Archive for February, 2022

Saturday Memory: National Limited in Kirkwood

February 26, 2022

It was quite common during the early years of Amtrak for the New York-Kansas City National Limited to be pulled by former Penn Central locomotives the length of its route. I recall from a December 1972 trip the locomotives being swapped out in St. Louis, but it was a case of exchanging two PC E units for a single PC E unit for the rest of the trip over Missouri Pacific rails.

The image above was made in October 1973 in Kirkwood, Missouri, a western suburb of St. Louis. The train is on MoPac rails as it rolls eastbound. Nos. 30/31 used the Missouri Pacific between Kansas City and St. Louis. Today this is the route of the Missouri River Runners.

Night Train in Cleveland

February 25, 2022

Dawn will be breaking soon in Cleveland as the eastbound Lake Shore Limited makes its station stop not far from the Lake Erie shore. Four Amtrak trains daily serve Cleveland and all of them are scheduled to arrive between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., meaning that boarding and disembarking passengers see only darkness here until their train is delayed. The scheduling is a product of Cleveland being located on the midway point of the routes of the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Palmetto Running Later SB

February 25, 2022

CSX track work is disrupting operation of Amtrak’s southbound Palmetto on weekdays through March 3.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that starting Feb. 22 Train 89 would operate on a modified schedule to accommodate the maintenance work.

No. 89 will depart Philadelphia at 8 a.m., 20 minutes later than normal; will depart Washington at 10:45 a.m., 45 minutes later than normal; will depart Richmond  (Staples Mills station)  at 2:49 p.m., 150 minutes later than normal; and will operate at all stations between Dillon, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, 171 minutes later than normal.

The northbound Palmetto will operate on its normal schedule during the time period.

Glide Path to Nowhere

February 25, 2022

When he was president of Amtrak, George Warrington famously talked about how the passenger carrier was on a glide path to profitability. Amtrak was counting on revenue from mail and express business to earn a big chunk of revenue.

Shown is the eastbound Pennsylvanian passing through Berea, Ohio, on Jan. 23, 1999, whose extension west of Pittsburgh to Chicago in November 1998 was a major component of Amtrak’s strategy to achieve profitability.

The two express boxcars on the rear symbolize the business Amtrak was counting on. A material handling car is immediately behind the lone locomotive pulling the train.

The Pennsylvanian was scheduled to meet the needs of the U.S. Postal Service in hauling mail between Chicago and Philadelphia.

At the time this image was made, No. 44 left Chicago around dawn and passed through Cleveland in early afternoon.

Warrington’s glide path plane never landed and the Pennsylvanian would be discontinued west of Pittsburgh in February 2003.

Track Work to Disrupt 2 Capitol Corridor Trains

February 25, 2022

Track work being performed by Union Pacific will affect operations of some Capitol Corridor trains on Feb. 26 and 27.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Train 736 will terminate at Sacramento on Feb. 26 with alternate transportation to Auburn on Bus 3436 making intermediate stops at Roseville and Rocklin.

Bus 3436 will depart Sacramento at 6:15 p.m., 12 minutes later than the normal scheduled time, and will operate on a later schedule at Roseville, Rocklin and Auburn.

On Feb. 27, Train 729 will originate in Sacramento. Alternate transportation will be provided between Auburn and Sacramento on Bus 3429, making intermediate stops at Rocklin and Roseville.

Bus 3429 will depart Auburn at 7:30 a.m., 25 minutes earlier than the normal schedule time and will operate on an earlier schedule departing Rocklin and Roseville.

Tennessee Amtrak Expansion Study Proposed

February 25, 2022

Two Tennessee state lawmakers have introduced legislation to direct a state agency to conduct a study of the feasibility of Amtrak service within the Volunteer state.

The study would review launching service within Tennessee connecting Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis.

A similar bill was approved by the state senate in 2020 but languished in the house after that body adjourned earlier than expected due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennessee is currently served by one Amtrak train, the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, which stops in Memphis and Newbern.

