Rail Photo of the Month: June 2019

Rohr 1076

Rohr 1076

Location: National Airport Station, Arlington, VA
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: November 27, 2003

The DC Metrorail is known for its uniformity.  Out of the 91 stations currently in service, only two of them have two platforms served by three tracks: West Falls Church and National Airport.  The center track at the former station typically only gets used by trains pulling out from or pulling in to the nearby West Falls Church yard.  However, the center track at the latter station has seen daily use every few minutes at several different times in the station’s 42 years of service. 

The most recent of these circumstances is ongoing.  Since last weekend, the six stations south of National Airport are closed for platform reconstruction that will last until early September.  As a result, for the first time since 1983, National Airport is the last stop for all Blue and Yellow line trains in Virginia.  According to The Story of Metro by Ronald H. Deiter, it was not uncommon during the period that National Airport was the last stop for all trains from 1977 until 1983 to see two trains moving through the station in the same direction simultaneously.  The reason this would occur is that there is no direct crossover from the outbound track to the inbound track, and there was not necessarily enough time between trains to have a train arrive on the center track, drop off its passengers, pick up new passengers, and head back towards Downtown DC.  As a result, the following moves would occur:

  1. A train would arrive on the outbound track and discharge its passengers.
  2. The next train would arrive on the middle track and discharge its passengers.  
  3. The train on the outbound track would proceed south of the station.
  4. The train on the middle track would proceed south of the station and cross over to the inbound track.
  5. The train on the outbound track would reverse direction and reenter the station on the middle track to pick up passengers.
  6. The train on the inbound track would reverse direction and reenter the station, staying on the inbound track.
  7. Both trains would collect new passengers and proceed in to Downtown DC.

If steps 3 and 4 or steps 5 and 6 occurred concurrently to each other, you had the two trains moving in the same direction through the station simultaneously.

Metro seems to be using only the center track as much as possible so we may not see this scenario play out in the next few months, but perhaps some lucky railfan will observe it.  After all, luckily running into the unexpected is one of the joys of this hobby.  That said, you will not be able to run into a 1000 Series car, like the one seen here, anytime soon.  Those have all been retired.

Also, for anyone wondering, the other times the center track was used on a regular basis is between 1983 and 1991 when Blue Line trains terminated at National Airport but Yellow Line trains continued south to Huntington, and in late 2002 and early 2003 during platform canopy construction to extend the station canopies to the north entrance constructed when the new airport terminal opened in 1997.

For more photos of WMATA’s 1000 Series Rail Cars, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: May 2019

Hawker-Siddeley PA-3 01244

Hawker-Siddeley PA-3 01244

Location: Green Street, Boston, MA
Operator of Vehicle: Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority
Date of Photo: May 2, 2011

In the early morning hours of May 1, 1987, the MBTA Orange Line operated on its original, Washington Street elevated route for the final time.  The Orange Line (then known as the Main Line Elevated) originally included three elevated sections. The Atlantic Avenue Elevated was truncated to a shuttle in 1928 and closed entirely in 1938. The Charlestown Elevated was replaced by the Haymarket North Extension in 1975.  And the southern portion of the Washington Street Elevated route from Chinatown to Forest Hills, passing through the South End and Roxbury along the way.  MBTA crews worked over the weekend to tie in the Washington Street subway with the Orange Line’s new alignment that used the Southwest Corridor that had originally been built for I-95’s planned route through Boston.  The new alignment opened on May 4 and remains in service to this day.  I took this photo exactly eight years ago at the Green Street Station, one of the new stations along the Southwest Corridor alignment.

For more photos of the MBTA Orange Line, please click here.

In addition, you can see Boston TV station WBZ’s coverage of the last Orange Line train via the Washington Street elevated route in this video clip:  

Note: Some of the information in this post was changed based on corrections provided from a reader on May 7, 2019.

Rail Photo of the Month: April 2019

Alstom Regio Citadis 40092

Alstom Regio Citadis 4009

Location: Centraal Station, The Hauge, Netherlands
Operator of Vehicle: HTM Personenvervoer
Date of Photo: June 4, 2008

Due to the relatively small size of the Netherlands and its high concentration of cities, there can be a lot of different transit operators and services in a single city.  One example of this is The Hauge, where the primary transit operator is HTM Personenvervoer and most vehicles there sport HTM liveries.  However, the two tram lines operated by HTM that connect The Hague and Zoetermeer use vehicles in a special RandstadRail livery, such as the one pictured here, despite being operated by HTM.  To make matters even more confusing, Line E of the Rotterdam Metro is also considered to be part of RandstadRail, even though it is operated by Rotterdam’s Elektrische Tram (RET), the Rotterdam transit agency.  Confusing?  Perhaps, but it certainly makes for an interesting time for any transitfans traveling through the area and looking to see a variety of livery, vehicle types, and service offerings.

