Archive for August, 2018

Amtrak 448 at Bort Road

August 31, 2018

Bort Road is one of those countless rural roads in America that most people will never travel or know about.

It has a timeless quality about it, as though time has forgotten it.

Yet to the engineers in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bort Road is well known.

It crosses the CSX Erie West Subdivision on a one-lane bridge that was built decades ago when these tracks were owned by the New York Central.

In recent years the bridge has received some repairs and been closed for several weeks at times.

PennDOT would like to replace the bridge, possibly by moving it closer to the town of North East.

Perhaps some day in the not too distant future they’ll do that. But for now passenger trains continue to pass beneath this bridge just as countless NYC and Penn Central trains did in the years before Amtrak.

Shown is Amtrak’s Boston-bound Lake Shore Limited in late May.

The crossing signals in the background are for the Lake Erie District of Norfolk Southern, which Bort Road crosses at grade.

 

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New York LSL Section to Resume Service

August 31, 2018

The Lake Shore Limited will return to Penn Station in New York City on Tuesday, but the Cardinal will not be back in the Big Apple until November.

The New York section of the Lake Shore was suspended in late May due to construction on the train’s route to Penn Station.

Passengers were forced to transfer at Albany-Renssalaer, New York, and take a connecting train to New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

The Boston section continued to operate between Chicago and Boston as usual.

Also shifting back to Penn Station on Tuesday will be Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains, including the Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack.

The construction work in New York included replacement of components of the Spuyten Duyvil swing bridge between The Bronx and Manhattan; track replacement in the Empire Tunnel; rail, crosstie and grade crossing work between the tunnel and the bridge, and work on Track 19 at Penn Station.

As for the Cardinal, an Amtrak spokesperson said it will continue to originate and terminate in Washington due to other work being done in the Northeast Corridor.

Agency Says Downeaster Will Continue Operating

August 30, 2018

The agency overseeing Amtrak’s Downeaster service said rail service will continue even though a portion of the train is exempt from a federal law mandating that passenger routes have a positive train control system in place by the end of the year.

“Amtrak has gone through a review of all lines, even those that aren’t required to have [positive train control], and conducted safety assessments and there are no risks associated with the Downeaster line,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. “The route is not in jeopardy at all.”

Amtrak operates the Downeaster line, which links Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Quinn said segments of the line received an exemption from the Federal Railroad Administration because the line sees fewer than 12 trips per day.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an [Federal Rail Authority]-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-byroute basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Quinn said the New England rail authority is “not considering” installing the technology at this time.

Racing Through Cassandra

August 29, 2018

Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian is headed for New York City from Pittsburgh and will run nearly the length of Pennsylvania on its 444-mile journey.

The standard consist of one P42DC locomotive and six Amfleet cars, including a cafe car, is on display as the train passes through a cut at Cassandra, Pennsylvania, on the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern.

Soon the train will be rounding the famous Horseshoe Curve and arriving in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

North Carolina Track Work Affects 3 Routes

August 29, 2018

Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern and the North Carolina Department of Transportation will affect the operations of Amtrak’s Carolinian, Silver Star and Piedmont Trains

Alternative schedules and service cancellations will be in effect between Sept. 10 and 19.

On Sept. 10 through Sept. 13 the New York-Charlotte, North Carolina, Carolinian will operate between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Charlotte, only. Nos. 79 and 80 will be cancelled between New York and Raleigh with no alternate transportation provided.

On Sept. 16, the northbound Silver Star (Train 92) will operate as Train 1092 and depart Miami at 9:05 am, 2 hours and 45 minutes earlier than its normal schedule. Train 1092 will operate earlier through to New York.

On Sept. 17 the Carolinian will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided between New York and Charlotte

Piedmont Service Trains 73, 74, 75, 76, 77 and 78 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided between Raleigh and Charlotte.

The southbound Silver Star will operate normally the length of its route.

On Sep. 18 the Carolinian will operate between Raleigh and Charlotte with no alternate transportation provided between New York and Raleigh.

On Sept. 19 Piedmont Service Trains 74 and 75 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided between Raleigh and Charlotte.

SB Illini To Run Later on Weekdays

August 29, 2018

Train work being conducted by Canadian National will result in the southbound Illini operating 1 hour and 15 minutes later on weekdays between Sept. 4 and 21.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the schedule change will be in effect for the length of the train’s route from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois.

The schedule for Train 393 will not change on Saturdays and Sundays.

PTC Expected to be Running in Cascades Corridor

August 29, 2018

Positive train control is expected to be in operation on the Point Defiance Byass route in Washington state by the end of the year, Amtrak and the Washington Department of Transportation said this week.

