Sunday, July 31, 2011

19. South Fork

 The NS existing NS Norfolk Southern line is in blue. The passenger speed is 40 mph at milepost 266.9. The speed is increased to 45 mph at milepost 266.3 through milepost 263 where the passenger speed is 79 mph for milepost 263.

The proposed realignment is shown in yellow. The tangent beginning at milepost 266.9 crosses the mainline at milepost 265.5 and milepost 265.4 returning to the mainline at milepost 264.5. The 1 degree curve returning to the mainline at milepost 264.5 would permit a 110 mph speed.

18. Mineral Point - Viaduct

The existing NS line is in blue The NS passenger speed at milepost 269.9 is 40 mph. At milepost 26.7 the passenger speed is reduced to 35mph through the Conemaugh Viaduct at milepost 267.2 through to milepost 266.9 where the allowed speed is 40 mph becoming 45 mph at milepost 266.3.

The proposed new alignment is shown in yellow. At milepost 269.9 a 2 degree curve capable of 80 mph leaves the mainline easterly. The new alignment shown in yellow again leaves the mainline at milepost 268.8 crossing the mainline again at milepost 268.1 and again touching the mainline ROW at milepost 267.3 and crossing the mainline at milepost 266.9 being a series of 2 degree curves capable of 80 mph. At milepost 266.9 a tangent would begin easterly.

With this realignment, oldest part of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg mainline dating to 1834 will be retired from near milepost 267.2 to about milepost 266.7

Saturday, July 30, 2011

1889 Conemaugh Viaduct

This is the rebuilt 1889 viaduct constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad to replace the 1833 viaduct destroyed by the flood caused by the burst South Fork dam. Note the scoured bedrock of the west bank caused by the energy of the water.

Jacob J. Hauser in 1964 was the curator of the Baker Mansion Museum owned by the Blair County Historical Society at Altoona, PA.  Hauser described how he was 16 when he hired onto the reconstruction train rebuilding the destroyed railroad. He described how a timber viaduct was quickly built to bridge the gap. Once the timber structure was completed, the reconstruction of a stone viaduct began. When the wooden structure was completed, he was on board the first PRR train into the destroyed Conemaugh Valley to Johnstown. At 90 years, his voice trailed and his eyes were distant as he described the scoured landscape and the silence.

 Here is a recent photograph of the 1889 Conemaugh Viaduct with an eastbound freight train of the NS Norfolk Southern near Mineral Point at milepost 267.2 (40.368422N79.819044W). Here the NS has a 35 mph limit for freight service and 40 mph for passenger service. (Source:, photo ID 327264, "Minerla Pont" by Scooter Hovanec.)

Views 1833 Conemaugh Viaduct - Mineral Point

This is a Google Maps, "Bird's Eye" or low level oblique view of the Conemaugh River Viaduct located at milepost 267.2 (40.368422N79.819044W). The current stone viaduct was built to replace the 1833 Conemaugh Viaduct built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the original or Old Portage Railroad. The Portage Railroad was built between Johnstown and Hollidaysburg, PA to connect the the western and eastern sections of the Pennsylvania Canal that were also built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to connect Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The 1833 viaduct was destroyed when the South Fork dam, also built by the Commonwealth of Pennslvania as part of the system of canals and railroad failed May 31, 1889. The wall of water traveled form right to left in the foreground then left to right to the site of the viaduct in the center of the image. The viaduct was swept away.

This portion of a map drawn for the Blair County Historical Society in 1941 indicates that the section of PRR mainline now owned by NS continued at milepost 267.2 to use the right of way ROW for both the Old and New Portage Railroad about  to milepost 267.8. This is the oldest section of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line. 

When the 1834 Old Portage Railroad was rebuilt as the New Portage Railroad  beginning July 29, 1852, by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to avoid the incline planes of the old with a new continuous railroad from Johnstown to Hollidaysburg, PA; the viaduct remained part of the ROW for the New Portage Railroad.

 Photograph of the 1833 Conemaugh Viaduct built for the Old Portage Railroad, used by the New Portage Railroad and then Pennsylvania Railroad  until 1889 when the viaduct was destroyed by a flood caused by the collapse of the upstream South Fork dam.

"The viaduct over the little Conemaugh ... has a semi-circular arch of 80 feet. The height of the abultment walls from the foundation to the springing line of the arch, is 29 feet. do. from the low water 20 feet. The rise of the arch is 40 feet....Cost about $52,000."

In today's dollars it would be roughly $1,390,000.00.  See:

The image below is an 1875 woodcut of the viaduct as used by a PRR Pennsylvania Railroad train.

See "The Allegheny Old Portage Railroad 1834-1854," by Mahlon  J. Baumgardner and Floyd Hoenstine."