For more photos of trams in The Hauge, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: March 2019

CAF 5013

CAF 5013

Location: Prince George’s Plaza Station, Hyattsville, MD
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: July 2, 2007

The DC Metrorail will be celebrating its 43rd anniversary later this month, but one of its newer classes of rolling stock is no longer around to commemorate the occasion.  WMATA exercised an option order on its new 7000 Series cars from Kawasaki in order to retire the CAF built 5000 Series trains as opposed to rehabbing them.  Typically, a Metrorail car can have a service life of nearly 40 years if it is rehabilitated or overhauled after about 20 years of service.  However, the CAFs have been lemons in a variety of ways since they arrived on Metro property.  First, their delivery was delayed due to a variety of software and other manufacturing issues.  Once they arrived, the CAF cars derailed more often than the other car classes (fortunately, within train yards except on one occasion), they also broke down more often than the other car classes.  However, the CAFs left positive impressions on WMATA’s history.  They were the first cars to feature the updated interior colors of Potomac Blue, Colonial Burgundy, and Chesapeake Sand, the first cars to have LED exterior destination signage, the first cars to have interior LED next stop displays, the first cars to be delivered with AC traction motors, and the first cars to have a module on the operator’s console to help troubleshoot problems on board the train.

The 5000 Series cars are also notable for being the first heavy rail contract CAF received from a North American agency.  The company has won additional contracts in the US since then, including for the construction of MBTA’s Type 9 cars and Amtrak’s Viewliner IIs.  CAF has also been contracted to build the light rail cars that will be used on the Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs.  I’ve heard other transit fans complain about the quality of CAF products, and they also cite delivery delays on these and other contracts.  However, I’ve been on CAF built trains in Spain and Italy in addition to DC.  In my experience, the CAF trains I have been on in Europe seem to be well constructed and reliable.

WMATA’s 5000 Series cars were removed from revenue service in October 2018, although some are being used as part of work trains as of this writing.  And while they may not be a part of Metro’s story going forward and didn’t even remain in service for 20 years, the CAF cars will always be a part of Metro’s history in the early 21st century.

For more photos of WMATA’s 5000 Series cars, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: February 2019

CQ310 134

CQ310 134

Location: Peachtree Center Station, Atlanta, GA
Operator of Vehicle: MARTA
Date of Photo: October 8, 2015

Tomorrow evening, Atlanta will be at the center of most people’s attention in the United States (and around the world as well) when Super Bowl LII kicks off at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Therefore, it seemed appropriate to draw attention to Atlanta’s transit system by sharing a MARTA photo for the photo of the month.

Although Atlanta’s heavy rail system is quite small considering the size of the metro Atlanta area and the amount of traffic congestion in and around the city, MARTA has proven itself to be quite capable when Atlanta has played host to large events.  This is the third Super Bowl being played in Atlanta, and MARTA was critical in transporting spectators during the 1996 Summer Olympics.  For the Olympic games, MARTA even oversaw an “add on system” of 1,400 buses loaned from other transit agencies to help ferry people to Olympic events.  MARTA was even responsible for paying to fuel these extra buses!  For this Super Bowl, MARTA is running continuous, 24-hour service from 4:00 AM on February 1st through 2:00 AM on February 5th, a total of 94 consecutive hours of service (the system usually shuts down overnight).

So whether you are rooting for Los Angeles or New England, don’t forget to root for the host city and its own transit system!  After all, the 70,000 plus people lucky enough to score a ticket to the game wouldn’t be able to get there otherwise!

For more photos of MARTA, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: January 2019

R179 3150

R179 3150

Location: 125th Street/Saint Nicholas Avenue Station, New York, NY
Operator of Vehicle: MTA New York City Transit
Date of Photo: December 23, 2018

It seems appropriate to welcome the new Gregorian year with a photo of one of the newest New York City Subway trains, the R179.  This is the first time I’ve taken a photo of an R179.  These B Division cars began revenue testing in November 2017, officially entered revenue service in December 2017, and currently operate on the C and J lines.  The R179 is yet another class of “New Technology Trains” (NTT) that include the R142, R142A, R160, and R188 car types.  The extent to which the NTTs have become the rolling stock associated with New York City Transit can be seen in how as I was taking these pictures, other transit fans at the station awaiting the vintage holiday train thought these cars were R160s.  While the R160s and R179s do look similar, they are not the same.  While the R32s and R42s that will be replaced by the R179s are not likely to be retired prior to the end of the Canarsie Line partial shutdown in 2020, the New York City transit fleet is gradually becoming more homogeneous as time goes on.

