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Old 07-23-2018, 05:31 PM   #1
cbrett
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Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

Does anyone have any info about the proposed study to convert the freight tracks from Salem to Peabody to some kind of road-rail trolley boondoggle? Posts from the local papers have been describing this as operating between Salem and Peabody, with a CR transfer.

The articles seem to believe that "There are trolley cars that can operate on both roads and rails", but I can't find a single modern example or even an older one which wasn't a massive failure.

http://www.salemnews.com/news/local_...172ccf615.html











I couldn't find an existing thread for this, so I apologize in advance if it's been posted elsewhere.
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Old 07-23-2018, 09:36 PM   #2
F-Line to Dudley
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

EXPLAINER: Basically, they're talking a "hi-rail railbus".

Quote:
"hi-rail" = one of those track worker pickup trucks that can come off-road by dropping a set of steel wheels on the tracks.

+

"railbus" = diesel buses adapted to rails. Most frequently used in 3rd world countries and out in the sticks of some of Northern UK's poorest transit deserts. They're the last, cheapest refuge when a full-spec DMU is too expensive for the service and the most direct route for the service follows the rail line instead of the road on a bus.
Railbuses are reeeeeeeeeaaaaaaalllly far sub- FRA-compliant...even further off than those "DLRV" diesel trolleys waivered for use on time-separation lines like the NJ Transit RiverLINE. Unlike a lightweight waivered DMU which is about as invincible in a grade crossing collision as your average Green Line trolley, railbuses can get fucked up pretty bad in a sideswipe because they're little stronger than a city bus. Why is that a problem? On the street, a bus is obeying basic rules of the road and constantly looking both ways for cross traffic. That doesn't happen on a rail line because the train always has the right of way against crossing traffic, meaning the default field of view is locked straight-ahead and not semi-lateral like on the road. Rail ROW's are thus landscaped for straight-ahead visibility, with sightlines at grade crossings usually limited in the lateral direction as a result. And because rail is the alpha-dog of modes at a crossing, it takes a signal rule enforced top-down on the rail side to enforce a caution at a crossing...or, in the case of trolley reservations, to be able to share a traffic signal phase at a crossing. That raises some thorny safety issues with side-impacts since crossing traffic the city bus would be forever-vigilant about has more obstructed views and obstructed-viewing rules with the railbus on the rail ROW.

Places in the world that still use railbuses have them grandfathered, and are gradually phasing them out in favor of those more robust DLRV diesel trolleys as standards of livings increase and real-DMU availability starts reaching further downmarket. Railbuses haven't been considered for adoption in the U.S. since a SEPTA non-revenue test in 1985 using British railbuses for the now-abandoned Fox Chase-Newtown diesel shuttle; the agency was uncomfortable adopting because of those very same rules/sightlines considerations.

Even on an off-FRA line (which Peabody is not) they'd be a dicey proposition for safety standards unless they were running on a totally grade-separated line. But since most extant grade-separated lines attract much heavier traffic levels because of their superior grade separation, there are virtually no useful examples where a crossing-free line is sitting out there for the taking on off-FRA exemption...but soft enough on demand to merit railbuses instead of DMU's/DLRV's. It's 1-in-10,000 applicability for even locating a candidate line for railbuses in this country...and that's before getting to the safety debate.

-----------------------------------

I have no idea if anyone--other than some garage skunkworks proof-of-concept--has ever produced a passenger-carrying contraption that can run on rubber tires AND steel wheels. As the hi-rail wiki link above illustrates, the two-system wheel assemblies have major inherent safety limitations with wheel alignment vs. weight distribution on the vehicle, so the very nature of hi-railing is dangerous enough to be relegated to track worker professionals and vehicles no larger than a small dumptruck. Here in the U.S. and New England there are semi-frequent fantrips held on rare-mileage or shortline freight lines using hi-rail vehicles, but the tourists always have to sign waivers beforehand and get a short safety tutorial before being allowed onboard. So...not exactly "revenue-ready" mode of travel.

