Lines West


Surfline California: Doubletracking or a tunnel?

Our West Coast correspondent has contributed this picture of Amtrak rolling through his home town of San Clemente, California. If this busy line between San Diego and Los Angeles could be double tracked, a lot more trains could roll through a lot faster.

To get around the physical limitations of double tracking, a 15-mile tunnel has been suggested. This would imply two-level stations.

I went to the masters of working in limited space: the New York City Subway System and shown below is a list of all their two-level stations:
In total there are 16 stations that fit the criteria:

125th St – Lexington Av (4,5,6)
103rd St – Central Park West (B,C) Keeps all entrances on the building side of Central Park west.
96th St – Central Park West (B,C) Keeps all entrances on the building side of Central Park west.
86th St – Central Park West (B,C) Keeps all entrances on the building side of Central Park west.
81st St – Central Park West (B,C) Keeps all entrances on the building side of Central Park west.
72nd St – Central Park West (B,C) Keeps all entrances on the building side of Central Park west.
63rd St-Lexington Av (F) (and eventually the Q and later on the T) Eastbound/Northbound trains – upper level, westbound/southbound trains – lower level.
7th Av/53rd St (B, D, E)
5th Av/53rd St (E, M)
Fulton St (J, Z) Nassau is two narrow for two abrest here.

Queensboro Plaza (7, N, Q)

Borough Hall (2, 3) this is so the south bound track can underjump the track of the 4 and 5.
Wilson Av (L) Canarsie Line. The route is shoved between railroad tracks and a cemetery
Utica Av (3, 4) The line here keeps everything to one side of Eastern Parkway
Nostrand Av (3) The line here keeps everything to one side of Eastern Parkway
Kingston Av (3) The line here keeps everything to one side of Eastern Parkway

There are some stations where the local trains are on one level and the express on another but the trains go in the same direction. Trains in the opposite direction have the same arrangement.
59th St – Lexington Av (6 on the upper level, 4 & 5 on the lower, and the N, Q and R trains in the middle)
86th St – Lexington Av (6 on the upper level, 4 & 5 on the lower)
Nostrand Av (A express trains on the upper level and C local trains on the lower)
Thanks to the NY City Subway Forum on for some great answers



We were on a 2-lane back road deep in Navajo Indian Territory in a rented Ford SUV when we came across a sign that said, “Danger – 50,000 Volt catenary overhead.” It was a rail crossing in the middle of the desert. Couldn’t believe it. In the middle of nowhere where you would never expect to see a railroad, this showed up.

Turns out it was the Lake Powell and Black Mesa Railroad – – a 78 mile private line that hauls only coal from Kayenta, AZ to a coal-fired generating station in Page, AZ. And I thought the 11,000V GG1’s of the old Pennsylvania were awesome. They apparently use some old GE E60s built in the 1970s and modified to operate at 50kV.

Anyway, it was the Pacific Railroad Act of 1864 that got things started in Arizona and led to what is now Santa Fe’s Transcon route. (I know it is BNSF but I like Santa Fe better.) We stayed at the LaPosada Hotel in Winslow – about 50 ft from the track – which is a renovated Fred Harvey House built in 1930. Believe it or not Winslow (pop. 9,900) is an Amtrak stop so we got to see the Super Chief stop and let 3 passengers on before it proceeded to Albuquerque.

The picture at the top is of a 12-engine set pulling a load of double stacks at about the 7,000 ft altitude level. Bet you don’t see that too often in France. The second is a private rail car parked near the hotel with its air conditioning running and a DirecTV antenna attached to the coupler.



La Posada Hotel, the “last great railroad hotel,” offers a unique cultural experience for Southwest travelers.

Built in 1929 for the Santa Fe Railway, La Posada is truly one of America’s treasures.

La Posada’s story weaves together two extraordinary visions. It begins with Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter and Fred Harvey, who hired Colter to design the hotel. It embodied her vision, from its architecture down to its finely crafted details. But La Posada closed in 1957; for the next 40 years, its future remained tenuous. Enter Allan Affeldt and his wife Tina Mion. Affeldt heard about the hotel and purchased it in 1997 after much negotiation, bringing with him a strong vision and commitment for returning La Posada to Colter’s original concept. Restoration started immediately and continues today, thanks to Affeldt’s efforts and the support of local preservationists, hotel guests, and a talented team of artisans and craftsmen.

