AMTRAK NEC: Springfield Shuttle/Regional/Valley Flyer

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Station Aficionado »

R Paul Carey wrote:The CR Boston Line was single tracked in 1987-88. The old ABS (current of traffic) signal system was replaced with TCS, permitting traffic flow on signal indication in either direction on all main tracks, "substantially" maintaining line capacity compared to the older double track system. In those areas where a second track was retained, the track was upgraded with CWR and sufficient length was retained to enable rolling meets against opposing traffic.
I wonder if Amtrak protested. They often protested single-tracking, to no effect, though. And then they themselves single-tracked Springfield-New Haven (which will have be "redoubled" (as I saw it referred to in Britain) if the Connecticut commuter rail project ever gets going). Pity no one was able to foresee the renaissance of rail (freight & passenger). Would've saved a lot money in the long run.

DesertDavid
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by DesertDavid »

To remove double track is stupid, stupid, stupid. The dumbest thing the RRs ever did.

Jeff Smith
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Jeff Smith »

I'd disagree on the stupidity of the single-tracking move. Hindsight is 20/20. Whether it's the Springfield line or the Boston line (or the reduction in tracks on the old NYC main line), private railroads had a very good reason for doing so; cost. They did so as traffic decreased, and invested in technology to increase capacity as traffic did.

We think of it as a headache today because it impedes pax traffic. And I disagree with the notion that the NH-Springfield line needs double-tracking. Better signaling and passing sidings would be more than enough to accomodate increased pax service, which may or may not be justified to begin with.
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park »

Jeff Smith wrote:I'd disagree on the stupidity of the single-tracking move. Hindsight is 20/20. Whether it's the Springfield line or the Boston line (or the reduction in tracks on the old NYC main line), private railroads had a very good reason for doing so; cost. They did so as traffic decreased, and invested in technology to increase capacity as traffic did.

We think of it as a headache today because it impedes pax traffic. And I disagree with the notion that the NH-Springfield line needs double-tracking. Better signaling and passing sidings would be more than enough to accomodate increased pax service, which may or may not be justified to begin with.
B&A is already cab-signaled by CSX west of Framingham, so not sure the signal system really has that much more it can do on the single-track portion. Definitely some passing sidings would be good. You would figure CSX is going to start needing more of them anyway with increased traffic.

I do think passenger loads are eventually going to force the issue, but it's not going to be New York re-routes or people wanting to go Boston-Springfield that does it. It's going to be Bradley Int'l Airport getting aligned with Logan as a regional affiliate to spread passenger loads. The T.F. Green extension of the Providence line facilitates that. So is the proposed N.H. Main extension with a Manchester Int'l stop. This is the future of New England air travel. Logan can't keep adding runways, and it's going to suffer from more big-hub delay paralysis as overall air traffic increases. Bradley is way under-capacity and does have the facilities and runways to take on more long-distance flights and step up its arrivals in bad weather. South Station-Bradley shuttles on Amtrak would be hugely popular, and they'd also open up lots of fare flexibility for passengers on flights when it's flat-out cheaper to use an alternate airport or even mixed arrival/departure destinations on a round-trip. Don't underestimate the untapped potential of that. Before my dad, who lives in Central CT, retired he was a business travel road warrior both stateside and in Europe because of the travel rigors of his job. He can't even count the number of times he was stuck on the Pike because he just had to go to Logan instead of Bradley (and this was mostly in the days before the Pike-to-airport extension) or jumbled schedules left it unpredictable whether a return flight to Bradley would get diverted to Logan and force him to expense a town car or take a bus home. Ditto New York diversions, but on a couple of occasions there he did just take the train and get picked up in Waterbury or New Haven.

This isn't going to be for a few years, but I think people underestimate how much a boon the regional airport network is going to drive passenger rail ridership in New England once all 3 of the biggest satellite airports are hooked up to Boston public transit. Or how much the demand for a Bradley connection is going to rise once T.F. Green and Manchester are online. Especially with it being a one-transfer trip Amtrak-Silver Line to get from terminal to terminal.

