Rail News Roundup #12

 

Today’s Headlines

• Hartford Line Controversy

• CTDOT Test Trains Running

• Springfield Union Station Platform C

• Images from Springfield Union Station

• Great News for Passenger Rail!

• Conn River Line Bridge Work Planned

• Northampton | Rt. 5 – Collision with Freight Train

• Sen. Lesser Talks About East-West Rail

• Westfield | Proposed Industrial Park

• Berkshire Scenic Acquires Historic Mt Tom Locomotive

 

Calendar

“New Train Travel in Western MA”
with Senator Eric Lesser

Tues. April 17th | 6 – 7:30 PM
Sixteen Acres Branch | Springfield Public Library
1187 Parker St, Springfield, MA

Senator Lesser will speak on the topic of expanded passenger rail service for our region.

This event has been organized by Sixteen Acres Branch Library as part of a series of events related to Earth Week.

Further details
Earth Week at Sixteen Acres Branch Library (PDF)

 


Hartford Line Controversy

CTrail Coach No. 527 | in New Haven, Ct. | April 2018

“Department Of Transportation Tells Lawmakers Leasing Of 30-Year-Old Rail Cars A Good Deal For State”
By Gregory B. Hladky | Hartford Courant | April 12, 2018

In Connecticut a controversy is swirling between the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut DOT, and the legislature over CTDOT’s decision to lease 16 former MBTA coaches from the Massachusetts DOT for the planned Hartford Line service.

The Hartford Courant, through their news and editorial pages, contend that CTDOT made an ill-advised decision when it decided to lease 30-year old coaches from MassDOT.

CTDOT, according to reporting in the Courant, said “they had planned to electrify the Shore Line East route and shift M-8 cars from Metro North’s New Haven Line to CTDOT’s Shore Line East service. That would have allowed the DOT to use CTDOT’s Shore Line East locomotives and cars on the new Hartford Line. But those plans fell through when it became clear that all the M-8 cars were needed to handle surging ridership on the New Haven Line.”

The Connecticut legislature has held meetings with the DOT Commissioner to discuss this issue and is considering public hearings on the topic.

Its important to remember that the older coaches used by some passenger railroads in this country are perfectly safe to operate as long as they are properly maintained and inspected. As example, the Amfleet I coaches used by Amtrak for its service between New Haven and Springfield are all over 40 years old.

As of last week, according to the Courant’s reporting, CTDOT has received four of the rehabilitated coaches at its yard in New Haven. Four other coaches were at a Rhode Island facility for painting and rebranding. Eight of the coaches were still in Massachusetts.

It is expected that Governor Dannel Malloy will formally announce the official start date for Hartford Line service when he cuts the ribbon at the new Meriden station on April 19th. At this event it should become clear how the State of Connecticut plans to move forward with the launch of this new service in May 2018, or not.

Further reading

Recent stories on the Hartford Line | Hartford Courant

 


CTDOT Test Trains Running

CTDOT test train | Windsor Locks, Ct. | March 11, 2018

The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s contractor for the CTrail Hartford Line service, TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, started running non-scheduled test trains between New Haven and Springfield in early March.

These trains serve as training for locomotive engineers and train conductors to learn the tracks and territory between New Haven and Springfield.

In a related development, CTDOT has indicated that an agreement is now in place so that Hartford Line tickets will be valid for travel on all Amtrak trains between Springfield and New Haven when the new service starts, with the exception of the Vermonter.

This means that with a Hartford Line ticket passengers will be able to board any Amtrak train on this line (except the Vermonter) without the need for a reserved Amtrak ticket.

 


Springfield Union Station Platform C

Earlier this month MassDOT released the long awaited bid solicitation for the project to construct a full-length high-level boarding platform at Springfield Union Station.

Site Logistics Plan excerpt | High Level Platform Project
Springfield Union Station | March 30, 2018

 

Platform C (on the left) – looking east
Springfield Union Station | March 6, 2017

The project will involve the removal of the existing low-level platform between tracks 4 and 6 (known as Platform C) at Springfield Union Station. In its place a full-length high-level platform will be constructed.