303 E. 2nd Street (Route 66), Winslow, AZ 86047



Winslow, Arizona rail yards from Google Earth


U.S. Route 66 (also known as the Will Rogers Highway after the humorist, and colloquially known as the “Main Street of America” or the “Mother Road”) was a highway in the U.S. Highway System.

One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66, US Highway 66, was established on November 11, 1926. However, road signs did not go up until the following year. The famous highway originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, encompassing a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km). It was recognized in popular culture by both a hit song (written by Bobby Troup and performed by the Nat King Cole Trio and The Rolling Stones, among others) and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s. More recently, the 2006 Disney/Pixar film Cars featured U.S. 66.

Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, changing its path and overall length. Many of the realignments gave travelers faster or safer routes, or detoured around city congestion. One realignment moved the western endpoint farther west from downtown Barstow to Santa Monica.

Route 66 was a major path of the migrants who went west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive even with the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.

US 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name “Historic Route 66”. It has begun to return to maps in this form. Some portions of the road in southern California have been redesignated “State Route 66”, and others bear “Historic Route 66” signs and relevant historic information.



Marbel Motel in Winslow on Route 66. Found the postcard, couldn’t find the motel. Gee, it even had a restaurant across the street.

Interested in old Winslow? You cannot miss a great description and great pictures of Winslow, Arizona on David’s World.


Winslow, Arizona rail yards from Google Earth


Winslow, Arizona rail yards from Google Earth (street view)


The Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad is currently the only privately owned electrified railroad used specifically for freight service.

However, the railroad is not a common carrier system and is owned by the Peabody Coal Company specifically to haul coal from the Black Mesa Mine near Kayenta to the Navajo Generating Station power plant at Page. The railroad operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week using a combination of E60C motors built by General Electric to get the job done. The railroad is actually relatively new, having been built in the early 1970s (it officially opened in 1973) across the Navajo Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona.

The Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad, when built, was the most highly energized system in place at the time using catenary powered with 50,000 volts, all of which was supplied by the Page power plant.

The electric motor the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad uses is a GE product that was the first new electric locomotive design built in the post-Amtrak era when the private freight railroads no longer operated passenger trains. This much more powerful motor was designed exclusively for passenger service and meant to replace an aging fleet of electrics that Amtrak had inherited from freight railroads. After almost 30 years of operation the E60 model was retired by Amtrak in 2003 although, aside from those used by the BM&LP, a few have been preserved today, Amtrak #603 and NJ Transit #958.

The GE E60 model, a double-ended design (although the BM&LP original models are not this way, they have head-end cabs only), were powerful locomotives capable of producing 6,000 horsepower and 75,000 pounds of starting tractive effort (which is where its name is derived; Electric, 6,000 hp). Two versions of the E60 would ultimately be built, one classified as an E60CP, which featured a steam generator for older passenger equipment Amtrak operated and the E60CH, which was equipped with the more modern head-end electric power for heat and electricity.

Below is a current roster of the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad:

· GE TE53-4E #5301: Ex-Morrison Knudsen, originally rebuilt from a Union Pacific U25B.

· GE E60C #6001-6006: Purchased new in the early 1970s.

· GE E60C EA004, EA022, EA023, EA032, EA034, EA036, EA038, EA039: Purchased secondhand from Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México, EA023 is used for parts


Railways can be important to a city’s economy. To help counteract the effects suffered while San Francisco’s cable car system shut for much-needed rebuilding in 1983, the Historic Trolley Festival was begun.

Primarily, the service ran along Market Street during the busiest hours of the day. 1983 saw ten vintage cars in use including Muni Railway’s “Iron Monster” No. 1. Also running were an open tram from Lisbon and an 80-year old veteran from Oporto, Portugal. The Trolley Festival on Market Street has been a success as long as it has been held; trolley service on the Embarcadero has proven to be popular also. At times so much money was shoved in the fare boxes that the cars had to be taken out of service until the boxes could be emptied. Each of the cars in the service tows a trailer with a generator on it.

