Northeast corridor curves that prevent High Speed Rail?

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JontyMort

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Good points!

Even previously, there were the New England Expresses that originated and terminated in New York. They were assigned a separate engine at the other end to drag them into and out of Penn Station from/to Sunnyside. They were detached/attached at Penn Station.

Once Amtrak gets double ended train sets from the current RFP, all these issue will go away. It might even be possible to run through trains from Albany towards Washington DC, since reversal at Penn Station will become a non issue.
This method of operation is now - alas! - mostly out of fashion here in Britain, but it will suit the NEC and its Virginia extensions very well. The unit trains get the job done, but at a price - even in electric mode the underfloor motors are a distraction.
 

JontyMort

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They will have a max speed of 125mph just like the Amfleets.
And to bring the discussion back to the title - constraints on high speed running - whether increasing the top speed of the fastest trains gives value for money depends on whether you are in marketing or operations. Sure, 165 mph is sexy, but on a mixed-traffic line, easing of the worst low-speed constraints - be they pinchpoints or speed restrictions - gives a much greater improvement in overall operating conditions than upping the top speed, because all trains benefit.
 

jis

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Speaking of increasing speed limits in lower speed pinch points, on the NEC Elizabeth S-Curve on tracks 2 and 3 (middle tracks) the speed limits have been raised as follows:
  • Acela - 80mph
  • ACS64 with Amfleet, Horizon or Viewliner II - 70mph
  • NJ Transits and Amtrak with Viewliner I and any other equipment not mentioned above - 55mph
Tracks 1 and 4 (outside tracks) all - 55mph.

These are enforced by ACSES based on equipment type (actually train type)
 

JontyMort

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Speaking of increasing speed limits in lower speed pinch points, on the NEC Elizabeth S-Curve on tracks 2 and 3 (middle tracks) the speed limits have been raised as follows:
  • Acela - 80mph
  • ACS64 with Amfleet, Horizon or Viewliner II - 70mph
  • NJ Transits and Amtrak with Viewliner I and any other equipment not mentioned above - 55mph
Tracks 1 and 4 (outside tracks) all - 55mph.

These are enforced by ACSES based on equipment type (actually train type)
What were the previous limits?
 
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Speaking of increasing speed limits in lower speed pinch points, on the NEC Elizabeth S-Curve on tracks 2 and 3 (middle tracks) the speed limits have been raised as follows:
  • Acela - 80mph
  • ACS64 with Amfleet, Horizon or Viewliner II - 70mph
  • NJ Transits and Amtrak with Viewliner I and any other equipment not mentioned above - 55mph
Tracks 1 and 4 (outside tracks) all - 55mph.

These are enforced by ACSES based on equipment type (actually train type)
Curious why the Viewliner II is permitted 15 mph higher speed. Guessing truck design?
 

jis

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Curious why the Viewliner II is permitted 15 mph higher speed. Guessing truck design?
Both use GSI trucks. There are probably some subtle differences. They have intended to fix whatever is the difference but have not got around to it. Probably has something to do with the Truck mounts, Yaw Dampers or with wheel profile. Not sure.
 
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JontyMort

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Perfectly illustrating the point that improvements like this are worth far more than top speed. I don’t know how long it takes an Acela to decelerate from 80 to 55 and accelerate back to 80, but it could easily save a minute. The saving in time between 120mph and 150mph is six seconds per mile, so that’s ten miles worth (and 40 miles if considering the improvement from 150 to 160 at 1.5 seconds per mile).
 

jis

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Perfectly illustrating the point that improvements like this are worth far more than top speed. I don’t know how long it takes an Acela to decelerate from 80 to 55 and accelerate back to 80, but it could easily save a minute. The saving in time between 120mph and 150mph is six seconds per mile, so that’s ten miles worth (and 40 miles if considering the improvement from 150 to 160 at 1.5 seconds per mile).
Coming from NY Acelas actually slow down from at least 110 to 80 before entering the curve and then accelerate back to 110 just past Elmora and then 125, exactly at what point I don't recall. It has to slow down again for the Iselin + Metuchen curves at Metropark/Metuchen, unless of course it is one that stops at Metropark.

In any case your core point is well taken.
 

George Harris

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Many years ago the Railway Gazette International had an article titled, "The best way to go fast is to avoid going slow" which make the major points about these slow points. There are many parts of our railroad system that well illustrate this. This is also such ideas as a Nashville Atlanta high speed line are to be polite ridiculous. The current line is both round about and crooked. Before advent of the Metroliner, the Pennsylvania Railroad maximum speed limit was 80 mph if I recall correctly, and that was with the 1920's state of the art signal system, electrification, and multiple tracks. With that they could have a comfortable reliable 4 hour schedule for most trains. That was essentially the PRR concept for many years. Also, with that they had the unwritten philosophy that the speed limits could be treated as suggestions when the top trains got behind schedule. With short crew districts and high seniority people in the cab this was not as crazy as it sounds today. One of their advertizements for their New York Chicago trains for many years was comfort more than speed because their route was something like 50 miles shorter than the New York Central's got them there in the same overall time. (I never understood why neither tried a City of New Orleans style fast day train on this route. If the ICRR could normally fill 10 coaches, and up to 20 on a holiday weekend between Chicago and New Orleans with only Memphis as a significantly sized intermediate point, what could you do between New York and Chicago with much larger intermediate cities?)
 

west point

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A detailed cost benefit analysis needs to be completed for all these slow sections for the route NYP - WASH. Includes curves and any other impediments including CPs.
1. Take each type of equipment and determine how many seconds will be saved by eliminating that slow section. If 160 can be reached then that speed otherwise whatever speed.
2. Take the average number of passenger in each type of equipment that travels the section.
3. Multiply and add it all together to get total average number of passenger hours per some unit of time saved by doing the project.
4. Calculate savings of energy by not slowing,: less rail, CAT, grade, etc wear costs. Less wear and tear on rolling stock as well. Same units of time.
5. Add in total costs to eliminate slow section.
6. Use all these together and start eliminating these slow sections that will benefit the most passenger hours.

