Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Attention Secaucus!

ALP-46 4654 at Secaucus High Level with an NJT service from New York.
GP40 4105 leads a service into Secaucus low level from
Hoboken terminal. These locomotives are among the
oldest of the New Jersey Transit fleet.
One of my 'railway friends' called me up earlier in the week asking where was best to see and ride trains on a visit to New York. My answer was very quick 'New Jersey Transit! and you want to go to Secaucus Junction.'
I can't pretend I am the most knowledgeable source on American railways, but for my short trip to NY in 2011 I had a few things which I really wanted to see, and Secaucus fitted the bill perfectly.

What is so good about Secaucus Junction?
A Bombadier double-deck cab car leads a Hoboken train
into Secaucus
As the name suggests- this station forms a junction (though there is no physical connection between the lines) of two railways which meet roughly at right angles, one passing over the other. On the lower level is New Jersey Transit's 'Main Line' and 'Bergan County Line' which both carry diesel hauled traffic on a number of New Jersey Transit routes from Hoboken Terminal (just across the Hudson from Manhattan, while on the high level is Amtrak's North East Corridor- the busiest passenger railway in the USA carrying regular Amtrak express trains between Boston and Washington as well as New Jersey Transit's (NJT) commuter services from New York Penn Station.

4119, an F40PH (my personal favorite North American class)
leads a train into Hoboken. NJT is one of a number of
commuter operations which use these locos which once
worked right across the USA for Amtrak.
Secaucus opened as recently as 2003 to act as a transfer point between the two NJT routes. The journey time from New York Penn is roughly 15 minutes with services up to every 10 minutes at busy times.

What can you expect to see?
On the lower level you can expect to see any trains from the NJT diesel fleet (as well Metro-North diesel services which are run under contract in New Jersey by NJT). These trains are typically made up of a diesel locomotive on the western end (leading out of Hoboken) with a series of single or double deck coaches and a cab car on the rear to enable push/pull operation.
P42LAC locomotives are the most common on diesel
services for NJT. 4018 approaches Secaucus.
The most common locomotives are the single cab Alsthom P42LAC's delivered between 2005 and 2006.
Older locomotives are also used with numerous varieties of GP40 locomotives (the earliest dating from 1965) and F40PH's working the routes from Hoboken for both NJT and Metro-North. Secaucus lower level is not electrified.

ALP46 4601, the second Traxx loco for the US, pushes
a train out towards Jersey from Secaucus. 
On the higher level is the electrified North East Corridor. Here you will see all of NJT's trains out of New York Penn Station. Sadly the older electric locomotives on this route have now retired and all hauled services are in the hands of Bombadier ALP46 locomotives (Traxx locos to anyone who knows Europe!). 
Other NJT services are worked by EMU's.
A set of 'Arrow III' EMU vehicles departs Secaucus heading
 into New Jersey. These cars dating from 1978 operate NJT's
non-loco hauled trains.
Amtrak's fastest and most prestigious trains- the Acela Express pass through Secaucus- these sets with a top speed of 150mph consist of a power car either end of trailers in a fixed formation. Other North East Regional services are loco hauled with either ageing Swedish built AEM 7 locomotives, or the far newer (but unreliable) HHP-8 locos (which look a little like a double ended Acela powercar). Both of the latter will be replaced starting from late 2013 with new Siemens 'Amtrak City Sprinter' (ACS-64) locomotives.
Most Amtrak trains are hauled with the classic Amfleet (or 'Amtube' referring to their shape) coaches, while a smaller number of trains work in push pull with Amfleet coaches and a former 'metroliner' cab car.

