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The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is an electrified railway line with overhead wires running from Washington, DC to Boston, Massachusetts, passing through Baltimore, Maryland, Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Newark, New Jersey, New York, New York, New Haven, Connecticut and Providence, Rhode Island. Currently operated and mostly owned by Amtrak, the NEC offers the only true high-speed rail service in the United States (the Acela Express). Several commuter rail agencies, including MARC, SEPTA, NJ Transit, Metro-North, Shore Line East and MBTA, also provide local service along the Northeast Corridor.
The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is most notably defined today by its railway electrification system and its primary mission of facilitating passenger rail service. Many portions of today's NEC were first created as portions of small independent railroad lines, much in the same manner as the growth of railroads throughout North America occurred. By the early 20th century, what is now the NEC was controlled and developed primarily by two large railroads, the New Haven, and the Pennsylvania.
New York Terminal electrification projects
The significant electrification projects of the steam railroads in the area which is now the NEC began with the major terminals in the busy New York City area. The Grand Central Terminal project of the New York Central Railroad (NYC) was the earlier, followed by Pennsylvania Station of its arch rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both terminal electrification projects were very successful. Soon, expansions of electrified territory spread outward from these major projects.
NEC northern section: New York to Boston
The expansion of New York Central's electrified territory went north and west up the Hudson River Valley, an area which is still served by electrification in modern times, but is not part of today's NEC. However, Grand Central Terminal was also served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (more often called simply the "New Haven").
The northern section of today's NEC was built by the New Haven to connect Grand Central Terminal in New York to Boston, Massachusetts. The entire main line from New York City to New Haven, Connecticut was being put under catenary by 1914. An electrification of the portion north of New Haven to Providence, Rhode Island and Boston, Massachusetts was also planned, but financial problems delayed the work for over 75 years, until modern times.
NEC southern section: New York to Washington DC
The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR, often called simply "the Pennsy"), undertook a major electrification project beginning in 1928 to connect New York to Philadelphia. By 1931, the decision had been made to extend the electrification south to Washington, D.C.. The installation of the catenary and wires was completed all the way to Union Station in Washington D.C. in 1935, forming the southern section of today's NEC.
Penn Central and Amtrak: forming the NEC
The northern and southern sections were essentially joined at New York by the line of the New York Connecting Railroad through Queens and across the Hell Gate Bridge. They were operated almost entirely independently of each other until the merger of the PRR and the New Haven into Penn Central Transportation in 1968 and 1969 respectively, and the establishment of Amtrak in 1971.
Amtrak assumed ownership of most of the Northeast Corridor, which accounts for much of its ridership, from the bankrupt Penn Central in 1976. Amtrak's New York City passenger operations were moved from Grand Central Terminal and consolidated at Pennsylvania Station, which it owns.
Preparing for Acela Express
In preparation for the new higher-speed Acela Express trains, Amtrak substantially upgraded the portion of the Northeast Corridor north of New York Penn Station in the early 1990s. Grade crossings were eliminated, some bridges were rebuilt, and curves were modified. Beginning in 1996, the electrification was extended north along the 157-mile (253 km) section of track between New Haven, Connecticut and Boston, Massachusetts.
Predecessor NEC railroads
For a more detailed history of the Northeast Corridor, and the earlier railroads operating along it, see the following articles:
- Boston and Providence Railroad - Boston, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island
- New York, Providence and Boston Railroad - Providence, Rhode Island to Stonington, Connecticut
- New Haven, New London and Stonington Railroad - Stonington, Connecticut to New Haven, Connecticut
- New York and New Haven Railroad - New Haven, Connecticut to New Rochelle, New York
- Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad - New Rochelle, New York to Port Morris, New York
- New York Connecting Railroad - Port Morris, New York to Sunnyside Yard, New York
- Pennsylvania Tunnel and Terminal Railroad - Sunnyside Yard, New York to Kearny Junction, New Jersey
- United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company - Kearny Junction, New Jersey to Trenton, New Jersey
- Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad - Trenton, New Jersey to Frankford Junction, Pennsylvania
- Connecting Railway - Frankford Junction, Pennsylvania to Zoo Tower, Pennsylvania
- Junction Railroad - Zoo Tower, Pennsylvania to Grays Ferry, Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad - Grays Ferry, Pennsylvania to Baltimore, Maryland
- Baltimore and Potomac Railroad - Baltimore, Maryland to Washington, D.C.
