Archive for December, 2013

Coast Starlight Painting Graces New TT Cover

December 29, 2013

Amtrak TT

Amtrak’s next timetable has already been released even if it is dated Jan. 13, 2014. The cover features a painting by Eric Smith of the Coast Starlight headed southbound at the station in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The number on the P42 shown  is the same as the train number of the Southern Pacific Coast Daylight in the same direction, No. 98.

Smith is an Amtrak assistant superintendent of road operations. This painting is on exhibit along with other railroad themed works by Smith in the Metropolitan lounge at Los Angeles Union Station.

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New Operator for Hoosier State Eyed

December 27, 2013

The Indiana Department  of Transportation is eyeing having a private operator take over the Hoosier State from Amtrak.

InDOT has hired R.L. Banks & Associates to develop a request for proposals to operate, market and improve service on the Chicago-Indianapolis route with the goal of increasing ridership and cutting the amount of public funding needed for the train.

The state and various communities along the line are currently underwriting the $2.7 million annual cost of running the quad-weekly train.

Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal uses the same route three days a week.

State and local leaders agreed to help fund the Hoosier State while they spent 12 to 15 months studying ways to run trains at times that would increase ridership and generate more revenue.

CSX Track Project to Benefit Amtrak

December 27, 2013

Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and New York-Buffalo Empire Corridor trains should have smoother sailing through Syracuse, N.Y., after CSX completes a congestion relief project being funded with an $18.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The money will be used to reconfigure the tracks and upgrade the signal system in the vicinity of the Amtrak station and DeWitt Yard.

The New York Department of Transportation will chip in $4.6 million. Construction will begin in 2015.

The project involves upgrading two sidings, one of which is used by Amtrak to reach the station. The other siding is used by CSX freights to enter and leave the yard. Currently, both siding have 30 mph speed limits.

New Amtrak Station Going up in Elryia, Ohio

December 23, 2013

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

The Amtrak station in Elyria, Ohio, is no more. Here are some shots taken on Sunday showing the remains of the original structure (top and bottom photographs) and the foundation being installed for a new brick waiting room (middle photograph) that will be similar to the one in Alliance, Ohio.

Something had to be done as little progress has been made for Amtrak to use the former New York Central station that has seen millions of tax dollars used for is restoration.

Despite that, Lorain County Commissioners do not allow any of the interior space to be used for bus service.

Article and Photographs by Dan Davidson

Wi-Fi Installation Set for February Completion

December 21, 2013

Amtrak expected to roll out its AmtrakConnect cellular-based 4G Wi-Fi service on Midwest Corridor trains by early February 2014.

Amtrak is installing Wi-Fi equipment on railcars under contracts with the states of Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. AmtrakConnect will be provided on these routes:

Lincoln Service (Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis), expanding to all four round-trips).

Illini/Saluk (Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale)

Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg (Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy).

Wolverine Service (Chicago-Ann Arbor-Detroit-Pontiac)

Blue Water (Chicago-East Lansing-Port Huron)

Pere Marquette (Chicago-Grand Rapids).

Missouri River Runner (St. Louis-Jefferson City-Kansas City).

Hiawatha Service (Chicago-Milwaukee).

Passengers on these trains will start seeing the availability of the Wi-Fi service as the railcars are deployed.

“AmtrakConnect capitalizes on multiple cellular providers to provide the best mobile experience possible, taking advantage of 4G technologies where available,” said Amtrak Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Matt Hardison. “We are continually looking to improve customer satisfaction, and this service is yet one more way to do so, while also delivering the speeds and connectivity required to maintain a competitive position among transportation providers.”

There is no charge to use AmtrakConnect. Amtrak officials say that in locations where the service is now available that it is routinely used by between 30 to 50 percent of passengers on a given train.

Data-intensive activities such as streaming video and music, and large file downloads will be restricted.

Amtrak said about 75 percent of its passengers nationwide currently use AmtrakConnect. The addition of Midwest corridor trains will increase the coverage percentage to approximately 85 percent.

The Midwest corridors  collectively, carried nearly 3.3 million passengers in Amtrak’s Fiscal Year 2013.

Cost of Proposed Iowa City Route Are Rising

December 21, 2013

Finances are the latest hurdle that is hindering development of Amtrak service to Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa officials have been studying an extension of a planned Chicago-Quad Cities route to Iowa City, which is the home of the University of Iowa.

The construction cost estimate is now $125 million, up $35 million from three years ago. The study also found that the ongoing operating subsidy requirement has shrunk dramatically.

Iowa’s share to get the route stated is now estimated at $72 million, which is triple what was proposed three years ago.

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba called the results of the study “a huge embarrassment. Somehow Illinois’s getting this done [Chicago-Quad Cities service] and Iowa’s dragging its feet,” he said.

