Archive for January, 2017

California Zephyr Temporarily Skipping Roseville Station Stop Due to Union Pacific Track Work

January 31, 2017

Amtrak’s California Zephyr will not stop in Roseville, California, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 due to track work being conducted by Union Pacific.

amtrak-california-zephyrIn a service advisory, Amtrak said alternative service will not be provided to or from Roseville.

Passengers are instead directed to use stations in Sacramento or Colfax.

However, Amtrak is providing bus service to replace Train No. 720, which will not stop in Roseville on Feb. 4 and 5.

Passengers ticketed for train 729 are advised that they will board a bus to Sacramento that will depart Roseville at 8:13 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled train departure time.

Passengers traveling from Auburn to Roseville are being directed to use the Rocklin station, which is located four miles east of Roseville.

Advertisements

Getting Settled Aboard the Southbound Illini

January 31, 2017

illini-sb-in-chicago

Boarding is well underway for Amtrak train No. 393, the Illini, at Chicago Union Station. En route to Carbondale, Illinois, the train will make intermediate stops in Homewood, Kankakee, Gilman, Rantoul, Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia and DuQuoin before it ties up for the night.

I’ll be getting off in Mattoon to visit my Dad. It will be my final trip to see him in my hometown for in a couple months he will move top Arizona and my method of conveyance to go see him will be an Airbus or Boeing 737.

Between April 1994 and March 2014, I would regularly ride Amtrak from my home in Cleveland to visit my Dad.

The Illini was a constant during that period of time, leaving in late afternoon at 4 p.m. and later 4:05 p.m.

Most of the time I would ride in a Horizon fleet coach similar to one although during a few trips I bought a business class seat in what was often an Amfleet food service car.

Some day the Horizon equipment might be gone from the Illinois corridor trains and this view will be dated. But as this is posted in early 2017, it remains state of the art.

Amtrak to Take Back the Hoosier State

January 31, 2017

Iowa Pacific will cease operating the quad weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State at the end of February with Amtrak taking it over on March 1.

Iowa PacificThe Indiana Department of Transportation, which had contracted with IP to operate the train, said the contract was to have run through June 30, but IP demanded more money than the contractual amount.

“They were looking for a minimum monthly subsidy that was outside the budget we had,” said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said. “Even under the existing contracts, their needs were beyond what we had budgeted.”

IP has operated the Hoosier State since July 2015, taking over it from Amtrak after INDOT advertised for bidders.

INDOT said it has paid Iowa Pacific Holdings $500,000 to date to provide on-board service, marketing and equipment for the Hoosier State and $3.9 million to Amtrak, which provides crews to operate the train.

IP will receive an additional $300,000 to operate the Hoosier State through the end of February.

“It should be said we signed contracts in good faith with Iowa Pacific that was through the end of June, and then they came to us and said they we’re unable to continue under those contracts,” Wingfield said.

IP President Ed Ellis wrote on Facebook that his company is moving to “a different service model.”

There have been discussions on railfan chat lists that IP might be experiencing financial difficulties after it failed earlier this month to issue paychecks to employees in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Some employees of the IP-operated Texas State Railroad were laid off, but IP said in a statement that those layoffs were seasonal.

Ellis said on his Facebook page that IP was “unable to continue providing passenger train equipment and on-board services under the terms of its existing contract for the Hoosier State.”

IP received high marks for instituting business class, upgrading the food service and offering a dome car on the Hoosier State.

Ellis wrote that these service enhancements improved customer satisfaction, revenue and ridership, but the train suffered from poor on-time performance when it reached its destination hours late, if at all, on some occasions.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Hoosier State will operate with Amtrak equipment starting March 1.

INDOT said it’s seeking to continue on-board wi-fi and business-class seating for the train, which operates between Chicago and Indianapolis on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

It is unclear, though what the long-term future will be for the Hoosier State, including whether INDOT will again put the operation out for bid.

The Hoosier State is funded by INDOT, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer.

Amtrak CEO Moorman Talks About His Vision for the Future of the U.S. Rail Passenger Carrrier

January 30, 2017

Since taking over last fall as the CEO of Amtrak, Charles “Wick” Moorman has given hints here and there about his vision of America’s national intercity rail passenger carrier.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

Columnists and editors of Trains magazine sat down with Moorman in December to discuss that vision.

Columnist Don Phillips was there and wrote about it for the March issue of the magazine that will be in subscriber mailboxes soon.

Phillips recently sent advance copies of his columns to those on an email list that he maintains. Presumably, there will be another report in the March issue written by the magazine’s passenger rail correspondent.

Moorman told the Trains representatives that he sees a future for long-distance passenger trains, but it is less clear if he sees any expansion of them.

He does see potential growth in medium-distance service, which is paid for by the states.

The proposed restoration of service along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans has been gaining political support and may end up becoming an extension of the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.

But that hinges upon the federal government making a financial commitment to the service.

Moorman said during the interview that the new Viewliner equipment for eastern long-distance trains that is being built by CAF USA will be finished according to a new production schedule that the company and Amtrak have agreed upon.

Other items of interest include Moorman’s view that something needs to be done about the quality of food service aboard Amtrak trains, and the aging diesel locomotives and passenger cars used by trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

In regards to food service, Moorman said the pressure that has come from Congress in recent years to cut the cost of food service is lessening and what Amtrak needs to do is sell more food.

Another high priority on Moorman’s list is the institution of a training program for on-board employees, including conductors.

But the top priority on Moorman’s list is rebuilding infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. That includes replacing bridges, tunnels and catenary, as well as building a replacement for New York Penn Station.

