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Sun, Nov. 29th, 2015, 10:26 pm

Derived from the Latin root "Chester" meaning castle, the pronunciation of Worcester has been twisted over time from Wor-chester into Wor-cester, Wooster, Woostah and finally, it's current pronunciation, Gritty Old Mill Town. Located about an hour east of Boston, Worcester used to be a center of new Englande industry, pumping out both textiles and precision products. Today little of that is left, the mills converted into community colleges and inexpensive lofts for people who can't afford to live in Boston. Still, one indication that Worcester is on the rebound is its fabulous downtown train station, rehabilitated in 1999 for both the extended MBTA service and as a civic event space.

Today I will take a look at the Worcester Union Station complex including both CSX, MBTA and P&W services. You can find the full set of photos here

Worcester Union Station was built in 1911 by the New York Central railroad with the Providence and Worcester and New Haven being other important tenants.

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Sun, Nov. 15th, 2015, 10:04 pm

Well, we have come to the end of my 2015 Amtrak Transcontinental trip. After the stop in Houston all that was left was a run along the gulf coast to New Orleans, with a scheduled arrival of 9pm. Due to costs and other considerations I choose to forgo continuing the trip onto the Crescent.

Again the private car on the rear of Train 2 drastically limited my abilities to take pictures, but I was able to grab a few shots at stations, from the side window and of a number of drawbridges that went up above the private car. Also included a number of photos from New Orleans. You can view the entire set here. If you'd like to see some photos of the line without a private car in the way you can see them here.

We begin with the smoke stop in Beaumont, TX. Let me tell you this was the hottest and least comfortable weather I have ever been exposed to. Afternoon temperature on the golf coast was well over 100 degrees with humidity easily in the 80-90% range. It baffles me why humans would willingly live in such a place. Here a member of the crew walks back from the P42DC engines #85 and #39.

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Sun, Nov. 8th, 2015, 10:01 pm

Last we left my 2015 Amtrak Transcontinental Trip, my Sunset Limited trainset was rolling across the West Texas scrub land at a speed comparable with the posted limit on the parallel US Route 90. Upon waking the next morning, I discovered the train to be sitting at San Antonio, where cars had been cut off for the Texas Eagle to Chicago. This is the point where the extra two hours added to the schedule would be made up, so Train 2 departed at it's originally scheduled time towards Houston.

Because of all the single track running there was even less for me to take photos of than the day before where a two track main line allowed for a few somewhat reasonable angles. Still, with the station stops and some aggressive side window action I managed to gather enough content for a photo set, which you can view here.

We begin in Engle, TX, waiting on the main line for a westbound UP intermodal train to finish taking the siding. Leading power was UP SD70ACe #8824. This siding was actually recently constructed to help ease congestion on the line, which was killing the Sunset's OTP.

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Sun, Nov. 1st, 2015, 11:37 pm

On my cross country Amtrak Trip via the Sunset Limited my train had already reached Texas, yet it was only about halfway through its journey. It was after noon when my train pulled out of El Paso heading east towards San Antonia. The great double track main line was replaced by a single track with passing sidings on the former SP Valentine Sub. Without the double track I had little reason to stay at the back of the train with its pathetic view so I retreated to the lounge car to scrap by with some side shots. If you like scenery and related you can view the whole set of photos here.

At the east end of the El Paso station terminal I managed to get a shot of Tower 196 which, until about 15 years ago controlled the entire El Paso terminal area.

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Sun, Oct. 25th, 2015, 11:34 pm

Over the past 5 years my annual cross country Amtrak trek has resulted in large, often multi-part posts with 30 or so photos each. Well, as I alluded to in last week's post, this year's trip was ruined by Dan Akroyd parking his private car on the back of the train for the entire journey. I tried to salvage things as best I could, but I am going to need to perform a complete do-over next year. Good thing my new Amtrak credit card is giving me 20k free rewards points :-
In this part I cover much of the former Southern Pacific route between Tuscon, AZ and El Paso, TX. Keep in mind my train is actually running ahead of schedule due to anticipated congestion in the San Antonia area. You can view the complete set of photos here.