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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Jeff Smith »

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:
Jeff Smith wrote:I'd disagree on the stupidity of the single-tracking move. Hindsight is 20/20. Whether it's the Springfield line or the Boston line (or the reduction in tracks on the old NYC main line), private railroads had a very good reason for doing so; cost. They did so as traffic decreased, and invested in technology to increase capacity as traffic did.

We think of it as a headache today because it impedes pax traffic. And I disagree with the notion that the NH-Springfield line needs double-tracking. Better signaling and passing sidings would be more than enough to accomodate increased pax service, which may or may not be justified to begin with.
B&A is already cab-signaled by CSX west of Framingham, so not sure the signal system really has that much more it can do on the single-track portion. Definitely some passing sidings would be good. You would figure CSX is going to start needing more of them anyway with increased traffic.
I didn't say the signal system could do anything for today; I was speaking about increased capacity on a single-track line in the past when it was reduced from two to one.
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:I do think passenger loads are eventually going to force the issue, but it's not going to be New York re-routes or people wanting to go Boston-Springfield that does it. It's going to be Bradley Int'l Airport getting aligned with Logan as a regional affiliate to spread passenger loads. The T.F. Green extension of the Providence line facilitates that. So is the proposed N.H. Main extension with a Manchester Int'l stop. This is the future of New England air travel. Logan can't keep adding runways, and it's going to suffer from more big-hub delay paralysis as overall air traffic increases. Bradley is way under-capacity and does have the facilities and runways to take on more long-distance flights and step up its arrivals in bad weather. South Station-Bradley shuttles on Amtrak would be hugely popular, and they'd also open up lots of fare flexibility for passengers on flights when it's flat-out cheaper to use an alternate airport or even mixed arrival/departure destinations on a round-trip. Don't underestimate the untapped potential of that. Before my dad, who lives in Central CT, retired he was a business travel road warrior both stateside and in Europe because of the travel rigors of his job. He can't even count the number of times he was stuck on the Pike because he just had to go to Logan instead of Bradley (and this was mostly in the days before the Pike-to-airport extension) or jumbled schedules left it unpredictable whether a return flight to Bradley would get diverted to Logan and force him to expense a town car or take a bus home. Ditto New York diversions, but on a couple of occasions there he did just take the train and get picked up in Waterbury or New Haven.

This isn't going to be for a few years, but I think people underestimate how much a boon the regional airport network is going to drive passenger rail ridership in New England once all 3 of the biggest satellite airports are hooked up to Boston public transit. Or how much the demand for a Bradley connection is going to rise once T.F. Green and Manchester are online. Especially with it being a one-transfer trip Amtrak-Silver Line to get from terminal to terminal.
I can't see Hartford being any type of relief for Logan, except that Hartford fares are so high no one considers it; they'd rather travel to White Plains, LGA, or Logan. So any diversion if Hartford became more affordable would be locals using it more. As for drawing from other areas, you'd have to figure in cost in travelling TO Hartford, and train fare would be part of that. It's the reason there's not a huge diversion from ATL to Birmingham, even though SWA is much cheaper.
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Station Aficionado »

Jeff Smith wrote:I'd disagree on the stupidity of the single-tracking move. Hindsight is 20/20. Whether it's the Springfield line or the Boston line (or the reduction in tracks on the old NYC main line), private railroads had a very good reason for doing so; cost. They did so as traffic decreased, and invested in technology to increase capacity as traffic did.

We think of it as a headache today because it impedes pax traffic. And I disagree with the notion that the NH-Springfield line needs double-tracking. Better signaling and passing sidings would be more than enough to accomodate increased pax service, which may or may not be justified to begin with.
I would respectfully disagree. So many of the capital decision by railroads in the last couple of decades have been "Wall Street" driven. Reduce capital expenses and you might beat the earning estimate by a penny. The desire to maintain short term strength in the stock price has trumped long term strategic thinking. With regard to Amtrak and the Springfield line, obviously they weren't concerned with stock prices, but they may well have been motivated by the desire to reduce subsidy requirements in the short term.

