Sunday, August 26, 2012

Maine Eastern Railroad's West End, August 25, 2012

This "Scenic Excursions" railroad runs from Brunswick, ME 51 miles east and a little north to Rockland, ME.  Brunswick is 26 miles north east of Portland.  Maine Central (MERR) is state owned and operated for the state by the Morristown and Erie Railway of New Jersey.  There is some freight service.  The passenger trains make two round trips daily (Rockland to Brunswick and return), one in the morning and one in the afternoon four days a week from May through October.  There is some variation in the schedule in the Fall.

While MERR has a handful of locomotives, FL9 488 seems to be doing all the passenger work this summer.  Here she is with the first westbound train in a cut in a residential neighborhood in Bath, ME just after passing the station on time at 9:20 a.m.

The train is seem about 1/4 mile short the station in Brunswick.

At the Brunswick Station/Visitor's Center.  A regional bus line uses the station as will the Downeaster when it is extended beyond Portland to Brunswick.  The first car is a square-end observation/parlor car.  Next is a diner followed by three coaches.

The train is wyed in Brunswick.  Here it is backing around the northwest leg.

The wye has three grade crossings of local streets and a crew member flags each one.  Here, as the train pulls forward, he is rolling up his flag at the last one on the northeast leg.  The 45 minutes between arrival and departure times at Brunswick was more than sufficient to execute turning the train.

Arriving back in Bath as the morning eastbound.  Bath is the typical Maine central-coast town.  Filled with vacationers in the beautiful summer weather, and then there is the Maine winter.

Just east of the Bath depot is a double-level lift bridge over the Kennebec River.  The top highway-level is obviously not used by U.S. Route 1 traffic which now uses the bridge to the left.  I wonder if that street light works?  Changing the bulb would be interesting.

This last picture was taken along the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset, ME about 20 minutes later.  Nobody boarded at Wiscasset that morning.

MERR's web site may be found at:

Friday, August 24, 2012

3, the 2, and a 1 -- Diesels, the Downeasters, and a Cabbage

Midday Downeasters Calling on Saco, ME August 17, 2012

The second northbound Downeaster of the day, #683 called at Saco, ME 20 minutes beyond its 1:05 pm time.

Amtrak 822 in aging Phase III paint pulled while Cabbage 90220 followed.

The third southbound Downeaster (#684) was due at 1:12 pm but was delayed in the passing siding just north of town due to 683's tardiness.  The first picture below was taken at 1:23 pm.

The surprise was that 122 was leading the southbound instead of a cabbage.  Amtrak 195 was pushing as expected.  Both diesels were running increasing the operating cost.  Well, she should be able to make up time! 

Two train sets are required to meet the Downeaster's schedule of five round daily trips.  The sets overnight in Portland.  I've shown you both ends of both sets for this August early afternoon at Saco since the midday trains meet at at the siding just north of Saco (pronounced sock-oh).  Not a bad show for 15 minutes!  3 diesels, the 2 Downeasters, and a cabbage.

 Marty Bernard

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Elegant Way to Teach at a Museum

The Colorado Railway Museum has a cell phone system for visitors to get descriptions of the artifact before them.  The visitor calls the phone number on the first sign they encounter (see picture below) and gets a brief welcome/introduction from the Executive Director and then is asked to enter the number of the sign (here 15) and is given a description of  the artifact.  The visitor "redials" at the next sign, enter the sign number, and gets a description.  The map of the museum has the numbers also.

You can try the system out using the web address on the sign.

Elegant in its simplicity!

Friday, August 17, 2012

An Amtrak Vermonter at Palmer, Massachusetts on August 1, 2012


Of all the en route moves Amtrak makes, the reverse move by the Vermonter in each direction daily at Palmer, MA (called the Palmer Shuffle) is maybe the most interesting.   Combining or breaking up of sections a train (e.g., of the Builder at Spokane or of the Lake Shore at Albany/Renssellaer) is old hat, as is adding or subtracting cars at stations.  But the reverse move of the Vermonter at Palmer is unique as the train changes railroads between CSX and the New England Central Railroad (NECR).  On the day of the photos the southbound and northbound trains ran with cab cars.  At times they have run with engines at both ends which increases the operating costs.