17. East Conemaugh

The NS line is shown in blue. The NS passenger speed at milepost 273 is 60 mph reducing to 40 mph at milepost 272 and 35 mph at milepost 271 then increasing to 40 mph at milepost 270

Changing the alignment, in yellow, leaving the mainline at milepost 273 (40.345967N78.883406W) then rejoining the mainline at milepost 271.3 (40.851503N78.866231W) with a 2 degree curve to a tangent beginning at milepost 271.2 (40.352369N79.863522W) to milepost 270.7 (40.356767N78.859178W) where a tangent is run to milepost 269.9 (40.374069N78.853017W) where another 2 degree curve is initiated east.  An 80 mph speed would be allowed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

16. Johnstown East

The existing NS line, in blue, allows for passenger trains 45 mph and 40 mph through milepost 274.4 where 60 mph is permitted for passenger trains.

Departing from the mainline at milepost 276.2 (40.340933N79.933286W) using a 1 degree curve to a tangent which returns to the mainline at  milepost 273.3 (40.340044N79.893414W) by way of a 1 degree curve.  The yellow line represents a line capable of 110 mph.

15. Johnstown

Entering milepost 279 the NS passenger speed becomes 60 mph from 79 mph. Beginning at milepost 278.7 (40.362136N79.951836W) the NS passenger speed reduces to 45 mph down 35 mph at Milepost 278.2 increasing to 40 mph at 277.8 then 45 mph at milepost 277.3 through 276.2.

The NS line is shown in blue.

Changing the alignment as shown in yellow would permit 110 mph. Leaving the mainline at milepost 278.7 then crossing the mainline at milepost 277.2 (40.340881N79.933372W). The new alignment would return to the mainline near milepost 276.2 (40.340933N79.933286W). At milepost 276.2 a new alignment begins.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

14. Seward

The NS passenger speed from milepost 287.3 to milepost 284.6 is 79 mph. At milepost 284.6
( 40.414678N79.021533W) a 2.5 degree curve is encountered requiring a 55 mph speed. Reducing the curve to 1 degree through to milepost 283.8 (40.417308N79.008825W) would enable a 110 mph speed as shown by the yellow line. The blue represents the current NS line.

Easing curves to a maximum speeds assumes that the track class  is upgraded to 6 from 4 in accordance with the Federal Railroad Administration's "Track Safety Standards" at 49 CFR 213.57. For instance, from milepost 288.4 to 287.3 at New Florence, PA, the 1.3 degree curve there could sustain a 90 mph speed. The 0.5 curve from miepost 286.5 to milepost 285.1 could sustain 160 mph.

Bolivar Landscape

From "Thomas Moran; The Field Sketches 1856 -1923" by Anne Morand, this sketch is entitled, "The Conemaugh at Bolivar.

This landscape painting was by artist George Hetzel in 1879. It is entitled, 
 "Cattle on the Conemaugh." 
 This woodcut is entitled "Near Bolivar in the  Conemaugh." It is from the "Pennsylvania Railroad: Its Origin, Construction, Condition and Connections," by William B. Sipes, 1875, at page 150.

13. Bolivar - New Florence

East of Torrance  the line leaves the severe topography of the Packsaddle near a town called Bolivar, PA.

The proposed line realignment, in yellow, crosses the NS line, in blue, at milepost 294.4 (40.414167N79.153869W) ending at milepost 293.8 (40.397789N79.134214W) near Bolivar, PA. 

Another tangent, in yellow, is proposed from milepost 293.4 (40.395144N79.125697W) to milepost 288 (40.379908N39.072881W) near New Florence, PA.

The NS passenger speed varies from 45 mph at milepost 294.4 to 55 mph just east of milepost 293.4 then 70 mph for the mile beginning at milepost 292 followed by 79 mph at milepost 291 and milepost 290. At milepost 289.3 the passenger speed slows to 75 mph.

The proposed realignment would permit 113 mph and shorten the length of the ROW.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

12. East of Torrance - The Packsaddle

Easing curvature east of Torrance at the Packsaddle and east in the Conemaugh River valley can begin at 40.421119N79.212064W from either a 2 degree curve shown in orange or a 1 degree curve which is shown in yellow. A tangent would cross the existing NS line at milepost 297.1                                           ( 40.410064N79.173928W) and again at milepost 294.4. (40.414167N79.153869W)

The NS line is shown in blue. The passenger speed is 45 mph. The freight speed is 40 mph. The proposed tangent would be capable of 110 mph.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

11. Torrance to New Florence Overview

The existing NS line from Torrance, PA, milepost 300.2 to New Florence, PA, milepost 288 is shown in blue.

Curvature adjustments in the vicinity of Torrance have been described. The proposed new line is in yellow or orange.

Detailed descriptions for the line relocation are described in the following blogs.