Passengers will access the new platform via a refurbished stairway (known as stairway 5) on the west side of the concourse level or via a new elevator from the center of the concourse level. The historic stairway on the east side of the concourse level (known as stairway 6) will not be reopened as part of this project.

 

Stairway 5 | Springfield Union Station | March 6, 2017

 

Bids for the project, which is valued at $6.5 million, are scheduled to be opened on April 18, 2018.

 


Images from Springfield Union Station

Here are two notable images from Union Station that we thought would be interesting to share.

Concourse level | Springfield Union Station | March 26, 2018

Some have asked, “what inside the gray boxes down at Union Station?” The answer — the ticket machines for the CTrail Hartford Line service. The machines are in place and wired up but will remain covered until the service launches.

The screen on the left will eventually show departure information for Amtrak trains (and we hope CTrail Hartford Line trains too) from this station.

 

Inside Springfield Union Station | looking North | February 23, 2018

We don’t have any information on what the arrangement was that allowed this Peter Pan Bus promotion to be placed on the back side of the information board in the main waiting hall. One would assume that Peter Pan is paying quite a lot of money for signage in such a prominent location.

 


 Great News for Passenger Rail!

Source: Rail Passengers Association Blog | March 22, 2018

“Great News for Rail Passengers in Fiscal Year 2018 Budget!”
Blog post | Rail Passengers Association | March 22, 2018

To make a long story short — the recently approved Federal Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes historic increases in funding for Amtrak, passenger rail, and transit at the federal level.

 


Conn River Line Bridge Work Planned

MassDOT has issued a bid solicitation for tie replacement and the installation of a second main line track on two bridges on the Connecticut River Main Line (CRML).

The first bridge (known as Bridge 34.82)¹ carries the CRML high above the Deerfield River and the second bridge (known as Bridge 34.95)¹ carries the CRML over the Pan Am Southern’s Fitchburg Main Line and the so-called Greenfield Running Track.

Both bridges are shown on the map and in the image below.

Locus map – CRML Bridge Project | Greenfield & Deerfield, Ma. | MassDOT

 

Connecticut River Main Line Bridges 34.82 and 34.95
Viewed from Hope St – looking south | Greenfield, Ma. | April 2018

The project calls for the installation of 1,650 new wood bridge timbers, structural modifications on each of the two bridges, installation of a retaining wall, construction of new track, and the installation of 1,500 track feet of continuously welded running rail and 3,600 linear feet of bridge guard rail over bridges 34.82 and 34.95.

Work will also include spot ditching, maintenance crossing installation, track surfacing and aligning, as well as removal and disposal of debris.

Bids for the project, which is valued at $3.1 million, were scheduled to be opened on March 29, 2018.

The project is expected to take 320 calendars days to complete once MassDOT issues a Notice to Proceed to the contractor.

 

¹These numbers indicate the milepost (a distance measured in miles) along the rail line. On The Connecticut River Main Line this distance is measured from Springfield.

 


Northampton | Rt. 5 – Collision with Freight Train

Vehicle collision with freight train | Northampton Ma.
Northampton Police image | March 16, 2018

“Holyoke man injured in Rt. 5 collision with train in Northampton; cited for drunken driving”
By Patrick Johnson | The Republican | March 16, 2018

The crossing is for a railroad siding that leads from the MassDOT-owned Connecticut River Mainline to the Packaging Corporation of America facility on Route 5 in Northampton.

Apparently the driver of the vehicle did not notice the flashing red warning lights at the crossing.

Active signals were installed at this crossing just over a year ago, after a similar accident.

Further reading

New Grade Crossing Signals go up in Northampton
Trains In The Valley | January 12, 2017

 


Sen. Lesser Talks About East-West Rail

Senator Eric Lesser spoke on WGBY-57’s program Connecting Point on March 14, 2018 on the topic of the future of East-West passenger rail service in our state.

Anyone interested in the idea of connecting eastern Mass. with western Mass. by rail should be encouraged by the political leadership on this issue that Sen. Lesser continues to offer to all of us.

