Union Pacific Railroad shows off its track renewal train and group of workers. No other industry in America is as capital intensive as the railroads.

And there is its European counterpart in HD.

62 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: TRT-909”

  1. I thought I heard PT had repaired their CNG fueling station. Are they still using ST Gilligs on the weekends?

  2. Live from Long Island (here for week, staying in Smithtown).

    #Had to pick up son, in Central Jersey. Took car. Long Island Expressway, crawl…Belt Parkway…not one, not two, but in three places a lane was being repaired at 10:30 am in the day time! War on cars being waged by Bloomberg. Took 3 hours each way. Suprisingly, the delays were mostly manmade.

    #Took L.I.R.R. from Deer Park to Penn Station…about 1 hour trip. Could buy paper MetroPass and include subway fares. Round trip off peak was $20…subway $2.25. Had to upgrade to peak on way back…cost $6 per person.

    #Auto travel around Long Island very good…lots of easy access to “parkways” and “expressways”…hard to drive though, no shoulders…designed for a more pastoral Long Island — BUT, it beats trying to get around the streets that should be highways in Puget Sound!

    1. When I have more than a 6 hr layover at JFK I hop the LIRR from Jamaica station to Penn Street and just mess around in Manhattan. Sometimes I miss my connecting flight home so I can mess around in the city.

      1. In Manhattan Friday, went to South Ferry (1 train from Penn) and my brother treated lunch at this pub that was one of Washington’s headquarters…then we walked around finance district and went to see Wall Street…famous sites…went to look at 9/11 site but mostly under construction.

        Then took my son (17, lives in Denver but we hooked up here) uptown to see Central Park (4 local) and walked through the main entrance past Zoo and children’s area up to lake where we hung out for a while.

        On the way back (walked downtown to catch F train at 57th — that part of town always frustrates me for subway service, connections…towards Penn Station we went on the Empire State Building Observation Desk…it had been somewhat “vegas-ized” with an IMAX ride (similar to California Adventure). At the top saw the city from four directions.

        Looking at Central Park…amazing, in that it’s like half the width of the island…made me start thinking about ways to calculate density on there since so much of it is parkland…empty space…plus on either side having the water…

  3. What would a Rob McKenna governorship look like for Seattle transit? How much damage could be inflicted on Sound Transit/ how could it be worse than Gregoire’s status-quo approach?

    1. And a better question might be: “What would a Jay Inslee governorship look like for Puge Sound transit? What specific commits is he making to promote Sound Transit and its plans/how can he make it better than Gregoire’s status-quo approach?

      1. Indeed – before we all start “liking” Jay on fb, we really need specific answers from him on support for transit and intercity passenger rail. What, specifically, will he propose in his budget, how will he reform spending so that King/Pierece/Snoho get a dollar back from the state for every dollar we pay in as sales tax? Will he consider/request/require public votes on huge highway projects as we now vote on transit issues? Support changes in the state constitution to allow for more balanced spending on transport? Sales tax on petrol and diesel? Stable, long-term funding for WSF?
        Let’s hear from you, Jay!

      2. I met Jay at a showing of Fuel Inc and was very impressed with his stance on alternative fuels and electric vehicles.

      3. Yes, he’s great on climate change. He wrote the book (literally, one of them) on alternative energy sources. But can he change WSDOT?

      4. Jay has already come out in favor of the DBT. Does he really walk the walk on climate change any more than the Seattle City Council does?

      5. Everyone is in favor of the DBT except for STB. LOL I was out of pure subjectivity because I hate the viaduct but I started looking at what we could do with 4 Billion dollars and I became opposed to it.

        Oh, and being for the environment and being pragmatic don’t always jive. We could say that not emitting any gasses nor polluting at all is the only way to live but it’s not practical.

        The question isn’t whether Jay can change the DOT but whether anyone else will even try.

      6. Arguing whether Inslee is sufficiently pro-transit is useless if there’s not another candidate is more pro-transit. It’s counterproductive if it causes people to vote for McKenna thinking “Inslee won’t do much for us anyway”. That’s why it bothers me people being so much against Gregoire. Would Rossi have been better? I don’t think Gregoire’s anti-transit as much as she has old-fashioned thinking, she believes that we need plenty of car lanes or commerce will suffer. That’s different from believing transit is socialist and un-American. We absolutely can’t risk the latter. Look at the right-wing governors in several other states who have passed extreme laws on union rights, voter qualification, and abortion, and refused high-speed rail funds.

        I don’t know much about McKenna’s transit positions and I’d like to hear more about Ryan’s question, “How much damage could he inflict?” How anti-transit is he?