Packsaddle Landscape - Scalp Level School

This landscape is by artist George Hetzel in 1891. From the north side of the Conemaugh River the perspective looking east up the Conemaugh Valley is just downstream from the Packsaddle on the right.
The painting shows two fishermen in the lower left. The vantage point is about a mile north of Torrance, PA. Hetzel was a member of a group of Pennsylvania landscape artists known as the Scalp Level school. Their goal was to paint Pennsylvania landscapes before all the first growth forest had been cut. There is a place in Cambria County named Scalp Level. Reputedly the boss of a lumber crew there  gave the crew instructions to "scalp the forest level."

This is certainly a romantic landscape of the rugged Conemaugh Valley.

Views of the Packsaddle and Conemaugh River Valley

This PRR photograph was taken in the vicinity of milepost 299 looking up the Conemaugh River Valley. The PRR right of way ROW is to the right.
  The decorative cabin  seen in the photograph above is to the left and rear of the photographer's perspective in this 1891 PRR photograph. This is in the vicinity of milepost 299 looking east in the Conemaugh River valley.
Here is a special steam powered excursion, October 1976, at about milepost 299 looking east up the Conemaugh River valley. Seen on the right are enthusiastic passengers leaning out open windows of the 1920's era passenger equipment. One passenger has a microphone to record the sound of the former Reading Railroad locomotive number 2102 up ahead. The white cloud to the right is steam exhaust from the locomotive. In the distance at the bottom of the mountain can be seen the outline of the ROW from left to right center.
This view is from the Oak Hill Road overlook a mile north of Torrance, PA on the the North side of the Conemaugh River. The view is looking up the Conemaugh River. The 1891 Packsaddle photographs as the 1976 excursion photograph were made just beyond the curve on the NS right of way ROW seen in the right center of the photograph.

10. Torrance North - Packsaddle - Conemaugh Valley

The existing Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line is shown in blue. The NS passenger speed at milepost 300.8 (40.405603N79.231803W) is 55 mph. As noted in an earlier post the corrected curvature west of milepost 300.8 would permit 110 mph. If a 1 degree curve were begun at milepost 300.8 transition to a tangent followed by another 1 degree curve into another tangent at 40.415761N79.192283W, 110 mph would be possible as shown by the yellow line.

Alternatively, if a 2 degree curve were to begin at milepost 300.2 (40.416644N79.225519W) transitioning to a tangent at 40.421119N79.212064W as an orange line, an 80 mph speed is possible.

The NS passenger speed speed in this area varies at milepost 300.8 as 55 mph to 50 mph 2 miles further east.

The Conemaugh Valley was followed by the PRR to Johnstown. The west entrance into the Conemaugh Valley  near Torrance, PA is called the "Packsaddle"

"The Packaddle," from a point in the vicinity of Torrance, PA. The view is looking east. This woodcut print was published in "The Pennsylvania Railroad: Its Origin, Construction, Condition, and Connnections," by William B. Sipes, 1875. What is shown is what was built in the 1850's and is what is shown as the blue line on the Google Earth image above.

Friday, July 22, 2011

9. Torrance South

The NS passenger speed milepost 302.3 is 70 mph. The passenger speed at milepost 302.3 is 60 mph reducing to 55 mph at milepost 301.2. The reduction in speed is in part due to curvature. But, in a short 0.6 of a mile at milepost 300.2 severe curvature entering the Conemaugh River begins.

Elimination of the curvature from milepost 302.3 (40.361756N79.269931W) to milepost 300.8 (40.405603N79.231803W) as shown would allow a passenger speed of 79 mph.

8. Derry North

The NS passenger speed through the curves between milepost 306.2 (40.352272N79.280836W) and milepost 304.4 (40.361756N79.269931W) is 60 mph. A passenger train traveling east must reduce speed from an allowed 79 mph to 60 mph. The Allowed speed east of milepost 304.4 is 70 mph. The reduced speed from 79 mph to 70 mph is due to the reduced speed of the line 4 miles to the east as the line swings from the Laurel Highlands into the Conemaugh River Valley known as the Packsaddle.

Eliminating the 2 degree curve would allow a full 79 mph follow by deceleration to 70 in anticipation of the curves into the Conemaugh Valley at Torrance, PA.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

7. Bradenville, PA

The NS passenger speed becomes 79 mph at milepost 325. The NS freight speed remains 50 mph.

At milepost 310 (40.322019N79.346997W) the passenger speed for the curve at Bradenville, PA is reduced to 70 mph. The freight speed remains 50 mph. Easing the curvature to 1 degree to milepost 308.9 (40.323778N79.321839W) would permit 113 mph.

6. Manor to Jeannette

At milepost 329.8 severe curvature of 4.3,  4.1, 4.2 and 3.0 degrees is encountered to milepost 327. Note the blue line for the existing line.  At milepost 329.8 at Manor, PA ( 40.334814N79.675144W) a tangent could be extended to A (40.337386N79.664475W) where a 1 degree curve would be extended to B (40.335192N79.638922W) where a reverse 1 degree would begin returning to the mainline at milepost 327 (40.331356N79.626164W). Milepost 327.5 identifies the highway bridge over the NS tracks at Penn, PA.

