Amtrak’s Confusing Coincidence or Numerical Harmony?

I phoned Julie—Amtrak’s automated agent, as you do when you’d like to know if a train is running on time. Amtrak 448, the Lake Shore Limited was a little more than an hour late leaving Springfield.

Dennis LeBeau, Wolfie the dog, and I waited at the bridge in East Brookfield, Massachusetts east of CP64. I said, “448 left Springfield 40 minutes ago. It’s about 25 minutes to Palmer, so it ought to be between Warren and Brookfield by now. We should be seeing a headlight in a couple of minutes.

Brookfield is milepost 66 on the old Boston & Albany. There hasn’t been a station there in my lifetime. East Brookfield is at the east end of long tangent, which provides lots of warning for eastward trains.

Dennis looked west, “There’s your headlight, just like you said.”

I wandered back and forth on the bridge trying to find the most suitable angle. Ultimately I settled on this spot to the north of the mainline. All things being equal, I wish I’d brought my Fuji X-T1; this would have made a nice 135mm view to bring in the green trees and track-ladder in the distance.

Exposed with my Lumix LX7 at f1.7 1/800th of a second, ISO 200 at 7:16pm on May 20, 2015.
Exposed with my Lumix LX7 at f1.7 1/800th of a second, ISO 200 at 7:16pm on May 20, 2015.

Engine 48 was leading train 448 at CP 64. Got all that? Great! Too often, I have to explain the fundamental difference between an engine number and train number.

To the uninitiated this seems like a trivial difference. But to those in railroad operations it could be life or death.

Really it’s a question of hardware versus software. The locomotive is the hardware, the train is a service. Today engine 48 leads 448, but tomorrow it will lead another train with another number. On the timetable, everyday train 48 and train 448 are combined as one between Chicago and Albany. And there’s the confusing coincidence. Train 48 and locomotive 48 are different; one being a service, and the other an engine.

Nice light on engine 48, no?

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