The line links the Embarcadero Center near the historic Ferry Building and Pier 39 in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. A permanent extension of the “F” line is the next step. It took several years, cost millions of dollars, and generated innumerable political skirmishes, but San Francisco Municipal Railway completed an ambitious modernization program in the 1980’s. As a result, the Muni’s streetcar lines, threatened with conversion to motor coach operation twenty years ago, are continuing to operate and will into the next century. Currently, problems are caused by aging Boeing Vertol streetcars. Muni has to resort to bus shuttles when too many of the old vehicles break down. New Breda cars are not expected until 1995.

The trolley coach network, also faced with decimation in the late 1960’s, not only remains intact, but expands. A major accomplishment was a four-mile subway (“Muni Metro”) running beneath Market Street which utilizes Light Rail Vehicles (LRV). Cars run on three routes. The system was recently modernized and regularly carries standees, mostly tourists, until well into the evening.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) first ran on August 10, 1973. It coincided with the cable car centennial.

The eight-mile run took six-and-one-half minutes. The early days saw a period when passengers could not be carried in the TransBay Tube because of train detection problems. Scrubbers were added to the trucks and wheels to clean up the problem. Saw a joint Army/Navy recommendation for an underwater transit tube. The original plan was to encompass both sides of the bay, but two out of five Bay-area counties decided against the system. It started as a 75 mile route with interchanges at MacArthur and Oakland-City Center. The system consists of: Concord/Daly City line; Richmond/Fremont line; Fremont/Daly City line; and Richmond/Daly City line. A BART train is composed of at least two “A” power cars. Most of the trains include “B” non-powered cars. The “A”s have the cabs and controls. After completion, a third type of car (“C” car) was added which has motors but no cab or controls. Interiors of the Rohr-built (and subsequent builders) BART cars have a clean, modern aircraft type look with wide aisles. Speeds often exceed 80 m.p.h. make it easy on the rider, ticket machines sell tickets for any amount, from the minimum fare to a maximum of $20.00, so a purchase could be good for several rides. Inserting a ticket in the fare gate codes it for entry and then returns the ticket. When exiting, the fare gate deducts the fare and if any value is left, returns the ticket for reuse. For $2.60 you can tour the entire system for up to three hours and visit any of the 34 stations – as long as you enter and exit at the same station. It is the only direct link with other rail transportation other than with the Muni in San Francisco. Downtown San Francisco stations are all underground. Under Market Street, BART is the second level of trackwork (Muni on top). BART is unique among the nation’s heavy rail transit systems in that it is neither a city-style subway nor a high-speed suburban railroad, but has some of the characteristics of both. It is a very civic-minded organization. For instance, they operate special early morning trains from 12 stations to Embarcadero Station for runners and rooters in the annual “Bay to Breakers” running race. For a rock concert at the Oakland Coliseum, BART stays open until 1 a.m. to serve the expected sell-out crowds of 60,000. Normal hours are 6 a.m. to midnight. With Federal funds, BART went through a recent expansion phase. The first stage was a station at Colma leading towards an extension to San Francisco Airport. Contracts were awarded for general engineering of three extensions to Pittsburg, Warm Springs and Colma. In November 1989, BART increased service during peak commute hours by adding three more trains. The Daly City Turnback, which had been under construction for four years went into operation which allowed this expansion. In 1991, BART put 10 more trains in operation during peak commuter hours, increasing the total number from 45 to 55 trains. The capacity expansion program included: 150 new “C” cars; the Daly City turnback; a new integrated control system; upgrading electrical traction power on the Concord line; and resignaling the San Francisco line to accommodate increased train frequency. The overall objective was to reduce headway from 3.5 minutes to 2.15 during peak commute hours. Currently, two East Bay extensions are under construction as well as new parking structures. One will run from Concord to North Concord/Martinez while the other will run from Hayward to Pleasanton. Discussions still continue on an extension to San Francisco Airport. Never operating as fast as promised twenty years ago, BART recently announced a plan to develop a control system to space trains every 80 seconds, compared to about 140 seconds today.