A new right of way ROW as described would be capable of 113 mph.

The current NS speed for freight  is 45 mph and for passenger is 50 mph at milepost 329.8. At milepost 328.2  to 327. 7 the freight speed is 50 mph and the passenger speed is 57 mph. At milepost 327.6 the freight speed remains 50 mph with the authorized passenger speed being 75 mph.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Higher Speed Passenger Rail Service Pittsburgh to Harrisburg

Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation, PennDOT, has initiated a planning effort to examine the feasibility of increasing rail passenger train service for the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line. PennDOT efforts can be followed at

Monday, July 18, 2011

5. Pitcairn Improvement

The existing NS line is in blue.

The yellow line from milepost 338.2 (40.394058N79.798025W) to milepost 336.1 (40.378614N79.76475W)  represents an approximate 1 degree curve. This would require a significant cut but would allow passenger operation at 113 mph.

NS passenger passenger speed is 54 mph from milepost 339.2 to milepost 337.3. The PRR passenger speed  was 45 to 54 mph through the curves. From milepost 337 to 336 the NS passengers speed is 75 mph.

If a  2 degree curve represented as the orange line were constructed as shown milepost 338.3 (40.398156N79.788267W) to milepost 336.9 (40.395183N79.772644W) a passenger speed of 80 mph could be permitted.

The facility south of the orange line is a container terminal operated by the Norfolk Southern at the site of the former Pitcairn yard.

Pitcairn Eastbound

This is in the vicinity of milepost 338.7, eastbound alongside the Pitcairn yard. It is 10/10/76. A special fall excursion is being powered by steam on a new Conrail. Conrail had been created effective 4/1/76. The steam locomotive was a former Reading Railroad class T1, 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, then owned by an organization named the Allegheny Railroad headquartered in Akron, Ohio.

A photograph from this perspective was unique to that day in 10/10/76 as the windows were able to be opened on the 1920's era coaches being used. The photograph was made using a 230mm telephoto lens making a 2 degree curve  and 2.5 per cent grade seem more severe than they appear without a telephoto lens. Note the jointed rail.

The yard at that time was used for car storage as the string of boxcars in the right distance demonstrate.
Today a intermodal terminal for freight containers is operated by NS at Pitcairn, PA.

The PRR permitted 45 mph for passengers servic here. Today the authorized passenger speed is 54 mph.

Entering Port Perry Branch From Mainline

From Google Earth, a double stack NS freight train is westbound passing from the mainline to the Port Perry Branch in the vicinity of milepost 339.5 (40.396222N79.813836W). The image is looking northerly. The freight train blocks the other mainline track as it moves to the branch. Movement through switches from one track to another is a slower operation from the maximum speed allowable on a track. Here the the allowable freight speed is 35 mph. The NS passenger speed is 45. From milepost 337.3 to milepost 339.2 the passenger speed through the preceding curves is 54 mph.

It is the mixture of higher speed of higher speed passenger operations that amidst some 100 plus freight trains a day that is a major problem for adding passenger trains to the Keystone Corridor West.

The Woodside  Consulting Group's "Keystone West Passenger Train Study" in 2005 for the Norfolk Southern Corporation and PennDOT proposed at page 11 "double tracking the Port Perry Branch in order to create a full double track bypass route around the Pittsburgh Amtrak station and the Pittsburgh Line, extednind from a points north and west of downtown Pittsburgh at CP Bell, to the junction of the Monomgahela and Pittsburgh Lines at CP Wing, at an estimated cost of $28.1 million."  (Note: CP Wing is located at milepost 339.5 and and CP Bell is milepost PC 4.7.)

Imagine the Dispatcher faced with the decision for authorizing the movement of the westbound double stack freight train. How does that affect eastbound traffic? Has the westbound freight had delays causing the operating crew to be near their allowed hours of service? If the hours of service are met, the train stops and another crew is taken by a van to replace the out of service crew. If a higher speed train either freight or passenger, is in the vicinity; its schedule can be compromised by the movement from the mainline to to the Port Perry Branch.

Westinghouse Bridge Oblique Aerial Photo

This oblique aerial photograph of the George Westinghouse Bridge fully demonstrates the rugged topography and the maze of railroad tracks. The view is looking northerly. From left to right is seen the through truss bridge of the Union Railroad. Underneath it is the PRR mainline, in blue, at milepost 341.3. The Port Perry Branch, in orange, is in the foreground passing beneath the largest arch of the Westinghouse Bridge. The manufacturing facility in the top right corner is the former Westinghouse Electric Company manufacturing facility. The Edgar Thomson steel mill is out of the view to the left

The combined 3 to 6 degree curve of the mainline beneath the bridge is evident.

