Saturday, December 24, 2011

Avoiding Delusions and Deception in Public Infrastructure Costs

The basic reason to restore rail passenger service to the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line is to provide a transportation alternative to highway and air. Restored rail passenger service means a lessening of a virtual reliance upon the highway. Restored rail passenger service will lessen highway congestion. Restored rail passenger service will create an alternative to air service.

What has been described implements established engineering and technology. There is nothing innovative in what is proposed.

But, restoring Pittsburgh to Harrisburg rail passenger service should not be confused with the infamy of cost overruns of megaprojects.

Here is an interesting summary of notorious infrastructure cost overruns. The article, from the Atlantic Magazine helpfully makes recommendations for avoiding delusions and deceptions in planning and funding large infrastructure projects.

The Delusion and Deception in Megaproject Cost Estimates

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Current Alignment Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Best Schedule

I was able in February of 2010 to have a member of the Talgo organization’s engineering staff review a copy of the Norfolk Southern’s track charts for the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line.

Talgo is a firm with decades of experience with pendular suspended rail passenger equipment that makes it possible to operate rail passenger service at higher speeds than normal passenger equipment not using pendular suspension. Talgo has built equipment for American service. Currently, Talgo has provided equipment being used between  Seattle, OR to Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA to Portland to Eugene, OR.

The Talgo staffer  made a calculation  westbound, mile for mile, of the speeds that could be maintianed on the existing alignment and super elevation of the outside rail on curves. It was assumed that signal spacing and road crossing protection would be adapted as required for the higher speeds. There appeared to be no problem with current signal spacing. Road grade crossings posed another problem. There are about 30 public crossings. Half the public crossings have active protection. Active protection means flashing signals and / or lowered crossing barriers. Also between the two cities are 40 private road crossings. Private crossings do not have active protection.

The distance between the Pittsburgh Amtrak station and the Harrisburg Amtrak station is 254 miles. However, the actual average mile is 5194.5 feet. This average length computation results from the fact that actual distances between mile posts range from 3947 feet to as long as 6451 feet. This lack of a uniform length per mile results from 157 years of engineering and maintenance history. So, the actual distance in 5280 foot miles is 249.9 miles.

An average potential speed for each mile was created. To do so, the speed leaving a prior mile with the maximum permitted in the next mile was compared. Track geometry and the capability of Talgo equipment were considered in context. If the new mile’s speed was higher than the entry speed a table developed by Talgo was used to determine how much available acceleration could be able to increase the speed in the time and distance available. A braking rate of 3 mph a second was assumed. ROugh approximations of where speed changes would begin and end were made. A weighted average of the entry and exit speeds were used to calculate the time needed to cover each mile assuming a 5194.5 foot mile.

Talgo could lessen the current 5 hour 30 minute schedule to 4 hours 10 minutes. The 4 hour 10 minute schedule retains the current schedule cushion of 34 minutes.

The rough estimate for Talgo equipment and the required maintenance facility would be about $40 million.

To upgrade the crossings for higher speed operations would be in the neighborhood of $15 million.

The Talgo staffer made some assumptions as to the probable fare for the Pittsburgh to HArrisburg line. Acela service on the North East corridor is the fastest service. Acela passengers pay a fare premium for the faster service. If that fare premium assumption were applied at 50% of what it is for Acela to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line, a remarkable payback is possible.

Now, if there were a dedicated passenger track were the length of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line, the 34 minute schedule pad could be eliminated. A 3 hour 36 minute schedule is within the  realm of possibility with Talgo.

Google Maps computes a 3 hour 45 schedule time for the trip from the Pittsburgh Amtrak station to the Harrisburg Amtrak station using the Parkway East out of Pittsburgh to the Turnpike at Monroeville. After driving the Turnpike across the Alleghenies, Google Maps has the motorist leave the Turnpike at Harrisburg West exit using Route 581 into Harrisburg. The assumption made by Google Maps to declare a 3 hour 45 driving time is to assume satisfactory conditions for the time assumed.

