Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by Pensyfan19
 
I'm not sure if this was answered in a previous topic (if so then please move it there), but why does Milford CT only have three tracks instead of four? This is the only station on the New Haven Line which does not have the four track equilibrium as its northernmost local track is missing.
  by The EGE
 
About 12 miles of the fourth main track was removed or abandoned in the 1980s. With through freight service gone and no stops between Milford and New Haven, it was apparently not deemed necessary. The eastern portion of the fourth main was restored in 2013 as part of the West Haven station project.
  by shadyjay
 
I believe it occurred during the time when Metro North signaled all tracks for bi-directional operation, during the late 80s. The amount of traffic between Devon (jct with Waterbury branch) and New Haven is not as strong as to the west. There are no branch line shuttles and the commuter volume is less, so the line could handle a reduction by 1 track. The westbound platform is actually built on the ROW for the 4th track, which retains the old station's canopy/platform area. Its actually a short platform too, only 4 or 5 cars, with the eastbound platform being rebuilt to handle normal 8 car trains.

A couple miles east of Milford station, the 4th track resumes but as a non-electrified freight "running track". There are several freight customers with spurs accessible off this track. Prior to the opening of West Haven station, the "running track" extended almost all the way to New Haven, probably around the Boulevard overpass near the West Haven line. As part of the West Haven station project, the running track was converted once again to a mainline track, electrified, and upgraded. Luckily ConnDOT and Metro North had the foresight to make West Haven's westbound platform be in its proper location along the 4th track and reactivated it for passenger service. While Milford's platform does block the fourth track, it is a short platform and could be removed/replaced if the 4th track ever becomes necessary. This is probably why it remains short, while the "outbound" platform is 8+ cars.

Outside of the aforementioned platform and an overpass or two, the 4th track ROW is intact and could be reactivated, should the need arise, with "relative" ease. But at present, no need for 4 tracks in that area. And I'm sure, if it was possible, Metro North or ConnDOT would've tried to remove more track elsewhere on the NHL, but that would have hampered operational flexibility on the busiest passenger corridor in the country. Amtrak may have also had a say in it too, as it would have lost slots had more track been yanked out.

Present bi-directional running on all tracks, vs directional running, increased MN's flexibility with dispatching and routing trains so much that they probably have more flexibility on those 3 tracks than they ever did with 4 tracks of directional.
  by MTASUPT
 
The "4th" track (Track 3) was removed due to "costs" CDOT was looking for reimbursement for changing out the stick rail to welded rail on track 3 between New Haven and Devon, including replacement of all the siding switches and CONRAIL wasn't buying into the costs. So, CDOT (Owner) decided to remove track 3 from passenger operations and re-designated track 3 Industrial 5, removing signal system from service. So effectively, CONRAIL won sole use of the track. One change was a switch at the west end by Old Gate Line (Back door switch) to get out to track 1. Initially when track 3 was removed from service, wooden platforms were erected at Milford over to track 1 to allow trains to operate track 1 but still had to get a cab drop for crossing over westbound at CP261 (Devon) going back to track 3 for Stratford.

CDOT when doing future bridge replacements also did the backwalls and seats where track 3 "used" to be between CP 266 and CP 261. Even the large bridge over Prospect Street and the Wepawaug river was rebuilt with ability to add the third track back. Then they proceeded to build the new platform over track 3 at Milford station and removed the catenary over track 3.

Eventually when they were building West Haven station they put back in track 3 between CP 271 and CP 266 and ran new rail/catenary and did the bridges and added some at speed switches.















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  by ElectricTraction
 
The way the high-level platforms at Bridgeport were built makes Bridgeport the bottleneck, as Waterbury trains are turned there. Milford has significantly more capacity with three tracks than Bridgeport has with four, considering the Waterbury trains, as well as MN and Amtrak, which currently can't service Bridgeport during rush hour.

In order to unclog the bottleneck, either Barnum Station in Bridgeport, and/or Devon Transfer station would be built. Barnum would be a full 4-track station, and Amtrak could pull out of the current Bridgeport station, leaving it solely for MN. Devon Transfer would allow some Waterbury trains to turn east for about a train length and connect to the mainline with a cross-platform transfer inbound, and an up-and-over outbound, terminating there, or continuing on to New Haven instead of Waterbury.