Passenger runs to San Francisco meant Southern Pacific and ended at “Third and Townsend”.

After AMTRAK, it became commuter-only (the north end of the 47-mile Peninsula suburban service to San Jose). Possibly the last suburban train in the United States to carry a Railway Post Office was operated from San Jose to San Francisco before 1966. The 1915 station lasted until a road interchange forced commuters to Fourth and Townsend in the 1970’s. A new extension of the Muni LRT line is planned to this commuter rail terminal. The Peninsula line has been popular over a century. It was originally the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad and was acquired by the Southern Pacific (Central Pacific) in 1885.10,000 daily passengers ride the S.P. line – mostly during rush hours. Standard coaches and double deck streamlined coaches are used. San Francisco is a very beautiful city and is surrounded on three sides by water. Like other cities, it is suffering from highway traffic strangulation. The city can’t expand its boundaries and new parking lots would destroy precious downtown area. Look for this service to increase in the future. Southern Pacific has recently broken with its historic stance on hating passenger service and offered to operate a new East Bay commuter rail service. Only hook is they want a $5 million annual “trackage fee”. The proposed would connect with BART in West Oakland. A recent earthquake has left many residents arguing that mass transit should be increased. While spending huge dollars to keep the Giants, it has neglected mass transportation infrastructure jeopardizing its financial center as big companies look elsewhere for office space. Rail experts view the new stadium, might take over some existing rail sites, as an opportunity to correct deficiencies and gaps. They point to the success of a stadium in Baltimore which was built around mass transit. Many view the Transbay Terminal as a site to be developed. This under-utilized terminal could not only handle many trains, but could be developed into a retail complex.



Ever wonder what happened to the public transit system in California that included this Red Car in Los Angeles in 1936


My same friend who sent me material above about Winslow, Arizona, has kept me updated on the resurgance of public transportation in California. My favorite topic has always been: Did auto, oil conspiracy put the brakes on trolleys?

It has been a long time since the last clang-clang-clang of a trolley in Los Angeles. The Yellow Car — the city’s local electric-car line — made its final run in 1963.

Two years earlier, the interurban Red Cars that once ran from Redlands to Santa Monica for a penny a mile had made their last runs. Once both were gone, so was the golden age of mass transit in Los Angeles.

In the decades since, residents have repeatedly asked the question: Who was responsible for dismantling the electric trolley cars?

The automobile became Angelenos’ preferred mode of transportation so quickly and completely that, for decades, conspiracy theorists have believed that the auto, oil and tire companies secretly did in the smokeless trolleys to promote the need for — and sales of — their products. The theory was part of a 1988 big-screen comedy about an animated actor named Roger who is charged with a murder he didn’t commit. As he and a detective work to clear his name, they uncover a conspiracy to wreck Southern California’s public transit system.

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” became to traffic planning what “Chinatown” was to Los Angeles water politics — but with more laughs.

The giant corporations with a stake in cars and buses were prosecuted half a century ago by the federal government for conspiring to deep-six the region’s streetcars. The consortium of General Motors, Standard Oil, Firestone Tire & Rubber, Phillips Petroleum and Mack Truck Manufacturing Co., in turn, blamed the Red and Yellow cars’ demise on Angelenos’ love of their automobiles, arguing that residents had grown increasingly irate over the streetcars’ overcrowding, high fares, aging equipment, accidents and inadequate routes into the new suburban reaches of Los Angeles.

Although it’s tempting to believe that evil forces must have been to blame, most historians agree that GM and the other mega-companies only helped to speed the end of the railway, which already was deep into red ink. There were mixed court verdicts, with fines levied that were considered a drop in the bucket.

Nowadays, in the age of choked freeways, the nostalgic mystique of the old Red and Yellow trolleys remains and the old myths die hard, if at all.

It’s hard to believe in car-mad Southern California, but even before the beginning of the last century, and for a half-century thereafter, the streetcar was important.

