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Sun, Feb. 1st, 2015, 05:41 pm
PHOTOS: CASCADE CORRIDOR - Part 2

Alright, it's time for Part 2 of my trip down the Cascade Corridor on Amtrak Train 11, the Southbound Coast Starlight. We begin at Olympia and continue down to Portland, although there is a fairly large break in the middle where I had to go back to the dining car for lunch. This trip was taken in August 2014 on my way to a conference in San Diego.

Not much need for any additional setup so if you want to find the full set of photos you can do so here.

Like I said we pick up exactly where we left off at the Olympia station with the tail end of a northbound Union Pacific freight train passing on the opposite track. Due to geography only a single rail route existed between Seattle and Portland. Built by BNSF predecessor Northern Pacific the Southern Pacific obtained traffic rights on the line (likely as part of some anti-monopoly regulation) to serve the Seattle-Tacoma area.

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Sat, Jan. 17th, 2015, 05:32 pm
PHOTOS: CASCADE CORRIDOR - Part 1

2014 was a special year because I took not one, but two big Amtrak trips, the second of which was a unique opportunity to ride the Coast Starlight on a trip from Seattle to San Diego. Unfortunately there was a small problem with Union Pacific track work that would result in a bustitution between Portland and Eugene, Oregon, however this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as our trainset that departed Seattle wound up lacking a Pacific Parlor Car...an amenity that I came to appreciate in the second half of the trip. Still, despite the lack of Parlor Car I had great fun as you can see below.

You can see the full set of photos from Seattle to Portland here. Part 1 will cover the line from Seattle to Olympia.

After departing King St station we passed under the retractable roof of Seattle's Safeco field, home of the Mariners.

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Sun, Jan. 4th, 2015, 05:29 pm
PHOTOS: SEATTLE REUNION

Last August I was planning to attend a computer security conference in San Diego. I had already completed that year's coast-to-coast Amtrak trip and was basically looking forward to some fun in the sun eating fish tacos, but then a travel buddy suggested that we could use this as an opportunity to take the Coast Starlight. Checking the airfare I determined that it would only cost 2$ more to fly out to Seattle and then back from San Diego so after that a call to Amtrak Guest Rewards set up the sleeping accommodation and I was off to collect another leg of Amtrak's national rail network.

I had been to Seattle once before in 2011 prior to my Empire Builder trip and found it to be a wonderful city (seeing as how I went during the 3-week long Sunny season). This trip would present me with far less time due to the Starlight's morning departure, but I would still have about a day to see some old school friends and ride around on transit. I also was able to see the completed King Street Station, which had just been beginning its refurbishment when I was there 3 years ago.

The complete photoset is right here

Flying in via Southwest I took this photo of Mt. Ranier, which will one day erupt and destroy the SeaTac area.

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Sat, Dec. 27th, 2014, 05:22 pm
PHOTOS: JD TOWER

CSX has been on a tear ripping out its classic B&O signaling all up and down the East Coast and for the last 4 years or so I have been trying to stay out ahead of the wrecking crew documenting the setup as well as I can. One of the last CPL locations on the Capitol Sub between Baltimore and Washington is JD TOWER, in Hyattsville, MD, at the point where the Alexandria Extension wyes off from the Capitol Sub proper. The Extension is used by CSX trains heading up from the south via the RF&P route.

The current signals were put into service in 1992 when the tower that stood there was closed. More on the history of the tower can be found at this website here. As far as I can tell these were some of the last B&O CPLs installed new by CSX before they began to change over to color lights. For example when VIADUCT JUNCTION tower was closed in 1994 it received color lights.

Until about 10 years ago most railroads would have left the CPLs with their entirely modern masts and gantry structures in place, but since then labor costs have changed resulting in it being cheaper to install and test brand new hardware in parallel than to cut things over and then test it.

Anyway, this isn't one of my long and involved signaling posts because JD TOWER is also a fairly well known railfan hotspot since it serves as a nexus for both east-west and north-south CSX traffic. I'm going to post most of the train photos here, but if you care about the signaling you can find those photos here.

I'm actually going to begin things with an aside. I went on another signal photo trip to ELISMERE JCT in Delaware back in July.

A Clear signal on the eastbound bracket mast was soon followed by a mixed freight train lead by AC6000 #689.

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Sat, Dec. 20th, 2014, 05:15 pm
PHOTOS: NORRISTOWN

Over the last 10 years SEPTA has been systematically re-signaling its entire Reading side which up through 2005 was still using hardware that was effectivly unaltered from the days of the Reading. Today the project is almost finished with the last line still waiting to get upgraded being SEPTA's black sheep, the lowly old Norristown Line.

