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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Metro North Resignaling Project Progress

The Port Jervis Line  has been the bastard stepchild of the Metro-North Commuter Railroad since it was formed in 1983.  Formerly part of the Erie railroad, the PJL terminated in Jersey City and was therefore a rather imposing river removed from the rest of the MNRR operations into Grand Central.  In fact, unlike the East of Hudson services which all operated on tracks owned by the State of NY, at first under contract as Penn Central/Conrail's "Metropolitan Division" and later under the MTA owned Metro North, the PJL's track was owned by Erie successor Conrail (and later Norfolk Southern) as its Southern Tier Line, with the actual passenger service being operated a New Jersey Transit.

While through the 1990's the Southern Tier saw significant traffic as Conrail's only doublestack cleared line out of the New York region, once other routes opened up traffic fell off dramatically with all through traffic ending at the beginning of the Norfolk Southern era.  This left NS to maintain a line it really didn't want which is one of the conditions that leads to preserved signaling.  Around 2005 NS finally sold the line to MNRR which promised to improve service on the line as a way to keep Rockland and Orange counties paying taxes to the MTA.  Of course nothing came of these promises until about 2010 when $300 was allocated for track and signal improvements.  Then Hurricane Sandy hit and caused numerous washouts which of course delayed the planned improvements even further.

Foundations for new signals and relay huts are going in at CP-STERLING in Sloatsburg, NY, which is the west end of Rule 251 ABS  operation.

Anyway, it is now 2014 and for good or for ill the long planned signaling improvements are finally being installed to replace the Erie/Conrail pole line based CTC and ABS signaling.  I have heard that the pole line had become so problematic that it could often take 20 minutes or more for an NJT dispatcher to have his requested route actually display so it is no surprise that a big part of the upgrade was a fiber optic CTC line (which of course got washed out in many places by the Hurricane).  NJT's current state of the art is NORAC standard Rule 562 operation (cab signals without wayside signals except at interlockings) and this is what they installed on the other partly "MNRR West of Hudson" Pascack Valley Line.  However on the PVL MNRR is putting a bit more of its stamp on the hardware with non-darth traffic light signals instead of NJT's target type signals.

Here are some of the new signals, equipped with the 562 'C' boards behind the Erie/Conrail searchlights at CP-OV in Ottisville, NY where two tracks shrink down to 1 through the Ottisville Tunnel.

The project extends all the way to CP-BC in Port Jervis, NY where currently the single 261 track starting at CP-OV once again becomes two Rule 251 tracks. 

At CP-BC 562 will end as evidenced by the lack of 'C' board for westbound movements.  Hopefully the Erie vintage ABS bracket mast in the little of the Port Jervis Yard will be spared.  Note the "lowest yellow" type Restricting indication at CP-BC which was employed by the Erie signal rules.

This is the oldest signaling still remaining on both the NJT and Metro North systems.  It is a shame to see it go, but thanks to all sorts of factors it probably lasted a good 10 years beyond when it really should have been replaced.

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