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High-Speed Rail in New York State and Along the NorthEast Corridor

See these great topics: Ridership on New York State's high-speed rail system will continue to rise even if no improvements are made. An attempt to match or better a bus trip from Delaware to Old Saybrook which appeared in the NY TIMES. Travel over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor between New Haven and Washington. Electrified railroads.

High-Speed Rail in New York State and Along the NorthEast Corridor

Welcome to our High Speed Rail WebSite

Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects we have put together for you:

A feature article: High Speed Rail in New York State.

The woes of the New Haven Railroad.

An attempt to match or better a bus trip from Delaware to Old Saybrookwhich appeared in the NY TIMES.
Update on commuter rail between Delaware & Old Saybrook.
Yet another attempt to travel the Northeast Corridor BUT not on Amtrak.

Take a ride on the North East Corridor.

Read about Electrification and high speed rail.

Story of the Turbo Trains.

NY State Speed Limits as of June, 2011 as they relate to high speed rail.

See the full facts on New York State's high speed rail programs. Including former Senator Bruno's ambitious plans.

What the speed limits are for trains.

Lots of reference material , high speed initiatives in other stares, and passenger interface with freight railroads.

High-Speed Rail Corridors and John R. Stilgoe

We have "must see" WebSites on The Northeast Corridor, and the New York City transit planning

A National High Speed Network? We have some history for you on a high-speed trolley line and an upcoming high-speed rail development in the southeastern US.

Could and should high-speed rail have included mail and express?

On September 24, 2011; Projects to eliminate a decades-old bottleneck between Albany and Schenectady, boost the reliability of track signals, and improve service along Amtrak's Empire Corridor will move ahead after agreement was reached with CSX Transportation, which owns the tracks.

See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History

Take a quiz on Which One of These People Hurt New York City the Worst?

Find out about accomplishments and Fair Promise

Fastest Trains in the World in 2013

Fastest Trains

Shanghai Maglev Train in China is ranked Number 1

Fastest Trains

CRH380 Train in China is ranked Number 2

Fastest Trains

ICE 3 Train in Germany is ranked Number 3

Fastest Trains

Shinkansen E5 Train in Japan is ranked Number 4

Fastest Trains

TGV POS Train in France is ranked Number 5

Fastest Trains

ACELA Express Train in the United States is ranked Number 14

Amtrak Status Maps

The positions of the trains, which are shown on each of the regional maps, is derived from Amtrak's website. The status of these trains is only as accurate as the information Amtrak's website provides. Please double check with Amtrak. Do not rely solely on these maps.

The maps are a simplification of those shown in Amtrak's Route Atlas.
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Interesting Stuff - Ecology and railroads

January 7, 1929 The New York Central Railroad's "20th Century Limited" runs a record seven identical sections. Eight hundred twenty two people pay the extra $10 fare to ride The Century. An automobile show in New York City gets the credit for this sudden increase in traffic. Combined with other special trains arriving for the show, a record 266 sleeping cars arrive at Grand Central Terminal between 5:00 am and 9:50 am. This is very interesting. It was a harbinger of things to come: the impact of the auto on passenger train travel. I bet Al Gore understands what a high speed rail system (plus good commuter rail systems) would do for the "fuel bill"! DO YOU?
Penn Central New Haven Railroad New York Central Railroad

Interested in Penn Central? New York Central? Pennsylvania Railroad? New Haven Railroad? or in the smaller Eastern US railroads? Then you will be interested in "What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen". You will also enjoy "Could George Alpert have saved the New Haven?" as well as "What if the New Haven never merged with Penn Central?"

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Ridership on New York State's high-speed rail system will continue to rise even if no improvements are made.

This will be due to the growth in population as well as the concentration of this population in the urban areas of the State. As urban congestion increases, rail travel will become the best alternative available for travel in more and more cases.

The first step in planning for the future has been taken by defining high-speed corridors. The Albany-New York corridor is the most highly developed and mature route. Frequency of service and speed are adequate and a definite need exists because of the extreme difficulty in entering New York City by other means. The Albany-Buffalo corridor is less well developed. Neither frequency of service nor speed are adequate to attract a large number of riders. The issue of speed represents a conflict with Conrail, a highly successful freight railroad. This conflict should be immediately resolved and train speeds increased to at least 90 M.P.H. Frequency must be increased to provide the traveler with an adequate and acceptable choice of travel times. Current problem areas are weekend peaks and lack of a westbound train early in the day. The Albany-Montreal route cannot really be considered a high-speed rail corridor at this point in time. It really represents a continuation of the local type of passenger service which was very much more widespread fifty years ago. Future track improvements and other changes could affect this. In addition, there may be a place in the future for additional corridors. The most logical extension would be a southern-tier route through Binghamton. Thought should also be directed to the Fort Drum (Watertown) area.

The obvious answer to building ridership has been increasing speed and/or train frequency. The approximately $100 million that New York has spent in the past several years has paid off very well in train speed and frequency improvements. In 1975, the fastest passenger runs in New York were 80 m.p.h. Now certain sections are 90 or even 110 m.p.h. However, will an additional $1 or $5 million spent on a ? M.p.h. average speed increase/attract a significant number of new riders? Can anyone justify running nearly empty trains in the interest of frequency?

The key markets along the 463 mile New York to Buffalo route are: (1980 census)

City Population
New York City 9,120,000
Albany/Schenectady/Troy 795,000
Utica/Rome 320,000
Syracuse 642,000
Rochester 972,000
Buffalo 1,243,000

In 1977, the average trip mileage was 191 miles for this route as compared to 299 for New York-Montreal.

