Archive for September, 2016

Amtrak No. 1 on No. 380 at Highlands

September 30, 2016


There is something special about number one. Numero Uno often is used to designate the winner of something, often a sports team that won a championship.

Not many railroads have locomotives with roster numbers in the single digits. Most Amtrak locomotive roster numbers are three digits but an exception was made for the P42DC fleet, which began with No. 1

There is nothing out of the ordinary about P42DC No. 1 other than its number. Nonetheless, I was excited to see it leading the Illinois Zephyr past Highlands on the BNSF raceway in Chicago a few years ago.

Just over a year later I would see No. 1 again, this time in Portland Oregon. It would lead the Portland section of the Empire Builder eastward and I would ride behind it all the way to Chicago.

Amtrak to Offer Autumn Special Excursions

September 29, 2016

Amtrak has announced that it will offer another fall foliage excursion in the East this year with tickets going on sale on Oct. 3.

Amtrak logoThe train will depart at 8 a.m. from Penn Station in New York and 8:30 a.m. from Penn Station in Newark, New Jersey, on  Oct. 29 and 30.

Tickets are $149 per person and includes a boxed lunch, souvenir tote bag, and a commemorative pin. The child fare will be $74.50 and includes the same amenities.

After stopping in Newark, the train will head west along the former Lehigh Valley Railroad and pass through the Musconetcong Tunnel, which opened in 1875.

After crossing the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, the train will run along the Lehigh River to Allentown, passing the scenic farm country of Pennsylvania on the former route of the Queen of the Valley passenger train to Harrisburg.

This line has been freight only since 1963.

From Harrisburg, the train will go east on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor and have a photo stop at Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The route to New York will use regular Amtrak rails, passing through the New York and Pittsburgh Subway at Zoo Tower in Philadelphia.

Arrival back in Newark is expected to be 6:10 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. in New York.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase onboard the train.

What Might Have Been in the 3-C Corridor

September 29, 2016


Intercity rail passenger service on the former New York Central line between Cleveland and Cincinnati ended with the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

At the time, you could not even ride a single train between Ohio’s two largest cities. Penn Central made you change trains in Columbus.

There has been talk ever since of reinstating service in the 3-C corridor as it is called in Ohio, but all of those efforts have fallen short.

But in 1997 and 1998 you could have ridden a chartered Amtrak train sponsored by the Mad River & NKP Railroad museum between the two cities. Amtrak has some surplus Superliner equipment that it was willing to charter.

This view of the Cincinnati-bound train was made on Sept. 12, 1998, at Crestline, Ohio, which is where the Cleveland-Cincinnati line of the former NYC crossed the Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline of the former Pennsylvania Railroad.

Until November 1990, that ex-PRR route hosted Amtrak’s Broadway Limited and Capitol Limited.

The NYC and PRR had a union station that formerly stood in the upper right hand corner of this photograph. Amtrak trains still stopped there in the early 1970s, but it was eventually replaced with an Amshack.

Amtrak Names Locomotive after ex-Head Boardman

September 29, 2016

Amtrak has named P42DC No. 42 after its former president, Joseph Boardman.

Amtrak logoPainted in a livery honoring the nation’s veterans, No. 42 will carrying an inscription below its cab reading: “Amtrak Honors: Joseph H. Boardman, President and CEO 2008-2016, US Air Force Vietnam Veteran.”

The locomotive was officially named for Boardman earlier this week during a ceremony held at Washington Union Station that was attended by more than 100 invited guests, including Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz; BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose; Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Sarah Feinberg; former FRA boss Joe Szabo; union officials; and dozens of Amtrak employees and managers.

Also attending and speaking were U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Amtrak Board of Directors Chairman Tony Coscia and board member Tom Carper, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, and Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger.

Current Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman was absent because he was on a previously-planned family vacation.

Ann Arbor Preferred Station Site Seen by January

September 28, 2016

A consultant hired by the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said local officials want to get resolved by early next year a preferred site for a new Amtrak station.

Robert Gorski of AECOM told a public hearing held on Monday that the city is working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration to choose a preferred site by January and complete an environmental assessment that must be approved by the FRA.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit Wolverine Service trains currently stop in Ann Arbor at a modular station built by Amtrak in 1983.

Amtrak 4Therese Cody, the MDOT rail operating programs manager said at the hearing that neither Amtrak or the state wants to own train stations.

MDOT prefers that local communities own their depots.

“Because then they reflect what the community wants the station to be — like you’ve seen Dearborn go up and Detroit go up,” she said. “They’re all a reflection of the community. A lot of times it’s a gateway to the community.” Cody described the current Ann Arbor station as an Amshack.

City officials are studying four station alternatives that include two options at the site of the existing Amtrak station on Depot Street.

Another is to build in Fuller Park in front of the University of Michigan Hospital while the fourth option is to use the former Michigan Central station, which is now a restaurant.

City officials said during the Monday hearing that the corporate owner of the Gandy Dancer restaurant has not returned phone calls inquiring about whether it would be interested in selling its property

However, the city could use its powers of eminent domain to take it over.

Cody noted that federal funding for new stations is provided to communities and not to Amtrak.

“Amtrak doesn’t put a lot of vested interest into their stations, where we believe that a community can make it a little more inviting and provide for the community’s needs,” she said. “Amtrak doesn’t go around and say, ‘Do you guys need a meeting room? Do you guys need this or that?’ They don’t care.”

Gorski said the cost of building a new station at each of the identified sites will be taken into account in selecting a preferred location.

