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Saturday, April 2, 2011

2011 New England Central Railroad HSR Project Begins

The High Speed Rail upgrade program is back underway on the New England Central Railroad for 2011, picking up just north of Essex Junction, Vermont, where last year’s efforts were halted for the winter.  Two LB Foster rail trains have already been delivered, both originating at the Steel Dynamic (SDI) mill in Indiana.  More than 14 miles of linear has arrived on each train and was effectively unloaded in just about 24 hours of work, total.  Picking up at mile 103 of the Roxbury Sub, the first train dumped rail southbound on the Roxbury Subdivision to roughly mile 96, near Bolton.  That train – symbol Rail Train 4 (4th total trainload of CWR since the beginning of the project on October 28, 2010) – was assigned Florida East Coast Railway GP40-3 437 and Goderick & Exeter GP38 3843 (affectionately known as Barney for its purple and silver coloring which actually came from the North Carolina Virginia Railroad). 

With few cuts to make in the stretch that originated at mile 103, the rail went down quickly, ending up being fully laid between March 17 and 18.  More cuts and bridges equal more time spent in the process of laying the rail from the train and in the case of Rail Train 4, crews began working at mile 103 around 0930 hrs and through 1700 hrs on March 17, with the train completely empty by noonish on March 18.

For those following these trains, they are not being delivered the same route as last year, as they had arrived to the NECR via Norfolk Southern and Pan Am Southern at that time, incurring delays on the Pan Am that set back deliveries for up to a few days.  The trains are leaving SDI this year and being handed off to Canadian National for forwarding from Chicago to St. Albans, via Toronto and Montreal.  Rail Train 4 had operated as a stand-alone rail train to Montreal, while Rail Train 5 made it as far as Flint before being combined with a M39231 train for delivery.  M32421 trains are used to deliver the loaded rail to St. Albans, a daily merchandise train from Montreal to St. Albans, VT.

That said, with the snow continuing to melt away, additional crews began working on switches and rail installation projects, as well as bridge decking and upgrading.  At this point, contractors from Railworks/Atlas, R.J. Corman, and LB Foster are working alongside the leadership of New England Central Railroad personnel on the HSR project.  Ron Bocash is spearheading the construction projects and keeping all of the work fluid, while coordinating the work to coincide with the daily Amtrak and freight traffic that is still plying the Roxbury and Palmer Subdivisions.

Work continues southbound from Bolton on or about April 6, when Rail Train 6 arrives and the crews go back to work.  Follow along in the following photos for detailed information about this year’s project and how the rail actually comes off the specialized trains.

March 17, 2011 – “Rail Train – 4”
Roxbury Subdivision – Milepost 103 (Williston) to Milepost 96 (Bolton)
FEC GP40-3 437/GEXR GP38 3843

Heading back to St. Albans with the empty train on March 18, GEXR 3843 leads the FEC GP40-3 437.
 Rail Train 5 pulls off the Burlington Subdivision at Essex Jct. to start the work on March 25.

Navigating the connection from the Burlington Sub to the Roxbury Subdivision, Rail Train 5 prepares to start the day's work on March 25.

Just an artsy shot with the rail heads retaining their color, while the rest is turned black and white.

The morning briefing precedes any work and in this photo, Jerry Logston, Operations Manager of Rail Unloader Operations for LB Foster (left with blue/yellow jacket and white hat) explains the day's plans and processes with workers from Railworks/Atlas and the NECR crew (Conductor Spencer Hogan partially visible behind Ron Bocash near center).

Jerry Logstonlubricates some of the wheeled parts for the rail to roll off the train and through the unloader.

Looking south, the train is stretched around the curve for the full 1,640 feet of rail.

LB Foster's Jerry Logstoncontinues lubricating in anticipation of starting the rail laying, while the "Tie Down Crews" work to set anchors to begin the day's process.

Stringing the cable through the loading guides, Railworks/Atlas workers are preparing to begin pulling the rail from the train in anticipation of anchoring it at the Burlington Sub Jct. switch in Essex Jct.

The cable is attached to the first strand to be pulled this day and will be pulled through the loading guides.

Logston and Hogan prepare the rail to be pulled down this side of the train and through the guides via the pully system.

An Atlas worker attaches the rail to the anchor to begin the day's first lay.

Logston looks on as the final steps are taken to secure the rail to the anchor and begin pulling.

The chain is stretched on the anchor as engineer Sklarski begins the walking speed pull to roll the first rail off of the train and begin the day's cyle.

A video of the rail train's start on March 25, 2011.

Rail slides off the train and is placed along the active rail in anticipation of the rail installation gang following this train.  There was a double lay done in this area to negate dropping smaller sections through the town of Essex Jct.  The installation gang will tie on to the strands and drag them back through town for installation.

One of the NECR foreman looks on as rail rolls off the train and through the guides on the LBFX 4001.

Rail Train 5 is in Williston after making a first lay and then dropping rail for a 1,100' bridge

Railworks/Atlas workers along with the NECR foreman look on as the rail leaves the train as it moves forward.

Jerry Logston stands in the control booth and watches the rail roll through the guides and off the train.

 The Rail Train 5 eases toward Williston Road with the NECR GP38 3857 leading the GEXR GP38 3843.

At Williston Road, the rail will need to be cut to clear the crossing, then restarted on the opposite side.  In order to facilitate that, a Railworks/Atlas employee ignites the acetylene torch to make the cut in the continuous rail. 

As a NECR foreman looks on, the Railworks/Atlas worker begins the cutting process...

What becomes quickly evident is that those sparks plus the extremely dry brush along the right-of-way equaled brush fires.  Unlike a system employed by Loram or other rail grinding machinery, the rail train has not car-mounted fire suppression equipment or water, so conductor Hogan is busy with drinking water bottles in an effort to curb the fire's progress.

Nearly complete with the cut, the Railworks/Atlas worker will make an additional hole in the rail remaining on the car to allow the anchors to be restored on the other side of the crossing.

As the train readies to anchor the next lay, it was back to the hi-rail truck for a conference call regarding the HSR project with project manager, Ron Bocash.

Working hard...OK, actually waiting to make the next pull, Engineer Brian Sklarski smirks from the cab window of NECR GP38 3857.

Please watch this Blog for additional updates as the NECR HSR Project progresses.

Kevin Burkholder
White River Junction, VT


  1. Great job Kevin and keep up the good work.

    Neil MacDonald
    Hermon, Maine

  2. I love this story, told in photos and text. Well done.

  3. Thank you. This will be very helpful.