Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfield)

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andre
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by andre »

this could possibly be an attractive amtrak route if it were to run from nyp up the hellgate through new rochelle, stamford, s norwalk, danbury then up to pittsfield and possibly meet the springfield line or other new england route.

Equipment-wise i could imagine a p32genny with a couple am1 coaches, cafe car and a cab car on the end (if there is no place to turn the train around)

(reason im suggesting the possibility of it being an ideal amtrak service it involves the route going through 3 states to multiple cities)
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Otto Vondrak
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Otto Vondrak »

andre wrote:this could possibly be an attractive amtrak route if it were to run from nyp up the hellgate through new rochelle, stamford, s norwalk, danbury then up to pittsfield and possibly meet the springfield line or other new england route. ... (reason im suggesting the possibility of it being an ideal amtrak service it involves the route going through 3 states to multiple cities)
While it's fun to imagine Amtrak replicating the old New Haven through service, that is probably the least likely scenario. Never mind that Amtrak has parallel services on the Springfield Line and the Hudson Line, I doubt they'd look to add another (Especially a *through* service from NYP, where departure slots are already at a premium, never mind negotiating rights over Metro-North's Danbury Branch). The three states thing is true, but once you make that left turn at South Norwalk, you're really leaving the major population centers behind (which is why this proposal is more likely to take shape as a *seasonal excursion*). What's more, such an operation would require an infusion of funds and an agreement by Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plus, you'd have to convince Amtrak it was a good idea to give up another trainset to a dedicated service (plus they'd have to establish a crew base and switching terminal at Pittsfield to properly service and turn the train).

There are two operators on the line now, any seasonal excursion operation would most likely go to them and not interfere with Metro-North operations in Danbury.

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DutchRailnut
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by DutchRailnut »

Amtrak is an intercity carrier, and no viable cities exist on the route.
The study shows nearly 5000 people per day, yet MNCR's Danbury service carries around 1100 people per day.
I think the numbers just don't add up and are only a way to try to have state commit a whoooole lot of money on a dream.

Who will pay to upgrade the track to passenger standards ???
Who will pay for Equipment ???
Who will pay for mandated signalsystem/PTC to be installed by 2015.
betya the numbers will dwindle quik, once commuters find out they can travel at half prive from Wassaic or any other Harlem stations.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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NRGeep
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by NRGeep »

DutchRailnut wrote:Amtrak is an intercity carrier, and no viable cities exist on the route.


Who will pay to upgrade the track to passenger standards ???
Who will pay for Equipment ???
Who will pay for mandated signalsystem/PTC to be installed by 2015.
Well, China of course, with interest on the loan! :wink:

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Ridgefielder »

DutchRailnut wrote:Amtrak is an intercity carrier, and no viable cities exist on the route.
The study shows nearly 5000 people per day, yet MNCR's Danbury service carries around 1100 people per day.
I think the numbers just don't add up and are only a way to try to have state commit a whoooole lot of money on a dream.

Who will pay to upgrade the track to passenger standards ???
Who will pay for Equipment ???
Who will pay for mandated signalsystem/PTC to be installed by 2015.
betya the numbers will dwindle quik, once commuters find out they can travel at half prive from Wassaic or any other Harlem stations.
Numbers seem high, I agree. However, with regard to the Harlem Line siphoning off travelers, remember there aren't many east-west roads once you get north of I-84. Route 55 from Gaylordsville to Wingdale is about the only one that doesn't take a big jog north or south to get over the Taconic Range. And Candlewood Lake lies directly to the west of New Milford, which I would assume is the largest town between Danbury and Pittsfield.

FWIW I think this would be a whole lot more realistic if there was some viable way to have an across-the-platform connection with MNRR at the Village of Brewster-- at least that would give you a two-seat ride to Manhattan.

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

Bear with me, this is long. I'm with Dutch, I don't think this would or could be an Amtrak service. If it were to be an Amtrak route, it would have to be state supported/funded. As I've thought about this, I don't see Amtrak wanting to run it; they already run North-South from NYP-Albany and from NH-Hartford. Some other posters have thought so, too. Amtrak has not even been included in any of the official conversation to this point.

And the issue with anyone running the Danbury route, both north and south of there, is:

1. Slow, and not likely to get much faster, even with proposed improvements/max build option on the Danbury improvement study.

2. As Dutch has pointed out, Danbury and below is MNRR, and thus, ACRE territory. Now, I'm not sure if this proposed train were to be added to the Amtrak national timetable if ACRE restrictions would apply.

3. The segmentation of ownership and operating rights by freight/passenger. Right now, CDOT owns the line from SoNo to Danbury, and from New Milford to State Line. HRRC owns the middle; Danbury to New Milford. HRRC also owns Danbury to NY State Line and Danbury to Derby Jct. HRRC has the freight rights north of Danbury, west to NY (Beacon) and east to Derby; P&W south to SoNo. NY owns the Maybrook/Beacon ROW in its own boundaries; I'm unsure if they still retain any rights in the CT portion of the stretch between Dykemans and state line (i.e. do their rights only extend to the State LIne).

