Archive for May, 2014

Amtrak Adding Additional Wolverine Trips

May 19, 2014

Amtrak is adding Sunday and Monday only Wolverine Service trains for the summer while modifying other schedules to accommodate track work in western Michigan.

The schedules are effective between May 19 and Aug. 31. The track work includes the replacement of 44,000 crossties along with signal improvements.

The greatest change involves the westbound Blue Water from Port Huron to Chicago. No. 365 will be departing Port Huron an hour earlier. The schedule of the eastbound Blue Water will not be affected.

The summer schedule for No. 365 has it departing Port Huron at 5:20 a.m. and arriving in Chicago at 10:55 a.m. Times at intermediate station will be approximately one hour earlier.

The schedule shows an additional Wolverine Service trip on Sundays along with an additional westbound trip on Mondays.

Eastbound daily Wolverine Service trains will depart Chicago at 7 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 6 p.m. Westbound daily Wolverine Service trains will depart Pontiac, Mich., at 5 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. A third daily train will depart Pontiac at 2:18 p.m., but will not operate on Sunday.

Sunday-only service from Chicago to Pontiac will depart at 12:50 p.m. while the Sunday-only train from Pontiac will leave at 10:35 a.m.

A Monday-only train to Chicago will depart from Dearborn at 3:38 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 8:04 a.m.

Some Wolverine Service schedule exceptions will be in place for the Memorial Day weekend. They are as follows:

  • Train 349 will not operate on May 19 and 26, but will operate on May 27.
  • Train 352 will not operate on May 25, but will operate on May 26.
  • Train 353 will not operate on May 25, but will operate on May 26.
  • Train 354 terminates in Pontiac on May 25, and terminates in Detroit on May 26.
  • Train 359 will operate on May 25, but will not operate on May 26.

For detailed schedules, click on the link below.



Quad Cities Amtrak Service Start Delayed Again

May 19, 2014

Amtrak service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa will be delayed until after 2015 due to additional time being needed for track rehabilitation.

Jae Miller, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said that a section of Iowa Interstate Railroad track between a BNSF Railway connection at Wyanet and Moline, Ill., needs more work to make it ready for passenger service than was considered when the application for federal money was made in 2010.

“This additional work also means that the start of service has been delayed; a public construction and operational start-up schedule will be announced later this year,” Miller said.

IDOT had expected the service to begin in late 2015.

Paul Rumler, a Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce executive who has been the area’s top advocate for passenger rail service, says the delay isn’t surprising. “It’s not too surprising that they’ve hit new issues that will take a little more time,” he says. “I’m not discouraged.”

The delay is the latest since the federal government announced in late 2010 that $230 million had been awarded for a link between Chicago and Iowa City, Iowa.

Talgo Train Sets to be Moved to Beech Grove

May 19, 2014

No date has been set for the move of two Talgo trains from Milwaukee to the Amtrak shops at Beech Grove, Ind.

The Talgo equipment was built for the State of Wisconsin, but that state no longer wants the train sets.

The date of the move is still being worked out, Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend said. Talgo will pay for the move and pay Amtrak a storage fee.

The two Talgo 14-car train sets were originally purchased by Wisconsin for Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison Hiawatha Service, but Gov. Scott Walker rejected $810 million of federal stimulus funds and canceled the project after he was elected in 2010.

Talgo has filed a breach of contract claim against the state. Talgo expects its $69.5 million claim against the state of Wisconsin filed with the state claims board to be rejected.

The company will then be free to pursue the damages in court, Friend said. The board has until early next week to issue a decision.

“The reason for the move is to mitigate Talgo’s damages in light of the state of Wisconsin’s breach of the purchase contract for the trains,” Friend said. The state has already paid $52 million for the trains.

Michigan’s Department of Transportation has issued two requests for proposals for 110 mph-capable passenger cars or complete train sets to replace two of the three Amtrak consists currently running on the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) route.

Michigan DOT has confirmed that Talgo has been the only respondent for its request for proposals and that the agency expects to make a decision about whether to go forward with the proposal in four to five weeks.