The photograph is from

Sunday, July 17, 2011

George Westinghouse Bridge Etching

This etching of the Westinghouse Bridge was done by Otto Kuhler in 1930.  Kuhler lived in Pittsburgh in the 1920's. He was noted for his industrial design work for the railroad industry. His family was involved with iron and steel fabrication in Germany. He gave his biography the apt title, "My Iron Journey - A Life With Steam and Steel." His art was notable for his ability to exaggerate and express the great impression of industry. Clearly, the bridge is exaggerated  for the effect desired.

The railroad beneath the right arch is the PRR mainline at milepost 341.3. The view is looking west.

Railroad in the foreground under the left arch is the Port Perry Branch. The through truss bridge on the right of the frame formed by the left arch is the Union Railroad crossing the PRR mainline. The stacks in the distance are of the Edgar Thomson steel mill.

Andrew Carnegie arranged financing for the steel mill with the assistance of then PRR President, J. Edgar Thomson. Allegedly, when Thomson learned that the mill would be served also by the competing Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as well, Carnegie named the mill for Thomson in an effort to smooth ruffled feathers.

4. Bessemer - Port Perry Branch - Wilmerding

The curves between milepost 342.1 and 339.2, Bessemer to Wilmerding are severe. The allowable NS passenger  speeds range from 35 to 45 mph. The NS line is in blue.

The yellow line from  Bessemer milepost 342.1 (40.396144N79.848997) to Wilmerding milepost 339.2 (40.394058N79.798025W)  would possibly permit track class 6 speed of 110 mph. It would be more likely  track class 5 permitting 90 mph. It would require a tunnel and / or deep cut. The yellow line is a 1 degree right curve beginning at Bessemer with a straight tangent to Wilmerding.

Alternatively, the orange line, from milepost 340.6 (40.396728N79.832458W) to milepost 339.7
( 40.399203N79.816889) is a 2 degree curve and would permit class 4 track speed of 80 mph.  A lesser cut would be required.

The Port Perry Branch diverges south from the mainline at milepost 339.5. The proposed 2 degree curve would have to be designed not to conflict with the Port Perry Branch. The diverging point could be changed to be further west and beyond milepost 339.7. The new alignment at 340.6 would cross over the Port Perry Branch requiring the construction of a flyover in order not to have a conflict.

From milepost 339.5 ( 40.396222N79.813836W) to 339.2 (40.393806N79.808617W) another orange line represents a 2 degree curve that would ease the existing 4.8 degree and 3.3 degree combined curve requiring a 45 mph passenger speed and 35 mph freight speed. This would permit track class 4 and 80 mph. Its construction would have an impact upon the former Westinghouse Air Brake manufacturing facility at Wilmerding, PA.

Either of these concepts would likely require significant environmental  review.

See 49 CFR 213.17 for Federal Railroad Administration Track Safety Standards information.

Bessemer - Port Perry Branch - Westinghouse Bridge

This Google Earth image shows Bessemer, PA at milepost 342.1 (40.396144N79.848997). Below the place name of Bessemer is the Edgar Thomson steel mill. The Port Perry Branch is identified at the bottom of the image. Note the dark blue color in the lower left corner. That is the Monongahela River.
The Port Perry Branch, in orange, connects with the Monongahela Branch on the south side of the Monongahela River. The Monongahela Branch in turn rejoins the mainline west of the Pittsburgh Amtrak station at NS milepost PC 3.2 (40.465589N80.0344W) using a bridge that crosses the Ohio River and Brunot Island in the center of the river. This is on the Northside of Pittsburgh in the vicinity of the California Avenue southbound ramp onto the Ohio River Boulevard, Route 65. The significance of the Port Perry Branch is that it is the freight route used to go around the Pittsburgh Station. The Port Perry Branch / Monongahela Branch clearances  enable the operation of double stack container freight cars that cannot operate through the Pittsburgh Station, etc. Both  the mainline, in blue,  and the Port Perry Branch pass beneath the George Westinghouse Bridge. The Port Perry Branch is parallel to the mainline in the vicinity of milepost 340.6 (40.396728N79.832458W). The Port Perry Branch converges with the mainline at milepost 339.7 (40.398356N79.816311W) out of view in this image. The manufacturing complex in the upper right corner of the image is the former Westinghouse Electric Company manufacturing complex at Wilmerding. PA.

The Port Perry / Monongahela Branch route, according to the 2005 Woodside Consulting Group Study needs to have a second track built in order to accomodate additional passenger trains. Otherwise, additional passenger trains will interfere with freight operations.

At milepost 342 the NS freight speed is 35 mph. Passenger speed is 35 mph at 341.9. At milepost 341 the freight speed  remains 35 mph. The passenger speed increases to 45 mph at 340. The PRR allowed 40 mph for passenger trains through these curves.

