Saturday, March 19, 2011

Modern Railroad Operations

Was working some more on the open hearth today, but I'll post something more on that tomorrow night. For now a quick observation on modern railroad operations. I live a few blocks from the former Pennsylvania Railroad secondary line from Camden, NJ to Pemberton, (and thence to other branches to Ft Dix and the shore). Today it ends just a mile or so north of my house in Mt Holly and is probably called something like the Conrail Joint Assets Mt Holly Industrial Secondary (I don't really know, just speaking in modern railroadeese) Today, this branch is pretty busy and is served by a train everyday. The team track in Mt Holly, the northern end of the line is still used by Diamond M Lumber occasionally. In my town, Hainesport, there is a creosoting plant that receives raw phone poles for treatment on bulkhead flats and in the Hainesport Industrial Park, Gallo Wine receives a half dozen boxcars of wine from California a week and there is a large trash to rail operation that ships out up to a half dozen cars a day of either containerized trash or trash in huge high side gons (I think these might have been wood chip cars a one time, or maybe specially made for trash). Occasionally there is a business in the industrial park that receives coiled steel in coil cars and also lumber and rebar are brought in by another enterprise and transferred to trucks. Just a mile or less south, in Mt Laurel there is a large paper company that can get anywhere from two or three to fifteen cars of recycled paper rolls in boxcars. South of this business there are no more rail shippers all the way into Camden.

A decade or so ago, this line was proposed for light-rail service. I was extremely exited as I expected there would be a station within walking distance and I would be connected by rail to Camden and then from there to pretty much anywhere on the east coast. Unfortunately, a few ignorant nouveau riche residents of Moorestown, NJ, just south of us and their state politician Haines, put the kibosh on this deal and the light rail was built elsewhere. Their brilliant reasoning was that criminals would take the train to their beautiful town and rape and pillage it - guess they forgot about the busses. Don't get me wrong, their town is beautiful, Money magazine even said so - they designated it the best place to live in the United States a few years ago - and just incase you didn't read Money Magazine some guy put up a billboard in front of his McMansion congratulating, I guess himself, for living in such a swell place. The old-money WASPs were probably fit to be tied. The reason I started ranting about this, besides, the fact that I have to ride a filthy bus if I want to use public transportation, is that I grew up in Westchester County, NY, a stones throw from Greenwich, Connecticut and surrounded by equally filthy rich zip codes that would make the Moorestown folks look like a bunch of paupers, and they all had commuter railroads and they would have probably been screaming to their politicians if they tried to take them away. They were clean, efficient, and better than driving a car into New York City. The real estate in towns with stations was certainly more expensive then those without. Originally there were three New York Central Railroad Divisions through Westchester, one, the Putnam Division was abandoned in the early 50's and to illustrate, the towns on that line, while generally affluent suburbs, they never became as desirable or wealthy as their railroad station possessing neighbors. Greenwich, New Canaan, Bedford, Chappaqua, Scarsdale, Pound Ridge,....etc. these places all have railroad stations. Maybe the idea will come up again in the future and maybe by that time fuel will be $6 a gallon and even some of those wacky Escalade driving folks might start to see the value of a railroad.

Ironically, and I probably shouldn't even mention this, one of the few murders that did occur in my childhood town, the killer took the train up from the Bronx. He wasn't exactly a trained ninja - he agreed to kill a guys wife for I think it was around $1000 and make it look like a robbery. He took the train to Valhalla Station, walked to the house, killed the wife and punched the husband in the face to make it look good, and then walked back to the station. While waiting for the return train he realized he was drenched in blood so he walked across the street and knocked on the door of the fire house and asked if he could use their washroom. (station had no bathrooms) The same firehouse that had just got the 911 call about the murder. Like I said, no ninja, but he at least quickly fessed up and implicated the husband.

Wow, really getting off topic, but I want a train I can walk to. I almost have forgotten my original reason for writing - modern railroad operations on the line by my house, and elsewhere. In the past year or so I have noticed something different - locomotives at the head and tail end of these local freights. It makes sense - anyone that has operated real or like most of us, model railroads know that 50% of the time the locomotive is on the wrong end of the train to switch a siding and you need to have a convenient passing track to run around the train. Running with a locomotive at each end eliminates all these passing track moves. Besides on the train down the street from my house I have noticed it recently on another train near a job site in Mt.Ephram, NJ. That is what the photo is of, although you will see both locos on the same end of the train. When the same train had passed earlier, one engine was on each end, and most other days I have seen it, they remain that way for the return trip. They are also high-nose GP38-2s which is pretty neat to see around these parts. They remind you of the old GP-7s and 9's.

Now this brings up an interesting problem for model railroad operations. With DCC it is no problem to run two separate locos on the same train independently, but, I assume on the real railroad, the tail engine is just set to free-roll like a car. This can't really be done on a model - you could use a dummy engine for appearance but not for actual realistic operations, and even if you synced the engines, if the lead engines hits a dead spot on the rail, the cars would probably derail with the tail engine still pushing. Maybe in the future, if this becomes common prototype practice, some modeler or manufacture will come up with a DCC function to disengage the transmission of a locomotive. Interesting problem for some of you DCC electronic geeks to get working on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bet they have them pushing a little bit, i know they keep them running constantly, and I'm going to use that now on my layout, thanks