The two added that PTC should be operation on the entire Cascades corridor as well.

Amtrak had started using the Point Defiance Bypass last December, but a southbound Cascades train derailed on the first day of service on the route, resulting in three passengers being killed and dozens injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board has indicated in a preliminary finding that the Amtrak train was speeding through a curve at the time of the derailment.

The Point Defiance Bypass runs through Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont.

Amtrak expects to begin using the route in spring 2019. WSDOT said that will give officials an opportunity to monitor the performance of the PTC system along the Cascades route.

“Amtrak, Sound Transit and BNSF are all working together to ensure PTC is operating seamlessly in the entire Pacific Northwest and they are confident they will meet the Dec. 31, 2018, federal deadline for implementation in our region,” officials said in a statement.

Amtrak Rips PTC Report

August 29, 2018

Amtrak has taken issue with a story posted Monday on the website of Trains magazine, calling it inaccurate.

The story cited second-hand sources as saying that Amtrak Vice President Stephen Gardner said at a meeting in New Mexico last week that Amtrak will not operate over routes lacking positive train control after Dec. 31, 2018.

The Trains story extrapolated from that that as many as eight trains could be in jeopardy because parts of their routes are unlikely to have PTC in operation by that date.

In a statement released Tuesday Amtrak sought to clarify its stance on operating on routes that fail to have PTC in place by the Dec. 31 deadline mandated in federal law:

“Where PTC is not implemented and operational, it is expected that nearly all carriers will qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule under law.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an FRA-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network.

“For those very limited routes where a host may not achieve an alternative schedule by year’s end, Amtrak will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance.”

The statement does not address whether any of the routes identified by Trains have segments that will lack “an alternative schedule” by the end of the year.

Amtrak told the Rail Passengers Association that it would have denied the reporter had the Trains reporter sought comment from the carrier.

Boardman is Again Critical of Amtrak

August 29, 2018

Former Amtrak head Joseph Boardman has again criticized the passenger carrier’s stance on operating on routes lacking positive train control.

Boardman

Boardman told Trains magazine that the Amtrak board of directors has not seriously considered the consequences of an earlier statement that the carrier will not use routes lacking PTC by a Dec. 31 deadline for implementation set by federal law.

In particular, the carrier has indicated that is considering sending Southwest Chief passengers by bus between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kansas, or La Junta, Colorado.

A sticking point is how Amtrak will treat route segments that are exempt from the PTC requirement.

“If Amtrak requires PTC on any exempted portion the full cost of the PTC installation and maintenance becomes Amtrak’s. So they could load up costs for these routes or pass them on to states (sponsoring service),” Boardman said.

“It’s just ridiculous and it is not necessary in the sparse operating environment of the FRA-exempted track areas. It is also not financially sensible to burden this cost on Congress or a state given the operating situation.”

Boardman said passenger trains can operate safely on track lacking PTC.

He said Amtrak should stop ignoring the judgments of the Federal Railroad Administration and continue to operate safe railroading without PTC on the FRA-judged low risk sections of track that received PTC exemptions in order to fulfill the “public service” mission it was created for.

“If the board made this decision then it has been poorly advised,” Boardman said. “Risk management and behavioral safety training is not new with the SMS [Safety Management System] adopted from the FAA and recently promoted within Amtrak.

Boardman described SMS as a “formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls.”

Amtrak created a risk management department following an Inspector General recommendation several years ago, but it was ended in 2017.

As he has argued in the past, Boardman believes recent Amtrak management decisions and actions have resulted in “serious missteps with Amtrak stakeholders, customers, and members of Congress.”

Calling this unacceptable nonsense, Boardman said it is time to move on and provide customer and stakeholder service and commitment.

“It’s creating an unprofessional situation for Amtrak that is reprehensible and unsustainable in the eyes of Congress and Dodge and Garden City, Kansas; La Junta and Trinidad Colorado; Raton, and Las Vegas, New Mexico; BNSF Railroad employees, private car owners, and even the United States Marine Corp. And those disgusted stakeholders are only the tip of the problems.”

Much Longer Lake Shore Limited

August 28, 2018

Since late May Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited has been solely a Chicago-Boston train and on some days it hasn’t operated east of Albany-Renselaer, New York, due to track work on CSX.

The result has been a shorter consists with fewer coaches, sleepers and locomotives. The train has also operated under the 448 and 449 road numbers the length of its journey.

The above photographs were made about a week before the New York section was suspended for the summer of 2018 due to track work in New York City.

Amtrak has said the New York Section will return in early September and, presumably, the Lake Shore Limited will resume its role of being one of Amtrak’s longest trains.

This image was made at North East, Pennsylvania, on the CSX Erie West Subdivision.