PAR: Freight Main Line Speeds Up


PAR track crews have been working right into the winter on opposite ends of the Freight Main Line (Mattawamkeag ME – Mechanicville NY). Two projects underway: 1. Restoring through service on the Pine Tree Corridor east end to CPF-01/Mattawamkeag, and 2. Increasing speeds on the 156-mi Patriot Corridor between CPF-312 (Ayer MA) and CPF-468 (Mechanicville).

When the Hoosac Tunnel reopened in April.2020 after a 53-day closure imposed by collapsed walls, Pan Am reviewed the the Main Line, categorizing slow orders of 10 mph or 25 mph.

Patriot gains

Patriot Corridor illustration
Since 2018, speeds on more than half of Patriot Corridor mileage has degraded to 25 mph or 10 mph. PAR crews have been working since April to turn that trend around, and succeeding, with speeds up on ~34 miles of the line.

A 2016 track blitz by NS crews opened the Patriot Corridor to 40 mph, with few restrictions. But since 2018, slow orders have bogged-down more and more of the 156-mile Corridor. In April.2020, when PAR completed its review, slow orders between CPF-312 and CPF-468 mapped out to >40 mi of 25 mph segments, and ~50 mi of 10 mph segments – equivalent to more than half of the Corridor length.

Surfacing and gauging crews have been working since the Spring, eliminating “temporary” speed restrictions that had been in effect for the past two years. By November.2020, substandard mileage was reduced to 36 mi of 25 mph segments, and 44 mi of 10 mph. As of 19.January.2021, restrictions have been reduced to 26 mi of 25 mph segments, and 28 miles of 10 mph – a little more than a third of the Corridor length. The improved speeds are facilitating better time for trains over the road and allowing better crew utilization.

Not included in these numbers are the spot slow orders over certain switches or specific points that do not extend beyond that location.

Down East shapes up

The Mattawamkeag branch “cuts a corner” between Maritimes ports and New England. Armed with CRISI money, PAR will upgrade the line in 2021. {OpenRailwaysMap, annotated by ANRP}.

PAR crews have staging for a springtime blitz on the Main Line section between CPF-01/Mattawamkeag ME and CPF-111/Bangor to restore active through interchange with the EMR/NBSR at Mattawamkeag. The Mattawamkeag Branch, by which PAR holds haulage rights to Saint John NB, had degraded to the point where Pan Am traffic was moving via the longer CP Brownville Jct ME route (see PAR: Ups And Downs On The Mattawamkeag Line).

There is no firm timeline established to restoring the eastern segment. PAR EVP Cyndi Scarano says that substantial work has not begun {CS email, 20.Jan.2021}. Notably, EMR/NBSR has been recruiting for a crew to be based out of Mattawamkeag to handle service from PAR, however no operations will be fully restored for through or interchange service in the immediate future.

In Sept.2020, the FRA awarded a $17 million CRISI grant to Springfield Teminal (PAR operating division) to restore the 111-mile Pan Am section of the Pine Tree Corridor – PAR’s first-base line – to Class 2 track speeds, and upgrade the whole line to 286K capacity, by virtue of these improvements:

  • Replace >75 miles of 85#, 100#, and 112# jointed rail with new Continuously Welded 115# Rail (Equaling ~37 miles of mainline track).
  • Upgrade ~74 miles of retained track to 286K capacity
  • Installation of ~55,000 new cross ties,
  • Replace 40 mainline turnouts,
  • Upgrading 72 grade crossings,
  • Strengthen five bridges,
  • Replace deck timbers on 20 bridges
    (see FRA awards $32 million CRISI grants to northeast rails)