• Track Capacity -- the "Squeeze" Intensifies

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by 2nd trick op
We note with interest that Norfolk Southern is installing state-of the-art cab signals on the former PRR Middle/Allegheny and Pittsburgh Divisions, dooming most of the remaining position-light signal bridges that figure in some great memories for a lot of us.

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 0&t=129898

The downsizing (and technological upgrade) of the great four-track mains of the former Eastern trunk lines has been going on for almost the entire lifetime of most of us here. It's inevitable -- the passing of steam and the usual 60-80 car limit for freights due to the lack of multple-unit control made "second sections" a thing of the past in all but a handful of cases. Long-distance passenger traffic dwindled to a point where NYC's attempts to mix the two without compromising timekeeping via the retention of strategic "long sidings",with high-speed turnouts (demonstrated in public-relations ads of the day) became redundant. And a few years ago, CSX used simulation models to emphasize its contention that upgrading its Richmond-Jacksonville "A" Line to dual service would be very costly.

So for the immediate future, it appears that UP's Gibbon-North Platte triple track, and BNSF's recent upgrade of Cajon Pass, and NS' own Altoona-Conpitt Junction passage over the Alleghenies will be the only two-track-plus operations left oustide the NEC and a few commuter lines here and there. Given the industry's reluctance to sink its capital into an immovable asset with no prospects for substantial return, it's understandable. But the number of points where the pressures of increased traffic, either on the fringes of the megacities where freight and commuter/exurban traffic seem likely to contend for the same capacity, or lines where urban planners might one day intensify the push for commuter traffic (the former NYC West Shore comes to mind), I think it's only a matter of time before a major, and possibly continuing long-term disruption will be felt.

It has happened before; Penn-Central's forced re-route of a major portion of its freight traffic over the passenger main between Harrisburg and Lancaster due to the loss of its Shocks Mill bridge to Hurricane Agnes and another flood near Johnstown a few years later are two examples, But these both occurred during the bottoming-out years of the Seventies, before the freight railroads launched a serious attempt to regain a portion of the manufactured/perishsable freight lost to trucking.

And it seems increasingly likely that it will take an infrastructural tsunami of that magnitude to convince the management of the freight roads that spreading things as thin as possible can have serious consequences -- and that as with the rebuilding of commuter services, some sort of public/private sector co-operation will be called for rather than shouldering the entire buden and the associated risks,
  by mmi16
You are doing a adequate job of describing the railroads of the 1980's.

In the 21st Century the Class 1 carriers are building capacity where it will have the most economic benefit to their operations as they exist today. The traffic base of the 1980's is not the traffic base of today and the operating needs of the 80's are not the operating needs of the 21st Century.
  by ExCon90
As to existing 2-track-plus territory, BNSF now has 3 continuous main tracks from Hobart to Fullerton Jct. There's a book out on the history of the Surf Line showing a San Diegan of the 1950's passing Pico Rivera on single track, in open country -- a far cry from the 3 reverse-signaled main tracks of today.