Archive for October, 2019

That 70s Look in an Amtrak Dining Car

October 30, 2019

It is breakfast time aboard Amtrak’s westbound National Limited in April 1977.

The passenger carrier has been around now for almost six years and still sports the blue and red colors that dominated its interior look in its early years.

Note the water pitchers are a bright red. Then again, when was the last time that Amtrak put water pitchers on the table in the dining car?

My how things have changed over the years.

I didn’t record where the train was when I made this image, but I had boarded in Dayton, Ohio, so Train No. 31 was probably in western Ohio or far eastern Indiana.

The National Limited and the tracks Nos. 30 and 31 used between Dayton and Indianapolis are mostly gone now.

Amtrak Names New Safety Officer

October 30, 2019

Amtrak has appointed Steve Predmore executive vice president and chief safety officer effective Nov. 4.

He will succeed Ken Hylander, who plans to retire on Nov. 15.

In a news release, Amtrak said Predmore will oversee the system safety, compliance and training, environmental compliance, sustainability and public health groups.

He will report to Stephen Gardner, senior executive vice president and chief operating and commercial officer.

Most recently, Predmore was vice president and chief safety officer with the Bristow Group, a provider of aircraft for offshore transportation, and search and rescue.

He also served as senior vice president of safety for MV Transportation, a provider of contracted passenger services, and spent nearly two decades in aviation industry, having served in safety roles at JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines.

Hylander, who joined Amtrak in January 2018, had been been responsible for implementing a safety management system at the passenger carrier.

Assigned Seating Set For NE Regional Business Class

October 30, 2019

Starting in January passengers will be able to choose their preferred seat aboard business class sections of Northeast Regional trains.

In a news release, Amtrak said the service will allow families, friends and colleagues to sit together.

Seat assignment in business class on Northeast Regional trains will begin on trains departing on or after Jan. 11.

A similar program has been has been in operation for Acela first class passengers since February 2018.

Amtrak said that seats are automatically assigned when a passenger makes a reservation.

To select a preferred seat, a passenger can change their assigned seat at any time before boarding via an interactive seat map on Amtrak’s mobile app, at, or with a ticket agent.

There is no fee to choose or change a seat assignment.

Amtrak said it is considering adding seat assignment options on additional trains, but did not specify which ones.

Ex-City Manager Indicted in Station Lobbying Scheme

October 30, 2019

A former Illinois city manager has been indicted on felony charges stemming from unauthorized payments for a lobbying effort to create an Amtrak stop.

Bob Keily, who retired in 2018 as city manager of Lake Forest, was indicted by a grand jury on Oct. 23.

He is charged with making illegal payments totaling nearly $200,000 to a Washington-based lobbying firm between January 2016 and 2017.

Keily was charged after a Lake Forest City Council-appointed special counsel probed the fund transfers.

The special counsel reported in March 2018 that the transfers violated city codes by laundering public funds through the city attorney’s private law firm for the lobbying effort.

Keily was seeking to persuade Amtrak to establish a stop for its Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains in Lake Forest.

That project also included adding an underpass beneath the tracks that would have cost $13 million.

FRA Has Mag-Lev Grant Funds Available

October 30, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has published a notice of grant funding opportunity for magnetic levitation deployment projects.

The notice, which was published in the Federal Register, provided information about how to seek $24 million in grant funding for eligible projects under the federal Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program.

That includes $10 million appropriated by Congress in 2019 and an additional $14 million in funds authorized by Congress in 2008 under sections of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, known by the acronym SAFETEA-LU.

Applicants for the $14 million in funding must be focused on projects in Pittsburgh, and  Baltimore-Washington and Atlanta-Chattanooga corridors.
The $10 million in grants funds are not limited to those three maglev projects.

Irvine Station Elevator Down for Repairs

October 30, 2019

The elevator to pedestrian overpass from the platform of the Amtrak station in Irvine, California, is out of service through Nov. 18.

In a service advisory Amtrak said the elevators are being repaired.

Passengers requiring an elevator may board at the Santa Ana or San Juan Capistrano stations.

Passengers will still be able to reach the Irvine pedestrian overpass via a stairway.

Oregon POINT Bus Service Resumes Normal Schedule

October 30, 2019

The completion of a construction project involving Interstate 5 has meant that POINT Bus Service is back to normal in Oregon.

The service connects Amtrak trains in the state and had been disrupted by the I-5 work.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said normal schedules resumed on Oct. 28.

For updates or more information on the highway construction on I-5 and impact for travel, visit

Hoosiers Waiting for the Hoosier State

October 28, 2019

It’s a Friday morning in Lafayette, Indiana, and a crowd is gathering on the platform for the Chicago-bound Hoosier State to arrive.

The train is on time and will be in the station shortly.

It is a ritual that won’t be playing out much longer for today is the penultimate run of the northbound Hoosier State.

After Train No. 851 departs on Sunday morning the only Amtrak service in Lafayette will be the tri-weekly Cardinal.

Durbin Seeks to Hold RRs Accountable for Amtrak Delays

October 26, 2019

An Illinois Senator says Amtrak’s host railroads could do more to operate Amtrak trains on time.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in letters sent to the passenger carrier and the Federal Railroad Administration that he wants to work with them on the issue.

Durbin said he acted after the Amtrak Office of Inspector General issued a report that concluded report Amtrak could save $42 million annually if its trains operated on time more often.

The report was created under the direction of an amendment that Durbin won approval of last year during the appropriations process.

Of particular interest to Durbin is the poor performance of State of Illinois-funded Amtrak trains operating between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, on tracks of Canadian National.

The report found that Amtrak must make penalty payments to crews as a result of poor on-time performance of the Illini and Saluki trains.

“As a firm supporter of passenger rail, I stand ready to continue working with Amtrak, as well as with the FRA, to push Canadian National to improve Amtrak’s reliability for Illinois riders,” Durbin wrote Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson.

In his letter to FRA had Ronald Batory, Durbin called on the agency “to take a more active role in ensuring improvements to Amtrak’s [on-time performance], particularly along its Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale routes.”

Durbin is calling for CN to be held accountable for repeated freight interference and speed restrictions imposed on Amtrak trains in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

“As you are well aware, freight railroads continue to ignore their statutory obligation to provide Amtrak with preference on their tracks,” Durbin wrote to Batory.

“As a result, freight interference has hampered Amtrak’s financial stability as well as reliability for riders — and it caused roughly 60 percent of Amtrak’s delays in FY2018.”

Track Work to Dispute Carolinian, Piedmonts

October 26, 2019

Norfolk Southern track work will disrupt operations of some Piedmont and Carolinian trains on Oct. 29.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Piedmont Service Trains 74, 75, 76 and 77 will be cancelled and alternate transportation will not be provided.

The Carolinian from Charlotte, North Carolina, to New York, will originate at Raleigh, North Carolina.

No alternate transportation is being provided between Charlotte and Raleigh.

All other Carolinian and Piedmont trains will operate normally on Oct. 29.