One very noticeable method of lowering the run time on a route is to decrease the number of stops. By establishing an efficient method of "feeding" each high-speed rail station, train speed would be increased and accordingly ridership would also increase. Efficient feeding of these stations would consist of:

· secondary trains (i.e. not "high speed")
· intermodal links with bus and light rail
· adequate links with the highway (and air) system
· adequate parking

Getting a little more specific, what steps could be taken in New York to apply this idea of feeding high-speed stations? Starting with New York City, one end of the high-speed rail system, we note that excellent use is already being made of secondary trains with Metro-North's system and an excellent intermodal link with the subway system. Because of the extremely congested nature of the city, parking and links with highways are not practical; however, the stations served by secondary trains have adequate parking and good links with the highway system. There should be a high degree of coordination between Amtrak and Metro-North in the areas of scheduling and marketing.

If Albany was designated the next major stop on a truly high speed rail system, what changes would be required? Northbound trains could stop at Tarrytown (pick up only) and Rhinecliff. Tarrytown would be a more logical stop than Croton-Harmon because of the close link to the Tappan Zee Bridge; however, parking and access roads must be improved. All passengers between New York and Poughkeepsie would be handled by secondary trains (Metro-North). At Rhinecliff, passengers for points north of Rhinecliff would change to a secondary train that would proceed to Hudson. As well as cutting out a stop at Hudson, this train would bring high-speed passengers from Poughkeepsie to Rhinecliff. In a southbound direction, high-speed trains would stop at Rhinecliff and Tarrytown (drop off only). Passengers from Hudson would take the secondary train to Rhinecliff. Passengers to Poughkeepsie would change from high-speed service at Rhinecliff and continue on secondary service. By adding a train that basically shuttles between Poughkeepsie and Hudson, two stops can be eliminated. There is also the possibility that this shuttle service could be expanded to serve new stations if the need for service exists. It is unclear who would be in the best position to run this service (Amtrak, Metro-North, or someone else). Assuming Amtrak plans to move from Grand Central to Penn Station are fulfilled, it is unclear how best to handle passengers headed for Grand Central. The obvious solution would be a direct subway. The practical solution would be an across the platform train change at Tarrytown.

A similar shuttle could be operated from Amsterdam to Albany. This would serve to eliminate the stop at Schenectady. Another shuttle could operate between Utica and Syracuse and cut out the stop at Rome. This concept of using secondary train shuttles could be evaluated more fully and even tried experimentally. For instance, it could be tried between Utica and Amsterdam or between Albany and Hudson. In these cases, as well as feeding the high-speed service, it might attract new passengers from towns not now served by Amtrak (Herkimer, Little Falls, Fonda, Castleton, etc). It would also serve the commuter market in the larger upstate cities. Possibilities should not even be limited to current passenger routes. For instance, the Albany area could be served from the south by the Conrail River Division; the Schenectady area by the D&H; the Utica area by the NYS&W and Conrail's Lyons Falls branch; the Syracuse area by Conrail; etc.

If the Albany-Montreal route were to be developed as a high-speed corridor in an attempt to capture a significant number of current air travelers, the shuttle concept would be vital in replacing the numerous station stops. Improved summertime service to Saratoga should be explored.

Boston service has been neglected and could be better developed in conjunction with Massachusetts. Between Pittsfield and Albany should represent a good area to draw passengers from. The Post Road connection is now solely dedicated to running one train each way daily. A well-timed shuttle could capture many riders from the growing Colombia and southern Rensselaer County area.

Use of freight routes for secondary trains should not represent a problem. Most of these roads have received government aid of one form or another in the past few years. This should give the State some leverage in obtaining their cooperation.

How does the term "secondary train" fit in? It is neither "commuter" vs. "transit" vs. "suburban". It is a new term and means a feeder to a high-speed train.

If the State were to sponsor several secondary shuttle trains, a choice of operator would have to be made. The service could be contracted to Amtrak, Metro-North or any other bidder. Another alternative would be to contract to a private corporation with the State providing the equipment. This could either be an existing railroad or a brand new enterprise. In this case, the most practical solution would be to lease or buy some used equipment initially. As the service expands, newer equipment could be ordered. Routes with fewer passengers could be handled with rail diesel cars while more heavily traveled routes would require locomotive hauled coaches. Equipment should be configured so as to not necessitate turning at the end of a run. As newer equipment was secured, a stockpile of cars for a possible gas shortage could be accumulated and stored.

Haven't a lot of these ideas already been tried? No, not really. We never had a high-speed service before. In 1967, the New York Central tried something called "Empire Service" which was to serve a market where passengers made under 200 mile trips. It became the role model for current Amtrak service. Their idea, which wasn't carried far enough because of the Penn-Central merger, was to offer the traveler a clean, reliable alternative. To do this, they refurbished 40 cars and ran 8 trains a day between New York and Albany at 2-hour intervals. Five of these went to Buffalo and two went on to Chicago.

By Ken Kinlock at
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A National High Speed Network?

The rail industry of today is a far cry from the "any load, anywhere-to-anywhere, siding-to-siding" rail industry of the post-World War II era.

At the time of the railroads' greatest domonance of the intercity freight market, (around 1915, when intercity trucking was in its infancy), passenger trains averaged about 60 MPH, freights around 15-20 MPH. On main lines, the timetable/train order dispatching system then in use was almost as much concerned with allowing the priority passenger moves to overtake slower movements as with meeting and clearing conflicitng moves. Double-track, or on the busiest lines, quadruple track was the usual remedy, but block-signal systems usually operated in only one direction, and freights often had to take siding for overtaking moves.

The increased competition and improvements in motive power after World War I unshered in a slow-but-steady rise in freight speeds. Centralized Traffic Control and more-sophisticated block-signal systems operable in both directions also helped, but smaller and higher-valued shipments continued to leave the rails, often as much due to the inability to schedule consistent deliveries as the speeds themselves.

