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Thread: Vale Carlingford Line 1888-2020

  1. #1
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    Unhappy Vale Carlingford Line 1888-2020

    Today, Sat Jan 4th 2020, is the last day of operation for this little known line in Sydney's north west. The line runs from Clyde, the junction with the main western commuter line, up "the hill" to Carlingford, a distance of just over 7kms to the north with 7 stations. It was my local line with my residence a short walk from the second last station, Telopea. However in recent years I seldom used it for the reasons described below. From 2023 the line will become part of the Parramatta Light Rail (or tramway) running between Carlingford and Westmead via Parramatta.

    When originally opened it was a rural line carrying produce from the many market gardens in the area to the Sydney markets. It also served the Rosehill Racecourse, the first station after Clyde, and that section of the line will be retained. Plans to extend the line further north from Carlingford never eventuated. It continued in this rural role, with some passenger services, until the 1950s when the market gardens started to disappear and were replaced with housing developments as Sydneys suburban boundaries spread further outwards. Some industrial freight and produce services continued to run until the 1980s.

    It was the last Sydney line to run steam passenger services and was using kerosene powered signal lights until 1992.

    From the 1990s onwards the housing developments started to be replaced by high rise apartment blocks, particularly at Carlingford and to a lesser extent at other stations. While this should have been a boost to passenger numbers, the line had some serious drawbacks as a viable commuter service. Its steep grades, the steepest in the Sydney commuter network, meant that many of the types of commuter trains used in Sydney could not operate on the line. The fact that it was a single line with no passing loops for nearly all of its 7km length severly restricted its running timetable - theoretically two trains an hour were possible but more realistically one train ran every 45-50 minutes which made memorising the timetable impossible. Finally, apart from the junction station at Clyde, all its platforms were short and were only able to accomodate trains of up to 4 cars in length. During all of its history, passenger services consisted of a shuttle train running between Carlingford and Clyde where passengers had to change for other commuter destinations.

    The demographics of the area have also changed. Most locals now travel to and from the commercial, education and retail centre at nearby Parramatta which has a far better commuter service, so they abandoned the line in favour of their cars or the many direct bus connections that are available. Changing trains at Clyde and the infrequent services meant that the line was not an attractive option. As a result, it had the lowest passenger patronage figures of any Sydney commuter line. Hence the decision to build a new light rail connection to Carlingford that would better serve the commuters needs and save a lot of money by using most of the existing heavy rail corridor.

    From tomorrow the Carlingford Line will be replaced by an all stations bus service between Carlingford and Parramatta (except Clyde). The off-peak bus timetable gives commuters a service every 15-20 minutes and a peak hour service every 6 minutes - times that the train service could never match. This will continue until 2023 when the new light rail service opens - but the Government's record of delivering light rail lines on time and within budget is woeful, to say the least.



    Millennium Set M30 waits at Clyde station for the next shuttle service to Carlingford on the last day of operations for that line.


    At Carlingford, more people and well wishers were on the platform than at most other times in its history. The final run will be at 01:15 the following morning.

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  2. #2
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    Such a shame, I always hate hearing about closers and abandonments. At least this line will see service again eventually!
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    I agree it's sad to see closures, but at least this line will retain rails in one form or another over here we're not so lucky. In the late 1970's Boston's commuter lines were being trimmed back due to cost-cutting moves. In 1980 the Lexington Branch, which ran from Cambridge up to Bedford was lopped off and turned to a bicycle path. The "T" had plans to turn this busy line into a light rail line that brought passengers to the Alweife station where they could switch over to either the commuter rail, or over to the MBTA Red line subway through Harvard Square into Boston. The locals in Arlington came out in big crowds with the NIMBYs speaking loudly against the service because they didn't want the riffraff coming in from the ghettos. Seriously as if the people couldn't walk there. So after the big fight, the rails were ripped up unceremoniously. An old DMU (B&M Buddliner) was stuff parked up at Bedford in front of the depot, now an ice cream parlor, and the rest of the ROW paved over.

