Archive for January, 2022

In From Milwaukee

January 30, 2022

An Amtrak Hiawatha Service train reposes at Chicago Union Station after arriving from Milwaukee. When this image was made on May 22, 1998, Hiawatha trains used former F40PH locomotives transformed into non-powered cab cars and P42DC locomotives. The latter pulled trains to Milwaukee from Chicago and pushed them back. Although the F40 cab cars had doors for a baggage compartment, I don’t know if those were ever used on the Chicago-Milwaukee route. I do recall seeing them used on Chicago-Detroit trains for a time .

Storm Leads to Cancellations, Modifications

January 30, 2022

Amtrak updated its service advisory on Saturday afternoon to show service modifications and cancellations for Sunday (Jan. 30) due to a severe winter storm that dumped heavy snow on the East Coast, particularly in Boston and New York.

Northeast Regional trains 150, 160, 161 and 162 are cancelled between Boston and New York as are Acela trains 2250 and 2253. Also cancelled is Downeaster No. 690 (Brunswick, Maine, to Boston).

Service modifications include two trains originating in New York rather than Boston. They include Northeast Regional train 195 to Richmond, Virginia, and Northeast Regional train 99 to Newport News, Virginia.

The Carolinian to Charlotte, North Carolina, will originate in Washington rather than New York.

USDOT Sides With Amtrak in Gulf Coast Case

January 30, 2022

The U.S. Department of Transportation has urged the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to side with Amtrak in a case involving new intercity rail passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

In a brief filed in December but not made public until last week, DOT said the STB should order the restoration of Gulf Coast Service and accused host railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern of seeking to weaken the interpretation of a federal law that grants Amtrak access to host railroads for new and expanded rail passenger train service.

DOT said the intent of Congress in adopting the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, which created Amtrak and relieved railroads of the obligation of providing intercity rail passenger service, was that a host railroad must prove affirmatively that new service would harm their freight operations.

The legal standard, DOT argued in its amicus brief, is that host railroads must show the new service would create an “unreasonable impairment.”

DOT argued that Congress always intended for new or additional Amtrak service to enjoy a presumption of favor barring that showing of “unreasonable impairment.”

Amtrak has proposed double daily service between New Orleans and Mobile, a route that last hosted passenger trains in August 2005.

That service, the tri-weekly Sunset Limited, operated between New Orleans and Orlando, Florida, but was suspended in the aftermath of damage to the rail infrastructure caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The Sunset Limited continues to operate tri-weekly west of New Orleans to Los Angeles.

CSX and NS have argued that the addition of Amtrak service would harm their freight service and have demanded millions of dollars in track improvements in return for agreeing to host the service.

For the past five years the various parties, including the Southern Rail Commission, have been arguing about the scope and cost of those improvements. They have also argued about a traffic study of how Amtrak service would affect freight operations.

The DOT brief said there is more at stake in the case than just new corridor service to Mobile.

“In the Department’s view, it is important to set a precedent in this case that vindicates the governing statute and the purposes underlying it,” DOT argued. “Rail carriers have obligations in hosting Amtrak service, and these obligations were part and parcel of Congress’s decision five decades ago to create Amtrak and to relieve rail carriers of their obligations to carry passengers. The Board should not countenance an interpretation of the statute that makes passenger rail service illusory.”

DOT described the operational analysis submitted to regulators by CSX and NS to support their assertions of harm as “insufficient” to prove Amtrak service would “impair unreasonably” their freight transportation.

“Congress created Amtrak to provide and promote intercity passenger rail services that were always expected to operate primarily over host railroad infrastructure.,” DOT said “This was part and parcel of an effort to strengthen struggling rail carriers, many of whom were in a precarious financial position, by relieving them of their longstanding common carrier obligations to transport passengers.

 “Since then, Congress has taken numerous steps to reaffirm the importance of Amtrak’s ability to operate over host railroad infrastructure, including through the recent provision of historic levels of funding for Amtrak intercity passenger rail development and related investments in host railroad infrastructure.”

The latter was a reference to funding intended to bolster intercity rail passenger service contained in the infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year.

“Nothing in the governing statute, 49 U.S.C.24308(e), indicates that Congress anticipated a protracted period of time or the expenditure of extraordinary sums as a condition precedent to the addition of passenger trains along an existing rail line,” DOT said.

Saturday Memory: Amtrak’s Super Chief in Joliet

January 29, 2022

Amtrak only used the names Super Chief and El Capitan for about three years. The Santa Fe revoked permission to use the names because officials at that railroad were displeased with the quality or lack thereof of service Amtrak provided on its Chicago-Los Angeles train.

Nos. 3 and 4 became the Southwest Limited and, later, the Southwest Chief, a name still in use today.

All of that was in the future on Aug. 12, 1972, as the Super Chief/El Capitan arrived at Joliet Union Station. Historically, the Super Chief name applied to the first class section of the train while El Capitan was a name given to the coach section.

Under Santa Fe operation, each section had its own dining and lounge cars with the Super Chief known for its Turquoise Room.

Until the arrival of new SDP40F locomotives in June 1973, the motive power on the Chicago-Los Angeles route was Santa Fe passenger units. Shown on this day are ATSF 314C, 312B, 312C, 320A, and 303B.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Amtrak Cancels Trains Due to Snowstorm

January 29, 2022

Amtrak announced Friday afternoon widespread service cancellations ahead of a winter storm expected to hit the Northeast today and dump up to two feet of snow in some areas.

Although most of the cancellations involve Eastern corridor services, some long-distance trains are affected, including the Lake Shore Limited.

Nos. 48 and 448 did not depart Chicago on Friday night. Combined with a scheduled cancellation of the Capitol Limited, this meant that no Amtrak trains for the East Coast departed Chicago on Friday.

Through late March, the Capitol is scheduled to skip departing Chicago and Washington on Fridays and Saturdays.

Amtrak’s website shows the Lake Shore still scheduled to leave Chicago Saturday night.

However, the westbound Lake Shore Limited from New York and Boston on Saturday has been cancelled, meaning there will be no Amtrak service from the East Coast to Chicago leaving today.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the northbound New York-Charlotte Carolinian will terminate in Washington on Saturday. The southbound Carolinian will originate in Washington on Sunday.

The same plan is in effect for the New York-Savannah, Georgia Palmetto.

The New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvania is thus far unaffected by the service cuts, but Keystone Service between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, via Philadelphia, will be limited. No Keystone trains will operate between Philadelphia and New York.

The Vermonter will be canceled Saturday the length of its route.

Empire Corridor service will be limited between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York, but the Maple Leaf and other trains to Niagara Falls, New York, are still scheduled to operate.

All service between New York and Boston, as well as the shuttle trains between Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, are canceled on Saturday.

Also canceled are all Acela trains between Washington and New York. Four Northeast Regional trains, including two that operate into Virginia, have been scrubbed. Downeaster service between Boston and Maine will be limited.

On Sunday Northeast Regional Nos. 150 and 160 (Boston-New York) are cancelled as is Downeaster No. 690.

Northeast Regional No. 195 (Boston-Richmond, Virginia) will originate in New York as will No. 195 (Boston-Newport News, Virginia).

Empire Builder to Get First Chargers

January 29, 2022

Amtrak plans to place its new ALC-42 Charger locomotives into regular revenue service on the Empire Builder in the coming months.

Railfan & Railroad magazine reported on its website that the Chargers are being moved to the route so that operating crews can become familiar with them.

Amtrak plans to eventually use the ALC-42 to replace the P42DC locomotives that have been national network mainstays since the 1990s.

The magazine said Amtrak has been placing a Charger in the various crew bases for the Empire Builder as part of the familiarity process.

Initially, the report said, Amtrak plans to par ALC-42 units with P42s in revenue service.

No date has been set for the first revenue service run of an ALC-42. Amtrak thus far has taken delivery of five ALC-42 units and expects to receive two more in February.

Eventually, Amtrak will operate 75 of the units, which are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

The report can be read at

Amtrak Scores Well on Equity Index

January 29, 2022

Amtrak received a rating of 90 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index for 2022.

Union Pacific scored 100 percent and Norfolk Southern received a 75 percent score.

The index is described as a national bench-marking tool on corporate policies, practices and benefits pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees.  It is scored out of 100 with the rating assessing LGBTQ+ workplace equality.

To earn high marks, companies must meet the CEI’s criteria in four categories: Workforce protections of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression; inclusive benefits and health plans; supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility; and responsible citizenship.

Lake Cities in Jackson in 2003

January 28, 2022

We’re looking at P42DC No. 34 as it sits in Jackson, Michigan, on June 12, 2003, and powering the eastbound Lake Cities to Detroit (Pontiac). On the other end of the train is a former Metroliner cab car. During this era Amtrak often used those in the Chicago-Detroit corridor. It also was before all trains on the route has been renamed Wolverine Service.

Empire Builder, Wolverines Have Rough Week

January 28, 2022

Amtrak’s westbound Empire Builder suffered a minor derailment in the station on Wednesday in Milwaukee.

An online report indicated that the derailment involved one truck of a coach behind the dining car and occurred after one of its three locomotives, No. 815, was removed from the train due to a mechanical issue.

The online report indicated that the 815 had been flagged by a dragging equipment detector at milepost 72.7 on host railroad Canadian Pacific.

No. 7 had arrived in Milwaukee at about 4:40 p.m. and did not depart until 12:35 a.m. @AmtrakAlerts had described the delay was due to a “malfunction with one of the railcars.”

The derailed car was removed from the consist and left in Milwaukee.

Early Friday morning, Amtrak reported No. 7 was operating nearly nine hours late west of Malta, Montana.

In an unrelated development, mechanical woes led to the cancellation of Wolverine Service No. 352 last Tuesday.

The train departed Chicago Union Station 80 minutes late and halted two miles away due to a mechanical breakdown.

The train was returned to the depot and canceled. Passengers were either rebooked aboard Wolverine Service No. 354 or given a refund of their fare.

The next day Wolverine Service No. 351 from Pontiac, Michigan (Detroit), to Chicago was canceled on account of no equipment being available. Normally, No. 352 turns to become No. 351 the next day.

An online report indicated a breakdown of the SC-44 Charger locomotive assigned to No. 352 caused the problems. The unit reportedly malfunctioned after the equipment arrived in the station and again after leaving.

The report indicated that mechanical issues with Charger locomotives led Amtrak to replace them with P42DC units on corridor trains operating in the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois; and Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridors.

The Wolverines have had a rough week with many of them operating late. Amtrak reported Thursday night that No. 354 was operating more than five hours late east of Battle Creek, Michigan.

It left Chicago three hours late due to mechanical issues, Amtrak reported.

Earlier on Thursday, a late arrival of inbound Wolverine Service No. 350 in Pontiac resulted in a 40-minute late departure of No. 355. That delayed had reached an hour and 20 minutes by the time No. 355 reached Hammond-Whiting, Indiana.

Red Boards at CP Lumber

January 25, 2022

Amtrak’s outbound Capitol Limited is less than 10 minutes out of Chicago Union Station and has just crossed Lumber Street at the southern end of shop and service complex. If you look carefully you will see a P42DC siting on a service track awaiting servicing or its next assignment.

This is still Amtrak-owned trackage although in a few minutes No. 30 will be on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern, which it will use all the way to Cleveland.

On Amtrak these signals are known as CP Lumber and are a familiar sight to Amtrak locomotive engineers piloting trains from the East, Michigan and St. Louis on their final few miles into Chicago.

Seeing them means their shift is about over and their train is about reached its terminus.

Not every Amtrak train coming into Chicago sees these signals. Trains coming in from the BNSF Raceway from Aurora don’t go past here nor on most days do trains coming off the route from New Orleans and Carbondale, Illinois. And of course trains coming down from Milwaukee use the north concourse at Union Station and don’t see these signals either.

They are, of course, one set of dozens of signals that Amtrak trains pass along their respective routes. But most of those signals don’t offer a city skyline view as these do.