By 1970, the writing on the wall was clearly visible. The railroads slowly transformed themselves to carriers of very large quantities of mostly low-valued commodoites, although intermodal technology was able to retain a suprising quantity of traffic where volume was sufficient to justify regular and frequent moves. The new technology, combined with greater rate-making freedom and work-rules reform, returned the rails to the position of serious competitors, not only to some marginal truck markets, but to barges, lakeships, and pipelines.

Energy prices will continue to ebb and flow, but the diminishing supply of oil, and even the pressures driving the cost of recovery and environmental suitability of coal, are likely to strengthen the railroads' hand. But whether the current rail traffic-control system can be modernized to restore some ot the flexibilty of a long-gone era, remains to be determined. It's ironic that the most challenging jobs in dispatching in modern-day America are on predomionately-passenger lines.

1. NEC, naturally. Improved to higher speeds of course.

2. Chicago - (South Bend) - (Toledo) - Cleveland - Pittsburgh - Harrisburg - Philadelphia - and on to NYC as well as a branch from Pittsburgh to Washington DC

3. Chicago - Indianapolis (and a branch to Cincinnati) - Louisville (with a state funded branch to Frankfort and Lexington) - Nashville - (Chatanooga) - Atlanta - Macon - (Jessup) - Jacksonville

4. Chicago - Springfield - St. Louis - Memphis - Jackson - Baton Rouge - New Orleans (or Jackson - Hattiesburg - Gulfport/Biloxi - N.O.) with a split of the line at the Arkansas border that goes to Little Rock - Texarkana - Dallas-Ft Worth

5. Chicago to Detroit and with coordination with Canada on to Toronto - Montreal - Quebec City on another imaginary HSR line for our friends up north...

6. Boston - Concord - Montpelier - Burlington - Montreal

7. NYC - Albany - (Syracuse) - Rochester - Buffalo (and on to Toronto)

8. NYC - Albany - Burlington - Montreal

9. A state funded line for Tennessee of Memphis - [Nashville - Chatanooga] <- Nationally funded - Knoxville - (Bristol)

10. A continuation of the NEC down South: Washington DC - Richmond - Raleigh - Charlotte (I ignore the "Crescent Cities" in between, they get covered by the State and can meet up with the national system at Raleigh or Charlotte) - Greenville (state (NC) funded branch to Asheville) - Atlanta - Montgomery - Mobile - Gulfport/Biloxi - New Orleans. Also a branch from Raleigh - Fayetteville (with state funded line to Wilmington) - Myrtle Beach vicinity - Charleston - Hilton Head vicinity - Savannah - (Jessup) - Jacksonville

11. Atlanta - (Athens) - (Augusta) - Columbia - Charleston

12. Atlanta - Birmingham - Tupelo - Memphis - Little Rock -> DFW

13. Jacksonville - Daytona Beach - Orlando - West Palm Beach - Miami with a branch from Orlando to Tampa - Sarasota - Fort Myers

14. Jacksonville - Tallahassee - Pensacola - Mobile -> New Orleans - Baton Rouge -> Houston

15. Texas Triangle: DFW (situated near the airport in between the two cities, local rail can connect this to the two downtowns) - (Waco) - (Temple) - Austin - San Antonio, DFW - (Waco) - (Bryan-College Station) - Houston - (Galveston {maybe}), Houston - (Bryan-College Station) - Austin - San Antonio. I choose this route as it hits a massive college town and would connect two of the largest universities in the country together, worth in my eyes the slight extra length of this routing. Houston direct to San Antonio would not generate as many trips as adding the other two midpoints to the route, and it shortens the length of rail that would have to be built.

16. state funded branches from San Antonio to Corpus Christi - Brownsville, and S. A. to Laredo. LD train from New Orleans -> S. Antonio - Del Rio - Ft. Stockton - El Paso - Las Cruces - Tucson - Phoenix -> Los Angeles

17. Chicago -> St. Louis - (Columbia) or Jefferson City - Kansas City - (Lawrence) - Topeka - (Manhattan) - (West Kansas) - (Denver Int'l Airport) - Denver. Here I could go Chicago -> Omaha -> Denver but I think more ridership would be generated with the bigger cities of KC and StL included in the route.

18. DFW - (Sherman) - (Norman) - Oklahoma City (w/ branch to Tulsa) - Wichita - Topeka -> K.C.

19. DFW - (Wichita Falls) - Amarillo - Pueblo - Colorado Springs - Denver

20. Chicago - (O'hare airport) - Milwaukee - Madison - (La Crosse) - Minneapolis/St. Paul (plus Empire Builder to Seattle) with a branch from Milwaukee to Green Bay

21. Chicago - Davenport - (Iowa City) - Des Moines - Omaha - Lincoln

22. State funded: [Erie?] - Cleveland - (CLE airport) - Columbus - Dayton - Cincinnati - cincy airport - Louisville

23. Denver -> Pueblo - Santa Fe - Albuquerque - Phoenix (maybe via Gallup and Flagstaff) - Palm Springs - San Bernardino - Los Angeles

24. Los Angeles - San Bernardino - Las Vegas - St George - Cedar City - Salina - Salt Lake City

25. San Diego - LA - Bakersfield - Fresno - BRANCH to San Jose - San Francisco and Oakland, - Fresno - Sacramento - LD to Seattle or Vancouver, CA.