Once known for being the slowest commuter rail line in the country the Norristown Line has been seeing a bit more investment in recent years with new rail, slightly faster speeds and station upgrades. The re-signaling project will bring bi-directional operation, a new midpoint CTC crossover and cab signals. Because the Norristown area has a number of Reading era interlockings in easy walking distance from at least three SEPTA stations I decided to head out there to document them. Don't worry, there was a lot of non-signaling things out there as well so keep reading :-P You can find the full set of photos here.

Heading out onto the Reading viaduct we encounter the Phase Break indicators where Amtrak supplied power is replaced by SEPTA supplied power.

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Sat, Dec. 13th, 2014, 03:11 pm
PHOTOS: SILVER LINE OPENING DAY

Yeah so DC Metro's Silver Line opened back in July, but 2000 photos from my latest transcontinental Amtrak trip delayed things a bit so here is a little July In Christmas. My plan was to go to Largo Towne Centre and catch the first through Silver Line train from there to avoid any crowds that might board at West Falls Church. I calculated exactly which train I would need to catch to get to WFC by the noon opening time. Unfortunately things didn't quite work exactly as planned.

Here is the story and you can find all the photos here.

Largo Towne Center was all duded up with Silver Line banners in anticipation of the opening day.

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Sat, Nov. 29th, 2014, 05:06 pm
PHOTOS: B&O BASH

It's always nice when you can hijack an otherwise non-railfan group to do railfan things. I had one such opportunity in June when a bunch of friends were attending a conference in the Baltimore area and I convinced them to take a trip to the B&O Museum. I had last been to the B&O Museum way back in 2006 and it was high time for a refresher. As I expected not much had changed, but on the other hand my camera was two generations newer so I could photograph things again for the first time.

You can find the B&O Museum pics here along with a bunch from the Baltimore Zoo.

Out in the parking lot GP40 #3684 had been restored to its original B&O livery.

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Sat, Nov. 22nd, 2014, 01:26 am
PHOTOS: LIMITED CONTENT

So with the last few B&O CPL signals vanishing quickly from the B&O Main Line, there isn't a lot for me to document from the back of Train 30, Amtrak's Capitol Limited. Still, I did have a few sections of the grade between Connelsville and Cumberland to catch up on as well as the segment between Hancock and Harpers Ferry, WV so this is what will close up my 2014 Transcontinental Amtrak Trip.

You can check out all the photos from this set right here.

We kick off the final set at Connelsville, PA with CSX ES44AC #3121 waiting for us to pull out of SODEM interlocking.

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Sat, Nov. 15th, 2014, 03:43 pm
PHOTOS: TOWER B-12

So this year's Chicagoland Layover featured a visit to the Tower B-12 museum in Franklin Park, IL. Now when I say "visit" I mean visiting the site because I wasn't able to determine which group was responsible for running the preserved Tower B-12 let alone determine its hours.

Tower B-12 is on the former Milwaukee Road West Line where it meets northern end of the Indiana Harbor Belt and crosses the former Wisconsin Central at grade. The mechanical tower was closed in 1996 when the interlocking was reconfigured to accommodate METRA Northwest Service and moved a block to the west to a new railroad style park, just across from the Franklin Park METRA station. More information on the B-12 junction itself can be found here.

In addition to my visit to Tower B-12, this set will include other photos from Chicago including a trip on the CTA Blue Line. You can find the complete set here.

We begin with METRA gallery Cab Car #8587 pulling west out of the Franklin Park station.

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Sat, Nov. 8th, 2014, 03:39 pm
PHOTOS: CHICAGO TWILIGHT

The three track "Chicago Raceway" extending from Aurora to Union Station on the old Chicago, Burlington and Quincy main line is one of the more exciting stretches of railroad in the entire Chicago area with plenty of action from BNSF freights to express commuter runs and hotshot Amtrak trains. However over the past few years photographing this line from the back of various Amtrak trains has proven problematic due to the rather intense backlighting that prevails in the late afternoon when Amtrak Trains 4 and 6 are scheduled to arrive.

Well this year the backlighting wasn't a problem because with our train north of four hours late the sun was in the process of dropping below the horizon, plunging my train into the world of Twilight.

Now these aren't the greatest photos, but given the near darkness in which I found myself by the end of the run I think they turned out alright and I figure I should share instead of just 86ing them. You can find the full set here, which also includes some later photos from the Conrail Chicago Line that were ruined by a massive rail squall.

We start off with the classic CB&Q signal gantry at AURORA interlocking. One of the few left on the line after a massive BNSF resignaling project :-(

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