1st New Viewliner Baggage Car Leave Plant

May 19, 2014

The first new baggage car constructed by CAF USA for Amtrak departed the plant in Elmira Heights, N.Y., last Friday morning.

The train had Amtrak P42DC No. 203, Amfleet food service car No. 43358, new baggage car No. 61000, and GP38H-3 No. 520.

The 61000 is the first of 55 baggage cars being built for Amtrak. The body of the car is based on the single-level Viewliner car design and features two sets of double doors that swing inward. The baggage cars will also include bike racks.

Colo. Gov. Signs SW Chief Preservation Plan

May 14, 2014

Colorado Gov.  John Hickenlooper today signed signed legislation designed to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service through Southeastern Colorado.

The signing came at a ceremony in Pueblo. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Leroy Garcia and State Sen. Larry Crowder, creates a financing authority so that Colorado can dedicate $40 million to upgrading the BNSF Railway route across southern Kansas and Colorado and add a stop in Pueblo. The bill received bipartisan support through both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly.

While Kansas lawmakers support the plan, New Mexico fell short this year in approving its participation, also for $40 million.

Buses to Replace Select Missouri Amtrak Trains

May 14, 2014

Buses will replace one of the two daily Missouri River Runner trains between Kansas City and Jefferson City on select dates between May 16 and June 21.

Train No. 311 westbound and train No. 314 eastbound will use alternate transportation only for the Kansas City-Jefferson City segment of the route and only on specific days.

The bus replacing eastbound No. 314 will depart Kansas City at 7:45 a.m., a half-hour earlier than the train schedule. At Jefferson City, passengers will transfer from the bus to the train for the remaining stations to the east, departing a half-hour behind the normal schedule.

All rail service will be maintained between Jefferson City and St. Louis. Evening service train No. 313 westbound and train No. 316 eastbound will operate normally.

Trains will operate on normal schedules when UP crews are not working, including Memorial Day weekend.

The St. Louis-Kansas City Missouri River Runner is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Transportation and serves eight intermediate cities.

Texas Eagle Detours Set in Texas This Month

May 14, 2014

Amtrak has announced that the Texas Eagle will detour within Texas this month due to track work being performed by Union Pacific.

On May 20 and 27, Nos.21/421 and 22/422 will detour between Longview and Austin, affecting service at Mineola, Dallas, Fort Worth, Cleburne, McGregor and Temple.

On those dates, Train 21/421 will operate as scheduled to Longview, where bus service will be provided to and from Mineola, Dallas, Forth Worth, Cleburne, McGregor, Temple and Austin. Upon arriving at Austin, passengers will board westbound Train 21/421, serving all remaining stations on the route.

Also on those dates, Train 22/422 will operate as scheduled to Austin, where bus service will be provided to and from Temple, McGregor, Cleburne, Fort Worth, Dallas, Mineola and Longview. Upon arriving at Longview, passengers will board eastbound Train 22/422, serving all remaining stations on the route.

East St. Louis Making Pitch to be Amtrak Stop

May 14, 2014

East St. Louis, Ill., officials are seeking to get an Amtrak station as part of the larger efforts underway to develop higher-speed service between Chicago and St. Louis.

Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. and the United Congregations of Metro East will make their case for the station during a news conference on Thursday, May 15 at East St. Louis’ City Hall.

Organizers of the news conference say petitions with more than 3,000 signatures supporting the East St. Louis station will be presented to the Illinois Department of Transportation during a July 1 meeting.

East St. Louis has seen Amtrak trains pass through since the service began on May 1, 1971, but there has never been a Amtrak stop there. Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains pass through East St. Louis.

Work Underway to Build Moline Amtrak Station

May 14, 2014

Although Amtrak service is a good two years away, work is going ahead on establishing a station in Moline, Ill., a city that has never had Amtrak service.

The depot will be housed in a vacant warehouse on 4th Avenue and 12th Street. Workers recently began stripping lead paint and prepping the soon-to-be train station for construction. City officials expect to have the station open in late 2015, before the train service begins in 2016.

“Things are going slow, but progress is being made,” said City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher.