For more photos of the New York City Subway, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: December 2018

AEM-7 2303

AEM-7 2303

Location: Temple University Station, Philadelphia, PA
Operator of Vehicle: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA)
Date of Photo: April 19, 2012

Yesterday, SEPTA ran a Farewell to the AEM-7s trip on its Paoli/Thorndale Line.  Since 1987, SEPTA has had a fleet of seven AEM-7 locomotives that have primarily operated push-pull express trains on its Regional Rail Lines. These seven AEM-7s were the last ones in service with any railroad, as Amtrak retired its AEM-7s in mid-2016 and MARC retired its AEM-7s last year.  SEPTA is replacing its AEM-7s with the ACS-64 locomotives, identical to those Amtrak has been operating in the Northeast Corridor since 2014.  With the exception of the refurbished HHP-8s that remain at MARC, all electric locomotives along the Northeast Corridor between Philadelphia and Washington will now be ACS-64s.  SEPTA’s retirement of its AEM-7 fleet is truly the end of an era within the Northeast Corridor.  

The SEPTA AEM-7 unit pictured here is departing from the Temple University Station in April of 2012.  At the time, the Silverliner II and Silverliner III cars were on their last legs.  It is hard to grasp how much of the equipment I photographed that day is no longer in service.

For more photos of SEPTA AEM-7 Locomotives, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: November 2018

Breda Rehab 3279

Breda Rehab 3279

Location: Friendship Heights Station, Washington, DC
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: August 30, 2004

This website rarely delves in to current events that aren’t transit related.  However, in thinking what photo to feature this month, my current need for a “comfort image” (think comfort food but in this case it is transit photography) as a result of current events in the wider world won out, and I am opting to feature a photo from my “home station” for much of my childhood.  The Friendship Heights station is somewhat unique in that it has entrances in both the District of Columbia and in Maryland.  When I was in high school, I would enter the station each morning in Maryland, cross in to DC to board my train, and then find myself back in Maryland moments after the train left the station.  Perhaps if you visit this site frequently, you find something comforting about being back at a specific train station or on board a specific bus route, especially if it has been awhile since you had the opportunity to use it.  For me, there is something that just seems “right” as I enter the Friendship Heights station and await a train of “legacy” cars to whisk me away to my destination.  Then once I board that train it is straight to the front to look out the front “railfan window” as I have done since I was a child.

Is there a transit experience similar to this one for me that evokes the same feelings for yourself?  Let me know by sharing it in the comments below!

For more photos of the WMATA Breda Rehabs, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: October 2018

LHB Series M2 13

LHB Series M2 13

Location: Bijlmer ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Operator of Vehicle: Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf (GVB)
Date of Photo: June 3, 2008

Sometimes, it takes so long for a transit line to open, the rolling stock you expect to see on that line at some point is retired beforehand.  If you thought the M1, M2, or M3 rolling stock (pictured here) in Amsterdam would appear on that network’s Line 52 (also known as the North-South Line) when it opened, it was probably a reasonable assumption.  After all, these cars were built starting in 1977, and Line 52 was expected to open in 2011, well within the expected lifetime of most heavy rail subway cars.  However, Line 52 encountered years of construction delays, ultimately opening this past July after 16 years of construction.  The line was built primarily using a deep bore under the IJ, through the area of the Centraal Station, and then through the center of Amsterdam.  However, despite having the line follow the street grid as much as possible, groundwater seeped in to the tunnels and some buildings collapsed, leading to those delays.  Ultimately, the M1, M2, and M3 stock was retired in 2015, so these cars never operated on Line 52, though there is one pair of this equipment that was preserved so perhaps it can be used on this route for a heritage trip sometime.

For more photos of the Amsterdam Metro, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: September 2018

B-IV 510

Kawasaki B-IV 510

Location: Pattison (NRG) Station, Philadelphia, PA
Operator of Vehicle: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority
Date of Photo: June 21, 2003

Since 2010, the southern terminal of Philadelphia’s Broad Street Line has been more than just a subway station.  In that year, SEPTA sold the naming rights to Pattison Station to AT&T for five years for five million dollars.  Almost instantaneously, signed references to Pattison were replaced with AT&T, which certainly makes for an odd station name in my opinion.  Making it even stranger is the fact that to my knowledge, AT&T’s only connection (no pun intended) to that station or any other SEPTA station is that the company was the only one with coverage along the underground portions of the Broad Street Line and Market-Frankford Line.  Last month, the naming rights were sold to NRG Energy for 5.25 million dollars and five years, and once again the signage has been changed to reflect the new name.

I believe that station names should have some connection (whether current or historic) with where they are located.  SEPTA has sold the naming rights to one other station, Market East, which is now known as “Jefferson Station.”  At least Jefferson Station is near its namesake, the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, though I wouldn’t have minded the naming rights addition to the name had it been something along the line of Jefferson Station at Market East, thereby still raising revenue while retaining the old name.  Pattison Station is surrounded by sports stadiums and parking lots, and to my knowledge, neither AT&T nor NRG has ever had a physical presence in the area.

What do you think of selling the naming rights for transit stations?  Leave a comment below.  Meanwhile, I still think of the southern stop on the Broad Street Line as Pattison, so there’s my answer to that question.

For more photos of the Broad Street Line, please click here.