The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 6th, 2013

augmented party

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Today’s post shows you how to wash a dirty locomotive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hanging about and walking around Queens with a friend one afternoon, our path carried us up Skillman Avenue and past the gargantuan Sunnyside Yards. Luckily, something I’ve been trying to catch as it happens began to happen when Amtrak 934 sauntered into view.

from wikipedia

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed construction of the yard in 1910. At that time Sunnyside was the largest coach yard in the world, occupying 192 acres (0.78 km2) and containing 25.7 mi (41.4 km) of track. The yard served as the main train storage and service point for PRR trains serving New York City. It is connected to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan by the East River Tunnels. The Sunnyside North Yard initially had 45 tracks with a capacity of 526 cars. The South Yard had 45 tracks with a 552 car capacity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that there is an entire industrial sector for whom the manufacture and maintenance of “train washes” is a focal point. It also seems to be the case that having a shiny clean locomotive pays a dividend in terms of aerodynamic drag and that the cleaner your train is, the more efficiently it runs.

from wikipedia

The AEM-7 is a twin-cab B-B electric locomotive that is used in the United States on the Northeast Corridor between Washington DC and Boston and the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania. They were built by Electro-Motive Division from 1978 to 1988. In the Boston Mechanical Department of Amtrak they are known as “Meatballs” and in the Washington Mechanical Department they are known as ASEAs since some of their major parts and components were designed in Sweden by ASEA (Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget; translation: General Swedish Electrical Inc), which merged with Brown Boveri in 1988 forming ABB. They are also referred to as “toasters” by railfans, owing to their boxy appearance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is informed by railfans that once upon a time, this was a tedious task accomplished by a sizable crew of laborers, who used pole mounted brushes to clean away the grime. The “modern” system (the unit pictured is somewhat archaic by 2013 standards) is far more efficient and highly automated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fundamentally, its the same thing that happens when you wash your car, except for scale. The train rolls past water jets and a system of rotary brushes which chip away the patina of dead insects and grime which the train picks up during normal operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This train wash is nothing new, of course, and has been on my radar for awhile. Were my methodology the same that is employed by most, I would have just lingered around this spot until I got my shots, but that’s not how your humble narrator rolls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Instead, if its not happening while I’m passing by, it might not have happened at all for all I care. You can’t force Queens into revealing herself to you, instead, you must trust in serendipity and that she will position you in the right place and at the right time.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

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