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Origins of Elizabeth s-curve saught


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#1 NE933

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 06:33 PM

The Pennsylvania, or predecessor railroad, used surveyors when determining the exact right of way along what we call today the Northeast Corridor.

 

What blockage, terrain feature, or other physical cause or reason, led the decision makers to build the line with this s - shaped kink that had bedeviled Amtrak for so long?  What were they avoiding, that an otherwise gentler curve, would be unable to attain?  An old building?  Certain types of clay in the earth?



#2 VentureForth

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 09:39 AM

Where exactly is this Elizabeth S Curve?

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#3 John Bobinyec

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 09:42 AM

Where exactly is this Elizabeth S Curve?

Right in the city of Elizabeth, NJ.

 

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#4 NE933

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 04:51 PM

Going south, a train starts to pass the platforms of Elizabeth, NJ.  Just before the platform ends, it crosses a small trestle that goes over what used to be Jersey Central's main line, and the tracks begin to bank inward and turn counterclockwise, then they right themselves, and immediately do the opposite by turning clockwise.  I can't say for certain, but the radii and the length of each half of the s - curve is either identical or very close.  A small creek goes under the curve, and new structures have gone up recently, notably a parking garage that will make any straightening very tricky.  A large prison jail is on the other side of the right of way, near but not right next to the tracks the way the garage is.  Further down is a KFC whose parking lot would probably loose around a third.

 

But I don't understand why the right of way was built into a sharp enough reverse curve to begin with, that even Acela has to slow for because the tilt can't recover and then swing the other way fast enough if it were doing 60mph or more.  I do know that Elizabeth NJ is an old city with alot of history.  A Wikipedia search reveals the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company as the likely one which built the line.  It started in Jersey City, went to Newark, then south to New Brunswick.  There are likely one of two answers:  a railroad beginning to lay its groundwork had to go through major population centers, and Elizabeth probably had some large structures already built that the surveyors had to snake past.  If we were building a brand new railroad due south, say to Philadelphia, and the otherwise straight track led to a building, we would have to turn one way, and then back, to resume our proper direction south.  The other possibility lies in a spur on the north side of the right of way that no longer exists, but old pictures show it, and a careful eye can still see a ballasted grade rising up to meet the corridor.  Maybe the Jersey Central and this new railroad had a shared physical connector planned down the road but never materialized, the equivalent of a transfer point.

 

Anyone here who knows bit more about the Elizabeth's history in relation to the most thought about curve on the Northeast Corridor?



#5 afigg

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 05:18 PM

The NEC Commission Critical Infrastructure Needs report has a $600 million rough cost estimate for "Elizabeth-Area Section Improvements". Item #14 in the report. They want to improve the track alignment, replace the station, and add a 5th track. Looking at the location and tracks on Google Earth, perhaps moving the station platforms would allow the S-curve to be realigned a bit. Pricey fix though.

 

Quoting from the NEC Commision report:

 

Overview: As the NEC traverses Elizabeth, NJ, the main line narrows from six tracks down to just four and follows a sharp reverse curve alignment through the downtown area. Currently, this stretch of track is at capacity, serving two NJ TRANSIT lines and all Amtrak NEC trains between New York and Philadelphia. It is one of the busiest portions of the NEC and, without additional capacity, no agency can add trains during peak hours.


A set of coordinated improvements to upgrade this section of the NEC through Elizabeth are under development. Proposed investments include a fifth NEC main line track and improvements to track alignment and interlockings. In addition, NJ TRANSIT plans to fund the construction of a new Elizabeth station facility that will dramatically upgrade passenger amenities and facilitate the future installation of a fifth NEC track. These investments would reduce delays and enable Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT to increase service.

 



#6 NE933

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 08:37 PM

Should've done that instead of Seacaucus Junction.

#7 jis

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 09:19 PM

They can increase the speed from 45 to 55 or 60 by fixing the signaling system and fixing the curve spiral which can be done within the current RoW. My fearless prediction is that the Elizabeth S curve will not get realigned any more drastically than that, at least in my lifetime. There are way too many other places on corridor whith better bang for the buck to reduce travel times to bother with this one. Most of the property necessary to do any serious realignment is also no longer available. So property acquistion itself will be a major headache.



#8 Anderson

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 09:23 PM

The idea of this being the responsibility of a pre-Pennsy operation appeal to me.  With the Pennsy in that era, the answer would likely have been to just buy out whomever was in the way...but a lot of the lines they swallowed up between Washington and NYC were in far, far worse shape.


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#9 afigg

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 11:23 PM

They can increase the speed from 45 to 55 or 60 by fixing the signaling system and fixing the curve spiral which can be done within the current RoW. My fearless prediction is that the Elizabeth S curve will not get realigned any more drastically than that, at least in my lifetime. There are way too many other places on corridor whith better bang for the buck to reduce travel times to bother with this one. Most of the property necessary to do any serious realignment is also no longer available. So property acquistion itself will be a major headache.

