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UA Turbotrain-Metroliner vs. ACela

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UA Turbotrain-Metroliner vs. ACela
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, November 14, 2016 10:06 AM

When the NYNH&H was forced into PC, the Boston - NY service ran almost entirely out of Penn instead of GCT, with nearly all Boston trains being through runs to and from Washington.  The Turbotrqin was an exception, and it stayed at GCT ,a time.

Did it move over to Penn before or after 1 May 1971 and Amtrak?

When it moved over, initially each train usually made one round trip daily giving two services each way.  One each way made an across-the-platform Metroliner connection. I think the oberall time Boston - Washington was similar to today's Acelas.  Cen womeone come up with an exact comparison?

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Posted by aegrotatio on Thursday, November 17, 2016 9:12 PM

I thought the original UAC TurboTrains never used Penn Station for regular runs. The Turboliners used both stations by using repurposed Metroliner traction motors.  I know the older UAC TurboTrains had third rail shoes for operating into Grand Central Terminal because they were turbo-electric (unlike the newer Turboliners which were mechanical as you know), but I don't know how often they went south except for excursions and the famous TurboTrain vs. Metroliner contest in New Jersey.

 

There had been widely successful operation for over two decades in New York service of the newer Amtrak Turboliners, but I always thought the older UAC TurboTrains were mostly used north of New York on the New Haven and later for New York trips on the Hudson line while Amtrak still operated out of Grand Central Terminal.

 

When the Empire Connection and its electrified tunnel to NYP was put into service so Amtrak could leave Grand Central Terminal, New York was so excited by the newer Turbotrains that they helped fund the RTL-III refurbishment which was around 70% completed when both Amtrak and New York DOT agreed to toilet their $150M pile of money. Big shame.

 

Not just the over-running vs. under-running third rail, the voltages were different on Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal's electrical systems.  The older TurboTrains were only specified for the New York Central under-running system at a different voltage.

 

 

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Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Thursday, November 17, 2016 10:37 PM

The UAC TurboTrain was turbine-mechanical -- it used adapted helicopter "free turbines" where the power turbine rotated on a separate shaft from the turbine driving the compressor.  This arrangement has a torque-converter effect in producing some degree of "torque multiplication" at "stall", i.e., the train starting out.  The elevated stall torque of the free turbine contrasts with Diesels and gasoline engines that just quit when you stall them.

But the free turbine with direct mechanical drive is perhaps a "poor man's" torque converter, the UAC TurboTrain had perhaps lackluster acceleration, and the Turboliners had the turbine driving a hydraulic torque converter transmission as on the Diesel-hydraulics, which ranged from the RDC up to the 4000 HP Kraus Maffei Diesels.

As far as I know, the New Haven/Penn Central/Amtrak UAC TurboTrain had supplementary traction motors to enter Grand Central Terminal.  Each TurboTrain Power Dome Car had, I believe, four bays, each of which could house a turbine, which in turn were connected through a system of shafts and "splitter boxes" (like automotive differentials or 4wd transfer cases) driving the power truck.  Not all bays were used and not all housed a traction turbine -- at least one bay on the train was for head-end power.  But the whole thing was meant to be modular, and there must have been a place in the drive train where they stuck a small traction motor for the low-speed entry to Grand Central.

So what was the deal with the RTL-III refurbishment that went nowhere?  Did Amtrak throw a fit and they didn't want to operate and maintain them?  Why?  What's the story on that?

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?

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Posted by Deggesty on Friday, November 18, 2016 7:39 AM

Paul Milenkovic

The UAC TurboTrain was turbine-mechanical -- it used adapted helicopter "free turbines" where the power turbine rotated on a separate shaft from the turbine driving the compressor.  This arrangement has a torque-converter effect in producing some degree of "torque multiplication" at "stall", i.e., the train starting out.  The elevated stall torque of the free turbine contrasts with Diesels and gasoline engines that just quit when you stall them.

But the free turbine with direct mechanical drive is perhaps a "poor man's" torque converter, the UAC TurboTrain had perhaps lackluster acceleration, and the Turboliners had the turbine driving a hydraulic torque converter transmission as on the Diesel-hydraulics, which ranged from the RDC up to the 4000 HP Kraus Maffei Diesels.

As far as I know, the New Haven/Penn Central/Amtrak UAC TurboTrain had supplementary traction motors to enter Grand Central Terminal.  Each TurboTrain Power Dome Car had, I believe, four bays, each of which could house a turbine, which in turn were connected through a system of shafts and "splitter boxes" (like automotive differentials or 4wd transfer cases) driving the power truck.  Not all bays were used and not all housed a traction turbine -- at least one bay on the train was for head-end power.  But the whole thing was meant to be modular, and there must have been a place in the drive train where they stuck a small traction motor for the low-speed entry to Grand Central.

