Tuesday, May 17, 2016

No change at Long Branch

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  • See Video Below
No change at Long Branch

If you’ve been commuting into New York City on New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line and your destination has been Penn Station, changing trains at Long Branch, N.J., has been a given since electrification was extended there from South Amboy in the late 1980s.

See Video Below

NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line Head End Ride, ALP45-DP

I’ve been an NJCL commuter for 25 years, so until I moved to Monmouth Beach a few years ago, “change trains at Long Branch” was part of my daily trek into the Big Apple. I started commuting only a few years after the electrification extension ended the time-honored practice of changing locomotives at South Amboy, where electric motive power (GGIs and later, E60s) was swapped for diesel, and long before that, for PRR steam. (The last fire was dropped in 1957.) Trains originating in Bay Head, N.J., provided a one-seat ride all the way into New York. The locomotive swap took all of five minutes.

A bit of trivia for you railroad history buffs: At South Amboy, there was a trackside tavern that did a rather lucrative business during the evening commute. The proprietor would line up beers on the bar. When the train pulled in for the power swap, people would scramble off, run into the bar, throw down a dollar (or whatever a beer cost in those days), run out and hustle back on board.

The one-seat ride from Bay Head to Penn Station New York has returned, thanks to an innovative locomotive developed for NJ Transit (and also Montreal’s AMT) by Bombardier Transportation—the ALP45-DP (dual power), which can operate under its own power in diesel territory, and then seamlessly transition to overhead AC catenary during a station stop. Twin 2,100-hp Caterpillar 3512HD engines supply the diesel power; a transformer similar to that employed in the Bombardier ALP46 (NJT’s sole “motor”) draws high-voltage AC from the wire and steps it down for the unit’s AC traction motors. Thirty-five ALP45-DPs are providing service on the Morristown Line, Montclair-Boonton Line, Raritan Valley Line, Northeast Corridor Line, and NJCL. Customers, as expected, love their one-seat ride.

The ALP45-DP is a behemoth, even with a single cab and one pantograph. Going double-cab with two pantographs would have exceeded maximum allowable axle loads. (Full technical details are available HERE.)

Fred Mattison LRCare to take a head-end ride on the picturesque North Jersey Coast Line in an ALP45-DP, and witness the diesel-to-electric transition at Long Branch first-hand? Thanks to NJT Vice President and General Manager Bob Lavell and System Train & Engine Compliance Officer Fred Mattison (that’s a fancy name for a Road Foreman) (pictured), I did just that on May 5, 2016. The video I shot on board Train 3326 (my regular a.m. commute) takes you all the way from Bay Head, onto the NEC and into Penn Station New York, to train tie-up at Sunnyside Yard in Queens. You’ll get a look at some of the congestion NJT trains encounter every day on the NEC, and the condition of some of the infrastructure, like the 116-year-old tunnels under the Hudson and East Rivers, which need some serious upgrading.

Enjoy the ride.

William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

With Railway Age since 1992, William C. Vantuono has broadened and deepened the magazine's coverage of the technological revolution that is so swiftly changing the industry. He has also strengthened Railway Age’s leadership position in industry affairs with the conferences he conducts, among them Next-Generation Train Control, Light Rail, and Rail Insights. He is the author or co-author or editor of several books, among them All About Railroading; John Armstrong’s The Railroad: What It Is, What It Does; Railway Age’s Comprehensive Railroad Dictionary; and Planning, Engineering, and Operating Light Rail, With Applications in New Jersey.

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