NEC SOGR, improvements and planned expansion of service

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Recent trip from NYP to BOS on Acela, I had forgotten how SLOW this and other trains actually go between New Haven and New Rochelle, YET we still came in to New Haven TEN MINUTES under the advertised on the schedule - during rush hour. I’m not sure if we ever hit 70 mph - it was stop and go the whole time. We were even TEN MINUTES early into Boston. Been a long haul of upgrades on this section, and over a pretty long time. Not sure how close progress is towards some sort of improvement. But long over due and now with recent speed increases and work done on other portions of NEC, this section really stands out - to me at least. Good show though overall, with Acela and onboard staff….
There are a couple of factors here. One is that this segment is owned and dispatched by Metro North and is therefore optimized for the running of commuter service for which speed is less of an issue due to frequent stops. It is also a very busy railroad, probably the busiest in the county. I think they do try to keep Amtrak moving but if an Amtrak is a few minutes late and loses its slot on this busy piece of railroad it can get delayed further.

Another factor is that this segment has been perpetually under construction due to the need to catch up with decades of deferred maintenance, including replacement of catenary and bridges. This often requires tracks be taken out of service and what is normally a 3 or 4 track railroad is down to 2 tracks in some places.

A third factor is that the right of way is fairly curvy to begin with and has lots of bridges with slow speed limits.

In short, while someday the maintenance will get caught up and that may help, I don't think you will ever see speeds more than say 80 mph on this segment.
 

west point

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Was the trip on a weekend? Also is one track already out of service over Walk bridge ? Once that happens a schedule lengthening wis called for. The full interlocking east of the bridge as I read the MNRR buletins is not complere which is limiting when Walk does not have a full 4 tracks in service.
 

daybeers

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Was the trip on a weekend? Also is one track already out of service over Walk bridge ? Once that happens a schedule lengthening wis called for. The full interlocking east of the bridge as I read the MNRR buletins is not complere which is limiting when Walk does not have a full 4 tracks in service.
I can probably recall all four tracks being operational on the New Haven Line a handful of times over the the last several years. Bridge plates are left leaning up on the platforms because they're used so often.
 
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We spend a half a billion $ to save a 100 seconds of travel time in NJ for the Acela, but dollars to donuts we can save 10-15 minutes by using a dual mode vs an engine switch for pennies on the dollar in situations like the above mentioned in New Haven. Amtrak really has to grab that low hanging fruit wherever possible in addition to those massive projects
The catenary replacement in NJ also renewed a nearly 100 year old infrastructure replacing it with something newer and easier to maintain and less susceptible to problems at low or high temperatures.

In contrast, eliminating the engine change at New Haven only affects the very few through trains continuing to Springfield and beyond such as the Vermonter. Worthwhile to do but not as impactful as catenary renewal in a key section of the NEC used by practically every Amtrak and many NJT trains
 

TransitTyrant

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We spend a half a billion $ to save a 100 seconds of travel time in NJ for the Acela, but dollars to donuts we can save 10-15 minutes by using a dual mode vs an engine switch for pennies on the dollar in situations like the above mentioned in New Haven. Amtrak really has to grab that low hanging fruit wherever possible in addition to those massive projects
Dishonest framing by the media, the time savings was just an added bonus of replacing ancient infrastructure.
 

Touchdowntom9

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Dishonest framing by the media, the time savings was just an added bonus of replacing ancient infrastructure.
It’s true that it was for replacing aging catenary but calling it dishonest is probably wrong. We still have miles of PRR cat from the same time up across the NEC that we aren’t yet replacing
 

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It’s true that it was for replacing aging catenary but calling it dishonest is probably wrong. We still have miles of PRR cat from the same time up across the NEC that we aren’t yet replacing
The project in NJ was not just about the catenary.

Actually the entire feeder system equipment that feeds the catenary was revamped and some of it replaced. Additional feeders and substations were added and frequency converters fed by commercial power added. All four tracks were undercut and relaid. Speed limits were increased on all four tracks between County and Ham, tracks 1 and 4 from 110mph to 125mph, tracks 2 and 3 from 135mph to 150mph. All of the catenary was upgraded, some with replacement by constant tension catenary and the rest by complete replacement of the mounting system. Additional interlockings were added just south of County to make it possible to move trains across between the slow and fast tracks at 80mph. This was partly in preparation for the planned North Brunswick station and the associated Midline Loop project of NJT. The entire signaling infrastructure was replaced with better structuring of blocks to match operating requirements of today. The entire universal crossover at Midway was rebuilt for higher speed operation on the diverging moves.

