• Pittsfield - New York City Service Study (via Albany)

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Greg Moore
I like this idea because it ties into 2 other ideas I've had and the fact that it's a fairly simple and I think realistic plan.

First, this ties back to my thread about expanding NYP-ALB service with extending some current Empire trains (ala what they've been doing in Virginia).

I think the current Empire Service trainsets are utilized enough it's not really possible, but if you had an additional trainset, especially perhaps on the weekend, you turn a NB train at ALB on the wye and send it to Pittsfield. I understand the wye now permits passengers on all legs. So, this works w/o needing a push-pull setup (though that's another possibility).

If NYS gets in on this deal, then they should add a stop in Chatham. Again, it's a weekend only stop, so don't need to much right away.

The second has been that I think the away for CT to get into the game is ignore the whole fantasy of multiple trains a day up the Housatonic and again start with just one train on weekends. There's a lot of weekenders that would prefer a straight shot up to the Berkshires instead of taking MNRR to Wassaic and then picking up their car.

Combine these two, and you have a "loop" that should get decent weekend traffic. And of course with more trains, you spread out your fixed costs of the station a bit more.

But the key is to start with something that's simple and realistic. Weekend/holiday only trains I think fits that bill. We're a long ways from multiple daily trains between Pittsfield and Albany or even Pittsfield and Springfield.
BUT, I do think we're headed in that direction.
  by scoostraw
What if you added an east side leg to the "wye" at the Castleton bridge and run the trains that way?

This would omit Rensselaer of course.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
No need to. The reverse at ALB does not chew up enough time to seriously affect this schedule. It slots within the same timed layover they do there all-day/every-day for engine swaps and splitting/combining the two halves of the Lake Shore Limited. Ops-wise this is old hat @ ALB.
  by Greg Moore
Well, it definitely would be faster Pittsfield to NYP, but you also lose out the relatively large catchment basin of Albany.

So I think it's worth taking the time hit to do Pittsfield->ALB-(Y)-NYP.
  by Noel Weaver
The only thing that will bring an acceptable level of reliable rail passenger service would be a huge bundle of cash to upgrade the tracks between Danbury and Pittsfield and I am talking huge funds here. I don't think Connecticut is really interested in anything above New Milford and I doubt if Massachusetts could handle the rest of the work needed. Running via Albany or Post Road makes no sense no matter how you run it. It will involve CSX going along with this scheme, much single track operation and track that no matter what shape it is in will not be anything near the speeds permitted on the nearby expressways.
I have said this before but I guess it bears repeating, the best way to serve the Berkshires and Pittsfield is to connect at Wassaic via Hillsdale and route 23 to Great Barrington and US-7 to Pittsfield. These roads are not fast but even if the railroad was in good shape it would not be fast here either. You could provide multiple trips a day at far less cost than trying to run one train a day from New York to Pittsfielde no mater what you use for a route. I would prefer a through train like everybody else but I doubt if it would come cloee to meeting expenses and providing any funds for the Housatonic Railroad under the present ownership/management would be a total waste of money in every respect.
You could compare this to the Cape Flyer but the Cape Flyer runs over an already reasonable piece of trackage some of which has daily passenger service and most is in at least reasonable condition. The Cape Flyer does well because it runs when it is needed the most and is a good by-pass of traffic congestion. This congestion is not nearly as bad in the Berkshires. Again I like passenger trains, rode most of them, but in this case buses would do a better job providing good service at less cost.
Noel Weaver
  by Backshophoss
If HRRC had not such a mess of the of the former NH route from Danbury,Pittsfield -Albany-NYP would have been a moot point.
getting Amtrak,MN and ConnDOT to play along would be easier than Amtrak-NYSDOT-MassDOT-EHH controlled CSX!
Believe MassDOT has some control of the former NH route,ConnDOT controls New Milford-Berkshire Jct as a commuter service
expansion,leaving HRRC "landlocked" in the middle. Finding a way to remove HRRC from there is the "key" to bring back
weekend/seasonal service to Pittsfield from the south.