The HHP-8 locomotives have been troublesome for Amtrak
since their deliver and look set to have a somewhat short
career on the North East Corridor. 659 leads a train of
Amfleet coaches away from New York.
Other notes and points of interest:
All trains on the upper level are Electric as the lines go straight into Penn station which is barred to diesel locos. You will not even see Amtraks P42AC-DM locos (fitted with pick up shoes) at Secaucus- these work only on the 'Empire Corridor' out towards Albany- see my post here for details on these services.
Amtrak services do not stop at Secaucus.
When travelling do take note that at off-peak times coaches tend to get locked out of use... if you stand at the end of the platform when the train pulls in you may still have to run to the other end of the train!
In contrast the Swedish built AEM-7 locos have proved
reliable workhorses.  In the twilight of it's career 904 pushes
an Amtrak service towards New York Penn.
Photographically the location has reasonable views in most directions- the upper level platforms are largely covered, but you can shoot from each end in the open. Views from the lower level looking back towards Hoboken are particularly good- and the locos are on this end of the train.
There is sadly not anywhere where you can successfully view trains on both the upper and lower levels- one has to take your pick and just accept that you will miss some things! I would recommend spending some time on both parts of the station- but there is a barrier line between them!
I had no difficulty or trouble standing on the platforms and taking photographs and judging from the quantity on the internet 'railfanning' should not be a problem. However as ever do not stray from public areas of the station, act suspiciously and be courteous and cooperative to staff should they approach you.
On a final note- this report is based on my trip to Secaucus in 2011 and I can therefore not guarantee that it is still up to date. Since it was written NJT have introduced bi-modal ALP-45DP (a bi-modal diesel/electric Traxx variation)- it is not known what impact these have had on the older diesel classes though I do not believe their delivery was intended to replace them.
The cream of the Amtrak fleet is the Acela Express.
Powercar 2012 leads a train from Washington to Boston
non-stop through Secaucus high level.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Grid power on Crossrail Spoil

56312 is seen from the Mumford Lane road bridge as it approaches Gerrards
 Cross with the empty spoil wagons from Calvert on May 13th 2013. The
photographer is forced to shoot almost directly into the sun for this working!
There is a lot of work going on beneath the streets of London right now as the digging of tunnels for the Crossrail project is well underway. The operation has seen a large site developed at Northfleet which produces regular traffic hauled by GBRf both to and from the construction sites.
More recently a flow of spoil (material excavated from the tunnels) has started running to the landfill site at Calvert in Buckinghamshire. This train runs once daily from Willesden and takes the Chiltern main line to Princess Risborough before taking the branch to Aylesbury and continuing on to Calvert. Perhaps more interesting is the traction- Class 56's from the fleet of Devon and Cornwall Railways who are running the operation. Over two consecutive days both the loaded and empty flow were recorded on the outskirts of Gerrards Cross in the hands of Romanian built 56312 (formerly 56003).
The following morning 56312 is seen once again in the same location
 (though obviously looking in the opposite direction) with the loaded
Willesden-Calvert spoil run.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Comment: It looks good doesn't it?!?

As the saying goes; you should never judge a book by it's cover. While this may be true, presentation is very important. In the case of 37521 at the recent Swanage Diesel Gala it would certainly seem that the locomotive is in fine condition mechanically- its external condition however can be described, at best, as appalling. The locomotive, which has not worked for the better part of 10 years was most definitely a pull for the haulage enthusiasts but the image it presented at the railway was surely far from desirable.  Members of the general public certainly would not expect to see a locomotive working on a prestigious railway which has a paint job so faded that it barely exists and rust holes which you could almost put your hand through. For those expecting a beautifully turned out steam train it could even be enough to put them off travelling. The state of the 37 can hardly present a good image for its owners, HNRC either, who are trying to sell the locomotive on.
I am not for one minute advocating that all trains at preserved railways should be in pristine condition all the time, but surely there is a point at which a visiting locomotive starts to become an eye saw rather than a star?

These views are my own and are not intended to cause offence to any parties mentioned.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Trip Report- 5-6th May 2013 France (Paris and Picardie)

Sunday 5th May

A Eurostar speeds along the LGV towards Lille.
A reasonably early start in the car to make a morning shuttle over from Folkestone to Calais arriving shortly before lunchtime.
The first port of call in France was the LGV near to Calais Frethun to photograph a few Eurostars- this activity was somewhat called short owing to a slight mishap with my friends camera- but not before a couple of shots were bagged!
We then drove south to cover the 'busy' Sunday afternoon period on the Boulogne line photographing all of the hauled trains between 15:00 and about 20:00. During the week the line is covered by just two locomotive diagrams, with three on a Saturday and four on a Sunday!
The four locos listed by the departures viewed from Boulogne on 5th May were:
15:12- 67606 (Multiservice)
16:04- 67438 (Multiservice)
17:04- 67455 (En Voyage)
19:04- 67484 (Blue)
BB67606 in 'Multiservice' livery with matching Corail stock forms the 15:12 Boulogne-Paris.
Narrow gauge steam on the Somme Bay Railway.
A bit of a climb was needed for this one! BB67484 in the old
blue livery is seen heading the 17:04 Boulogne Paris.
There are plenty of pleasing locations between Rang du Fliers (where the the wires stop) and Amiens and with good weather and a nice selection of locos it made for a very pleasing afternoon. There is still very little evidence of any electrification work south of Rang du Fliers- though the telegraph poles immediately south of Rang du Fliers have disappeared since last year. Many locations can be walked from stations- though with so few trains it would involve a lot of waiting around- driving allows all of the trains to be photographed with some time to travel to a new spot between each one.
A call was also made at Noyelles for the two steam services on the Somme Bay Railway which meet the Paris train at 18:00.

