Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvanian’

Report Details Infrastructure Projects Needed on NS Pittsburgh Line for Added Amtrak Service

March 10, 2022

The infrastructure improvements that will be made to the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern to accommodate a second New York-Pittsburgh Amtrak train include new tracks and interlockings.

NS and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have released the results of a traffic study that contains the planned infrastructure projects.

The costs of those projects range from $147 million to $171 million with much of the funding expected to come from federal money provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The projects include a new third track on the Rockville Bridge over the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, a new 5-mile-long main line track through Rose Yard in Altoona, the addition of three new interlockings (crossovers), and expansion of nine existing interlocking plants.

A new track would also be built through the Pittsburgh Amtrak station to enable freight trains to bypass it.

The report projects that Amtrak departure times from Pittsburgh will be 7 a.m. and noon with trains arriving in Pittsburgh from New York at 3:11 p.m. and 9:01 p.m.

The current schedule of the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian is to depart Pittsburgh at 7:30 a.m. and arrive at 7:59 p.m.

The NS Pittsburgh Line is among the nation’s most heavily used rail freight lines and has handled as much as 100 million gross ton-miles in recent years.

The route has a top speed for passenger trains of 79 miles per hour but operations are complicated by a 40-mile helper district with 1.8 percent grades over the Allegheny Mountains west of Altoona.

NS currently operates 45 trains a day on the mostly double-track line excluding helper moves.

The Pennsylvanian is the sole Amtrak operation between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg although in the passenger carrier’s early years the route saw three daily roundtrips between those points.

As recently as 2004 the line had two pairs of New York-Pittsburgh Amtrak trains.

An analysis of the report published on the website of Trains magazine noted that the report fails to explain how up until that point NS managed to accommodate twice-daily Amtrak service without unduly hindering its freight operations.

However, one change since the discontinuance of the Three Rivers in 2004 has been NS plans to increase clearances on the Pittsburg Line through the city between the Amtrak station and CP Wing in Wilmerding.

That will add more potential for traffic conflicts with Amtrak trains in downtown Pittsburgh.

Because of clearance restrictions on the Pittsburgh Line, NS routes its approximately 16 double-stacked container trains along the south shore of Monongahela River through Pittsburgh over the Ohio Connecting Bridge, Mon Line and Port Perry Branch.

The report used computer modeling to simulate passenger and freight traffic and assumed that by 2020 NS would be operating six additional manifest freights and one additional westbound intermodal train beyond today’s operations.

 “Norfolk Southern does not have adequate capacity to operate the proposed new and modified Amtrak schedules without degradation to both Amtrak and NS operations,” the report concluded. “To mitigate the added delay to both Amtrak and NS trains, and to protect NS priority (expedited) traffic, additional infrastructure is needed.”

Specific projects and their estimated costs are: Add mainline track at Pittsburgh station, $12.5 million to $18.5 million; add universal three-track interlocking at Milepost 276 west of the Johnstown Amtrak station, $9.5 million to $11.5 million; install universal three-track interlocking at Milepost 257 in Portage, $7.8 million to $9.8 million; add new main track between CP Altoona (Milepost 236.8) to CP Antis (Milepost 232.5), $51.5 million to $61.5 million; upgrading 9 miles of an existing controlled siding between CP Antis and CP Gray in Tyrone, $11.5 million to $14.5 million;  and added 8 miles of new mainline track between the Amtrak station in Harrisburg and CP Banks at Marysville, $50 million to $55 million.

The traffic study and report can be read at https://www.penndot.pa.gov/Documents/Amtrak-Pennsylvanian_Final-Report.pdf

Federal Grant Awarded to Improve Keystone Line

October 29, 2020

Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have received a $15.9 million federal State of Good Repair grant that will be used on the Keystone Line.

The project involves signal upgrades on the Amtrak-owned line that is used by the intercity passenger carrier’s Keystone Service and Pennsylvanian trains.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority trains also use the line.

The work will occur between Paoli and Overbrook and allow for bidirectional train movement on all tracks and higher operating speeds.

The line is owned by Amtrak.

Ed’s Pennsylvania Adventure: Part 1

August 21, 2018

Last week Ursula and I did a six-day trip to Pennsylvania that focused on Altoona and Hershey.

Our first stop was Horseshoe Curve. During our time at the curve from 1:30  p.m. to 6:15 p.m. we saw 21 movements, including 18 trains and three helper movements. Several times there were two trains at the same time.

