Saturday, April 4, 2015

MoW: Scorpion Flatcar

Rob Moore commented on a posting
On Facebook, someone asked for a closeup picture of the Maintenace-of-Way flatcar that carries its own ramp for loading and unloading  equipment. I learned that the ramp has an incline of 7% and that it can load both steel and rubber wheeled equipment. A hydraulic wench is provided to load disabled equipment. (ProgressiveRail1)

Rob Moore commented on a posting
Rob Moore provided this photo from CSX at Westfield, MA. I tried to imagine how that ramp is unfolded. Since a Facebook comment called it a "scorpion car", it was easy to Google it and find some videos --- retracting and deploying. When the ramp is in an intermediate position, it is obvious why the car is called a scorpion. The sequencing is automated. The remote control has two buttons --- deploy and retract. The longer deploying video confirms that it is unfolded starting with the segment attached to the car. Then the second and fourth joints are done in parallel. And then the remaining joints are done one at a time. One source indicated it took 15 minutes and another source indicated it takes 5 minutes. Since 3 people were watching in the deploying video, maybe it worked 3 times faster. Or maybe the 5 minute value is the correct one. I assume trains have more than one flatcar with bridges between them so that this ramp allows them to load multiple cars using the "circus ramp" style.

In fact, this video confirms that they load multiple flatcars from the ramp at the end. It shows the entire sequence of deployment, loading, and retracting in case you have a lot of coffee to drink.

Update: a video of unfolding when only the first stage worked. A later video when they got the later stages working.
Andre Tardif shared
[It looks like a couple of the MoW units were not needed for whatever job they are doing in this area so they were left on the flats.]

Friday, April 3, 2015

GM&O's Page Bascule Bridge over "Bubbly Creek"

(3D Satellite)

This bridge spans Bubbly Creek.

.pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, Fig. 264, p. 487
Update: Patrick McBriarty's Forgotten Chicago posting  includes more information on this bridge. Only four bridges were built using the Page Bascule design. Since the abandoned Monon span over the Grand Calumet River was destroyed by an illegal scrapper, this bridge is the only Page design in the world that is still carrying traffic.

20150705 2628
Update:  I captured a relatively complete north elevation shot because a previous building has probably been torn down and the replacement has not yet been built. Note the rather ambitious graffiti on the truss members. It took a lot of energy (and some ropes?) to paint the vertical members.

Sorry, the content of this posting got replaced by the contents of a posting I was working on so much of my original content describing the Page design is gone. But that information is still available in the documents provided by Historic Bridges.

Mike Matalis found a 1902 photo of the swing bridge that proceeded this bridge
And when Chicago required the railroads to elevate their tracks, they had to elevate this bridge. They are using screw jacks and lots of people like they did when they elevated the buildings in downtown Chicago starting in 1855 to install sewers on top of a swamp.
A 1902 photo showing the crew turning the screwjacks tused o raise the bridge another flight of timbers.

Photo from  Mike Matalis
Concerning four heads per track, Jon Roma comments:
The only place where I've ever seen four-headed signals. Each head was assigned to a specific route - three mainline routes along with a restricting indication on the bottom head. The Santa Fe and the Illinois Central Gulf employees timetables called these "non-standard" signals and gave specific instructions about them.

Mark Hinsdale posted a June 1977 view of the east side. (Update: I searched several Facebook groups that he might have posted this photo in, but I could not find it. I even went through all of his timeline photos back to Feb 2014, but still no joy.)

Jon's Bridgeport album has several other interesting views, including the inside of the tower that controlled this junction. This signal is a reminder that the two bridge tracks fanned out to six mainline tracks, two each for CN/IC/ICG/GM&O/Chicago & Alton, CN/IC/CC&P/ICG/IC/Chicago, Madison and Northern Railroad, and Abandoned/Santa Fe.

Photo from Mike Matalis
Even in 2013, the two track bottleneck could backup train traffic. Mike indicates that Amtrak westbound train 301 is passing a commuter transfer to Glenn Yard for midday servicing and an IC local is on the right. Imagine what this was like when Santa Fe was still running passenger trains to Dearborn Station. The Santa Fe tracks have now been replaced by the CTA's Orange Line. And freight traffic will disappear as CN moves freight traffic to the former Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern (EJ&E or "The J") and Kirk Yard.

Update: While my daughter was driving me around Chicago so that I could take pictures, I shot a sequence from I-55. Fortunately, the camera was able to lock focus even though we were moving at highway speeds. Normally, these pictures are not good enough to include in the blog. But they catch that mixed freight trains are still running on the CN in 2015. I was surprised to see a freight train because I have read that after CN bought EJ&E, they were moving their freight operations to the periphery of the Chicago area and Kirk Yard.

20150502 0743c
 The covered hoppers are VeraSun Engergy, so they are probably taking corn to an ethanol plant.

Note that you can clearly see the teeth on the curved rack members. The rack members are the end members of the span truss. The members across the top hold the motor, shaft and the rack gears. As the bridge is raised, the ends of the top members go down as the rack members tilt backwards. Since the rack members are rigidly attached to the movable span, as it rotates back the rest of the span rotates up.
ICG, Chicago, Illinois, 1983, east side
Illinois Central Gulf Railroad freight train in Chicago, Illinois, on March 1983. Photograph by John F. Bjorklund, © 2016, Center for Railroad Photography and Art. Bjorklund-60-18-12
ICG, Chicago, Illinois, 1983
Illinois Central Gulf Railroad freight train (led by locomotives of predecessor Gulf, Mobile and Ohio) in Chicago, Illinois, on February 1983. Photograph by John F. Bjorklund, © 2016, Center for Railroad Photography and Art. Bjorklund-60-18-19