With primarily passenger services, the Northeast Corridor is a cooperative venture between Amtrak and various state agencies. Amtrak currently owns the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and New Rochelle, New York. The segment of the NEC between New Rochelle, New York and New Haven, Connecticut is owned by the Metro North Railroad. Amtrak also owns the section between New Haven, Connecticut and the Rhode Island-Massachusetts state line. However, the final northern segment (in Massachusetts) is owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Current Amtrak Service
As of mid-December 2004, 55 round-trip Amtrak trains use the busiest part of the Corridor, between New York and Philadelphia, every weekday, with an extra one on Wednesday and Friday (Cardinal). 349 round trips use this part per week.
The following Amtrak lines run along the Northeast Corridor:
- Acela Express - Boston South Station to Washington Union Station (high-speed rail)
- Cardinal - New York Penn Station to Washington Union Station, continuing to Chicago, Illinois
- Carolinian - New York Penn Station to Washington Union Station, continuing to Charlotte, North Carolina
- Clocker - New York Penn Station to Philadelphia 30th Street Station
- Crescent - New York Penn Station to Washington Union Station, continuing to New Orleans, Louisiana
- Keystone - New York Penn Station to Philadelphia 30th Street Station, continuing to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Lake Shore Limited - Boston South Station to Boston Back Bay Station, continuing to Chicago, Illinois
- Metroliner - New York Penn Station to Washington Union Station
- Palmetto - New York Penn Station to Washington Union Station, continuing to Savannah, Georgia
- Regional - Boston South Station to Washington Union Station, continuing to Newport News, Virginia and with a branch to Springfield, Massachusetts (stops at every Amtrak station on the route)
- Silver Meteor - New York Penn Station to Washington Union Station, continuing to Miami, Florida
- Silver Star - New York Penn Station to Washington Union Station, continuing to Miami, Florida
- Three Rivers - New York Penn Station to Philadelphia 30th Street Station, continuing to Chicago, Illinois
- Vermonter - Washington Union Station to New Haven Union Station, continuing to St. Albans, Vermont
Non-Amtrak Commuter Rail Services
In addition to Amtrak, several commuter rail agencies operate passenger service using the Northeast Corridor tracks. These are:
- MARC in Maryland
- SEPTA in Pennsylvania, Trenton, New Jersey and Delaware
- NJ Transit in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania
- Metro-North in New York, Connecticut
- Shore Line East in eastern Connecticut
- MBTA in Massachusetts
Many other bus and rail commuter services interchange passengers with Amtrak and these commuter agencies at stations along the Northeast Corridor.
Due to the high-speed nature of Acela Express service, which uses the whole line, grade crossings are highly discouraged, and most have been eliminated. The remaining ones use preventative measures such as four-quadrant gates, except in New London, Connecticut, whose three crossings are very close to the station.
The following 11 crossings remain, all in southeastern Connecticut:
- Stonington, Connecticut
- Palmer Street
- Freeman's Crossing
- Walker's Dock
- Wamphassuc Crossing
- MP 133.4 - Latimer Point Road
- Groton, Connecticut
- School Street (the first quad-gate installation in the United States, in summer 1998)
- New London, Connecticut
- Governor Winthrop Boulevard
- State Street
- Bank Street Connector
- Waterford, Connecticut
- Miner's Lane
- Amtrak lines: AE=Acela Express, CD=Cardinal, CK=Clocker, CL=Carolinian, CS=Crescent, KS=Keystone, LS=Lake Shore Limited, ML=Metroliner, PL=Palmetto, RG=Regional, SM=Silver Meteor, SS=Silver Star, TR=Three Rivers, VT=Vermonter (note that not all trains of that designation necessarily stop at all marked stations)
- MARC: Served by MARC Penn Line trains.
- MBTA: Served by MBTA Attleboro-Stoughton Line trains.