26. State funded line from Oakland/S.F. - Sacramento - Lake Tahoe - Carson City - Reno

27. A new LD that goes from (perhaps Denver) - Salt Lake City - Idaho Falls (Branch to Jackson Hole?) - Sun Valley - Boise - Burns - Bend - Portland -> Seattle

28. Eugene - Salem - Portland - Olympia - Seattle - Vancouver, CA.

29. To make Wyoming happy, a line from Denver to Cheyenne.

30. To make West Virginia happy - Wash DC to Chicago via WV and Cincy.

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Railroad Biographies Speeds around the World in 2006
The average speeds for high speed rail systems around the world (from various sources:
Japan: 164 MPH
France: 158 MPH
Germany: 125 MPH
Italy: 103 MPH
Britain (London-York): 112 MPH
Acela (NYP-WAS): 82.2 MPH
Keystone (PHL-HAR): 69.1 MPH
Proposed Pennsylvanian (PHL-PGH): 65.2 MPH

Federal Railroad Administration Speed Limits

Miles per Hour Freight Passenger
Excepted track 10 N/A
Class 1 track 10 15
Class 2 track 25 30
Class 3 track 40 60
Class 4 track 60 80
Class 5 track 80 90
Class 6 track N/A 110
Class 7 track N/A 125
Class 8 track N/A 160
Class 9 track N/A 200
Much of the Northeast Corridor is Class 7. Albany to New York has some Class 6.

Watch this site for current and continuing stories on high speed rail.

Delaware to Old Saybrook

Amtrak Northeast Corridor
In 1993, Jon Melnick, a transportation planner with the New York City Transit Authority, published an article in the NEW YORK TIMES about travel from Delaware to Connecticut. He took two days and 22 buses to travel from Newark, Delaware to Old Saybrook, Connecticut. My memories of bus trips were not that great (unshaven men holding paper bags shaped like bottles and rest stops serving hockey pucks for hamburgers). Just for the fun of it, I decided to give Mr. Melnick, and anybody else, an alternative to flying, Amtrak or driving. The alternative: regional rail systems!

Unfortunately, the trip has to start on either a bus or Amtrak because Newark, Delaware is not served by a regional rail system. While it is on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, it is too far north for the Maryland regional rail system (MARC) and too far south for the Pennsylvania system (SEPTA). My first thought was let's at least keep this trip all-rail and take a short hop on Amtrak from Newark to Wilmington. Unfortunately, the first and only northbound train isn't until 4:34 pm with arrival in Wilmington at 4:47 pm.

The lateness of Amtrak's stop at Newark will force us to either take a bus from Newark to Wilmington or else make this a two-day trip (Melnick took two days and stayed over in New Rochelle, New York). If we opt for the bus, we could be in Wilmington in time for the 6:14 am which gets into Philadelphia at 7:03, Trenton at 8:03 and New York at 9:22 am. Going a little later on the first off-peak train, we would leave Wilmington at 9:01 am, arrive in Philadelphia at 9:47 am, Trenton at 10:53 am and New York at 12:11 pm. Amtrak from Newark just misses the 4:41 pm and puts us on the 5:20 pm from Wilmington which gets into Philadelphia at 6:07 pm, Trenton at 7:18 pm and New York at 8:40 pm. While trains run as far as New Haven, the lateness of the hour would cause us to miss the last train to Old Saybrook.

At Wilmington, we can pick up the SEPTA (SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) "R2" service. Fare to Philadelphia is $4.00 during peak (rush) hours and $3.00 off-peak. Equipment is electric MU coaches.

At 30th Street in downtown Philadelphia we would switch to the R7 line to Trenton, New Jersey. The $11.50 joint fare makes SEPTA-NJTransit the least expensive route between Philadelphia and New York City. Making a convenient change at Trenton, we take New Jersey Transit and go directly into New York's Penn Station.

As an alternative (and to add more systems to somewhat approach Melnick's 22 buses), we could get off NJTransit in Newark, New Jersey and take PATH to either midtown or World Trade Center.

Since all Metro-North service to New Haven originates from Grand Central Terminal, we will need to take a subway. From Penn Station, we can take an IRT 1, 2 or 3 to Times Square and then the Shuttle to Grand Central.

Metro-North's New Haven line has two types of service: local which run as far as Stamford, Connecticut and express which stops only at 125th Street but then becomes local between Stamford and New Haven. Off peak travel from New York to New Haven costs $8.75 and departs at seven minutes past the hour from early morning until after midnight. Rush hour costs $11.75 and can be as often as five minutes apart.

The last leg of the trip will be over the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) "Shore Line East" service which goes as far as Old Saybrook. This line runs over an Amtrak-owned route and is operated by Amtrak, but with equipment owned by Connecticut. This equipment is painted in old New Haven Railroad colors. Trains make five stops between New Haven and Old Saybrook and take about 50 minutes for the trip. The cost is $4.00. There are convenient connections with Metro-North trains at New Haven, but service is mostly rush hour.

Regional rail systems have seen growth and modernization in the last few years because of increased demand for their services. At the start of our trip, nearby Maryland has built a new system in just a few years. Riding Amtrak between Baltimore and Washington and riding Washington's METRO "Red" line, I have seen it grow steadily. SEPTA and New Jersey Transit have both modernized and expanded their services. For example, SEPTA service to Wilmington only began in 1989. Metro-North has added new equipment to the New Haven line to such an extent that many trains cannot platform all cars in the stations. The Shore Line East is a brand new service.

By Ken Kinlock at

A few years ago, we wrote a story on going up the Northeast Corridor from Delaware to Old Saybrook using commuter lines. Here's an update

There is a gap between Perryville, MD and Newark, DE (about 33 miles). From there you can ride commuter lines along the NEC as far north as New London, CT. MBTA service starts at Providence.

You can also go south of DC to Fredericksburg, VA (about halfway between DC and Richmond) on Virginia Railway Express (VRE). There is commuter rail in the Boston area on MBTA north of Boston on Amtrak's Downeaster corridor, but I don't know which line that is or how far it goes.

To my knowledge, the VRE, MARC, and Shore Line East only run on weekdays. (I know the first two only run weekdays.) In addition, the VRE and I think Shore Line East only or primarily run peak periods on weekdays. (The same is true with the MARC Camden Line between DC and Baltimore, but the MARC Penn Line - the line that operates on the NEC - does run in the middle of the day, particularly between DC and Baltimore.) In addition, the SEPTA R2 has limited service to Newark, DE on weekdays, only runs to Wilmington on Saturdays, and does not go to Wilmington (or Newark) on Sundays.

