Archive for December, 2016

The ‘Pointless Arrow’ Still Lives at Amtrak

December 31, 2016

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In April 1971, the National Rail Passenger Corporation unveiled its new logo, an inverted arrow that many wags came to call the “pointless arrow.”

It symbolized Amtrak for several years before the current herald was adopted. Although the arrow logo has been more or less retired, it continues to greet the public at some Amtrak stations.

One of those is Durand, Michigan, where it looms over passengers entering the former Durand Union Station. Aside from serving Amtrak, the Durand depot also houses the Michigan Railroad Museum.

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Double Shot of Amtrak P32-8 Locomotives

December 30, 2016

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I’ve only seen a pair of Amtrak P32-8 locomotives paired together on the point of a train one time. Maybe it used to be a common occurrence, but not that I saw.

Usually, one P32-8 was paired with a P40DC or P42DC. I even once saw a consist of a P40, a P32-8 and an F40PH.

I had my camera with me when I saw these two P32s, each wearing their original livery, wheeling the Chicago to Los Angeles Desert Wind through Riverside, Illinois.

It is April 8, 1996, and during the height of the era when some Amtrak long-distance trains did not operate daily.

One of those was the California Zephyr, which had long forwarded the Desert Wind through cars out of Chicago.

But on this day the Desert Wind is operating solo. The Zephyr will be back tomorrow, but probably not a pair of P32 units working in tandem.

Lounging Aboard the Capitol Limited

December 29, 2016

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It’s morning in Indiana. Some passengers aboard the westbound Capitol Limited have made their way to the lounge car to get a better view of the passing countryside.

Although No. 29 has a full-service dining car, many Amtrak coach passengers don’t patronize it. They either bring something to eat with them or grab something in the cafe car.

Often that might be a cup of coffee and a muffin. Then it is back upstairs to find a table or empty seat, or return to their coach.

Then again, if the train is on time into Chicago Union Station, there is a McDonald’s there and it will still be serving breakfast.

But the view is better from the Sightseer Lounge while you eat.

Fund Raising Campaign to Begin in February for Overhaul of Amtrak Station in Kirkwood, Missouri

December 29, 2016

The Kirkwood Train Foundation will launch in February a $3 million fund-raising campaign to pay for rehabilitating the Missouri city’s Amtrak station.

Amtrak Missouri River RunnerBuilt in 1893, the structure served Missouri Pacific passenger trains for decades before Amtrak arrived on May 1, 1971. Officials believe the station was last renovated in the 1940s.

“It is the main symbol of the city of Kirkwood,” said Art McDonnell, foundation member and former mayor in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.

Among the work that will be done is replacing the roof and tuckpointing the exterior.

The former baggage room will house modern and expanded restrooms.  Some window and stone restoration work will also be done.

The depot was in danger of closing more than a decade ago, but the city purchased it.

Since 2003, volunteers have overseen the station creating a model operation that has been emulated in other cities served by Amtrak.

A suburb of St. Louis, Kirkwood has 27,000 residents and is served by the St. Louis-Kansas City Missouri River Runners.

In Amtrak’s early years, Kirkwood was a stop for the New York-Kansas City National Limited. After that train was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1979, the state of Missouri began helping fund Amtrak service.

Until the Missouri River Runner service came about, Kirkwood was on the routes of the Chicago-Kansas City Ann Rutledge and the Kansas City-New Orleans River Cities.

Today, Kirkwood is the third busiest Amtrak station in Missouri. This month, the train station tied for first place in a 2016 Amtrak customer satisfaction survey.

Service Disruptions Loom for Texas Eagle, Crescent

December 29, 2016

Service disruptions will affect the Texas Eagle and Crescent in early 2017.

Amtrak logoBetween Jan. 9 and 15, the Chicago-San Antonio train will not stop at Arcadia, Missouri. It will detour on those dates between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Missouri, due to Union Pacific track work.

Track work being done by Norfolk Southern will result in passengers ticketed aboard the New York-New Orleans Crescent riding buses between Atlanta and New Orleans.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Nos. 19 and 20 will not operate on the following days south of Atlanta:

Southbound Train 19: Sunday through Wednesday on Jan. 8-11, 15-18, 22-25; Jan. 29-Feb. 1; and Feb. 5-8, 12-15 and 19-22.

Northbound Train 20: Monday through Thursday on Jan. 9-12, 16-19, 34-26; Jan. 30-Feb. 2; and Feb. 6-9, 13-16 and 20-23.

Intermediate stations affected are Anniston, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa in Alabama; Meridian, Laurel, Hattiesburg and Picayune in Mississippi, and Slidell, Louisiana.

