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View Diary: Sunday Train: Leveraging HSR for a Fresno Regional Rail Corridor (28 comments)

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  •  That there would be ... (4+ / 0-)
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    Hoghead99, Judge Moonbox, G2geek, Aunt Pat

    ... well outside of my wheelhouse as far as expertise goes.

    But the occasional freight accident (as I understand it, a gravel train hitting a train with the wheels of a steam train in one of its boxcars) is often from badly maintained track ... and if it is from badly maintained track, why, that there might be one more "benefit" of the single track revolution.

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    by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 06:22:13 PM PDT

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    •  single track: (1+ / 0-)
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      Aunt Pat

      I take it from your tone, that a) single-track rights of way have become more common in recent rail installations, and b) it's stoopid to have a right-of-way with a single track compared to double track (capacity for trains in both directions, option for switching to pass, ability to single-track during maintenance of either track, etc.)

      Aside from the obvious "penny-wise / pound-foolish" aspects, whatever possessed people to build single-track systems when the incremental cost of an additional track is minimal compared to the rest of the costs involved?

      What this reminds me of is the current hype in my own industry (telephony) for VOIP, whereby office telephones are piggybacked onto the computer network.   Thus we see people spending money to put in conduits that carry only the wires for the computer network, locking themselves into that infrastructure, when it would be relatively cheap to also pull cable for voice outlets at the same time.  The result is the equivalent of single-tracking: one wire per desk or office, attempting to carry both voice & data, where two wires would enable an architecture with significant reductions in total cost of ownership over time.  

      The penny-wise/pound-foolish aspect of that is obvious, but there's another pernicious factor at work here, which is "bandwagon-jumping."  People get convinced by sales hype that they can get away with cheaping-out on their cable infrastructure, and then they get locked into telephones that are hella' more expensive to maintain than if they'd done it right in the first place (separate voice & data cable, digital telephones not piggybacked on the LAN).  

      So I wonder about this: was there at some point a kind of sales hype and bandwagon-jumping effect for single track rail systems?  And what kind of propaganda was used to get people to go for it?

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 09:55:15 PM PDT

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      •  It depends on what you are aiming for ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat

        ... since the 1950's, faced with competition from the heavily subsidized trucking industry while freight rail has to pay for its own infrastructure ~ including paying local property tax on infrastructure while competing against freight traveling on tax-exempt roads ~ rail has focused on markets where the dominant consideration is price per ton mile, and has largely ceded markets where time to market and scheduled delivery reliability are substantial considerations.

        In that context, running long, slow, plodding trains with just enough locomotive power to keep moving at the ruling grade on the minimum possible infrastructure makes substantial financial economic sense.

        The single track revolution was not so much adding single track infrastructure, as ripping out the double track and quad track infrastructure we once had, as the express wagonload freight that once justified the expense of that infrastructure was taken over by trucking.

        There is still double track in the country ~ but quite a lot of mainline is single track, and almost all branch lines.

        A side-effect of that is a rail network system that is by and large incompatible with the needs of passenger rail, which are very much like the needs of the parts of the freight market that the rail operators ceded to truck freighting.

        The flip side of that is that there are rail corridors all across the country that are wide enough to support quad track, but which only presently host single track, where the capacity can be added at decreasing average cost, while most intercity road capacity in regions with growing population are at the point where adding capacity involves increasing average cost.

        If we electrify a handful of cross country (N/S and E/W) corridors, we can quite economically add capacity to support the 60mph heavy freight and 90mph fast freight while offering superior time to market, delivery reliability, and lower cost per ton-mile than door to door truck freight.

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        by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 06:06:18 AM PDT

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