Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Station update: cool machines

They are finishing up the new tracks at Union Station.  Laying track is interesting--first a deep trench, then rock ballast;  the ties (sleepers in the UK) are adjusted first by hand with long poles and a tape measure,  and then the long rails are welded together to create continuous rail.  Finally,  these wild machines run along and dig in and push rock around.  Maybe a railfan will tell us what they are doing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Locomotion (updated)

Normally the Surfliner is pulled by the matching Surfliner locomotive,which according to Wikipedia is a General Motors EMD F59PHI. Sure it is. ;-) Anyway, it's tall and sleek and makes for a very smooth looking consist.

Conversely, when they hook it up to the sad old Amfleet set, this locomotive looks too tall and as though its a thoroughbred pulling a wagon. Which in some respects it is.  Metrolink runs some of these too.

Recently, some of the trains have been pulled by the long distance Amtrak locomotives, which Wikipedia tells me are of the GE Genesis class.  Big trains like the Pacific Coast Starlight  or Southwest Chief will be pulled by a couple of these.

These are noticeably lower than the regular Surfliner engines, so that the surfliner cars stick up above the top of the locomotive.  When I walk through the tunnel in Union Station below the platforms, I can sometimes tell if there's one of these on the track above because it makes spitting noises and its idle is a much louder roar than the regular ones.  I think they are kind of ugly with the flat grey nose and plain sides.  And of course they look squat next to the surfliner consist.

Our helpful Anon from Amtrak (in the comments) tells us that the Surfliner locomotives are designed for commuting stop-and-start, with about 3000 HP while the "Gennies" are tuned to cruise long distances, with about 4200HP.  He says they are a "blast" and I'm sure they are.

This one is a GE Dash 8-32BWH .  I  don't know what it was doing at Union Station that day because I usually see it in the yard (though it does pop up now and again pulling a consist).  There's also a little yard switcher you see sometimes (not in the station), which someone told me is called a "hog" but our friendly Anon in the comments tells me is actually called a "goat".  A "hog" or "hoghead" is the nickname for an engineer.

And sometimes, mysteriously, there is a big Union Pacific freight engine sitting on one of the middle tracks at Union Station. (Wikipedia informs me that this is a GE AC4400CW with 4400 HP). Anon tells us that those are generally borrowed when there's a need (it seems there's a real community amongst railroaders) and they hang out till their UP crew comes to get them. They are very noticeably bigger and really loud with spitting noises when they are sitting idle.

And what's with leaving those engines in the middle tracks anyway?  Here you can see the Surfliner engine just sitting on the central spur, not adjacent to a platform.  Is that to have a spare around when they break down?  (You can also see it's taller than the long distance engine.)  Yes, or else it DID break down.