Archive for December, 2020

Keystone Service Modified Due to Station Work

December 18, 2020

Amtrak has announced scheduled changes to its Keystone Service trains due to construction at the station in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

The changes are effective through Jan. 8, 2021. During this period all Keystone Service trains will require reservations until further notice.

Another changes are:

  • Train 620 will operate 5 minutes later from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy and will operate 6 minutes later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.
  • Train 622 will now stop at Mt. Joy and will operate 1 minute later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.
  • Train 646 will operate 1 minute earlier from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy and will operate on the current schedule from Lancaster to Philadelphia.
  • Train 652 will operate 10 minutes earlier from Harrisburg to Philadelphia
  • Train 654 will operate 10 minutes later from Harrisburg to Philadelphia.
  • Train 605 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.

Train 666 will operate 15 minutes later on the entire route from Harrisburg to Philadelphia on the weekends through Dec.

Train 619 will operate 5 minutes later from Coatesville to Harrisburg through Jan. 8.

Some Amtrak Service Still Suspended

December 18, 2020

Although most Amtrak service in the Northeast Corridor is back operating today, the passenger carrier said some service remain suspended or are operating on modified schedules.

Cancelled service for today (Dec. 18) includes Northeast Regional No. 181 between Washington and Boston; and Empire Service trains  234, 280, 238, 233, 291 and 239 between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Running on a modified schedule is Northeast Regional 67, which will operate from Newport News, Virginia, to Washington only.

Amtrak has canceled numerous trains in the Northeast over the past two days due to a winter storm that dumped heavy snow on large swaths of the region.

Amtrak OIG Says PTC Systems Could be More Reliable

December 18, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General reported this week that the passenger railroad expects to achieve positive train control interoperability with its host railroads by the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline, but can take steps to better ensure its systems are reliable.

The OIG said Amtrak faces two risks that may diminish PTC’s safety benefits.

These include a lack of electronic tools to easily access data needed for it and the Federal Railroad Administration to monitor PTC system performance.

This means reports on reliability are incomplete and the processes to manually compile PTC data are inefficient and error-prone.

The OIG said the risks involve Amtrak’s practices when PTC systems do not initialize before a train leaves a station or disengages while en route.

The report said Amtrak does not consistently follow the stringent practices for PTC malfunctions that will be required by the FRA as of Jan. 1, 2020, and that data input processes contain a risk of human error.

The report noted that Amtrak achieved full implementation of its PTC systems last August

The OIG review found at least twice as many reliability incidents in a month than Amtrak officials identified after reviewing the same source of information.

As a result, the OIG report concluded, “reports on PTC reliability are incomplete and Amtrak cannot easily identify potential problems it may need to address promptly or longer-term.”

Although Amtrak officials acknowledged the need for electronic tools, they told the OIG “they have not fully researched available options because they have been focused on meeting the implementation deadline.”

Amtrak officials also cited funding constraints because of the pandemic.

Amtrak has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars” in PTC, including about $370 million from fiscal years 2008 through 2020, according to the report.

The passenger carrier has three PTC systems including the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System used on the Northeast Corridor and connecting corridors it owns; Incremental Train Control System in Michigan; and Interoperable Electronic Train Management System onboard locomotives that operate on freight railroads where it is a tenant.

Buttigieg Had Experience With Transportation Issues as a Mayor

December 18, 2020

Although U.S Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg has never worked in the transportation field, he has experience with transportation issues from his time as a mid-size city mayor.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend, Indiana, between 2012 and 2019, The city of 100,000, is served by major freight rail lines of Canadian National and Norfolk Southern, and is a stop for Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

South Bend is the eastern terminus of the South Shore commuter line to and from Chicago and has an airport served by several airlines.

A report on the Trains magazine website said Buttigieg as mayor supported a project to add 16.9 miles of double track to the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City in Indiana.

That work is part of a $460 million project that includes four new bridges, nine new station platforms and the addition of more than 1,300 parking spaces at four stations.

The South Shore has been awarded a $50.6 million Capital Investment Grant from the Federal Transit Administration for the project.

During his time as mayor, Buttigieg also sought federal funding to extend the South Shore Line from South Bend International Airport to the city’s downtown.

The Trains article said the most controversial rail issue Buttigieg faced as a mayor was the revocation by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2017 of the city’s “quiet zone” on CN and NS because it failed to install median barriers at 11 grade crossings.

