RRNY – The Equipment

Screenshot 2016-05-20 at 4.30.02 AM

It occurs to me that, since we’ve talked about the design of the routes, the frequencies and some of the principles any derived schedule must adhere to, and this program’s infrastructure needs in the core, we really should talk about RRNY’s equipment.

RRNY has a standardized equipment pool. Right now, this does not occur and I’m having a hard time fathoming why. For example, NJT does not have any EMUs on order to replace the Arrow III’s, even though the Silverliner V’s and M8’s should be able to be easily modified for local running. Meanwhile, even though the MTA’s M-class of EMUs is semi-standardized, it is not as standardized as it could be. MNRR and LIRR M7’s are not interoperable: even though both sides use similar power feeds, they have different trucks instead of having a truck with shoes able to pick up both top- and bottom- running third rail.

Heck, the P32AC-DM Geneses used by Amtrak and MNRR have shoes that can pick up both top-and bottom-mounted third rail, as do (theoretically) the M8’s! And all Amtrak NEC motors, from AEM7’s to Acelas to ACS-64’s, have to function on both the Northend and Southend electrification networks.

We can do this. We have the technology. New York has four distinct electrification systems:

  1. 25 kV 60 Hz AC catenary, used on the New Haven, Hell Gate, and Morris & Essex lines, and on the North Jersey Coast Line between Matawan and Long Branch
  2. 12 kV 25 Hz AC catenary, used on the Northeast Corridor and the North Jersey Coast Line between Rahway and Matawan
  3. 750 V DC overrunning 3rd rail, used on the Hudson and Harlem lines
  4. 750 V DC underrunning 3rd rail, used on the LIRR network

None of these lines are electrified, however, to the end; they require diesel power at their extremities. This is problematic as our frequencies are produced by running individual lines from the extremities timed such that they meet clockface schedules in the trunks. In order to produce this, we have to either

  1. Electrify the entire network
  2. Use push-pull equipment throughout the network

Electrification is expensive and will need to answer some difficult questions, but using EMUs also offer not-inconsiderable marginal benefits that increase the network’s overall capacity–for example, as Alon Levy has pointed out in the past, the MBTA’s insistence on using diesel push-pull equipment, even under wire, has such a significant marginal acceleration penalty that it hampers the network-wide service quality. MARC is going the same route on the Penn Line, as they do not wish to buy power from Amtrak anymore, and this will most certainly clash with their other stated goal to provide more frequent network-wide service.

The upshot of this is that we can divide our equipment pool into two phases while the network’s outer extent is electrified:

  • Phase 1: Push-pull equipment on end-to-end services; EMUs on already-electrified routes
  • Phase 2: Systemwide EMU implementation. All EMUs must have single-decker and double-decker variants. For example, Line 1 uses mainly double-decker EMUs, while Line 6 uses mainly single-decker ones.

Questions of Electrification

The second major question of electrification is to what standard? This is trickier than it first appears for a few reasons.

First off, the Empire Corridor is a potential HSR route, and lies along the Hudson Line. Since 3rd rail electrification creates an effective speed limit of ~100 mph, there will need to be real consideration on re-electrifying the line with catenary as the difference between catenary and third rail for a 200 mph train between Penn Station and Poughkeepsie would be approximately half an hour. (Another solution that can be pursued would be electrifying the local tracks with 3rd rail and Amtrak ones with catenary, but I suspect that the problems of dual electrification would still apply–and over a much longer distance, too.)  If catenary replaces overrunning 3rd rail on the Hudson Line, then the Harlem Line has its own unique electrification standard.

Secondly, the Valhalla disaster was exacerbated by the third rail punching into the M7’s. Catenary does not have that particular problem. Granted, an incident like this is rare, but is installing third rail on lines with level crossings safe? Is it even still allowed?

However, let us assume that all new endpoint electrification–Croton-on-Hudson to Poughkeepsie, Southeast to Amenia, Ronkonkoma to Greenpoint, Great Notch to East Stroudsburg, etc., is standardized at 25 kV 60 Hz AC catenary. While this is the emergent electrification standard and we can then thus agree that currently-unelectrified routes (around half of Line 5 and most of Line 6) should be electrified to it, it would also create a small constellation of minor electrifications in the Taconics and on Long Island; this would almost certainly be excessively expensive to maintain, once developed, simply because they would be islands unto themselves, requiring their own substations and crews rather than being natural extensions of the substations and crews associated with the existing electrification systems.

Another way to consider the questions I’m asking is: It’s evident that all electrification extensions in New Jersey and Connecticut will be of 25 kV 60 Hz catenary. But what about the ones in New York, which are mostly (if not entirely) of 750 V DC over- or underrunning third rail?

The Equipment

In any event, the equipment we use must be able to run in the following four modes:

  1. 750 V DC over- or underrunning third rail
  2. 25 kV 60 Hz AC overhead catenary
  3. 12 kV 25 Hz AC overhead catenary
  4. Diesel (until electrification program is complete)

Disregarding (4) at the moment, the closest EMU equipment we have to meeting that standard is the M8, which satisfies (1) and (2) (but, for some reason, apparently not (3)). As the LIRR and MNRR M7’s are mutually incompatible, they fail to meet even the first requirement–though they can arguably be remounted on compatible trucks. SEPTA’s Silverliner V’s only meet (3), but then the entire Philadelphia electrification network is 12 kV 25 Hz. And NJT has no replacements for their aging Arrow III’s, opting instead to replace them with push-pull equipment.

Going forward, however, we can see that that any hypothetical M9 would have to meet the first three requirements. (They may also have to function as coaches for diesel shuttles at the lines’ endpoints during the electrification process.) Single-decker models may be based on the M8’s, but a double-decker one would almost certainly need to be based on designs such as the Bombardier Multilevel, which can meet the North River Tubes’ loading clearance.


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