So what was the deal with the RTL-III refurbishment that went nowhere?  Did Amtrak throw a fit and they didn't want to operate and maintain them?  Why?  What's the story on that?

 

Yes, Paul, the UAC Turbotrains had traction motors for use with third rail--and the shoes could, as I recall, be used with either overrunning or underrunning third rail.

I took one ride on a Turbotrain, from Back Bay in Boston to Grand Central Terminal in the fall of 1959. I do not recall any clear explanation as to why the schedule did not call for operation into/out of South Station.

Johnny

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Posted by Deggesty on Friday, November 18, 2016 7:41 AM

Deggesty

 

 
Paul Milenkovic

The UAC TurboTrain was turbine-mechanical -- it used adapted helicopter "free turbines" where the power turbine rotated on a separate shaft from the turbine driving the compressor.  This arrangement has a torque-converter effect in producing some degree of "torque multiplication" at "stall", i.e., the train starting out.  The elevated stall torque of the free turbine contrasts with Diesels and gasoline engines that just quit when you stall them.

But the free turbine with direct mechanical drive is perhaps a "poor man's" torque converter, the UAC TurboTrain had perhaps lackluster acceleration, and the Turboliners had the turbine driving a hydraulic torque converter transmission as on the Diesel-hydraulics, which ranged from the RDC up to the 4000 HP Kraus Maffei Diesels.

As far as I know, the New Haven/Penn Central/Amtrak UAC TurboTrain had supplementary traction motors to enter Grand Central Terminal.  Each TurboTrain Power Dome Car had, I believe, four bays, each of which could house a turbine, which in turn were connected through a system of shafts and "splitter boxes" (like automotive differentials or 4wd transfer cases) driving the power truck.  Not all bays were used and not all housed a traction turbine -- at least one bay on the train was for head-end power.  But the whole thing was meant to be modular, and there must have been a place in the drive train where they stuck a small traction motor for the low-speed entry to Grand Central.

So what was the deal with the RTL-III refurbishment that went nowhere?  Did Amtrak throw a fit and they didn't want to operate and maintain them?  Why?  What's the story on that?

 

 

 

Yes, Paul, the UAC Turbotrains had traction motors for use with third rail--and the shoes could, as I recall, be used with either overrunning or underrunning third rail.

 

I took one ride on a Turbotrain, from Back Bay in Boston to Grand Central Terminal in the fall of 1959. I do not recall any clear explanation as to why the schedule did not call for operation into/out of South Station.

 

Correction: in 1969, NOT 1959--I must not be fully awake yet.

Johnny

RME
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Posted by RME on Friday, November 18, 2016 10:31 AM

Paul Milenkovic
Each TurboTrain Power Dome Car had, I believe, four bays, each of which could house a turbine...

I thought it was 6.  (Plus the separate bay for the PT6 used for the APU).  Don't think any of them had 6 power turbines; I remember four in United States service.  (Someone familiar with the long Canadian consists might know if they 'uprated' to a higher number of turbines, but I'd suspect adhesion problems would greatly compromise the utility of the two extra turbines anywhere except in the very-high-speed operation the TurboTrain seldom (unfortunately!) saw in practice.

 

... which in turn were connected through a system of shafts and "splitter boxes" (like automotive differentials or 4wd transfer cases) driving the power truck ...  there must have been a place in the drive train where they stuck a small traction motor for the low-speed entry to Grand Central.

I find that the description and pictures that used to be provided by the Sikorski Archives are no longer easily accessible, but if I remember correctly the auxiliary motors were separate from the turbine shaft drive, and worked on different wheelsets.  (This is very different from the Turboliner setup, or the JetTrain, which couple the traction motor to the transmission and, at least in theory, could use it for augmented acceleration to common final drive as in some hybrid automobiles.)

[EDIT: the more I think about this, the more I think I'm wrong, probably thinking of the Baldwin RP-210 or something like it, as the Turbo only has one truck at each end suitable for motoring and those axles have to be shaft-driven.]

Here is an excerpt from a post on another forum about the issues with the PT6 as a rail powerplant:

The PT-6 adapted poorly to rail use and remember that every UA Turbo had multiple engines, up to I believe 9 in some configurations. Each engine was remarkably light - 400 lbs, and powerful (over 300 HP), but they fed into an awkward gearbox and drove the wheels mechanically. In aviation use, the PT-6 would maintain the output shaft at nearly constant RPM, but on the Turbo, it had to, by design, idle the engines with the output shaft at 0 rpm. And the constantly changing load was an issue, too. I bet heat cycling of the turbine sections is what did those motors in.

