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Friday, November 18, 2016

Amtrak 2016 Autumn Express Trip Report

A couple weeks ago I rode Amtrak's  2016 Autumn Express which ran in a loop from New York to Harrisburg and back via the Lehigh Valley - Reading Valley Route on the outbound leg and the PRR Main Line on the return.  I was interested in the state of classic signaling on the route, and despite ongoing re-signaling projects I was actually pleasantry surprised.

Departing Amtrak's NEC at HUNTER, the NJT portion of the Conrail Lehigh Line retains its early 2000's Conrail style signaling.  Between CP-ALDENE and CP-PORT READING JCT the signaling is 2010 vintage from the double tracking project.  There appears to be some additional work at CP-PORT READING JCT to allow for parallel movements as there are currently THREE facing point crossovers between the two main Lehigh Line tracks.

In NS territory there are are 4 additional miles of double track to the new CP-SULLY.  A lone Conrail last stands at MP 45 as NS signals re-appear for the new passing siding between CP-51 and CP-53.  Conrail signaling resumes at CP-62 and continues through to CP-PHILLIPSBURG.  On this stretch are two surviving Lehigh Valley large target searchlights at MP 71 and MP 74!

CP-PHILLIPSBURG was re-signaled around 2010, but CP-EASTON is still Conrail, with the westbound signals mounted on a classic Lehigh Valley RR gantryleaver. Unfortunately, between there and CP-BURN the LVRR route is being completely re-signaled.  This includes the 261 section between CP-EASTON and CP-RICHARDS that encompasses a small target searchlight at MP A78.  A new crossover to replace CP-RICHARDS is going in at MP 81 just shy of another set of surviving LVRR searchlights at Mp 83.  At MP 87 there is another LVRR gantry mounted ABS searchlight, just shy of the ~2000 vintage CP-87.  CP-BETHLEHEM has been completely re-signaled as previously reported.

The Rule 251 Reading Line was untouched between CP-ALBURTIS and CP-BURN, however as was also reported, re-signaling is ongoing between CP-ALBURTIS and CP-BELT with a new set of crossover at CP-LYONS.  This will impact the Conrail signals at CP-BLANDON and the Reading signals at CP-LAUREL and CP-WEST LAUREL.

No changes were apparent on the 261 portion of the NS Harrisburg Line except for a project to reduce the length of CP-BURKE, which should impact the surviving Conrail signals there. At the turnaround point, the removed PRR PL signal was replaced by a blue doll marker on the gantry at CP-ROCKVILLE.

The new STATE interlocking was in service, although departing crossover speeds still felt a bit slow.  The new westbound Amtrak PL cantilever signals can display Approach, Approach Slow, Slow Approach and Restricting.  At CORK I saw how the ACSES PTC system enforced a positive stop on the locomotives during a shove move 14 cars after the rear of the train knocked down the displayed signal.  The engineer then had to go through the time consuming Stop release procedure.  Between there and Philly, Rule 251 is still in effect east of the new PARK interlocking.  Due to track work in BRYN MAWR interlocking we were given a rare eastbound trip down Main Line track 3 between PAOLI and OVERBROOK before heading through the old NY-Pittsburgh Subway.  It appears that the automatic signals on the Subway have been removed.  You can view a video of the Track 3 east and Subway trip here.

As I've said before, these Amtrak fall specials are a great way to check up on normally inaccessible freight railroad signaling.  I was also able to fully document the route from the rear of the train so look out for those photos in the future on my other blog.

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