• Virginia: Buckingham Branch Service (Corridor Cardinal and East-West)

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Arlington
Now that VA has bought the Buckingham Branch from CSX, Between Doswell (on I-95 north of Richmond) and Clifton Forge (last Amtrak stop in VA short of White Sulphur Springs), what's next for:

1) New East West service, such as Clifton Forge - Charlottesville - Doswell - Richmond - Tidewater

2) Corridor Cardinal Service (NS + BB) RF&P - Norfolk Southern - Orange - Charlottesville - Clifton Forge

3) Infill Stations like:
- Waynesboro VA
- Orange / Monpelier (with our without it as a stop on NS?)

4) Extension to Greenbrier (I'd think they'd just pay to extend or just send a shutle out I-64)

  by Shortline614
Two thoughts:

1. For any frequent regional service to happen, the line would in all likelihood have to be equipped with PTC. The Cardinal already runs the Orange to Clifton Forge segment with a PTC exemption; however, that is only a single train three times a week. I don't think Amtrak nor the FRA would like to run a frequent regional service without it.

2. What track classification is the BB Richmond & Alleghany Division anyways? When I went down there it seemed to be Class II (25 mph). Could it be Class III (40 mph)? I think they would want to increase speeds. Also, the line is jointed rail. How much would it cost to upgrade to welded?
  by Arlington
Shortline614 wrote: Tue May 11, 2021 9:56 am 1. For any frequent regional service to happen, the line would in all likelihood have to be equipped with PTC.
The Downeaster runs 5 r/t without PTC. Based on the Downeaster, which was permitted 12 operations per day without PTC (5 r/t and 2 movements held mostly in reserve), I'd say that any PTC cap is going to be initially above any ability/demand/desire to run trains.

Taking 5 r/ts as the practical limit in a PTC waiver you could do 10 ops
2 ops: Daily Cardinal (since the Cardinal is "lumpy" anyway)
4 ops: 2x Daily Corridor Cardinal overlay
4 ops: 2x Daily East West

By the time demand exceeds that much service, they'd have time to sort out PTC
Shortline614 wrote: Tue May 11, 2021 9:56 am 2. What track classification is the BB Richmond & Alleghany Division anyways?
When BB boasts of getting to Class III on the Orange branch ( where the Cardinal first diverges from NS), gives some sense that they are Class II elsewhere.

For Amtrak, that means 60mph on the Class III (BB boast that their nearing their former glory 70mph passenger speeds), but only 30mph on the Class II.

I would think a first order of business for VA will be getting to Class III at least from Orange to Staunton.
  by kitchin
All that's in the planning so far is daily service for the Cardinal. Maybe there's finally demand, and it would benefit W.Va. and Ky., powerful in Congress. The Cardinal conundrum is the inconvenient schedule between Cincinnati and Chicago, discussed elsewhere.

Between Richmond and Charlottesville via Doswell passenger trains never ran faster than 1:50, before or after Amtrak, as far as I can tell. That's not in the 5-year plan, but it's possible the Amtrak Thruway bus RVM-RVR-CVS, or Virginia Flyer bus, could become a usable east-west way. Currently Ambus runs thrice-weekly, to meet the Cardinal at CVS, mainly for the north-south trips at RVR towards D.C. and N.C. Trying to book the Ambus between the Cardinal and Norfolk or Newport News is very hit-or-miss even on those days.

Another use for Gordonsville - Doswell would be VRE commuter rail. No mention of that in the plans. VRE of course would go to D.C. as well as Richmond, and serve more towns. It could go west of Charlottesville and east of Richmond, like the airport, which the CSX line adjoins.
  by west point
Last time I read the BB was not in the deal for the RF&P section. That will delay any work until the purchase is completed. Welcome any one with info to the contrary.

IMHO the first item for the line is longer sidings so the CSX empty coal trains will not block Cardinal Amtrak train.
  by Arlington
Ownership: CSX is currently the landlord, with the State holding a final purchase agreement as of April 2021 but have not closed on the purchase of the BB
https://www.thecentralvirginian.com/new ... 74e69.html

Speeds: This is an employee timetable from 2007 between orange and Clifton Forge it shows "P" speeds are generally in the 40 ~ 60 mph range(which meant they had "real Class III" back then, which we'd hope they'd kept up), but plenty slower at yards and junctions.
http://www.multimodalways.org/docs/rail ... 9-2007.pdf
  by Literalman
Unless the VRE financing mechanism changed when I wasn't looking (I still try to follow things but stopped commuting on VRE in 2017 when I moved to Alexandria), VRE can serve only cities and counties that help finance it. That's why trains ran empty from Fredericksburg to the maintenance yard in Spotsylvania for so many years: Spotsylvania wasn't paying for service. Gordonsville is way outside VRE territory and would need county funding.
  by KTHW
I think outside of the current terminus for VRE, you start to leave commuter rail territory and enter into inter city rail. Also, with VRE’s canceled expansion to Haymarket, I doubt we’ll see their footprint extend any further than their existing terminus, unless they change their funding mechanisms as mentioned above.

