Archive for June, 2022

4th Person Dies in SW Chief Derailment

June 30, 2022

A fourth person has died following the derailment on Monday afternoon of Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Chief in Missouri.

Three of the fatalities were Amtrak passengers while the fourth fatality was the driver of the dump truck that the train struck at a grade crossing in Mendon, Missouri, at a crossing lacking flashing lights and gates.

The incident left 150 people injured. They were treated at 10 area hospitals and officials said the injuries ranged from minor to serious.

Mendon is located about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

National Transportation Safety Board officials released more information on Wednesday about the collision and derailment.

The truck involved in the incident was owned by MS Contracting LLC of Missouri and was transporting materials to a nearby Army Corps of Engineers’ project when it was struck.

Amtrak Train 4 had a consist of two P42DC locomotives and eight cars, all of which derailed.

The train was carrying 275 passengers and had a crew of 12. It was traveling on track owned by BNSF.

Trains are authorized a top speed of 90 miles per hour in the area where the derailment occurred and investigators determined that Train 4 was traveling at 87 mph at the time of the derailment.

It had slowed from 89 mph a quarter mile from the collision site. NTSB officials said the locomotive engine was sounding the horn at the time of the collision.

“We do not have concerns about mechanical issues,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy during a news conference. “We tested the brakes and there are no issues with the brakes,” she said.

Homendy said the steep grade to the grade crossing is of concern: “We have to look at the approach of this crossing. It’s very steep. There’s a lot resting on a driver to see a train at these crossings, particularly when there’s such a steep incline.”

She also indicated that the investigation would require the tracks at the derailment site to remain closed for “a number of days.”

Texas Eagle in Big D

June 28, 2022

As the skyline of downtown Dallas looms behind it, Amtrak’s westbound Texas Eagle crosses the Trinity River. The image was made in October 1985 during an era when the Eagle had a varied consist.

Upfront are two F40PH locomotives pulling a mixture of Superliner and Heritage Fleet cars. Among the latter are former Santa Fe Hi-Level cars and a single-level sleeping car. Also tucked into the consist is an Amfleet food service car and heritage fleet baggage car.

Today Train 21 has P42DC motive power and an all-Superliner consist.

3 Killed, 50 Injured in Southwest Chief Derailment in Missouri After Hitting Truck

June 28, 2022

Three people were killed and at least 50 injured after Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Southwest Chief struck a dump truck in Missouri on Monday afternoon.

The dead included two aboard the train and the driver of the truck.

The incident occurred in Mendon, Missouri, a town of 160 located located about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City and 12 miles southwest of Marceline, Missouri.

Authorities said the collision occurred at a grade crossing with a stop sign but no flashing lights or gates.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were expected to arrive on the scene Tuesday morning.

Amtrak said Train No. 4 was carrying 275 passengers and 12 crew members when it collided with the truck at 12:45 p.m. (CDT).

NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said investigators are requesting speed data on the route as well as data recorder information and camera footage from Amtrak. 

The train had two locomotives and eight cars, including a baggage car. Seven of those cars derailed with many turning over onto their sides.

Among those reported onboard two Boy Scout troops headed home to Wisconsin after spending a week at the Philmont Boy Scout ranch near Cimmaron, New Mexico.

A news report said the Scouts broke windows of the train after it derailed and helped passengers evacuate.

The Scouts used their first aid training to provide assistance to injured passengers until first-responders arrived at the site.

One Scout was reported to have sought to comfort the driver of the truck before he died.

Two of the troop leaders were injured in the derailment and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of broken bones, broken ribs and a punctured lung. One Scout also was injured.

The Boy Scout troops are from Appleton, Wisconsin.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers aboard Train 4 that departed Los Angeles on Sunday, June 26, will be re accommodated as quickly as possible on other trains or buses as available.

Train 3 that is scheduled to depart Chicago on Tuesday, June 28, will now originate at Kansas City.

The Missouri incident was the second in the past two days involving an Amtrak train striking a vehicle at a grade crossing that resulted in fatalities.

On Sunday a train in Brentwood, California, struck a passenger vehicle, killing three people and injuring two others. All five were inside the vehicle. That collision also occurred at a grade crossing with only stop sign and no flashers or gates.

NS Track Work Affects 2 Piedmont Trains

June 28, 2022

Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern will result in the cancellation of Piedmont Trains 74 and 75 on weekdays through July 14.

The trains operate between Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, and will not run Monday through Friday during the period.

The trains will run as schedule on Fridays, Saturday, Sundays and on Monday, July 4.

No alternative transportation is being provided to passengers booked aboard the affected trains, but all other Amtrak trains between Charlotte and Raleigh will operate as scheduled.

PennDOT, NS Reach Pact on Pittsburgh-Harrisburg Line Improvements for Amtrak Train

June 28, 2022

An agreement has been reached between the state of Pennsylvania and Norfolk Southern on infrastructure improvements that will be made as part of plans to launch a second daily Amtrak train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

The improvements will cost $200 with final details on the projects to be worked out by late this year.

Officials said the second train is still about three years away from being inaugurated.

Currently the Pittsburgh-Harrisburg segment is served by Amtrak’s New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, which operates via Philadelphia.

There are numerous Amtrak trains operating between Harrisburg and Philadelphia on the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation did not provide any details about planned infrastructure projects and a department spokeswoman said the agreement has yet to be signed by all parties involved.

It is at this point an agreement in principle. Earlier reports indicated that 12 new and upgraded interlocking plants on the NS Pittsburgh Line.