Iowa is in danger of losing $53 million in federal funding for the route development if the state legislature does not move forward in the next legislative session with developing the route.

Montana Town Seeks Empire Builder Stop

December 21, 2013

Montana’s two U.S. senators are pressing Amtrak to establish a station stop for the Empire Builder at Culbertson, Mont.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) brokered a meeting this past week between Culbertson civic leaders and Amtrrak to plan the construction of a station that would serve those traveling to the Bakken oilfield region.

Tester and Baucus recently asked Amtrak to study the possibility of adding a stop in Culbertson to give area oil workers easier access to the fast-growing region.

“At the intersection of two major highways, Culbertson is a prime location for an Amtrak stop that feeds the Bakken and makes it easier for workers to get to the region,” said Culbertson Mayor Gordon Oelkers in a press release issued by Tester’s office.

During the meeting, officials visited the site of the proposed station for Chicago-Seattle/Portland train. Officials also discussed the steps needed to establish the station.

“Amtrak does a great job connecting Montanans and this meeting is an important step to providing greater service to Montana,” Tester said. “I will continue to work with Amtrak and folks in Culbertson to get this station built.”

Pa. Town Wants to be Capitol Limited Stop

December 21, 2013

A southwestern Pennsylvania town is seeking to become a station stop for Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.

Sommerset County Commissioners have hired a consultant, former state representative Richard Geist, to seek funding for station facilities in Rockwood, a town of about 1,000

Commissioners say the facility could cost as much as $3 million.

Rockwood has not had intercity rail passenger service since the coming of Amtrak in 1971. Previously, it had been a station for the Washington-Akron, Ohio, Shenandoah of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

City officials have been seeking to be added as a stop for the Chicago-Washington train since 1990. Amtrak conducted a feasibility study in 2009 that found that adding a station at Rockwood would cost $2.2 million.

Rockwood is located on the Capitol Limited route between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Its closest stops are Connellsville, Pa., and Cumberland, Md. It is less than 10 miles from the county seat of Somerset.

Siemens Favored for Locomotive Contract

December 19, 2013

Loco

An Illinois Department of Transportation official is recommending that Siemens be awarded the contract to build 32 to 35 diesel locomotives for use on Amtrak routes in the Midwest, California and Washington state.

The recommendation was made by William Grunloh, Chief Procurement Officer for IDOT, which is the lead agency for the  joint procurement of the locomotives.  Also participating are state departments of transportation for California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

The distribution of the locomotives is expected to be 21 units for Midwest corridor service, six to California and eight to Washington.

The number of locomotives acquired hinges on the availability of funding. The states hold options for up to 225 additional locomotives.

Funding the initial purchase will be the Federal Railroad Administration and California Proposition 1B bonds.

Providing final offers were Electro-Motive Diesel, Siemens and MotivePower. IDOT found that Siemens had the highest combined “responsiveness” and price scores.
The locomotives will meet the Next Generation Equipment Committee’s PRIIA 305-005 Locomotive Specification, which was released in July 2012.

The units will be EPA Tier 4 compliant and feature AC traction with a streamlined car body. They will have electronically controlled air brakes and blended air/dynamic braking and will be capable of MU and push-pull operation.

The specification calls for sufficient power for two units to move eight bi-level coaches at 125 mph with a minimum of 600kW of head end power for heating and cooling the coaches. The trucks may be of four- or six-wheel design.
EMD’s proposed 4,700 horsepower F125 was to be powered by a Caterpillar C175-20 engine.

MotivePower’s proposal has not been disclosed, but it is thought that it would have been based on the HSP46, a 4,600 horsepower locomotive being built for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The HSP46 uses a Tier 3 General Electric GEVO-12 engine and GE AC  electrical equipment.

Siemens and engine builder Cummins have announced a partnership. The units are expected to use a Cummins QSK95 engine rated at more than 4,000 horsepower.

Extra Wolverine Sections Added for Holidays

December 17, 2013

Amtrak announced on Tuesday that it will offer extra sections of the Chicago-Detroit Wolverine service to handle expected holiday travelers between Dec. 22 and Jan. 3.

No. 356 will depart Chicago Union Station at 9:20 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor at 3 p.m. after making stops at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson, Mich.

The equipment will return as No. 359, departing Ann Arbor at 4:05 p.m., with a scheduled 7:45 p.m. arrival in Chicago. No. 359 will make the same intermediate stops as No. 356.

Nos. 356/359 will operates on Dec. 22, 26, 27, 29 and 31, and on Jan. 1 and 3.

Amtrak will continue to operate three daily roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) as scheduled during the same period.