Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

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  by TCurtin
 
Ridgefielder wrote: Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:17 pm
Going to reinforce what was said here, as someone who grew up along the Danbury Branch and knows the area well.

The only reason the Danbury Branch was electrified back in 1923 was to eliminate an engine change for the Danbury through trains, and move the changeover for Pittsfield service. After the wire went up on the Danbury they were able to consolidate steam locomotive servicing and shut down facilities in Stamford. Unlike on the rest of the West End of the New Haven, the yards and sidings on the Danbury were never wired, nor was the short branch up the hill from Branchville to Ridgefield Center. Freight remained under steam. It was an economy move for passenger service, pure and simple.

If it had never been electrified, nobody would be talking about electrifying it today. Instead half the locals who know zero about railroad operations see the old Cat poles, see the old pictures, hear stories about how the Berkshire carried a diner and parlor cars "back in grandpa's day" and think stringing up 20 miles of 12.5kV wire will magically give us the Danbury Acela. [end of rant]
I may be the only living user of this forum who actually remembers riding the Danbury branch when it was electrified (How's that for a bizarre distinction?). I rode it before and after the electrics gave way to FL9s and can tell you categorically there was no difference in performance.

Two major service problems occurred over my memory:
1. Deterioration of track. There were two major wrecks: in February 1967 and May 1973. The 1973 wreck resulted in a fatality (ironically of a RR employee who lived in Danbury and commuted to his office in NYC. I knew him slightly). BY mid 1975 the track had been upgraded by CDOT funding. This was the first huge improvement.

2. Closing of the block stations in Branchville (completely) and Wilton (afternoons and nights). This made it inconvenient and caused some delays in evening commute hours because crews were required to either radio or phone to the operator at "Berk" in Norwalk for clearance. That of course remained until the TCS went into effect just a few years ago.

That TCS was the second greatest service improvement.

I have written on this forum on at least three previous occasions that re-electrification will not do a thing to result in further improvement in running times. I say this after many years of riding and closely observing the operation of the line.I can tell you this and tell you this and tell you this until I'm blue in the face and the talk still goes on.

BTW, three historical items:
- first electric operation was June 29 1925. This was long before I was around.
- Last electric operation was January 28 1961. The power was turned off effective Feb. 1. I rode the line once in January 1961 not realizing it would by my last ride under wire.
- I laughed at the comment about "Back in grandpa's day." Well, I am a grandpa and I did ride a parlor car on the line while the New Haven was still running it on weekends. Never rode a diner, though, unless you count the diner and later grill car that were converted to bar cars on one of the commute runs.

Cheers,
Tom
  by TCurtin
 
Rockingham Racer wrote: Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:14 am Tom, I remember the EP-5s [the Jets] rolling by JO tower in Woodlawn in the late 60's. I believe only a few rush hour trains were run throughs. The rest of the day people changed at South Norwalk, IIRC.
Until the end of the New Haven in 1968 there was more through service to Danbury than just the couple of rush hour trains, all had had FL9s since the fall of 1960. The non rush hour trains were the remnants of what were once the Pittsfield trains. And of course there were still a couple of Pittsfield trains on weekends.
  by Fishrrman
 
Tom Curtin wrote:
"I may be the only living user of this forum who actually remembers riding the Danbury branch when it was electrified (How's that for a bizarre distinction?). I rode it before and after the electrics gave way to FL9s and can tell you categorically there was no difference in performance."

Nope.
I got my very first train ride from South Norwalk to Cannondale on one of the old black MU cars back in late 1954-early 1955.

Later on, got my first ride on an engine at Georgetown yard (there WAS a yard and station in Georgetown in the old days), an Alco RS unit (can't remember which particular model). This was back when they were rebuilding Route 53 between Georgetown and Westport, and unloading bluestone from hoppers in Georgetown yard.

I probably should have quit then.
It eventually led to 32 years "on the big engines" with Conrail, Metro-North, and Amtrak...

(J.Albert)
  by dha10001
 
Since you all piled on and had a fit over the Danbury question, let me follow up with some evidence:

The "Danbury Branch Improvement Program AA/DEIS" (Google it), a 33 page document thick with simulated trip data, found that on an upgraded Danbury Branch with a 60mph top speed and some curve reductions, EMUs would be 16 minutes faster than diesel trains, for a travel time of 41 minutes or less.

You can all argue over whether that upgrade is warranted - I think it is - but let's stop dismissing the clear benefits.

And tree trimming, I think, is something that can be handled.
  by DutchRailnut
 
the 16 minutes difference would be mainly the 10 mph in increased speed with will never happen .
as for tree trimming you can't trim trees that are not on railroad property.
  by EuroStar
 
The railroad, as any other property owner, is allowed to trim any branches that encroach the airspace above its property. It is not allowed to trim or remove trees outside its property just because those trees could potentially fall onto the right of way during a future storm.

