Sunday, November 23, 2014

What's Possible Keystone Corridor West

A 2003 study by the Norfolk Southern Railroad determined that the freight frequency on the Keystone Corridor West, in order not to be interfered with required the relaying of rail at chokepoints along the Keystone Corridor West. The study addressed what would happen with four passenger trains a day. Threading more conventional high speed trains through the freight operations required the relaying of the fourth track between Cresson and Altoona, relaying of track in the Pittsburgh station and other key points.

National railroad ton miles have increased 8% from 2003 to 2013. So, the assumptions for freight traffic on the Keystone Corridor West are the same.

The 2003 study indicated that without the additional track, there would be impacts upon timely and efficient freight operations that otherwise would be avoided.

What is possible now on the Keystone Corridor West?

As noted, passenger trains on the Keystone Corridor East are propelled by electric power. Operation over the Keystone Corridor West requires a diesel locomotive west of Harrisburg. There are no more overhead wires west of Harrisburg. Amtrak exchanges electric locomotives fro diesel locmotives at the Thirtieth Street Station at Philadelphia to pull the Pennsylvanian passenger train that originates at Penn Station, New York City. It is not possible to operate diesel locomotives into and out of Penn Station. The change from an electric locomotive to a diesel locomotive at Philadelphia requires 24 minutes.

Suppose a combination straight electric and diesel locomotive were used for the New York to Pittsburgh run. There would be no loss of 24 minutes at Philadelphia. Say an express service was initiated from from New York to Pittsburgh. No intermediate stops. The elapsed schedule would be 6 hours 20 minutes. Obviously that's not an advantage in land speed between New York and Pittsburgh. But, it is a competitive speed. With a combination of amenities and feature, the express would be desirable and competitive for other reasons. First and foremost the traveller is not occupied with driving. The former driver with wi fi and laptop has other options than being occupied with driving.

The locomotive design would be the ALP-45DP manufactured by Bombardier Transporation Company. This locomotive model is currently used by New Jersey Transit.


  1. What do you see as the possibility of extending the catenary to Pittsburgh? Do reasons exist that preclude new catenary construction anywhere in the US?

  2. Limited catenary erection over portions of the line Harrisburg to Pittsburgh might be considered using a dual power straight electric / diesel electric locomotive. Extend catenary to Lewsitown. That allows for efficient use of the current electric equipment as an extension to Lwesitown with service terminating there. Extend service using dual power. Erect catenary Altoona to Cresson. The grade could be operated faster because of the advantages electric power provides. However, electrifying a functionally obsolete right of way does not have much of an argument even for this partial example. The line is 50 miles long than the Turnpike. It has severe curvature its length. new catenary construction is precluded by the lack of the understanding that a non oil based transportation system is fundamental to national defense. First, should oil be unavailable, an electric based railroad transportation system would be available. (1973 Israel Arab Conflict) Inherent long term operational efficiencies of an electric powered railroad system would lessen transportation costs. Electrical operations allow for uniformity in freight speed creating track availability not possible with slow traffic such as coal. With catenary the coal can move as fast as the intermodal traffic.