Found this webpage on a NJ 2011 Elizabeth Midtown Multi-Modal Integration Study for plans and changes around the Elizabeth station.The link to the final report and 2 concept layouts are on the right side. While the study is on access, traffic, and development around the station, the two concept plan layout show a 25' wide space to be taken for rail expansion on the east side of the ROW. If the space is still there, that is presumably where the 5th track would go with some small wiggle room for realignment.



#10 jis

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 08:30 AM

There is space there for a fifth track at the station, but not so much just north of the station. It will be interesting to see how they proceed on that one.

 

But as far as significantly straghtening the curve is concerned, I don;t see where they will find the space for that short of tearing down a bunch of new constructions recently put in place.



#11 VentureForth

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 01:40 PM

To eliminate the curve with a single tangent, you would have to start the Northbound left turn at Grove St &amp; Fay Ave. It would be an 8/10 mile new rail construction, plowing through at least 10 single family homes, an Autozone, a multi-unit condo building, an office building and the KFC, a high rise, and the 5 year old Union County College building.<br /><br />Don't see it happening any time soon...

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#12 John Bredin

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 02:10 PM

I just googled the area in question, and the s-curve is, umm, a lot less dramatic than I was imagining.

Look at pictures of the old Chicago Lake Shore Drive S-Curve and the map of what's there now. Or look on a Chicago map at the L going south from the Loop, between Congress and Harrison to be precise, which is also the "after" version of a straightening project. Those are S-Curves, ladies and gentlemen; the Elizabeth jog is an "after" picture by comparison.

#13 jis

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 02:17 PM

The Elizabeth S-Curve I am told can be safely traveled at 60-65mph specially with tilting system enabled. Originally I am told there was a 55mph speed limit on it. Before an incident involveing an Amtrak Engineer who tried to go through it at 100mph, the speed limit was not enforced in any way. Trains got Clear to go through it.

After that incident the speed of 45mph is enforced by giving all approaching trains an Approach Medium aspect, which forces the cab signal and cotrol system into restriciting the train to 45mph.

After all trains get ACSES and come under ACSES control, potentially the signal restriction could be lifted and a higher PSR enforced through transponder can raise the effective speed through the curve to what is safe and yet faster than 45mph. Beyond that I don;t see anything spectacular happening at that curve. Too much money for too little gain when compared to many other places with higher potential gain for lower cost.

#14 VentureForth

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 02:22 PM

jis: Did you know anything about the tilt having to be disabled because of the swing back?

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#15 Anderson

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 03:30 PM

The Elizabeth S-Curve I am told can be safely traveled at 60-65mph specially with tilting system enabled. Originally I am told there was a 55mph speed limit on it. Before an incident involveing an Amtrak Engineer who tried to go through it at 100mph, the speed limit was not enforced in any way. Trains got Clear to go through it.

After that incident the speed of 45mph is enforced by giving all approaching trains an Approach Medium aspect, which forces the cab signal and cotrol system into restriciting the train to 45mph.

After all trains get ACSES and come under ACSES control, potentially the signal restriction could be lifted and a higher PSR enforced through transponder can raise the effective speed through the curve to what is safe and yet faster than 45mph. Beyond that I don;t see anything spectacular happening at that curve. Too much money for too little gain when compared to many other places with higher potential gain for lower cost.

I remember that 100 MPH incident.  What exactly happened there?  I know the engineer got pulled, but did he get through the curve first?  Also, what was the "norm" for passing through it?


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#16 jis

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 04:32 PM

As I said, the speed limit back then was 55mph, and the Engineer was supposed to abide by that without help from cab signal. He apparently forgot all about it!

 

He went through at a hundred or so. As the story goes, after the Conductor had picked himself up from the floor he applied emergency and brought the train to a stop and took the engineer out of service. It was a testimony to the stability of AEM7s and Amfleet that the train actually stayed on the track and did not fly off causing a major disaster. The track alignment was pretty much destroyed, and they had to take the track out of service until they had a chance to get it all straighetened out. This is all I have heard.

 

After that FRA stepped in and imposed the Approach Medium solution thus reducing the speed limit to 45mph, which is the way it is today. Either you get below 45 or get a penalty application down to zero.


Edited by jis, 11 April 2013 - 07:07 PM.


#17 afigg

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 04:52 PM

 
I just googled the area in question, and the s-curve is, umm, a lot less dramatic than I was imagining.
I think why the railfans pick on the Elizabeth S curve is not that it is a major one, but that it is in between two higher speed segments of the NEC. The Amtrak trains have to slow down, go through it, and then accelerate back up to speed. It is just enough of a S curve that people wonder why wasn't it fixed long ago. (This thread as Example A).

If the S curve is something that could be reduced as part of a adding a 5th track, then any fix will wait on NJ Transit to provide funds to build the 5th track and a new platform & access on the east side of the Elizabeth station. Amtrak does not need the 5th track, so it will be up to NJ Transit as to when any of the upgrades might happen.

#18 Guest_Nathanael_*

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 07:11 PM

This route, Philadelphia to Newark, LONG predates Pennsylvania Railroad ownership.

