Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

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Jochs
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Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by Jochs »

Apparently, NS has been using the third rail in Goshen to park trains for 2-3 hours at a time, while they wait for room in the yard in Elkhart, and people in Goshen are getting frustrated.
https://wsbt.com/news/local/goshen-lead ... 6BLnDAHvrc
Last edited by Jochs on Sun Mar 28, 2021 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Third Rail on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

It's not just the third rail, Elkhart has been a parking lot, too. Watch the Elkhart Virtual Railfan cams.....seems like as often as not, the Main Street crossing by the depot is blocked by a sitting train....sometimes for hours. Yes, people can take the new Prairie Bridge over the tracks, but it's still a longer detour. NS dispatching has been confusing. They will park a WB at the fuel pad, hold another one behind at 423, and the pull Amtrak into the station and then into the block behind the train held at 423, rather than running Amtrak around. People board the train at the platform and can see the end of the freight on the same track in front of them from there.

The 3rd Rail and reconfigured 421 were supposed to alleviate some of the kinks of this segment, and yet it seems things have just gotten worse in the past few years. Goshen is right to demand some answers.

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Re: Third Rail on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by justalurker66 »

The reconfiguration has done wonders for fluidity between Elkhart and Goshen with trains entering and leaving the yard. But NS has issues that have caused additional problems. CP 421 is no worse than it was before the rebuild other than the asphalt path that allowed an Amtrak train to be stopped on track 2. It is still possible for a westbound to arrive on track 1 and depart on track 2 to run around a train ahead on track 1. The fuel pad is between track 2 and the yard (the extension of track 3 past CP 423). Any train stopped on track 1 isn't behind a train getting fuel.

Yes, I have witnessed the "parking lot" between Elkhart and Goshen. Most of the time the crossings are kept clear. There are times where that is not possible. Trains would need to be stopped west of Goshen where using the next crossing would be a much longer trip or held south of New Paris for Marion Branch trains that don't fit between crossings south of CR 38.

NS has underpasses at Nappanee St, Oakland Ave, Benham Ave and Indiana Ave in Elkhart and an overpass at Prairie St. As a regular user of Prairie St I don't consider that path to be "out of the way" and often use it to avoid the traffic lights in downtown Elkhart. The Main St traffic lights are timed to stop traffic, not let it flow smoothly. The angled parking makes it a dangerous street during busy times. It is best avoided.

The State of Indiana is building two more overpasses in Elkhart ... at Hively and at what is left of Concord Mall. The next overpass is CR 17. There are more overpasses and underpasses in the City of Elkhart than there are at grade crossings on the NS line!

As for Goshen, they have also designed a "Main St" that is now harder to travel. It now has angled parking and four way stops and drivers are highly encouraged NOT to drive through Goshen's business districts while passing through town. It is much easier to take the new US 33 connector to the southeast side of town or CR 17 then SR 119 or CR 38 to the southwest side of town than pass down Elkhart Rd, Pike St and Third St to get to the corner of Madison and Main and head south.

Occasionally I have seen the crossings blocked in Goshen. Goshen has the CR 17 bridge at the north end and SR 15 downtown as bridges over the mainline railroad. The rest are grade crossings. Blocking the crossings at Sunnyside and CR 13 (at Concord Mall) ended with the construction of CP 417 between those two roads. Oxbow and Peddler's Village are occasionally blocked but CR 17 is close. Greene is less occasionally blocked. Indiana Ave and the streets each side are rarely blocked by a stopped train (trains do need to slow for the curve on the Marion Branch). Main St is the next crossing and it has a bridge one block over that is a better route train or no train. That leaves a couple of small streets and CR 4 that I have never seen blocked by a stopped train. Perhaps the NS local service to Brunk and the industries on the Marion Branch are causing problems?

I wish I could say I have never seen a stopped train at a crossing ... but I don't see the level of problem that the cities are complaining about - especially the City of Elkhart. More grade separations than at grade crossings and when construction is done in 2-3 years there will only be ONE at grade crossing in Elkhart on the NS main line. And I suppose the city will complain when that one is blocked for more than a minute.

The E&W line in Elkhart would cause more street blockages than the NS line. Technically an NS local doing the work south of the E&W yard. Perhaps that is what is lighting Elkhart's fuse?

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Re: Third Rail on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by Saturnalia »

The real truth with NS is that they recently consolidated dispatching which caused a lot of brain drain. They also increased the usage of computer-led dispatching which encourages a lot more follow-the-leader right-hand running and less creativity. If dispatchers find themselves making unique moves and it goes wrong, you can see where the blame will be placed.

Just look at west of Porter. Used to flow really well and often left-handed for the evening Amtraks. No more, because computers can't match a dispatcher with years of experience on the territory or even in general.

I am a HUGE believer in that a lot of today's railroad fluidity problems are more at the dispatch office than with the tracks (or lack thereof) in the field. The territories are too big, the computers suck at routing and the average dispatcher simply does not have the experience and autonomy to get creative like they used to have.
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Re: Third Rail on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by ns8401 »

Saturnalia wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:14 pm
The real truth with NS is that they recently consolidated dispatching which caused a lot of brain drain. They also increased the usage of computer-led dispatching which encourages a lot more follow-the-leader right-hand running and less creativity. If dispatchers find themselves making unique moves and it goes wrong, you can see where the blame will be placed.

Just look at west of Porter. Used to flow really well and often left-handed for the evening Amtraks. No more, because computers can't match a dispatcher with years of experience on the territory or even in general.