The reality is that there will be a delay at the Squirrel Hill tunnel. There will be another delay at the Monroeville interchange. The unrelieved excitement of driving over the Alleghenies will often as not be accompanied with bad weather, truck congestion and the pleasure of driving over stretches of unaltered alignments from original construction in 1940. Admittedly the stretch past Donegal was rebuilt. The road was widened a few miles on either side of Somerset. The Allegheny Tunnel had an additional two lanes added with a new approach from the east that’s a tribute to highway engineering in the 1960‘s. That interchange at Bedford is the same alignment today as the day it was opened in 1940. Entering the road eastbound from Bedford now has the added excitement of enormous traffic volume bearing down upon a functionally obsolete, too short entry ramp. The road was rebuilt east of Bedford over Sidling Hill and Rays Hill but once over that, it is 1940 the whole way to Harrisburg West. It might be a better experience in a 1940 Packard.?!? East of Rays Hill to and  through Tuscarora, Kittatinny and Blue Mountain tunnels, the only difference is that the tunnels are now 4 lanes rather than th original 2 lanes. Otherwise, its 1940 for most of the trip to Harrisburg West interchange. Once off at Harrisburg West driving to Route 581, there is a strong likelihood for a delay.
The point of this is that a 3 hour 45 driving time is a possible time, not a probable time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let's Get Back to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg

Pittsburgh is part of the Great Lakes megaregion ( some 54 million census),  being at its southeastern end.

Harrisburg is part of the North East megaregion ( some 50 million census),  being at its western end.

Connecting the two megaregions with improved and restored rail passenger service will provide for anticipated economic growth. For all essential purposes, highway and air modes are today saturated or nearly saturated.

When Jean Gottman in 1961 published the book, Megalopolis, he described the continuous city from Washington, DC to Philadelphia to New York to Boston. He described the phenomenon of a continuous band of light that could be observed from the air at night created by a megalopolis, a chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas.The the description  of a megalopolis was unique then to the North East. Today that is no longer the case. The USA has 11 megaregions.  (See: )

The importance to restoring passenger rail service to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg is that it is is a first step in connecting the Great Lakes megaregion with the North East megaregion with an alternative to highway and air.

Probably, Pittsburgh has more need for restored passenger rail service from Cleveland to Youngstown to  New Brighton to Pittsburgh to Greensburg to Latrobe and Johnstown. Certainly, the Great Lakes megaregion extends through Pittsburgh to Greensburg.  On the east, the probable most immediate need for restored rail passenger service is Huntingdon to Lewistown to Harrisburg. Rail service from Huntingdon to Lewistown to Harrisburg would support the transient student population at the State College. Huntingdon and Lewistown are the closest points to State College on the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line.

In order to attain Cleveland to Youngstown to New Brighton to Pittsburgh, an interstate effort is required. Accomplishing Pittsburgh to Harrisburg restoration is  intrastate and simpler. However, what is needed is restored passenger rail service that is interstate from the east coast to the midwest. By restoring passenger rail service rail service from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, a significant part of restoring rail passenger service from the east coast to the midwest will be accomplished.

Long distance passenger trains have a certain passenger load that travels the length of the trains route.
A substantial portion of the fares are for intermediate travel along a long distance train's route. The existence of a long distance train will create demand in unexpected ways for intermediate travel.

The emphasis for this blog has been Pittsburgh to Harrisburg.  But Pittsburgh is closer to the Washington, DC and Baltimore sections of the North East megaregion via the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line now owned by CSX than via the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line. Restoring rail passenger service to that line would be a significant transport asset for Pittsburgh. As in restoring rail passenger service to Cleveland, the problem is that it is interstate.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Creative Way to Pay for Non-Oil Based Transportation - Electrification

"World trade Organization (WTO) rules allow a nation with a long term structural trade deficit (And the United States certainly qualifies!) to place unilateral tariff on all "non-essential" imports so long as the proceeds from the tariff are used exclusively to reduce the structural trade deficit and there is no preferential treatment in the application of the tariff.'

'Oil imports are a major part of the "long term structural trade deficit" of the United States of America. This plan, railroad electrification, will reduce US imports by substantial amounts. Therefore, a substantial fraction of the government costs to implement this plan could be financed by a 1% to 2% tariff on a broad range of imports.'

'The initial reaction from foreign governments may not be positive, but our diplomats can assure them that this new tariff:

      1. is according to WTO rules. In fact, this is precisely why the exemption exists.
      2. will be effective in reducing US competition for available oil exports, which is very much in        
          the self interest of oil importers and even oil exporters.
      3. will be effective in reducing US carbon emissions, which is everyone's interest.'

'And furthermore, it is the only politically possible way that the US will do anything meaningful about either oil consumption or Climate Change. Thus, it is in their enlightened self interest to not object to the US financing part of the program with a broad but small tariff on imports. And if the tariff is implemented according to WTO rules, they have no other recourse under international law."

