Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosier State

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by Jeff Smith » Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:29 am

Split from the Hoosier State topic. Why? Because I am el Jefe.... :wink:
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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections

Post by justalurker66 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 6:29 pm

I suppose since the thread drift has become a thread the first question should be if any railroad (not just Amtrak) would run a train in sections instead of running an extra.
One can hardly condemn Amtrak for not using sections if the practice is no longer prevalent in the railroad industry.
And Amtrak would be (literally) under the control of the host railroad.

Assuming that there was some reason for Amtrak to split a train (power limits, platform lengths, etc.) and assuming that a host railroad would allow a second train (whether labeled a section or an extra) the method of operation of the railroad is up to the host. "Sections" are a feature of timetable and train order operation. Find a host railroad that uses that method of operation and see if Amtrak has a train on their tracks.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by John_Perkowski » Wed Apr 24, 2019 8:08 pm

The advantage of pre Amtrak railroads was they could add cars or add additional trains if the demand justified.

Of late, Amtrak acts like it flies airplanes...only so many seats and berths, even if the demand justifies adding a car or a second train.
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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by JimBoylan » Wed Apr 24, 2019 8:48 pm

Sometime before 2002, there were so may motorcyclists from New England going to Sturgis, S.D. and checking their "hogs" on the Boston section of the Lake Shore Ltd. that Amtrak needed 7 baggage or express cars and had to run them as a separate section as far as Springfield, Mass. to be added to the passenger section of the train. The whole thing wouldn't fit on 1 track in South Station. Even topday, Amtrak runs extra trains of DownEastern equipment direct between Rensselaer and North Station over CSX. However, when Amtrak recently ran the school Safety Patrol express over CSX to Miami, they cancelled the regular train. Railfan gossip claimed that CSX wouldn't allow an extra train or second section. My own opinion, Amtrak just didn't have the equipment for such an excess of revenue.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by bratkinson » Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:28 pm

Back before the 'computer age', running 2nd and 3rd sections of a train was the only way to handle more passengers (or freight) than the 'base' train would allow. Many of us have read of 2nd and 3rd sections of 'crack' trains mostly in the 30s and 40s. (why were they called 'crack' trains, I have no clue). Remember, back in the day, communication up and down the line was limited to a telegraph wire and I suspect much of the communication over the telegraph was dispatching information or shipping quotes, etc. So, how to communicate to the lineside control towers there's another train right behind the one zipping by? Green flags! As part of their job, the tower operators observed all passing trains and would take note of the green flags indicating a following section. That way, there was no need to 'clutter' the telegraph wires with messages informing the operator at xxx that 2nd section of train yyy was right behind the first (scheduled) section.

These days, there's no need for a second section designation. With computers, it's reasonably simple to program a 'new' train number and schedule it like any other train. Whether or not it follows or precedes another scheduled train by any set number of minutes is completely optional. It can be on a slower or faster schedule as needed. Or, if an extra, it still gets its own number and schedule in the computer. As long as the computer 'knows' where that train is, there's no need for green flags, white flags, or any other flags. Simply run the train as close as possible to its schedule in the computer.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by andrewjw » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:38 pm

I believe the use of the word 'crack' is an allusion to the crack of a whip, which itself represents the speedy progress of a well-motivated team of horses.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by ExCon90 » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:41 pm

Another point, regarding operations back in the days of green flags, train orders, and carbon paper, was that extra trains had no rights except what the dispatcher granted them by train order. Designating a following train as a section of a first-class train conferred all the rights of that train on the second section, saving a lot of dictating, underlining, and reading back. It was not unknown to designate a mail-and-express, or even a freight train as a following section of a scheduled first-class train to save all that telegraphing. What I always thought was an interesting anomaly was that according to the rules, a train was an "engine or engines coupled, with or without cars, displaying markers"--but if it was displaying green flags it wasn't considered a complete train until a section not displaying green flags had gone by.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by BandA » Sun May 26, 2019 5:23 pm

