Archive for September, 2016

Great Dome to Operate on Adirondack

September 27, 2016

amtrak-dome

Amtrak is bringing back its Great Dome car for the fall foliage season aboard the Adirondack in update New York.

The car will operate on the New York-Montreal train between Sept. 29 and Nov. 1.

The dome will operate northbound on Train 69 from Albany-Rensselaer, New York, to Montreal on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays.

It will return south on Train 68 on Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays. The dome will not operate on Wednesdays.

There is no additional charge to ride in the dome section. Seats are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

On some trips, National Park Service Trails and Rails volunteers will offer historical commentary between Saratoga Springs and Westport, New York.

Among the scenic features of the route are Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Passengers can take advantage of the I Love NY 15 percent discount off the regular (full) adult rail fare, valid for sale through May 2017. Reservations are required.

Up to two children ages 2-12 may accompany each adult at half the discounted rail fare.

Additional Thruway Buses Serving Madison

September 27, 2016

Amtrak has increased the number of Thruway bus connections serving Madison, Wisconsin.

Badger Buses are now connecting from Madison with Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service trains at Milwaukee.

WisconsinWisconsin’s state capital continues to be served by Coach USA/Van Galder buses between Madison and Chicago Union Station with intermediate stops in Janesville, Wisconsin; and Rockford, Illinois.

Amtrak said in a news release that two routes will offer seven daily roundtrips between Madison and Chicago via Badger Bus and eight roundtrips via Van Galder.

Another bus/train connection is available with the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder at Columbus, Wisconsin. Lamers Bus Lines operates that route between Madison and Columbus.

‘Pepsi Can’ at Glenview Pushing a Hiawatha

September 27, 2016

amtrak-sb-hiawatha-may-27-1997-glenview

I’ve enjoyed spending time at the joint Amtrak/Metra station in Glenview, Illinois. If you like passenger trains, it is a nice place to visit.

Metra comes through every hour and more frequently during peak commuter travel times. Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service is a frequent visitor and the Empire Builder also stops in Glenview.

During some of my trips to Glenview, I’ve sought to photograph the P32-8 locomotives that pushed and pulled the Hiawatha trains. I liked and still like the striking livery those locomotives came in from the GE factory.

A common nickname for these units was “Pepsi cans” because they somewhat resembled a look of the soft drink cans.

It was a tough image to make because the P32s always faced north and the tracks here run north and south. That means shooting into the sunlight.

I did what I could with varying results. Shown is a Chicago-bound train departing Glenview on May 27, 1997.

DTE Energy Proposed Ann Arbor Mixed Use Development Might Include New Amtrak Station

September 26, 2016

Ann Arbor authorities have responded favorably to a proposal by DTE Energy to develop riverfront property that could include a new Amtrak station.

Amtrak 4DTE is seeking to develop property it owns along the Huron River by creating a mixed used development.

The site is near the current Amtrak station. The city has been studying where to put a new Amtrak station.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said he welcomes DTE Energy’s proposed development and that it might include a new Amtrak station along Depot Street.

City Council Member Jane Lumm also welcomed the possibilities for cleanup and redevelopment of the 14-acre riverfront property, located at 841 Broadway St.

DTE said it is working with a private developer and architect to create plans for a riverfront restaurant, hotel, office space and green space that would be open to the public.

Ann Arbor is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains.

Arcadia Valley Amtrak Station Nearly Finished

September 26, 2016

The new Amtrak station for Arcadia Valley, Missouri, is almost complete and officials are hoping that service can begin as early as late October.

Amtrak Texas EagleThe station is in the southeastern section of the state would be served by Amtrak’s Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

The platform and and lighting has been installed and the final touches were being put on the fencing. Workers will soon begin work on the the parking lot.

The process to establish a station began in 2012 with local officials working with Amtrak, the Missouri Department of Transporation, Union Pacific and the city of Arcadia.

Much of the work has been spearheaded by a community action group, Our Town Tomorrow.

Greyhound to Use Ann Arbor Amtrak Station

September 26, 2016

Greyhound buses serving Ann Arbor, Michigan, will soon be stopping outside the Amtrak station.

GreyhoundBoarding will be on Depot Street. City officials have removed two metered parking spots to make room for the buses to load and unload.

Currently, Greyhound’s Ann Arbor stop is at a makeshift ticket office inside a parking garage along Fourth Avenue across from the Blake Transit Center.

That move came in 2014 after the bus line was forced to move from Huron Street when the bus station there was razed to make way for a hotel.

Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Susan Pollay said the Greyhound passengers will enjoy a comfortable waiting area and the ability to transfer to Amtrak trains and Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority buses operating every 30 minutes between downtown and the Amtrak station.

No date has been announced for the move, but Greyhound’s lease for its Fourth Avenue space expires on Dec. 31.

Middle of the Night in Cleveland

September 25, 2016

DayOne001

Amtrak schedules its long distance trains to maximize connections and for optimal arrival and departure times at the end point terminals.

That means that if you live near the middle of a route between Chicago and the East Coast, you’re going to see Amtrak during nighttime hours. Cleveland is about the mid-point for the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited.

If you were to visit the Cleveland Amtrak station at 2 p.m. on any given afternoon, no one would be around and the station might even be locked. But go there are 2 a.m. and the place will be alive with waiting passengers.

All four Amtrak trains that serve Cleveland are scheduled to arrive between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. The “best” scheduled time is for the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, which is scheduled to depart at 5:50 a.m., which is not terrible, but still requires getting up rather early.

Of course, people travel every day on flights that leave about the same time, but with few exceptions domestic flights do not leave between midnight and 5 a.m. from U.S. airports.

This photo was made at 2:29 a.m. as I awaited the arrival of the westbound Capitol Limited. It was running late, but not by much.

Entering the Shadows

September 24, 2016

amtrak-48-at-bort-september-4-03

Bort Road near North East, Pennsylvania, has long been one of my favorite locations to photograph Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

There is a one-lane ancient bridge here that arches over the CSX Erie West Subdivision that Amtrak uses.

The sun had not been up all that long when No. 48 came charging past on a Sunday morning in early September 2016.

On the point is P42DC No. 12 followed by a still new Viewliner II baggage car, three Viewliner sleepers, two food service cars and five Amfleet II coaches.

The shadows of the bridge are playing on the nose of No. 12 as it approaches. But it won’t be here long because train 48 is doing track speed and has places to  go.

Cincinnati Meeting to Discuss a Daily Cardinal

September 23, 2016
Map of Amtrak's Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Map of Amtrak’s Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Amtrak supporters met in Cincinnati on Friday to push for making the Chicago-New York Cardinal a daily train rather than the tri-weekly operation that it has been since the early 1980s.

Amtrak CardinalRail passenger advocates and public officials met to hear Amtrak officials outline the challenges facing daily service as well as how to overcome those.

“We’ve been building toward an event like this for a very long time. If you truly want to make this train better, you’ve got to run it seven days a week,” said Amtrak senior government affairs specialist Charlie Monte Verde. “We’re pitching this as a modern economic engine. We’re not trying to trade on the ghosts of the past.”

A Cincinnati chamber of commerce official echoed those sentiments.

“This is a piece of the puzzle for the chamber’s transportation strategy of connecting people to jobs,” said Jason Kershner, the chamber’s vice president for government relations. “We’ve really put our stake in the ground that transportation is important to business.”

The Cincinnati meeting was billed as a step toward building a coalition of communities along the route of the Cardinal that want better service.

Amtrak officials have said the cost of a daily Cardinal remains unknown. Much of the route uses tracks owned by CSX, which might demand capital improvements before agreeing to host a daily Cardinal.

Monte Verde said once the capital needs are known Amtrak could ask for an appropriation from Congress or attempt to build seven-day-a-week service into its budget somehow. He would not discuss potential costs.

“We think there is the space out there to make this train daily, but the first real step is to work with the railroads to see what their traffic is like,” Monte Verde said.

Amtrak officials said ridership would likely increase with more service because trains become more reliable the more they run.

“A daily Cardinal is a starting point,” Monte Verde said. “From there, you build the kind of awareness you need to have a discussion [about] a Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago short corridor service.”

“It’s a step forward, and it’s going to be a step we build upon,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio chair of rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio.

FRA Extends Deadline for Quad Cities Grant

September 23, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration has agreed to extend the deadline for the state of Illinois to use grant money toward establishment of intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

IDOTThe $177 million grant was awarded to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

IDOT will now have until Sept. 30, 2017. The deadline had been June 30.

State officials said much work remains to be done to introduce service to the route, which last had rail service in the late 1978 that was provided by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad between Chicago and Rock Island, Illinois.

That service was funded in part by the state but suffered from low patronage and poor tracks.

The grant to establish Chicago-Quad Cities was awarded in 2010.