See: "An American Citizen's Guide to an Oil-Free Economy. A How-to Manual for Ending Oil Dependency with Valuable Bonus Information on Saving Our Economy, Our Planet and Strengthening Our National Security," by Alan S. Drake:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some Thoughts About Electrification

The Keystone Corridor East, Harrisburg to Philadelphia is electrified. That it is electrified allows for an the integration and utilization of Amtrak equipment used on the Northeast Corridor.

What would happen if the American freight railroad system were electrified? How would electrification of the Keystone Corridor West benefit the restoration of passenger rail service Pittsburgh to Harrisburg?

Our oil based transportation system is a substantial problem to the country’s defense and preparedness. An elegant solution is to create a parallel non-oil based transportation system using proven, decades old technology. Such a system would be based upon electrifying the American freight railroad system. That is something better than what the country has. Until it is created, we will remain on an oil based treadmill.

What would a parallel, that is, a non-oil based transportation system alongside that of the existing oil based transportation system do?

First, electrifying the American freight railroads would create a transport system not vulnerable to interruptions of oil supply.

Second, in the event of months or years long interruptions, an electrified non-oil based transportation system would allow the American economy to function.

Third, electrifying the freight railroads would increase their capacity and their line haul speed capability.

Fourth, an electrified railroad will use remarkably less BTU’s to do the same transportation function as the oil based transportation system. That would translate into lower costs for freight and passenger transport service.

(Note: The proposal to create a national defense, non-oil based transportation system by electrifying the freight railroads can be found at )

When consideration is given to the self evident national defense defect caused by the oil based transportation, that by itself is argument enough to undertake the electrification project. While there have not been months long interruptions to oil supply for decades, the probability for an interruption continues. The interruption might not be by a government’s hostile action but by worldwide competition for oil resources. Or, a severe hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico could create the bottleneck. Whatever way our oil supply might be impaired, our reliance upon an oil based transportation system is nonsensical.

It is anticipated that the American freight railroad system will begin to develop bottlenecks by 2020. If nothing is done to increase capacity, by 2035 there will be severe problems in operating the freight railroads. The rule of thumb is that electrification creates a 15% increase in railroad capacity. It is accomplished by faster operating speeds and a more effective braking ability.

With electrification, freight speeds would then be compatible with passenger speeds. What does this mean? In 2004 the BNSF Railroad and the CSX Railroad attempted to operate a higher speed intermodal service for United Parcel Service Company, from coast to coast. The service was to be operated at passenger train speed. The upshot in 2004 was that with current freight train density, the addition of a higher speed train adversely affected normal freight operations. The best efforts of BNSF and CSX together with existing freight density could not avoid an operational quagmire for those companies. The UPS service had to be abandoned.

Another example of the difficulty to restore rail passenger service are the findings of the 2003 Woodside Consulting Company’s study for the NS Corporation and PennDOT for additional passenger trains between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, the Keystone Corridor West. The study found that in order not to interfere with an average 104 freight trains a day, and to accommodate 3 additional trains, 6 round trips; 66 miles of track would be required to be relaid. Even with that, there would be no increase in speed for the trip. The current speed is 30 minutes shorter than it was a 100 years ago.

Electrification would create a freight railroad system that is compatible and capable of supporting restored passenger rail services.
It has become apparent that the approach to restoring rail passenger service is disconnected from the fundamental difference from other world railroad systems: The American system is privately owned. It is FREIGHT. Freight is the distinguishing basis of the American railroad system.

Electrification means there would not be interference with the purpose of American railroads: FREIGHT. Electrification means compatibility and new opportunities. Whether restored rail passenger service in various corridors is a public or public - private partnership or conceivably a private investment; it is unlikely to happen without the private enterprise owners of the American railroad system being given sufficient incentives for the job. Frankly, the incentives must be dramatic and as such, must be, to get the job done. And, this is an economic incentive that needs to be done for its near term and future benefits.

How much would electrification cost? Using the estimates from Penn Design of the University of Pennsylvania’s 2010 study for creating a new 220 MPH capable high speed railroad from Boston to Washington, a rough estimate was $6 million a mile for two tracks. That estimate included catenary, substations, signals, motive power conversion, grade crossing upgrades and highway grade separation where needed. In comparison, the rule of thumb by PennDOT is that rebuilding a mile of interstate highway costs $10 million and building a new mile of interstate  averages $20 million.

Electrification would facilitate the restoration of rail passenger service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, the Keystone Corridor West. Such an electrification project would be a first step in the electrification of a national electrification of the freight railroad lines in order to set the stage for restored passenger rail services. The high speed passenger services in Europe and Japan were built upon a foundation of conventional speed service and higher speed (125 mph) services.  With restored rail passenger services, conventional and higher speeds, an effective feeder system would be created to support an actual high speed rail service with 220 mph capability in Pennsylvania and the country.