Should be noted that MassDOT/MBTA have too many irons in the fire right now,Inland route return to service and "T West" commuter
service Springfield-Greenfield among them.
  by scoostraw
Backshophoss wrote:Finding a way to remove HRRC from there is the "key" to bring back
weekend/seasonal service to Pittsfield from the south.
How healthy is HRRC financially?
  by Greg Moore
Let's just say when I think of the HRRC and finances, I tend to think of the Monty Python skit about a dead parrot.

That said, while I appreciate Mr. Weaver's particular experience and familiarity in this particular area, I have to disagree.

I for personal reasons, have often preferred the HRRC route, but do not see it as particularly feasible as long as HRRC is in place. That said, even without that impediment, it's never going to be a fast route. It's just too curvy.

It also most likely would require coordination between MNRR, two states and possibly Amtrak. That's a lot of balls to juggle.

The ALB/Pittsfield route is most certainly slower because of the extra mileage and reverse move, but on the other hand, much of that route is going to be far faster than the HRRC will ever be.

While cars will always be faster, I think the focus on that overlooks the growing youth demographic who are far less likely to want to rely on car ownership and would be willing to sacrifice that for relaxing on the train and then taking local mass transit or Uber while at their final destination. The Wassiac option is already there and people use it, but has certain inconveniences. In many cases it either requires a two car family, with one car sitting in a parking lot for a week, or in a one-car family, one member to make the drive from Pittsfield (or points south) and back twice a week (once for pickup on Friday and once for dropoff on Sunday or Monday morning.) The former is wasteful and the latter disruptive for a family with kids.

Also, while the ALB/Pittsfield route does require coordination with CSX, Amtrak has experience doing that already, firstly with their contract taking over the section south of Albany and already dealing with them in regards to the LSL.

Note again, the current proposal is essentially I think just 2 trains a week, one Friday, one either Sunday or Monday. It's a VERY limited proposal.

BTW, I just noticed, if you look at the photo about 1/2 way down the article, it DOES seem to suggest an east-bound leg of the wye near Castleton is proposed.

And wow, drilling down, I just discovered the person proposing this plan in fact IS suggesting just that! Sporn Plan with a map..

Now, here's a completely different fantasy... never going to happen but one that may bring back memories for Mr. Weaver:
Restore service north of Wassiac through Millerton but rather than north the Chatham, bring back the old CNRR route through Lakeville and back to North Canaan and then go north from there.

That said, never going to happen between most of that ROW has been consumed and the diamond at North Canaan would need to be completely restored. But there's a fantasy for you :-)
  by Backshophoss
Believe HRRC is barely alive at times,but have ex-guildford exec's "in charge",possible intention is to leave the trackage they use as
"scorched earth" if and when they leave. :( :( They ask for $$$$ to maintain track,but it disappears somewhere else than in track repairs.

The NH-PC service was a friday night extension of one of the Danbury thru trains from GCT to Pittsfield, RDC from Danbury to Pittsfield RT
on Sat,the thru train returned sun afternoon.
Not sure if there was a crew change at Danbury,Pittsfield was part of the NE region of PC,the Division post was at Danbury passenger station
tracks,Danbury yard was on the NE region "side" for freight back then.
  by Noel Weaver
In so far as crews were concerned the following applied up to day one of Penn Central. Weekdays there was no passenger service north of Danbury except on Friday evening when 144 went through to Pittsfield. Train 144 on Friday the train crew changed at Danbury to a Berkshire Roster train crew. The Berkshire train crew returned south on Saturday morning on 141 and ran the train through to New York. They laid over all day in New York and returned to Danbury Saturday evening on 152 later changed to 148.
The Sunday round trip out of New York trains 138 and 147 had a New York Division extra crew and that train crew ran through from New York to Pittsfield and returned on 147 Sunday evening. Engine crews were always changed at Danbury with Shore Line crews between New York and Danbury and Western crews between Danbury and Pittsfield. I had 140 and 143 Monday - Saturday and 138 and 147 on Sunday between New York and Danbury for a good period of time around 1967 or so. Occasionally they would not have a Western fireman to relieve me at Danbury and I would work the job through to Pittsfield and back to Danbury and New York. The hours of service law was 16 hours at that time so I had enough time to do the job and we had rest at Pittsfield anyway. It was a long winded job but a good job.
After Penn Central took over and changed the operation north of Danbury to a Budd Car all conductors changed at Danbury on all of these trains. This continued right up to day one of Amtrak. The last train to Pittsfield was on a Friday evening and upon arrival at Pittsfield the same crew deadheaded the Budd Car back to Danbury that evening to end it all.
Noel Weaver
  by J.D. Lang
Believe MassDOT has some control of the former NH route,ConnDOT controls New Milford-Berkshire Jct as a commuter service
expansion,leaving HRRC "landlocked" in the middle. Finding a way to remove HRRC from there is the "key" to bring back
weekend/seasonal service to Pittsfield from the south.
Housatonic owns the line from Berkshire Jct. to Boardmans Bridge just north of NM. CDOT owns from there to the CT/MA state line with Housatonic having operational rights. As far as Connecticut goes they need to buy the Berkshire to Boardmans and the Maybrook and get MN extended to New Milford. I can’t see where any of the money would come from to bring trains to Pittsfield via the Berkshire.