It's possible, but one delay, and you're done.

Going southbound, the connections won't line up for Shore Line East service. And although Amtrak serves both Newark, DE and Aberdeen, MD, they don't have any trains that hit both, let alone the connecting service with Septa and Marc.

Schedules effective Oct 30…
MBTA LV South Station 06:25, AR Providence 07:25
Amtrak LV Providence 09:01, AR New Haven 10:41
Metro-North LV New Haven 10:57, AR Grand Central 13:09
(Subway Connection from Grand Central to Penn Station)
NJ Transit LV New York Penn 14:07, AR Trenton 15:33
SEPTA R7 LV Trenton 15:45, Arrive 30th Street Philadelphia 16:36
SEPTA R2 LV 30th Street 17:15, AR Wilmington 17:54
Amtrak LV Wilmington 18:10, AR Baltimore Penn Sta. 19:05
MARC LV Baltimore Penn 19:25, AR Union Station 20:25

Going northbound lines up better, and you can travel further:
VRE LV Fredericksburg 05:15, AR Union Station 06:43
MARC LV Union Station 07:12, AR Baltimore Penn 08:00
Amtrak LV Baltimore Penn 08:12, AR Wilmington 08:59
SEPTA R2 LV Wilmington 09:17, AR 30th Street 10:08
SEPTA R7 LV 30th Street 11:01, AR Trenton 11:53
NJ Transit LV Trenton 12:00, AR NY Penn 13:27
NYC Subway to Grand Central
Metro-North LV Grand Central 14:33, AR New Haven 16:17
Shore Line East LV New Haven 16:27, AR Old Saybrook 17:17
Amtrak LV Old Saybrook 17:59, AR Providence 19:17
MBTA LV Providence 20:18, AR Boston South Station 21:13
MBTA T connection to North Station
Downeaster LV Boston North Station 23:20, AR Portland, ME 01:50
I can't believe that the Downeaster has a late train like that M-F, but that's what the schedule says online. Bring a good book for the trip.

Is it cheaper? A resounding NO! (Although if there were no Amtrak-only segments, it would be.)

Using the eastbound trip from Fredricksburg, I checked the fares on the various commuter carriers and Amtrak. (Although I only ran it from Fredricksburg up to Boston. Who really wants to go to Portland, ME at 2 a.m.?

An Amtrak ticket Fredricksburg to Boston is $111 for a 9.5 hour ride on Train 86.

Going the commuter route, the total fare is $137.05 for a 16 hour ride. But $75 of that is to Amtrak for the Baltimore-Wilmington and OldSaybrook-Providence legs, meaning a total of only $62.05 to the various commuter carriers -- for a lot more mileage. (And yes, that includes 2 bucks for the NYC subway )

Here's the breakdown:

VRE $8.80
MARC $7.00
AMTK $46.00
SEPTA $7.00
NJT $11.50
NYCSub $2.00
MN $14.00
SLE $5.75
AMTK $29.00
MBTA $6.00

Interesting to note the variation in commuter carrier fares, from a low of 12¢ a mile on SEPTA to a high of 20¢ on NJTransit. (Obviously the NYC subway flat fare is meaningless on a per-mile basis. NYP-GCT happens to be just about a mile. But a hypothetical "per-mile fare" could reasonably range from 10 bucks for a very short trip between two stations just a few blocks apart, just to get out of the rain, to a mere nickel for a 38 mile journey from the north Bronx to Far Rockaway. But for our purposes here, one mile really doesn't affect the averages!)

The per-mile fare on Amtrak, of course, varies dramatically, based on both total distance travelled and where that distance is travelled. Notice the last two lines I threw in: the incremental Amtrak fare for Fredericksburg to Boston, as compared to DC-Boston, is just $3.00 - only a third of the VRE fare and a mere 6¢ per mile. But an Amtrak ticket for just Fredericksburg to DC will set you back $27, or triple the VRE fare. Notice also the difference between the MD-DE segment and the CT-RI segment on Amtrak.

But still, Amtrak fares are generally higher than commuter rail fares. If the two "missing links" had commuter service so we could avoid Amtrak, using the average commuter cost of 17¢ per mile, the entire 509 mile journey would cost $87.50 - significantly less than the journey as now possible with the 2 Amtrak segments, and somewhat less than an end-to-end Amtrak trip.

Not a proponent of busses, but Greyhound gets $20.75 from Baltimore to Wilmington and $24.00 from New Haven to Providence (Old Saybrook is not on their schedule). Not all that cheap.

By Ken Kinlock at
affiliate_link A French high-speed train (TGV) with a 25,000-horsepower engine and special wheels broke the world speed record for conventional rail trains, reaching 357.2 mph (574.8 kph) as it zipped through the countryside between Paris and Strasbourg on Apr 3, 2007.
See a video clip!
Southeast Corridor High Speed Chicago-New York Electric Air Line Rail Road
Electric Railroads


When Amtrak re-routed the Washington section of the Broadway Limited, it ran the train up the northeast corridor to Philadelphia and then west to Harrisburg where it was combined with the New York section of the Broadway. During this time the New York section of the Broadway did not stop at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Later, when the sections were combined at Philadelphia, passengers "rode backwards" from New York City to Philadelphia so that power could be moved to the other end, trains hooked up and the whole entity moved westward out of the station. With the advent of the "Capitol", this became superfluous, and the "B-way" certainly rides "forwards" the whole way now.