How the view out the back could have certainly been worse since the bi-level Superliner did quite literally overshadow the heavyweight car attached behind it. However this was the view I was stuck with for the entire trip. Um...I think that's a signal there and there are some mountains in the frame as well.

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Sun, Oct. 18th, 2015, 01:10 am

Well it is finally time to begin my 2015 Amtrak Cross country* trip. This year I was down to the last of my priority routes, the Sunset Limited running from LA to New Orleans. Unlike the last time I was in LA to ride the Southwest Chief, this time I started the trip in Irvine, CA instead of San Diego as I had a group of friends in the OC. Also, the trip would not technically be "cross" country as I would return from NOLA via Southwest instead of Amtrak's Crescent due to the cost of that train and the lack of scenery.

Anyway the whole journey begins at the Irvine, CA Amtrak/Metrolink station and continues on to the LA Union Passenger Terminal, which I have discussed before. You can see all the photos from this set right here</a>.

When I pulled up in my Uber I was just in time to catch a northbound Metrolink train with Rotem cab car #657 on point.

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Sun, Oct. 11th, 2015, 01:07 am

Ok, I know I am rather late to the party on this one, but I finally had a chance this past Memorial Day to head on up to Poughkeepsie and take a walk over the Mighty Hudson on the former New Haven Railroad Highlands Bridge. My trip also involved a ride on the Metro-North Hudson Line to Croton-Harmon as well as a return trip via Amtrak's Empire service to Poughkeepsie. I would also like to thank fellow Subchatters Alex and Amanda for hosting me on this adventure.

Photos of the trip can be seen here.

I kicked off my journey catching Regional Train 162 hauled behind ACS-86 #622.

Hudson Line express service on the weekend is the province of diesel hauled trains and mine was no exception. Here is Shoreliner IV cab car #6313 in the trailing position as the train departs for points north.

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Sat, Oct. 10th, 2015, 11:43 pm

So last week I threw up my videos from a vestibule ride taken on Train 79 between Alexandria and Selma. However thanks to my capitol upgrade I am now able to offer both stills and video taken at the same time. With a suction cup mount and sufficient batteries I can stick up my GoPro on the rear window and let it record as I shoot away with my regular camera or just sit in my seat using Amtrak's WiFi. On this run I was able to capture the entire RF&P Sub and about half of the A-Line between Richmond and Selma. I would have taken more, but GoPro cameras eat battery power like candy and despite having a total of 5 batteries they were pretty much drained by the time we turned onto NS.

We start off at Alexandria, VA, departing southbound as Train 20, the Crescent, performs its station work on the opposite track. Unfortunately I had another issue with a corrupted video file transfer and then a later file transfer that resulted in the loss of the original file so most of this video between Alexandria and Qhantico lacks audio. Look for the work on the new third track as the train approaches Quantico.

Continuing on from Quantico to Fredericksburg, the third track work continues down to about the location of ARKENDALE interlocking.

Between Fredericksburg and Doswell, VA we pass by additional third track work and the site of the new VRE Spotsylvania Station. Eventually we are forced to stop and wait at NORTH DOSWELL for northbound traffic as one track is blocked for MoW work. By this point I was making a better effort to get the radio chatter on the video.

Once we had the railroad again Train 79 crossed over the Doswell diamond and proceeded towards Richmond via the street running in Ashland, VA (where Train 79 does not stop).

If you read my trip report you'll remember that I mentioned how between Richmound and Petersburg I was all excited to have caught the Strates carnival train, but later discovered I had left the lens cap on. Well here is that video presented as an audio adventure. My recommendation is to run it in parallel with the video that lacks audio ;-)

Given battery constraints I wanted to be able to record coherent chunks of the route and there was just no way I would have enough juice to last the hour or more from Petersburg to Rocky Mount. So I decided to capture the chunk between Rocky Mount and Selma, but to help ease battery issues on future runs I also recorded the segment between Petersburg and Collier Yard. Note the new BX interlocking where the Amtrak Norfolk Regional branches off to Norfolk.