In the top photograph, the Penn Central heritage locomotive of Norfolk Southern paces from Track No. 2 another train on Track No. 3 in late afternoon.

In the top photo below, a stack train eastbound on Track 2 passes a train on track 1. In the next image an eastbound meets a westbound late in the day.

That’s the back of Ursula’s head in the next image of her making a video of the westbound Amtrak Pennsylvanian.

Most of the time the crews are friendly when Amtrak goes around the curve as was evident today from the Amdinette.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

A Matter of Scale

November 7, 2017

Would you have made this photograph let alone posted it? Some railfan photographers would answer “no” on both counts. Some might even say they don’t like this image.

They wouldn say the the lead locomotive is too small. You can’t read the roster number or see any of the detail.

And that, of course, is the point of this image of Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian.

We’ve all stood next to a locomotive and noticed how big they are. Most of us have stood next to an Amtrak P42DC and had the same feeling.

Yes, the locomotive seems small because of it distance from my camera, but I also like how the mountains in the background dwarf the train and remind of us that no matter how large a locomotive it, there is always something bigger.

Aside from that, I made this image because of its sense of place. It screams eastern mountains and is, in fact, a location in the Allegheny Mountains at Summerhill, Pennsylvania.

I am far from being the first photograph to make such an image. I’ve seen photographs made in the west and the east in which the mountains are swallowing the train.

I wouldn’t want to make all of my images look like that, but this view is just one of many that can be used to tell a story with photographs.

Six Minutes Down in Summerhill

October 26, 2017

 

Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian is six minutes off the advertised as it rushes down Track No. 2 of the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern through Summerhill, Pennsylvania.

Track work to cut in new signals going on in the area probably accounted for most or all of the delay.

Pulling the train today is P42DC No. 160 with a consist of Amfleet coaches and a cafe car.

That is U.S. 219 crossing over the tracks in the distance in the top photograph.

On the other side of the street bridge on which I’m standing is a signal bridge with Pennsylvania Railroad style position light signal heads that are living on borrowed time.

As for No. 42, it could continue to lose time as it proceeded eastward. It arrived in New York Penn Station a half-hour late.

Some Quality Time on Horseshoe Curve

June 2, 2017

 

In this second installment of the trip that Akron Railroad Club member Ed Ribinskas took to Pennsylvania last month, we join him at Horseshoe Curve on the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern.

Ed was there along with his brother in law Karl and his son Owen. They made a day trip to the curve and the Everett Railroad.

While on the curve, Ed photographed Amtrak westbound train No. 43, the Pennsylvanian. It had its standard Amfleet consist pulled by a single P42DC locomotive.

No. 43 passed on the curve an NS manifest freight had had the Savannah & Atlanta heritage unit (No. 1065) in the motive power consist.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian in Altoona

October 29, 2016

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Amtrak’s New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian passes through Altoona, Pennsylvania, in late morning eastbound and late afternoon westbound.

The usual consist of Nos. 42 and 43 is a single P42DC locomotive and six Amfleet cars, one of them a food service car that offers business class service.

The westbound Pennsylvanian is shown on Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona and passing the former Alto Tower in downtown Altoona.

In mid-October the train was running with one of Amtrak’s Phase III livery heritage units.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Pittsburgh Group Pushing Added Amtrak Service

May 23, 2016

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is supporting efforts to increase the level of Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation for the group, plans to meet with Gov. Tom Wolf to push the service expansion, which she said would cost $10 million to $13 million a year.

“This is a very affordable transportation project,” Beattie said. “This is not an extravagant project. It’s very doable.”

Amtrak logoPittsburgh officials are seeking to increase service from one roundtrip a day to three roundtrips.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation underwrites most of the costs of the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency has asked Amtrak how much it would cost to add one train a day and whether it has the needed equipment and track access.

Under a law approved in 2013, the state has about $8 million a year earmarked for rail service but Kirkpatrick said those funds are already allocated.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the passenger carrier is working on a comprehensive study for the state but he wouldn’t discuss any specifics.

“We are working as fast as we can to put together the information,” Tolbert said. “At this point, I do not have a time frame for when that will be done.”

Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, said additional Amtrak service would also benefit such communities as Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewistown because they have few public transportation options.

Beattie said that the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg route has the second highest percentage of filled seats among Amtrak’s top 17 routes with patronage having increased every year since 2005 when the service fell from two roundstrips to one with the discontinuance of the Three Rivers.

“We think there’s an unmet demand for more service,” she said. “It can only grow so far with one train.”

