Archive for February, 2020

Tennessee Committee OKs Amtrak feasibility Study

February 22, 2020

A Tennessee legislative committee has approved a bill authorizing a study of the launching Amtrak service between Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee.

The bill will fund a feasibility study to determine how much the service would cost and who would pay for it.

During a hearing earlier, an Amtrak government affairs executive told Tennessee lawmakers that state and local governments would be expected to underwrite any operating losses of the service.

Amtrak has been touting in the past year corridor services between unserved or underserved urban centers.

The website Curbed Atlanta reported that Tennessee Rep. Jason Powell said the Amtrak service would provide a crucial connection between the fast-growing cities, with possible stops in Chattanooga, Tullahoma, and Murfreessboro.

“This corridor is one of those where it’s just glaring that there’s not a connection on the map,” Powell said.

However, he acknowledged that if the study determines the service would be costly “that might lessen the enthusiasm, but I think the appetite is there.”

It is not clear if Amtrak has approached Georgia lawmakers about supporting the proposed service.

A Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson told Curbed Atlanta it has “not been approached by Amtrak at this time.”

However, the agency has been working on a proposal for high-speed rail service between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, and, eventually, Washington.

Atlanta is served by Amtrak’s New York-New Orleans Crescent but Nashville has not had Amtrak service since the October 1970 discontinuance of Chicago-Miami/St. Petersburg Floridian.

The proposed Atlanta-Nashville corridor would have multiple trains a day operating with a six-and-a-half hour running time.

Charger in Test Service Damaged in Crossing Collision

February 22, 2020

A Siemens Charger locomotive being tested on the westbound California Zephyr was damaged this week in a collision at a grade crossing near Sparks, Nevada.

Two Amtrak crew members suffered minor injuries in the incident and were treated at a local hospital. None of the 78 passengers on board were hurt.

Amtrak has been testing the Charger locomotives on select long-distance trains. It has ordered 75 of them with the expectation that they will replace P42DC locomotives now pulling long-distance trains.

An online reported indicated that Union Pacific freight locomotives pulled No. 5 into the Sparks station with one of the UP units continuing to lead the train to its western terminus in Emeryville, California.

The Charger was reported to have been damaged in the collision with a cement truck but did not derail.

Charger locomotives are now operating on some Amtrak corridor trains.

Boarding Procedure to Change at San Diego Old Town

February 21, 2020

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Pacific Surfliner trains will depart and arrive on different tracks at the station.

Southbound trains will now arrive on Track 3 and passengers can be picked up from Old Town Station on the street side closest to Track 3.

Northbound trains will continue to depart from Track 4.

Amtrak advised those using the station to allow extra time for boarding and detraining while getting familiar with the different route to parking and connecting services. Use the pedestrian underpass if needed.

Amtrak Keystone Corridor Schedules to Change

February 21, 2020

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the changes are due to construction at the station in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

Train 620 will operate five minutes later from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy, and will operate six minutes later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Train 622 will now stop at Mt. Joy and will operate one minute later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Train 646 will operate one minute earlier from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy, and will operate on the current schedule from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Trains 652 and 654 will operate 10 minutes earlier from Harrisburg to Philadelphia.

Train 605 and 607 will operate 10 minutes later from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

Train 607 will operate 10 minutes earlier from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

Train 645 will operate 10 minutes later from Lancaster to Harrisburg.

Train 669 will operate 5 minutes later from Elizabethtown to Harrisburg on weekends.

VIA Lays Off Workers in Wake of Blockade

February 21, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has laid off 1,000 workers in the wake of blockages of the tracks of its host railroad.

Most VIA service has been shut down by the blockades, which are being staged to protest construction of a natural gas pipleline across Wet’suwet’en Nation land in northern British Columbia.

Although Canadian National has said that VIA may resume some service in southwestern Ontario and Quebec, a plan to reinstate VIA service between Montreal and Quebec City was canceled after a new blockade sprang up near St. Lambert, Quebec.

VIA officials said in a statement that they would continue the suspension of service on a large part of its network while CN lines remain closed due to the blockades.

VIA Rail President Cynthia Garneau described the situation as unprecedented.