This points out why engineers' plans should be implemented as originally specified. 30th St. was "supposed" to have a loop track on its southern end for just this purpose: so that a train could pull in south-bound (RR-west-bound) from New York City, pull out of 30th St. south-bound into the loop, loop around to north-bound, continue north-bound (RR-west-bound) to Zoo Interlocking (the major interlocking plant between 30th Street and North Philadelphia), then continue north-west on the line to Harrisburg. This loop was never put in, resulting in many Limiteds stopping only at North Philadelphia station, then taking the "NY-Pittsburgh subway" (wye track) at "Zoo" directly to the Harrisburg main.

It would also make sense that the trains would combine in Harrisburg instead of Philadelphia for another reason. Until relatively recent times, trains changed power at Harrisburg. Amtrak moved the power swap to Philadelphia in the mid-to-late-80s. Although electric units power most of the Harrisburg-Philadelphia trains, the Broadway Limited and the Pennsylvanian operate with diesel power to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station where they pick up electric units for the trip to New York.

When the Broadway Limited was combined at Harrisburg, Amtrak chose the Port Road route between Harrisburg and Washington instead of the route used by Penn Central via York, PA. The only advantages of the former Northern Central route were that of (1) passing through a small city, i.e. York, and (2) slightly shorter route. However, track had been deteriorating badly on the otherwise lightly traveled York to Baltimore segment, and this was finally dealt the coup de grace by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, when portions of the line (as well as the nearby Western Maryland main line, among others) were washed out.

Mileage from New York City to North Philadelphia is 85 miles and 195 to Harrisburg. Mileage from Washington to Baltimore is 40, 96 to York and 123 to Harrisburg.

In the first year of Amtrak operation, the New York sections of the Broadway Limited and National Limited were combined in Harrisburg. And, initially, Amtrak did not operate a Washington section of the National. But it began doing so after protests that one of the route pairings was supposed to be Washington-Kansas City. So, for a while, two passenger trains operated over the Port Road which was freight-only until Amtrak came along.

The National Limited's Washington section ran just three days a week. On the other four days, the timetable indicated that passengers were to make an across the platform transfer at North Philadelphia.

Returning to Philadelphia, I'd like to attempt a rough description of trackage in the area.

From 30th Street, the tracks funnel down to two, while a two-track ladder of slip switches veers to the northwest. The tracks closest to the river (the mains) are called the "River Line," while the ladder leads to the "36th St. Connection."

The 36th St. Connection passes under the High Line (Conrail's elevated tracks, now officially the Harrisburg Line), paralleling it when it reaches Zoo. The four outer tracks from the upper level turn north, with SEPTA Powelton Yard in between. Tracks 5-6 from 30th St turn south to SEPTA CP-Walnut, the new University City station, and Arsenal interlocking.

At the south end of Zoo, the tracks go:
· Amtrak Main (River Line): two tracks
· Conrail Harrisburg Line (High Line): two tracks
· Amtrak 36th St. Connection: two tracks and yard lead
· SEPTA Main: two tracks
· SEPTA yard lead
· SEPTA Main: two tracks

Break it up into parts, and it's pretty logical and definitely follows the Pennsylvania Rail Road's engineering practice.

A plan for revitalizing the Philadelphia area service (now threatened to be cut out completely) calls for transfer of operations to someone (not necessarily SEPTA) with a lower cost-structure, renovation of the ten non-Airport Silverliner IIIs for intercity use (new seating, reinstall toilets), two-person operation, increased service frequency, restoration of one-seat service to central Philadelphia, and lower fares.

Politically, the service would be the responsibility of a new state-established agency, or a collaboration between Lancaster and Dauphin Counties and SEPTA. That agency would simply supervise the contracted-out operation. Revitalized Harrisburg service would replace SEPTA's present extension of five trains to Parkesburg (one continuing to Lancaster), thereby saving SEPTA money. Dispatching control would be turned over to SEPTA, so the bulk of the line's users, those who ride SEPTA local trains to Paoli, would get higher priority.

Amtrak would be rid of the annual deficit of the Harrisburg-Philadelphia locals; though it would keep the more remunerative New York City-Harrisburg trains and even boost ridership by omitting the lengthy stop at 30th St. (using the Zoo New York City-Pittsburgh "subway") and would free up equipment. In exchange, it applies the money and equipment to a second daily "Pennsylvanian". There's the benefit for the rest of the state which makes the purchase of the Harrisburg line politically attractive.

I have been busy compiling a list of electrified mainline railroads:

1895 Baltimore & Ohio RR Baltimore Tunnel
1905? Morris and Essex
1905-13 Long Island RR
1906 West Jersey & Seashore RR
1906-13 New York Central Lines Manhattan approach
1906-08 Spokane & Inland Empire RR
1907-14 New York, New Haven & Hartford RR
1907 Erie RR Rochester Division
1908 Grand Trunk RR St Clair Tunnel
1909 Great Northern Ry Cascade Tunnel
1910 Pennsylvania RR Penn Station approach
1910 Michigan Central RR Detroit River Tunnel
1911 Boston & Maine RR Hoosac Tunnel
1912 New York, Westchester & Boston RR
1912? Canadian Northern Mount Royal tunnel
1913 Butte, Anaconda, & Pacific RR
1915 Pennsylvania RR Philadelphia Suburban Main Line
1915 Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific RR Rocky Mountain Division
1915+ Norfolk & Western (portion)
1920 Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific RR Coast Division
1920+ Virginian (portion)
1925-29 Long Island RR extensions
1929+ CUT (Cleveland Union Terminal)
1926 Illinois Central RR Chicago suburban service
1927 Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific RR Black River Jct-Seattle
1928 Pennsylvania RR West Chester and Wilmington lines
1930 Pennsylvania RR Norristown and Trenton lines
1930 Reading Company Philadelphia suburban service
1930+ New York & Long Branch (Rahway to South Amboy)
1931 Delaware, Lackawanna & Western RR commuter lines
1935 Pennsylvania RR New York-Washington
1938 Pennsylvania RR Harrisburg extension
1970 British Columbia Electric
1970-1990 LIRR Mineola-Huntington and Hicksville-Ronkonkoma
1978 Texas Utilities Services Ry
1980+ New York & Long Branch (South Amboy to Matawan)
1982 Metro-North Commuter Railroad Harlem Division (North White Plains to Brewster)

Thinking of summer vacations?