On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays No. 19 will operate normally at all intermediate stations between Atlanta and New Orleans. Train No. 20 will have normal operations at those stations on  Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Oxford Indicates it May Fund Amtrak Station

December 29, 2016

News media reports out of southwest Ohio indicate that the City of Oxford is prepared to spend up to $350,000 to establish a stop for Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Amtrak 4The seven-member Joint Miami University-Oxford Amtrak Committee estimates that establishing the stop would cost between $1 million and $1.3 million.

That would include a 300-foot platform, an open-air canopy or shelter, and sidewalks.

Members of the Oxford City Council have spoken in favor of the station and signaled they are willing to consider helping to fund it.

The study committee has suggesting establishing the station south of Chestnut Street adjacent to Talawanda Local Schools’ Nelson-Morrow Building.

Parking and restrooms could be provided in the former Talawanda High School site.

No time frame has been announced on when the city might approve funding for the station.

Megabus Leaving East Lansing Market

December 29, 2016

Amtrak will have one less competitor in East Lansing, Michigan, after Megabus stops its service between there and Chicago on Jan. 9.

megabusMegabus currently stops at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway, which is also used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan Blue Water.

Lack of customer demand and a corporate restructuring were behind the decision to pull out of the East Lansing-Chicago market, said Megabus spokesman Sean Hughes.

He also cited low fuel prices and competition from other bus companies.

Hughes indicated the Megabus next month will be cutting other routes serving Chicago.

Other bus companies that operate between East Lansing and Chicago include Greyhound and Indian Trails.

Megabus currently also serves Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids in Michigan.

News reports have indicated that Megabus will also cease service in Iowa in January where it stops in Davenport, Coralville  (near Iowa City) and Des Moines on a Chicago-Omaha, Nebraska, route.

 

Inside Amtrak’s First ‘True’ Timetable

December 28, 2016
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Amtrak’s Nov. 14, 1971, timetable had a few errors that are humorous now, but were not so funny to Amtrak management at the time.

Amtrak issued three system timetables in 1971, its first year of operation. Two of those were just cut and paste jobs using graphics that the company that printed the folders already had on hand as a leftover from the days when the railroads operated their own trains.

But the first timetable that Amtrak could call its own came out on Nov. 14. Unlike the timetables issued on May 1 and July 12, the Nov. 14 folder featured more than minimal content and actually had been designed.

Reflecting the thinking of the an that the airlines did everything right and were role models to be emulated, Amtrak sought to create an airline-style timetable and a traditional railroad timetable.

In the front of the timetable were city listing that looked just like those of an airline timetable. The traditional linear railroading listing were relegated to the back.

Despite having had time to design the Nov. 14 folder, several embarrassing errors still crept in.

In the airline schedules section, Detroit was spelled “Detriot.” It was spelled correctly in the traditional railroad timetable section.

Also, the timetable for the Empire Builder had Fargo as a city in Indiana rather than North Dakota.

Despite the miscues, the Nov. 14 timetable was still one in which Amtrak could take pride and show that it was making the transition from the railroad era of passenger trains to the Amtrak era.

Empire Builder in Portland

December 27, 2016

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Amtrak P42DC No. 1 waits to pull the Empire Builder out of Portland Union Station on a July 1999 afternoon. Known as the “baby Builder” due to its four-car consist, No. 28 will connect with the Seattle section in the middle of the night in Spokane, Washington.

It will offers its passengers a scenic ride along the Columbia River not long after leaving Portland.

Parked behind the Empire Builder on the same track is a Talgo train used in Portland-Seattle Cascades service.

Dining on Amtrak Then and Now

December 26, 2016

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It can be interesting to compare Amtrak timetables, dining car menus and marketing materials across time. Shown above is a comparison of a bar menu from 1971 and a similar offering from 2015.

Aside from the prices having changed, another obvious difference is that in the early years of Amtrak the food and beverage service was still provided by the contract railroads and some of them did little more than take their existing materials and place the Amtrak logo on it.

That is the case with the 1971 bar menu, which looks much as it did when the Milwaukee Road ran its own trains.

Other than the Amtrak logo you might think that you were traveling in the late 1960s with trains being advertised that no longer ran in 1971 when this menu was offered aboard Amtrak.

Although the beverage offerings in 1971 are similar to those of 2015, there are some notable exceptions. Tobacco products are not longer sold on Amtrak and I’m not sure if they also sell decks of playing cards.

Coco Cola has been replaced with Pepsi products and what cost 30 cents in 1971 now costs $2.25. But look at the difference in price between a premium beer in 1971 (80 cents) and a regional craft beer in 2015 ($7).

(click on the image to enlarge it)