Best of all, it would be a non-oil based transportation system prepared for an interruption to oil supply.

Market for Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Restored Rail Service

In 1986 something called the Pennsylvania High Speed Intercity Rail Passenger Commission existed.  Parsons Brinckerhoff Gannett Fleming in July of 1986 prepared a study called "Pennsylvania High Speed Rail Feasibility Study - Market Demand." The study made an estimate of market demand assuming a 180 mph high speed passenger railroad service from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. . The study also assumed market demand for a 250 mph maglev service from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

The study used 8900 completed questionaires and focus groups with 200 participants.

Conclusion was that there was adequate market demand for 180 mph rail service or 250 mph maglev service.

A couple of years ago a copy of the report was secured. Amazingly, there was no  consideration of the practicality for the construction of either services, rail or maglev.  The report did provide some maps showing in the broadest, most gross manner with simple lines of where such services might be constructed.

So, it is little wonder that the study found that should such service levels have had existed, there would be adequate market demand!?!

Maglev comment. Nice idea. Impractical. No large scale maglev system exists in the world as long as the distance from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia then or now. Even if a demonstrated long distance maglev system existed, its inherent defect would be that it stands alone. The only easy transition from a maglev type of transportation mode is the act of a passenger walking onto or off the maglev vehicle. The proven technology of high speed railroad systems allows for utilization of existing conventional rail lines into and out of city terminals.

Probably the most telling of the quality of the study was the group photograph of the commission. The members and staff look like a haphazard group of tourists visiting the 1906 Pennsylvania capital building.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


When will passenger rail service be restored to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line?

Daily Air Passenger Count Pittsburgh

I have notes from ten year old data that I found several months ago. Now I cannot find the source of the notes. What is important though is that the notes show that for the city pairs of Pittsburgh to New York and Pittsburgh to Philadelphia the average number of passengers daily were 1504 and 775.

Assume that 20 per cent of those passengers (445 passengers) could be attracted to a Pittsburgh - Harrisburg - Philadelphia- New York service.  Assume that 3 additional trains were added to Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. Those core former air passengers would be a foundation for the additional service.

Would Pittsburgh - Harrisburg- Philadelphia - New York be near air competitive. Consider that with pendular suspended passenger equipment designed to cope with curvature at higher speeds than conventional passenger equipment, a Pittsburgh to Harrisburg schedule can be 4 hours from the current 5.5 hours. As the schedule from Harrisburg to New York is 2.5 hours, the new schedule would be 6.5 hours. That is near air competitive in time city center to city center.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Rail Service - Historic Summary

1910....30 daily passenger trains.  Schedule time 6.0 hours.

1950....50 daily passenger trains.  Schedule time 5.0 hours.

2010.....2  daily passenger trains.  Schedule time 5.5 hours.

In 1910 the PRR passenger trains were equipped with wooden cars and pulled by steam locomotives. 1910 saw the implementation of steel railroad cars as the Hudson River tunnels had been completed into Manhattan with the opening of Penn Station. Initially only trains entering the Hudson River tunnels would have been of steel construction. 1910 was the transition year from wood to steel. The highway system was largely unpaved. Few households owned automobiles. A robust electric trolley, interurban street railway system blanketed the USA and Pennsylvania. That robust system began to decline coincidentally with the success of the Ford Model T with the Great Depression finishing the once comprehensive trolley and interurban services. In Pennsylvania in 1911 there were 43,282 registered motor vehicles in Pennsylvania. By 1917 there were 349,720 registered motor vehicles in Pennsylvania delivering regional, county wide transportation. The PRR schedule from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg could be accomplished in 6.0 hours.

The high point number for daily passenger trains was reached in the 1950's. As the highway system was then paved. The momentum for creating a highway system began in 1903 with the establishment of the Highway Department. When young Captain Dwight David Eisenhower in 1919 was part of a truck capability demonstration from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco the Lincoln Highway, Route 30, across Pennsylvania was paved.  That was one of the few places in the United State with cross country pavement. The impetus of the average family acquiring an automobile begun in the decade of 1910 created the demand for paved roads. This set the competitive stage for private automobiles to replace the trolley and interurban companies.