My guess is there isn't a production vehicle of this sort on the planet that could do the stated job and be sold legally for import to the U.S. Certainly not during an era where the few countries still using railbuses are gradually phasing them out in favor of real durable DMU's, not looking to expand their railbus networks.

-----------------------------------

ALL of this is moot because Peabody is very much on the FRA network, and has a 3-day-a-week freight schedule to Rousselot Gelatin a little bit west of the Square that occasionally includes sulfuric acid tankers. Moreover, Pan Am--due to concessions dating to when the T bought most of the northside for a song from bankrupt Boston & Maine in '76--is granted free perpetual lifetime flexibility on its freight timeslots in ex-B&M territory. They run those jobs pretty much whenever the hell they feel like it, and protect that right jealously. Those Peabody freight moves thus are not candidates to be time-separated like the NJT RiverLINE, because Pan Am has no financial incentives or deal-making mechanism to tap here like Conrail in NJ did by selling off a timeshare to the state.

And that's before you start counting up the grade crossings...6 in the span of 1.1 miles, some of them real doozies for sightlines. I wouldn't feel safe in the strongest, most modern Scottish railbus riding that particular line.


Why the City of Peabody thinks this trolley-or-whatever thing is a strong possibility is beyond guessing. 40 seconds of Google searching can pull up all the bad news about FRA exemption, and one single phone call to the T can get somebody to spell out the ex-B&M freight concessions preventing a time-share. And the hi-rail + railbus thing is just weird...that's not a popular transit advocate talking point at all (in the sense that DMU's are). This almost sounds like the work of some loudmouth frequenter of town meetings who--because of some trip made years ago to the English Northlands--has been spamming councillors with flyers and self-typed whitepapers about railbus contraptions. Until twisting enough arms to get it taken up for study consideration and groupthink taking over.

I mean, good on them for advocating for passenger transit here. They very very badly still want commuter rail to the Square, and if they've kept up on the TransitMatters plan they know there's ripe exploitable opportunity to bring dense inner-zone regional rail frequencies into town via Salem. That's still a criminally underrated Purple Line extension that would be very inexpensive to jump-start (even if just to the Square on the active track, with last half-mile to 128 on the power line ROW deferred indefinitely). So maybe it's an attempt to force the T back to the conversation table after 12 years of agency avoidance.

But if that's the end goal they've chosen an awfully batty, obtuse, non-credible way of going about it.

Last edited by F-Line to Dudley; 07-23-2018 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 07-24-2018, 12:39 AM   #3
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

I know it'll never happen, but I'd love to see the blue line extended up to Salem, maybe even Peabody. The Blue Line uses light rail sized portals, so maybe it'll fit in the single track Peabody line. F-Line would probably point out a ton of holes in that idea though.
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Old 07-24-2018, 08:49 AM   #4
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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I know it'll never happen, but I'd love to see the blue line extended up to Salem, maybe even Peabody. The Blue Line uses light rail sized portals, so maybe it'll fit in the single track Peabody line. F-Line would probably point out a ton of holes in that idea though.
Blue can easily go as far north as Salem because the Eastern Railroad graded the entirety of the Eastern Route roadbed to 4-track width in the event that they put the Boston & Maine (Western Route) out of business in the 19th century railroad wars. Saugus Drawbridge and its older predecessor draw were even laid out with an extra set of abutments to eventually quad up with identical draw spans.

The Peabody Branch, which was the ex-Boston & Lowell RR's Salem & Lowell mainline, was indeed double-track until about WWII. You can see the double-track bridge abutments all over every time it crosses the creek; the bridge closest to Salem station had its second deck reinstalled in the last dozen years for the park path.

The problem is the Salem tunnel. South half of it was an early 20th c. downtown grade separation done at double-track width, and north half of it was a 1955 extension of the grade separation done at single-track width + the Peabody turnout before the portal. So not only would you have to build a new parallel tunnel for Blue, but the old tunnel is uneven width under downtown. It's extremely unlikely you could widen the footprint without hitting a hard building blocker up Washington St. On Google you can easily see where the tunnel sharply narrows, because it corresponds to where Washington sharply narrows and the buildings start massing back up against the sidewalk. It looks awfully no-go.

