Archive for August, 2019

Rail Safety Event Set at Baseball Game in Anaheim

August 30, 2019

Amtrak, California Operation Lifesaver and the Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team will collaborate on a public safety event on Sept. 1 in Anaheim.

There will be a rail safety booth at Angel Stadium of Anaheim featuring rail safety experts who will provide tips for staying safe around railroad tracks.

The stadium is a stop for Pacific Surfliner trains operating between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

OLI officials said that California leads the nation in annual fatalities due to accidents at grade crossings and trespassing incidents.

Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney recently recorded a radio message in which he encourages fans to follow safety rules around railroad tracks and crossings. The radio spot will air on KLAA through September.

September is rail safety month in California, and Sept. 22-28 is U.S. Rail Safety Week.

All Board the Maple Leaf In Syracuse

August 29, 2019

It’s train time in Syracuse, New York, as passengers board the Maple Leaf bound for New York City and points in between. The image was made in May 2014.

Agreement Might Speed Up Customs Inspections

August 29, 2019

An agreement between the United States and Canada promises to make the border crossing a little faster.

Under the pact, U.S. customs inspections will be conducted at Montreal’s Central Station, in the manner that it is done for air travel between the two countries.

However, officials warn that it will be at least two years before the inspections begin in Montreal.

Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh, New York, predicts the best case scenario is that it will be at least two years before the new system is implemented.

“There are at least six parties in the conversation,” he said.

One key question that has yet to be answered is where the funding will come from to construct an inspection facility in Montreal.

At present, Amtrak’s New York-Montreal Adirondack, stops at the border and customs officials move through the train interviewing passengers as well as examining luggage and identification documents.

That process can take up to an hour, depending on how many passengers are on board.

The move to end the border stop has been in the works for more than five years.

Agencies involved in the discussions include U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the New York State Department of Transportation, Transport Quebec, Transport Canada, Amtrak and the City of Montreal.

One idea is to use an unused track and platform in Montreal for the inspection facility.

Amtrak spokeswoman Beth Toll said the carrier will establish a timeline to implement the new inspection procedures in consultation with New York officials, Canadian authorities, and U.S. border authorities.

Texas Lawmakers Want Hearing on Rail Corridor

August 29, 2019

A bipartisan group of 20 Texas state legislators is seeking a hearing on what it would take to create a rail passenger corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

The lawmakers delivered a letter to House Transportation Committee chairman Terry Canales asking him to set hearings on the matter.

The hearings could be held before the 2021 legislative session if approved by the chairman and the speaker of the house.

Texas Rail Associates chairman Peter LeCody described the letter as “an amazing show of bi-partisan support from members of the Texas House that realize we can’t move people and goods in the I-35 corridor by only laying down more concrete and asphalt. Leaders realize there must be multi-modal answers in the future so we don’t have a traffic meltdown.”

Planners have noted that in the next 50 years the population along the I-35 corridor will grow by 2 million.

Rail advocators said the region already has some of the worst traffic congestion in Texas.

TRA also is pushing for the transportation committee to move on the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study, which was completed in 2017 but has not been acted upon.

The group also called for movement on an initial study by the I-20 Corridor Council on rail service from Dallas-Fort Worth to East Texas with multi-state memorandum of understandings in place for Louisiana and eastward, and for the legislature to act on the stalled 2011 Texas Department of Transportation study on rail service between Houston and Austin.

Construction Set at Carbondale Station

August 29, 2019

In a service advisory, Amtrak said work will be done on the plaza and ramp access to the station.

During that time, one ADA-compliant path will remain open to and from the depot.

Passengers and visitors are being urged to look for signs and to use caution when going to and from the station and train platform.

Carbondale is served by Amtrak’s Illini, Saluki and City of New Orleans.

Huntington Station Park Lot To Reopen

August 29, 2019

Workers were repairing and restriping the lot, which forced passengers to walk two blocks from an alternative parking lot to the station.

During the construction, Amtrak encouraged patrons to make every effort to be dropped off and picked up at the station.

Huntington is served by the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Track Work Affects Downeaster Service

August 29, 2019

Track work by host railroad Pan Am Railways will disrupt Downeaster Service on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Aug. 29 and Sept. 10 and 12.

Train 681, which normally operates between Boston North Station and Brunswick, will originate at Durham with Bus 3681 will connect with this train at Wells.

Train 689, which normally operates between Boston North and Brunswick, will terminate at Portland on Sept. 11.

No alternate transportation will be provided to the missed station stops of Freeport and Brunswick.

Train 1689 will terminate at Portland on Sept. 9.

Train 681, which normally operates between Brunswick and Boston North Station, will terminate at Durham. Bus 3682 will connect with this train at Wells and operate nonstop between Wells and Boston North.

Trains 683, 684 and 686 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

Amtrak Shows New Acela Express Interiors

August 29, 2019

Amtrak’s Aclea Express trainsets will have a different interior appearance than the existing equipment assigned to that service.

The new equipment is currently being constructed by Alstom and the carrier showed some interior mock-ups at a press event this week.

Restrooms are ADA compliant and come with changing tables.

Likewise snack cars are ADA complaint and the fixed seating has been eliminated. The snack cars will have more self-service products.

A conductor’s office will offer crew access to an on-board closed-circuit TV system.

Each car will have LED screens showing train location, speed and other announcements.

Seating will be leather with footrests and adjustable in-seat lighting.

Amtrak said the seats will have more comfortable headrests, personal electrical outlets, USB ports, and integrated handles in the seat backs to make walking through the train easier while the train is in motion.

Seats are fixed with half facing forward and half facing to the rear. Passengers will be able to select specific seats via an advance reservation system.

Vertical shades have replaced curtains on windows and tray tables will offer a large or small space for use.

Alstom is constructing 28 of the nine-car, 378-seat trainsets that are expected to enter revenue service in 2021.

Amtrak Restores Fare Discounts for Veterans

August 29, 2019

Amtrak has restored fare discounts for military veterans, a 10 percent off discount that is available systemwide.

The discontinuance of the veteran’s fare discount in March 2018 had been widely criticized.

In a news release, Amtrak said the discount will apply to active duty military personnel as well as veterans of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

The discount applies to standard fares in coach and Acela Business Class but is not valid on weekday Acela service.

It cannot be used with Saver fares, non-Acela business class, first class, or sleeping-car accommodations.

Other terms and restrictions may apply and are spelled out on the Amtrak website.

Future of Amtrak Travel?

August 27, 2019

I was driving westbound on Interstate 70 back in August 2011 near the Ohio-Indiana border when I spotted what looked like a part of a Talgo train being toted on a flatbed truck.

I was able to get past the vehicle and determine that it was, indeed, part of a Talgo train.

I was able to get ahead of the truck, duck into a rest stop and grab a photograph as it went by.

Why it was out there I don’t know. Maybe it was headed for the Amtrak shops in Beech Grove, Indiana.

But I don’t think Talgo equipment is serviced there.

At any rate, it occurred to me that some at Amtrak might think this would be one way to deal with the hassles of working with host railroads.

Put passenger cars on trucks and let them travel by road.