Routing the Vermonter through Palmer is a detour from the more direct Connecticut River Valley Line that carried the previous train on the route, the Montrealer which, because of track deterioration, Amtrak bused in 1987 north of Springfield.  The state-subsidised Vermonter could not be a bus thus the 11-track mile longer Palmer detour and reverse move was created.  Money exists to upgrade the valley route.

Palmer hosts the east/west main of the CSX (the westbound Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited passed through 11 minutes before the Southbound Vermonter arrived) and the north/south NECR main which the Vermonter uses to the north.  Three-locomotive short-line Massachusetts Central Railroad (MCER) starts here and runs 24 miles northeast to South Barre, MA.  Both MCER and NECR interchange with CSX east of the depot along the CSX.  Both have yards in town.   All three NCER diesels were in town for my camera.  The Palmer Depot is a restaurant and no trains stop there.  The parking lot is a train watcher hang out.

Southbound From Vermont Via NECR To Springfield, MA and Points South Via CSX

In this a Google Satellite shot the southbound train enters at Point 3 on the NECR and follows the yellow dots past Point 2 as shown in the next three pictures.  The reason for the reverse move is that there is no west leg of a wye between Points 1 and 3.

Below, the engine (AMTK 104, P42DC) is about parallel with the depot and the end of the train is around the curve out of view and still on the NECR mainline at Point 3.  The engine passed Point 3 at 2:12 p.m.

The engine is about at Point 2.  A crew member is on the ground to throw a track switch.  The crew has to throw up to three switches, sometimes twice to return them to their normal position.  The dispatcher throws the switch for the CSX mainline.

The train is past Point 2 and the cab car 9641's head and ditch lights have been turned on.
The train is leaving Palmer by crossing over to the CSX main with the cab car leading (about at Point 1).  The depot is at the left.  Some of the train watchers can be seen.  The reversing move took about 10 minutes longer than if the train could have used the non-existent west leg of the wye.

The train will head west to Springfield before it turns south to New Haven and beyond.

The Interlude between Northbound and Southbound Trains 

Massachusetts Central Railroad's highly rebuilt GP20 made a switching move past the depot into their yard leaving the yard switch reversed which the SB Vermonter crew has to correct.

Northbound Vermonter Reverses from CSX to NECR 

The NB Vermonter crossed the diamond on the CSX main at 3:40 p.m. with cab car 9639 leading.
The power (AMTK P42DC #15) has pushed the train past Point 2 and a crew member is throwing the switch for the NECR main.  The CSX main is the right track.

The train has now reversed with 15 leading past the depot. 

15 is now around the curve at about Point 3 with the cab car concluding the train. This reverse move took 14 minutes longer than if the train had a west wye leg to use.  And the action is over.


A NECR crew waited about 45 minutes to make a switching move out of the northwest end of their yard that required they cross the diamond with CSX.  Once the northbound Vermonter cleared the interlocking the CSX dispatcher gave them the signal.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Street Sign Read "Diesel Shop Road"

Finally a town that's railfan friendly:  Bangor, Maine

A side road on the far west side of Bangor has this street sign.  I go down it.  In about a mile I find a roundhouse!!!!

But no track and certainly no rail cars.  I can't go around and see if there still is a turntable.  A heavy construction firm, dump trucks and the like, is using it.  Well, it's recycled.

It was a Maine Central roundhouse and I could find but remnants of the major yard that went with it.

I think the new looking street sign postdates the diesel shop!  Oh and the photo is straight!  Well the Bangor Street Department had a good heart!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Worcester Union Station on August 1, 2012.

This is the amazing headhouse of Worcester (Mass.) Union Station (44 miles west from South Station, Boston).  The station is served at a single high-level platform by a dozen Boston commuter trains in each direction and the Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited in each direction.  CSX freight tracks are on one side of the headhouse and Providence & Worcester RR tracks are on the other.  All the tracks are up one level to allow local streets to have underpasses.  How many stations at outer ends of a commuter lines have headhouses like this?

And this picture is from the same angle as the first one above from just before the reconstruction in 1996.  The source is
Worcester Union Station: The Monument and the Memories by Idamay Michaud Aesenault, Ambassador Books, Worcester, MA, 1999.