Archive for October, 2018

Pere Marquette Now Arriving

October 10, 2018

Although Amtrak’s Pere Marquette originates and terminates in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it didn’t always sit overnight in the station.

For several years the equipment for the Chicago-Grand Rapids train sat overnight in a CSX yard and deadheaded to the station the next morning.

The photo above was made in June 1995 and the train is shown about to arrive at the station.

Service Canceled Due to Hurricane Michael

October 10, 2018

Amtrak is canceling service in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Michael.

In a service advisory issued on Tuesday, the passenger carrier said that the Silver Star (Nos. 91 and 92) will operate between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, effective Oct. 10.

No alternate transportation is being provided between Jacksonville and New York City.

The Palmetto (Nos. 89 and 90) will operate only between New York and Washington with no alternate transportation provided between Washington and Savannah. This change is effective Oct. 11,

Michael is to come ashore in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday and turn east toward the routes used by the affected two trains.

Flooding earlier affected operations of two other routes.

The Southwest Chief detoured in Kansas due to the threat of flooding along the Little Arkansas River.

No. 3, which departed Chicago on Tuesday, and No. 4, which departed Los Angeles on Monday, traversed a former Rock Island line between Hutchinson and Topeka. Those tracks are now owned by Union Pacific.

Chartered buses served passengers traveling to and from Newton, which was the only missed station.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the detour could continue for multiple days if needed.

The northbound Heartland Flyer was affected by a track washout in southern Oklahoma delayed passengers after heavy rainfall on Sunday afternoon damaged the tracks between Gene Autry and Davis.

The train was halted in Ardmore and passengers were transported by bus to all stops en route to Oklahoma City.

Many passengers aboard the Flyer had attended the annual Red River Showdown football game in Dallas between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas.

California Shows Off New Chargers

October 10, 2018

California officials and Amtrak recently showed off the livery to be used on the 14 new Charger locomotives that are being assigned to Pacific Surfliner service.

The locomotives and their livery were introduced at a ceremony at Los Angeles Union Station that was sponsored by the California Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency.

The units were built by Siemens in Sacramento, California, and have received the Tier IV emissions certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, making the Charger one of the cleanest diesel-electric passenger locomotives in operation.

Caltrans funded the locomotives with $100 million in state, federal and local funds. The Chargers will replace Amtrak-owned locomotives that are nearly 20 years old.

SW Chief to Remain Intact for FY2019

October 5, 2018

The proposed 500-mile bus bridge for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is on hold for at least another year.

During a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee this week Amtrak said it would continue to operate the Chicago-Los Angeles train as it is now through the end of fiscal year 2019, which began on Oct. 1.

Amtrak’s chief operating officer, Scot Naparstek, was noncommittal, though, when prodded by senators representing the states along the route who are seeking to get Amtrak to release $3 million it earlier pledged to use to rebuild tracks used by the train.

Colfax County, New Mexico, earlier won a $16 million federal TIGER grant for the track rebuilding.

“At this point we’re committed to work with the stakeholders and try to reach a conclusion,” Naparstek said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) said in news release that it is imperative for Amtrak to improve the route of the Chief.

“I reiterate the need for Amtrak to work with the communities impacted to create a real plan for the future of the Southwest Chief,” he said in a statement.

Amtrak has proposed replacing the train with bus service between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kansas, saying the route lacks a positive train control system.

There would have still been rail service between Chicago and Dodge City, and between Los Angeles and Albuquerque.

Amtrak IG Outlines Problems Carrier Must Address

October 5, 2018

A report by Amtrak’s inspector general has highlighted eight areas that the passenger carrier must address in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

This includes improving safety, noting that Amtrak’s employee and passenger fatalities in thje past year have increased to the highest levels since fiscal year 2015.

The IG also said Amtrak may lack the capacity to handle multiple initiatives simultaneously.

The report said size and scope of the carrier’s ongoing and planned asset purchases make managing any one of them a problem given its history of weaknesses in planning and managing major programs. “Pursuing them concurrently is a daunting undertaking,” the report said.

IG Tom Howard in his report provided a detailed review of each of the problem areas – Safety and Security, Governance, Financial Performance, Asset Management, Customer Service, Acquisition and Procurement, Information Technology, and Human Resources.

However, Howard also noted Amtrak has made progress in some areas. It reduced operating costs to the lowest amount in the past five fiscal years, improved customer relations through a series of focused initiatives, and “institutionalized more effective management processes and tools.”

The report can be downloaded at  http://go.usa.gov/xPBnr