The takeaway from the Phillips column: Look for a better on-board experience but with little to no expansion of the existing routes and levels of train frequency.

Miami Amtrak Station Platform Built Too Short

January 30, 2017

The opening of Amtrak’s new station near Miami International Airport is not only late, but it has a size problem.

The platform is too short to accommodate the length of the Amtrak trains that will use it.

Amtrak 4Officials in the Florida Department of Transportation say that an engineering error in designing the platform means that the Miami Intermodal Center will not open until late 2017.

“FDOT is in the process of finalizing an operations and maintenance agreement with Amtrak to provide their passenger service at the MIC Central Station,” said FDOT spokesperson Ivette Ruiz-Paz in an email to the Miami Herald.

Ruiz-Paz said Amtrak will continue to use its Hialeah station for the New York-Miami Silver Star and Silver Meteor.

The design error means that the platform at the station is short by about 200 feet. Trains would be forced to block Northwest 25th Street.

Officials say the error was the result of confusion between FDOT and Amtrak. The designers were expecting shorter trains than Amtrak typically operates on the route.

Rather than extend or rebuild the platform, FDOT has decided to live with trains blocking 25th Street and reconfigure nearby streets to accommodate traffic detours.

“A crossing has been developed and constructed from NW 28th St. connecting to NW 37th Ave.,” Ruiz-Paz said. “Other roadway elements have also been added to improve connectivity to the infrastructure.”

Amtrak is one of four rail services at the Miami Intermodal Center, or MIC.

Also using it will be Metrorail, Tri-Rail and the elevated trains to the airport.  There will also be bus terminal and rental car center.

Ski Train Ticket Sales Have Been Strong

January 28, 2017

News reports indicated that ticket sales for Amtrak’s Colorado ski train remain strong with some trips in February and March expected to sell out.

Amtrak logoThe ski train operates on weekends between Denver and Winter Park.

The Winter Park Express began service on Jan. 7. It had been eight years since a Denver ski train had last operated.

However, the train operated briefly in March 2015 in observance of the 75th anniversary of the Winter Park resort.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine that the train has sold out every Saturday since it began earlier this month.

Magliari said the sell-out crowds this year surprised many at the railroad and Amtrak is looking at how it can improve and tweak the service next year.

In particular, Amtrak is eyeing making it easier for groups to reserve tickets in an entire car.

Night Visit to Winona

January 28, 2017

dayone052

dayone053

DayOne054

Winona, Minnesota, is one of many typical stations served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. And yet it isn’t because it is a crew change point.

The crew that boards to go eastbound always goes on duty in the daylight because No. 8 is scheduled into Winona in late morning.

Depending on the time of year, the crew that boards No. 7 to take it further westward, may or may not see daylight.

In this series of images, it is May 2014 and the new operating crew is getting on in darkness.

At the invitation of my sleeping car attendant, I decided to step off in Winona and make a few images to capture a nighttime station stop.

A Station Amtrak Never Saw

January 27, 2017

rock-june-25-1977-3-x

For a few years in the late 1970s, the State of Illinois helped underwrite the financial losses of a pair of Rock Island Railroad intercity passenger trains.

The Rock had elected not to join Amtrak in 1971 because it figured it was cheaper that way. So it had to keep operating its Chicago-Rock Island and Chicago-Peoria trains.

They received spiffy names, the Quad Cities Rocket and the Peoria Rocket. Actually, there always had been a Peoria Rocket, more than one as a matter of fact.

I rode the Peoria Rocket to and from Chicago in June 1977. The train was as bare bones as the financially struggling Rock Island could make it. It had two coaches and a single E unit.

At the urging of the state, Amtrak agreed to study taking over the Rockets. But that never happened and the last trips of the Rockets occurred in late 1978.

The photograph above was made from aboard the Peoria Rocket during a station stop in Ottawa, Illinois.

It could have been an Amtrak station, but the price of Amtrak taking over the Peoria Rocket was just too high. Ottawa hasn’t seen intercity rail passenger service since.

Phase II E Unit on Display

January 26, 2017

amtrak-440-chicago-1977-x

By the time that I began photographing Amtrak operations in 1977 the EMD E and F units that had been a mainstay in Amtrak’s roundhouse in the carrier’s earlier years were vanishing from the scene.

Some still pulled select trains, most notably the Broadway Limited, National Limited and Lake Shore Limited, but otherwise short-haul trains were pulled by F40PHs and P30CHs, while long-distance trains still had SDP40Fs.

But the motive power assignments were rapidly changing as Amtrak was phasing out the SDP40F and replacing them with other locomotives, sometimes E units.

Some E units were repainted into the Phase II livery, but there were not all that many in proportion to the number of E units that Amtrak once operated.

I have a few photographs of Amtrak trains being pulled by E units, but all of them feature units wearing the Phase I livery. This is one of my few and maybe only image of an E unit in the Phase II markings.

Originally built in September 1953 for the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac, this E8A wore Amtrak roster number 220 until November 1975 after being rebuilt. No. 440 was retired by Amtrak in July 1981.

I made this image from aboard the outbound Lone Star as it passed the diesel shop.

SW Chief to Benefit from BNSF Track Work in Kansas

January 26, 2017

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief will benefit from planned capital expenditures planned for its route in Kansas in 2017

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2BNSF said it will spend $125 million in the Sunflower State, most of it on rails used by the Chicago-Los Angeles train.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said the work will include replacing ties, laying new rail and adding ballast.

The work will be undertaken between Emporia and Topeka, and between Newton and Garden City.

Earlier track work done in western Kansas was instrumental in helping to keep the Chief on its present route. That work was funded largely with federal TIGER grants.