Illinois Passenger Car Plant Closing

August 16, 2018

A passenger car manufacturing plant that was expected to build the next generation of rail cars has been closed by its owner and put up for sale.

Nippon Sharyo opened the plant eight years ago in Rochelle, Illinois, with the expectation that it would build 120-bilevel passenger cars to be used on Amtrak corridor routes in Illinois and California.

But when a prototype built at the plant failed to pass federal crashworthiness tests, the contract was given to Siemens in 2017.

The plant did, though build 160 Highliner cars for Metra, the Chicago commuter rail agency. The last of those cars was delivered in 2016.

At one time, the plant employed 800 workers but the payroll has been declining in recent year as car orders dried up.

Although Nippon Sharyo did not say when the plant would close, production has already ceased.

The only workers left handle administrative duties, field service, and maintenance services for customers.

The $371 million contract for the Amtrak route cars was awarded to Nippon Sharyo in September 2012 with delivery between the end of 2015 and early 2018.

In September 2015, the prototype car buckled during an 800,000-pound compression test.

Work on the cars halted and 98 workers were laid off. Nippon Sharyo has never publicly disclosed the reasons why the prototype car failed the compression test.

In a statement, the company said the complexity of the project prevented it from completing it.

“This result brought significant losses, which severely impaired our financial conditions to the extent that we can no longer build rail cars at the Rochelle factory,” the statement said.


Brightline Adds More Trains

August 16, 2018

There are more trains operating between Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida, Brightline has announced.

Following the completion of switch and signal work the service has expanded on weekdays from 11 to 16 round trips.

Following an existing 5:30 a.m. West Palm Beach departure, trains now leave every hour on the hour from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., except 1 p.m.

Going north, trains now leave Miami at 13 minutes past every hour from 7:13 a.m. to 11:13 p.m., missing only the 3:13 p.m. trip.

Weekend schedules remain unchanged at eight round trips Saturday and seven Sunday with every-other-hour service, but timings have been adjusted to conform with the weekday “memory” schedules at all three stations.

In an unrelated development, Brightline is reportedly eying three sites for a station in downtown Tampa should it get the green light to create a route from there to the Orlando International Airport

The sites are reported to be a former jail near an existing bus transit center, land adjacent to Tampa Union Station (served by Amtrak’s Silver Star stops), and an older 370-unit apartment complex whose owners might be willing to sell the property.

Union Pacific Track Work to Put Some Lincoln Service Passengers on Buses

August 13, 2018

Track work being performed by Union Pacific between Aug. 28 and 30 will affect some Lincoln Service trains.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Trains 301 and 303 will be cancelled with alternate transportation will be provided as outlined below:

Bus 3301 will operate limited service as Train 301 between Chicago and St. Louis to the missed stops at Chicago, Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Alton and St. Louis.

Bus 3303 will operate as Train 303 between Chicago and St. Louis to all missed stops including Chicago, Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Bus 5003 will operate as Train 303 between Chicago and St. Louis making limited stops at Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and Alton.

Trains 300 and 302 also will be cancelled with alternate transportation  provided as outlined below:

Bus 3300 will operate limited service between Springfield and Chicago as Train 300 making stops at Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Dwight, Joliet, Summit and Chicago.

Bus 5000 will operate as Train 300 between Springfield and Chicago making limited stops at Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Joliet.

Bus 3302 will operate between St. Louis and Chicago as Train 302 to all missed stops including Alton, Carlinville, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Dwight, Joliet and Summit.

Bus 5002 will operate will operate as Train 302 between St. Louis and Chicago making limited stops at Alton, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Joliet, only.

The buses will earlier than the respective trains they are replacing.

Track Work to Affect Keystone Service

August 13, 2018

Amtrak will make minor schedule changes in its Keystone Service route on Aug. 18 and 19.

Track work is prompting the schedule adjustments, which involve all trains all trains departing Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 10 minutes early and arriving in Downingtown, Pennsylvania,  five minutes earlier than originally scheduled.


