Losing Count

Amtrak car collision Ashland VA

There was yet another train/car collision today (We hear that the lady driving the car was not seriously injured.)

Thanks to Virtual Railfan for placing a video camera at the junction of England St. and Center St. A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand pictures.

There have been enough incidents in recent months that I needed to create a spreadsheet for them all. I have recorded the information that I have regarding these incidents. Some of the information is taken from memory so I would appreciate any corrections or updates that people can provide.

Can you imagine the carnage that would ensue were there to be a third track, lots more trains and ever-increasing road traffic?

Below is a snapshot of the spreadsheet. I have also posted live YouTube links (chronological order).

Ashland VA train incidents

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Chinese and American High Speed Trains

High Speed Trains China America

This Business Insider article provides an intriguing and rather discouraging comparison between Chinese and American high speed trains.

The following statements caught my attention.

  • China’s Shanghai Maglev train line has been around since 2004, and is still the fastest commercial service train in the world. (Maglev technology is a key component of the hyperloop trains I keep writing about. This is not science fiction — we really can do better.)
  • Amtrak trains chug along between 100 and 150 miles per hour. (Our proposed “high speed train” will run at 70 mph max.). Bullet trains reach speeds of up to 186 miles per hour. (I recall taking a high speed train in Spain. Each car had a television screen providing information on items such as the local weather conditions. The screen also showed the train’s speed. At one point we were traveling well over 300 km/hr.)
  • Amtrak’s high prices dampen its popularity. A 225-mile trip from New York to Washington, DC, on the Acela express line costs $165. China’s high speed trains are significantly cheaper. A 260-mile trip from Beijing to Jinan starts at $28.

    Chinese High Speed Train Attendant
    Carlos Barria/Reuters
  • Amtrak service attendants wear collared shirts and scarves. China’s bullet train service attendants add a hat. (The picture of the attendant on the Chinese train reminded me of my recent train journey in South Korea. Not only do the attendants dress smartly, they bow to the passengers every time they enter the car. Every time. And the passengers are equally courteous in response. Another notable feature of the Korean system was the strict separation of passenger and freight trains.)

But let’s close with the following statement from the article,

. . . last year’s (Amtrak) ridership was around 31.3 million passengers — a new record.

First CAC Meeting: Notes

High speed rail Ashland VA

The DRPT held its first Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting yesterday. A video recording of the meeting will be published at their site. Here are a few informal first impressions based on my notes.

  • The committee was made up of representatives from the Town of Ashland, western Hanover, Randolph-Macon College and CSX.
  • The DRPT team made a series of presentations that gave an overview of the project, why it is needed, and what the constraining parameters might be.
  • It was stressed that the purpose of the project was to improve the reliability, frequency and travel times of passenger trains along the north-eastern corridor. In particular to improve the current reliability from 66% to 90% and to roughly double the number of passenger trains.
  • A secondary goal is not to adversely impact CSX operations. (It was noted that CSX traffic is likely to increase due to the port of Virginia expansion at around 2% per annum.)
  • They are planning on double-stacked trains that could be up to 15,000 ft. (3 miles) long.
  • CSX will continue to own the existing track and will also own any new track. CSX will continue to dispatch all trains.
  • An overview of the Basis of Design was presented. It discussed curves and gradients but did not provide information to do with (1) code for spacing between tracks, (2) code for spacing from the outer edge of the tracks to the first public access, and (3) whether the existing tracks will be upgraded to modern standards. (A figure of 135 ft. for a new Right of Way was provided.)
  • The height of new bridges will be sufficient to allow for electric passenger trains in future.
  • The current speed restrictions through Ashland are 35 mph for freight and 45 mph for passenger. On other sections of the track these numbers are 59 mph and 65 mph respectively.
  • The replacement of jointed rail with welded rail will reduce noise and vibration.
  • All tracks (old and new) are to be inter-operable for both passenger and freight.
  • VA law requires that all new crossings be not at grade.
  • The various options that we have seen in previous meetings were presented. There was also discussion to do with eastern (Buckingham Branch) options. It appears as if linking BB and CSX trains in the Richmond Main St. area will be a challenge.
  • Two options for underground track were presented. One would be a cut-and-cover tunnel, the other would be a deep bore. No discussion of the impact of construction vibration on old homes with weak foundations was provided.
  • They are still carrying out operations modeling with the FRA.
  • Future meeting dates are shown below. Locations have yet to be decided upon.
    • June 26th
    • July 24th
    • August 28th
    • September 25th
    • October 16th (if needed)

To repeat: these are my first impression notes. We will be able to analyze the presentations more thoroughly when the video is published.