Various railroad trade organizations on Wednesday issued statements on Wednesday that were generally supportive of Buttigieg’s nomination, which required U.S. Senate approval.

His resume include having served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve where he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. In the Navy Buttigieg rose to the rank of lieutenant.

He is a South Bend native who graduated from Harvard University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

Buttigieg also has severed as a a consultant at McKinsey & Company in Chicago.

Amtrak’s Celebrate the Century Train

December 16, 2020

Back in 1999 Amtrak put together a tour train, the Celebrate the Century Express. It toured the United States to commemorate the U.S. Postal Service during the 20th century.

During a visit to Cumberland, Maryland, in October 1999 for a Carl Franz photo special, the train happened to be in town.

Carl arranged to have the train posed for a night photo (top image) on a bridge over the C&O canal with a full moon.

The next two images show the train as seen from the Western Maryland viaduct at Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, which is part of the former Western Maryland mainline converted to a hiking and biking trail.

The last image shows one of the stamps depicted the side of Amtrak P42DC No. 100.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Winter Storm Prompts Service Cancellations in Northeast

December 16, 2020

A winter storm has prompted Amtrak to announce service cancellations in the Northeast for the period Dec. 16-18.

Canceled on Dec. 16 are Keystone Service trains 605, 607, 609, 643, 645, 649, 651, 655, 600, 642, 646, 648, 650, 654, 656 and 620 between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Also canceled are Northeast Regional 67 between Newport News, Virginia, and Boston; and Empire Service 244 and 241 between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Northeast Regional No. 66 will operate only from Newport News to Washington.

On Dec. 17 cancellations include all Acela service; Northeast Regional trains 55, 141, 95, 137, 179,193, 56, 148, 94, 190, 172, 138, 198 and 66; Keystone Service  trains 605, 607, 609, 643, 645, 649, 651, 655, 600, 642, 646, 648, 650, 654, 656 and 620; Empire Service trains 234, 280, 238, 233, 291 and 239; and Springfield Shuttles 494 and 417.

On Dec. 17 Keystone trains 640, 652, 641 and 653 will operate between Philadelphia and Harrisburg only.

On Dec. 18 Northeast Regional 181 is canceled while No. 67 will operate only between Washington and Newport News.

An Amtrak service advisory said no alternative transportation is being provided for the canceled trains.

Service will be restored pending improved conditions and passengers are urged to check their train’s status at Amtrak.com or the Amtrak smartphone app.

Transit Service Resumes at North Carolina Station

December 16, 2020

North Carolina-based Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation has resumed its Route 5 Service from the Amtrak station in High Point to Winston Salem.

An Amtrak service advisory said the Authority also provides on-demand service operating for Route 1 and 3 Monday through Saturday to and from High Point and Winston Salem for passengers who did not book in advance on Route 5.

Call 336-883-7278 for PART schedule information.

Stockton Waiting Room Temporarily Closed

December 16, 2020

The Amtrak station waiting room in Stockton, California, is temporarily closed.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said trains will continue to stop at the station and passengers will have access to boarding platforms.

However, passengers will not have access to the inside of the station or restrooms.

Amtrak did not give a reason for the closing or indicate how long it would last.

Stockton is served by Amtrak’s San Joaquin Service trains.

3 Amtrak Stations Now Staffed

December 16, 2020

Customer service representatives have now been assigned to the Amtrak stations in Hammond, Louisiana, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Meridian, Mississippi.

In a service advisory Amtrak said the staff will assist passengers in booking and boarding trains.

Tickets must be purchased using a credit card, debit card or Amtrak gift card. The passenger carrier is not accepting cash for ticket purchases.

The service advisory said the station waiting room will be open for passengers at all train times.

Hammond is served by the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans while Meridian and Tuscaloosa are served by the New York-New Orleans Crescent.

Garden City Station Loses Staffing

December 16, 2020

Since Nov. 30, the Amtrak station in Garden City, Kansas, has been unstaffed.

Although Amtrak described the move as temporary it did not say when it expects to resume staffing the facility.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the waiting room will be open to passengers two hours before each train departure.

However, friends and family picking up arriving passengers are not permitted in the station and are asked to wait in their vehicles.

Garden City is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.