Beattie also noted that Pennsylvania helps to fund 14 daily trips on the Harrisburg-to-Philadelphia segment of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia route.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing what the governor has to say about rail, especially service to the western part of the state. [Additional service] would connect parts of the state that aren’t connected now,” she said.

Train Time in Tyrone

December 28, 2015

Amtrak's eastbound Pennsylvanian swings around an S curve and with it carries the ghost of Pennsylvania Railroad passenger trains past.

Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian swings around an S curve and with it carries the ghost of Pennsylvania Railroad passenger trains past.

We got an early start to a railfan trip to Pennsylvania and decided to spend a couple hours on the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern in Tyrone.

Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian was due in at 10:17 a.m. and we got there a good 40 minutes before that.

We thought about catching the train in Altoona coming past Alto Tower because I’ve never photographed there.

But I’ve also never photographed in Tyrone, which is somewhat amazing considering that for two years I lived a half-hour away in State College. But I did all of my railfanning back then in Lewistown.

Tyrone is a flag stop for No. 42 and no one was waiting on the platform with luggage in hand when we arrived. We did meet a couple who was there to pick up someone who got on at Johnstown.

It turned out that Tyrone was a black hole for cell phone service for us so we had to rely on the radio to listen for the train rather than get an update from Amtrak Julie.

The NS dispatcher was a reliable source of information. A maintenance of way guy was out on the line somewhere and he reported an OS for No. 42 to the dispatcher.

The weather was less than ideal with mostly cloudy skies and haze that resulted in muted colors. That wind whipping through the valley was downright cold and I wished that I had brought a heavier jacket.

The detector went off at Tipton for Track No. 2, which Amtrak must use at Tyrone because it is next to the platform.

P42DC No. 138 led the six-car train of Amfleet equipment around the curve for an on-time arrival.

There were more people disembarking than boarding. In fact, come to think of it, I’m not sure if anyone boarded No. 42 before it departed for New York City.

There is a pretty sharp curve to the east of the Tyrone station so I was able to get a going away shot of the train snaking out of town and ducking beneath Interstate 99. And then it was gone.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

P42DC No. 138 almost has the Pennsylvanian there.

P42DC No. 138 almost has the Pennsylvanian in the station.

The conductor scans the platform as No. 42 arrives.

The conductor scans the platform as No. 42 arrives.

Onward to New York City and points large and small in between.

Onward to New York City and points large and small in between.

The former PRR passenger station in Tyrone is now the home of a historical society. Amtrak uses a bus-shelter type station out of sight to the right.

I later learned that this is not the original PRR passenger station in Tyrone. It is a modern building built to be the home of a historical society. Amtrak uses a bus-shelter type station out of sight to the right.

Keeping the heritage alive near the Tyrone station.

Keeping the heritage alive near the Tyrone station.

 

When the Pennsylvanian was New to Cleveland

November 7, 2014

Pennsylvanian at Berea

If you live long enough, everything that you’ve witnessed in your life will become history, even ancient history.

It was 16 years ago today that Amtrak extended the Pennsylvanian to Chicago and thus created a scheduled daylight train in Northeast Ohio.

The Pennsylvanian began operating between Chicago and Philadelphia on Nov. 7, 1998. Prior to then, it had been a New York-Pittsburgh train.

The impetus for extending the Pennsylvanian to Chicago was to take some of the pressure off the Chicago-New York Three Rivers, which was about to reach its 30-car maximum. Most of the cars on the Three Rivers carried mail and express shipments on its route over CSX via Akron and Youngstown.

The Pennsylvanian would also be heavily oriented toward head-end traffic as well.

At the time, Amtrak was seeking to grow its way to profitability by aggressively going after head-end traffic.

Of course, Ohio rail passenger advocates have been trying for years to get the Pennsylvanian extended to Cleveland and Toledo.

Amtrak eventually exited the mail and express business and the Pennsylvanian in early 2003 fell back to being a New York-Pittsburgh train, which it remains today.

But on Nov. 22, 1998, when this image of Amtrak No. 44 was made at Berea, there was optimism that better days were ahead for Amtrak in Ohio.

Aside from the Pennsylvanian no longer operating west of Pittsburgh, much else has changed about this scene. Amtrak still uses P42 locomotives, but in this scene they are two liveries removed from the present day look.

Also, note the yellow Conrail service truck. In November 1998, Conrail was in its last year of independent operation.

Finally, the signal bridge at the west end of CP 194 has been replaced by modern signals.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders