Archive for March, 2021

New Capitol Corridor Sked Set to Roll Out

March 25, 2021

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority will introduce a new schedule on March 29 for Amtrak’s Capitols Service.

The agency said the new schedule “better reflects current ridership demand.”

Restoration of pre-COVID-19 levels of service are not expected until sometime in 2022.

Before the pandemic, the corridor hosted up to 30 trains per day. During the pandemic service fell to 10 trains a day.

Service rose last June to 16 weekday trains with 10 on weekends. The corridor has 18 stations on its 170-mile route.

Among the changes in the new schedule will be inauguration of a direct round-trip train on weekdays between Auburn and San Jose, thus allowing riders to travel the entire corridor without a change of trains.

A sixth round-trip between San Jose and Oakland will also return.

CCJPA in a news release described the new timetable as a “pulse schedule” because it features adjustments to departure times so they are “more consistent and predictable,” and “a better distribution of trips throughout the day with smaller gaps between morning and midday trains.”

Judge Says Amtrak Liable for 2017 Cascades Derailment

March 25, 2021

A judge has ruled that Amtrak is strictly liable for a December 2017 derailment of a Cascades Service train in DuPont, Washington that left three dead.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Amtrak engineer Steven Brown, who was at the controls at the time that Cascades No. 501 derailed.

The National Transportation Safety Board later ruled that the train was exceeding the posted speed limit on a curve when it derailed.

Brown claimed in his suit that he was not properly trained and that a positive train control system could have prevented the derailment.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Karena Kirkendall means that when Brown’s suit goes to trial later this year the only issue to be decided will be that of damages.

Amtrak had argued in court that Brown’s negligence caused the derailment.

But Judge Kirkendall granted Brown’s motion for partial summary judgment, which asked the judge to find Amtrak “strictly liable” and that the only defense to Amtrak’s absolute liability would be to prove that Brown “was the sole cause of his own injuries.”

SRC Touts Endorsements of Gulf Coast Service

March 25, 2021

The Southern Rail Commission said recently that it has gained support from several Gulf Coast organizations and mayors from cities across the region in support of Amtrak’s plans to begin rail passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

Amtrak wants to begin the service in 2022 but is locked in a dispute with host railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern over what rail infrastructures improvements are needed to host the service.

The intercity passenger carrier recently took its case to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

The Gulf Coast has lacked Amtrak service since August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina damaged the route used by the Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida.

The SRC has been trying since then to get intercity rail service reinstated and has landed federal and state grants to be used for that purpose.

“Restoring passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile is a critical economic driver for our region,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in A prepared statement. “I pledge to work with Amtrak and the railroads to help make the service a reality. We know that to grow, we have to think regionally, and this is a step in connecting New Orleanians with destinations along the Gulf Coast.”

California, USDOT in Talks to Settle Suit

March 25, 2021

California and the U.S. Department of Justice are talking about a settlement in a lawsuit the state filed against USDOT after it canceled a $929 million grant for the state’s high speed rail project.

That action was taken during the Trump administration. In its lawsuit, filed in 2019, California argued that USDOT lacked the legal authority to withhold the funds, which had been granted during the Obama administration.

During the Trump presidency, the Federal Railroad Administration contended that the state “failed to make reasonable progress on the project.”

California officials countered that the cancellation of the grant stemmed from Trump’s “overt hostility” toward the state.

Baltimore Station Development to Begin This Spring

March 25, 2021

Development of a mixed use project at Baltimore Penn Station  is expected to get underway this spring.

The $90 million project envisions transforming the station into a mixed-use local hub that will spur neighborhood development.

As part of the project, the station head house will be renovated and a modern passenger concourse will be constructed north of the current site.

The head house, which was built in 1911 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, will become office and retail space.

The passenger carrier is reviewing bids on the platform work. Amtrak announced the project in 2019 and is working with a development partner.

Del Mar Bluffs Repair Cost Put at $10.5M

March 25, 2021

Emergency repairs to the Del Mar Bluffs in Southern California are expected to cost about $10.5 million said the San Diego Association of Governments.

The work will involve construction of a 288-foot seawall and 18 vertical concrete and steel support columns tied into horizontal supports.

The project will seek to stabilize a section of the bluffs that collapsed in February within 35 feet of the tracks used by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Since then Amtrak and Coaster commuter trains have slowed to 15 miles per house past the site. BNSF freight trains are restricted to 10 mph.

Pa. City Revives Effort to Become Amtrak Stop

March 24, 2021

Officials in Rockwood, Pennsylvania, are seeking to have Amtrak create a flag stop in their town for the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Amtrak 4 City officials have hired two lobbying groups to help them pursue creating a station.

