locked First Street Tunnel Clearance

Curtis Brookshire

I believe the clearance issue came not from the tunnel per se, but the overhead cantenary in the terminal. The 11,000 volt AC overhead extends a short distance into the tunnels to allow electric units from the Northeast Corridor to cut off their train and run back towards the Ivy City engine terminal. An issue can arise from what type of radio antenna is on the cab roof and if it can come close enough to that wire to either make contact or cause an arc. CSX ran a Dash 9 through the tunnel around 2010 and it made contact with the overhead and caused a fire. Needless to say Amtrak was not happy, and I don't know if anyone was injured or the extent of damage to the unit.
A personal story:
Around 2007 (I'm not sure of the year, maybe one of you remember) there was an issue with the camp cars used by NS to house track gangs. Some members of Congress wanted to see one and NS sent it to Alexandria VA to be forwarded to Union Station. I was the Washington District RFE then. After a few days of the car laying around Van Dorn St. and no cooperation from CSX or Amtrak to take it to DC, I mentioned to our Chief Dispatcher that we should just do it ourselves as I believed NS still had rights into Union Station. The next day I got a call from the Chief saying, "You're going to get your wish. You'll go over tonight." Clearance Department selected a locomotive that would meet clearance through the First St. Tunnel. I believe it was a GP38-2. We had to go after 10 pm and were restricted to 10 MPH through the tunnel. (It is a l-o-n-g tunnel at 10 MPH). We picked up an Amtrak pilot from the station at King St and once we got to the lower level of the station turned everything over to a Washington Terminal crew who spotted the car and returned our power to go back to VA. I got to make several more trips with NS equipment to DC including the Veteran's unit, Fs with office cars and a SD60 rebuild the last night before I departed for a new assignment in NC. Never had any issues with clearance or overhead wires because Clearance Department always confirmed we were OK.

Curtis Brookshire
Pine Level, NC

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