Until early October 1979 the Chicago-Miami/St. Petersburg Floridian stopped in Nashville before that train was discontinued during an Amtrak route restructuring.

Amtrak has proposed establishing corridor service between Nashville and Atlanta via Chattanooga.

The idea has been subject of legislative hearings but the state has yet to commit funding to the proposal.

The study of Tennessee Amtrak service expansion would be conducted by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations and focus on cost and feasibility.

Profile of an F40 Cabbage

February 24, 2022

Amtrak converted 22 F40PH locomotives into what are officially known as non-powered control unit, but which some referred to as “cabbage cars.” The name was a reference to the fact the units had been converted to cab cars and also had a baggage compartment where the primer mover used to be.

The conversion process involved removing the prime mover and all other engine components, including the head-end power equipment, and adding ballast for weight.

An F40 NPCU could only be used in push-pull mode. Typically, these NPCUs were used in corridor service in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and in Downeaster service.

No. 90219 began life as F40PH No. 219 in April 1976. It was converted to a NPCU in December 1997. Amtrak’s practice was to add the prefix “90” in front of an F40’s roster number.

The 90219 is shown on a Hiawatha Service train at Sturtevant, Wisconsin, on May 20, 2006.

New Thruway Added to Bellingham

February 24, 2022

Amtrak had added an additional Thruway bus between Seattle and Bellingham, Washington.

The bus service, which is being operated in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Transportation, will bring the number of roundtrip Thruway buses on the route to two daily.

Set to launch on Feb. 28, the new bus service is being provided by MRT Western.

In a service advisory Amtrak said Bus 5605 will depart Bellingham at 10:45 a.m. and connect with Cascades Service No. 505 in Seattle.

The return new bus route, No. 5604 will connect in Seattle with Cascades No. 504 and arrive in Bellingham at 6 p.m.

Other Thruway bus scheduled on the route include Bus 5677 departing Bellingham at 3 p.m. and connecting with Train 507 in Seattle. Bus 5622 connects from Train 500 at Seattle and arrives in Bellingham at 2:15 p.m.

Pacific Surfliners Getting Wi-Fi Upgrade

February 24, 2022

Upgraded Wi-Fi service will be offered aboard Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains between Los Angeles and San Diego.

The Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency is partnering with Icomera to provide new Wi-Fi equipment in the corridor.

The upgrade will use Icomera’s X-Series Mobile Gateway, which a news release said will allow 35 percent to 52 percent additional devices to connect to the network and deliver 34 percent to 48 percent more data per trip.

The news release said the improved Wi-Fi service is part of a program to enhance passenger amenities, including better rider communication, train status information and station upgrades.

Continuance Sought in Gulf Coast Case

February 24, 2022

CSX and Amtrak have found something upon which they can agree in the Gulf Coast service case.

Both want the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to delay the next round of hearings in the case until April.

The freight carrier filed a motion with the Board on Wednesday asking regulators to delay the evidentiary hearings from March 9 to April 5 with the next two days set aside if needed.

The motion said that Amtrak, the Port of Mobile and Norfolk Southern do not oppose the request.

All four are direct parties to a case brought by Amtrak in March 2021 asking the STB to order CSX and NS to host proposed double-daily passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

The STB held two days of public hearings earlier this month at which 60 witnesses provided 10 hours of testimony.

The motion said the parties did not want the evidentiary hearings delayed beyond the first full week of April.

A report on the website of Railway Age said that unnamed industry observers believe the request for a continuance of the hearings may indicate that CSX and Amtrak might be willing to resume negotiations over the service in an effort to come to an agreement without the involvement of federal regulators.

A major sticking point in the Mobile service proposal has been the level of capital investment that is needed on the route.

CSX and NS have demanded what Amtrak and its allies view as exorbitant and unneeded infrastructure improvements to the largely single-track line.

Amtrak has said it is willing to fund some infrastructure work, but not as much as what the host railroads are demanding.