In the 1920s, as Los Angeles grew and residents and businesses began moving to the suburbs, people began to rely more and more on the automobile for transportation rather than the aging trolley system.

With 160,000 cars cramming onto Los Angeles streets in the 1920s, mass transit riders complained of massive traffic jams and hourlong delays. The hard wooden seats and the open-window “air-conditioning system” in the summers were no picnic either.

The conflict between the trolley and the automobile was often played out at intersections, where they collided repeatedly, resulting in many injuries and deaths. Newspaper editorials raised the alarm about the accidents and crusaded against the streetcars.

The Red and Yellow cars became transit villains. Buses began competing with them as early as 1924, when a serious drought caused a power shortage, forcing cutbacks in trolley service for several years.

Pacific Electric tried to win back riders and increase trolley speeds, at the same time retiring more and more electric cars from city streets and beginning work on a subway.

In 1925, a $5-million underground route of slightly more than a mile opened to riders. It was called the Hollywood Subway and the Belmont Tunnel. When the trolleys rolled into town, they would dip underground at Crown and Bunker hills, saving 15 minutes over their formerly circuitous path through downtown. The subway began at the Subway Terminal Building at 4th and Hill streets before surfacing at Glendale and Beverly boulevards.

During the Depression, the electric cars were augmented with more bus service. Then World War II’s shortages of gasoline and rubber crippled bus service. By the end of the war, the trolley lines were decrepit, obsolete and deep in the red.

Here is where the conspiracy theorists have a point.

National City Lines soon controlled 46 transit networks in the Midwest and West, including Los Angeles. The company began scrapping these electric systems and replacing them with diesel buses that — surprise — used fuel and rubber.

By 1946, the Justice Department had caught on. It filed an antitrust suit against National City Lines for conspiracy to monopolize the transit industry. But before the suit came to trial in Chicago, the consortium of big companies bailed out, selling their holdings in National City Lines. That essentially left it as an empty corporation.

In 1949, the case finally came to trial. The verdict was mixed, with acquittals and convictions. Although they no longer owned National City Lines, the companies in the consortium were fined wrist-slapping amounts of $5,000 each, while individual company officials were fined $1 each, for a total of $37,007. By then, the far-flung suburbs were crisscrossed by cars, highways and a few freeways, and the so-called conspiracy plot simply applied the coup de grace to a dying system.

Elsewhere in California: In Oakland, CA, there was an electric rail system which was bought by National City Lines, and all trains were gone after April 20. 1958. Decline in ridership had been going on for decades before that.

The Key System was efficient, in that it ran right into the neighborhoods. Our current rail transit, BART, only runs in specific corridors, and people have to drive or take buses to get to it. It’s questionable whether people would accept more localized rail now–the ROW went right through back yards on very upscale streets.

Additional Reading on this subject:

A great reference is Revisiting the Great American Streetcar Scandal, by Al Mankoff– Vol. 4, Summer 1999

and The Great American Streetcar Myth

Please read “The Streetcar Conspiracy” by Bradford Snell and “The Conspiracy Revisted Rebutted” by Louis Guilbault. I do not have links and will not tell you about Amazon or Borders and Noble because those people would not even give me the time of day.


Race to Las Vegas

Nobody wanted to run trains to Las Vegas, not even AMTRAK. Now everybody does.

We have the Z-Train” . It is scheduled to start Christmas 2011. It uses AMTRAK locomotives and crews, but does not say where the cars come from. (interesting since AMTRAK keeps telling California they are short on equipment). Onboard services will be by Z-Train employees. Trackage rights are on Metrolink, BNSF and Union Pacific. The train runs Los Angeles Union Station to the Las Vegas Strip in 5 hours with a stop in Ontario, California. The other train to Vegas is the X-Train of Desert Xpress Enterprise. It will have an elevated structure over Interstate 15 headed to Las Vegas. The dedicated right-of-way will run from Victorville, CA to Las Vegas. They want to extend to Palmdale to connect with California High Speed Rail Project (which is still figuring out how to spend their first billion dollars.


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