4. CDOT is studying expansion north of Danbury, and has also included Pittsfield in the next phase. They've been dithering over this for at least 10 years, and HVCEO has studied it previously.

5. HRRC would have to gain operating rights (if they're not already included in the current freight operating rights) for passengers north of New Milford. I'm guessing if they wanted to run passengers from New Milford to Danbury, they'd need only FRA approval. They'd have to find some accomodation to use Danbury station with MNRR, and approval from CDOT as well, both for Danbury station and north of New Milford.

6. HRRC, in an interesting aside in their press release, also noted they have operating rights over the Maybrook line to Brewster, NY. Maybe so, but I doubt MNRR would want anything on their ROW (ACRES again) in NY without cab signals, etc., especially passenger. What would they do, build a transfer platform where Dykemans/Towners used to be?

7. Travel times from NY will be horrendous, most if not all of the way in commuter type seating (3x2). I think the estimate at current service levels to Danbury, connections, etc. is something like four hours. Potential transfers include either Stamford or SoNo, and Danbury. And there'd be no luggage service; just the overhead racks.

8. If Amtrak were to run the service from NYP, the running times might be better. You'd have limited stops similar to the Regionals (New Rochelle and Stamford), and adding Danbury. But would this service run straight from Danbury to Pittsfield? I doubt an Amtrak-level train would stop in New Milford, Kent, etc.

9. Also, does Amtrak have servicing facilities in Pittsfield? You know, cleaning, maintenance, crew base, etc.?

10. I don't see HRRC being interested in Amtrak running on their ROW and introducing a third party they have to deal with outside of CDOT, and MNRR through CDOT. They're looking at getting capital investment in infrastructure, maybe rolling stock, and maintaining control of their exclusive territory.

Those are the issues as I understand them. There is going to be some serious wheeling and dealing for any type of passenger service north of Danbury, besides all the issues of upgrading the line, both north and south.

These issues aren't insurmountable, but there is just so much at play here. I would look at these solutions:

1. CDOT contracts Amtrak for SLE, and MNRR for east of New Haven and branch service. Now, as I've said, I don't think HRRC wants Amtrak up there. They contract the service with Amtrak since Amtrak owns the NEC east of New Haven. So they'll pursue a contract with HRRC, determine what upgrades are needed, and start the process. HRRC owns the middle of the Berkshire/Danbury line. Even if CDOT allows them to operate over the northern portion, I don't think they could or would arbitrarily terminate that agreement; it would be a taking from a presumably profitable business, disrupt service, etc. The two parties need each other.

2. I've always thought, and I think Ridgefielder is on to this, that service to Brewster from Danbury (almost like the old NYC Harlem "around the horn") would be useful, connecting Danbury to White Plains via rail. Even going back to 1997 when I last lived in Danbury that traffic from 84 to 684 was nuts. However, it's problematic, requiring reverse moves. The old connection to the Put is long gone. They'd have to find some type of area with adequate space to put in a horseshoe curve to run anything. This would have to be MNRR since it would require their track in NYS, but MNRR would need cooperation from HRRC.

3. There's really no solution to a two-seat ride without Amtrak. MNRR does not have that type of equipment, and I believe the cost to run an excursion service from GCT to Pittsfield would either be of no interest to MNRR, or no interest to HRRC. So you're stuck with two operators, most of it in commuter equipment.

4. I've always found the whole branch operation process problematic, outside of New Canaan. It's low ridership, there's not much of a market to GCT on either line (likely zero from Waterbury), and CDOT pays 100%. Waterbury is a shuttle only to Bridgeport, right? Does the GCT service to Danbury make stops before Stamford? Now, Dutch will retire before this ever happens, so he won't have to worry about his job :wink: , but what if CDOT were to withdraw the branches from their operating agreement with MNRR, and give them over to another operator, i.e. HRRC? You could ditch any GCT service from Danbury; a transfer at Stamford or SoNo would suffice. Any mainline operation necessary could be run similar to the SLE service to Stamford; MNRR crews/pilots. Catch the express to Stamford, walk across to the excursion equipment. Or sell a joint ticket with Amtrak. Benefits? MNRR gets out of the branchline business. There are so many issues with cost right now between CDOT and MNRR. This reduces one of the issues. The market for the branches shouldn't be GCT or New York; it's Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, South Norwalk. As for Waterbury, that service could be a shuttle from a new Devon station.
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Otto Vondrak
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Otto Vondrak »

I appreciate the lengthy repsonse, but can we please walk away from the Amtrak discussion? They were never part of this topic. Let's stick to the original HRRC proposal discussion. The topic at hand is a privately operated for-profit passenger service.