As for double-tracking the Springfield line, I think any significant increase in service (commuter or Amtrak) will require at least some of the line to be redoubled. For instance, only one train can service the single in-use platform at Hartford.

Sorry for getting too far off topic.

Noel Weaver
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Noel Weaver »

When the B and A was changed over from double to single track, the remaining track was fixed up to allow higher maximum
speeds, this results in more capacity. Cab signals were also put in and again efficiency results. There is enough second
track to maintain flexibility in the operation of this line. Examples of double track are CP-92 to CP-109 and CP-123 to CP-150 (the mountain). This is in addition to long sidings at Charlton (6 miles), Palmer (over 3 miles) and Chatham (over 4
miles).
When the job was done every consideration of existing freight traffic plus Amtrak was made and the railroad was and still
is adequate for the existing traffic. There is probably enough capacity for one or two more Amtrak trains but it is not and
never will be a fast route because of the layout of the land. Mountains, curves etc will see to it that speeds are fairly low,
plenty fast for freight trains but passengers will get there faster on the Mass Pike whether on a bus or by car.
A decent argument could be made for maybe another train to Albany to connect with a morning or midday train west out of
Albany but I have to wonder if the passenger count would warrant another train in this case.
Noel Weaver

David Benton
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by David Benton »

I believe the swiss run a single track line with passing loops that equals some double track lines capacity .
The secret of course is to run ontime , the passing of trains is staged while the trains are stopped in the stations for on / off loading passengers . This might work on the inland route if they were shuttle trains not carying on to the other lines each end , but of course once you have outside influences that may run late , then it all goes to pot .
Ironically the best way around that problem may be to have even more slots or frequencies . If a coneecting train misses a slot , theres another 15 minutes later .
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george matthews
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by george matthews »

David Benton wrote:I believe the swiss run a single track line with passing loops that equals some double track lines capacity .
The secret of course is to run ontime , the passing of trains is staged while the trains are stopped in the stations for on / off loading passengers . This might work on the inland route if they were shuttle trains not carying on to the other lines each end , but of course once you have outside influences that may run late , then it all goes to pot .
Ironically the best way around that problem may be to have even more slots or frequencies . If a connecting train misses a slot , theres another 15 minutes later .
Close timetabling would be essential. British Rail reduced a number of lines to single in the 1970s. Most of them have been re-doubled or are planned to do so. Demand has increased hugely in the 40 years since. One line in Dorset will be meeting the Olympic traffic to Weymouth. I have sometimes been seriously delayed on that line. I wish they would double it.
The problem with Boston to Albany is the possible lack of demand to travel - though the best way to increase demand is to make journeyn times seriously shorter than any alternative.

Sealevel rise may make the coastal route unsuitable in a foreseeable future.

TomNelligan
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by TomNelligan »

george matthews wrote: Sealevel rise may make the coastal route unsuitable in a foreseeable future.
I wouldn't loose a whole lot of sleep over that! The Shore Line route is at least 20 feet above the high water mark even in places where the tracks run along the beach. Maybe a few hundred years from now there will be a problem, if you consider that the foreseeable future, but anticipated sea rises of a foot or so in coming decades won't be a big deal.

In the late 19th century there were two major "inland route" options between Boston and New York, the route via Springfield being discussed here and the now mostly torn up NH Midland route via Putnam and Willimantic, CT. One the Shore Line was completed by bridges at New London and Old Saybrook, it immediately became the dominant route because it was faster and basically grade-free. Boston-New York via Springfield will never be faster than the Shore Line because it is longer, has freight congestion, and as a practical matter there will not be money to significantly increase speeds between Boston and Springfield anytime soon.

