Archive for June, 2016

Buses to Replace Lake Shore Limited’s Boston Section on Certain Days in July, August

June 29, 2016

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited will not operate on certain days in July and August due to CSX track work.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedIn a service advisory, Amtrak said Nos. 448 and 449 will not run between Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and Boston on the following dates:

  • July 10
  • July 17-20
  • July 31-Aug. 3
  • Aug. 7-10
  • Aug. 14-17

Passengers will ride a bus between Albany-Rensselaer and Boston that will stop at the Amtrak stations in Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston (South Station).

Bus service will not be provided to Boston Back Bay station. Amtrak said passengers should contact MBTA for travel information to Back Bay.

Passengers at South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

At Framingham, passengers will board buses at the drop-off/pick-up area track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

In Worcester, passengers should go downstairs to the intercity bus area and board the bus marked Premier Bus.

Iowa Depot Raising Money for Restoration

June 29, 2016

Plans are underway to restore the 125-year-old Keokuk (Iowa) Union Depot.

An open house has been set for the station on July 2 during which the Keokuk Union Depot Foundation and the Keokuk Union Depot Commission will discuss their restoration efforts.

IowaGrants have thus far paid for replacement of interior oak paneling, doors and windows, but the depot needs a new roof. That will cost an estimated $1 million.

The Union Depot Foundation said it could land a $330,000 grant if it can match it with its own money.

The group received a two-for-one challenge grant from The Jeffris Family Foundation by which it would receive the $330,000 if it can raise $660,000. Thus far the depot group has raised nearly $540,000.

Restoration plans include returning the station to its original look, including restoring the central tower structure, installation of red clay tiles, and bringing the roofline back to its original condition.

Built in 1891, the union station served the Keokuk & Western, the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Toledo, Peoria & Western, and the Wabash railroads.

The station now sits along tracks used by BNSF and the Keokuk Junction Railway.

Cardinal Resumes Operating to West Virginia

June 29, 2016

Amtrak’s Cardinal was to resume service today to West Virginia in the wake of severe flooding that closed part of its route through the state.

Amtrak CardinalNo. 50 which left Chicago on Tuesday night was to operate to Huntington, West Virginia, where it would terminate and its equipment will turn back tonight to return to Chicago as No. 51.

The tri-weekly Cardinal last operated through West Virginia a week ago. No. 50 which departed Chicago on June 23 ran no further than Indianapolis where it turned back as No. 51 on Saturday, June 25.


Amtrak has not made any arrangements for passengers traveling to points between Huntington and Washington.

On Monday CSX freight trains resumed operating between Clifton Forge, Virginia, and Handley, West Virginia, but much work remains to repair washouts and to remove debris from the right of way. The storm last week dumped up to 7 inches of rain in some areas of the Mountain State.

Amtrak Opens New Lounge in Chicago

June 25, 2016

Amtrak has opened a new Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car and business class passengers passing through Chicago Union Station.

The new lounge is two stories, can seat 360 and with 13,500 square feet is more than twice the size of the existing lounge it will replace.

Amtrak 4Access to the lounge is from the station’s Great Hall as well as street level. It is located in a section of the station that has been vacant for more than 40 years.

City officials said that when work began on renovating the space, workers found ticket stubs on the floor from 40 years ago.

Project architect Leonard Koroski of Goeetsch Partners described the new lounge as having five separate “neighborhoods” for passengers including a common entrance area, a business area with computer work stations, a family area with a children’s play space, a “millennial area” featuring high-backed chairs to accommodate those on cell phones and other tech-friendly features, and a pair of “quiet” spaces.

The new lounge was built in just under five months and cost $7 million.

In 2015, Amtrak opened the extra fee Legacy Club in space once used as a men’s lounge.

A former women’s lounge is being transformed into an event space that can accommodate up to 300 people.

The previous Metropolitan Lounge, which opened in 1991, will be gutted and is expected to become a pre-boarding area that will enable Amtrak to expand its crowded concourse level.

Milwaukee Station Rehab Project Completed

June 23, 2016

Passengers will have easier access to Amtrak trains following the completion of a $22 million rebuilding of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

In a news release, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said that the station concourse now provides easier access for passengers and resembles the architectural design of the station, which was remodeled in 2007.

WisconsinThe project took 18 months to complete and was done in stages so that two tracks could remain in service at all times.