In 1950 the passenger trains were, of course, all composed of steel passenger cars. The transition of of locomotive power from steam to diesel power was complete. There were some local services on the PRR still being operated with steam after 1950 such as the Long Branch, New Jersey service on which the last steam passenger locomotive in use was retired in 1956. That locomotive is currently in the custody of the Railroaders Memorial Museum at Altoona. The generation of steam power introduced after 1910 largely in the 1920's enabled a schedule of 5.0 hours by the later 1930's from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. That schedule was lengthened during WWII due to the extraordinary demands made upon the railroad system.

The PRR passenger car fleet was essentially made up of equipment designed and built in the decade of 1910 and 1920 in 1950. From the late 1950's the PRR responded to highway competition by eliminating unprofitable passenger trains and saving operating costs by consolidating some trains. It would, for the most part, be that equipment from the 10's and 20's that the PRR would still be operating when the PRR became part of the Penn Central Railroad in 1968.  It was that fleet of equipment that was passed over to the Federal Amtrak system when it was created in 1971.

The current 2 trains a day now operated by Amtrak are on a 5.5 hour schedule. That service level is symbolic rather than presenting an alternative to the passenger car. It is certainly a pleasant ride in comparison to the ride experienced up until the late 70's. In the late 70's the line was relaid in welded
steel. The previous jointed rail line was noisy and had enough variations to create annoying vibrations. Equipment operated by Amtrak is far and away more comfortable than the famous all steel P70 passenger car design of 1910 ever was even with periodic refurbishment and updates. Together with welded rail current equipment is a pleasant experience.

Why Restore Passenger Rail Service

Ninety six per cent of movement by people in the USA is done by passenger car. 

For travel from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg  it is probably on the order of ninety nine per cent of passenger transportation is performed by automobile.

Passenger rail service capacity creates a cost effective alternative to highway construction.

Passenger rail service creates a cost effective alternative to auto use.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

52 Harrisburg

Milepost 104.9. Here is the Harrisburg passenger station built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1880's. Today it is owned by Amtrak. Overhead electric wires supported above the tracks provide the power for the locomotives. Seen to the left is a locomotive prepared to push a string of passenger cars east to Philadelphia.

It is because the overhead electric power ends at Harrisburg that an initial passenger train service improvement might be made using a seamless transfer for motive power from electric to diesel electric. A locomotive design able to operate both from overhead electric power and as a  diesel electric locomotive is currently being operated by New Jersey Transit. Such a design could be applied to the Keystone Corridor West. Time consuming exchange of a straight electric to a separate diesel electric locomotive would be avoided.

The easiest service improvement would be to extend passenger service to Lewistown, PA using a dual electric - diesel electric locomotive. Doing so would serve the student population of Penn State.

Photograph showing the proximity of the Harrisburg Passenger Station to the Capitol Complex of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

51 Rockville

In 1902, the Pennsylvania Railroad completed a new bridge across the Susquehanna River at Rockville, PA north of Harrisburg, PA.  It was and is the longest stone arch bridge in the world and remains in use. The approaches to the bridge require a 30 mph speed. The proposed realignment by easing curvature shown in yellow would permit a potential 80 mph passenger speed. This is the last proposed realignment as the Harrisburg passenger station is 4 miles south at milepost 104.9. WHile the proposed alignment shows the existing bridge, a new structure should be built.
Looking east from vicinity of milepost 109.5 the 6 degree curve approach at the east end of the Rockville Bridge shows the need for a 30 mph speed limit.

 Here is the Pennsylvania Railroad's 1925 calendar illustration by artist Harold Brett showing an eastbound passenger train on the east end of the Rockville Bridge
Here is  Conrail freight westbound entering the 6.5 degree curve taking the railroad off the Rockville Bridge south of Marysville, PA. This in the vicinity of milepost 110.7
 This low level oblique aerial photograph shows an eastbound freight train on the Rockville Bridge. The locomotives are at about milepost 110. The foundations for the bridge that preceded the current 1903 Rockville Bridge can be seen diverging from the right side or upstream side of the bridge.

Here the proposed 80 mph realignment for the Rockville Bridge is shown in yellow. The original Pennsylvania Railroad alignment is shown in blue.  Looking west, Marysville, PA is to the right outside of the photograph.
Here a locomotive is seen eastbound in the vicinity  of milepost 109.5. This telephoto was made from the west bank of the Susquehanna River looking at the south side or downstream side of the Roackville Bridge. There is a reason for the bridge color below the center locomotive being beige rather than darker brown. In 1997 the stone wall failed causing a passing train to derail and deposit a number of coal hoppers into the Susquehanna River. The lighter beige color is due to the concrete used to repair the bridge. The concrete was poured into forms that duplicate the look of stone.
This is a detail of the stone construction of the Rockville Bridge. In 1997 a section of the south stone wall failed. The failure caused a derailment on the eastern end of the bridge with some half dozen freight cars falling into the Susquehanna River. There were no injuries.

