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Friday, June 30, 2017

PRR Main Line Trip Report Supplemental

Well I had my plans worked out I would have been sitting on a full set of PRR Main Line signal photos taken from an eastbound run of the Pennsylvanian.  Unfortunately, due to a joy ride by a private car I was left with a bunch of side window shots and some news, so I might as well share the news.

First off, the re-signaling project has climbed the east slope and is knocking at the doors of CP-AR/CP-UN with new cantilever signal hardware delivered to CP-MG.  Not sure what NS is up to as I had figured they would have cut the new in the new signaling in stages, but for all I know they might try to get the whole thing cut over in one go. 

In a severe bit of irony, CP-ANTIS is being re-re-signaled with new cantilevers and dwarf signals supporting the Rule 562 'C' lamps.  New signals are up for both directions, which implies the auto on track 2 at CP-HOMER is on its way out.  I did not see such new signals at CP-ALTOONA, but they may not have been visible from my point of view.

CP-ROCKVILLE and the eastbound signal at CP-MARY did not have 'C' boards attached, so the segments with non-cab signaled Buffalo Line traffic will also not be getting Rule 562 installed.

While it's not the name brand PRR Main Line, the new Rule 562 segment on the Main Line, Philadelphia to Washington, so far only has 'C' boards southbound at BACON and northbound at PRINCE.  This will only means the demise of a couple of intermediate signals and is possibly a capacity expansion project on the double track segment that also sees a lot of slow freight traffic.

Well sorry for the short post, I've been real busy in the field gathering information and content.  See ya next time!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017 California Zephyr Trip Report

Time for another trip report. This will be my third time covering the California Zephyr Route after previous trips in 2012 and 2014. Unlike before I only rode the train between San Francisco and Denver, but there was quite a bit going on. However, let me begin with some Bay Area news.

On Caltrain the supplementary signal automatic signal locations have been placed in service since my last visit to the peninsula. This has resulted in some remarkably short (for North America at least) main line signal block distances. For example from Redwood City, one can count up to 6 Clear signals in a row in the southbound direction.

Over on BART, the replacement of transit type gooseneck Unilens signals has been gaining speed with the Millbrae complex having its supply replaced by generic traffic light types. However Unilens signals were still in service at a number of other locations.

In the Capitol Corridor a new station is under construction at Fairfield, CA, which will result in the replacement of a number of SP style target signals, however the remainder, including the searchlights at DAVIS, appear to be safe.

The CTC is now active on the Roseville Sub between Colfax and Switch 9, however no new interlockings have been added and a number of the old ABS signals have been left alongside the RoW with the heads turned.

Over the Donner Summit, classic signaling remains in service between Shed 10 and Norden. Elsewhere old SP signal bridges have been generally left in place. This is also true along the old reverse running section between Truckee and Reno with almost all the old center mount signal bridges having been left in place.

All searchlights on the Nevada Sub have been replaced, however the SP tri-lights are safe. WESO interlocking and the Elko sub have been re-signaled, however it appears that the old single direction ABS tracks have been converted to bi-directional ABS. Old SP and WP ABS masts have been removed.

On the former DRG&W route, everything has been resignaled except the stretch between Green River and Grand Jct. This retains the 1960's era DRG&W CTC and pole line. This is all the more remarkable as replacement signals have been up since 2012! However the seemingly safe stretches of searchlight signals on the Moffatt Tunnel Sub have been replaced. On approach to Denver both Utah Jct and Fox have retained classic Rio Grand signaling.

Finally, the new Denver RTD commuter rail uses a Metro North style Rule 562 system with *G* Cab Speed signals placed only at interlockings. Cab signal speeds are Restricting, 15, 30, 45, 60 and MAS with 15 being given departing terminals and Restricting heading into them. This indicates use of a 50ppm slow speed code instead of just relying on a 0 ppm code in all slow speed situations. Also, Amtrak LD trains using tracks 4 and 5 in Denver Union Station only get *R* Restricted Proceed entering the terminal interlocking from non-RTD tracks.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

PRR Main Line Trip Report

Well I just got back from a trip surveying the old PRR Main Line between Huntington and Lewistown and I have a few updates to share regarding the extent of the re-signaling project and other related news.  First, to summarize, new NS Darth Vader signals and Rule 562 operation is going in on the PRR Main Line between CP-BANKS and CP-ANTIS.  Nothing about that has changed, although I did notice the following details.

First, at CP-HUNT, new signals are up, but the PTC antenna is not, so there is still a bit of work to do.  The pneumatic point machines are still in place with no sign of replacement, so that's good.  The adjacent HUNT tower is now signed as the home for the local Chamber of Commerce with no mention of the museum that should be located there, so that was a bit worrying.

In terms of modifications, the new eastbound cantilever at CP-HUNT has been placed several hundred feet east of the existing PRR PL masts where they are visible around the curve.  I suspect that thanks to cab signals and PTC, NS is less worried about signal sight lines than Conrail had been.

The MP 200 automatics, seen above in 2009, had a fresh coat of paint, just in time for them to be removed for the Rule 562 operation.

The westbound dwarf at CP-JACKS is getting replaced by a cantilever mounted, slow speed, high signal, but adjacent to the signal bridge was an old school signal power transformer mounted on a short pole, complete with PCB stickers and everything!

An interesting feature that I first saw at CP-HAWSTONE also turned up at CP-McVEY and CP-LONG.  This is the use of the old pneumatic air line to deliver gas to the direct burner point heaters.  It does not appear that this system is being retired.  Also, the old air-line at CP-JACKS was still in place, even though those air switches were removed over a decade ago.

I can also confirm that new signal equipment appears to be going in all the way up to CP-ANTIS so anyone who wants pics at CP-TUNNEL, CP-GRAY and the famous Fostoria signals, better go get your photos soon.

Finally, on a different PRR Main Line, the one between Philadelphia and Washington, Rule 562 'C' boards have appeard at interlockings between PRINCE and REGAN, inclusive.  It looks like Amtrak will be re-signaling the "commuter free" zone, possibly for higher Acela Express speeds.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Relay the Hut

Ever since the demise of towers, railroads have needed a dry, climate controlled place to house the relays and other sensitive electronics that run the remotely controlled interlockings.  Since their first appearance in the 1920's and 30's, they have evolved quite a bit over the ensuing century.  This post will attempt to show some general trends in relay hut (or bungalow) design.

The earliest solutions involved building mini-buildings out of brick, cinder blocks or poured concrete.  These buildings would have climate control in the form of small heating plants and often a work area for C&S employees.  The building above at CP-HOLTWOOD on the port road also housed an air plant for the pneumatic switches.

This more modest concrete design was a favorite of the PRR during its 1930's CTC projects.  Here at CP-SHOCKS, the walls are poured slabs.

Moving on to the 1950's it became apparent that building solid walled little buildings might be a little overkill.  While a prefabricated approach was sought, the state of the art still involved a poured concrete foundation even if the walls and roof were of lighter sheet metal.  This hut adjacent to COLA tower was actually a C&S workshop, however it is similar in construction to early CTC huts used by the Santa Fe and others.

Here is a smaller version of the hut at COLA used for the 1950's Buffalo Line CTC project.  The builder's plate pretty much says it all.

The 1950's also brought the pre-fabricated concrete structure made from pre-poured concrete panels.  These examples are from the Reading and Erie railroads respectively.

Concrete mini-huts were also popular on a number of western roads like the SP and ATSF.  Note the raised footings that represented a lower cost innovation over the solid poured foundation and also indicate that these were indeed pre-fab structures.