Electrification could only happen for environmental reasons if politicians decide to make a showcase out of it. Otherwise it remains a large expense for marginal benefit (16 minutes is actually very significant and will lead to some ridership gain, but as Dutch points out most of that could be achieved with the diesels if the will and the money to improve the tracks were there).
  by Jeff Smith
 
Even with curvature mitigation, you still have a lot of grade crossings, and as others will note, during slip-slide season, an EMU is going to have issues. Most of the M8 sets are 8-car consists I think; that's a pretty big set for more limited ridership; I'm not sure how full the maxi's are on the branch at this time, but I'd bet they're mostly empty.

AND, most importantly, are the residents of the Route 7 corridor going to want catenary? It works for New Canaan, but that's a short branch with high ridership/density. Route 7 is not.
  by Ridgefielder
 
People need to realize that the line is curvy for a reason. From Wolfpits Rd. in Wilton to Turkey Plain Rd. in Bethel the tracks thread their way up country through a series of narrow and relatively deep valleys with steep, rocky sides. Any project to eliminate the sharpest curves-- like the one just north of Wilton station-- would require a significant amount of blasting through hard rock. Not to mention that the tracks are also hemmed in such that any line relocation would be incredibly disruptive.

What, for instance, would you do here? https://goo.gl/maps/sZd6aCpzEgLb4Ain7

Or here? https://goo.gl/maps/kx9hFzhZZT5XUJVK9

Or here? https://goo.gl/maps/kx9hFzhZZT5XUJVK9

I just don't see the disruption being worth it.
  by dha10001
 
I was just looking at a chart, I think in the same study that detailed electrification, that showed a 10mph increase along much of the route, but not all - IE the curve north of Wilton remains largely as is.

As for the issue of aesthetics, well, the catenary poles are there right now, and with only brief exceptions, the line is hidden in the woods. And I would think the quieter operation of EMUs versus diesels would be a big plus for homeowners along the route. The existence of the catenary poles also means a huge part of the electrification work, and the cost of it, is already done, even if some need to be replaced. And with the newly wired dock yard on the south end... Prior estimates for this project are way out of line.

Increasing traffic congestion through Danbury on the Rt 7 corridor and I-84 should force a conversation about truly modernizing and expanding this line to serve modern needs.
  by DutchRailnut
 
90 % of those poles are ready to come crashing down , the base crumbled and 3 guy rods long removed , they have trouble holding up a 1/2 inch fiber optic cable in a plastic sleeve. as for non intrusive with over 20 crossings and open spaces in town electrification would be tied up in court for decades. again the Electrification would bring trouble (no sanders) and since speed will most likely never be increased would only gain you about 3 minutes at a cost well over 120 million just for catenary and another 90 to 120 million for extra 30 or maybe more MU cars needed. and still trains would terminate in South Norwalk outside the rush hours.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
TCurtin wrote: Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:21 amI may be the only living user of this forum who actually remembers riding the Danbury branch when it was electrified (How's that for a bizarre distinction?).
Me too.

Further, I'm quite certain I am the only user, living or deceased, who has boarded or alighted trains at Woodrow, CT.
  by Ridgefielder
 
dha10001 wrote: Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:16 pm I was just looking at a chart, I think in the same study that detailed electrification, that showed a 10mph increase along much of the route, but not all - IE the curve north of Wilton remains largely as is.

As for the issue of aesthetics, well, the catenary poles are there right now, and with only brief exceptions, the line is hidden in the woods. And I would think the quieter operation of EMUs versus diesels would be a big plus for homeowners along the route. The existence of the catenary poles also means a huge part of the electrification work, and the cost of it, is already done, even if some need to be replaced. And with the newly wired dock yard on the south end... Prior estimates for this project are way out of line.

Increasing traffic congestion through Danbury on the Rt 7 corridor and I-84 should force a conversation about truly modernizing and expanding this line to serve modern needs.
What is re-wiring the Danbury going to do to alleviate traffic congestion on I-84?

Also, there is nothing about the Danbury Branch as it exists today that is not "modern." The line has heavy welded rail, high-level platforms, a <10 year old signal system, and three remotely-operated sidings in ~24 miles. The diesels working the line are mid-90's-vintage GE P32AC-DMs or Brookville BL20GH's from 2008. Rolling stock is standard 1980's-90's-vintage Shoreliners. It's not like we're talking about some anachronistic survivor like the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line.

Those diesels, by the way, are not particularly noisy. Certainly not compared to the trucks on Route 7. We're talking light passenger trains scooting by at 50mph, not 100 car freights hauled by 4 or 5 SD40-2's.
  by dha10001
 
A substantial portion of the westbound traffic on i-84 through Danbury in the AM is headed down Rt. 7, from either East or North of Danbury. A faster and more frequent DBL (that is also extended in one or both directions) could attract many more Stamford-bound commuters. Riding the DBL feels like a step into the last century compared to the main line. There's clearly room for improvement.
  by Backshophoss
 
tHE 1 mistake NH did was not scrapping the old cat poles,now you have wayside rusting hazards to service.
MN needs to send a work train down the branch to scrap the poles and put in wood poles for the Fiber optic cable.
As long as HRRC controls the Maybrook line remains,MN cannot reach New Milford. HRRC needs to GO!!!
HRRC is made up by Ex- Guilford officals,have "scorched Earth" policy on the Maybrook line.
The only wire to remain is to Dock Yard while Walk bridge is replaced.
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