Among the new features of the station are a custom fabricated 3D tubular truss roof with skylights, a mezzanine spanning five tracks, escalators and elevators, and a rehabilitated passenger tunnel for emergency exits.

Amtrak serves more than 1.3 million passengers annually at the station, which is used by Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains and the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. Local and intercity buses also use the station.

Illinois to Press Ahead with Quad Cities Project

June 23, 2016

Faced with a deadline to use or lose a federal grant, Illinois officials are pressing ahead with a campaign to restore passenger train service between Chicago and the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa.

IDOTThe Federal Railroad Administration had awarded more than $170 million in 2010 to get the service going. That grant expires on June 30 if it is not used.

The FRA said it has been notified that the Illinois Department of Transportation wants to move ahead on the project and plans to submit a grant amendment.

FRA Sets Passenger Route Bidding Standards

June 23, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced a pilot program to allow independent contractors to bid on operating long-distance passenger trains.

The program was mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which called for bidding to be taken on up to three routes.

FRAThe law calls for the FRA to oversee a program “for selection of eligible petitioners in lieu of Amtrak to operate not more than three long-distance routes.”
Among the key elements of the proposal are:
• The winning bidder would assume the “right and obligation” to operate intercity passenger service over a specific route, and receive an operating fundig not to exceed 90 percent of that provided to Amtrak for that route during the preceding year. The initial contract for each route would extend for four years, with extension subject to transportation department approval.
• Amtrak would be obligated to provide the new operator with access to its own reservation system, stations, and facilities.
• Employees of a new operator would be subject to laws and regulations governing current similar Amtrak employees, and winning bidders must provide hiring preference to displaced, qualified Amtrak workers.
• If an alternate operator fails to provide service, the transportation department, in collaboration with the Surface Transportation Board, would “take any necessary action consistent with the FAST Act to enforce the contract and to ensure the continued provision of service.”

Amtrak will be permitted to bid on continuing to operate certain trains. Bidders could range from Class I railroads to short lines to state-sponsored consortia.

In their proposals, the bidders must explain how they will provide the service (including their on-board services), provide an operating plan and financial plan, give details of agreements for using tracks they do not own and include “ancillary” activities not directly tied to operating the trains.

The U.S. secretary of transportation will review the bids and select the winning operators, a process that could take more than a year to complete.

Charger Locomotives go to Colorado for Testing

June 23, 2016

The first Charger passenger locomotives have been sent to Colorado for testing.

Two SC-44 diesels built by Siemens are being tested at TTCI’s Pueblo facility.

SiemensThe locomotives are part of an order of 32 being built under a $228 contract for use on Amtrak corridor routes in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, California and Washington state.

The Chargers can operate at up to 125 mph and come with a Cummins QSK95 prime mover rated at 4,400 horsepower.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to take delivery of the first Chargers in December.

The units are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

Siemens is also building additional Chargers for use in Maryland and Florida. The Chargers are compliant with EPA Tier 4 emission standards.

Ottumwa Wants Amtrak Station Renovations

June 17, 2016

The desires of public officials in Ottumwa, Iowa, to give their city’s Amtrak station a facelift have been stymied by bureaucratic red tape.

In particular, they would to apply a coat of paint to what remains of the station’s umbrella sheds to make the platform look better.

Amtrak 4Although Amtrak officials agree the station used by the California Zephyr could use an upgrade, the tracks serving the facility are owned by BNSF and they have yet to give their approval to the project.

Not only that, but it would also be a costly project.

The proposal is for the metalwork on the platform to be cut down and the platform rebuilt.

Amtrak has told the city it would see to it that the work gets done, but said the station renovation project would cost $2.4 million and not begin until late 2017.

In the meantime, the city would like to at least see the metal framework painted white. But even that would require approval of BNSF and assignment of a flagger during the hours when the painting is being done.

The city has offered to do the painting.

Hiawatha Service Advertising Campaign Launched

June 13, 2016

An advertising campaign to promote Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service recently launched in Milwaukee and Chicago.

Hiawatha 2Designed by Milwaukee-based Laughlin Constable, the campaign makes use of billboards, print, radio, online ads and social media posts to show how rail travel is convenient and exciting whether traveling for leisure or business.

As part of the campaign a radio promotions in Chicago will offer six grand prize getaways for two for the opening of Summerfest on June 29.

There will be a discount program for Hiawatha passengers at restaurants, stores and tourist destinations in Milwaukee and Chicago.

The Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportation fund the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawathas. Last year the trains carried nearly 800,000 riders.