50 Marysville

Through milepost 113.7 to milepost  112.5 the Norfolk Southern Passenger speed is 60 mph. The proposed realignment in yellow would allow a potential 80 mph passenger speed. It would require an estimated 200 foot cut through Second Mountain to achieve the realignment.

Monday, October 17, 2011

49 Cove

From Duncannon, the Norfolk Southern passenger speed is 35 mph at milepost 118.8. In order to continue the 110 mph realignment beginning at milepost 118.8 through milepost 115.8 the yellow line is a 1 degree curve allowing a potential 110 mph speed.
From the vicinity of milepost 115.6, artist Grif Teller for the 1956 PRR calendar created this landscape looking Northwest through the Gap of Cove mountain to the left and Peters Mountain to the right across the Susquehanna River below Duncannon in the middle distance. Shown is the "Aerotrain" built by General Motors. The prototype passenger train was not successful. In the era of jointed rail, too much noise and vibration entered the passenger compartments. The train was underpowered.  Here the Aerotrain is eastbound. Pictured westbound is the new trailer on flatcar freight train service.

48 Duncannon

The Norfolk Southern passenger speed is 65 mph. Reducing the curvature to a 1 degree curve on a bridge  or viaduct over the Suaquehanna River would permit  a potential 110 mph passenger speed. The highway bridge in the top center right of the image is Route 322 at Clark's Ferry, PA. Here the Juniata River joins the Susquehanna River.

47 Newport

The Norfolk Southern passenger speed is 66 mph. The proposed realignment in yellow from milepost 134.2 to milepost 124.5 would allow  a potential 110 mph passenger speed. Cuts as deep as 120 feet would be needed.

46 Millerstown

The NS passenger speed reduces to 55 mph in order to round the base of Tuscarora Mountain. The realignment in yellow from milepost 141.1 to milepost 137.8  would permit a potential 110 mph speed limit.

45 Thompsontown

The NS passenger speed reduces to 60 mph. The NS line is at the base of a steep side of Tuscarora Mountain opposite  Thompsontown, PA. The Realignment in yellow from milepost 143.4 to milepost 141.6 would allow  a potential 110 passenger speed. The realignment would require 70 to 80 foot cuts in order to be built.

44.1 Mexico - Port Royal

Another approach to addressing the NS passenger speed reduction to 65 mph in the vicinity of Port Royal, PA  and Mexico, PA is to make the realignment in yellow. It would require cut s as deep as 70 to 80 feet. Bu the realignment would allow speeds up to 110 mph

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

44 Mexico

 The Norfolk Southern passenger speed at milepost 148.1 reduced from 65 mph to 60 mph. With proposed realignment at Mifflin and Port Royal a speed of 80 mph would be possible through the 1.9 degree between milepost 149.4 and milepost 148.6. The proposed realignment in yellow form milepost 148.1 to 147.5 would potentally be capable of 110 mph.
 Westbound in the vicinity of milepost 148 by William Klapp The freight speed is 50 mph. In the distance is Tuscarora Mountain. The Juniata River is to the left.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

43 Port Royal

At Port Royal the Norfolk Southern passenger speed is reduced to 65 from the 75 mph permitted by the  Norfolk Southern. A realignment from the existing 2.4 degree cirve to a 1 degree curve would potenially allow 110 mph passenger operation.
Here is a westbound Conrail freight train about 1995 leaning into the 2.4 degree curve south of Port Royal, PA. The freight speed here would be a maximum of 50 mph. As the freight train is a priority trailer on flat car train, the train's probable speed is the maximum allowed for this location. This is near milepost 150.5.

42 Miffflin

The Norfolk Southern passenger speed reduces  from 70 mph at milepost 156.5 to 50 mph at milepost 153.9.

The at milepost 153.5 the speed is further reduced to 40 mph accelerating to 65 mph by milepost 152.5
The proposed realignment in yellow in the above two images would use 1 degree curvature in order to have a line with a potential 110 mph allowable speed .
An alternative realignment could be a combination of that in yellow and orange above. It isolates a higher speed line from the town of Mifflin exploiting the Juniata River for a new right of way separated from the town.