Although the station is still being designed, the complex will include a new 85-unit hotel, restaurant and retail businesses.

“This is also being designed as multi-modal station because you do have direct connection to the bus service, directly tracks at the Metrolink facility,” Steinbrecher said.”There will be service directly out to the airport from here.”

Steinbrecher said it’ll also connect pedestrian and bike paths to the riverfront trail. The project will more than $20 million with half being provided by federal funding, $5 million from state funding and $1 million from the city.

“This really helps define the Quad Cities, not just Moline but the entire Quad Cities really as a suburb of Chicago, if you will,” Steinbrecher said.

The Bi-State Regional Commission has been eying Chicago-Quad Cities rail service for more than a decade.

“This one will go from Quad Cities to Geneseo, to an area where they will have to build new track called Wyanet and then connect into the Chicago area,” said Gena McCullough planning director of the Bi-State Regional Commission. The route will be 162 miles.

WB Empire Builder Begins North Dakota Detour

May 8, 2014

The route troubles saga of the Empire Builder took have taken yet another twist with Amtrak and BNSF agreeing to detour the westbound Empire Builder in North Dakota via the Surrey Cutoff throughout the summer.

That means that No. 7 will bypass stations in Grand Ford, Devils Lake and Rugby. Buses will serve passengers originating or bound for those stations, connecting with the Builder at Fargo and Minot.

The eastbound Empire Builder will continue to use the regular route via those three North Dakota cities.

Amtrak agreed to detour the westbound Builder at the request of BSNF.  The detour is expected to continue through Sept. 30.

No. 7 will use the KO Subdivision and not make any passenger stops between Fargo and Minot. Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman was set to visit the affected region this week where lengthy delays the Empire Builder has incurred will be a major topic in meetings with civic leaders.

“Local community and business leaders prize the Empire Builder and see Amtrak service as an important public transportation link,” said D.J. Stadtler, Amtrak vice president of operations.

“BNSF needs to speed repairs and upgrades in order to return the Empire Builder to its previous reliability as fast as possible. We fully expect this work to be done by the end of September — at the latest.”

It will be the second time this year that Nos. 7 and 8 have taken different routes in North Dakota. BNSF experimented with directional running of eastbound freights and the Amtrak train on the Devils Lake Subdivision while all westbounds ran on the KO Subdivision via New Rockford.

However, the stated reason for the present detour of the westbound Empire Builder is to provide track and signal crews the longest possible maintenance window each day as BNSF upgrades the Devils Lake Subdivision.

“The train count fluctuations are short term as a result of fewer merchandise trains and some rerouting that was occurring for maintenance windows,” said BNSF Railway spokeswoman Amy McBeth.

BNSF is investing about $400 million in North Dakota to expand, replace, and maintain its infrastructure, and for the implementation of positive train control.

The project involves installation of three sidings between Grand Forks and Minot, and four sidings between Fargo and Grand Forks.

Other work involves installation of new turnouts, high speed surfacing/shoulder ballast cleaning, replacement of ties, rail relay, and signal upgrades. A Trains magazine analysis of timekeeping since slower schedules were implemented on April 15 shows that Nos. 7 and 8 have consistently lost at least two to three hours westbound and usually an hour eastbound between St. Paul and Minot running on their regular route.

Westbound, 35 minutes of recovery time had been added compared to previous schedules between the two points, while 1 hour, 40 minutes had been added eastbound, but this has proved insufficient in light of numerous slow orders and capacity constraints.

When the westbound train arrives late, No. 8 has been delayed up to an hour or more waiting for an operating crew to take the train back its base at St. Cloud, Minn.

On the first day of the detour, No. 7 arrived at Minot a half-hour early despite leaving Fargo almost an hour late. Not all of the timekeeping issues can be attributed to BNSF.

On Canadian Pacific tracks between Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., the westbound train’s arrival into the Twin Cities’ Midway station has been more than an hour late 45 percent of the time after departing Chicago on time over the past 20 days.

Schedules were adjusted slightly when the Empire Builder began using St. Paul Union Depot on May 7.