So the would-be Blue terminus would be a stub-out platform at Mill St. next to the police station, riding atop the RR incline's retaining wall. Presumably with the old pre-1987 CR station in the pit being reinstated for service as a superstation (it's got two extant full-length platforms that can easily be raised to regulation full-highs, and would only need ADA egresses added to the surface). Which is probably where the CR station should've stayed all along. The only reason they moved it north-of-portal in the first place was because it was cheaper to throw together a full-accessible prefab station there rather than redoing the stairs into the pit.

Arguably, Lynn-Salem is the easier extension than Wonderland-Lynn, because of far fewer wetlands and abutters impacts and no major river crossings to contend with. Wonderland-Lynn just dwarfs all on importance because it finally fixes the brokenness of the North Shore bus system. Currently all Lynn routes have to make a distended run to Wonderland, with most of them continuing through the Harbor tunnels to downtown Boston. That drains Lynn Garage's bus supply forcing lowered headways on nearly all 1xx -series routes as they have to wait for re-supply from downtown. "Fixing the glitch" by finally truncating all routes at Lynn Terminal is the be-all/end-all for North Shore transit, because then those buses can cut the equipment-draining expressing to downtown and churn right back out on their main routes. You can only perma-fix that if Blue is brought directly to Lynn at a unified terminal (note: "Indigo" regional rail service to Lynn would not provide similar same fix at all coming from the Chelsea direction, because all the Yellow Line routes in question are being siphoned to the Wonderland/Maverick direction). Blue-Lynn hits paydirt mainly for its Yellow Line coattails and making the last-mile feeders work for the first time ever.

Blue-Salem is sort of something you consider after you've gone hog-wild increasing bus frequencies from a rapid-transited Lynn Terminal. But you'll be plenty busy with many years worth of supersizing the North Shore bus network before it's time to take on that extra phase.
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Old 07-24-2018, 09:45 AM   #5
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
But if that's the end goal they've chosen an awfully batty, obtuse, non-credible way of going about it.
F-line is back!

Hey did you catch this part of the article on the Peabody whirligig proposal?

Quote:
"Meanwhile, Rousselot is getting a $222,000 grant from the state to extend the tracks near its plant that will allow it to store more raw materials on-site and reduce the frequency of such deliveries.

The grant was announced this week by the Department of Transportation as part of more than $1.8 million awarded for five projects via the Industrial Rail Access Program, a public-private partnership that provides financial assistance for rail infrastructure projects that improve access. The grants will supplement more than $2.4 million in private financing.

Patrick Marvin, a MassDOT spokesman, said the Rousselot project will extend two spurs that will allow the facility to store eight additional railcars on the property. This will reduce the frequency of freight deliveries to the site, he said, and improve overall operations for the plant.

While the scope of work doesn't include the downtown section of track, MassDOT did note that this would also reduce the frequency of trains tying up traffic in Peabody Square.

"Part of our trolley study would be to include conversations (with Rousselot) about how we would share schedules and rail access," said Bellavance."
also fwiw i wonder if the "(with Rousselot)" should really be "(with rousselot and Pan Am)", and maybe Bellavance meant that but the reporter missed it.
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Old 07-24-2018, 10:00 AM   #6
F-Line to Dudley
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

FWIW...some light Googling on these "amphibious" railbus proofs-of-concept. . .

Nearly all of them are being pitched towards the PRT segment (translation: "We know there's no real market, so let's ride the buzzword hype!"). That's a direct consequence of the size vs. safety limitations of the dual-wheel system. Physics doesn't allow for a four-wheeled dual-wheeled vehicle much longer than a typical paratransit vehicle before wheel spacing starts precipitously increasing derailment risk on rail. So...like, 6-12 seater vans for max capacity, not anything remotely competitive with a city bus or "real" uni-mode railbus.


