wink: DUH!!!!

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Post by Ken W2KB » Mon Jul 05, 2004 9:15 am

My cab ride in the X2000 that was tested in regular service by Amtrak. From shortly after leaving NYC to about Philadelphia. While not advertised, it was common knowledge amonst fans that all one needed to do was ask the manufacturer's PR person who rode each train and he/she would take you up to the head end for an hour or so.
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Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: [/url]

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NEC Rail Travel Memories

Post by NellieBly » Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:49 am

Speaking of 1969 I rode the nonstop Metroliner from WAS to NYP in 2:30. That was a fun ride! The op at B&P Junction routed us onto the (now removed) freight bypass that ran around the south side of Baltimore Penn Station, and we heeled over about 20 degrees as we diverged through the turnout. Farther north, we came to a dead stop just south of 30th Street, PHL, and I looked at my watch. 50 minutes to get to NYP for an on-time arrival. No way we'd make it.

Yes, way. I got onto the front vestibule and stood behind the engineer's cab as we raced north. Passing through Trenton, the digital speedometer read "138", and stayed there, occasionally flipping to 139, until the engineer made a big reduction as we went through the platform at New Brunswick to get us back to the MAS of 100.

We were into NYP right on time, 50 minutes from 30th Street to cover 90 miles.


Post by hsr_fan » Thu Aug 12, 2004 7:53 pm

I didn't start "railfanning" the NEC until 1991 or so, when I was a sophomore in high school. My friend George and I (both of us still railfans!) were looking for the elusive self-propelled Metroliner MU's, and were quite disappointed when we learned that we missed them by a few years! I wish I had gotten to ride on one.


Post by ntrainride » Thu Dec 16, 2004 1:03 am

Well, I think the run from 30th Street Station to Atlantic City is really fine. Day or night. I was staying in A.C. for a couple of nights about two months ago and had the pleasure of riding it back one night from a day of railfanning in Philadelphia. Surely, the line is reminiscent of a mid-western interurban ride of 60 years ago. Being used to the Long Island territory, it was a distinct pleasure to be riding (in an older but decently-kept single level railroad coach...which brought back memories of the older LIRR cars) from a huge city into...the dark countryside of central New Jersey. Wow. I didn't know about that. At night you pass through many miles of unlight darkness, only occasionally seeing lights in the distance. It was grand to behold.

Riding it, I got a weird sense sometimes that there was nothing else in the universe except this train I was on. I mean, you looked out the window at nothing but blackness. Definitely a Twillight Zone-esque train ride, one of those "final jouney by a guy who didn't know he was dead" kind of things. I had the urge to get off at one of the rural stations somewhere and stand in the woods near trackside and watch as the brightly lit windows pass by, and observe the nightime quiet once again emerge as the train faded into the gloom...

The cappa was the long approach to A.C. It really appears like Oz in the night. I was able to peek out at times through a scratched off bit of the otherwise coated window in the inner cab entry door. It was a memorable sight to behold. The lights of the city really do beckon you to approach. It benefits from the fact that it's a city on a barrier beach with only a relative few entry and exit tangents available. Adds a sense of visual drama.

I was born in Rockaway Beach, Queens, and lived near Coney Island for years, so I'm very familiar with the concept of mass-transit accessable oceanfront. The Philadelphia to Atlantic City line follows that schema, but on a macro scale. In that sense, I can think of the central flatlands of N.J. as the equivalent of the passage over Jamaica Bay for Rockaway-bound subways. All in all, I recommend going to Atlantic City from Philly at night by train. Something about it...seems against the grain of the "normal" train-travelin' dynamics that currently exist in the USA. But thank goodness it exists.

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Re: NEC Rail travel memories

Post by fauxcelt » Thu Jun 18, 2009 6:30 pm

In March 1982, I rode the train from Newport News, Virginia to Penn Station in New York City on a Friday and then I rode back to Virginia two days later on Sunday.
I bought my round trip ticket at the train station in Newport News before I boarded the train. The train was half-empty from Newport News all of the way to Washington, D.C. When we arrived in Washington, it didn't seem to take very long to switch from the diesel engine to the electric engine for the ride to New York. The empty seats began filling up at Washington and there were no empty seats after the train left Philadelphia all of the way to New York.
On Sunday, I did the reverse of this trip. I arrived at Penn Station just in time to hear the announcement of which track the train for Newport News was on and headed in that direction. The train filled up fast and there were no empty seats until after the train left Philadelphia.
Before the train left Penn Station, some blonde woman who was several years older than me sat down in the empty seat next to me and asked if this train was supposed to go all of the way to Washington and I said yes. She fell asleep as soon as the train left Penn Station and didn't wake up until the train arrived in Philadelphia. Then she moved to another seat further back in the car next to her friend and I had no one sitting next to me for the rest of the trip.
The rest of my trip was smooth and uneventful and I arrived back in Newport News that evening right on schedule.

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Re: NEC Rail travel memories

Post by atsf sp » Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:25 pm

I rode the NEC just months before the transfer to all electric. I remember riding behind an AEM-7 from New Rochelle to New Haven when the train stopped and the F40 switched in. I was staring at the new high speed track that was just laid. But what I remember the most was that my dad and I were looking for the cafe car. Our coach car was second to last on the train. We walked all the way up on the train but didn't find it. When they were switching at New Haven they allowed you out onto the platform. We looked back at the last car and it said cafe. It was the other direction.
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