We don’t need no stinkin’ terrorists

Commuter rail operated by Metro North brings around 125,000 people a day from Connecticut to Manhattan, letting people off at 125th street in Harlem and Grand Central Station at 42nd street and Park Ave.

Because the line goes into a tunnel around 90th street, you can’t use diesel locomotives – it uses 3rd rail until it gets to the junction with Amtrak that comes from Penn Station, then they switch to overhead cateranary which operates better at higher speeds.

Wednesday, Metro North and Consolidated Edison were operating with a single point of failure. They had pulled down the backup feeder for upgrading, leaving only the primary. They had done a “test” earlier to see if the primary 138 Kv power circuit could hold up by itself with no backup and the line deliberately overloaded with more trains than normal. That power line is already 6 years beyond its 30 year life. It passed that “test”. No problem, don’t worry.

Shockingly, the liquid nitrogen cooled cable overheated, burst and sustained serious damage on Wednesday. The backup circuit was out of service on pupose for two weeks. Metro North and Amtrak to Boston are now dead in the water for up to three weeks. Con Ed is trying to cobble together a temporary substation this weekend to boost the voltage from an adjacent residential neighborhood up to the 13000 volts used in the cateranary.

There are a few dual power (diesel/electric) locomotives available, but they aren’t compatible with the electric only passenger cars that each have their own Motors and power systems.

I’m so glad I left Connecticut.


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7 Responses to We don’t need no stinkin’ terrorists

  1. CC1s121LrBGT says:

    How much time do you think it will take for highly regulated rail system to develop standards?

    • Art Stone says:

      Developing a standard and implementing it are two entirely different things.

      I’ve been doing a bit more reading on the specifics today – you (being a New York/Jersey area person) may know parts of this. Most will probably find it boring 😉

      The electrified NorthEast Corridor from Washington DC, the LIRR, and the New Haven RR, and the line from Philadelphia to Harrisburg were owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). They were standardized on 11 Kw 25 hz single phase AC. PRR trains ran into Penn Station. That’s where the New Haven trains used to go. The PRR had a hydro power plant to power it all and the water turbines spun at 25 hz. As more trains and more power were needed (like air conditioning) the hydro power wasn’t enough and getting very old. So substations (like the one involved now) were built to take readily available power from reliable sources like Con Ed and convert it to the oddball 25 hz.

      Grand Central and the Harlem Line were built by the New York Central. The trains into Grand Central operate on 700v DC using a third rail that has a “shoe” that goes below the third rail and pushes upward. The third rail used by the LIRR into Penn Station uses a third rail where the shoe rides along the top.

      NJ Transit (other than the NE Corridor) has standardized on 25 Kv 60hz, which is very simple – just take a drop from the power company, lower the voltage and you’re done. The recent electrification my Amtrak from New Haven to Boston also uses 25 Kv 60 hz – of course, the global standard is 25 Kv but 50 Hz. Rail cars are designed specially for the power they use. The new M8 units in CT have dual upper/lower shoes so they can run into Penn Station after the East Side access to Grand Central is finished.

      In 1987, the New Haven was converted from the PRR 11Kv 25 hz AC standard to 12.5 Kv 60 Hz AC (note that it is not 25 Kv). The M8s were not built to operate on the PRR standard, so before they cn operate into Penn Station, third rail has to be extended where only the overhead PRR is available.

      In summation, it will happen about the same time FM radio goes all digital.

  2. Art Stone says:

    Amtrak is running Acela trains today, which tells me the temporary hookup must be working – that’s probably the only trains using it since they can’t be pulled by diesel locomotives. The hope is the upgraded feeder line can be ready in a week working round the clock

  3. popsmayhem says:

    I’m no locomotive engineer but this sounds entirely screwy..

  4. Art Stone says:

    The CTA has a mechanical trip that activates the brakes if a train goes past a stop signal.

    There was nobody on the ghost train – on part of the route the train had to go uphill, which means either it was powered or had enough kinetic energy to roll up the hill.

    My guess is the ghost train had just pulled into the yard and the switches were still lined up, so the mechanical interlock wouldn’t be tripped. The control center was aware they had a problem and the conductor on the stopped train told the people in his car to brace for a crash.

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