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

Exactly what I was doing; ruling it out.
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by DutchRailnut »

All I can say is "who ever will operate it, it will cost the taxpayers a fortune"
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Ridgefielder »

Jeff Smith wrote: 4. I've always found the whole branch operation process problematic, outside of New Canaan. It's low ridership, there's not much of a market to GCT on either line (likely zero from Waterbury), and CDOT pays 100%. Waterbury is a shuttle only to Bridgeport, right? Does the GCT service to Danbury make stops before Stamford? Now, Dutch will retire before this ever happens, so he won't have to worry about his job :wink: , but what if CDOT were to withdraw the branches from their operating agreement with MNRR, and give them over to another operator, i.e. HRRC? You could ditch any GCT service from Danbury; a transfer at Stamford or SoNo would suffice. Any mainline operation necessary could be run similar to the SLE service to Stamford; MNRR crews/pilots. Catch the express to Stamford, walk across to the excursion equipment. Or sell a joint ticket with Amtrak. Benefits? MNRR gets out of the branchline business. There are so many issues with cost right now between CDOT and MNRR. This reduces one of the issues. The market for the branches shouldn't be GCT or New York; it's Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, South Norwalk. As for Waterbury, that service could be a shuttle from a new Devon station.
Danbury-GCT through service has attracted enough ridership through the years that there have been 2 or 3 inbound and outbound through trains on the schedule pretty much since the day the NYNH&H bought the original Housatonic Rail Road ca. 1895-- if not before. (As a historical note, the Park Avenue Tunnel wreck of January 8, 1902, which was the catalyst for the entire GCT electrification, involved a Danbury through train.) And INTRA-state ridership on the branch has increased considerably in recent years, as people from Bethel, Redding and Ridgefield use it to commute to jobs in Norwalk and Stamford. I even personally know two people who use the branch to commute from Bethel to Wilton. Any move to cut through service on the line-- or replace MNRR with the Housy as an operator-- is likely to run into the unified opposition of every member of the General Assembly from Danbury, Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton, and Weston-- not to mention Brookfield and Newtown.

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

Ridgefielder, I understand what you're saying. I thought Dutch has intimated on here that the through trains from GCT don't have too many passengers left by the time they get to Danbury, or even SoNo. I could be mistaken.

I'm strictly speaking in the context of the Pittsfield proposal. Certainly, any commuter service would need to make all stops on the line, and perhaps as far as Stamford as well, if not Greenwich. Keep in mind I wouldn't mind a reinstituted Ridgefield shuttle, either. :wink:

It would greatly help any Pittsfield service, though, if stops on the lower half of the branch (below Danbury) be limited.
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Ridgefielder »

Jeff Smith wrote:Ridgefielder, I understand what you're saying. I thought Dutch has intimated on here that the through trains from GCT don't have too many passengers left by the time they get to Danbury, or even SoNo. I could be mistaken.

I'm strictly speaking in the context of the Pittsfield proposal. Certainly, any commuter service would need to make all stops on the line, and perhaps as far as Stamford as well, if not Greenwich. Keep in mind I wouldn't mind a reinstituted Ridgefield shuttle, either. :wink:

It would greatly help any Pittsfield service, though, if stops on the lower half of the branch (below Danbury) be limited.
Danbury, yes, because that's a heck of a long haul to GCT-- but whenever I ride that train there are plenty of people getting off at Wilton, Cannondale and Branchville.

I think The Berkshire only made Wilton and Branchville back in the day (and maybe Redding as a flag stop?) but I might be mistaken.

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

That's why I would differentiate the service; I don't think I was completely clear in my "thesis" above. And it might be easier to differentiate the service if the branch were truncated from GCT, and more conform it to both excursion traffic, and intra-state needs. Someone jumps on the Stamford express at GCT, or the regional at Penn, and transfers to either the excursion train, or the commuter train. Make it a Uni-Ticket.
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by DutchRailnut »

First there won't be any other railroad operating to Stamford unless entire CDOT contract changes.
If HRRC wanted to operate south of Danbury those trains would be operated by ACRE members, and currently ACRE is only Metro-North Employees.
Second the Danbury trains have plenty of passengers on branch at least 200 or more per train.
for passengers going noth of Danbury the count is very low, as there are only around 18 passengers getting off at Danbury.
and most of those are locals.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Noel Weaver »

The three main stops on the Danbury Branch in years past were Wilton, Branchville and Bethel. The Pittsfield trains generally
made these stops with a couple of exceptions especially for summertime weekend trains.
Second, ACRE holds the contract for all of Metro-North T & E people, I grant that but there is nothing in federal or state law
that prevents the State of Connecticut nor Metro-North from granting passenger trackage rights to Amtrak to operate trains
in this territory using Amtrak crews. We have argued this point before but it is being done now and most likely could happen
again sometime down the road. This argument is probably academic because I don't think Amtrak wants any part of running
between New York and Pittsfield through Danbury or any other point either for that matter.
The union holds a contract but they DO NOT OWN THE RAILROAD.
Noel Weaver

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