Some obvious slow sections are the curves between Newark and Frankford. Frankford to North PHL, B&P Tunnel, Susquehanna river bridge and the other bridges, Until these cost benefits are really known then where to start first is just subjective. Maybe the Elizabeth curve can be financially viable.?

Then there are the less obvious slow sections. Such as interference points like the NJT overpass, CP relocations, stations, additional tracks especially in MARC territory, Union station track lay out, etc.

Finally any location that might become a choke point in case of failure has to be moved ahead of line to be considered such as B&P Bore, Long Bridge, and Susquehanna bridge . Of course the biggie the new Hudson river Gateway bores are first.
 

cocojacoby

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What if all the curves are more superelevated? With the Acela II capable of running at higher cant than the Acela I, would higher speeds be possible? What are the limitations? Is it the older equipment such as the Amfleets that are the determining factor or is it the occasional freight train?

I would think adding additional flatter tracks for slower trains would be a possible solution and certainly less expensive than a whole new ROW.
 

jis

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What if all the curves are more superelevated? With the Acela II capable of running at higher cant than the Acela I, would higher speeds be possible? What are the limitations? Is it the older equipment such as the Amfleets that are the determining factor or is it the occasional freight train?
FRA regulations for superelevation. Most curves are at the max already. NEC already has a few exceptions too.
I would think adding additional flatter tracks for slower trains would be a possible solution and certainly less expensive than a whole new ROW.
Along the NEC where is the real estate for additional tracks going to come from unless it is either additions to the present ROW or new ROW? For other routes, if one wants higher speed, it makes more sense to build new tracks for high speed service rather than for moving slower speed trains off of the less than ideal current ROWs at great cost. Of course where possible separation is a good idea, but is much harder to achieve where possible parallel routes are owned by different companies.

Actually the bigger problem on the NEC is inadequate track center distance and that is again impossible to increase in many place without extremely expensive work as the ROW is constrained by electrification poles. Basically the current electrification will have to be removed ROW expanded in width, tracks moved and then re-electrified.

The maximum capabilities of NEC under various scenarios and the corresponding costs are well known and speed will be increased opportunistically. But the NEC in its current form will never become a 300kph railroad. The goals are better specified in terms of end to end target run times. NY - Washington done in two hours would be basically at the edge of possibilities with very large investment short of new ROW in a lot of tunnels. More realistic would be 2.5 hours or so, which we will get to.

But realistically, other than bragging rights and railfan fomage what exactly is the added return from reducing running time from 3:00 to 2:45 to 2:30? Isn’t some of that incremental money better spent at getting say, the inland route to Boston upgraded, or the spine in Virginia upgraded and electrified? It is all a trade off.
 
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Tlcooper93

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But realistically, other than bragging rights and railfan fomage what exactly is the added return from reducing running time from 3:00 to 2:45 to 2:30? Isn;t some of that incremental money better spent at getting say, the inland route to Boston upgraded, or the spine in Virginia upgraded and electrified? It is all a trade off.
I’m very curious to learn more about the inland route to Boston (presumably through Worcester and Springfield?)

What would it take to make that happen? What would the timings look like? I know MBTA has painfully slow plans to electrify, but Boston to Springfield is pretty slow (and still partially CSX owned) and congested with lots of grade crossings.

NEC Connect 2035 unfortunately doesn’t seem to say much about it.

The cost of making it happen would seem staggering to me.
 

Tlcooper93

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But the NEC in its current form will never become a 300kph railroad.
I forget where I read it, but was Amtrak full of crap when they said that a goal top speed for the new Acelas was 186 when they finish upgrades, even if just for a small segment?
 

jis

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I forget where I read it, but was Amtrak full of crap when they said that a goal top speed for the new Acelas was 186 when they finish upgrades, even if just for a small segment?
The trains are capable, but not anywhere on the NEC. 160mph is it, unless they get to execute the most expensive of the alternatives in the Tier 1 EIS, an alternative that appears to be pretty much off the table for now.
 
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Tlcooper93

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The trains are capable, but not anywhere on the NEC. 160mphis it, unless they get to execute the most expensive of the alternatives in the Level 1 EIS, an alternative that appears to be pretty much off the table for now.
Yeah, from what I understand the trains are basically almost TGV level and can go 220, but Amtrak was talking about upgrading to 186 somewhere along the straight ROWs (maybe near providence).

I could be misinformed however.
 

jis

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Yeah, from what I understand the trains are basically almost TGV level and can go 220, but Amtrak was talking about upgrading to 186 somewhere along the straight ROWs (maybe near providence).

I could be misinformed however.
Given enough money anything is possible. Currently the North East Corridor Commission's plans do not have enough money budgeted in plan to do anything of the sort. Amtrak like many companies has devolved into producing marketing fluff unsupported by any reality from time to time.
 

neroden

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Both use GSI trucks. There are probably some subtle differences. They have intended to fix whatever is the difference but have not got around to it. Probably has something to do with the Truck mounts, Yaw Dampers or with wheel profile. Not sure.
I'm trying to remember, but I think it was just wheel profile; they may just need to be reground and recertified. I could be wrong though.
 
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