Located in Somerset County, Rockwood has sought an Amtrak station in the past.

When the idea surfaced about a decade ago, Amtrak estimated creating a station in Rockwood would cost $3.9 million and would generate 2,100 passengers annually.

Official hope agreeing to become a flag stop will cost less than establishing a full station stop.

The Amtrak lobbying effort will be an add on to a $5,000 a month contract the city has with Washington-based lobbyist Pendulum Strategies and South Carolina-based Nelson Mullins to pursue a highway project.

Host railroad CSX has expressed concern about the Rockwood stop, saying it might cause possible freight-train delays.

1st 50th Anniversary Unit Out of Shop

March 19, 2021

The first of the special livery locomotives that Amtrak is rolling out to celebrate its 50th anniversary is out of the shop and ready for revenue service.

P42DC No. 46 will feature the blue and silver Phase V livery that has been standard for the past 20 years but with the company’s 50th anniversary livery on its flanks.

The herald contains a large golden “50” and the slogan “Connecting America for 50 Years.”

Amtrak this week released artist renditions of the designs that will grace P42 and new Siemens ALC-42 locomotives being built that will be released this year.

No dates have been announced for when the special tribute locomotives will begin revenue service other than Amtrak saying in a news release that it will be “over the coming months.”

Amtrak also said its is working to design a Phase VII look that will be standard on most of the new Chargers that eventually will replace General Electric-built P42 and P40 locomotives assigned to the national network.

The first new ALC-42 is expected to arrive at Amtrak next month and undergo testing before being assigned to revenue service.

That unit, No. 301 will wear Amtrak’s Day 1 livery, which was a one-time design created by New York advertising agency Lippincott and Margulies.

The livery was applied to Penn Central E8A No. 4316 for a press event on Amtrak’s inauguration day.

It featured a broad blue stripe with white accent slashes on the locomotive nose that was an extension of Amtrak’s “pointless arrow” herald that was applied on the flanks of No. 4316.

The unit ran in revenue service for a year before being repainted into Amtrak’s Phase I livery and being given roster number 322.

Dubbed the Day 1 livery, it will be applied to ALC-42 No. 301 currently being built by Siemens in Sacramento, California.

No. 301 will duplicate No. 4316 complete with a black carbody. It also will carry the 50th anniversary herald.

Amtrak last year had announced that the ALC-42 Chargers would wear a Phase VI livery.

As it turns out, just eight Chargers will have that livery: Nos. 300 and 302 through 308.

The remaining Chargers will have the yet to be revealed Phase VII look.

The Phase VI livery has a largely dark blue carbody with white stripes along the top and bottom of the unit and a largely red nose.

One P42DC is slated to receive a one of a kind scheme known as midnight blue.

The livery is intended to be a tribute to Amtrak employees running trains overnight.

It has a dark blue carbody with white accent stripes and the 50th anniversary herald prominently displayed on the flanks.

Two more P42DC units will receive heritage liveries when they are repainted.

One unit will feature the modified “Dash 8 Phase III” livery that was applied to Amtrak’s P32-8BWH fleet when built by GE.

The Dash 8 scheme was designed by Amtrak’s Blair Slaughter and Cesar Vergara in 1991. All of the P32 fleet has since been repainted.

Another P42 will receive the Phase I livery. Amtrak has a P42, No. 156, in this livery, but it has been sidelined with collision damage.

Amtrak’s Matt Donnelly, the carrier’s lead brand communications specialist, said the Phase III and Phase I liveries will be applied to locomotives as part of their scheduled overhaul at the Beech Grove shops in Indianapolis.

Donnelly said Amtrak decided to celebrate its 50th anniversary with special tribute locomotives rather than events because the COVID-19 pandemic made the latter impractical.

“If you’re planning for a 50th anniversary, you’ve got to look at where you came from to see how far you’ve gone,” he told Trains magazine.

Donnelly said special tribute locomotives would be a good way to get the anniversary message out to all parts of the network.

Amtrak did something similar in 2011 for its 40th anniversary and some of the heritage units created then are still in revenue service today.

Even though the P42s will be replaced by Chargers, Donnelly said the special tribute P42 units should remain in service for several more years.

“A key part of the reason we’ve been able to do this is to take advantage of pre-budgeted life cycle maintenance for locomotives that were already slated to come out of revenue service to go through a programmed overhaul,” Donnelly said. “The P42’s that were going to get repainted anyway will be around at least for the next four or five years.”