Texas Central Project Prospects Remain Cloudy

June 28, 2022

Would-be high-speed rail operator Texas Central Railroad may have won the battle of courtrooms over its right to use eminent domain but it remains to be seen if the plans for the Dallas-Houston service will continue to move forward.

The Texas Supreme Court last week upheld the authority of Texas Central to exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire property.

That means Texas Central will be able to acquire land needed to complete its proposed 240-mile rail corridor by paying fair market rates for the property it wants to seize.

It also ended a legal battle waged by property owners along the proposed route that began in 2020 when they challenged the legal right of TCR to use eminent domain.

But two weeks ago Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar resigned his position and the Texas Central board of directors has been disbanded.

Nonetheless, an attorney representing Texas Central in the court proceedings sent a letter to the court saying Texas Central is under new management and continues to seek funding for its plans.

In announcing his resignation, Aguilar suggested there have been internal disagreements at Texas Central.

Writing on social media site LinkedIN, Aguilar said he “could not align our current stakeholders on a common vision for a path forward.”

On the Rear

June 27, 2022

It’s a Saturday morning near Linden, Indiana. I’m waiting for Amtrak’s westbound Cardinal to come along en route to Chicago.

Train 51 has a consist that seldom varies. It includes two Amfleet coaches, an Amfleet food service car, a Viewliner sleeper and a Viewliner baggage-dorm car. The latter is always the last car on No. 51.

For some reason the baggage-dorm car intrigues me. Maybe it is because it is a throw back to an earlier time when trains carried what were known as combine cars.

Typically those were half baggage and half coach. The Viewliner baggage-dorm cars are the only passenger cars Amtrak has had to my knowledge that resemble combines.

It doesn’t have that many of these cars so they are not all that common of a sight.

Earlier this year the news broke that Amtrak would sell some of the space in the Baggage-dorm car on the Cardinal to revenue passengers. Presumably, that practice has since begun.

In the image above, the Cardinal is passing the intermediate signal at milepost 138.4.

Renovated Homewood Station Dedicated

June 27, 2022

Amtrak held a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Saturday to celebrate completion of the renovation of its station in Homewood, Illinois.

The Homewood station, which was built by the Illinois Central, was rehabilitated at a cost of $29 million.

Aside from serving Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Saluki and Illini trains on the Chicago-Cabondale-New Orleans corridor, the station also serve Metra Electric commuter trains in Chicago.

The Homewood station renovation work began in September 2020. Until the work was finished Amtrak passengers for Homewood had to ride a shuttle bus to the station in Kankakee, Illinois.

The work included building a new boarding platform, new restrooms, and improved lighting and utilities.

A ramp was constructed from the station to a tunnel under the Metra and Canadian National tracks leading to the boarding platform. A new elevator leads from the tunnel to the boarding area.

Amtrak Eyes 2 New York Cities as LSL Stops

June 27, 2022

New York officials are working with Amtrak to establish a passenger stop for the Lake Shore Limited in either Westfield or Dunkirk, New York.

Both communities are in Chautauqua County west of Buffalo.

Officials said Amtrak approached them more than a year ago about establishing the stop for the Chicago-New York/Boston train.

Although Amtrak would pay to create the station, funding to maintain it would be the responsibility of local officials.

Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel said it is still to be determined whether the new station will be in Westfield or Dunkirk.

He indicated that Amtrak still need to reach an agreement with CSX to establish the station.

The City of Dunkirk is paying for a study to determine the viability of establishing the stop there.

Westfield said it has yet to be determined how much it would cost to maintain the station once it’s established and who would pay that cost.

The maintenance cost would also include hiring a station caretaker.

Committee OKs Transportation Spending Bill

June 27, 2022

A congressional committee last week approved a bill that provide a 23 percent increase in discretionary spending for public transit, and passenger and freight railroads in federal fiscal year 2023.

The Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill was approved by the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote.

The bill is expected to be considered this week by the full Appropriations Committee, which wants to clear spending bills before the July 4th recess.

It would then move to the Senate. The 2023 federal fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Much of the appropriations proposed by the bill are above the amounts appropriated for the current fiscal year, but below what was authorized in earlier congressional action.

For example, the bill approves $1.6 billion for Amtrak’s national network. That is an increase over the $1.4 billion appropriated for the current fiscal year but short of the $2.2 billion authorized for FY 2023.

Total Amtrak funding in the bill would be $2.3 billion versus the $3 billion proposed by the Biden administration and $3.3 billion sought by Amtrak.

The passenger carrier had said it needed that level of funding because of “the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic [that] continue to affect revenue and ridership.

Amtrak said “robust FY 2023 grant funding is needed to enable Amtrak to continue operating our long-distance trains.”

The bill approved last week allocates $500 million for the Federal State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, which funds capital projects to bring facilities and infrastructure to a state of good repair, improve performance, and expand or establish new intercity passenger rail services.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program would receive $630 million. This includes a $150 million set-aside to “support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes including alignments for existing routes.”

The bill contains language that seeks to prevent Amtrak from reducing or eliminating national network service, stating that Amtrak may not “discontinue, reduce the frequency of, suspend, or substantially alter the route of rail service on any portion of such route,” except in an emergency or during maintenance or construction outages.

No funding was appropriated for the Restoration and Enhancement Grants program, which provides operating assistance grants for initiating, restoring, or enhancing intercity passenger rail transportation.

Instead, the bill says Amtrak may use up to 10 percent of its $1.46 billion national network grant for the activities outlined in the service restoration program.