Saturday, March 31, 2012

Railroad Bridge Safety

The bridges on the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line are old.

They are older than highway bridges.

What about railroad bridge safety?

Railroad bridge safety is regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration (See:

A railroad without a bridge is a railroad company without revenue. The railroad industry inspects and maintains its bridges knowing that a functioning bridge is a profitable bridge.

Railroad bridge dynamic loads are substantial. But, they have not for a half a century had to endure the assault of heavy rotational forces created by steam locomotives. Railroad bridges do not have the same harmonic energy and vibration inherent to concrete road surfaces. Railroad bridges are not subjected to corrosive salt.

But for the collapse of the South Fork Fishing Club dam in 1889, the 1834 Mineral Point bridge would still be in service.

Maintaining Highway Infrastructure

The I 80 was built when I was in college. One of my fellow students had summer job with the then PennDOT. Then PennDOT was a backwater of political favoritism extending to the precinct level. In 1967 few of the positions in the organization were subject to the Civil Service Commission. So, my fellow student was an "inspector."  This anthropology major had his summer employment via his family political connections. He lived at Grove City, PA. He was assigned to report upon the progress of the painting of the nearby bridge being built across the Allegheny River at Emlenton, PA. The bridge is the highest structure on Interstate 80. From a civilian and defense logistics standpoint, the Emlenton bridge was and is strategic. Typical of the old PennDOT , he was sent out with no tools to inspect. There was no crew or equipment to assist access from the top. His compliance with the task at hand was to use binoculars to inspect from the Allegheny River valley floor. He made his inspection and filed his report. This was 1967. The bridge opened in 1968.

This would be as good a place as any to inspect the bridge:

The bridge is 270 feet above the Allegheny River, roughly the equivalent height of a 27 story building. Parts of it are in Venango, Clarion and Butler Counties:

The Emlenton bridge is a truss design supporting a deck above the truss superstructure. 
The I35 bridge at Minneapolis until 2007 was a truss design supporting a deck above the truss superstructure. The bridge opened in 1967.

Friday, March 30, 2012


When I lived in Erie and Oil City in Northwest Pennsylvania my California relatives would ask what it was like. I explained it was great except for a minute of driving terror every year. In the average winter I would experience 6 white outs lasting 10 seconds each.

When I lived in Cumberland County south of Harrisburg my California relatives asked how it compared to Northwest Pennsylvania. Because of the frequency that I used Interstate 81 going into and out of Harrisburg I explained that I had 5 minutes of annual driving terror. Instead of white outs in the winter,  I experienced 30 near misses lasting 10 seconds throughout the year. That's how driving in and amongst a 10,000+ six tire, trucks per day, Interstate highway was like.

My California relatives said that it sounded as if I lived where they lived!

By 2035 many more USA citizens than now will be able to have their annual 5 minutes of driving terror.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

2035 Projection Railroad and Highway Capacity

For someone who has watched the construction of the Interstate Highway system during his lifetime, the ton mile work being done by the Interstate Highway system is monumental. But, the traffic density is such that in certain places secondary roads create a better sense of security. Just about the only time in the week that traffic density allows a driving experience similar to the 1960's or 1970's is limited to Sunday morning.

Here is the traffic density on the highway system based upon 2002 data. Green represents uncongested conditions. Yellow represents congested. Red represents highly congested. A high volume section of the Interstate system is 10,000 trucks with six or more tires per day. Here is another way of describing the colors. Green means that the truck traffic moves at or above the posted speed. Yellow means that the truck traffic moves near the posted speed. Red means that truck traffic moves below the posted speed.

What happens in 2035?

 In 2035 the Interstate Highway system is overwhelmed.  

Take a look at the "National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study" prepared in 2007 for the Association of American Railroad by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. (See: It is predicted that without additional capacity 30 per cent of national rail miles will be operating above capacity by 2035. But, the study is very conservative assuming roughly  the same proportion of ton miles being performed by the railroad mode and the highway mode. What is the definition for being "above capacity?" It is a rail line with unstable flows of freight train operations with service breakdowns. (See page 4-8)

The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line,  is projected to have a growth in daily freight trains in the range of 30 to 80 by 2035 ( See page 5-3). Without capacity improvements the line will be at a service level of being "near capacity" in yellow. That means heavy train flow with moderate capacity to accommodate maintenance and recover from incidents. In other words, very little would be needed for an operational quagmire. Worse capacity problems will be west of Cleveland.