Overnight accommodation was the Holiday Inn at Amiens. I have used this hotel before, it is highly recommended- right next to the station, good breakfast (included) and very reasonably priced as well.

Monday 6th May

Today the car was in Amiens as we took the train down to Paris for the day.
Before doing so I had a quick run down to Longueau to score a couple of locos.
22233 on 08:14 Amiens- Paris
67523 on 07:01 Creil- Amiens
It seems 67523 has decided to be my pet loco- which I have now seen or had on every trip I have made to this region! I wouldn't mind if somebody would clean the graffiti off of it!

We picked up the 08:50 for Paris (which arrived ex Boulogne with 67606). 22229 doing the honors on to Paris- there seem to be a lot of BB22000 'ghosts' around. What a pleasure again to be travelling in the beautifully smooth and comfortable Corail coaches of the SNCF.

BB7600 (refurbished BB7200 locos) now work on Transillien
 line N out of Paris Montparnasse. These have largely
replaced the aging Z5300 EMU's.
Once in Paris we purchased a 5-zone 'Mobilis' day ticket and headed to Montparnasse in the hope of seeing some Z5300 before they are all gone. Arrived at Montparnasse to find it was now raining (and yes- I know it was lovely back home!) and headed out to St Cyr where we did not see any Z5300- clearly it must be too late to see them outside of the peaks.
Plenty of the usual BB27300's were in action and also noted were 'new' (ex-freight BB7200)  BB7600's 05,07,12,13.
One freight was seen with a trio of 27000's as well as a pair of light engine BB26000 Sybic's and some form or test train with 66408 and 66401.
Finally before leaving 8598 was seen passing on what must have been the 12:09 Montparnasse- Chartres.

BB17011 on a service from Mantes-le-Jolie to Paris St Lazare.
I headed on towards Mantes-la-Jolie with 27315 (20 mins late), changing at Epone Mezieres to take 27365 back down towards Poissy in order to have a go at the shot at Villenes Sur Seine. Eventually after several hours I got what I wanted (minus the anticipated sunshine) with BB17011 producing on a train- it was the only one out on the circuit to Mantes la Jolie via Poissy.
A few 15000's and a Sybic on passenger also seen, though many of these intercities trains are now units.
Also saw a pair of silver light engine Sybics and a light BB60000 in Fret colours.
17036 and 17100 were seen on a very quick dash through St Lazare. Interestingly there seem to be a reasonable number of BB17000 on VB2N double deck on this visit- Previously I can only remember seing them powering RIO sets.
A pleasing and unplanned shot of BB15008 on  in 'Grand Confort' livery at Villenes Sur Seine.
Next it was over to Paris Est as the last two 'real' CC72000's which have not been re-engined (72049 and 72084- the latter in it's original blue livery) had been working trains on the line to Belfort- fingers crossed one would show up!
Photographed a few trains at Val de Fontaney (the sun having finally made an appearance) before heading back into Est.
I got a call from my friend to say that 72084 (the one we really wanted) had indeed arrived, but was to be dead in train on the 18:12 to Culmont Chalindrey- not ideal by any stretch of the imagination!!! Presumably the loco had failed (the windscreen wiper looked a little suspect) and was being dragged out back to depot for maintenance  We got an absolutely diabolical shot of the pair of locos at Pantin before heading back to Nord- the lack of a direct connection between Paris Est and RER line E is most unhelpful!
72084 had come tantalizingly close, but clearly it wasn't to be on this occasion- will I get another?

Better than not seeing it at all?? CC72084 will be dragged
dead in train on the 18:12 to Culmont Chalindry.
Paris Est Diesel departures:
16:42 Belfort            72157
17:05 Le Ferte Milon           unidentified BB67400
17:12 Troyes    72176
18:05 Le Ferte Milon           67406
18:12 Culmont Chanindry    72172 + 72084 (DIT)

15:50 Troyes- Paris Est was a pair of BiBi's (booked CC72100).

Finally it was back to Nord to pick up BB15009 on the 19:04 to Boulogne.
This gave way to 67455 at Amiens, as we left to rush back up the motorway to Calais!