If you didn't start them exactly right (there was a three-step procedure), you could get the turboshaft equivalent of a hot start.  This was not a good thing for service longevity.

 

Interestingly enough, I remember some discussion about the third-rail shoes being, by the time Amtrak was running the service, compatible with both overrunning and underrunning third rail without adjustment, similar if not identical to the design used on the FL9s.  So there should have been no problem switching over from going via New Rochelle/Woodlawn to going by way of the Hell Gate Bridge to serve passengers in Manhattan.  Noel Weaver, however (who would know!) said the shoes weren't automatic, and that operating into Penn was always a misery.

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Posted by rcdrye on Friday, November 18, 2016 11:17 AM

UA turbos ran regularly into Penn Station for cross-platform transfers to Metroliners.  Here's a link to a photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/brooklynparrots/2234117802

The change from GCT to Penn took place sometime between August 1970 and April 1971, still under Penn Central.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Saturday, November 19, 2016 12:21 AM

Cancelled

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Posted by Paul3 on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:59 PM

Deggesty,
The reason for not going to South Station in the 1969-era was that the powers that be were making noises about abandoning South Station and only going as far as Back Bay.  It sped up the schedule to "Boston" by shaving 5 minutes off the carded time.  Hey, Back Bay is in Boston, right?  Heh.  Anyways, there were even ideas about cutting the NY trains back to Rt. 128 Station.  Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed.

It seems ridiculous, but recall that half of South Station was torn down in the 1970's and the rest was due for demolition until the preservation movement started.  Now it's a lot smaller, but just as grand as it used to be.  Today it is truly a station for a city to be proud of (and a heckuva lot cleaner than it was in the 1960's-1970's).

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, November 21, 2016 2:56 AM

In addition to the correction that yes, the UA Turbotrains did go into Penn with an across-the-platform connection to Metroliners to and from Washington (and at that time they did start and finish at South Station), another correcton is that yes, both LIRR and Metro-North use 600 volts dc, and so do the subways, PATH, and SIRT.  All are entirely compatible except for MN's underrunning third rail.

Both subway and PATH equipment have at times been tested for maximum speed on the LIRR, and the R32 stainless-steel subway cars made their debute in publicity trips from Grand Central Terminal to Mott Haven----   rode it!   Temporarily equipped with NYCentral 3rd-rail shoes.

Still asking how the Turbotrain-Metroliner combination compaired in time with today's Acela schedule.

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, November 21, 2016 8:02 AM

Paul3

Deggesty,
The reason for not going to South Station in the 1969-era was that the powers that be were making noises about abandoning South Station and only going as far as Back Bay.  It sped up the schedule to "Boston" by shaving 5 minutes off the carded time.  Hey, Back Bay is in Boston, right?  Heh.  Anyways, there were even ideas about cutting the NY trains back to Rt. 128 Station.  Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed.

It seems ridiculous, but recall that half of South Station was torn down in the 1970's and the rest was due for demolition until the preservation movement started.  Now it's a lot smaller, but just as grand as it used to be.  Today it is truly a station for a city to be proud of (and a heckuva lot cleaner than it was in the 1960's-1970's).

 

I wish that wiser heads had prevailed when it was decided that the Broad Street Station in Richmond and the Union Station in Jacksonville were abandoned for new stations out in the sticks. It is true that operation into and out of the current stations is simpler--but, to me, the traveling public is inconvenienced.

Johnny

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, November 21, 2016 8:10 AM

Broad Street Richmond with its loop was easy to use.  Jacksonville less so unless heading south to or coming from the FEC.

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Posted by RookzieRicky on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 10:42 PM

rcdrye

UA turbos ran regularly into Penn Station for cross-platform transfers to Metroliners.  Here's a link to a photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/brooklynparrots/2234117802

The change from GCT to Penn took place sometime between August 1970 and April 1971, still under Penn Central.

 

 

I realize that this is a Very-Very Old posted topic, but I stumbled across it while perusing search results.

I first rode the PC-USDOT UAC Turbos in June 1969 when it was new.  I would end up riding it close to a dozen or so times between then and August 1971.  As I recall, I only rode it once to NYPenn ─ August 1971 ─ shortly after the trainsets had been outshopped for additional intermediate cars, while also receiving the first of Amtrak paint schemes applied to those sets.

I feel pretty certain that the across-the-platform arrangement at NYPenn didn't begin until after June 1971, as that month I would ride the Turbo on a final round trip from Back Bay to GCT, with the trainsets still being in the PC USDOT livery and with 3 cars.  That trip remains very memorable because I took it from my home city Boston to GCT,where I then shuttled to NYPenn to take the F-train (at Herald Sq, 34th St) to Queens and the Q43 bus to my aunt's funeral one Friday.

