Archive for April, 2015

California Zephyr to Detour in May, June

April 30, 2015

Amtrak’s California Zephyr will operate on the Overland Route through Wyoming between Denver and Salt Lake City in May and June.

During the periods of May 16-22 and June 1-8, Nos. 5 and 6 will use a portion of the historic transcontinental route completed by UP in 1869.

The detour is necessitated by track construction on UP’s former Rio Grande main line in Colorado.

The train will not make any stops between Denver and Salt Lake City. Amtrak is providing alternate bus transportation for missed stops at Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Green River, Helper and Provo.

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LSL Boston Section Operating as Connection

April 27, 2015

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited is running as a connecting train or bus through late May. This has resulted in shorter equipment consists for the Lake Shore Limited (Nos. 48/49) west of Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

Amtrak said CSX track work on the former Boston & Albany line used by Nos. 448/449 is the cause of the service changes.

On Sunday through Wednesday through April 29, Nos. 448 and 449 have been replaced by a bus in both directions east of Albany.

The bus serves the intermediate stations in Massachusetts of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, and Framingham. The bus does not stop at Back Bay station in Boston.

Amtrak has advised Bay Bay passengers to use MBTA for travel between there and Boston’s South Station.

Amtrak had been running a connecting train between Albany and Boston on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays.

Effective April 30 that connecting train will operate daily.

Field reports indicate that the 448/449 shuttle has featured a single P42 locomotive, Viewliner baggage car and three or four Amfleet coaches.

Nos. 48/49 have been operating between Chicago and New York with four or five Amfleet coaches, an Amcafe, full-service diner, three Viewliner sleepers and a Viewliner baggage car.

Amtrak said the Boston-Albany connecting train will operate through May 22, serving all stations.

Amtrak Adds Wolverine Service, Adjust Schedules of All Michigan Routes for the Summer

April 27, 2015

Amtrak has added service to the Wolverine route between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) for the summer while making adjustments to the route’s schedules.

The new schedules went into effect on April 20 and will extend through Oct. 30. The additional service is a Sunday-only train from Chicago to Pontiac and a Monday-only train from Dearborn to Chicago.

Here is a summary of the schedule changes:

Eastbound

No. 350 now departs Chicago 10 minutes earlier at 7:10 a.m. daily, but is still scheduled to arrive in Pontiac at 3:03 p.m.

No. 352, the former mid-day train to Pontiac will now operate on Sundays only, departing Chicago at 12:45 p.m. and arriving in Pontiac at 7:42 p.m. This train will stop only at Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak and Troy.

No. 358 will assume the role previously served by No. 352. It will depart Chicago at 3:10 p.m. daily and arrive in Pontiac at 10:44 p.m.

No. 354 will continue to depart Chicago at 6 p.m. daily, but is now scheduled to arrive in Pontiac at 1:29 a.m., 10 minutes later than the previous schedule. It will not operate east of Detroit on Sundays.

Westbound

No. 351 will now depart Pontiac at 5 a.m. daily, which is 45 minutes earlier than the previous schedule. It is scheduled to reach Chicago at 10:12 a.m.

No. 353 will depart Pontiac at 10:35 a.m. on Sunday only and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 4:08 p.m.

No. 359 will depart Pontiac at 2:30 p.m. daily except Sunday and arrive in Chicago at 8:03 p.m.

No. 355 will depart Pontiac at 5:35 p.m. daily, which is five minutes earlier than its previous schedule. It is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 11:02 p.m.

No. 349 will depart Dearborn on Mondays only at 3:38 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 7:59 a.m.

Blue Water

The schedule of eastbound train No. 364 from Chicago to Port Huron remains unchanged, but westbound No. 365 will now depart Port Huron 40 minutes earlier at 5:40 a.m. The scheduled arrival time in Chicago is now 11:05 a.m.

Pere Marquette

Effective May 4, westbound No. 371 will begin departing Grand Rapids at 6 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 9:11 a.m. Eastbound No. 370 will depart Chicago at 6:30 p.m. and arrive in Grand Rapids at 11:39 p.m.

N.Y. Track Work May Delay Trains by 20 Minutes

April 27, 2015

Amtrak is warning that trains operating in New York State are subject to delay through December due to track work being undertaken between Hudson and Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

This include the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and all Empire Service trains. Trains may experience delays of up to 20 minutes in the work zones.

The $163 million project is part of a partnership between the New York State Department of Transportation and Amtrak that includes installation of a fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer station — the ninth busiest terminal in the Amtrak system.

Amtrak said the additional track will alleviate congestion that results in trains having to wait just outside the station for a track to open during busy times.

A second main line track between Albany-Rensselaer and Schenectady will also be constructed that will eliminate train delays caused by bottlenecks over the 17-mile single-track route.

Also being installed is a new signal system that Amtrak expects will reduce the likelihood of signal outages due to weather.

Amtrak’s Illinois Pet Program Made Permanent

April 22, 2015

A trial program allowing passengers to carry pets aboard Amtrak trains in Illinois is being made permanent.

The program allowed small pets aboard the Chicago-Quincy Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg, and the Chicago-Carbondale Illini and Saluki.

Some 200 animals have ridden with their masters without a single complaint or incident.

“I am proud that Illinois is the first state in the country to work with Amtrak to offer this convenient service for pet owners, while also taking into account the considerations of other passengers,” said acting IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “By allowing pets on trains, Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation are making it that much easier for people to experience so many of our great communities throughout the state.”