    The biggest proponents for the service was the newly privatized Hanscom Field, which is also a small air force base. There are commuter planes flying in and out of the airport there along with military planes. There's also a huge number of industrial parks (industrial estates) with hundreds of commuters commuting to the area as well as those commuting to Boston. Today the traffic truly sucks, to put it mildly, and yes there are regrets for not turning the line into a light rail line in the first place.
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    Yes, what seemed to be the best solution at the time is often regretted much later. Sydney into the 1950s had one of the largest and most extensive tram networks in the world. By early 1961 it was all gone - ripped up and replaced by buses or by cars.

    Just a few weeks ago trams returned to the city centre - at a cost of nearly $AU3 billion - $AU1 billion over budget and 12 months behind schedule ... and that does not include the additional costs from the upcoming litigation from angry (and often bankrupted) storekeepers due to the extended disruption; residents from the endless construction noise; and the contractor for the poor planning by the Transport Department.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pware View Post
    Yes, what seemed to be the best solution at the time is often regretted much later. Sydney into the 1950s had one of the largest and most extensive tram networks in the world. By early 1961 it was all gone - ripped up and replaced by buses or by cars.

    Just a few weeks ago trams returned to the city centre - at a cost of nearly $AU3 billion - $AU1 billion over budget and 12 months behind schedule ... and that does not include the additional costs from the upcoming litigation from angry (and often bankrupted) storekeepers due to the extended disruption; residents from the endless construction noise; and the contractor for the poor planning by the Transport Department.
    The same in my area. The "T" is restoring two lines into Somerville Union Square, and one to Medford Square. Both had extensive service until the late 1950's when it was replaced by buses. In the 1960's I remember seeing the tracks still in the street in Somerville along Cambridge Street and Broadway, and the old trolley barn on Cambridge still had tracks and wires up. Where a big shopping plaza and bus yard exists today, used to be the tram car barn and yard for the Medford Square. The station still exists because it's architecturally significant and a listed historical site, but there are no other signs that the tracks used to be there.

    The new lines being built, at a much greater expense, something like $100 million right now but that will soar to the $100's of millions when completed after the contractors get their hands on it. The delays that have occurred so far have put the project behind 2 years minimum, and knowing how things go, the project will drag on for at least 5 years or more with much, much higher costs than have already occurred.

    The kicker here is the new lines don't even go close to the original routes and instead follow the MBTA commuter lines instead. These lines are the former Boston and Maine RR's original Boston and Lowell (ca. 1835), and Fitchburg RR (ca. 1842) mainlines, and the stations will be there in name only.
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    The scene at Telopea on the former Carlingford Heavy Rail Line, and soon to be Parramatta Light Rail Line, almost 18 months after the last train ran.



    The track base has been prepared and the guides for the rails are being installed.To the right it looks like a walking (and cycling?) pathway has been added. The road bridge on which I am standing has had an extra passage pushed through the embankment to add the additional pathway. Fortunately, when the bridge was originally built it was made wide enough for two tracks.

    This scene is typical of the works all along the route. At the western end tracks are being laid through the Parramatta CBD, much to the annoyance of road users, pedestrians and local businesses.

    One controversy has arisen over the purchase of land for the tram depot. The Government bought it from a developer at 3 to 4 times what the developer had paid for it a few years previously and about 5 times what it was actually worth. The developer was speculating, correctly, that the land would be needed for the light rail. To make matters worse, the land was a former asbestos factory so the Government will have to pay an extra $100 million to have it cleaned up, on top of the $58 million purchase price.
    Last edited by pware; May 24th, 2021 at 06:26 PM. Reason: correction
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCitron View Post
    The "T" is restoring two lines into Somerville Union Square, and one to Medford Square.

