Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,

Lack of Traffic

There has been a distinct lack of train traffic here at Fernley this week. That's because Union Pacific has the line over Donner Summit closed on account of they are re-laying the second track at Yuba Gap torn up in the 1990s in a short-sighted attempt to save money by cannibalizing the railroad. Union Pacific (ex-SP, much of it originally CP) is double-track from Oakland to Sacramento and then on to Reno and Sparks, except for the single-track section at the Summit Tunnel (when they removed the Yuba Gap section, they also removed the original Track 1 that ran around the outside of the mountain) and the now-about-to-be-doubled section at Yuba Gap. UP closed the line for a week to allow for the extensive work needed to restore the second track at Yuba Gap. Most trains have been re-routed.

The California Zephyr has been terminating and originating at Reno, with passengers being bused from Reno to intervening points between there and Emeryville. Apparently there's not enough capacity in the Feather River Canyon to divert the Zephyr that way. If there had been and had we heard about it early enough, I might have taken a couple of days off from work and driven to Winnemucca to take a round-trip from there to the Bay Area through the route of the original Western Pacific California Zephyr, a trip only rarely available to the public.

Another oddity about the short-turning the Zephyr is that they aren't turning the trainset, but just running the locomotives around it. I assume the train is parked and serviced at Sparks yard between its morning arrival in Reno and afternoon departure, requiring backing movements between Reno and Sparks. (This would normally be messy, but with no through traffic, I doubt there's much opposing traffic on the line.) Consequently, the eastbound trains are running "backwards." Indeed, one morning I saw a couple of dome cars tacked on the east end of the train heading toward Reno and that afternoon they were leading the train, immediately behind the engines, which probably made the trip less nice for the people on the rail tour.

On Wednesday morning, after Amtrak #6 went through on the main heading for its truncated terminus of Reno, I saw an odd piece of railroad equipment passing through Fernley on the siding and following Amtrak west.


This is a HARSCO rail maintenance train, presumably heading for Yuba Gap to assist in getting the relaid track in order.

This new section of second track, undoing the corporate vandalism of the Southern Pacific, should improve capacity over Donner. Alas, it seems unlikely to me that they'll ever restore the difficult-to-maintain Track 1, so the summit tunnel will continue to be a capacity bottleneck for the foreseeable future.
Tags: amtrak, fernley, trains
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