The cost to create highway capacity far exceeds the cost to increase railroad capacity.

The comparable line haul cost performed per ton mile by railroad is substantially less than that performed by the highway mode.

The opportunity to create a non oil based, non natural gas based transportation system exists by electrifying the railroad system.

Electrifying the railroad system together with physical plant track addition would create the infrastructure capacity the country needs.

Paying to electrify the railroad system through a slight import tariff lasting no more than 7 years in accordance with World Trade Organization rules will slash the trade deficit.

Balance Between Transportation Modes

In the USA are a disproportionate number of ton miles being accomplished by highway as opposed to the railroad mode. This is the result of a historic support since World War II for the highway mode by government. Combine the historic government policies toward the railroad mode after World War II and today's imbalance of proportion of ton miles between the modes is the result.

Accomplishing restoration of rail passenger service to a service level and frequency that induces travel demand for higher speed passenger rail service has to be done in a way that compliment freight railroad operations. Restoration cannot happen without either a neutral impact upon a freight railroad or a positive impact upon a freight railroad. Even with a neutral impact upon a freight railroad, the private company is open to unforeseen external costs due to restored passenger rail service. Railroad company managements tend to have long range thinking that bends towards the potential for catastrophe. Another way to say that is that the need to conserve and protect assets for the future underlies railroad decisions. Management cannot and will not be adventuresome in the terms and conditions relating to its right of ways.

The description of the changes to the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg right of way made on this blog assume that the changes would be financed by the passenger train operator. Currently that would be Amtrak. The proposed changes to accommodate higher speed rail passenger trains assumes that the infrastructure required to do so would be for passenger trains.

The current ton miles performed by the railroad mode tend to be for freight that does not require higher speeds. But, there is an incredible market for higher speed freight operations. As line haul cost efficiencies are inherent to the railroad mode, more highway freight will move to the railroad mode. Taking a look at Pennslyvania, I80 here at Sharon, PA sees 8500+ tractor trailers pass by on an average day. Let's assume that half or 4250 will be crossing the Commonwealth its whole length. In other words, 4250 tractor trailers are converted to container train operations. Double stacking the containers would require 2125 rail freight cars or carrying units. That would be about another 26 trains a day with 82 cars per train. The Norfolk and Southern might be able to add 26 more fright trains across Pennsylvania. But doing so would quickly tax the existing Norfolk Southern infrastructure.

If the proposed third track Pittsburgh to Harrisburg were built, that added capacity would create opportunities for the Norfolk Southern to capture new ton miles. It would be necessary for Amtrak or whatever entity that builds and owns the third track to reach an agreement for fees for freight trackage rights.

It is conceivable that another enterprise might operate over the third track. The Roadrailer vehicle could be used by a third entity to move containerized freight at higher speeds over the third track. This woud be possible because a Roadrailer vehicle does not require the sames infrastructure for pickup, sorting and delivery that railroad cars require. A sidetrack and highway access is required for a Roadrailer vehicle. A classification yard is required for the railroad car. A tractor hauling a Roadrailer vehicle performs the pickup and delivery of the Roadrailer vehicle. The Roadrailer vehicle, while not currently used in a chassis and container combination; could be used in such a fashion. Or the competitive railroad mode vehicle might remain a trailer van.

In the long term, railroad companies must be planning for the loss or lessening of coal shipping revenue. Regulations for coal burning power plants makes it likely that coal tonnage will not be a source for more railroad earnings. ( See: Replacement for that revenue is the potential in providing greater higher speed freight operations. Higher speed freight volumes creates a greater capacity to operate higher speed freight operations.

The balance between the highway mode and the railroad mode is that highway capacity should be maintained. Railroad capacity should be maintained and increased.

WHY? 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail at PHILADELPHIA?

WHY? Why would the 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail be held in Philadelphia? It would seem that the incentive to meet in the USA is to demonstrate the complexity of operations inherent to the Northeast Corridor and the Keystone Corridor East owned by Amtrak.