PRR Passenger Train Alongside Edgar Thomson Steel Mill

Artist Harold M. Brett painted this painting of the PRR Pennsylvania Railroad mainline in the vicinity of the Edgar Thomson steel mill for the 1927 calendar issued by the railroad. This is in the area of milepost 342.1. The track to the left of the K4 steam locomotive would have been track 4. Here the passenger train is on track 3 westbound to the Pittsburgh station. In the distance, to the east, the faint expression of the position light signals above tracks 2 and 1 is expressed by the artist. The white vertical line is a clear signal for track 2. The small white horizontal line is a stop signal for track1. The signals were actually three electric lamps in a row. The concept was that if a lamp was burned out, the other lamps would still provide the information for the engineer to operate the locomotive safely. Not shown are the westbound signals also above the tracks as they face the opposite direction. A brakeman is standing in the track used to access the Edgar Thomson Steel Mill. Gondola freight cars are being switched on the siding as the Brakeman uses his hand held kerosene signal lamp to signal the switch locomotive's engineer out of sight to the right. The PRR had a passenger railroad sharing the ROW with a freight railroad.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

3. Swissvale - Bessemer

From Swissvale, milepost 344.5 (40.424728N79.886144W) the NS freight speed is 35 mph. The passenger speed is reduced to 40 mph at milepost 345 to milepost 342.1. The blue line is the NS line.

In comparison, the PRR allowed speeds varying from 50 to 40 to 50 mph within the sames points.

The manufacturing place under the place name of Bessemer  on the lower right is the United States Steel Edgar Thomson Works or steel mill.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

First PRR Passenger Train to Pittsburgh

"A historic event. On December 10, 1852, a wood-burning locomotive of the Pennsylvania Railroad arrived in Pittsburgh with four cars, making the first all rail trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh." Pittsburgh - The Story of an American City by Stefan Lorant, Page 121.

The photograph's location is attributed to be East Liberty, PA. The Union Pacific and the Central Pacific had their last spike at Promontory Point, UT. The Keystone Corridor West has its East Liberty!

In 1852 the trip from Harrisburg west was not on today's continuous line through Altoona. Rather, while the line was being built west from Altoona to Conemaugh, PA, the gap in the PRR line was completed using the Allegheny Portage Railroad. The Allegheny Portage Railroad was built and operated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as part of the canal built from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg in the 1830's. The western connection between the Pennsylvania railroad and the Allegheny Portage Railroad was at Conemaugh, PA east of Johnstown, PA.

The Allegheny Portage Railroad's purpose was to be a portage connecting two canals. Initially freight and passengers were trans loaded at Hollidaysburg and Johnstown. An innovation was made to avoid trans loading by building canal boats in sections then hauling the sections on the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

The original location of the Allegheny Portage Railroad required that rolling stock follow a ROW of levels and inclines. At 10 places there were 10 inclines. The gradient was so steep on the inclines that stationary steam engines at each incline gave motion to ropes that were used to hoist or lower the rolling stock over the incline. It was that laborious and time consuming incline and level system that was used to move Pennsylvania Railroad rolling Stock.

The eastern connection between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Allegheny Portage Railroad was accomplished at the "Wye" switches located about midway between Hollidaysburg to the east and Duncansville, PA to the west. The Pennsylvania Railroad built and operated a connecting line from Altoona to the "Wye" switches.

Ironically, the "New Portage Railroad" was being built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the same time the Pennsylvania Railroad was building its continuous line without interrupting inclines using the Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona. The Pennsylvania Railroad completed its continuous line from Altoona to Conemaugh on February 15, 1854. Despite the loss of Pennsylvania Railroad traffic, the Commonwealth completed the New Portage Railroad on July 1, 1855. The New Portage Railroad's continuous ROW across the Allegheny frontal barrier used a Muleshoe curve and a summit tunnel at Gallitzin, PA to surmount the barrier to transportation.

See Chapter 3, pages 94 -169, of "History of the Pennsylvania Railroad" Volume 1, by William Bender Wilson, published 1895, for a description of the building of the Pittsburgh to Altoona line. Pages 95 to 156 focus upon the Allegheny Portage Railroad and New Portage Railroad.
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Pitttsburgh - Swissvale East Busway

Obviously there is no opportunity for right of way (ROW) enhancements for the railroad line from Pittsburgh to Swissvale as the East Busway is parallel to the ROW. The East Busway shares the ROW of the PRR Pennsylvania Railroad. Conrail concentrated westbound freight traffic by funneling traffic through Chicago. The line to St. Louis had diverged from the Pittsburgh Station over what was referred to as the "Panhandle" route. The "Panhandle" name apparently came from the line crossing the West Virginia panhandle. The Port Authority of Pittsburgh was able to take advantage of the change to freight operations and acquired part of the ROW creating  from 2 of the 4 tracks in 1983 the ROW for the East Busway.  See:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2. East Liberty - Wilkinsburg - Swissvale

East Liberty, mile post 348.8, ( 40.459508N79.923272W) the line, in blue, as operated by NS for freight has a 30 mph speed limit. NS passenger speed is 40 mph through to 346.4  at Wilkinsburg where it is increased to 60 mph.