41 Denholm

The Norfolk Southern requires passenger operations to slow to 50 mph for the 3.6 degree curve at the base of Blacklog Mountain at the east end of the Jacks Narrows section of the Juniata River Valley. The speed reduction would be solved by the realignment in yellow from milepost 157.7 (40.608739N77.450569W) to milepost 157.2 (40.607639N77.444017W). This would be a 1 degree curve capable potentially of 110 mph.  
This site is near Denholm, PA. In the days of steam locomotive operations in the period 1910 to 1957,  a large coal was located at Denholm. The Pennsylvania Railroad's coal and water facility was 12 tracks wide at Denholm.  Stopping for coal and/ or water lengthened the time on the road between terminals.
Elsewhere on the PRR track pans were placed between rails filled with water. These track pan locations were 800 to 1200 feet long. A scoop was lowered from the locomotive tender. The forward motion of the locomotive forced water into the tender tank at speed.
The signal bridge in the distance is at milepost 157.8 at the beginning of Blacklog curve into Jacks Narrows looking east from near Denholm, PA. The soot covered space between the light colored ballast between the track on the left and the track occupied by the freight train on the right is the result of decades of steam locomotives passing through the coal wharf that once spanned 12 tracks nearby.

Monday, October 3, 2011

40.1 Lewistown

The proposed realignment provides an alternative route allowing a potential 110 mph passenger speed. It allows a more accessible limited access highway location in the vicinity of 40.575475N77623919W for a station than the current 1849 station.  Lewistown is 50 minutes via Route 22, Route 322 to State College, PA. The large transient student population of the Pennsylvania State University could be served by enhanced rail passenger service. As the bulk of student population comes from the more populous eastern part of Pennsylvania, extending service by extending the Keystone Corridor East from Harrisburg to Lewistown could be a practical first for enhanced passenger service. This could be accomplished by using dual mode locomotives  that operate both as straight electric locomotives from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and as a diesel locomotive in non- electrified territory from Harrisburg to Lewistown.

Here are photographs of a dual mode locomotive owned by New Jersey Transit. See  for detailed information.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

40 Lewistown

The severe curves approaching and leaving the Lewistown, PA, passenger station demand slowing to 35 mph whether passenger or Norfolk Southern freight train. The proposed realignment would be a 1 degree curve with a potential 110 mph speed. The Lewistown passenger station has been across the Juniata River from the town of Lewistown since the Pennsylvania Railroad built the line in the 1850's. State College with the Pennsylvania State University's large student population is a 50 minute drive from Lewistown.

A westbound Amtrak passenger train was captured westbound on the 4.4 degree curve east of the Lewistown Amtrak passenger station. The current Norfolk Southern line permits a 45 mph passenger speed here. The yellow line is the proposed realignment by a 1 degree curve.

The center of 6.8 degree curve is at milepost 165.4 where Route 103 crosses over the 1850's right of way now owned by the Norfolk Southern Company. The original line is in blue. The Amtrak Station is not the original passenger station. The original station was built in 1849 and is now owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. It is the larger structure to the west of the x identifying the Amtrak Station facility. The 6.8 degree curve requires a 35 mph speed for both freight and passenger trains.

Herre is the continuation east of the Lewistown Amtrak station propose realignment of 1 degree curvature potentially allowing 110 mph. The realignment would return to the original line at milepost 161.9. Milepost 161.9 is the beginning of the Lewistown Narrows of the Juniata Valley.

"Juniata River Near Lewistown" by Artist George Hetzel,  1873, owned by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum. The view is from about milepost 165 looking east and downstream into the beginning of the Lewistown Narrows of the Juniata River Valley. In the foreground is the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks. In the middle distance at the base of the Blacklog Mountain a steam powered train can be seen eastbound as a faint lineal blackness against the green. The Pennsylvania Canal was along the opposite bank of the Juniata River.

39 Granville

The NS passenger speed for the curves between milepost 172 (40.530322N77.649008W) and Milepost 170 (40.547044N77.634375W) starts at 65 mph and reduces to 55 mph. The proposed realignment would permit a potential 110 mph as it is a 1 degree curve.

38 Longfellow

The Norfolk Southern passenger speed at milepost 176 (40.513667N77.710172W) is 65 mph thourgh to milepost 172.2 (40.523694N77.649008W). The proposed realignment in yellow reduces curvature from a maximum of 2.3 degrees to 1 degree curves. The potential speed could be 110 mph. The Norfolk Southern track chart identifies milepost 173.5 as being Longfellow, PA. Longfellow is a village.

37 McVeytown

The proposed realignment in yellow from milepost 179 to milepost 176.5 would increase the current passenger speed from 65 mph to a theoretical 110 mph as the 2.1 degrees curve would be replaced by a 1 degree curve. The blue line is the current Norfolk Southern Company line.