 


Westfield | Proposed Industrial Park

Westfield MEPA Plan | Page 10
Source: https://ma-westfield2.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/5833

The City of Westfield is moving forward with plans to develope a 66-acre industrial park on city-owned land between Turnpike Industrial Road and Cabot Road.

It has been reported that the design will include provisions for possible rail access into the property. If this were to happen the site would be served by the Pioneer Valley Railroad which already serves a number of freight rail customers in the vicinity of the proposed industrial park.

Further reading

“Westfield submits state paperwork to create industrial park”
By Hope Tremblay | The Republican | April 4, 2018

Westfield MEPA Plan presentation (PDF)
January 10, 2018

 


Berkshire Scenic Acquires Historic Mt Tom Locomotive

Boston & Maine SW-1 diesel locomotive
Former Mt Tom power plant, Holyoke, Ma.

“Scenic railway museum acquires historic locomotive”
By Tony Dobrowolski | The Berkshire Eagle | April 4, 2018

The Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum (Lenox, Ma.) has acquired a rare 1941 Electro-Motive Division locomotive from the now dormant Mt. Tom power plant located in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The 77-year old locomotive (shown above) was picked up from the power plant site by Pan Am Railways in late February and is now resting at its new home in the Berkshire Scenic’s rail yard.

Rail News Roundup #2

 

The latest regional rail news from Trains In The Valley

Today’s Reports

• Union Station is Open!

• Senator Eric Lesser’s “Rally4Rail” Whistle Stop Tour

• Democratic Party Platform Includes Support for East-West Rail

• Strong Vermonter Ridership in Northampton Reported

• Design for Expanded Northampton Station Platform Released

• Vermonter Extension to Montreal Takes Another Step Forward

• New Rail Dropped along the Conn River Line

• Track Washout in Vermont Affects Vermonter Service

 


Union Station is Open!

Springfield Union Station re-opened to the public on Sunday morning June 25th.

Main waiting room | Union Station
Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

The first Amtrak passengers in over forty years to enter though the main waiting room — captured in the image above — were spotted in the building shortly after it was opened at 10 a.m.

 

Public Open House at Union Station
Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

An open house was held from 10 a.m until 3 p.m. for the public and then at 4:30 p.m. the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority moved the hub for their bus operations in Springfield to the station.

(Yes, that is the Cat in the Hat in the middle of the picture.)

 

Trains In The Valley & Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop at the Open House
Union Station | Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

Trains In The Valley and the advocacy group Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop shared a table at the open house.

We talked with people all day long about the rail service in our region and we thank everyone who stopped by to say hello.

 

Union Station | view from the parking garage roof | looking East
Springfield, Ma. | June 26, 2017

 

Bronze rededication plaque at Union Station
Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

Further Reading

“Union Station grand opening honors Springfield history”
By Elizabeth Roman | The Republican | June 25, 2017

Video | “Springfield’s restored Union Station filled with history”
By Kait Walsh | WWLP-22News | June 24, 2017

2017 Union Station Open House (48 images)
Flickr album | Spirit of Springfield | June 25, 2017

Infrastructure | Springfield Union Station
Trains in the Valley

 


Senator Eric Lesser’s “Rally4Rail” Whistle Stop Tour

On Monday, June 19, 2017, State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) embarked on a “whistle stop” tour across the state to make the case for expanded East-West passenger rail service.

Making stops in — Boston, Framingham, Worcester, Palmer, and Springfield — Lesser spoke of the benefits to all of making this rail connection.

Focus Springfield Community Television joined the senator and his staff for the tour and recorded each of the public events.

Credit:
Focus Springfield Community Television: Stephen Cary, Executive Producer | Brendon Holland, Producer | Josue Vazquez, Editor

Further Reading

“State Sen. Eric Lesser rallies for high-speed rail study at Springfield’s Union Station, last stop of day-long tour”
By Brian Steele | The Republican | June 19, 2017

 


Democratic Party Platform Includes Support for East-West Rail

The 2017 Massachusetts Democratic Party platform now includes support for East-West rail service between Springfield, Worcester, and Boston.