I'm a little less clear at what point on-road safety starts to deteriorate, but I gather that adding a third/middle set of steel wheels to stabilize on-rail performance for longer vehicles ends up working directly against safety on rubber tires. But maybe that's less physics than the resulting vehicle whiffing on nearest-applicable Eurozone and North American regs for street legality...or some combination of physical-safety and regulatory-safety factors conspiring against each other.


At any rate, they seem to be evolutionarily stuck at pickup/van/small-dumper size...and when you consider how huge the hi-rail market is for state-of-art RR maintenance of way vehicles the fact that innovation on the MOW side of the hi-rail market hasn't been able to produce anything bigger (e.g. a hi-rail tractor-trailer or large-dump) strongly hints to the design limitation being physical and not a lack of R&D attention.





Yeah...sounds a lot more like a PRT whitepaper writer's wet dream than a tool befitting any known real-world need.
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Old 07-24-2018, 11:08 AM   #7
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal



^^^ Early 1950s. Looking north. Construction has begun on extending the tunnel to the south. Probably photographed from the old Salem Depot.



^^^ Circa 1950. Looking south at the old Salem Depot, and the tunnel entrance.



^^^ 1941. North end of the tunnel, looking at the Salem roundhouse. An overpass carrying Bridge Street over the railroad tracks was built in the 1940s. North of the switch is the MBTA station and parking garage.

Because of old and historic buildings, there is no inexpensive way to expand the width of the tunnel at the narrow part of Washington St.
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Old 07-24-2018, 12:40 PM   #8
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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Originally Posted by CSTH View Post
F-line is back!

Hey did you catch this part of the article on the Peabody whirligig proposal?



also fwiw i wonder if the "(with Rousselot)" should really be "(with rousselot and Pan Am)", and maybe Bellavance meant that but the reporter missed it.

Rousselot is expanding bigtime and making Peabody its world HQ for medical gelatin (i.e. gelcaps...yuuuge growth market) production. Also, there's now a Eurozone import ban on animal bones (the stuff gelatin is made from after being dissolved by the sulfuric acid) to prevent Mad Cow Disease from jumping the Atlantic...so the source for crushed-bone deliveries has swung hard--and permanently--to domestic rail instead of ships.


On the supply side they'll be getting longer and longer trains of bones + acid, and may need to ramp up to 4 days a week before long. The Pan Am angle is that during *each* trip they keep shunting individual cars back and forth over the grade crossings because of lack of sorting space at Rousselot. Drives Peabody PD nuts from the traffic disruptions, and chews up so much extra time they frequently run out of crew hours before getting back through Somerville...meaning the freight gets parked overnight bogarting T storage space.


The upgrades are so they can hopefully get their sorting work done in one place and only have to cross the Square twice per trip...once on the way in, once on the way out.
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Old 07-24-2018, 04:25 PM   #9
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post
The problem is the Salem tunnel. South half of it was an early 20th c. downtown grade separation done at double-track width, and north half of it was a 1955 extension of the grade separation done at single-track width + the Peabody turnout before the portal. So not only would you have to build a new parallel tunnel for Blue, but the old tunnel is uneven width under downtown. It's extremely unlikely you could widen the footprint without hitting a hard building blocker up Washington St. On Google you can easily see where the tunnel sharply narrows, because it corresponds to where Washington sharply narrows and the buildings start massing back up against the sidewalk. It looks awfully no-go.
For the sake of non-actionable speculation - I wonder if a parallel tunnel under Summer St (700 ft to the west) might be feasible?
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Old 07-24-2018, 04:28 PM   #10
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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On the supply side they'll be getting longer and longer trains of bones + acid, and may need to ramp up to 4 days a week before long.
Trains of bones and acid. Love it.