  4. It would be nice if ORCA fixed their website so you could use it. There’s something really wrong when a transaction that should take no more than five minutes takes thirty. Don’t even get me started on the way they’ve set up the website for taking payments.

    1. Well, ORCA are trying to improve it:

      Improvements to the website include: – Simplification of the left-hand navigation menu; – A welcome page when you login to your account displaying your card(s) and recent activity plus easy access to manage your personal details; – Ability to include a nickname for your card(s); and – A number of usability improvements. These are part of a larger set of changes we will be making later this year and beyond. Your insight will be helpful as we move forward. Please select Contact ORCA to provide your feedback.

    2. Last time I used it (end of June) it seemed much easier to navigate and the transaction was authorized within seconds.

      1. On the night of June 29th, jetlagged and bleary-eyed, I realized I hadn’t bought my July pass yet. Of course they picked that evening — the last chance to get in before their 24-to-48-hour-delay window — to make credit transactions unavailable for “one hour of scheduled maintenance.” And of course the “one hour” was stretching into four when I passed out with no purchase completed.

        I had to go out of my way on the night of June 30th to use a TVM in the tunnel, lest Metro start stealing from my e-purse the next morning.

        (I had just gotten back from a week home in Boston — where a TVMs grow on trees, online purchases are always active the next morning, and $15 still buys unlimited subways, buses, commuter trains within the urban area, and ferries for any 7-day period. The contrast was infuriating.)

  5. Anyone else wonder why buses are now making full stops at the most absurd locations? In an abundance of caution, Olympia now requires buses to stop at all railroad crossings. This includes an abandoned stub track in the busway, four or five stub tracks in a row on the four-lane West Valley Highway (one of which dead ends into some hedges immediately after the road shoulder), and who knows where else.


    Naturally, this ridiculous idea wouldn’t last long if it were extended to all motorists. In comparison, imagine if freeway onramps had the same security features as the downtown bus tunnel: mandatory security stop at both ends, pedestrian-activated crash barrier guarding crosswalk, can’t pass cars parked on shoulder, two cops twiddling their thumbs watching vehicles go by 24/7…

    1. The train track crossing thing is a federal mandate that got passed down about a year ago, I talked to a supervisor on the 150 a couple months ago, and he told me about it, and thinks it is stupid. (as do I)

      1. You have to stop at railroad crossings without approved traffic control devices (aka Traffic lights). Apparantly whomever wrote this bill at the federal level, than the state level has never heard of a railroad crossing gate. At most of these locations where you’re required to stop the visiblity is so poor that you cant see anything until your halfway on the tracks, at which point it may be too late to clear if the gates, etc were malfunctioning (and you’d loose your CDL for stopping on on the tracks in the process).

      2. In California where I’m from originally, this has been the law as long as I can remember.

      3. And I believe it’s supposed to be basically all vehicles requiring a commercial license there too.

  6. How about some Ballard Bridge trivia?

    In 1922, on an average weekday, between 6am and midnight, the Ballard Bridge served: 325 streetcars (carrying 8,074 passengers),
    1,677 passenger autos (w/3,187 pass.),
    478 trucks (w/676 pass.),
    306 pedestrians
    75 teams (w/86 pass.)

    By 1929, passenger and vehicle traffic had increased (or decreased) to:
    327 streetcars (w/8448 pass.),
    12,691 passenger autos (w/20,757 pass.),
    1,919 trucks (w/2,398 pass.),
    232 pedestrians
    11 teams (w/18 pass.)

    In 1922, more people crossed the bridge while riding on streetcars than crossed in passenger autos. By 1929, the number of people using autos was 2.5 as many as the number of people using the streetcars. 1924 was the first year that the number of people using autos exceeded the number of people using streetcars (9,837:7,902).

    Overall, from 1922 to 1929 the number of streetcar passengers increased by 4%, while the number of auto passengers increased by almost 400%. Meanwhile, the number of horse drawn teams fell from 75 to 11.

    1. Thanks to the Model A Ford. Probably not just the Model A but going from the Model T to the Model A was a huge jump. I’m sure other cars got better by a large margin at the same time.

      It’s amazing to think there there were streetcars running with 3 minute headways to Ballard at one point.

  7. Even with a concrete railbed they can’t get the rails straight (1:21).

    UP is much harder to work with than BNSF for passenger rail according to “Waiting on a Train”.