One challenge facing Amtrak in designing a new look for its Charger locomotives is that although stripes have been a part of most of its earlier passenger car and locomotive schemes, the vents, grills, and doors of the Chargers preclude the use of stripes on those units.

Another facet of the 50th anniversary celebration is the offering of 17 merchandise items that are being sold at the Amtrak store at its website. The merchandise includes such things as tee shirts wine glasses, mixing glasses, luggage tags, an anniversary coin, 24-inch wall calendar, an 11-inch wall calendar and a set of 50th anniversary pins.

CONO To Operate Later NB Due to CN Track Work

March 19, 2021

Canadian National track work will disrupt the operations of the northbound City of New Orleans between March 17 and May 12.

No. 58 will operate as Train 1058 and depart New Orleans on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2:45 p.m. 60 minutes later than normal.

It will operate on this later schedule at all stations from New Orleans to McComb, Mississippi, where it will hold until 4:42 p.m., 70 minutes later than normal and operate on a later schedule at all stations between McComb and Jackson, Mississippi.

It will then hold at Jackson until 7:14 p.m., 90 minutes later than normal and operate on a later schedule at all stations from Jackson to Chicago.

Train 58 will operate normally on Sundays during this time period.

CSX Track Work Disrupts Southeast Service

March 19, 2021

CSX track work has affected the operations of several Amtrak trains in the Southeast through April 25.

The southbound Silver Star will on Friday through Sunday depart Savannah, Georgia, at 4:33 a.m, 15 minutes later than normal.

Train 91 will depart Jacksonville, Florida, at 7:29 a.m, 30 minutes later than normal and depart later at all stations between Jacksonville and Miami.

On March 18, 26 and April 2, No. 91 will stop in North Carolina at Selma and Wilson and depart all stations from Raleigh to Denmark, South Carolina, six minutes later than normal, Savannah 21 minutes later than normal and all stations from Jacksonville to Miami 36 minutes later than normal.

The northbound Silver Star on Thursday through Saturday will depart Hamlet, North Carolina, at 6:29 a.m., 15 minutes later than normal.

It will depart Raleigh at 9:15 a.m., 30 minutes later than normal and depart later at all stations between Raleigh and New York.

On March 19 and 26 and April 2, No. 92 will stop at Selma and Wilson and depart Hamlet at 6:29 a.m., 15 minutes later than normal.

It will depart Raleigh at 9:15 a.m., 30 minutes later than normal, Rocky Mount 39 minutes later than normal and operate 37 minutes later at all stations from Petersburg, Virginia, to Alexandria, Virginia, and 35 minutes later than normal from Washington to New York.

The Carolinian will operate between Charlotte and Raleigh on Monday through Thursday between March 29 and April 1.

No alternative transportation is being provided between New York and Raleigh.

On March 16 through March 28 Train 79 will depart Selma at 4:58 p.m., 20 minutes later than normal and operate on that later schedule to Charlotte.

On March 16 through March 28, Train 80 will depart Rocky Mount at 11:40 a.m., five minutes later than normal, Petersburg at 1:21 p.m., 10 minutes later than normal, Richmond Staples Mill at 2:31 p.m., 20 minutes later than normal and operate on this later schedule to Washington.

The southbound Palmetto will operate operate between New York and Washington only on Mondays and Thursdays with no alternate transportation provided between Washington and Savannah.

No. 89 will operate on Saturdays between New York and Savannah, departing Florence, South Carolina, at 5:59 p.m., 15 minutes later than normal.

The northbound Palmetto will operates on Wednesdays and Fridays between Washington and New York, with no alternate transportation provided between Savannah and Washington.

No. 90 will operate between Savannah and New York on Saturdays, departing Richmond Staples Mill at 5:39 p.m., 15 minutes later than normal and operating on a later schedule to Washington.

The train will depart Washington  at its normal time of 8:30 p.m.

The southbound Silver Meteor during the period of March 15 to April 1 will depart Fayetteville, North Carolina, at 1:37 a.m., 15 minutes later than normal, Florence at 3:33 a.m., 20 minutes later than normal and Savannah at 7:10 a.m., 30 minutes later than normal. It will operate on this later schedule at all stations to Miami.

The northbound Silver Meteor during the period of March 14 through March 31 will depart Kingstree, South Carolina, at 10:21 p.m., 10 minutes later than normal, Rocky Mount at 2:29 a.m., 20 minutes later than normal and Richmond Staples Mill at 4:57 a.m., 25 minutes later than normal. It will operate on this later schedule at all stations to New York.

The Auto Train is expected to be delayed by 20 minutes in each direction.