It like the old tanneries never really died, they just got reinvented as biotech facilities.
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Old 07-24-2018, 04:52 PM   #11
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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For the sake of non-actionable speculation - I wonder if a parallel tunnel under Summer St (700 ft to the west) might be feasible?
Just using the measuring tool on Google I'm seeing building foundation-to-building foundation pinch points of as little as 30 ft. all up/down Summer as triple-deckers mass up against the sidewalk. That's the literal width of a finished rapid transit tunnel with not an inch to spare, but for construction of said tunnel the soil scooping and wood framing required prior to doing the concrete pour requires an extra +2-4 feet of staging slack that doesn't exist at all on each side. The act of construction ends up infringing on every basement for several city blocks. Double-decking the tunnel probably wouldn't improve the construction situation much because the act of driving much deeper walls--and waterproofing them through a water table that's very close to Salem Harbor--requires enough additional slack for the staging/framing dig of much thicker walls to end up scraping against foundations all the same.

Unfortunately you can't just teleport a finished shallow-depth connector tunnel snugly underground, so that temporary staging space for the wall dig+pour ends up the big buzzkill. To do it safely you probably need a uniform road width of not less than 40 ft.. That most certainly doesn't exist anywhere on the Downtown Salem grid for anywhere up to 1/2 mile west of the current tunnel. And Blue must stay west of the RR tunnel to have any possible interface with the Peabody Branch. Any east-side options like digging under Derby + Congress would only work for attempted relocations of the RR tunnel and vacating the current tunnel for Blue repurposement. Work *poorly*...because of the curves that easterly alignment would induce on the relocated underground RR. But even that potential solution doesn't solve the problem of the 1955 tunnel extension being too narrow for 2 tracks and too closely abutted by buildings on Washington to safely widen for 2 Blue tracks.

Functionally, you're stuck at Mill St. for furthest possible northerly reach of the Blue Line. But given that that was the historical location of the CR station, it's the best site anyway for creating Blue + Purple + bus multimodal superstation.
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Old 07-24-2018, 05:02 PM   #12
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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Trains of bones and acid. Love it.

It like the old tanneries never really died, they just got reinvented as biotech facilities.



^ Pleasant dreams!
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Old 07-24-2018, 05:16 PM   #13
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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Originally Posted by F-Line to Dudley View Post

Functionally, you're stuck at Mill St. for furthest possible northerly reach of the Blue Line. But given that that was the historical location of the CR station, it's the best site anyway for creating Blue + Purple + bus multimodal superstation.
Ok then - I'll offer you Jackson St & Goodhue st, with a 1,000ft section in the middle there nestled up against the granite ledge, and about 4-5 light commercial property takings require to make that middle section work. But that's my final offer!

Yeah so realistically blue to south salem is more than plenty. That area south of Mill St. is begging for some dense infill anyway.

(Just run all the purple trains that currently terminate at beverly up another 2 miles to a new 128-adjacent park-and-ride/mini yard @the USPS property in North Beverly and I'll be satisfied....)
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Old 07-24-2018, 05:24 PM   #14
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

The gelatine business in Peabody was originally owned by Eastman Kodak. When digital replaced photographic film, so went the business.
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South of Mill Hill in Salem is filled tidal marsh.



Looking east across a [now'filled] tidal stream at the freight yard south of Salem Depot and the houses burning on Canal St. (1914).

There are sections of Canal St. that are below mean high water, and the city and state have and are installing tidal gates at outfalls that are perhaps 2000 feet away to reduce the severity and frequency of flooding in this area as the ocean backflows in the storm sewers.

As a result of the fire, Salem passed an ordinance banning new construction of three deckers. The prevailing wind was from the west, the fire jumped over the tidal stream and the railroad yard. Embers lit the wooden rear porches of the three deckers.
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Old 07-24-2018, 06:11 PM   #15
Joel N. Weber II
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

If the goal is to get the Blue Line out to Peabody, why go through Salem at all? Salem isn't exactly on the route the crow flies from Swampscott to Peabody.

Roughly a mile to the northeast of the Swampscott commuter rail station, Swampscott Rd diverges from the commuter rail tracks. Could the Blue Line follow Swampscott Rd, Forest River, Strongwater Brook, go through the golf course, cross Washington St in Peabody between Dane St and Wheeler St, and then roughly 500' from Washington St be back on a traditional rail ROW to take it to the center of Peabody? (Or if a surface version of this can't work, could a deep bore tunnel?)
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Old 07-24-2018, 06:58 PM   #16
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

Because the point is not merely to get Blue to Peabody. The point is to get Blue to Salem - a dense, walkable city with a number of bus routes.