Catenary was just a part of this vast project, and actually it did not even get the portion of funding it was supposed to get because of cost overruns in other parts of the project. Additionally there was a project management fiasco involved which ended with a Deputy Chief Engineer getting fired etc. The portion of catenary upgrade that fell through the cracks is now being built without much fanfare as it was funded a couple of years back. Anyhow rebuilding catenary to be constant tension is the long range plan for the entire corridor. Metro north, which had a bit more delapidated catenary than Amtrak has actually completed the conversion in their segment. Amtrak will opportunistically do the rebuilding specially in segments where they can operate the railroad otherwise at 150-160mph.

The press reporters typically know almost nothing about what they are writing about. We and the operating agencies give them full information. They take it and hack it without understanding what they are doing too well. They keep what sounds sexy to them and drop the rest on the floor. Been there done that with giving information to the press when I was on the Board of NJ-ARP and seen them make a hash of it almost without fail. The quality of reporting on technical matters in general press is quite miserable. Railway Age is much better of course since those guys actually know their stuff.
 
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TransitTyrant

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The project in NJ was not just about the catenary.

Actually the entire feeder system equipment that feeds the catenary was revamped and some of it replaced. Additional feeders and substations were added and frequency converters fed by commercial power added. All four tracks were undercut and relaid. Speed limits were increased on all four tracks between County and Ham, tracks 1 and 4 from 110mph to 125mph, tracks 2 and 3 from 135mph to 150mph. All of the catenary was upgraded, some with replacement by constant tension catenary and the rest by complete replacement of the mounting system. Additional interlockings were added just south of County to make it possible to move trains across between the slow and fast tracks at 80mph. This was partly in preparation for the planned North Brunswick station and the associated Midline Loop project of NJT. The entire signaling infrastructure was replaced with better structuring of blocks to match operating requirements of today. The entire universal crossover at Midway was rebuilt for higher speed operation on the diverging moves.

Catenary was just a part of this vast project, and actually it did not even get the portion of funding it was supposed to get because of cost overruns in other parts of the project. Additionally there was a project management fiasco involved which ended with a Deputy Chief Engineer getting fired etc. The portion of catenary upgrade that fell through the cracks is now being built without much fanfare as it was funded a couple of years back. Anyhow rebuilding catenary to be constant tension is the long range plan for the entire corridor. Metro north, which had a bit more delapidated catenary than Amtrak has actually completed the conversion in their segment. Amtrak will opportunistically do the rebuilding specially in segments where they can operate the railroad otherwise at 150-160mph.

The press reporters typically know almost nothing about what they are writing about. We and the operating agencies give them full information. They take it and hack it without understanding what they are doing too well. They keep what sounds sexy to them and drop the rest on the floor. Been there done that with giving information to the press when I was on the Board of NJ-ARP and seen them make a hash of it almost without fail. The quality of reporting on technical matters in general press is quite miserable. Railway Age is much better of course since those guys actually know their stuff.
Thank you for your wisdom, rebuilding an ancient railway into something somewhat modern is complicated and expensive.
 

Touchdowntom9

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The project in NJ was not just about the catenary.

Actually the entire feeder system equipment that feeds the catenary was revamped and some of it replaced. Additional feeders and substations were added and frequency converters fed by commercial power added. All four tracks were undercut and relaid. Speed limits were increased on all four tracks between County and Ham, tracks 1 and 4 from 110mph to 125mph, tracks 2 and 3 from 135mph to 150mph. All of the catenary was upgraded, some with replacement by constant tension catenary and the rest by complete replacement of the mounting system. Additional interlockings were added just south of County to make it possible to move trains across between the slow and fast tracks at 80mph. This was partly in preparation for the planned North Brunswick station and the associated Midline Loop project of NJT. The entire signaling infrastructure was replaced with better structuring of blocks to match operating requirements of today. The entire universal crossover at Midway was rebuilt for higher speed operation on the diverging moves.

Catenary was just a part of this vast project, and actually it did not even get the portion of funding it was supposed to get because of cost overruns in other parts of the project. Additionally there was a project management fiasco involved which ended with a Deputy Chief Engineer getting fired etc. The portion of catenary upgrade that fell through the cracks is now being built without much fanfare as it was funded a couple of years back. Anyhow rebuilding catenary to be constant tension is the long range plan for the entire corridor. Metro north, which had a bit more delapidated catenary than Amtrak has actually completed the conversion in their segment. Amtrak will opportunistically do the rebuilding specially in segments where they can operate the railroad otherwise at 150-160mph.