I think "sections" can still be helpful - if you have a greater demand, the passengers assigned to some stations get assigned to the first section, which departs on schedule and runs express or limited skipping some stations. Somehow this gets communicated to passengers waiting at intermediate stations so that they don't panic when the train blows by. Second "section" boards concurrently, departs say a minute after the block clears. Second section gets similar priority as first section, so it almost keeps up with the first section and since the sections are skipping stations (or at least have shorter dwell) they traverse the railroad faster than if it had been only one section.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by electricron » Tue May 28, 2019 1:10 am

Why is anyone proposing running sections for any of Amtrak's long distance trains?
The Auto Train is often twice as long as any other long distance train, yet it does not need sections. Watch any YouTube video of it and manually count the cars on it. Then watch the YouTube videos of any other Amtrak train and compare. There is no reason for Amtrak to run sections.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by Rockingham Racer » Tue May 28, 2019 5:59 am

One thing that's unique about the AT: it doesn't stop anywhere to pick up or drop off passengers at intermediate points. I would think that longer trains would cause more delay at stations. More trains spread out the crowds more. There's go to be some reason that the New Haven ran an Advance Merchants Limited, or the New York Central ran advance sections of their crack trains.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by justalurker66 » Tue May 28, 2019 11:50 am

Rockingham Racer wrote:One thing that's unique about the AT: it doesn't stop anywhere to pick up or drop off passengers at intermediate points. I would think that longer trains would cause more delay at stations. More trains spread out the crowds more. There's go to be some reason that the New Haven ran an Advance Merchants Limited, or the New York Central ran advance sections of their crack trains.
"Passenger load exceeds train capacity" is a good reason ... although adding a few cars would be a better response in 2019 railroading. As long as one does not exceed the capacity of the motive power. And at that point, adding an MU engine to the existing train would be cheaper than running sections.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by ExCon90 » Tue May 28, 2019 2:41 pm

... as long as train length does not exceed platform length at intermediate stations. Not a problem on AT, but if a long train has to platform twice at every station en route it eats up track capacity to the extent that there would be serious pushback from the host railroad. And even without intermediate stops there would have been real problems if the last 3 or 4 cars of the Century stuck out into the throat at LaSalle St.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by mtuandrew » Tue May 28, 2019 5:02 pm

If the conductors manage to get everyone to sit in the cars they need to sit in, platform length becomes a non-issue except for the major turnover stations. Most of those still have legacy 10+ car platforms, don’t they?

I like the idea of skip-stop sections though, that seems like a good idea on the PRR Main Line portion of the Keystone or on the Downeaster but I’m having trouble seeing the need on the average daily LD.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by justalurker66 » Tue May 28, 2019 5:33 pm

There is math involved. Modern trains would cause different problems than trains running under historical signaling systems and rules. The number of stops and the distance between are part of the math. There is also a question of how many stations would require how many stops. The more stations where a long train would make two stops and two sections would make one stop each the better the math would support sections ... but if multiple stops are required for the sections or a long train could make one stop the benefit of sections is reduced.

I agree that one would not want to exceed the platform length capacity at a terminal. That probably would not be a problem with modern trains (lower overall ridership).

The discussion is academic since there does not seem to be the will to run sections with modern trains - either from Amtrak or the host railroads. Amtrak is more likely to turn away passengers when a train sells out instead of either growing train lengths or negotiating a second section.

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Re: Amtrak Long Distance Trains - Sections (split from Hoosi

Post by gokeefe » Tue May 28, 2019 6:16 pm

mtuandrew wrote:If the conductors manage to get everyone to sit in the cars they need to sit in, platform length becomes a non-issue except for the major turnover stations. Most of those still have legacy 10+ car platforms, don’t they?
Not the only issue as there's usually baggage involved on the LDs. You could run into all kinds of trouble with the head end inside (or through) grade crossings and passengers trying to get to the front of the train.

Amtrak is just fundamentally screwed on so many levels trying to run a service that some of the host railroads can barely tolerate. No way to add surge capacity, not enough single level cars generally, no high levels in the East, low(er) speeds in the West, and platform lengths that can't accommodate a "super train".

It makes for an interesting argument about sections but also for an even more compelling point with regards to higher frequency corridors.
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