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.

Oren’s Reading List: The Story Behind San Francisco’s Heritage Streetcar Line


In yesterday’s Washington Post Travel Section, there was an article about the F-Line in San Francisco, which operates historic streetcars on a route that serves as an integral part of the city’s transportation network.  The article features an interview with Rick Laubscher who organized the first vintage trolley festival in the early 1990s, leading to the opening of the F-Line on September 1, 1995.

To read the article, click here

To see photos of the F-Line on this website, click here.

Oren’s Reading List is an occasional feature on The Travelogue in which I share articles that I’ve read that might also be of interest to the readers of this website.

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.

Bus Photo of the Month: December 2018

TMC RTS 4787

TMC RTS 4787

Location: Port Orleans Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Operator of Vehicle: Disney Transport
Date of Photo: February 15, 2002

Disney World’s busiest week of the year is coming up at the end of this month, and Disney Transport is an integral part of how park visitors travel between Disney World’s resorts, theme parks, and other attractions.  Although it isn’t your “typical” public transit system per se, Disney Transport’s bus system is the third largest in all of Florida (behind Miami-Dade Transit and Jacksonville Transit Authority).  Disney Transport also has a unique way of dispatching and managing its services.  Unlike most transit agencies, there are no fixed schedules at Disney World.  Buses are dispatched using a system called “Magic in Motion” that monitors loads and frequencies and instructs drivers to move from route to route based on demand.  It is a system that is probably impractical just about anywhere other than Disney World!  Although RTS buses no longer operate at Disney World, the fleet has nearly 400 buses manufactured by NovaBUS, Gillig, and New Flyer.

For more photos of Disney Transport, please click here.

Who Wants to Play LOOP?

It’s holiday shopping season!  If you’re looking for something to get the transit fan in your life, or you’re looking for transit themed things to add to your holiday gift wish list, check out LOOP: The Elevated Card Game.  According to CityLab, the game has similarities to UNO and Crazy Eights, but instead of numbers, suits, or colors, the game cards have names of stations, “L” lines, or special cards such as “Forgot Farecard” and “Manspreading.”  You can order the game (as well as other licensed Chicago Transit Authority merchandise) from Transit Tees

What other transit themed holiday gifts are you hoping for this year? 


Oren’s Reading List: MLB Players Tour Japan by Train

Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD could be accessible by Maglev some day.  In the meantime, MARC commuter rail trains to and from Washington, DC stop behind the warehouse beyond the right field fence.

It might be hot stove season, but that doesn’t mean that there is no baseball to speak of anywhere in the world.  Major League Baseball sent an all-star team to Japan earlier this month to face off against the Japanese national team.  Although most teams travel by plane within the US during the regular season (with some exceptions in the Northeast and for intracity interleague games), the MLB all stars rode the Shinkansen between Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagoya.  Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh sounds like he might be a transit fan, and several other players offered their opinions about which corridors might be appropriate for high speed rail in the US.

To read the article about the MLB all-star team’s travels through Japan by train, click here.

Bus Photo of the Month: November 2018

Mercedes-Benz OC500 42044

Mercedes-Benz OC500 42044

Location: Route 40 between Har HaAyit and Neot Smadar, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Egged
Date of Photo: November 13, 2011

What is the most surprising place you’ve found public transit services?  There have been quite a few times in my travels over the years I’ve seen a bus stop in a seemingly random place and wondered how much service really comes out here and how many people actually board or alight here.  Although it makes up over 55 percent of Israel’s land area, the Negev desert is home to only about 8 percent of its population.  Yet there are bus stops throughout the desert and considering the low population densities and distances between places, many routes operate a minimum of four to five trips per day.  Why so much service?  Much of the land is used by the Israeli Army, and soldiers ride free on public transit, so they take buses to and from their bases.  In addition, the resort town of Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, has regular service to cities in the central and northern parts of the country in order to cater to vacationers.  Besides the bus, the most common ways to travel to Eilat are by plane (expensive and inconvenient for anyone not coming from Tel Aviv) or driving (on two lane roads through miles upon miles of desert).  Needless to say, the bus is a popular option, and reservations are recommended for the buses to and from Eilat.  

