Mar. 8th, 2015

strredwolf: (Growwwwlllll)
Saturday (March 7th) an Amtrak heading northbound to NYC broke down hard... and it's impacts are going to be felt until Wednesday.  And I'm going to feel it as well.

Call this an angry post, but also call this a precursor to the I Ride the Penn Line blog I'm slowly working on.  A deep dive.

So take MTA's message to everyone (hit the spoiler):

Late Friday evening, an Amtrak train traveling on the northbound track (Track #1) adjacent to the platform at Odenton experienced a mechanical failure of the rear wheels on the last car. This failure caused significant damage to a mile and a half of track, including two track swtiches. This has rendered Track #1 out of service between a point just south of Bowie State and a point just north of Odenton.

The southbound track (Track #3) has been out of service for several weeks for scheduled trackwork. As previously announced, this track is returning to service Monday morning. However, now MARC Penn Line service is faced with continued two-track operation for an eight mile stretch between Bowie and Odenton due to the damage to Track #1.

In addition to the damage to Track #1 itself, the low-level platform used to access the middle track (Track #2) was damaged as well, so the northbound platform is completely inaccessible to MARC trains. Therefore, all MARC trains will have to use the southbound platform, significantly reducing capacity.

So how much detail can we gleam out of it?  Quite a bit!  But we need some more facts first.

Here's a Wikimapia link to the two switches that were hit, both in Amtrak's GROVE Interlocking.  The interlocking (or group of switches between tracks) allows trains to switch between tracks 1 (which is northbound on the right hand side of the tracks), 2 (middle track), and 3 (left hand side, southbound) in both directions.  The arrangement is such that you can literally switch from track 1 to track 2 and back to track 1.  So there's two track switches connected to the northbound track at GROVE.

I use Odenton in a reverse-rush capability, so I'm usually on the northbound side to grab train 406 at 7:38am up to Baltimore.  I know (and you can verify by following the track down to Odenton itself) that there are only two low level platforms: one all the way north on the southbound side, and one all the way south on the northbound side.

The distance from the northern-most point of GROVE to the southernmost point of the low-level platform?  About 1.5 miles, give a few feet.

Amtrak, when the press got to them, essentially said that the train derailed from Odenton to GROVE, damaging the track between those two points, and tearing up the wooden low-level platform that bridged track 1 so folks could get on track 2.  There were no injuries, and a seperate train was dispatched to rescue the passengers and get them going back up.

So we can surmize that the Amtrak train's last car derailed just as it was approaching Odenton, damaged track 1 enough that Odenton's Northbound platform can't be used at all, and damaged the two northbound-connected switches at GROVE.  And since there's no platform anymore northbound, all the trains must use the southbound platform, which will be fully open for rush service since they finished work on track 3 this weekend.

What is Amtrak and MARC going to do, now that it's back to two-track service between Odenton and Bowie for three more days? (MTA says this is the stretch that w/o saying the names of the interlocks, is between GROVE and BOWIE, the latter being just south of the station).

Well, since they can't use the Northbound side of Odenton anymore:

  • Two track service between FULTON (north of West Baltimore station, by Fulton Street) and BOWIE until they get GROVE's switches and track repaired.  This is probably what's happening on the weekend, because there's no weekend service at Odenton or Bowie.

  • Once GROVE is repaired, cancel service to Bowie (looks like there's no low-levels there) and make Odenton rush-direction only on the Southbound platform.  This means reverse rush will always use track 2.

But wait!  There's more!  MARC will bypass Odenton on some rush trains, offer a shuttle bus to Savage from Odenton that takes 35 minutes each way, and encourage use of the crowded Camden Line.

Um... what about a shuttle bus from Odenton to BWI airport that takes 15 minutes and meets the train at BWI, leaving early at Odenton?

So the way things are going, I'm probably going to be grabbing the train at BWI, which means I won't get coffee until most likely I get in the office.  I'm going to miss the ladies at White Rabbit...


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