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Blue can easily go as far north as Salem because the Eastern Railroad graded the entirety of the Eastern Route roadbed to 4-track width in the event that they put the Boston & Maine (Western Route) out of business in the 19th century railroad wars. Saugus Drawbridge and its older predecessor draw were even laid out with an extra set of abutments to eventually quad up with identical draw spans.
.
Minor quibble with that - the quad-tracking grading was done around 1911 when the New Haven and B&M were under common management. The old Saugus Draw was constructed that year. Because of the cost of modifying the Salem Tunnel and the Chelsea/Everett grade crossings, the only completed part of the quad-tracking was the track elevation at Lynn.
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Old 07-24-2018, 07:17 PM   #17
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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If the goal is to get the Blue Line out to Peabody, why go through Salem at all? Salem isn't exactly on the route the crow flies from Swampscott to Peabody.

Roughly a mile to the northeast of the Swampscott commuter rail station, Swampscott Rd diverges from the commuter rail tracks. Could the Blue Line follow Swampscott Rd, Forest River, Strongwater Brook, go through the golf course, cross Washington St in Peabody between Dane St and Wheeler St, and then roughly 500' from Washington St be back on a traditional rail ROW to take it to the center of Peabody? (Or if a surface version of this can't work, could a deep bore tunnel?)
3D alert!: Swampscott Rd. hugs the big trap rock quarry and climbs one very steep grade end-to-end. That's very hilly...and very empty...country.


It doesn't ultimately matter, though, because the goal isn't to get the Blue Line out to Peabody exclusively. Salem is the transportation hub of Essex County, so any rapid transit shooting north of Lynn that doesn't hit Salem is going to whiff on far too many connecting targets with substantial demand to be a useful exercise. Salem's the North Shore's second bus hublet after Lynn. I said earlier that the biggest aftershock across the North Shore of building Blue-Lynn was going to be the supersizing of the last-mile connecting buses due to Lynn Terminal finally getting a solve for its equipment drain. Salem hublet instantly becomes one of the prime beneficiaries of that infusion of new bus supply, and will see its transit share skyrocket from the better bus frequencies. Enough potentially that there could eventually be enough Yellow Line route expansion up in Greater Salem/Beverly/Danvers/Peabody to merit plunking a small auxiliary garage in Salem and start originating routes there. That same Yellow Line explosion reverberating across the North Shore hits Salem hub to a degree that may eventually drive enough ridership to merit Blue extension #2.

You don't get that shooting straight at Peabody to the exclusion of Salem, because Peabody geographically doesn't pool multimodal transit anywhere near the same degree Salem does. There's no demand for hitting Peabody without Salem, and never has been historically...so the thinkpiece of how to carve a ROW out there is effort wasted.

----------------

As for whether Blue-Salem makes the Peabody Branch redundant in any way. . .

If you eventually get commuter rail to Peabody Sq. and North Shore Mall/128, there is still a plausible extra reach west on that extension by +1'ing it one stop further to West Peabody/I-95/US-1 to trap still more cars before they make a mess of your morning "Traffic on the 3's". So there's still a major congestion relief angle out there for regional rail to exploit. Regional rail also hits distinct destinations south of Lynn that Blue doesn't via Chelsea-Sullivan-North Station and future NSRL. Again...think bus network aftershocks after you fix Lynn Terminal and what proliferation of brand new last-mile riders that'll bring. The North Shore is so freaking dense that a large share of those all-new transit riders coming into Lynn + Salem terminals are going to be headed to Chelsea as well. Double-barreling the modes and fileting heaviest-use stops to Blue+Purple superstations while Blue takes up the lesser intermediates (e.g. Riverworks + infills like West Lynn, East Lynn, Hawthorne Crossing, Salem State U.) may end up being the best way to crowd-manage it all. The North Shore is just that massively untapped on demand.
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Old 07-24-2018, 08:43 PM   #18
Joel N. Weber II
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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It doesn't ultimately matter, though, because the goal isn't to get the Blue Line out to Peabody exclusively. Salem is the transportation hub of Essex County, so any rapid transit shooting north of Lynn that doesn't hit Salem is going to whiff on far too many connecting targets with substantial demand to be a useful exercise.
If a viable Swampscott to Peabody route could be made to work, the Blue Line could have a Salem branch and a Peabody branch, sort of like how the Red Line has an Ashmont branch and a Braintree branch.
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Old 07-24-2018, 09:36 PM   #19
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