The Curve at 348.8 when operated by the PRR had a line speed of 50 mph for passenger traffic. The curve's speed for the PRR was 40 mph for track 1 and 45 mph for tracks 2 and 3.

At Wilkinsburg, mile post 346.3, (40.44075N79.886653W) the line operated by NS has freight speed limit of 35 mph. The PRR passenger speed was 60 mph.

At Swissvale, mile post 345.1, (40.424728N79.886144W) the line operated by NS has a  freight 35 mph speed passenger speed of 45 mph. The curve at Swissvale had a 50 mph speed limit under PRR operation.

The topography and urban location make right of way (ROW) enhancements impractical. The ROW shares the Port Authority of Allegheny County's East Busway from the vicinity of the Pittsburgh Amtrak station to Swissvale.

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1. Keystone West - Pittsburgh to East Liberty

This description of the railroad line is based upon the track charts that describe gradient, curvature and speed and the NS Employee Timetable. The designated mile point for the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station is 353.2 (40.445089N79.991806W). The mileposts will have lower numbers as the line is traced east. The curve at the concourse of the station is a 10.5 degree curve. With maximum rail elevation a 10.5 degree curve is capable of a 35 mph speed. The actual speed limit is 15 mph as elevating the outside rail beyond its 1.0 inch would make entry and exit of passenger equipment impractical.

The blue line is the existing NS line.

(The Federal Railroad Track Safety Standards can be found at 49 CFR 213.57. Appendix A found there is a chart indicating speeds for curves.)

At 352.5 the freight speed is increased to 30 mph to and through East Liberty 348.8 (40.459508N79.923272W).

The NS passenger speed from 352.5 to 352 is 30 mph. 352 to 351 is 40 mph. 351 to 350 is 35 mph. Then from 350 to 348.4 at East Liberty the passenger speed is 40 mph.

Data available for PRR operations indicates that through the station as now the speed was 15 mph. At 23rd Street 40 mph was permitted. At 28th Street 45 mph was permitted. 50mph was permitted at the Bloomfield Bridge. The curve at East Liberty required 40 mph on track 1, 45 mph for tracks 2 and 3.

The line between Pittsburgh and East Liberty has 13 curves within some 5 miles. Given the topography and urban environment, line enhancements are impractical.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Keystone West Rail Study Workplan

The Keystone West Rail Study's project workplan in phase 1 will assess the existing conditions of the Pittsburgh - Harrisburg line, the affected environment and potential effect. With such an assessment, operational alternatives will be considered such as modifications to the existing infrastructure to better accommodate passenger rail traffic. The study will review the feasibility of building enhancements to the infrastructure within the existing right of way (ROW) of the railroad line without impeding efficient freight operations. The study will also examine significant additions to the infrastructure outside of the existing right of way (ROW).

Essentially this means relaying a third dedicated passenger track the length of the Keystone Corridor West. The Keystone Corridor West is owned by NS and now consists of 2 bidirectional tracks.

The Pennsylvania Railroad's line was four tracks. Two tracks were dedicated to passenger traffic and two tracks were dedicated to freight traffic. What the Pennsylvania Railroad created was a separate passenger and freight railroad that shared the same ROW. East of Harrisburg the freight railroad did not share the ROW with the passenger railroad. Freight operations were on a different ROW.

The ROW today has 2 tracks. Technology now allows for the 2 tracks to have bidirectional signal capability. This was not true for the PRR.
The PRR mainline tracks were numbered 1 to 4 from south to north. 1 and 2 were eastbound. Tracks 3 and 4 were westbound. Generally, tracks 2 and 3 were passenger tracks.

Using Google Earth, it is possible to follow the Pittsburgh -Harrisburg line together with a track chart. Using a clear film template, a rough guesstimate as to where infrastructure enhancement might be made can be visualized. A 2 degree curve can withstand an 85 mph speed. A 1 degree curve can withstand a 113 mph speed. (See FRA Track Safety Standards, Appendix A at 49 CFR 213.57.)

Here is an aerial photograph of downtown Pittsburgh. X marks Milepost 353.2 (40.445089N79.991806W), site of the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station. It is from this point that the line will be examined with thoughts as to how the physical infrastructure might be enhanced to sustain faster speeds.

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Increasing Passenger Trains on Keystone Corridor West

The "Keystone West Passenger Train Study" done in 2005 by the Woodside Consulting Group for the Norfolk  Southern Railroad and PennDOT examined the impact of increased rail passenger service upon freight operations. (The report is available at Click on the bottom of the menu.)

To summarize the study, on an average 24 hour day, the Norfolk  Southern Railroad operates 105 freight trains across the Keystone Corridor. The current railroad line is composed of two tracks. The signal system allows for bidirectional operation on either track. In order to avoid interference with freight train operations, 66 miles of new track should be installed at various places in the Corridor.

Freight trains are operated at a slower speed than a passenger train. Without the additional track capacity described in the study, adding faster passenger trains will interfere freight operations.