“In 42 years of existence, it is the first time that VIA Rail, a public intercity passenger-rail service, has [had] to interrupt most of its services across the country,” Garneau said in a statement.

CN has temporarily laid off 450 of its workers after canceling more than 400 trains over the past week.

The Montreal-based freight hauler said it has shutdown operations in Eastern Canada until the blockades are removed.

Surplus Domes in Beech Grove

February 20, 2020

Dome cars were a fixture on most of Amtrak’s western long-distance trains through the late 1970s.

But as Superliner equipment began arriving in 1979 many of the dome cars were retired and sold to private owners.

A few domes were rebuilt as dome coaches for the Heritage Fleet and they operated on such trains as the City of New Orleans, Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Domes on the latter operated only west of Albany, New York.

But the gradual retirement of the Heritage Fleet also meant the sidelining of its fleet of short domes.

The Capitol Limited and City of New Orleans lost their domes due to the trains being assigned Superliner equipment. Amfleet II coaches became the standard for the Lake Shore Limited.

Some of the surplus short domes are shown in March 1995 at the Beech Grove shops after being removed from service and awaiting sale to new owners.

Track Work to Affect San Joaquins on Feb. 23

February 19, 2020

Trains 704, 712, 714, 716 and 718 will terminate at Stockton. Passengers will be provided bus service via Buses 4304, 4312, 4314, 4316 and 4318 between Stockton and Merced, making intermediate stops at Modesto and Turlock-Denair.

At Merced, passengers can board their respective 1700-series train to Bakersfield and intermediate stations.

Trains 703, 713, 715, 717 and 719 will originate at Stockton. At Bakersfield, passengers can board their respective 1700-series train to Merced and intermediate stations.

Passengers will be provided bus service via Buses 4303, 4313, 4315, 4317 and 4319 between Merced and Stockton, making intermediate stops at Turlock-Denair and Modesto.

At Stockton, passengers can board their respective 700-series train.

Train and bus schedules from Merced to Bakersfield, Stockton to Sacramento and Stockton to Oakland have been adjusted to depart up to 60-minutes later than normal times.

Menus on Full-Service Diners Changed

February 19, 2020

Amtrak has changed the menu on its full-service dining cars for the first time in nearly a year.

Although menu prices are largely unchanged the carrier has swapped out a few offerings while retaining others.

New to the menu are French Toast at breakfast in place of pancakes. At dinner, a cod entre has replaced Norwegian salmon while two vegetarian options are now available.

A baked three-cheese manicotti has replaced rigatoni and the vegan compliant selection is now a Cubana bowl. Also new at lunch and dinner are BBQ pork wings.

The full-service dining cars operate on the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle.

The new menus are dated January 2020 and Amtrak did not announce the changes.

The menu of flexible dining fare served on Eastern long-distance trains is dated November 2019 but remains unchanged from what was implemented last October.

This service is available to sleeping car passengers only aboard the Lake Shore Limited, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent and Silver Meteor. It will be extended to Silver Star sleeping car passengers on May 1.

Coach passengers on those trains must buy food and drink from the cafe car.

In spring 2019 Amtrak dropped train specific images from dining car menus.

Although the dining car menu offerings had been standard for several years there had been some slight variations by route. That ended in spring 2019.

The latest change means there are now seven entrée selections at dinner.

Some tweaks also have been made to the full-service dining car lunch menu. Gone are baked chilaquiles and steamed mussles. New are BBQ pork wings.

The entrée salad at lunch has been replaced with a Caesar salad. Like the entrée salad, the Caesar salad offers the option of being served with chicken breast strips for an additional charge of $3.50.

The complete full-service dining car menu offerings and prices paid by coach passengers are as follows.

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs ($8.50), continental breakfast ($8.75), French toast ($10.50), three-egg omelet ($13.75), and Southwestern breakfast quesadillas ($13.50).

Lunch: Ceasar salad ($12.50), black bean and corn veggie burger ($12.50), Angus burger ($12.50), BBQ pork wings ($14), garden salad ($3.50).