Although the city has not yet released cost estimates for each station option, it projects that the  station design will cost $2.6 million and construction will $44.5 million.

Wherever it is built, the new station will have 9,100 square feet of space and 900-1,100 parking spaces.

NY Legislator Seeks Buffalo Depot Study

September 28, 2016

A New York congressman is calling on the New York State Transportation Commissioner to review the prospects for a new Amtrak station for Buffalo, New York.

Amtrak logoCalling the Buffalo station among the worst in the nation, Congressman Brian Higgins said the study would cost between $1 million and $2 million and could be paid for from a $25 million pot of money in the New York State Fiscal Year 2015-2020 Transportation Capital Program.

Higgins said the station study would be advantageous in seeking federal transportation funding for a new depot.

In his letter, Higgins said the new Amtrak station could be located at Canalside or Buffalo’s Central Terminal.

Buffalo’s Exchange Street station was closed last week after its ceiling collapsed during heavy rains.

“It is an insufficient facility for the volume that we could be getting in riders and it’s insufficient for all the progress we’re seeing in downtown,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown who supports building a new station at Canalside.

Exchange Street Station was built in 1952 and last year served more than 116,000 passengers.

All Amtrak trains in Buffalo stop there except the Lake Shore Limited. Another Buffalo station is located in suburban Depew, New York.

Metra Seeking Federal Funds to Pay for PTC Installation on Route Used by Amtrak Hiawathas

September 28, 2016

Metra is seeking federal funding to help pay to install positive train control on a line that is used in part by Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service and Empire Builder.

Hiawatha 2The Chicago commuter rail operator plans to spend $25.2 million program to install PTC on its Milwaukee North and West lines.

Metra has asked for funding that was authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act to help railroads install PTC.

The federal government would pay up to 80 percent of the cost and require a 20 percent local funding match.

Metra has asked for $20.2 million and said it has identified $5 million in local matching funds. The PTC system would be installed by late 2018, Metra said.

To date Metra said it has spent $95 million and has $208 million under contract toward PTC installation.

Festive, But Sad Day in Roanoke

September 28, 2016


It’s festive yet sad day in Roanoke, Virginia, on Sept. 30, 1979, as the city is about to lose its only Amtrak service.

The Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society marked the occasion of the last eastbound by operating three of its passenger cars on the rear of Amtrak train No. 66, the Hilltopper.

I don’t remember where the cars were added. They were painted in the colors of the Norfolk & Western, which of course, had a major presence in Roanoke.

I had boarded No. 66 in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, in the pre-dawn hours. I had ridden Amtrak’s Cardinal to Catlettsburg for the purpose of riding the last eastbound trip of the Hilltopper.

The Hilltopper was something of a laughing stock at the time. Wags noted that the two-car Amfleet train began and ended in the middle of nowhere.

The ancestor of the Hilltopper was a Chicago-Norfolk, Virginia, train named the Mountaineer, which had combined with the James Whitcomb Riley at Catlettsburg.

Serving a largely rural region of West Virginia and Virginia, the Hilltopper was doomed due to its low population base.

As this is written in fall 2016, there are plans to extend a Northeast Regional train to Roanoke, with funding help from the state of Virginia. Work has begun on the Roanoke station.

But on this day in 1979, no one could foresee that happening. For all they anyone knew, Roanoke would never see Amtrak again.

Wolverine Summer Skeds to Stay Through Oct. 30

September 27, 2016

The reduced summer schedules of Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains have been extended through Oct. 30.

Amtrak logoAmtrak said in a service advisory that the extension was agreed to by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which funds the Wolverine Service, to accommodate additional track and signal improvements.

The track rehabilitation is expected to result in improved reliability, a smoother ride and an expansion of the Midwest’s first 110 mph Amtrak service.

Wolverine trains will operate on the following schedules:

  • One Wolverine round-trip (trains 351 and 354) operates between Chicago and Pontiac seven days a week.
  • Wolverine trains 355 and 358 operate between Chicago and Pontiac Monday through Saturday.
  • The regular schedule of all Wolverine trains (Nos. 350 through 355) will operate between Chicago and Pontiac on Sundays only.

Track Work to Disrupt Chicago-St. Louis Trains

September 27, 2016

Track work in Illinois will affect Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains on select days in October.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgIn some instances, Lincoln Service passengers will complete a portion of their journey on a chartered bus.

On Oct. 6, 7 and 8, the following trains will operate between Chicago and Springfield with bus service will be provided to Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Buses will depart earlier than the published schedules for their respective trains with bus arrival and departure times provided on

  • Oct. 6: Train 305
  • Oct.7: Trains 301, 302, 303, 304, 305 and 306
  • Oct. 8: Trains 301, 302, 303, 304, & 306

Trains 300, 301, 302 and 303 will be cancelled between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24 with alternate transportation provided at all stations for all trains except for Train 300.

The Chicago to San Antonio Texas Eagle will detour between Chicago and St. Louis on Oct. 7 and 8, and Oct. 21-24, missing the stations stops of Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton. The train will operate to all stations south of St. Louis

The northbound Texas Eagle will operate as normal to St. Louis, but detour to Chicago on the same dates as the southbound train.

Passengers on Train 22/422 destined for Chicago will remain on the train while those traveling to stations between St. Louis and Joliet will be provided chartered buses as replacement transportation.

Amtrak said that Texas Eagle passengers traveling to or from Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton can make reservations aboard the Lincoln Service train/alternate bus service.

The Eagle might experience delays of up to 45 minutes during the detour.