Toys for Tots Train Cancellation Draws Congressional Ire

August 13, 2018

Amtrak’s decision to cancel a special move in support of a U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots charity drive has drawn the ire of three New York members of Congress.

The three has asked the passenger carrier to reconsider its decision, saying that the annual train helps to collect and distribute donated toys to families in need during the Christmas season.

The Congress members who made the plea to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson are Paul Tonko (D-New York), John Faso (R-NewYork) and Elise Stefanik (R-New York).

They asked Anderson to reconsider the guidelines that Amtrak cited in declining to run the Toys for Tots train this year.

“We are aware that Amtrak has established a new policy for the operation of charter trains and believe it has every right to do so,” the letter said. “However, ending this important holiday charter service will negatively affect the neediest in our communities and discontinue a positive charitable action that has brought great recognition to Amtrak’s reputation in the eyes of many.

“This holiday season would mark the 20th year of this longstanding and generous service. We have been deeply moved by the spirit of community and love for our children that are expressed through this program and we sincerely hope that the tremendous good it does will not be lost this holiday season.”

The policy change Amtrak cited was issued last March and generally to special moves and charter trains.

Select Trains to Stop for NY State Fair

August 13, 2018

Select Amtrak Empire Service and Maple Leaf Trains will stop at the New York State Fairgrounds between Aug. 22 and Sept. 3.

The fairgrounds are located between Rochester and Syracuse, New York.

Train 64 and 284 will depart Niagara Falls, New York, 10 minutes earlier to accommodate the added stop.


New Platforms in Use in Carlinville

August 13, 2018

New platforms at the Amtrak station in Carlinville, Illinois, are now in use.

In a service advisory Amtrak said its trains can arrive and depart on the west or east platform so passengers should check the station information displays and listen for announcements to know where their train will be arriving or departing.

Passengers are urged to use caution when crossing between platforms on the north ends where the sidewalk and Illinois Route 108 (West Main Street) cross the tracks.

Carlinville is served by Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Northern New York Gets Amtrak Thruway Service

August 13, 2018

Amtrak has established a new Thruway bus route in New York State to connect with the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf and Empire Service trains.

The route, operated in partnership with Trailways of New York, will stop at Amtrak stations in Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Saratoga Springs.

Off line cities to be served by the bus include Cooperstown, Cortland, Ithaca, Glens Falls, Lake George and Oneonta.

“As Northern New York continues to grow as a popular place to visit and live, partnering with Trailways of New York helps Amtrak customers travel where they want to go, even after they step off a train,” said Adam Krom, Director of Transportation Connectivity at Amtrak in a statement.

Greenville Thruway Bus Stop Changes

August 13, 2018

The stop for the Amtrak Thruway bus serving Greenville, North Carolina, has been moved to the G.K. Butterfield Transportation depot

Buses Nos. 6089 and 6090 will now stop at 600 S. Pitt St., located about 10 blocks southwest of the previous stop.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the new stop is an upgraded station with a waiting room and restrooms. Thruway buses will depart from bus slip 2.

Nos. 6089 and 6090 operates to and from the Amtrak station in Wilson, North Carolina, where they connect with New York-Savannah, Georgia, Palmetto. The western terminus of the bus route is in Morehead City, North Carolina.

Lamy Ticket Office Now Closed

August 13, 2018

Another Amtrak ticket office has closed. On Aug. 3 Amtrak pulled its agents from Lamy, New Mexico, on the route of the Southwest Chief.

The closing of the Lamy office had been announced earlier and set for July 31, but the closing was moved back a few days.

In a service advisory Amtrak said passengers for Nos. 3 and 4 will continue to have access to the station waiting area and restrooms for all train arrivals and departures.

The station is open daily from noon to 3 p.m. Amtrak personnel on the train will assist customers boarding and detraining but unaccompanied minors will not be allowed to board at this station.

Ticket options include buying with a credit card from Amtrak reservations or at the Amtrak website. Passengers paying cash can pay for tickets on the train but such tickets will be priced at the highest fare and subject to availability.

Checked baggage is no longer handled at Lamy. Nearest full-service station is in Albuquerque, about an hour southwest of Lamy.