    The kicker here is the new lines don't even go close to the original routes and instead follow the MBTA commuter lines instead. These lines are the former Boston and Maine RR's original Boston and Lowell (ca. 1835), and Fitchburg RR (ca. 1842) mainlines, and the stations will be there in name only.
    I very recently saw a YouTube video on the Green Line Extensions to Union Square and Medford. It was mostly shot by drone so you got a good view of the line and surrounding area. It looks like the two lines will rely heavily on developers putting in housing apartment blocks because there doesn't seem to be much population density there already to support the line apart from the University campus at Medford. The video noted that plans to extend the line further had been scrapped.
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    Four months later, track laid and power poles in place but not yet wired. At the end of the line (about 1.5km further up the track) the two lines join to a single track to pass under the last road bridge to the terminus at the former Carlingford Railway Station. The 12km Light Rail line, from Westmead Railway Station to Carlingford, is expected to open in 2023.

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  9. #9

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    Pardon if it's a silly question, but as I'm not familiar with this line, is there any reason why the original line could not be double tracked or have passing loops added when there's apparently enough space now for two light rail tracks and a ped/bike lane? Granted, light rail loading gauge (and hence track spacing) is smaller, but there still seems to be a decent amount of green buffer along this corridor to squeeze double track/loops in. In fact this is very common in many Japanese cities on short branchlines where trains still run almost as frequently as a double track line and are precisely timed to pass each other at stations/loops.

    Seems to me like it would have been a much more economical option than ripping everything up and building a whole new light rail system (land and depot issues described just one example of such).

  10. #10
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    Good questions.

    There was a plan in the 1980s/90s to use the line as part of a major new rail corridor between two of the larger commercial and retail centres of Sydney but this was more political "vaporware" than reality.

    The major problem (just one of several) with the original line was that its route (north-south to a minor junction on the main east-west commuter line) did not match the passenger demand (mostly east-west to the major retail, education and commercial centre at Parramatta) with the result that most passengers (myself included) preferred to take the more direct bus services. In my case to travel from home, which is very close to one of the stations, to work in Parramatta would involve a choice between using three trains (about 1 hr travel time) or a single bus (10-15 minutes) with the bus stop right next to the station - a "no-brainer". Once, during a transport strike, I actually walked to and from work in Parramatta - it was about 10 minutes quicker than the train trip.

    The light rail route does follow the north-south orientation of the original line until near the southern end where it takes a right turn and runs about 2kms straight into the Parramatta CBD. If it had existed while I was working there I would have used it.

    Most of the original line right of way did have provision for double tracking. During the 1990s the single track rail bridge across a major river was replaced (it was at the end of its life) with a new bridge that had sufficient space for two tracks - the line was closed for 6 months for the conversion work. One road bridge, from where the photo was taken, was converted to double track spacing years before that. One of two major road level (grade) crossings was also converted to a road bridge. The remaining crossing has been bypassed by the light rail route. However the economics of the line, it had the lowest passenger numbers of any commuter line in Sydney, were against duplication.

    For the light rail conversion a rail bridge over a major road has been converted to double track. But a road bridge carrying a major Sydney arterial road over the original single track, has not been converted to double track but it is only 100m or so short of the line terminus.

    The light rail project is Stage 1 of a much larger project. Stage 2, an extension from Parramatta to a major sporting and entertainment district,will continue on in a straight line from where the new light rail turns left to run up the old heavy rail corridor to Carlingford. This second stage has been "off and on and off again" for several years now but the state government has finally committed to building the line. The depot is being built near the junction of the two lines.

    While I was sorry to see the old heavy rail go, I do look forward to seeing its replacement. Unfortunately I have since moved to another suburb which is near a heavy rail line with a very good commuter service so I won't be using the new light rail except for special "nostalgia" trips from time to time.
    Last edited by pware; September 7th, 2021 at 09:38 PM. Reason: errata
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  11. #11

    Talking

    Since everyone else is debating, discussing what did work, and now they are trying to replace it, I would like to contribute my side of the California Story, and let you be the judge......I also wont tell you how I waited 45-90 minutes in parts of the Los Angeles area as a Young Adult on Sundays to travel to places I needed to go. I was too poor to own a car at that time......! Oh do I remember a few times, just saying forget it, and I'll walk some miles.....Believe or not, I did beat the bus........