- MTA: Served by MTA Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line trains.
- NJT: Served by New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line trains.
- SEPTA: Served by SEPTA Regional Rail R7 and R2 trains.
- SLE: Served by Connecticut Shore Line East trains.
|MA||Boston||South Station||AE RG LS||MBTA||MBTA Red Line, commuter rail to Plymouth, Middleborough|
|Back Bay Station||AE RG LS||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line, commuter rail to Worcester|
|226||Ruggles||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line|
|Route 128||AE RG||MBTA|
|214||Canton||Canton Junction||MBTA||MBTA commuter rail to Stoughton|
|Warwick||T. F. Green Airport||MBTA||not yet open|
|New London||New London||AE RG||SLE|
|Old Saybrook||Old Saybrook||RG||SLE|
|New Haven||State Street Station||MTA||SLE|
|Union Station||AE RG VT||MTA||SLE||Amtrak to Hartford and Springfield|
|Stratford||Stratford||MTA||Metro-North to Waterbury|
|South Norwalk||MTA||Metro-North to Danbury|
|Stamford||Stamford||AE RG VT||MTA||SLE||Metro-North to New Canaan|
|New Rochelle||RG||MTA||Metro-North to Grand Central|
|0||New York City||Penn Station||AE CD CK CL CS KS ML PL RG SM SS TR VT||NJT||Long Island Rail Road, NYCT A, C, E, 1, 2, 3, 9, Amtrak trains to Albany, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago|
|NJ||5||Secaucus||Secaucus Junction||NJT||NJT to Hoboken and northern New Jersey|
|Kearny||Kearny Junction||NJT joins from Hoboken Terminal|
|8.5||Newark||Penn Station||AE CD CK CL CS KS ML PL RG SM SS TR VT||NJT||Newark City Subway, PATH|
|10.5||CP Hunter||NJT Raritan Valley Line splits to High Bridge|
|Newark Airport||CK KS RG||NJT||AirTrain|
|20||Perth Amboy Junction||NJT North Jersey Coast Line splits to Bay Head|
|Woodbridge||Metropark||AE CK CL KS ML RG VT||NJT|
|31.5||New Brunswick||New Brunswick||CK KS RG||NJT|
|Jersey Avenue Station||NJT|
|47.4||West Windsor||Princeton Junction||CK KS ML RG||NJT||NJT Princeton Branch to Princeton|
|57.1||Trenton||Trenton||AE CD CK CL CS KS ML RG SM SS TR VT||SEPTA||NJT|
|72.5||Cornwells Heights||CK KS RG||SEPTA|
|85.1||North Philadelphia||CK KS RG||SEPTA|
|1.5||30th Street Station||AE CD CK CL CS KS ML PL RG SM SS TR VT||SEPTA||NJ Transit to Atlantic City, Market-Frankford Line, SEPTA to Philadelphia suburbs, Amtrak trains to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Chicago|
|University City||SEPTA||SEPTA to Philadelphia International Airport|
|6.5||Sharon Hill||Curtis Park||SEPTA|
|9.7||Prospect Park||Prospect Park||SEPTA|
|10.4||Ridley Park||Ridley Park||SEPTA|
|13.4||Chester||Chester Transportation Center||SEPTA|
|15.5||Highland Avenue Station||SEPTA|
|16.7||Marcus Hook||Marcus Hook||SEPTA|
|26.8||Wilmington||AE CD CL CS ML PL RG SM SS VT||SEPTA|
|95.7||Baltimore||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS ML PL RG SM SS VT||MARC||Maryland Transit Administration light rail|
|107.7||BWI Rail Station||AE CD CL ML RG VT||MARC||Maryland Transit Administration light rail|
|126.1||New Carrollton||RG VT||MARC||WMATA Orange Line|
|0.0||Union Station||AE CD CL CS ML PL RG SM SS VT||MARC||VRE commuter rail, WMATA Red Line, Amtrak trains to Virginia, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami|
See Silver Service/Palmetto for continuation south
- Middleton, William D. (1974) When The Steam Railroads Electrified (1st ed.). Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing Co. ISBN 0-89024-028-0
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