The new wording, quoted below, was adopted at the quadrennial platform convention that was held in Worcester on June 3, 2017.

“Investment in transportation infrastructure that links communities to each other and to jobs across the Commonwealth, including: increasing the expansion of capacity and reach of the MBTA, including the Green Line Expansion; the construction of the North-South Rail Link to unify north-side and south-side commuter rail systems and to extend the Northeast Corridor; building high speed rail along the East/West route between Springfield, Worcester, and Boston; and construction of the South Coast Rail Project.”

 


Strong Vermonter Ridership in Northampton Reported

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz announced on June 23, 2017 the follow news regarding passenger rail service in the city.

• Northampton station has become the 3rd leading station for passenger traffic on the Amtrak Vermonter line since rail service resumed in the city on December 29, 2014

• Northampton ridership has increased to over 18,000 people annually which is 20% of the Vermonter’s total rail ridership of 88,006.

• Travel between Northampton and New York’s Penn Station is the leading travel “pair” for passenger arrivals and departures.

• Unofficial ridership data for April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2017 shows that Northampton ridership is up 20% with 15,781 passengers in 2016 to 18,980 for 2017.

• The 2009 HDR Knowledge Corridor Study projected that realignment of the Vermonter to its original CT River corridor would result in 28 riders per day in Northampton. In 2015, Northampton station averaged 44 riders per day and in 2016 that increased to 50 riders a day.

Further Reading

“Northampton’s popularity among rail riders boosts push for more service”
By Amandra Drane | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 26, 2017

Vermonter Performance | Ridership
Trains in the Valley

 


Design for Expanded Northampton Station Platform Released

It has been announced that the passenger station platform in Northampton will be be expanded to a length of 120-feet by the end of the year.

Architectural rendering of planned expanded rail platform
Northampton, Ma. | June 2017

The expanded station platform will allow for two pairs of passenger car doors to be opened on the platform, which would basically double the speed of boarding (and deboarding) passengers in Northampton.

The platform expansion project will go out to bid soon and if all goes well the project should be completed by the end of 2017.

Further Reading

Infrastructure | Northampton
Trains in the Valley

 


Vermonter Extension to Montreal Takes Another Step Forward

On June 21, 2017 the House of Commons of Canada adopted Bill C-23, the “Preclearance Act, 2016″, which among other things would allow for establishment of a preclearance facility in Central Station in Montreal. The passage of this bill is is one of the many things that must happen before Amtrak’s Vermonter service is extended to north to Montreal.

The bill has been sent to the Senate of Canada, where it will sit until the Senate returns to session on September 19, 2017.

Further Reading

Vermonter Extension to Montreal
Trains in the Valley

 


New Rail Dropped along the Conn River Line

New pieces of continuously welded rail have been laid along portions of the MassDOT owned Connecticut River Main Line over the past two weeks.

Connecticut River Main Line | looking North
Keets Road crossing | Deerfield, Ma. | June 26, 2017

In the image above, new rail has been dropped next to the so-called Deerfield Siding. Presumably this siding will be rebuilt, with new ballast, ties and new rail, in the near future.

 


Track Washout in Vermont Affects Vermonter Service

> Updated on July 5, 2017 at 4 p.m. <

Amtrak’s Vermonter was temporary replaced with bus service between stations north of Springfield, Ma. from Sunday, July 2nd through to the morning of Wednesday, July 5th.

WCAX in Burlington reported that about 800 feet of New England Central Railroad’s track in West Hartford, Vt. had been “compromised” after heavy rain on Saturday, July 1st caused an embankment to become unstable from the saturated ground.

Amtrak service was restored when the northbound Vermonter (Train 56) departed Springfield on Wednesday afternoon, July 5th. It is expected that the Vermonter will operate normally in both directions tomorrow.

Further Reading

“Vermont Amtrak passengers bussed, rail track unstable”
By WCAX News | July 2, 2017

“Amtrak Service Restored in Hartford”
By WCAX News | July 5, 2017