I believe Amtrak has been penciled in as the preferred carrier for the Commonwealth corridor as part of the recent agreement with the state.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Gordonsville would probably be a good stop on the Buckingham Branch for Regional Service. I would love to possibly see Orange, VA as a stop for the NER Roanoke(eventually Christiansburg) service and maybe even the long distance trains. Gordonsville is too far west of DC to be a part of the VRE network. Broad Run Airport Station, located in Bristow, is probably a fine endpoint for VRE.
  by Arlington
njtmnrrbuff wrote: Sun May 16, 2021 8:14 pm I would love to possibly see Orange, VA as a stop for the NER Roanoke(eventually Christiansburg) service and maybe even the long distance trains.
That'd require stopping on the northern (NS) side of Orange and building a "Union" statioin alongside NS's tracks, since it is on NS's tracks that the NER gets thru CVS and on to Roanoke

If the Orange station was on the BB (southern) side of town, you'd just be kicking the can down to Charlottesville, since One alternative would be a wye that'd have all CVS stops on the BB (or at the old CVC station), and then transition (new switches!) from BB to NS with crossovers that NS might not be willing to make room for.
  by Arlington
This is news I'd missed back in Sept 2020 (for Federal FY ending Sep 30 2021)

How would you interpret "70 miles of CWR" on a branch that, from Charlottesville to Clifton Forge is a total of about 90 miles. $13.5m seems to cheap to be 70/90ths of the corridor. Frankly 35 miles (if 70 miles of rail makes 35 miles of track) is a big fraction of a 90 mile branch.
Virginia – Continuous Welded Rail and Corridor Improvement Program on the Buckingham Branch North Mountain Subdivision between Charlottesville and Clifton Forge (Multiple Qualified Opportunity Zones) Up to $13,670,000
Funds improvements to the Buckingham Branch Railroad’s line between Charlottesville and Clifton Forge,
* Installs 70 miles of CWR and improves associated ballast;
* upgrades approximately 14 grade crossings
* upgrades five railroad bridges;
* installs drain systems in the Afton railroad tunnel liner to reduce ice buildup;
* improves clearances in two additional railroad tunnels.

The project improves reliability and resiliency and opens larger freight car opportunities with the tunnel clearance
I'm thinking this work would be very much in progress right now.
  by dgvrengineer
The current Orange Union station at the corner of Main & NS used to be able to serve both the C&O(BB) & Southern(NS). When NS removed the double track south of the station, the track next to the station can only be used by trains continuing onto BB (future state)tracks(read Amtrak Cardinal). A switch would have to be installed south of the station to get back onto the NS. Certainly not a difficult thing to do. BTW, the station is beautifully maintained by the town.
Also, there is currently a switch from BB westbound to NS southbound. However, it is from the second track on the old C&O and not the track next to the station. It also goes to a small interchange yard on the NS before hitting the main line. Best option would be to stay on the NS.
Concerning the welded rail. There is already some welded raill, installed by CSX several years ago, west of Staunton toward Clifton Forge. I'm not sure how much, but it is immediately noticeable riding when you transition from jointed to welded. The state has already put a lot of money in the line over the past several years for ties and surfacing. The problem is the rail ends had been so beaten up from years of neglect, that even surfacing could not completely correct the rough ride.
  by west point
What has not been published by VA DOT is the necessity to lengthen at least a couple sidings to handle the not even monster empty coal trains to allow Cardinals to operate reliability especially if Cardinal goes daily.
  by jp1822
If we go back in time before the Cardinal, but still in the Amtrak era, wasn't there a train that ran from Cincy to Charlottesville and then at Charlottesville a coach (sometimes coach/dome) was sent on to Richmond and Newport News. It was very diminished service from what was.......combined west of Charlottesville I believe it headed off to Cincy. Not sure if it was an overnight train or not. It may have been during the George Washington and James Whitcomb Riley years, which I still get confused as to which train operated where and when. Anyway, I think re-establishing this east-west connection from Charlottesville to Richmond and hopefully on to Norfolk and Newport News is a good thing.

It's great that Virginia is taking this much interest in re-establishing passenger rail!