There is nothing like the Northeast Corridor and the Keystone Corridor East in the world. The mixture of freight operations by private railroad companies, multiple transit state transit operations and Amtrak higher speed and high speed passenger operations - there's nothing like it anywhere. There are railroad systems operating with similar speed passenger trains with greater densities elsewhere. There are none with the variation in speeds and with multiple train operating organizations as there is in the USA.

There is nothing in the USA that represents creative American application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to modern day higher speed railroad design and engineering. Amtrak relies upon foreign design and engineering for its higher speed electric locomotives and for its high speed equipment. American adaptation and application in operations is what might attract a foreign participant to attend other than the importance of maintaining international contacts in the high speed rail industry.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

8th World Congress on High Speed Rail - Philadelphia July 10-13, 2012

UIC Highspeed 2012 will be held in Philadelphia, July 10 to 13, 2012.

The 8th World Congress on High-Speed Rail will address strategic issues linked to the national and international development of high-speed rail systems will be addressed at this global event organized by UIC, the International Union of Railways and the American Public Transportation Association, with the cooperation of UIC North American members the American rail operator Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and VIA Rail Canada.
Key players from the international transport sector are expected to be present.

The previous edition of UIC Highspeed, held in Beijing in 2010, concluded that high-speed rail is considered an important factor in facing current and future mobility challenges, where performance level, safety, cost effectiveness and environmental friendliness remain critical. UIC Highspeed 2012 will build further on these and the next steps on the part of operations as well as investments in research and innovation.

UIC Highspeed 2012 consists of a world congress and a trade exhibition. The congress is renowned worldwide as the most prominent and large-scale global event on high-speed rail.
High-level speakers and participants will meet to consider and discuss all issues linked to high-speed rail development. This includes political and strategic planning, innovative financing solutions, technological innovations, energy and carbon balance, standards and interoperability, safety and security management, research, trends in commercial concepts and services, and partnerships.

For complete detatils see:

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to Operate a Shared Use Railroad System For Higher Speed Passenger Service

The question becomes for the Keystone Corridor West, how can restored passenger rail service be operated within a mix of slower freight trains?  Freight traffic growth has been such that a new dedicated track must be relaid upon the former 4 track mainline space from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. And freight track capacity addition will be required from the vicinity of Wilmerding, PA on the Port Perry branch to the Monongahela branch returning to the mainline. Even with the addition of track capacity, freight traffic will still be very much part of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line. How can there be shared use?

Mixed use railroad systems exist. In Europe the high speed passenger rail operations, 150 mph+, use separate right of ways for high speed operations. Access to urban centers use the existing railroad system and the high speed equipment is operated at higher speed or semi-speed upon the traditional rail network as required.

The most complex shared use railroad system in the world is the the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Baltimore to Philadelphia to New York to Boston and Harrisburg to Philadelphia, the Keystone Corridor East. Owned by Amtrak, the routes described see semi-speed passenger trains operated by different transit agencies, higher speed passenger trains and high speed passenger trains operated by Amtrak and freight trains operated by the Norfolk Southern Railroad and CSX Railroad and to a lesser extent CP Railroad and at east one shortline. There is nothing like it elsewhere in the world.

All the operators of trains on the Northeast Corridor and the Keystone Corridor East are confronted with the absolute necessity for safe operations. Shared use means lessened high speed passenger capacity, a reduced top speed, congestion, reliability problems and fewer options for  high speed vehicle design.

But, shared use means lower costs, lessened economic, environmental and social impacts, and  improved accessibility. Shared use enables high speed trains to go to rail stations in the heart of urban ares. There is a network benefit as lines feed traffic onto the high speed equipment. A shared use railroad can be improved incrementally.

In the case of the Northeast Corridor and its Keystone Corridor East, shared use was not a function of long term public planning. It was the response of the Pennsylvania Railroad to market forces. North of New York it was the new Haven Railroad's response to market forces. By the time Amtrak became the owner of the rail assets, shared used was a continuation of existing freight service together with rail passenger service. Instead of one private railroad company owning the rail infrastructure assets and performing the transportation services of long distance rail passenger, commuter rail passenger and freight service; now Amtrak owns the rail infrastructure and the long distance passenger equipment. Multiple public agencies own commuter passenger equipment. Freight railroads own freight equipment. The commuter agencies operate their equipment on the rail infrastructure owned by Amtrak. The freight railroads operate their equipment on the rail infrastructure owned by Amtrak. Today multiple organizations perform the transportation services once accomplished by a single company. Amtrak controls the infrastructure and its operation. The dominate operations are passenger.

