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The Philadelphia Chapter of the

National Railway Historical Society

Established in 1936


Railfan Pictures of the Week - 2/07/2016

SEPTA Main Line Lansdale PA October 24 2015

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that all railroads implement Positive Train Control (PTC) on their lines by December 31 2015. Unfortunately, safety upgrades like this cost money but are lacking in easily quantifiable benefits (read: the kind that benefit the bottom line), so many railroads have been delaying installation of the new system. In October 2015, after several of them had threatened an end-of-year shutdown of passenger trains that operate on freight rails and the suspension of hazardous materials shipments, Congress extended the deadline to December 31 2018 while giving the railroads the option of two extra years if, by that deadline, they just submit plans for the installation. Already this week freight railroads Canadian National, CSX and Norfolk Southern and commuter railroads SunRail, Metra, MBTA and Trinity Railway Express have informed the FRA that they will miss the 2018 deadline. So basically, in December 2019, there may be some railroads that will not have PTC up and running, eleven years after the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which was a response to several fatal rail accidents dating back to 2002.

SEPTA isn't going to be one of those railroads. Over the past decade, they have been converting many of their lines to Automatic Train Control (ATC) so the upgrade to PTC was a natural progression. This head start resulted in engineering plans for PTC being completed in 2011 and construction beginning in early 2012. Four years later the end is in sight. The equipment testing and personnel training should culminate in Phase 1, the activation of PTC on the single track lines (later this month the Warminster Line, site of the 2006 Cornfield Meet, will be the first), with Phase 2 deployment on two track lines following that, and ending with Phase 3 deployment on multiple track lines.

A PTC training train on a weekend run approaches CP Dale on the Main Line at Lansdale.

Single Silverliners operating alone are a rare sight. The only places they can usually be seen is on the Cynwyd Line which has limited revenue service only on weekdays, and occasional equipment moves, common between Wayne Electric and Roberts Yard. For PTC testing and training, SEPTA has been running Silverliner V singles (frequently Silverliner V 722) on the West Trenton Line in both day and night shifts, and Silverliner IV singles (Silverliner IV 279 and 410 have been sighted) up to Lansdale and Doylestown on weekends.
While the Class I's and commuter lines may think they have funding issues regarding PTC, it remains to be seen what will happen with shortlines like Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad, which operates on the Main Line as well as the Warminster and Doylestown Branches. Installation of the equipment on one locomotive can run from $70,000 to $150,000. For PN, considering the cost of a used C39-8 is probably around that, it does not seem like a winning financial proposition, but they may not have a choice when it comes to safety and insurance.

If you think short lines have a problem, there's more. To add to the complexity, there are several competing systems currently being installed across the country. Even the 350 miles between Boston and Washington will have a variety.

Since SEPTA runs on the Northeast and Keystone Corridors, they are using the system chosen by Amtrak, Alstom's Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES), which will also be used by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). NJT operates on the NEC as well but will use Ansaldo's Advanced Speed Enforcement System (ASES), which will coordinate with ACSES. New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will operate the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Railroad using a PTC system built by Bombardier and Siemens, with modifications to operate on the NEC. MARC in Maryland will be getting a WABTEC system which will have to interface with ACSES.


All pictures October 24, 2015

Copyright © 2016 John P. Almeida

Photographs for personal use only. All rights reserved by original owner of image. Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission is prohibited.

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Last Updated February 7, 2016

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