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If a viable Swampscott to Peabody route could be made to work, the Blue Line could have a Salem branch and a Peabody branch, sort of like how the Red Line has an Ashmont branch and a Braintree branch.
There are a lot of things that can be made to work if one has either infinite resources or a Weimar printing press.

There is no demand in downtown Peabody to support a Blue Line extension. Further, there is no parking. In the words of Gertrude Stein, 'there is no there there.'
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Old 07-24-2018, 09:47 PM   #20
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Re: Peabody/Danvers Branch Rail Proposal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel N. Weber II View Post
If a viable Swampscott to Peabody route could be made to work, the Blue Line could have a Salem branch and a Peabody branch, sort of like how the Red Line has an Ashmont branch and a Braintree branch.
False equivalency. The Red Line branches within 1.5 miles of the CBD, with each branch serving the first crush-load density neighborhoods outside the CBD, and each branch hosting a very major bus terminal (Ashmont + Quincy Ctr.).

Blue would be forking 12 miles from the CBD out in a particularly unpopulated, hilly, wilderness part of Swampscott (pop. 14,722)...past all the alpha bus terminals...with only 1 branch hosting any significant number of connecting routes (7 buses for Salem, 2 for Peabody) at a smaller terminal or hosting any significant-ridership intermediate stops (Salem State U.) en route. Now project bus connection growth from there if Lynn Terminal's equipment supply siphon gets fixed by Blue-Lynn. How many Yellow Line routes does future-Salem end up hosting vs. future-Peabody...4x? 5x? 5x the buses plus exponentially better regional rail -frequency Rockburyport schedules?

But you're going to halve frequencies to each endpoint with a branch schedule despite the fact that one branch supplies quadruple-or-more the number of incoming transfers at its endpoint? No...that couldn't possibly be further from a Red Line analogy. It's crappily-managed transit to have the frequencies distributed so off-proportion to where the ridership sources are coming from. All that civil engineering strongman brain cell ticklage about doing a Swampscott Rd. hilltopper has to answer a demand question first on why branched frequencies are the better idea...not "do [!!!] on a map because [???]"

This isn't a proof-of-concept thing for hitting a 128 park-and-ride or maximum operable distance from downtown. Real, measurable demand metrics will tell 100% of the story on whether Blue ever needs to go one inch past Lynn. Because as with Lynn the demand question is driven majority by what happens when the last-mile feeders are uncorked across the North Shore with a perma-fix for Lynn Terminal's equipment rotations. If the subsequent explosion in post- Blue-Lynn bus ridership growth across the region truly has as exponentially high a ceiling as we suspect it might, Salem...being the #2 bus node above all others...may grow a thick enough net of its own homegrown last-mile routes to compel further Blue extension. That's the only force powerful enough to beckon Blue further north than Lynn. Either multimodal drives demand to those huge heights, or Lynn is as far as Blue truly needs to go and dense regional rail ends up enough to satiate the mini-terminal at Salem and Peabody's handful of diverging routes.

Branching for the sake of planting the flag at Peabody asks none of the questions that are actually driving the Wonderland-Lynn extension that comes first, let alone asking what demand follow-thru comes as an encore after reaching Lynn in the first place (hint: it's years of bus frequency/route expansion grunt work before even putting Blue-Salem out to study). Follow that story to its next logical chapter. It's going to lead to another tale of bus terminal feeders and densification of frequencies...not branching and frequency dilution.
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