    1. The TRT-909 is one amazing machine. Has UP every actually used it? At 2 miles/day of completely new track, they could completely replace/upgrade the Chicago/St. Louis line in 4 months, and then replace the Chicago/Detroit tract in another 5 months. Heck, we could build out an entirely new rail system across the US within 10 years. Twice as fast if two of these machines exist. I suppose money is the only thing stopping us. Too bad all our transportation spending ($50B/year) is required to continue expanding the interstate highway system.

      1. Of course they have used it. Didn’t you watch the darn video. That is a UP machine, for heaven’s sake. Good Gawd.

      2. Ummm, UP doesn’t serve Detroit. Are you confusing Uncle Pete with Amflack?

      1. What they’re doing at 1:21 isn’t in the same order as how they explain it later so who knows? It’s clearly not the same thing (different ties, clips etc..). In the video they pull the old ties, grade the bed, lay new ties, lay rail, then adjust the ties and lay new/reused ballast. At 1:21 it looks like they’re semi-manually doing what the machine does although it’s hard to tell. Although it doesn’t seem like their process of leveling the ties at 7:39 is that precise either but again we have to keep in mind what their target is – 20-40 mph trains without passengers.

      2. Their speed target is probably more like 40-60 mph. Intermodal trains tend to move at a pretty good clip on level track.

  8. I was on the Swift yesterday and they way the Snohomish County Sheriff ticket checkers work has changed. They tell the driver to hold the bus and check tickets of everyone as they get off then board the bus and check everyone’s ORCA cards and/or tickets on the bus. The entire time the bus is sitting still waiting for them. Going north we wasted a couple of minutes at 124th st. Going south there were fewer people so they were on and off in about one minute. In the past they would board the bus, check tickets and de-board at the next stop so as to not slow it down. If this is the way it’s going to be in the future it will erode the speed advantage over the 101 on the south end.

    1. They throw everyone off the bus as they do this? Sounds about as efficient as customs at the border.

      1. I believe Grant is saying that the sheriffs board at a stop, but before they board they check everyone who gets off at that stop. Then they have the bus wait while they board and check everyone else still on the bus. Then the sheriffs deboard and the bus continues. Doesn’t sound like they’re clearing the bus.

    2. I’ll bet a dollar to a dog turd there’s a donut shop next to the station they have set up shop at.

      1. They used to board the bus, check tickets and get off at the next stop then ride it back. Maybe they got tired of walking across the street. They were pricks too. I pay so they need to get off my ass.

    3. Z, I think what he’s saying is they check everyone who is getting off, then board themselves and make the bus sit while they walk the aisle and confirm all passengers have paid. Still completely asinine though.

      1. Yes, that’s what I’m saying. For an already tight headway it takes time. With buses 10 minutes apart what if they don’t do it to every one? You just blew a third of your headway and possibly caused people to miss their transfers (which is what happened to us).

    4. It sounds like a more efficient use of Sheriff’s time. They can sit at one stop and sweep every bus that comes by. It’s not ideal from the rider’s perspective but if they are able to randomly inspect more fares with the same number of resources, it might make sense.

      Frankly I don’t care if there is a favorite doughnut shop nearby as long as the number of fares inspected meet reasonable performance metrics.

  9. Because the UP video concentrates so much on individual machine operations it’s difficult, even with the narrative, to get a good grip on the whole production; the Eurovideo is somewhat better in this regard.

    In the winter of ’09/’10 I had the opportunity to observe a UP track renewal train and supporting MOW units in action over several days on the Sunset Route outside Maricopa, AZ. A full view of the core renewal operation, complete with tie gantries jamming to and fro and various other mechanical mayhem in progress on the peripheries, makes for a fairly spellbinding industrial spectacle out in the desert.

    1. It’s a very fascinating machine. It seems though that it’s purpose is to focus on freight level track. The video doesn’t show it spending too much time making sure the railbed is very precise. And why would they focus on more than that, it’s not UPs job to crate rails for HSR.

      1. Interesting. The Belgian machine digs out under the ties and then fills ballast into the resulting hole. It also seems to be a more manual process. In that video the old ties they’re taking out are concrete too. As I’ve learned from riding the Cascades that having concrete ties does not guarantee any sort of smooth ride – they still have to be level.

    1. And to reply to my own comment. The ST 512 is running so even though I live in Mukilteo I can’t get to downtown Mukilteo but my ex who lives in Rainier Beach can. Even worse my mother who lives in Lacey can get to downtown Mukilteo by bus today.

    2. It’s called no Sunday/holiday service due to a budget cut. It’s not like CT doesn’t want to run the buses.

  10. My son’s favorite Bob the Builder episode on Netflix is about a train track being laid. It’s actually pretty cool seeing the snazzy equipment they use nowadays.

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