Beating Highway Time on the Railroad

The distance between Pittsburgh's Amtrak station and Harrisburg's Amtrak station is 204 miles according to Mapquest. Mapquest gives a drive time of 3 hours 44 minutes using the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I76.

The railroad distance is 244.7 miles between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. 184 miles is sufficiently straight to allow maximum track speed. There are 60 miles of curves restricting speed. That means that 24.5 per cent of the route is a speed restricting curve of kind.

The problem to be solved is how to transit the Keystone Corridor West from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg time competitive with the highway.

While Mapquest gives a 3 hour 44 minute travel time, it is a best case scenario. Just the time consumed exiting the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Monroeville, PA for the trip to downtown Pittsburgh through the Squirrel Hill Tunnels is a typical Pennsylvania quagmire. The real highway travel time is more like 4 hour 30 minutes just because of the congestion on the Parkway East and the Squirrel Hill tunnel quagmire.

How can the time for the railroad be improved?

One solution might be to apply pendular suspended railroad passenger equipment designed to enter and leave curves faster than conventional railroad passenger equipment. Amtrak operates such equipment in the Pacific Northwest between Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. The equipment is manufactured by the Talgo Company. Using a copy of the track chart for the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line, one is able to learn by mile the curvature and gradient with speed limit for the railroad. Reviewing the track charts, a "back of the envelope" schedule estimate is 3 hours 50 minutes using Talgo equipment. The Talgo organization in an unofficial and courtesy review of the track charts by them resulted in an estimate that the schedule could be 4 hours 10 minutes with the caveat that a 30 minute cushion is part of the schedule.

History - Keystone Corridor West - Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, PA

The Pennsylvania Railroad was completed to Pittsburgh, PA from Harrisburg, PA in 1854. The route followed the watersheds of the Conemaugh River on the west and the Juniata River on the east. The tools available for construction were based upon manpower with horsepower. Picks, axes, shovels, wheel barrels, wagons, scrapers and black powder were the tools. The outcome was a route soundly based upon civil engineering practices of the 1850's. The biggest problem was building a railroad over the Allegheny frontal. The Allegheny frontal is the physical barrier between the Ridge and Valley section of Pennsylvania's geography and the Appalachian Plateau. J. Edgar Thomson was the civil engineer that designed the route over the Allegheny frontal beginning at Altoona and ending at Gallitzin, PA. In the center of the eleven mile grade is the Horseshoe Curve.

The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line remains today essentially upon the same 1850's route and alignment.

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1910 operated 30 daily passenger trains between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The fastest schedule was 6 hours. In 1950, 50 daily passenger trains were operated with the best schedule being 5 hours. Today the railroad is owned by the Norfolk Southern. Amtrak operates 2 daily passenger trains on a 5 and 1/2 hour schedule.

Government policy caused a decline in the railroad industry beginning in the 1950's. The then Interstate Commerce Commission followed a policy that failed to allow adequate rate increases for both passenger rates and freight rates. Railroad industry consolidation that might have allowed for a rational private sector solution to changed business conditions was delayed by the Interstate Commerce Commission such that the Penn Central Company, an attempt by the Pennsylvania Railroad and parallel competitor New York Central Railroad to merge and remain economically viable in 1968 was so fragile that damage caused by the 1972 Agnes hurricane pushed the struggling enterprise into bankruptcy.

The American railroad industry by 1971 was burdened with an unprofitable passenger train operation. Congress created the National Railroad Passenger  Corporation. It operates as Amtrak. The railroad companies would no longer own and operate passenger trains.  The railroads would provide the railroad line for which Amtrak would operate passenger trains. The exception is the former Pennsylvania Railroad lines in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak acquired the railroad as well as owned passenger equipment and operated passenger trains. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak owns the railroad line from Kalamazoo, MI to Porter, IN, portions of the Empire Corridor in New York, and the New Haven, CT to Springfield, MA. And, Amtrak owns the Keystone Corridor East from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, PA where the line connects with the Northeast Corridor.

By 1976, the railroad industry in the Northeastern United States was in such distress that Congress created the Consolidated Railroad Corporation or Conrail. The new corporation was composed of the former Penn Central Railroad Company and other railroad Companies such as the Erie - Lackawanna Railroad, Reading Railroad, Central Railroad of New Jersey, Ann Arbor Railroad.

The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line under Conrail was rebuilt with welded rail.

In 1999 the Norfolk and Southern Railroad together with the CSX Railroad bought Conrail roughly along the lines of the former Pennsylvania Railroad lines becoming controlled by the Norfolk and Southern and the former New York Central lines becoming controlled by the CSX Railroad.

The Keystone Corridor West,  Pittsburgh to Harrisburg is owned by the Norfolk and Southern Railroad with a dramatic heavy freight railroad operation. The Keystone Corridor East, Harrisburg to Philadelphia is owned by Amtrak and its principle purpose is to provide passenger service with some freight service provided by the Norfolk and Southern.