There's no foreseeable future where the fourth track would be of much use, even in the best case scenarios for Devon Transfer, increased Amtrak, MN Penn Access, and the cross-harbor freight tunnel, mostly due to the closure of the Poughkeepsie bridge in the 1980's that previously routed a lot of freight to Devon and Cedar Hill through that section. Increased Amtrak and Penn Access bottlenecks on CP216 SHELL Interlocking at New Rochelle if it didn't already bottleneck on CP HAROLD or Penn itself, Cross-Harbor through freight on CSX/Conrail would run at mid-day or during the night, and with Devon Transfer, the nature of having to cross all the tracks at grade headed to New Haven means that any benefit from the fourth track through Milford would likely be mostly negated, and it's only a few trains a day anyway that would likely take that route. The only possible scenario is extending a bunch of MN trains that currently terminate in Bridgeport to New Haven, but making milk-run locals that plod along at glacial speed on a line that already has 30-minute peak headways probably isn't a terribly compelling service for most riders. Luckily, CDOT did build the mainline fourth track long enough to build the Orange station with a full four tracks, so that nothing else is built in the way of the fourth track ever being fully reconnected if something were to drastically change in that area.
  by ElectricTraction
 
Also, they could squeeze some more capacity out of that section by adding parallel crossovers at CP266 if needed without adding the fourth track back, but it appears to not be needed at this point. That would allow a Westbound express to blow by a Westbound local after an Eastbound express cleared CP266 without interfering with the Westbound local. The missing fourth track now only spans a distance of 5.4 miles now that the fourth track was put back in place for the West Haven and Orange (future) stations. That 4 car platform on the north side could really use to be extended, however. Also, not directly track related, but moving the platform to replace the fourth track would likely destroy 75 parking spots at a station where parking is already a cluster.

I had the same question myself when I first saw it, I find it quite interesting. At first glance, it seems like a glaring bottleneck, until you look at the traffic flow pattern, and find out that it can't really be a bottleneck anymore, even if all of the other projects were done that would drive a little bit more traffic through that area.
  by Jeff Smith
 
ElectricTraction, we do have a thread on Devon Transfer here as well. My thoughts are that Devon Transfer would be just that; where branch trains would terminate and turn, thus not fouling the main line. It would be purely a transfer station; no parking required, with platforms on both sides of the wye, along the main line, and an overpass to a platform eastbound on the main.

I completely agree that there should be some type of Waterbury service eastbound to New Haven; CTDOT is waking up to intrastate commuting options.

To bring us back to Milford: I'm not familiar at all with the traffic at Milford, or the throughput. Certainly, a fourth track would have to help, even if not necessary.
  by ElectricTraction
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Thu May 13, 2021 8:02 amElectricTraction, we do have a thread on Devon Transfer here as well. My thoughts are that Devon Transfer would be just that; where branch trains would terminate and turn, thus not fouling the main line. It would be purely a transfer station; no parking required, with platforms on both sides of the wye, along the main line, and an overpass to a platform eastbound on the main.
Some trains would definitely terminate at Devon Transfer, that's the whole point of it, whether all of them terminate there, that depends on Barnum and other factors. It would certainly be possible to split Waterbury three ways between trains that terminate at Devon Transfer, trains that continue on to Bridgeport or even Stamford, and trains that continue to New Haven. The part that's relevant to the Milford question are the trains that would turn towards New Haven, but due to the Eastbounds crossing over at grade, and the relatively infrequent nature of the service, they just don't have much impact on a potential need for a fourth track.
I completely agree that there should be some type of Waterbury service eastbound to New Haven; CTDOT is waking up to intrastate commuting options.
It's a bit of an odd service, probably not the first thing I'd think of just looking at commuter service, but of the various potential improvements in that area, going to New Haven would be a very low-cost connection, as the trains end up turned that way at Devon Transfer anyway, and Union Station has plenty of room. Adding a bit more critical mass to SLE and Hartford Line rail access to New Haven might also be an impetus to improving transit locally around downtown, Yale, and Union Station. It would also provide more Amtrak connections to Boston, Vermont, and Washington.
To bring us back to Milford: I'm not familiar at all with the traffic at Milford, or the throughput. Certainly, a fourth track would have to help, even if not necessary.
If something is running way late, it might avoid something else occasionally having to wait a few minutes, but from a capacity perspective, the Devon-Orange section just isn't a limiting factor for anything. If more capacity were needed, that additional crossover at CP266 or possibly a few other CP reconfigurations would be a middleground solution that doesn't require demolishing half of Milford station, destroying 75 parking spots, and disrupting the switching for the construction debris loading facility in Milford. I do, however, think CTDOT/MN did the right thing with West Haven and Orange (if they ever build it) stations in that they are building them with 4 tracks, so that they don't end up blocking the 4th track if it's ever needed. The 4th track in West Haven and Orange may provide some marginal benefit as well.
  by ElectricTraction
 
The way it stands today, the NHV-STM section as a whole net gains capacity if Devon Transfer and Barnum are built- Devon-Orange still wouldn't be a limiting factor, as you pick up a whole bunch more trains in Bridgeport that have to get from Bridgeport yard into Barnum and begin their runs to GCT.