The press reporters typically know almost nothing about what they are writing about. We and the operating agencies give them full information. They take it and hack it without understanding what they are doing too well. They keep what sounds sexy to them and drop the rest on the floor. Been there done that with giving information to the press when I was on the Board of NJ-ARP and seen them make a hash of it almost without fail. The quality of reporting on technical matters in general press is quite miserable. Railway Age is much better of course since those guys actually know their stuff.
Appreciate the detail here because I have no idea how else I would have learned that. The coverage is always high level and lacking detail. Out of curiosity how did you learn what they were actually doing on this project? And also what exactly is undercutting (and relaying) track and the benefit of it? Always trying to get a better understanding of what actual maintenance is required for managing highly used track on the NEC.

Lastly, can someone tell me what Jersey Ave ststion exists? I have no idea why, and the new station they are building along with the midline loop seems to just be telling me my commute back to Princeton from NYC will now be a stop or 2 longer
 

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Appreciate the detail here because I have no idea how else I would have learned that. The coverage is always high level and lacking detail. Out of curiosity how did you learn what they were actually doing on this project? And also what exactly is undercutting (and relaying) track and the benefit of it? Always trying to get a better understanding of what actual maintenance is required for managing highly used track on the NEC.
Back then I was one of the members of the Board of Directors of NJ-ARP and also knew the Chief Engineer of NEC High Speed project personally and talked and exchanged messages with him often. He has since left Amtrak and gone to Parson's (PB) or Systra or some such, I forget exactly which of the consultants, at a very high position.

Undercutting basically means digging out everything to the base of the ballast, fixing drainage and other problems in the RoW substrate and relaying the track anew.
Lastly, can someone tell me what Jersey Ave ststion exists? I have no idea why, and the new station they are building along with the midline loop seems to just be telling me my commute back to Princeton from NYC will now be a stop or 2 longer
NJT's NEC service has three category of trains - Inner Zone, Middle Zone and Outer Zone. Basically the Middle Zone trains originate and terminate in the New Brunswick area, and the current termination point for those is Jersey Avenue. Since there isn't enough storing and non-disruptive turning facility at Jersey Avenue empties continue to and come from the Morrisville Yard beyond Trenton, beyond anything that can be stored and turned at Jersey Avenue. Of course empties coming from Trenton cannot originate a train at Jersey Ave. since there is no eastbound platform there. They do so at New Brunswick.

Midline Loop will provide a way to turn Middle Zone trains without disrupting the NEC flow. The new Middle Zone terminating station will be North Brunswick. Outer Zone Expresses are not expected to stop there. Jersey Avenue will be built into a full fledged station with high level platforms on both westbound and eastbound tracks and a pedestrian ADA accessible over bridge, to exploit the parking off a main thoroughfare that is available there.
 
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Back then I was one of the members of the Board of Directors of NJ-ARP and also knew the Chief Engineer of NEC High Speed project personally and talked and exchanged messages with him often. He has since left Amtrak and gone PW or Systra or some such, I forget exactly which of the consultants at a very high position.

Undercutting basically means digging out everything to the base of the ballast, fixing drainage and other problems in the RoW substrate and relaying the track anew.

NJT's NEC service has three category of trains - Inner Zone, Middle Zone and Outer Zone. Basically the Middle Zone trains originate and terminate in the New Brunswick are, and the current termination point for those is Jersey Avenue. Since there isn't enough storing and non-disruptive turning facility at Jersey Avenue empties continue to and come from the Morrisville Yard beyond Trenton, beyond anything that can be stored and turned at Jersey Avenue. Of course empties coming from Trenton cannot originate a train at Jersey Ave. They do so at New Brunswick.

Midline Loop will provide a way to turn Middle Zone trains without disrupting the NEC flow. The new Middle Zone terminating station will be North Brunswick. Outer Zone Expresses are not expected to stop there. Jersey Avenue will be built into a full fledged station with high level platforms on both westbound and eastbound tracks and a pedestrian ADA accessible over bridge, to exploit the parking off a main thoroughfare that is available there.
Interesting. I always wondered how Jersey Ave worked as IIRC there was only a platform on the outbound (track 4) side of the ROW.
 

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There are 11 grade crossings left in the 20.4 miles between Miner Lane in Waterford and Palmer Street in Stonington, all in CT. I don't see how any of these will be closed because they all provide sole access to residential or marine areas or are in the 30mph section in New London.