 

History from Wikipedia:

 

https://en.wikipedia...d_Canal_Company

 

This route was built by the New Jersey Railroad, sometime in 1835-1836.  Large portions of the route were constructed by buying up turnpikes (toll roads for horses and buggies) and converting them to rail.  (We might try that again, eh?)

 

"An extension to Elizabeth opened December 21, 1835, using the turnpike from the south end of Broad Street. Service to Rahway began January 1, 1836, again along the turnpike from a point south of Elizabeth."

 

Reading between the lines, the route probably followed existing streets through Elizabeth from one turnpike to another.  It's amazing that it is as straight as it is.  The NEC has had a lot of straightening over the years, but those original turnpikes were surprisingly direct for *1835*.

 

The Pennsylvania RR wasn't even chartered until 1846, and it ran from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg.

 

The NJRR was constructed around the same time as the "Main Line of Public Works" from Harrisburg to Philadelphia.  The Main Line was, incidentally, constructed as a government project.  It was later privatized -- sold off to the Pennsylvania RR -- in an early example of selling off profitable public works so that private stockholders would get the profits rather than the taxpayers.  (To be fair, the PRR pretty much threatened the government with the proposed construction of a parallel and redundant line.)  There was a political movement which opposed that sort of privatization, at the time, known as the "LocoFocos" and then as the "Barnburners"... everything old is new again...



#19 NE933

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 09:36 PM

This is extremely interesting, and I looked further into the Wikipedia link in Guest Nathaniel's previous post, and want to birng attention to this paragraph on there about the United NJRR and Canal Company:

 

 

 

"In November 1832 the NJRR acquired control of the Newark Turnpike, which paralleled the planned alignment east of Newark, to avoid problems caused by competition. The stock of the Essex and Middlesex Turnpike, running south from Newark to New Brunswick, was bought April 6, 1833; the majority of the line was built directly along the turnpike. The alignment as originally planned crossed the Passaic River on the Centre Street Bridge, then curved south along Park Place and Broad Street directly into the turnpike. A branch would have run from the west end of the bridge south along the river and then southwest to the main line at the south end of Broad Street, but this became the main line and the original plan along Broad Street was never built."

 

 

So, in playing a little Sherlock here, I checked out 'Essex and Middlesex Turnpike', which lo and behold, makes up most of what is today's Route 27 in New Jersey, which in turn runs only a few feet away from the Northeast Corridor tracks for a good portion, especially just south of Rahway and thru Metropark.  In this stretch, trains and autos race each other and people from one vehicle transport either wave or look at each other.  Route 27 intersects the Corridor near Newark and at New Brunswick. Although it has straight, tangent sections, there are places where it gets curvy.

 

So this lead to a tantalizing question:  is today's S-curve simply a holdover from the way the turnpikes were oriented?  Meaning, that the Essex and Middlesex's stock was bought by the young United NJRR and CC to more or less follow it's alignment with as little interference as possible.  We MAY have our answer, in yes.  Looking at today's street grid in Elizabeth NJ, many roads there bend and even break continuity, right near that stream I was talking about that goes under the tracks, named appropriately the Elizabeth River, a tributary of the Arthur Kill waterway that separates New Jersey from Staten Island, NYCity. The streets, and even that long abandoned Jersey Central main that ran into the Pennsylvania mountains, all curve in this part of town.  Likely, the deeds to build turnpikes were influenced by natural barriers, like waterways, and since we were talking horse and buggy thoroughfares, straight measurements were easy through the forests and woods, but get to a waterway and suddenly things start bunching up.

 

That the Northest Corridor was germinated in this part of New Jersey by a fledling railroad who guided itself on dirt roads and horse and buggy turnpikes, combined with the presence of a waterway, may finally settle how our S - curve came to be. 

 

The decision to leave it alone or seriously tame it, for me I'll continue tomorrow. 

 

This little excercise was fun and hope the discussion doesn't end!


Edited by NE933, 11 April 2013 - 09:39 PM.


#20 jis

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 08:08 AM

Looks like someone has picked entire paragraphs in toto from "Triumph V Philadelphia to New York 1830 - 2002" by David W. Messer and Charles S. Roberts and pasted them into the Wiki page at https://en.wikipedia...d_Canal_Company without giving any reference to where it came from. A bit of gross plagiarism going on there unless of course it is either Messer or Roberts who wrote those sectionst. :)

 

Anyway, one curiosity is that all lines in NJ were laid to a gauge of 4'10". In 1872 the gauge was changed first to 4'9.5" and then to 4'9" which was the PRR standard gauge back then. It was only between 1892 and 1905 that the gauge was finally narrowed down to today's 4'8.5". I suppose the horses must have been losing the size of their rear ends as time passed :D

 

Also upto 1874 the standard operation was left running. It changed to right running in 1874. Of course these days it is whichever way running depending on what track is free and convenient at any given time I suppose.


Edited by jis, 12 April 2013 - 08:15 AM.





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