    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/12/cali...n-trouble.html

    California’s $77 billion ‘bullet train to nowhere’ faces a murky future as political opposition ramps up


    https://kevinmccarthy.house.gov/medi...oondoggle-that

    The Never Ending Project: CA High-Speed Rail and the Boondoggle that Couldn't

    https://www.city-journal.org/high-co...igh-speed-rail
    The Low Spark of High-Speed Rail


    We took the Buses and Cars in place of this:

    https://www.google.com/search?client...ed+car+railway

    The Pacific Electric Railway Company, nicknamed the Red Cars, was a privately owned mass transit system in Southern California consisting of electrically powered streetcars, interurban cars, and buses and was the largest electric railway system in the world in the 1920s. Organized around the city centers of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, it connected cities in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County and Riverside County.

    What happened to the red car?




    The LAMTA scrapped the last Red Car in 1961, which was followed to the transit graveyard by the Yellow Car in 1963. Even a Los Angeles transportation official declared, “The rail passenger operations of Pacific Electric became obsolete, and economically there was no justification for their perpetuation.

  12. #12
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    Yes, I have been watching some of the YouTube rail channels with their stories of the CA High Speed Rail project that appears to be going nowhere but it is "doing it at a high speed".

    I suspect that the USA is far too wedded to the automobile to switch back to rail transport in any meaningful way. Perhaps a major shock, such as climate change or fossil fuel prices skyrocketing, may be required to change that mindset.

    Here in Aus, our major problem is that the large population centres are much further apart than they are in Europe, Japan or China where high speed rail is a viable alternative to road and even air travel. A line joining the three largest cities, all on the east coast, would cover about a dozen similar sized cities in Europe and Japan. It is probably the same in parts of the USA.

    High speed rail between cities seems to become an attractive option to travellers when

    • it can run city centre to city centre (unlike the line that is being built in Florida)
    • is seen as faster than air travel when you take out the endless delays waiting at airport terminals, luggage checkins, circling in holding patterns plus getting to the airport and finding a park!
    • it can offer frequent and convenient services
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    Quote Originally Posted by pware View Post
    Yes, I have been watching some of the YouTube rail channels with their stories of the CA High Speed Rail project that appears to be going nowhere but it is "doing it at a high speed".

    I suspect that the USA is far too wedded to the automobile to switch back to rail transport in any meaningful way. Perhaps a major shock, such as climate change or fossil fuel prices skyrocketing, may be required to change that mindset.

    Here in Aus, our major problem is that the large population centres are much further apart than they are in Europe, Japan or China where high speed rail is a viable alternative to road and even air travel. A line joining the three largest cities, all on the east coast, would cover about a dozen similar sized cities in Europe and Japan. It is probably the same in parts of the USA.

    High speed rail between cities seems to become an attractive option to travellers when

    • it can run city centre to city centre (unlike the line that is being built in Florida)
    • is seen as faster than air travel when you take out the endless delays waiting at airport terminals, luggage checkins, circling in holding patterns plus getting to the airport and finding a park!
    • it can offer frequent and convenient services
    It's not much different up here. Outside of California, the Northeast Corridor (Bangor to Washington, DC), Florida, and Chicago to Dallas, TX there's not much else here either. West of Chicago, it's wheat and cattle and the Rockies in between there and California. East of Chicago, it's corn, and the Appalachian Mountains with pockets of decaying industrial cities before we reach the coast.

    In the golden age of railroads, the companies spent millions, well trillions in today's money, to build the network which we let decay. Today, we regret it, but I think sadly it's too little and too late.
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