The repainting must have happened shortly after June 1971, with the advent of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, and it was Amtrak's decision to reroute the Turbo to NYPenn to consolidate passenger ops for its NEC (Empire corridor trains would remain at GCT until around 1991).

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Posted by 243129 on Thursday, October 20, 2022 8:30 PM

daveklepper
Still asking how the Turbotrain-Metroliner combination compaired in time with today's Acela schedule.

Here is a excerpt from a letter I wrote ten years ago to the media as to how HSR was not feasible on the NEC.

Here is an example of where Amtrak is today. The New Haven had a freight train 1st Advanced BO-1, the "Jet", which guaranteed delivery from Boston to Chicago in 24 hours. Fifty three years later Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited takes almost 22 hours from Boston to Chicago.

The Merchants Limited circa 1963, with a ten minute switch from electric to diesel locomotive power at New Haven would cover the distance from New York to Boston in 3 hours and 55 minutes. The Acela Express with no stop at New Haven , in the same time slot and far from it's proposed goal of 3 hours, covers the distance in 3 hours and 40 minutes. 53 years have passed and countless millions (perhaps billions) spent in track improvements and wire installation and the resulting time cut from the schedule is five minutes! Is this considered progress?

I have seen the high speed trains come and go. The New Haven's two forays (while I was employed there) into HST's proved to be futile on the existing roadbed just as Amtrak's is today. Europe and Japan were bombed in to rubble in WW II and the Marshall Plan and SCAP rebuilt their infrastructures with an eye on the future. The railroads were built as straight as the geography allowed. The NEC infrastructure dates from the 1800's taking a circuitous route between industries.

 

Outdated Interstate system is responsible for passenger increase not Amtrak's business acumen.

 

Folks want good dependable transportation.

 

Amtrak can wrest the 500 mile and under market from airlines.

 

1969 Metroliner 2'30” NYP – WAS

 

2016Acela 2'45”

 

1963 Merchants Limited w/10 minute engine change @ NH 3'55” NY – BOS

 

2016 Acela w/ no stop or engine change @ NH 3'40” NYP - BOS

 

 

 

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Posted by 243129 on Thursday, October 20, 2022 8:34 PM

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Posted by northeaster on Friday, October 21, 2022 9:39 AM

243129, I used to write similar letters since I used to near commute between Boston and Stamford when I was in collage in the 1960's. IN Back Bay Station there are posters from the past showing the run of 45 miles Boston Providence in 45 minutes and that probably was steam power. The NYNH&H was a very innovative railroad despite its heritage ROW which was the amalgamation of numerous little town connecting railroads along a jagged coastline and its infrastructure was the best money (JP Morgan) could buy. Too many MBA's and too few experienced visionary railroaders running the massive Class I's.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, October 21, 2022 11:06 AM

In fairness, the 2:30 timing with Metroliners was a full express, no stops between Penn Station and Washington.  This was in the era of 'two hours and 59 civilized minutes' advertising (with that awesome 'whoosh' sound effect!)

It was also the era of that billboard, in the wilds of industrial Philadelphia somewhere east of 30th St., the only well-lighted thing anywhere in the area, which proclaimed "You'd be There by Now on the Air-Shuttle".

I never understood why some provision wasn't made to run the TurboTrain through the North River Tunnels on the existing third rail; it couldn't have been too difficult to figure out a shoe conversion or design something that would be both over- and underrunning.  The speed record for the train was made in the stretch between New Brunswick and Trenton, and it wouldn't have been too difficult to match Metroliner timings with a through Boston-Washington trainset...

Even if you had to pull the TurboTrain from New York to Newark with a pilot GG1, like the Aerotrain, I'd still have liked to see it... especially with the view from the PowerDomes.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, October 21, 2022 7:49 PM

northeaster
243129, I used to write similar letters since I used to near commute between Boston and Stamford when I was in collage in the 1960's. IN Back Bay Station there are posters from the past showing the run of 45 miles Boston Providence in 45 minutes and that probably was steam power. The NYNH&H was a very innovative railroad despite its heritage ROW which was the amalgamation of numerous little town connecting railroads along a jagged coastline and its infrastructure was the best money (JP Morgan) could buy. Too many MBA's and too few experienced visionary railroaders running the massive Class I's.

Then and now there were plenty of visonaries with the Class 1's - it is just that their visions were $$$$$$$, nothing more.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by 243129 on Saturday, October 22, 2022 8:31 AM

BaltACD
Then and now there were plenty of visonaries with the Class 1's - it is just that their visions were $$$$$$$, nothing more.

X2

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, October 22, 2022 9:54 AM

When I think of visionaries, Elon Musk comes to mind.  He has has some good ideas and some terrible ideas, but don't try to tell him why the terrible ideas are terrible.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul

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