DesertDavid
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by DesertDavid »

Private railroads will always be driven by their own business considerations and will always see passenger service as an annoyance. It is time to change the business model. Roads for cars and trucks are publicly owned - why not railroad tracks? How about purchasing railroad tracks via eminent domain, and then charge the freight companies to use them in and around passenger service. The financial markets at this time have a voracious appetite for US government bonds - now is the time to do it and lock in low interest rates. People are more important than freight; it's time the tail quit wagging the dog.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

David, as I noted when you raised this point over at the Daily Sunset topic, yes, people are more important than freight. After all, for without people, there would be no freight. However, that in itself does not mean the efficient movement of freight should be interfered with by passenger operations imposed upon investor owned concerns especially when passengers by and large have readily available air and highway passenger transportation resources.

Freight no longer has as many alternatives; I believe that over the road trucking in direct competition with railroads is going to be a thing of the past when so much more of the transportation cost is represented by fuel and that big UNK-UNK out there, an imposition of costs, i.e. taxes, for carbon emissions. By no means am I suggesting the trucking industry is going away, I am suggesting that it will be shifting gears towards providing local delivery, i.e. containers from the likes of Logistics Park to Chicago area distribution facilities, and over the road services to regions not served by railroads or where expedited delivery is beneficial to a shipper's needs - and where that shipper is prepared to "pay for it". The same model applies to air freight.

Further, an imposed divestiture of railroads in their rights of way create issues of fair remuneration, and it also creates the issue of best use of this new public resource. I guarantee you handling passengers does not represent best use, for where such is, those ROW's are publicly owned, i.e. the Corridor. Now the corollary issue will be what will the investor roads do with their new found pile of cash. Give it to the shareholders in a massive dividend? That's an admission by management that they do not know how to invest their shareholder's stake. The reality of having to pay user fees (I don't the industry would expect to be so "blessed" as has Amtrak been getting its virtual free ride over the Class I system) will simply drive down railroad profitability.

Finally, allow me to note in view of that I did this stuff for a living after leaving the railroad industry, the massive dividend would also create income tax issues for many a large investor that I highly doubt they will wish to address. There's going to be enough changes as in this area; why add to them?

disclaimer: author holds positions KSU NSC UNP and is surely deemed by many here as "anti-Amtrak"

Hamhock
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Hamhock »

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Now the corollary issue will be what will the investor roads do with their new found pile of cash. Give it to the shareholders in a massive dividend? That's an admission by management that they do not know how to invest their shareholder's stake. The reality of having to pay user fees (I don't the industry would expect to be so "blessed" as has Amtrak been getting its virtual free ride over the Class I system) will simply drive down railroad profitability.

Finally, allow me to note in view of that I did this stuff for a living after leaving the railroad industry, the massive dividend would also create income tax issues for many a large investor that I highly doubt they will wish to address. There's going to be enough changes as in this area; why add to them?
How about, instead of a massive direct purchase payment to the freight railroads, the state/Federal owner would instead grant free and exclusive freight use over the line to the former owner in perpetuity?

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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

Point noted Mr. Hamhock; that would follow the model used with Amtrak's April 1, 1976 acquisition of the Corridor where Amtrak "worked off' the purchase price by granting access to Conrail. The work off was completed (and I'd dare say fortunately) shortly before the 1999 acquisition of Conrail by CSX and NS. However, David suggested in his posting that the acquisition be made with cash proceeds from a bond issue and I followed forth from that thought. Also, we must not forget that the Penn Central Estate had no bargaining power to bring to the table; a viable railroad industry has a lot.

But I still question the public benefit to be derived from public ownership of railroad rights of ways; especially if the objective is to allocate more of the existing capacity to handling passenger trains.

jstolberg
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Re: NEC Inland Route

Post by jstolberg »

As noted in the Northeast Corridor Master Infrastructure Plan, http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/BlobServe ... 10_v1a.pdf, Part 2, page 9, (page 81 of the pdf)
Coastal regulations designed to protect the fishing and boating industries by limiting movable bridge openings do not permit more frequent daytime service than is provided today. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection also limits Amtrak to 39 trains per weekday.
Since frequencies cannot be increased along the coast route between Boston and New Haven, any increases in capacity must be by either lengthening trains and/or adding frequency to the inland route.

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