The following museums have extensive collections and make an excellent destination:

Seashore Trolley Museum (Kennebunkport, ME)
Pennsylvania Trolley Museum (Washington, PA)
Orange Empire Trolley Museum (Perris, CA)
Shore Line Trolley Museum (Branford, CT [near New Haven])
Connecticut Trolley Museum (E. Windsor, CT)
Baltimore Streetcar Museum (Baltimore, MD)
National Capital Trolley Museum (outside DC)
Shade Gap Electric Railway (Orbisonia, PA, on an EBT branch)
East Troy Trolley Museum (E. Troy, WI)
Bay Area Electric Railway Assoc. (Rio Vista Jct, CA)

Of these, Seashore is probably the largest, and is the only museum with the goal of covering the entire nation (virtually all other museums have a regional agenda, with occasional inclusion of other cars). My apologies to the operations I've left out of this list.

By Ken Kinlock at

Story of the Turbos

RTG was the original turbos that went into service in Chicago-St. Louis service. An old Trains article described the abbrevation as "Gas Turbine" in French. They looked very similar to the French sets, with the rounded cabs. There were six sets, the first and second one were imported from France, the others were built here. This was about the 1974 timeframe. The units also were in Chicago-Detroit service, and may have been in other Chicago hub service.

The RTL sets were were the same, built by Rohr, and having third-rail capability to operate in the Park Avenue tunnels. (hence the "L" in RTL). There were seven sets, delivered in 77-78. They also had a different face on the cabs, having an angled front end.

By the early 1980s, the RTG sets were benched. They sat for some years.

In the mid-1980s the turbos dominated the NY-Albany runs and were in regular service on the Niagara Rainbow. That was the era when F40s broke down or FL9s caught fire.

The RTG/RTL sets could top out at 112MPH.

In the late 1980s, there was an RTG set that was rebuilt. It was called the RTG-II. It looked very NICE compared to the RTLs, that always seemed to get sooty with service. It had a new fiberglass nose that matched the RTLs. I believe there were two, possibly three RTG-II sets. At one time there had been plans to rebuild all five, but this never happened.

By 1993/1994, there were lots of problems with the Turbos -- a seized turbo caused a bad fire in a remote area near Schenectady, and a BAD fire in Penn Station resulted in the wheels being fused to the tracks. FDNY had to standby and watch the thing burn while they waited for power to be cut. By then it was pretty badly damaged.

By 1995, there were no more turbos left in service on the Empire Corridor, as Amtrak made a decision to take them out of service.

THEN -- in April 1996, the RTL-II run for the first time. It was capable of operating at 125 MPH. The RTL-II managed to operate for well over five years before it had an engine failure in the early 21st century. Amtrak lacked the funds (or interest?) to fix it, and it sat sidelined for some time. BUT -- it was sighted several times being pulled by a Genny when Amtrak was short on Amfleet coaches and needed the Turbo for the seats.

FINALLY, the RTL-III train arrived. It was rebuilt by Super Steel and painted in the New York State colors. It was an updated version of the RTL-II.

Amtrak was reluctant to run it, and eventually it DID go into service and typically made two round trips per day (one had a deadhead one way). But often it had Amleet equipment substituted.

Soon, there was a second set ... and it too went into limited service on the Corridor. In theory, the RTL-II set was to go to Super Steel for rebuilding into another RTL-III set, and eventually there would be a total of five RTL-III sets. But none of this ever happened...

The last straw came in the summer of 2004 when the air conditioning was called "inadequate" and the two sets were pulled from service. What followed was the famous dispute when all three sets were towed to Delaware, where they have sat in storage ever since.

State to pay $1.2 million to fuel future rail plans

August 23, 2005

More than a dozen high-powered engineering firms, including contributors to the construction Chunnel linking England and France and the New York City subway system, want to help get the Empire State's stalled high-speed rail plans back on track. Advertisement

"They're heavy hitters. They're all big in the industry," John Egan, director of a state task force on high-speed rail, said of the standing-room-only crowd of consultants who turned out for an informational meeting at the Rensselaer Rail Station last week.

Representatives of companies with experience with transportation projects around the globe met for a briefing on what will be expected of bidders on a $1.2 million study charting New York's passenger rail future.

The money on the table, a tight timeline, and the range of expertise needed to address the issues to be studied combined to draw the interest of so many large firms with international reputations.

Once a proposal is selected, the firm or firms picked will have just over three months to do a soup-to-nuts analysis of what should be done to improve rail service in New York.

"It's the kind of project, because of the short-term duration, that's going to require a firm with a wide range of skills that can be brought to bear quickly," said Michael Cuddy, manager of the New York office for Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade & Douglas, a company with more than 9,000 employees globally. "It can be difficult for a firm that has a limited number of people to do 20 things at once."

Recent projects in which Parsons Brinkerhoff has played a part include an ongoing 20,000-mile Railtrack modernization and construction program throughout England and Scotland; the metro rail network in Delhi, India; and Boston's Big Dig. Company founder William Barclay Parsons designed the first line in the New York City subway system.
High Speed Corridors

Senator Bruno's Plan for New York State announced 1/6/2006

Based on story from the January 6, 2006 Albany TIMES-UNION

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said Thursday that it's time to start making it happen. At the top of Bruno's to-do list with his Senate High Speed Rail Task Force in the next six months: get the pieces in place for a $22 million program of track and signal work, consolidated rail corridor management and new express trains that will cut the trip to New York City to just over two hours and ensure that trains arrive consistently on time.