Bill Molony shared's post.
"SOO Line SD40 #756 and GP38-2 #4408 have just crossed the South Branch of the Chicago River with an eastbound freight at Chicago, Illinois on October 27, 1979." Jack D. Kuiphoff photo.
Tom Skowronski Yea, and if you notice, there are 4 searchlight heads on each signal. I don;t remember the exact indications, but the head that was cleared gave railroad routing on the other side where the tracks fanned out again along with bridge protection. It was completely different than normal indications on other railroads. And 4 heads! Only place I have ever seen that.
Mark Bilecki Sr. The tracks went from 6 to 2 tracks and back to 6 after the bridge, eastward with the GM&O on the north, IC in the middle and ATSF on the south. ATSF was removed for the Orange line elevated in 1989.
Jeff LewisGroup Admin I just noticed that the GP38 has red lettering. Unusual.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

NS's 47th Street Yard Intermodal Yard

Update: C&WI used to have a passenger station at 47th Street. Bill Molony explains this picture: "Wabash Railroad Class M1 4-8-2 Mountain-type #2823, arriving at the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad's 47th Street station."
Update: Ted Lemen caught GTW 5629 at the C&WI roundhouse in 1966.

Between 47th street and 55th street, there were three yards between the Chicago and Western Indiana (C&WI) right-of-way on the west and the Pennsy right-of-way on the east. (Trains)

  • 47th Street Yard: Wabash, passenger coach yard.
  • 51st Street Yard: C&WI, passenger coach yard for Erie, Monon, GTW, and C&O. Also, at least Erie, serviced their engines here.
  • 55th Street Yard: Pennsy, after the steam and passenger train era, it became a circus ramp intermodal terminal that they operated as their "Truc-Train" service.

Norfolk Southern got the rights to the 47th street yard when it acquired Norfolk & Western because the N&W had already acquired the Wabash RR. NS got the 55th Street Yard when it got the Pennsy mainline in Chicago as part of the Conrail split. And it got the 51st Street Yard when C&WI was split between Metra, UP, and NS. NS has merged all three of these yards into one big yard.

We learned when we studied the north alignment part of  CREATE's P4 (Grand Crossing) Project that Norfolk Southern plans to buy land south of their 47th Street yard to expand it. The $285 million project will add 85 acres to the yard. The March 30, 2015 Chicago Tribune had a front page article that was continued onto another whole page. The article explains that NS has been buying properties for over a decade now and has 531 of the needed 557 parcels of land. 22 owners are still saying "no" to selling their homes. Some want to stay. Some want more money. The person leading the fight against NS lives in Cambridge, MA. (Update: land acquisition is still an issue.)

Ald. Willie Cochran has observed that the expansion should create 400 jobs at about $69,000 salaries as well as an estimated $146 million in overall economic impact. (dnainfo)

To address the concerns of the Englewood community concerning high asthma rates, NS said that 36 of the 38 trucks that move trailers around the yard will have cutting-edge pollution controls by 2018. And container cranes will see an immediate reduction of harmful exhaust emissions. In all, it will provide $3 million for transportation improvements, while also contributing thousands of dollars to local schools. Additionally, they will help with landscaping improvements for Sherwood Park and give its unused 59th Street rail line to the city as part of an elevated bike trail project. NS also said it would sponsor a $1 million fund for sustainability projects in Englewood. (ProgressIllinois, SustainableEnglewood)

The NS web page has a menu that provides the following destinations for intermodal service from this yard. The times are for Monday departures. Most destinations have the same times for each day of the week. Why does it take an extra day to go to Detroit instead of Toledo? Even if it goes to Toledo and then Detroit, it should not take an extra day. After all, the Buffalo+Albany+Ayer train can drop of the Albany block and get to Ayer in just 3 hours.
NS, click Intermodal option

Albany, NYM 2000Th 0500
Ayer, MAM 2000Th 0800
Buffalo, NYM 2000W 0700
Cleveland, OHM 2300W 1600
Detroit - Livernois, MIM 2230W 1000
Harrisburg, PAM 1700W 0500
Morrisville, PAM 1700W 1000
Taylor, PAM 2000F 1300
Toledo, OHM 2330Tu 1130

The following arrival times are for trains that leave on Monday. Some of the asymmetries make sense. For example, Cleveland is a separate train because they don't want its availability to be impacted by delays of the Ayer+Albany train. But why is there service from Erail, NJ, but not to it?
Albany, NYTh 0500
Ayer, MATh 0500
Buffalo, NYW 0600
Cleveland, OHW 0800
Detroit - Livernois, MITu 1830
Erail, NJW 1230
Harrisburg, PAW 0800
Morrisville, PAW 1200
Taylor, PAF 0600

This information that I found on Trainorders does not help clarify what is happening with Toledo and Detroit.

47th St. Intermodal Terminal:
-All trains go via ex-NYC Chicago Line.

NS, click Corridors option
I'm still trying to figure out which of the above trains are double-stack vs. just one stack.

Norfolk Southern posted
NS has posted three things they did in 2015 to reduce rail yard emissions:
1. Introduced the Eco locomotive, a locomotive rebuild program that recycles older locomotives and outfits them with new low-emission engines.
2. Rolled out the “Sleeper,” an engine-heater system that eliminates unnecessary locomotive idling in winter months. 
3. Expanded work on a rebuild program to create locomotive “slugs” – units with traction motors but no engines. The slugs are paired with diesel-powered locomotives to add emissions-free pulling power and reduce fuel burn.

Now I'm left with the question of where is the "Calumet repair shop?" It would be the shops they got from the Nickle Plate in their Calumet Yard.

Mike Croy posted 13 1967 photos of the C&WI 47th St. rouudhouse.