Ticketing and travel with pets originates throughout the day in Chicago, Carbondale, Champaign, and Galesburg, while the service is only available during afternoon departures in Homewood and Naperville due to staffing.

Reservations are required and a surcharge of $25 is assessed for travel. Dogs or cats up to 20-pounds each are accepted in carriers that can be placed under the seat of each pet owner.

Feds Give $7M to Chicago Union Station Project

April 20, 2015

The efforts to improve rail service at Chicago Union Station got a boost last week in the form of $7 million in federal funds that will be used to conduct a terminal planning study and create a service development plan to increase capacity at the 90-year-old station.

The funding will supplement $12 million pledged by Amtrak earlier this year to renovating the terminal.

Chicago Union Station is the third-busiest rail terminal in the nation, serving more than 300 trains per weekday.

The station operates at or near capacity during peak periods.

In 2014, 32.5 million Metra passengers arrived or departed on trains at Union Station. Nearly 2.3 million passenger trips on Amtrak were made between Union station and various Midwest destinations.

Bid to Fund S.W. Chief Falls Short in Colorado

April 20, 2015

Supporters of keeping Amtrak’s Southwest Chief on its current route through Colorado fell one vote short last week when the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee turned down funding improvement to the train’s route.

“General fund support for the Chief came down to one legislator. We couldn’t secure Senator Kevin Grantham’s vote,” said Sal Pace of Pueblo, Colo., who chairs the Southwest Chief Commission.

“I can’t speculate to his rationale, but it underscores how desperately we need someone from Pueblo on the Joint Budget Committee. There are other avenues for funding, which we are aggressively pursuing beginning today,” Pace said.

Earlier, Chief supporters did manage a victory in the Colorado House when two amendments were added to the House version of the state budget bill that set aside $1 million as a match from other sources to obtain a federal grant to upgrade and repair trackage through Trinidad, La Junta, and Lamar.

A $500,000 appropriation would have funded a study of linking the route to Pueblo.

Neither of those measures survived the committee, leaving the delegation from Pueblo and Southern Colorado weighing its options for funding track work that Amtrak and BNSF say is needed to keep the Chicago-Los Angeles train running on its current route past January 2016.

Amtrak Trial Includes No Meals With Sleeper Fare

April 20, 2015

In what may be a precursor of things to come, Amtrak said it will conduct a trial period of selling sleeping car accommodations that do not include meals.

Between July 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, the New York-Miami Silver Star will carry a café-lounge rather than a full-service diner.

Amtrak said sleeping class fares on Nos. 91 and 92 will be 25 and 28 percent lower for Viewliner bedrooms and roomettes.

“Customers have been clear they want more options,” said Mark Murphy, Amtrak senior vice president and general manager responsible for the long-distance trains nationally. “From this summer through early next year, passengers will be able to opt for different service levels between our two daily trains to Orlando and Miami.”

Murphy was referring to how those who travel between New York and Miami aboard the Silver Meteor will still have full-servicing dining and sleeping class tickets will include meals in the fare.

For several years Amtrak has included meals in the price of a sleeping car ticket on all long-distance trains.

Amtrak Exhibit Train to Visit Toledo on May 2

April 9, 2015

Amtrak’s exhibit train will visit Toledo during that city’s National Train Day event on May 2. The Toledo stop will be one of three Midwest visits by the exhibit train through late June. Other sites where the exhibit train will stop include:

  • Railroad Days 2015 in Fullerton, Calif., May 2-3.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Chicago Union Station, May 9.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Salem, Ore., Riverfront Park, May 16.
  • Amtrak Train Days at California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento, June 6 -7.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Dunsmuir, Calif., Railroad Days, June 13.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Galesburg, Ill., Railroad Festival, June 27-28.

For more information, go to www.amtraktraindays.com.

Pere Marquette to Get New Schedule on May 4

April 9, 2015

The May 4 schedule change that will have the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marqutte operating on a new schedule will give passengers more time in Chicago.

Amtrak also plans to open a crew base in Grand Rapids, Mich., which it expects will help to resolve the problem of the train departing late for Chicago due to the crew that brought the train in the night before needing more rest because of a late arrival.

At the present time, the Pere Marquette is assigned operating employees who are based in Chicago.

The new schedule of No. 371 will have it departing Grand Rapids more than an hour and a half earlier at 6 a.m. The departure time of No. 370 from Chicago has been moved back to 6:30 p.m. from 4:55 p.m.

Michigan residents will be able to spend more than nine hours in Chicago on business or pleasure. Current schedules allot about six hours of layover time.

Amtrak said the new schedule will also improve the reliability of eastbound connections from late long-distance trains.

The new schedule will place the Pere Marquette in close proximity to the schedule of Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited in both directions.

Officials with Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation, which helps to fund the Pere Marquette, hope that this will enable NS dispatcher to have an easier time creating routes for both trains on a freight-heavy line in and out of Chicago.

Al Johnson, MDOT’s Office of Rail passenger and operations manager, told Trains magazine that the state is studying additional frequencies for the Pere Marquette, Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron, Mich.) and Wolverine Service (Chicago-Detroit) routes, but new trains cannot be implemented until NS completes the $71 million Indiana Gateway project between Chicago and Porter, Ind.

Amtrak issued its Spring-Fall 2015 system timetable on April 6 and most schedules have received only minor changes. The new timetable replaced the Summer-Fall 2014 schedule issued on June 9, 2014.