Friday, September 30, 2011

36 McVey

The proposed realignment in yellow beginning at milepost 181 and ending at milepost 179.5 would permit no loss in linehaul speed. Currently the curvature beginning at milepost 180.6 through milepost 179.8 has a 65 mph passenger speed from 79 mph passenger speed.

35 Ryde

The Norfolk Southern line in blue has a 79 mph speed limit approaching milepost 184.1. The passenger speed becomes 65 mph to milepost 183.1 where it is further reduced to 40 mph.  At milepost 182.6 the allowable speed then becomes 79 mph again. The proposed realignment in yellow would full operational speed without a reduction.


East of Huntingdon, PA, the Pennsylvania Canal in foreground crosses Standing Stone Creek. The Juniata River is in distance. The artist is looking east. Circa 1840 before the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad line now owned by the Norfolk Southern Company.

From artist Thomas Moran's sketchbook of the Juniata River Valley east of huntingdon, PA, looking east. Circa 1870.

East of Huntingdon, PA,  looking east circa 1860 on the Pennsylvania Railroad line now owned by the Norfolk Southern Company. Seen is the Juniata River.

This photograph east of Huntingdon, PA, circa 1870, shows the Pennsylvania Canal and tow path in the right hand corner of the image. The larger body of water is the Juniata River.

East of Huntingdon, PA, from Route 22 looking east in 2005.  The Norfolk Southern line on its original Pennsylvania Railroad 1850's alignment is seen through the brush at lower right.

Looking east from the Blair factory building. The now preserved Huntingdon signal tower is in the right lower corner of the circa 1920 view. Both the passenger stations for the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Huntingdon Broad Top Mountain Railroad are in the center of the image. The Juniata River is to the right.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vicinity Mapleton

Artist Thomas Moran in 1864 created this landscape of the Juniata Valley in the vicinity of Mill Creek, PA,  looking east. The Juniata River is to the right.  Mapleton, PA is behind the rocky ridge. The gap in the distance beyond Mapleton is Jack's mountain.  The mountain to the right is the northernmost point of Sidling Hill. In the painting now part of the National Gallery, the railroad is not shown.

Here is a woodcut done by Thomas Moran published in the 1875, "Pennsylvania Railroad: Its Origin, Construction, Condition and Connections," by William B. Sipes. Note in the lower left corner the Moran monogram of a capital M over a capital T.  Here, the Pennsylvania Railroad right of way now owned by the Norfolk Southern Company is clearly shown. The line is today on the same right of way. The landscape is set in the vicinity of Mill Creek, PA looking east and downstream of the Juniata River looking towards Mapleton, PA.

            The landscape at Mill Creek from Thomas Moran's sketchbook circa 1870. 

From the 1875 "Pennsylvania Railroad" by Sipes, a woodcut view from Mapleton, PA looks east toward the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal crossing the Juniata River from the south bank to the north bank. This view is near milepost 193.5.

Photograph circa 1870 of the aqueduct carrying the Pennsylvania Canal from the Juniata River's south bank to its north bank below Mapleton, PA. This is the entrance to Jack's Narrows of the Juniata River as the river flows through a gap in Jack's Mountain.
Looking east within Jack's Narrows below Mapleton, PA two canal boats are being prepared to be lowered in a lock. Circa 1860.

Looking upstream and west towards Mapleton, PA, from within Jack's Narrows of the Juniata River Valley circa 1860. The curve to the left then as now is 1.5 degrees tightening to 2.3 degrees changing to a 2.6 degree cure right in the distance. The passenger speed today is limited to 60 mph on the right of way built in the 1850's. The proposed realignment permitting a speed of 80 mph would cut through the mountain to the left. This was near today's milepost 192.5.

A recent photograph looking east near milepost 192.5. This photograph was posted on  Photographer Froio captured some of the essence of being within Jack's Narrows. The access road to the left shows where two of the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline tracks once existed. The four track mainline was given the name, "broadway." When the "broadway" existed two tracks were designated for passenger service and two tracks were designated for freight service. The tracks were signalled in one direction only. In the 1950's when passenger service peaked and then declined, 50 east - west daily passenger  trains operated past this point between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Today the two remaining tracks have bi-directional signalling.
From the New York Public Digital Library:  This is a stereoview circa 1870 by photographer W. T. Purviance entitled, "Jacks Narrows."  The perspective appears to be a few hundred feet west of the the perspective by photographer Froio. Looking east into Jacks Narrows.