I am a HUGE believer in that a lot of today's railroad fluidity problems are more at the dispatch office than with the tracks (or lack thereof) in the field. The territories are too big, the computers suck at routing and the average dispatcher simply does not have the experience and autonomy to get creative like they used to have.
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Re: Third Rail on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by PatAzo »

justalurker66 wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 9:58 pm
Most of the time the crossings are kept clear. There are times where that is not possible.
At present railroads enjoy protection from enforcement of limits on blocking crossings with federal courts ruling local restrictions do not allow enough time for railroads to perform necessary (federally required) safety checks. In many instances that is true.
It could be argued however that parking a train for hours as it waits to get into a terminal and increases in train length were for economic convenience not a safety requirements. Abuse their privilege's and railroads could find themselves in a less favorable position.

As for terminology a "third rail" is a current carrying rail used on electrified railroads in lieu of an overhead wire.

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Re: Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by jeffbish1 »

I work in New Paris, next to the Marion line. It seems that they often, in the afternoons, line a couple of southbounds up together as close as possible, seemingly waiting for the go ahead to cross the diamond at Milford. Depending on train lengths, the second southbound can block a few crossings in the south end of Goshen.

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Re: Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by justalurker66 »

I have not seen that. Typically trains do not enter Goshen unless they can leave. Northbounds wait south of CR38/Kircher Rd where they have nearly a mile and a half with no crossings. A two mile long train would block one crossing at CR42. There are two more mile and a half between crossing segments south of New Paris where trains stop (usually north of CR 50 - a long train might block CR 50 but that isn't in Goshen). South of US6 NS only has 1.4 miles to the CSX Diamond at Milford Jct. Westbound trains are normally held at "410" (Monroe St) where they have 1.7 miles before blocking CR36. Southbound trains are often held at Greene Rd or further west. Usually when waiting for one or more northbound trains to come off of the Marion Branch. I have not seen an Eastbound train held in a few months. (Not saying it didn't happen, only that I have not seen it.)

The big bottleneck is Elkhart Yard. Trains are not being held out of the yard to make room, trains are being held out because there is no room at the time the train arrives. The parking slots in Elkhart start at Hively (rarely a westbound train will stop west of Hively until it gets to the yard). The segment between OxBow and Peddler's Village is most often used for parking trains.

I have seen a couple of "jackpot" situations where Peddler's Village Rd and/or Greene road must be blocked. They occur when there is no place to put the northbound trains waiting to go in to the yard and NS has to pack them in tightly staring at the Ox Bow crossing in order to have the tail of the last train clear CP412 for a southbound train to head down the branch. The branch must be cleared of all northbounds all the way to Leesburg before a southbound can be sent down the line.

The city's letter states: "We are fully aware of plans to eventually add additional routes to bypass the rail system in and around the areas of Goshen and Elkhart. In the meantime, blocked crossings paralyze the traffic flow in the City of Goshen, as well as the traffic patterns along the US 33 corridor." It would be interesting to know what they are aware of ... bypassing Elkhart and Goshen?

One plan that might help is more double track on the Marion Branch. Leesburg is a long way to go for trains to pass. If the city doesn't want NS to park in Goshen perhaps they can fund a parking lot outside of town?

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Re: Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by Super Chief »

As of late even the yard slugs are coming past the depot to pull longer cuts out. That does block a main for a while.

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Re: Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by justalurker66 »

Super Chief wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:04 pm
As of late even the yard slugs are coming past the depot to pull longer cuts out. That does block a main for a while.
I have seen that move for more than a year in Elkhart (probably closer to two years). It may be happening more often with longer trains. Often such trains don't block Main St. If they do block Main St they usually don't go past Prairie St (east end of CP 421). They certainly are not blocking streets in Goshen. :D

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Re: Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

justalurker66 wrote:
Mon Mar 29, 2021 6:29 pm
The city's letter states: "We are fully aware of plans to eventually add additional routes to bypass the rail system in and around the areas of Goshen and Elkhart. In the meantime, blocked crossings paralyze the traffic flow in the City of Goshen, as well as the traffic patterns along the US 33 corridor." It would be interesting to know what they are aware of ... bypassing Elkhart and Goshen?

One plan that might help is more double track on the Marion Branch. Leesburg is a long way to go for trains to pass. If the city doesn't want NS to park in Goshen perhaps they can fund a parking lot outside of town?
I wonder if they just didn't get their wording right, and rather, they meant "...additional (driving) routes to bypass the rail system (i.e., bridges and underpasses) in and around Goshen and Elkhart." More bridges are in the works. Hively and CR 23 have been mentioned. This would leave just Main St. and Lusher as crossings within Elkhart proper.

And, to the earlier message, the third track has long been referred to as the "third rail" in this region. It used to run from Main Street down to CP-415, but with the big trackage and signal project 4-5 years ago, the 3rd rail was extended all the way into Goshen and becomes the lead to the Marion Secondary, effectively creating a triple track main from Goshen to the yard. Yes, third rail also refers to the electrified rail on a rapid transit route, but it has colloquially been used in this instance, too. I think CSX crews west of Detroit used to refer to the service track along the Detroit Sub as the "third rail," too.

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Re: Third Rail Line on NS in Goshen Causing Problems.

Unread post by justalurker66 »

Lusher will close when Hively gets the overpass (typical two for one crossing closure - although often more than two crossings close).
CR 13 will close when "Sunnyside" gets an overpass (at Concord Mall).
They may have meant road crossings ... but both are in Elkhart and the city letter was from Goshen where no new improvements are planned (except a quiet zone on the Marion Branch).

The third track is a third main ... same class as the other two mains all the way from CP 423 to CP 412 where the Branch begins. A big improvement from the westbound yard lead and coach track that the third main replaced. Bi-directional at the same speeds - a true triple track situation, not a lead.

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