For the Keystone Corridor East, the dominate operations are freight. The infrastructure is owned by a private company Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC). The planning for restored rail passenger service for the Keystone Corridor West will require the agreement of its owner to anything that might be done to restore and operate rail passenger service. Instead of a public entity owning and controlling the infrastructure asset with separate privately operated freight trains on a publicly owned entity, Keystone corridor is and will be a privately owned railroad infrastructure asset.

The Norfolk Southern Corporation will likely guard against infringement upon its freight business. It will likely guard its fee simple ownership of its right of way. It will likely seek access to a third passenger track whenever it benefits its freight operations. It will likely want to control dispatching and operation of all trains over its right of way.

East of Harrisburg the NSC continues its freight operations to New Jersey by using a combination of the some  former PRR exclusive freight lines, Reading Railroad mainline and Central Railroad of New Jersey mainline.  The NSC across Pennsylvania exceeds 100 million tonmiles a year. The NSC use of Amtrak's Keystone Corridor East tracks is akin to branchline freight operations in terms of tonmiles.

The NSC in planning for operations with restored rail passenger service on the Keystone Corridor West can consider several strategies to operate a shared mixture of trains. Basic rules for scheduling trains based upon the needs of the shared use assets can be developed. Here are some ideas from "Best Practices in Shared-Use high-Speed Rail System." published in 2002.  See:

Make Freight Trains Similar to Passenger Trains—Another option is to change the
characteristics of freight trains so that they operate more like passenger trains by providing for
more power and improve braking ability. This might mean short, fast freight trains during the
day—perhaps a new market for freight operators. Many European railroads now operate
limited amounts of this type of freight service, and U.S. railroads are experimenting with fast
cross-country container trains. Could low horsepower to weight trains like coal be changed to higher horsepower?Can rates be raised to justify higher speed operation of coal trains? Can coal "drags" and other slow moving freight trains become a thing of the past?

• Rerouting Trains—Specific trains might be routed over other vaguely parallel railroad lines.
Although the infrastructure on these lines might need improvements for them to be used, that
might be more cost effective than improving the high-speed route to serve all trains. A good
example would be rerouting freight trains from the high-speed route to another route. this
strategy could be used throughout the day or for trains during a particular time when there was
high passenger train demand for the shared-use route. There is an alternative freight route that avoids the former PRR mainline from Pittsburgh to West of Johnstown. It follows the Conemaugh River to Freeport crossing the Allegheny River there to be joined by the mainline at the Northside of Pittsburgh. It was double tracked but now is single tracked and operated only in one direction. Restoring the second track and upgrading the signal system could be a way to avoid freight operation conflicts. Greater utilization could overcome the inherent freight passenger conflicts from the vicinity of Wilmerding with freight moving onto and off the Port Perry branch there.

• Revised Service Plan—A significant problem on shared-use segments with different types of
passenger service are conflicts between local passenger trains that stop frequently, such as
commuter trains, and higher-speed trains that stop less frequently. Revising the service plan
means developing new schedules that minimize the conflicts between trains. Rail system
planning in Switzerland uses this concept extensively. Among the many strategies used to
achieve this objective are the following:

 * Skip Stop Service—Stopping local trains only at selected stations can speed up service on
 a segment.

 * Break Up Local Service—This means separating routes into segments, providing local
 service on the segments with connecting service at the main stations. This may make it
 possible to schedule local trains to operate on a schedule that does not interfere with the
 higher-speed services on that segment. High-speed trains would pass local trains at
 multiple track stations.

* Speed Scheduling—This sets the fastest trains to start first, followed by slower trains. In
 a version of this called “zone scheduling,” the first train goes a long distance then stops at
 all the stops, the second train goes a shorter distance then stops at all the stops, the third
 train goes a shorter distance then stops at all the stops, and so on. This type of schedule
 works best for a commuter system where most of the ridership originates at one station
 and no special provisions are made for intermediate riders.

* Eliminate Local Station Stops/Trains—Eliminating local stops speeds up local trains,
 reducing conflicts; eliminating trains provides more capacity for high-speed trains. In both
 cases, alternative service should be provided, for example, by bus.