Starting up again at Rocky Mount we enter the South End sub and pass by the Rocky Mount Yard on the way to Voit Wilson, NC on the 2-track main line.

It's back to mostly single track in our last video of the day we head to Selma, NC where Train 79 turns off onto the former Southern Railway H-Line. I had a little problem with the battery dying just minutes before we reached Selma, so that's what the odd jump cut is about.

Hope you liked the videos. Look for more in the future covering the Amtrak Shore Line between Old Saybrook and Boston.

Sat, Oct. 3rd, 2015, 01:03 am

For years I had been trying to get a good railfan video of a Northbound Caltrain Baby Bullet express. Usually I catch the 4:45 train departing San Jose as it consistently runs with gallery car equipment instead of the railfan un-friendly Bombardier coffin cars. However, on two previous occasions my video attempts were less than successful. Between 2006 and 2012 I was limited by my standard def camera. When I upgraded that I was thwarted by dirty front windows that made for generally poor videos.

This time I was catching a flight out of Oakland which provided me with an opportunity to catch a morning express run. However, as I mentioned before, I had no idea which of the trains would run with Gallery Car stock. For two mornings I staked out the San Jose Diridon Station, watching the morning rush and each time I encountered only Bomber trainsets. On the day of my departure I was down to the last run of the morning and I had to make a choice between catching a limited stop semi-express train or rolling the dice on the lst Baby Bullet. Failure would mean no railfan window (and a wasted trip) or an all-stops local. Still, Caltrain only has so many Baby Bullet trainsets so my luck had to improve.

Desperate for some degree of inside information I asked the conductor of the fimal semi-express train if the next Baby Bullet would have Gallery car or Bombardier equipment. He didn't know, but went ahead and made a call, informing me that the last train of the morning would indeed have Gallery Cars. So nearly 7 years after I first started trying to make a quality Caltrain RFW video I finally succeeded. Enjoy.

After transferring to BART I rode across the bay to the Coliseum station where instead of transferring to the AirBART bus, I would complete my journey on the $400 million AirBART...cable car? That's right, it looks like that someone in the capitol planning department used the April 1st version of the RPF because instead of building some sort of monorail or people mover to connect the rail transit station and the Oakland Airport, AirBART is a modern day cable car built by a European ski lift maker. Here is a video of the complex switch mechanism throwing over at the Coliseum terminal.

The AirBART cable cars work just like most other airport people movers, just instead of using electric motors, it uses a cable running between the rails. Cars automatically change cables at each end of the terminal and then again at the power house in the middle of the run. You can see how it works in this 8 minute video that captures a westbound run.

Well, that's it for my supplemental video post.

Sat, Sep. 26th, 2015, 12:34 am

Every so often I end up in Sunny Downtown San Jose for a conference and in my free time I find myself looking to explore the local VTA light rail system. As far as railfanning goes the VTA is pretty lackluster with bulkhead cabs and rather plain, boxy vehicles. It also has one of the cheapest signaling systems I've ever seen, but the operators are friendly and it is certainly better than nothing. Way back in 2008 on my first visit to the city in 2008 I rode the VTA out to its farthest terminus at Santa Teresa, and the green line end to end from Mountain View to Winchester. Last year I took advantage of the new express service with a side trip on the spur to Almaden. This left only the Blue Line to Alum Rock as the only part of the VTA system I had yet to ride and when presented when another conference opportunity I knew what I had to do.

You can check out all the photos from that ride plus all sorts of others from the San Jose rail system right here and of course read on for the narrated tour.

Looking to save a fare I decided to walk down to the train station from my hotel early on the first morning, catching VTA LRV #970A on the way.

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