Why do I say those are the most common ways of getting to Eilat?  When I took this photo, I was on an organized bike ride that ended in Eilat.  It might not be the way most people get there, but it does create opportunities to get photos of buses as they cross the desert.  

For more photos of Egged Intercity Buses in Southern Israel, 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.

Mapping Each Israeli Transit Operator’s Service Area

The organization of transit services in Israel can be a bit confounding to people who are not familiar with how everything comes together.  It used to be that Egged basically had a monopoly in every part of the country except Tel Aviv, where the Dan Bus Company had a monopoly of its own.  Both companies were overseen by the Ministry of Transportation, and they received significant subsidies from the Israeli government to support their operations.  During Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister in the late 1990s, he proposed privatizing transit services and increasing competition by allowing other companies, including those that had not operated in Israel previously, to bid on tenders for specific services that would be put out by the Transportation Ministry.  Egged went on strike to protest this change and brought all of Israel to a halt, but the march towards privatization and increased competition had begun.  Today, the Transportation Ministry puts out tenders for companies to bid on.  The company with the best bid package for that tender wins the right to operate those routes for a set number of years, at which point a new tender is made available for bidding for the next contract duration.

As of this writing, there are 26 companies providing transportation services under the auspices of the Ministry of Transportation, including the Carmelit in Haifa, Citipass (which operates the Jerusalem Light Rail), Israel Railways, the Golan Regional Council (which operates the transit service in the Golan Heights) and seven bus operators in East Jerusalem.  In response to a query on a Facebook group that I am a part of, I used a recent GTFS data feed download, I mapped out the starting point for each transit route in the country, and color coded those points by operator.  You can see the results of that here: 

Operators in certain parts of the country have changed over time.  For example, Ashkelon intracity lines have been operated by Dan BaDarom since 2016, but before that they were operated by Egged Ta’avurah and before that by Egged itself.  The bus routes in Tiberias were operated by Connex (Veolia) until that company ceased operations within Israel, at which point those services were transferred to Afikim and are now operated by Superbus

As you play with the highlighter and filters on the map above, what patterns or trends do you see?  Feel free to post any observations and/or questions you have about the map above in the comments section on this post.

Oren’s Reading List: A Train Ride Back to the Old Israel

About one month ago, after many delays and some fanfare, Israel Railways inaugurated service on the new Tel Aviv-Jerusalem High Speed Rail line, the first time that Israel’s capital city is connected to the rest of the country by a train line that is actually competitive with driving.  However, for reasons that can only be explained as politicking, the line is open despite not being ready for full operations just yet.  Trains are operating every half hour on weekdays between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport, at which point passengers must transfer to another train in order to continue the rest of the way to Tel Aviv.  The power substations along the line are temporary, and several trains have gotten stuck along the line with passengers on board when the temporary electrical system is extended beyond its capabilities.  The line does not operate evenings and weekends so crews can finish the line and bring it to full operational status, which will take longer than it would if the crews could work 24/6 instead of needing to clear the tracks for revenue service each weekday.  Eventually, the trip between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will take 35 minutes and not require a change of trains.

One question I’ve often received over the past few years while this new line is being constructed is what does the future hold for the old Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train line?  This line was constructed by the Ottomans and opened in 1892, and despite the fact it takes well over 90 minutes to travel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and carries few passengers, it has been in operation ever since the line was reopened following extensive repairs and the construction of a new terminal at Malha in Jerusalem in 2005.  While this train route may not be the fastest way to get between these cities, it is quite pretty, as the train winds its way through the hills.  However, the beautiful scenery along the route will not be enough to save the line; the segment between Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem is likely to be closed at some point in the future after the new high speed line is fully operational.

Last week in the New York Times, Matti Friedman wrote about why he prefers the old Ottoman era train route over the new high speed route.  You can read his piece here. And if you find yourself in Israel with enough time to take the scenic train route on your way to or from Jerusalem, do so.  You won’t have the chance for too much longer…