Dinner: Land and sea combo of Black Angus flat iron steak and crab cake ($39), Amtrak signature flat iron steak ($25), garlic herb cod ($23), thyme roasted chicken breast ($18.50), BBQ pork wings ($21), baked manicotti ($18.50), Cubano bowl ($6.50).

A garden salad is available for $3.50 but comes standard with meals served to sleeping car passengers.

The manicotti is described as filled with mozzarella, Parmesean and ricotta cheeses and comes with a vegetable medley and Roma tomato sauce.

The Cubana bowl is described as black beans, quinoa, mango, onion, red and green peppers, and jalapenos.

Amtrak said the Cubana bowl is a healthy option for those seeking reduced calories, fat and sodium.

The BBQ pork wings are described as braised bone-in pork shanks in Stubs smoky BBQ sauce with red skinned garlic mashed potatoes.

The land and sea combo comes with a choice of baked or mashed potatoes. The flat iron steak comes with a baked potato, the cod entree comes with rice pilaf and the chicken selection comes with mashed potatoes. All entrees come with a vegetable or vegetable medley.

The children’s lunch and dinner menu are the same and priced at $7.50. The options are a Hebrew National all-beef hot dog or macaroni and cheese.

At dinner those both come with a vegetable medley. At lunch the hot dog comes with kettle chips while the mac and cheese comes with a roll.

The children’s breakfast menu includes a scrambled egg with roasted potatoes or grits, and a croissant ($4.25) or French Toast ($5.25)

Deserts range from $7.25 for the Amtrak seasonal desert to $2.75 for vanilla pudding. The Amtrak specialty deserts are priced at $6.50 and include a flourless chocolate torte, New York style cheesecake or a rotating selection.

The Auto Train sleeping car passenger dinner menu is a stripped-down version of what is offered in other long-distance trains full-service dining cars.

Dinner entrees include flat iron steak, garlic and herb cod, pan roasted chicken breast and baked three-cheese manicotti.

All entrees come with a vegetable medley. The steak comes with baked potato, while the cod and chicken come with rice pilaf. Each entrée is accompanied by a salad and dinner roll.

The children’s dinner is chicken tenders or macaroni and cheese, with both coming with a vegetable medley.

There is a signature desert item that rotates but otherwise the choices are New York style cheesecake, vanilla ice cream or sugar free jello. Optional toppings include chocolate syrup, fruit toppings and whipped cream.

As is the case with on long-distance trains with flexible dining, the Auto Train offers sleeping car passengers at each meal a single complimentary beverage, including alcoholic beverages.

However, the cocktail, wine and beer selections on the Auto Train are more limited than what is available on full-service or flexible dining cars.

There is no breakfast offered in the dining car to sleeping car passengers aboard the Auto Train although an earlier Amtrak news release had said passengers receive a continental breakfast before arriving at their destination in Florida or Northern Virginia.

Capitol Corridor Set Ridership Record in FY2019

February 19, 2020

Capitol Corridor trains in California reported record ridership in fiscal year 2019.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, which oversees Amtrak service in Northern California said the trains carried 1,777,136 between Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2019.

The previous record was 1.7 million in fiscal year 2018.

CCJPA said that during FY2019 it earned $38 million in revenue a 5 percent increase over the $36.2 million earned in FY2018.

In a news release, CCJPA said it has had five consecutive years of record-breaking ridership and revenue.

In 2019, rider satisfaction also reached 90 percent for the first time since 2012.

The news release said CCJPA is seeking such improvements as upgraded Wi-Fi service later this year.

 

Blockade Disrupts Amtrak Service to Canada

February 18, 2020

A blockade of Canadian National tracks in Canada disrupted last weekend Amtrak service to that country.

Amtrak’s Maple Leaf, which ordinarily operates between New York and Toronto, was halted at Niagara Falls, New York.

The New York-Montreal Adirondack did not operate north of Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Also affected was Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest although some trains did operate all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia.

The blockades, which have lasted more than a week, are being staged to protest construction of a natural-gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia and is opposed by the First Nation’s hereditary chiefs.

CN has shut down freight service in eastern Canada after blockades sprang up in that region.

VIA Rail Canada has also canceled most of its services within Canada.