* Bundling Trains—This consists of creating a train schedule with a repeating pattern. For
 example, a fast train leaves every half hour and a regional train leaves five minutes
 afterward, throughout the day. Using bundling, the infrastructure required to allow
 trains to overtake or pass will be located in the same places for each bundle of trains,
 minimizing the amount of infrastructure required. It also provides more convenient service
 for customers, since they can more easily remember a repeating schedule. Switzerland,
 The Netherlands, and Germany all use this type of clockface scheduling to improve
 customer service and reduce infrastructure costs.

* Maintenance Windows—These are times when segments of the track network are set
 aside for maintenance and repairs. Including regular maintenance windows in the
 operating plan for the shared-use sections of track improves the system’s reliability and
 efficiency. One reason for the high efficiency of dedicated high-speed rail systems (and
 shared-use systems with significant shares of dedicated line) is that they have long track availability
 windows during the night when high-speed trains are not operating, during
 which infrastructure can be maintained and improved.

Operations planning consists of developing an optimized schedule in advance, but day-to-day
operations focuses on what happens when things do not work as planned. Train delays or
infrastructure failures are typical examples of things going wrong. Shared-use high-speed rail
systems include different train types and generally high train volumes, creating many
opportunities for problems to occur; furthermore, problems that do occur usually impact many

Given the volume of traffic and need for control that is inherent in a shared-use high-speed rail
system, it has been recommended that all such systems operate with centralized traffic control
(CTC). Although a CTC system enables dispatchers to route trains through the network and
provide instructions to train operators, people must set priorities and make good decisions.
Among the recommendations that can help improve day-to-day operations on a shared-use high speed
rail system are the following:

• Single Dispatching System—The best situation for the high-speed rail operator would be
to control the dispatching on the entire shared-use system (both dedicated track and
shared-use track). The high-speed service could operate in the best possible manner
because high-speed trains would have priority in all cases. It is unlikely that this would be
possible in most shared-use systems because shared-use segments generally are owned by
another railroad. In some cases, the shared-use segments could be purchased to gain
control over dispatching, but this could be expensive and time consuming. However,
purchasing segments would be unnecessary if all the rail service operators could agree on
a common dispatching strategy that minimizes the impacts of problems on all users (see
below). Another strategy that can be used, if it is impossible to adopt a single dispatching
system, is to co-locate dispatching centers from different operators. Amtrak and New
Jersey Transit improved operations on their shared-use line by building a joint dispatching

• Priority System—The most important tool for a dispatcher is a clear priority system,
identifying which train has priority in any given situation. If all trains have equal priority,
a delayed high-speed train might miss its slot in the schedule and be significantly delayed
by an on-time commuter train running just ahead if it; alternatively, if high-speed trains
always have first priority, the dispatcher could instruct the commuter train to wait until the
high-speed train passed it before proceeding, reducing delay to the high-speed train but
increasing delay for the commuter train. There are many ways to set priorities. In The
Netherlands, the Minister of Transportation sets priorities. Different train operators on
the shared-use segment need to negotiate an approach to addressing delays and problems
that minimizes the impacts to all users. Such an approach will likely consist of setting
priorities for various types of trains in different situations.

• Computerized Dispatching Assistance—Not even the best dispatcher can fully optimize
the operations of a complicated segment of shared-use high-speed rail system.
Computerized decision support systems should be developed to help dispatchers route
trains optimally through the system in different situations.For example, the system
could estimate delays for different trains under different alternatives and provide this
information to assist the dispatcher in making the best choice. One type of information that
would help dispatchers in shared-use systems would be knowing in real time when high speed
trains will arrive at the shared-use segment. This is a similar situation to through trains
traveling throughout different European countries, and a software system is being
developed to provide information to train controllers in different countries to minimize the
impacts of delayed trains on the system and on the delayed train itself.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Cost Higher Speed Rail Passenger Service

The cost of higher speed rail passenger service is not inexpensive.