I agree with others that Pittsfield is not an ideal destination for trains from NYP –Albany-Pittsfield via the Post Road. Now maybe sometimes in the future one might consider running another daily train from Albany to Springfield or Boston if and when the inland corridor is established. Since MDOT now owns the Berkshire line in Mass. maybe someone like Berkshire scenic could run a connecting Friday eve/Sunday afternoon train to the tourist areas of Lenox, Stockbridge, and GT. Barrington

As an aside the mention about the Casselton Cutoff; I remember taking 448 years ago to Pittsfield from out west and we had to make the famous “Roger Lewis” backup move off of the Hudson line up the cutoff to the B&A almost on to the bridge so we could continue east. When Lewis was president of Amtrak he did not intercede when (Conrail)? ripped up the Post Road. Years later it was replaced at great expense just for 449/448.

J. Lang
  by ExCon90
As I recall it, Conrail (or PC--I can't remember either whether this was before or after 1976, but I think it might have been PC) had no use for the Post Road connection since everything moved to and from Selkirk and told Amtrak that if they wanted it they could buy it, otherwise Conrail (or PC?) would tear it up. Since Lewis was put in charge of Amtrak primarily to oversee the demise of the passenger train, there was no point in Amtrak's acquiring the line.

At the time the "Roger Lewis" move was implemented I fantasized about a possible announcement for display at Albany:

Electrically Lighted Throughout
  by Backshophoss
Believe the Post Road connector was ripped out by PC after the "Lake Shore" 403b experiment ended in Jan 1972.
Lake Shore Ltd was brought back in 1975,with the "reverse move" to/from Boston on the Castleton connection from the B&A Main.
The Post Road connector was 1 of the first ROWs bought by Amtrak from the PC remains
  by Ridgefielder
I've said this before elsewhere, but I think it bears repeating: New York City is unique in the US in having a large population of well-to-do families-- the sort of people who can afford a weekend house-- who either a) don't own a car at all or b) only have one for the entire family. And more than a few of them still hold to the old pattern of sending the wife & kids to the country/beach/wherever for a few weeks in the summer, while the father spends Mon-Thurs nights in the city and joins the family on Friday night. There is definitely a market for summertime Friday-pm-out, Sunday-pm (or Monday-am) back service if its done right. There's a reason the Long Island Rail Road, of all people, operates the last regularly-scheduled train in the US to carry a drumhead.

I'm not saying that running a train from NY to Pittsfield via Albany and Chatham is the right way to do it, mind you. But I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. You might be able to get some NY politicians on board with the idea, particularly if you add a stop at Chatham.
  by Greg Moore
Exactly. We always called them weekenders (at least in polite company. The time one wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper suggesting the locals shouldn't shop on Friday evening because they got in the way of their weekend shopping generated a few more names.)

Wassaic has a HUGE parking lot that is fairly full with cars parked all week.
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