Monday, July 30, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I've spent a while getting acquainted with railroading. Around the web there are calls for renewing and upgrading the US rail infrastructure. There are many projects going on around the world and in the US there are also some initiatives.Some are talking of building a network for HSR (high speed rail) that would be faster or equal to those in Europe or in China (or the one the Japs built). This is clearly impossible due the poor economy (republicans), freight bulk rail (republicans), continued subsidies for inefficient transport (republicans) and the bloody-mindedness of some southerners who shoot curious moving objects on rails (republicans, trains). But there are other reasons too.

1.The competitive nature of US railroad system

2.The vast distances between major traffic areas

3.Difficult terrain on locations (well this applies world-wide)

 4.The differences between freight and passenger traffic

 5.The lack of standards applied on selected routes. (or rather, there are too many of them)

 Now, US is a railroad country. US has plenty railroads (wikipeedia states 226097km, but this would reach over five times round the globe so I doubt the number, possibly this is the total amount of installed tracks (incl. sidings). The routes are also plenty, see for example the route map of seven largest companies. Then there are plenty smaller companies some of which hold important connecting lines and get their revenue partly from trackage fees. Class III railroads do the same if they can, though many of them are more sort of a train assembly lines for larger railroads.

But if one wants to have intercity and long-distance passenger traffic, the distinction here would be that an intercity might travel by night but the long-distance has to, there has to be some common rules on the routes used. One simply cannot do a complete separation of passenger and freigth traffic on a country as big as US. Well maybe on selected corridors. The man on DailyKos (BruceMcF) has diaries that would convince me of his expertise. But all the same, on all locations these two cannot use the same tracks. Passenger rail depends on passengers thus it might be helpful to know where there are people. Wikipedia has a great map on this. The only problem with it, it hasn't got the terrain features such as Appalachians, Mississippi and Rockies (and Sierra) which present some great difficulties for rail transport and travel, if one doesn't mind the scenery.

Well I'm not that interested in getting involved with this (at least what it comes to US) so I just stack the images I made. These are probably nothing new for railroaders but might be interesting for those who don't know about anything of this ecologically pretty friendly way of travel (Click for larger versions).

I made a bit more serious attempt to find out where there might be Intercity passenger traffic in the US, after I found a proper system map of Amtrak. Attempted to connect major cities with relatively straight routes. Some new track should be added at least to Indiana-Ohio southern border. This centers around St.Louis, Atlanta and Dallas, in order to not congest Chicago area more. Upgrading to class 6 track all around this system is of course costly, but it would take US to European standard level of speed. Of course on locations the terrain (thus track geometry) prevents these speeds. True high speed is costlier.

Late addition: One may of course go into details, and find out many things are not quite that simple in practise:
which is near impossible to build without disruption to freight traffic.
Attempt to make some sense in the situation in East St.Louis (Cahokia)

(3.5.2014)It looks like this has become an occasional pasttime to try to figure out how to fit various structures in already built environments. This time some demolition happens in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, our main station might be good for this location (it's yellow though, and not a trapetzoid), and it's becoming obsolete since the plans of multimodal station may well go ahead in the near future (as has been the last 15 years :-D). However I try, no more than six to seven platforms is possible allowing one to two through-tracks on this location. Not much if this city ever considers commuter trains and many long-distance routes. Maximum length of platforms in this desing is about 350 meters which is good enough, if there is a need for longer passenger trains these can be assembled in two adjacent tracks.
playing with image-processing software and google streetview, the rectory of the church would likely survive though...
yes there's room... this spot might still be in the approach underpass though the station is close to the correct position