PAS: Hoosac Detour Working Well; Tunnel Getting Worse; NS Optimistic Line Will Reopen In A Week

14-17 February, North Adams MA

  1. HOOSAC TUNNEL CAVE-INS EXPAND; SURFACE SINKHOLE PROVIDES SOME CLUE AS TO MAGNITUDE OF TUNNEL PROBLEMS. DAY-LIGHTING BEING CONSIDERED.
  2. NORTHERN REROUTE IN EFFECT VIA RUTLAND VT ON VRS/NECR FOR MERCHANDISE TRAINS. SOUTHERN VIA CSX INTERMODAL DETOUR NOT MOVING AS EXPECTED.
  3. NS ANNOUNCES EXPECTATION THAT TUNNEL WILL BE REOPENED WITHIN THE WEEK.
Soil debris is the tell-tale of a major breech of the tunnel lining. This one appears to be at the inner end of the cement “patch” inserted to repair the 1972 collapse, which occurred ~1,000 ft from the west portal.This indicates an additional breech. The original breech discovered 11.Feb., only ~300 ft in. {source: internet; annotaed by ANRP}


Additional cave-ins

Speculative reports since 12.Feb have implied that tunnel lining breaches have expanded and multiplied, despite official statements that the situation is stabilizing and repair work is underway. On Sunday evening, new photos emerged of growing piles of displaced earthen material spreading inside the tunnel, possibly in two or more different locations within 1000 ft of the west portal. Another photo purports to show an external sinkhole in the surface above the tunnel.

 

A sinkhole has formed approximately 50 ft in diameter near the West Shaft Rd., over the tunnel at approximately ~1500 ft. from the portal. This is verified by multiple unofficial sources. {source: internet}

Soil debris is the tell-tale of a major breech of the tunnel lining. This one appears to be at the inner end of the cement “patch” inserted to repair the 1972 collapse, which occurred ~1,000 ft from the west portal.This indicates an additional breech. The original breech discovered 11.Feb., only ~300 ft in. {source: internet; annotated by ANRP}

 


REROUTES

North: A little help from my friends

Just hours after the discovery of the initial cave-in (Tues.11.Feb), VRS was contacted and rallied a game plan to move both PAR traffic and maintain their own traffic fluidity. VRS connects with PAR at Hoosick Jct. NY and at Bellows Falls, VT, and the route is no stranger to detours. The detour route in effect today is essentially the one formulated in 1964 between the Boston & Maine and the Rutland Railway.

The PAS detours happen to be somewhat opportune for VRS, which has temporarily ( we hope – Ed. ) lost 400 carloadings due to the ongoing protest blockages in Ontario and Quebec. Additionally, VRS switches a fair amount amount of PAR traffic from PAR at both Bellows Falls and Hoosick Jct., making the detours somewhat advantageous for all. For the part that VRS is playing, freight traffic normally routed to Bellows Falls and Hoosick Jct. for interchange, is now moving within the detours and being switched out at Rutland by VRS, negating the need for their own trains to make round trips between Rutland and the interchange point and accidentally creating a mini-Precision Scheduled Railroading circuit that actually works.

Northwestern MA -Southern VT

Northern reroute for PAS trains :
1. PAR: East Deerfield MA – East Northfield;
2. NECR: EN – Bellows Falls VT;
3. GMRC: BF – Rutland;
4. VTR: RTL – Hoosick Jct. NY
{VRS System map; annotated by ANRP}

Teamwork

PAR is supplying 3-5 locomotives per trip to supplement the requirements for the 2% grade that exists on the VRS Green Mountain Railroad Bellows Falls Subdivision. VRS adds on 1-3 locomotives for the trip, depending on tonnage and to maintain a 20 powered axle availability, even if not required. VRS crews have stepped up and broken from their normal traffic pattern routines to help get the PAR 70-90-car trains over the road. This plan looks to stay in effect for the duration of the Hoosac closure, which one unofficial estimate put it at weeks not days.

Only freight traffic is using the VRS detour route, which means that traffic normally routed between Binghamton, NY and East Deerfield, MA for Norfolk Southern and between Rotterdam Jct., NY and East Deerfield off CSXT is being moved steadily.

The GMRC Bellows Falls Subdivision begins a westbound climb almost immediately from BF. Between Riverside and Brockway Mills, the climb digs into a 1% grade for short stretches along the way, before relaxing to a more subtle .25- .75% grade into Chester and on to Gassetts. From Gassetts into Cavendish – roughly mile B21.85 – the grade varies from 1.0 to 1.5% with an average of approximately 1.25%. From Cavendish to Proctorsville it is mostly level, before heading into the steeper westward climb to the Green Mountain Summit beginning at Smithville. From Smithville to Summit, roughly mile B27 to B34, the grade is a sustained minimum of 1.15%-1.75% and stretches of 2+%. From Summit westbound to Rutland the grade is a sustained 1+% downgrade. Eastbound trains dive into that 1+% upgrade as soon as they are leaving Rutland yard and often are speed limited by trailing tonnage. Empty ethanol trains out of Bellows Falls heading back to Whitehall will often get a helper unit for the trip to Summit – typically the Bellows Falls Switcher locomotive/crew – when wet or slippery rail conditions exist. During normal conditions, a trio of units will get the call for the empty train’s head end.
{VRS Guide Book 2019 Ed.}.

South: Intermodal and auto traffic interrupted

After running two regular daily intermodal trains (NS 22K, left 12.Feb Chicago – Ayer , and 23K, returning), no rerouted trains ran between 13. Feb and 16. Feb; the reason is unknown. A NS 22K departed Chicago 16.Feb., and was spotted

Auto rack traffic is apparently bottled up, due to clearance issues on the northern detour, and also haven’t been detoured to/from P&W at Gardner or PAS facility at Ayer as the racks exceed the clearances of the VRS re-route. And racks haven’t been forwarded on any of few 22K / 23K detours either. So PAS auto traffic is effectively annulled.

Southern reroute for PAS intermodal trains appears to have failed : NS 22K left Chicago IL on Weds.12.Feb, and interchanged to CSX at CP-DRAW south of Buffalo NY, and seen on the move through Pittsfield MA on Fri.14.Feb. According to informed sources, that train and a 23K westbound are the only PAS trains to have run the reroute. NS 22K out of CHI on Tues.11.Feb was reported tied down in Binghampton on Sat.15.Feb, with a large percentage of empty-well cars {OpenRailwayMap; annotated by ANRP}.


Optimistic statements

Pan Am verified to ANRP on Fri.14.Feb that there had been additional breaching of the tunnel’s brick lining following the “small failure” reported by ANRP on Wed.12.Feb, but that “material has currently ceased falling and self-stabilized. ” An NS Service Alert of the same day stated, “the line is expected to reopen Monday, Feb 17.” On Sun.16.Feb, the expected date of reopening was amended to Saturday, Feb. 22.

A similar series of events occurred in 1972. Two substantial breaches closed the tunnel on 05.Aug.1972. A new reinforced concrete arch was emplaced, and traffic resumed less than a week later, on 11.Aug.1972, so rapid fixes are not out of the question {Carl Byron, No. Adams Transcript 1972}.