The alternatives are significantly more costly.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Non - Oil Parallel Transportation

One way to achieve a non-oil transportation system is to convert tractor trailers to natural gas from diesel. A letter to the Wall Street Journal by T. Boone Pickens on March 6, 2012, advocated for the passage of the Nat Gas Act,  S.1863.  See:

On the face of it, conversion of the trucking industry to natural gas as a fuel would have the benefit of using a fuel from the United States. It would not correct the disproportionate ton miles carried by the trucking industry. Both the highway mode and the rail mode are heading towards serious capacity constraints nationwide by 2035.

Alternate fuels for highway vehicles does nothing for congestion. 

Perhaps the policy to pursue should be to maintain the capacity of the current highway system and nothing more.

Policy should increase railroad capacity and ability to operate at higher speeds.

Policy should increase waterway utilization.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

100 mph / 160 kph Talgo Operation

Here is what a diesel powered, Talgo passenger train operating at 100 miles per hour or 160 kilometers per hour looks like:

The European locomotive's scale is aerodynamically designed to maximize Talgo equipment operation.

Compare the awkward adaptation of American diesel locomotives to Talgo equipment:

Is Plodding Inevitable In the Railroad Industry?

E.Hunter Harris when he was President of the Canadian National Railroad expressed in 2008 that modern freight car equipment can be operated at 100 mph. He was speculating that at a future time regular 100 mph freight operations might be required between Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal in order to keep the railroad line open and fluid.

Freight trains at 100 mph? Harris indicated that roadbed improvements would be required to operate freight at 100 mph. See url:

Modern freight cars with roller bearing wheels and axles together with welded rail of appropriate curvature makes the idea possible.

So,  can coal hopper cars be operated at 100 mph? Yes, but the train would be of shorter length with a greater horsepower to ton ratio.

Why bother? Operating freight trains at faster speeds allows for greater productivity of line haul capacity. Given the inherent problems of dwell time lost in yards, improving line haul speed beyond where it is today does not make immediate sense. But, given the probability for greater future railroad capacity requirements, one way to gain more line haul capacity is for faster operation.

It is possible that future capacity constraints will require higher coal rates in order to operate faster high weight, low value loads to enable greater line haul flexibility.

Why Plodding Is Important - Appreciating Problems Railroad Operations and Management

Why is plodding important? Much of railroad revenue comes from low value heavy products. Coal is the principle commodity carried and it is low value and heavy. It represents a disproportionate amount of railroad revenue. The revenue generated is not in proportion to the amount of effort and energy required to move it. So, a railroad assigns enough locomotive horsepower creating sufficient tractive effort  to move coal without stalling on a ruling grade.

To see what is involved in calculating the size of a locomotive required to move a certain amount of tonnage see Republic Locomotives explanation at Republic is a firm that leases locomotives.

While a large proportion of the commodities carried by railroads might be characterized as "low value," their value within the chain of production in an economy is certainly not of low value. Railroads often create indispensable, yes indispensable, time and place utility for a commodity. What is being transported might be of "low value," but the transportation service being created has great value.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More plodding on Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Line

More examples of heavy freight operations.

This perspective is from the 24th Street bridge in Altoona over the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line. The videographer is looking southwest upgrade. This is  milepost 237.3. The grade is 1.09 degrees. The passenger speed is 44 mph and the freight speed has changed from 25 mph to 35 mph ahead at milepost 237.5 where the signal bridge is seen. The opening scene shows an eastbound downgrade loaded coal train stopped. At the end of the video the coal train moves forward revealing the headlights of a helper engine in the distance seen through the signal bridge structure. The helper engine has been uncoupled. The purpose of a helper engine remaining on the rear of a heavy coal train downgrade from Gallitzin, top of the grade on the Allegheny frontal, is to provide additional regenerative braking. Heavy coal trains, of course, are controlled through the train's air brake system. Regenerative braking is done by a diesel electric locomotive  reversing the electrical current on downgrades. The electric motors driving the wheels are now acting as generators. Generators create resistance or braking energy. There is typically a higher pitched whining sound that comes from the locomotive when a locomotive is in regenerative braking. The heavy coal train has rounded the nearby Horseshoe curve at milepost 242.

As the loaded coal train on track 1 to the left is stopped, an empty coal train is seen moving upgrade on track 2 beneath the videographer. As that trains moves west, another westbound empty coal train is seen to the right on track 3. The westbound trains appear to be at or near 35 mph.