The real solution is the bypass New Haven-Hartford-Providence.
I get your point there, but providence has some high quality rail especially if you keep going north. Maybe worth thinking about a few tunnels to bypass the curves and crossings and selling off the land to developers instead to cover those costs

Are there any current plans to build a bypass at Delaware's Wilmington station? The ROW is already there and built out, you would just (potentially) need to build next to a rail owned line and you could pass one of the sharpest curves on the entire NEC and save 10+ min on NY-DC trip time if you don't stop there every time. Sure I doubt our current President would like it as he's from DE, but it sure makes sense for cutting down time especially as a headline grabbing move for Amtrak.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Are there any current plans to build a bypass at Delaware's Wilmington station? The ROW is already there and built out, you would just (potentially) need to build next to a rail owned line and you could pass one of the sharpest curves on the entire NEC and save 10+ min on NY-DC trip time if you don't stop there every time. Sure I doubt our current President would like it as he's from DE, but it sure makes sense for cutting down time especially as a headline grabbing move for Amtrak.
All trains stop at Wilmington, DE. It's one of the busiest Amtrak stations.
 

Touchdowntom9

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All trains stop at Wilmington, DE. It's one of the busiest Amtrak stations.
I realize that, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best practice. Wilmington is like the #11th most popular Amtrak station so skipping it is a reasonable consideration if you can still fill the train. I was mostly thinking this would be for the Acela’s that would be trying to cut trip time down the most. I assume the non stop Acela will resume at some point soon.
 

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I get your point there, but providence has some high quality rail especially if you keep going north. Maybe worth thinking about a few tunnels to bypass the curves and crossings and selling off the land to developers instead to cover those costs
Yeah, the corridor would follow Route 2 or I-84 east from Hartford to Providence.

The Shore Line is really vulnerable to sea level rise and stronger storms, as much of it is in wetlands.
 

jis

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Are there any current plans to build a bypass at Delaware's Wilmington station? The ROW is already there and built out, you would just (potentially) need to build next to a rail owned line and you could pass one of the sharpest curves on the entire NEC and save 10+ min on NY-DC trip time if you don't stop there every time. Sure I doubt our current President would like it as he's from DE, but it sure makes sense for cutting down time especially as a headline grabbing move for Amtrak.
Each time people ask this sort of question I point them to the Tier I EIS for the NEC which is the most definitive statement of what the current plans are, not that any or all of it will get funded, or that it may or may not change over time. But this is a final adopted document so this is the best indication we have. The rest of the various mooted proposals are not part of any official direction. Everyone is free to come up with their own favorite fantasy, or present various other alternatives that were considered and then not included in the Final EIS:


To see the detail download the Appendix AA PDF which is a 30MByte file. It contains pretty detailed maps.

Specifically to the question about Wilmington, the answer is, yes there is a bypass plan for the fastest express service but most regional service will continue to call at the station. The schedule pattern is discussed in the EIS.
 
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Touchdowntom9

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Each time people ask this sort of question I point them to the Tier I EIS for the NEC which is the most definitive statement of what the current plans are, not that any or all of it will get funded, or that it may or may not change over time. But this is a final adopted document so this is the best indication we have. The rest of the various mooted proposals are not part of any official direction. Everyone is free to come up with their own favorite fantasy, or present various other alternatives that were considered and then not included in the Final EIS:


To see the detail download the Appendix AA PDF which is a 30MByte file. It contains pretty detailed maps.

Specifically to the question about Wilmington, the answer is, yes there is a bypass plan for the fastest express service but most regional service will continue to call at the station. The schedule pattern is discussed in the EIS.
Thanks for sending this, I had glossed over that doc in the past but never saw the actual maps here. It looks fantastic as the improvements are massive.
But how does this work in light of that Amtrak 2035 document that was released pretty recently? Does this still supersede that document because 2035 seemed much less extensive and more getting everything into a state of good repair.

And was any of this actual funded or is this all a beautifully funded pipe dream that will break ground in the year 2250? Is there a way to see what from the project was funded/rejected or if this entire thing was rejected? Nervous because if it wasn't funded with that giant check from the infra bill I don't know if it ever will be
 
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jis

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And since the Station is named after the current President, and he will no doubt resume riding on Amtrak once he's finished in Office, I'm sure most Trains will continue to stop in Wilmington!
Who a station is named after has nothing to do with what stopping patterns will be used by future Super Express service.

Anyway I suspect he would have made a horizontal exit long before any Super Express starts, as incidentally would I.
 
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MARC Rider

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Wilmington is probably a more important station than the size of the city might suggest. Because of Delaware's attractive corporate laws, many companies that have nothing to do with Delaware are incorporated there, and I believe they have to maintain at least one office with and officer of the corporation resident in the state. Thus, I suspect that there's a good bit of business travel between these corporate offices and both the political capital (Washington, DC) and the financial capital (New York) of the country. Because all of the trains stop at Wilmington, that sharp curve coming into the station probably doesn't make much of a difference in total travel time, as the train is slowing down to make the stop, anyway.
 

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Wilmington, and the entire state of Delaware, seems to lack airline service, so Wilmington is likely to remain an important stop for all Corridor trains...


 
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