"You didn't get here by train," Bruno wise-cracked to a crowd gathered at the Rensselaer Rail Station. "If you had taken the train, we would be guessing what time you'd get here."

Bruno, a Rensselaer County Republican, pledged to make funding of the first two-year phase of his ambitious passenger rail plan a high priority in state budget negotiations this year.

The release of a Senate task force study piloted by former Albany International Airport CEO John Egan set out a series of short-range, mid-range and long-range goals that Bruno said will require the sustained commitment of state and federal money and interest to become reality.

Over the next 10 to 12 years, the task force recommends some $1.8 billion worth of improvements between New York City and Buffalo, including tracks and sidings to eliminate bottlenecks and conflicts with freight traffic and additional trains to provide more frequent service.

With more frequent and reliable trains traveling between New York City and upstate New York, Bruno predicted "the economic impact, job creation and the effect on the economy is just going to be tremendous."

Ultimately, the task force envisions a system of super-fast trains, perhaps using electrically powered magnetic levitation -- or "maglev" -- technology along the Thruway, traveling as fast as 200 to 300 mph between New York City and Buffalo. Such a system would be two decades away and would cost $10 billion to $20 billion to build, the task force and its consultants estimate.

With more than 160 pages of charts, analysis and recommendations, the task force report caps three months of intensive work by the task force and a team of consultants headed by Parsons Brinckerhoff under a $1.2 million contract.

While Bruno initially launched the high-speed rail initiative in March with talk of European-style "bullet trains" zooming across New York, the task force's approach evolved to include an early emphasis on incremental changes Egan and Bruno said are necessary to improve rail service far sooner.

While the initial phase should shave 20 minutes off the travel time between Rensselaer and Manhattan, Bruno said an even more important goal is reducing delays. An average of 70 percent of Amtrak trains now are on time between Rensselaer and Penn Station. Only half of trains traveling west of Albany arrive on time at their final stops.

A critical early step -- and perhaps one of the most difficult -- will be to achieve agreement among Amtrak, Metro-North and CSX freight railroad to unify control of operations between New York City and Rensselaer, the task force's experts said.

All three railroads own portions of the tracks and ground equipment and manage operations of their own trains running on the line.

"With all the players that interface, it's a wonder that trains run at all and get there," Bruno said.
Senator Bruno's Plan for New York State announced 1/6/2006

Comments on New York State High Speed Rail

As well as Senator Bruno's plan (see above), NY State DOT is suggesting improvements as well.

Passengers wanting high speed service between New York and Buffalo already have a viable option: go to the airport and get on a plane. Airplane times between NYC and Albany aren't going to improve much if any, and will likely decrease slightly as air traffic increases. Moreover, rail transit times between these two cities is already roughly comparable, especially when final destinations for many passengers of midtown Manhattan is considered. Therefore, sustaining current service levels is the least to be expected, and improving rail transit times and reliability between these two cities could provide some benefit.

The real benefit of the Empire corridor west of Albany is to passengers in the intermediate cities it serves. Many passengers board and detrain at Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica, traveling to Albany, the hudson valley and NYC, and with connections in NYC to all manner of destinations across the NYC metro region. Speeding up and making these trains more reliable is also a worthy goal, and one of the biggest bottlenecks in this corridor is the single track line between Hoffmans and Albany. Double track it, and better yet, add a third track as far as possible from Hoffmans along the former 4 track main westbound towards Amsterdam, where right of way restrictions create problems. The 95-99mph top speed obtained between Schenectady and Hoffmans does almost nothing to overall schedule time along this route since it is such a short distance, but if that kind of speed were allowed on the 3rd track most of the way to Amsterdam, the time saved might just begin to be noticeable, ranging into the multiple minutes category. As it is, trains take just 17-20 minutes to travel between the two points. But it'd also provide more opportunities for Amtrak to get out of the way of freights on the busy mainline and vise versa, reducing delays to both. Then move the Guy Park defect detector to a location where, when trains activate it, they'll be able to stop along this 3 track section, leaving two available tracks instead of just one, as is currently the case.

There are, I'm sure, other areas where a 3rd track could be restored further to the west and trains run at better than 80mph and largely out of the way of passing freights, saving precious minutes, reducing freight interference, and increasing overall reliability.

Perhaps all these relatively inexpensive ideas and many more have already been thought of, and if so, great. But I would encourage their implementation and a reassessment for the need of a multi billion dollar true high speed rail or maglev before such a costly system is seriously considered, and in the meantime let the already existing airlines handle those passengers with a true need for speed.


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High-speed trains A look at where high-speed trains have been, where they may be going and why Americans still may not embrace them. From Mother Nature Network
A $53 Billion Plan to Bring High-Speed Rail to the U.S.

Not New York State or Northeast Corridor, but Michigan had an attempt several years ago.

On April 29, 1956 New York Central's high speed "Aerotrain" began service between Detroit and Chicago. The train was withdrawn later in the summer after many passengers complained of nausea on the lightweight cars.

On April 29, 2001 Amtrak reduced time for its Detroit-Chicago trains by 11 minutes on average, touted as the first step in a proposed Midwest Corridor high-speed rail project.

The April 19, 1956 New York Central passenger timetable shows the Great Lakes Aerotrain covering the 283 miles between Chicago and Detroit in 4 hours and 20 minutes. By contrast, the fastest train operated by Amtrak between these points today takes 5 hours and 24 minutes.

Even the conventional-equipment Wolverine and Twilight Limited took only 5 hours and 10 minutes to cover the same distance in 1956.

The Aerotrain was designed and built by General Motors and the design of the cab reflected something of contemporary automotive design. The coaches were modeled off of GM's current (1956) bus model.
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