At milepost 237.3 all track capacity is being used. This is an example of a bottleneck that could be corrected by relaying the fourth track from Altoona to Cresson for passenger service. Note the space between track 1 and 2 in the video.

See url:

This video is at the Horseshoe curve looking upgrade. This in the vicinity of Baker Run at about milepost 241.8 initially looking west. The curvature in the foreground is 9 degrees and tightens to 9.4 degrees in the center of the Horseshoe curve.  The grade is 1.34 degrees in the foreground and becomes steeper in the distance to 1.76 degrees. The freight speed is 30 mph and the passenger speed is 44 mph. The videographer has captured three freight trains. The first westbound freight trains appear to be moving at 30 mph. It is assisted with a helper engine pushing. The second train seen is a westbound intermodal train. Note that an intermodal freight train requires that the two helper engines used to move an intermodal train over the grade on the Allegheny frontal are at the head end to the intermodal train. The last train recorded is an eastbound, downgrade train. The helper engines attached are assisting with regenerative braking. The high pitched sound made by applying regenerative braking can be heard as they pass. All the trains' wheels make high pitched squealing and ringing sounds as they bind against the rail heads through the tight curvature. Both grade and curvature contribute to the horsepower required to move the freight trains shown. In order to control the downgrade freight train, it is operated at a speed well below 30 mph.

This video demonstrates the practical need to relay the fourth track from Altoona to Cresson if restored rail passenger service were not to interfere with freight operations as noted in the 2005 Woodside Consulting firm's study.

See url:

The need to eliminate 1850's civil engineering design altogether by building a new line from Cresson to Tyrone is clear when watching these videos.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Plodding Places Pittsburgh to Harrisburg

Using Youtube postings, the operational limitations of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line can be demonstrated. Rather than upload the postings, the url will be given.

Starting with a video recording made in 2004 at Tyrone, PA at milepost 222.3, a westbound trailer on flatcar intermodal trains passes at 35 mph on track one through a 5.6 degree curve. The enthusiast making the video recoding was surprised to see a faster moving westbound private passenger train passing the freight train on track 2. The passenger train was allowed 40 mph on the 5.6 degree curve. The camera pans to the west as the passenger train accelerates through a short tangent  into 1.9 degree curve that transitions to 2.7 degrees. The passenger train in the area being recorder is permitted 55 mph. At milepost 223.3, out of view, the passenger train can operate at 79 mph while the freight train is limited to 50 mph. At the beginning of the videotape, there is a glimpse to the right of Wilson Road's crossing light signals. It's grade crossings like Wilson Road that will have to be eliminated or improved in order to operate higher speed passenger trains. The passenger train seen on the video recording is privately owned by the Juniata Terminal Company at Penn Valley near Philadelphia. That company has restored the historic passenger locomotives and passenger cars seen. Note the heavy diesel exhaust as the 1950 era locomotives accelerate. The url is:

This video recording was made in 2009 at milepost 253.2 at Risbin's or also known as Carney's Road near Lilly, PA. Seen is a 130 car loaded coal train eastbound. It is rounding a 2 degree curve. It has 130 aluminum PPLX hoppers in tow. The trains weight is 18,590 tons total carrying 15,879.5 tons of coal. The number 2 track that it occupies allows 50 mph for freight and 79 mph for passenger trains. The way to make money moving coal is to have enough horsepower to move the train and not much more. The train is probably moving at 10 mph. Pulling the coal train are three SD60 locomotives rated at 3800 horsepower each. That's 11,200 horsepower pulling. Pushing on the rear are 4 SD40 locomotives at 3000 horsepower for a total of 12,000 horsepower. So, a total of 18,590 horsepower or a little over 1.25 horsepower per ton is required to plod.
The trains 130 cars are 6,890 feet in length. The sound of the engines and the stiff exhaust express the work that is being done. The ascending grade at milepost 253.2 is 1.05%
The videographer then moved to Gallitzin, PA to record the train descending the Allegheny frontal. The vantage point is at a place nicknamed the "slide" as the grade is 2.28%. This milepost 247. The very heavy train must be operated slowly in order to keep it under control. Its speed appears  to be about 5 mph. The Horseshoe Curve is beyond at milepost 242. Here the highest freight speed is 30 mph and passenger trains are allowed 44 mph.
 The url is: