Archive for July, 2022

CN Rejects Amtrak Dispatching Proposal

July 31, 2022

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki charges through Arcola, Illinois, on the Champaign Subdivision of Canadian National on May 28

Canadian National has rejected an Amtrak proposal that could lead to the passenger carrier taking over dispatching control of CN lines with on-time performance for Amtrak trains.

In a 297-page filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, CN called the idea “an outrageously self-serving recipe” and urged regulators to reject it “out of hand.”

CN contends that if implemented, the plan would harm its freight service.

“Amtrak’s proposal treats CN’s network as if it were Amtrak’s property and would likely result in a material lessening of the quality of freight service on CN’s network, and more broadly, the nation’s inter-dependent freight network,” CN wrote in its filing.

For its part, Amtrak wants the STB to turn down CN’s latest proposal for a contract between the two companies because it would fail to comply with performance metrics established by the Federal Railroad Administration and “would lead to the absurd result that CN can earn incentives . . . when Amtrak passengers are routinely late as a result of CN’s actions.”

Amtrak and CN have long been at odds over the latter’s handling of passenger trains, particularly on the former Illinois Central route between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

The two railroads have been unable to agree on a new operating contract and thus continue to use a pact dating to 2011.

The passenger carrier had proposed in May that under certain conditions it would take over dispatching of CN track used by Amtrak.

That would be the case if Amtrak trains operating on CN exceeded a set number of minutes of delay for four consecutive calendar quarters.

In response to the CN filing, Amtrak submitted its own 407-page response. The copies of the CN and Amtrak filings that were made available to the public were heavily redacted, Trains magazine reported in a story posted on its website.

The CN filing, for example, redacted information about how many trains its dispatchers handle on a typical shift.

The Amtrak filing removed a description of a CN proposal for mediation in one area of the dispute and omitted an Amtrak argument as to why regulators should reject a CN proposal regarding review of schedules.

The Amtrak filing made public did contain its argument that in the passenger carrier’s view what CN has proposed is that if Amtrak trains post a poor on-time record over a six-month period that the two engage in what Amtrak termed “a time-consuming process of investigations, meetings, and discussions about the causes of Amtrak’s delays.”

Amtrak argued that a failure by the two parties to agree on remedial action could result in the dispute dragging on for months and may years more.

The filing revealed that CN wants Amtrak to reimburse it for crew overtime, fuel, and equipment costs resulting when freight trains make way for Amtrak trains.

Amtrak responded that a host railroad “is not entitled to reimbursement for discharging its statutory obligation to provide preference to Amtrak trains.”

The Trains story can be read at

Senate Committee Would Up Amtrak Funding

July 31, 2022

A Senate committee last week released a proposed federal fiscal year 2023 appropriations bill for transportation spending, including Amtrak funding.

The passenger carrier would receive $2.6 billion, a $269 million increase over the current fiscal year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is proposing $2.51 billion for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program; $200 million for the Federal-State Partnership for State-of-Good-Repair for the replacement, rehabilitation, and repair of intercity passenger rail infrastructure; and $535 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement program.

The Senate proposal provides higher Amtrak funding levels than a recently approved House budget bill but would grant $355 million less than what the House approved for the federal-state partnership program.

Whereas the House approved $882 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the Senate bill contains $1,135,000. The House approved $1,463,000 for Amtrak’s network whereas the Senate bill would appropriate $,465,000.

Neither the House budget bill nor the Senate proposal contains any funding for passenger rail restoration and enhancement grants. Both chambers also omitted funding for railroad grade crossing elimination projects.

Both programs received no funding in FY2022 although he grade crossing program was authorized to receive up to $500 million and the restoration and enhancement program was authorized $50 million.

In FY2022, Congress approved $875 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and $1,457,000 for the national network.

None of the spending bill amounts include money approved in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is allocated separately from annual appropriations.

In a related development, the proposed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 introduced in the Senate omits funding for high-speed rail programs.

Earlier drafts of the bill contained $10 billion in dedicated funding for electrified high-speed rail.

The Rail Passengers Association noted in a report on its website that much of the focus in the energy bill is funding the transition to electric automobiles, which RPA described as “another in a long line of subsidies for highways.”

Amtrak Runs Private Car Train

July 31, 2022

Amtrak last week operated an eight-car train of privately-owned passenger cars.

The train ran from St. Paul, Minnesota to Chicago on July 28. A report on the website of Trains magazine said the move was reportedly organized by Friends of the 261 for an investment firm.

The included Amtrak P42 No. 55. Some of the cars had no lettering or other visible markings.

Identifiable cars incl included Oliver Hazard Perry, in a Louisville & Nashville livery; Pullman business PPCX 800034, formerly Southern Railway business car No. 1; Heavyweight car Missouri-Kansas-Texas No. 403; and dome-sleeper, formerly the Rail Ventures car Belle Vista.

Photographs and more information can be found at

Brightline Operates Test On Orlando Extension

July 31, 2022

Florida intercity passenger operator Brightline operated a test train last week on a portion of its extension to Orlando in order to publicize the coming of the new service.

The test train hit a top speed of 79 miles per hour on a 20-mile segment of the Florida East Coast between Melbourne and Rockledge.

The testing is to continue over the next few weeks with testing at 110 mph in the fall.

During the recent test runs, flaggers were stationed at six grade crossings.

Brightline has said the testing is part of a campaign to increase driver and pedestrian awareness of increased train traffic and faster moving trains.

Brightline currently operates between West Palm Beach and Miami and expected to begin service to Orlando next year.

LSL Disrupted Due to Hazard in Albany

July 30, 2022

Amtrak is operating a bus over a portion of the route of the Lake Shore Limited due to a hazard near the train’s route in Albany, New York.

In a Tweet sent Friday night, the passenger carrier said passengers would ride a bus between Albany and Schenectady, New York.

The Boston section will originate and terminate in Schenectady with passengers riding a bus between there and Boston. The bus arrangement involving the New York and Boston sections is in effect through Aug. 5.

Amtrak No. 48 was cancelled on Thursday night and the train scheduled to depart on Friday night was shown as having a service disruption. No. 49 was cancelled Thursday and Friday.

The developments followed an earlier announcement by Amtrak that the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf and other Empire Service trains were being suspended west of Albany, New York, because officials fear a building next to the tracks could collapse.

The structure is the Central Warehouse, a 12-story building built in 1927 and nearly vacant since 1990.

City officials cited a structural engineering report in declaring a state of emergency regarding the building because its southerly wall is in imminent danger of collapsing. That wall is the closest to the tracks.

“We are working closely with local, state, and federal partners and engineering experts to determine the extend to the structural failure and develop a plan to insure the safety of our residents and businesses, and get the trains running on time and interstate commerce back on track,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan in a statement.

The cost of razing the warehouse, which has thick concrete walls, was put at more than $10 million. That figure also includes the cost of asbestos abatement would exceed $10 million.

On Friday night Amtrak issued a service advisory saying it would provide alternative bus service for the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf and Ethan Allen Express.

The advisory said full service will continue between Albany and New York City.

Peoria Service Costs Put at $2.5B

July 27, 2022

The Peoria Rocket passes through Joliet, Illinois, not long before its 1978 discontinuance. (Photograph by Robert Farkas)

A feasibility study has put the return of intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and Peoria, Illinois, at $2.5 billion.

The study was conducted by Patrick Engineering for the City of Peoria and Illinois Department of Transportation.

It examined routing the train north of Peoria along the Illinois Rover and then through LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Morris and Joliet.

This would be similar to the route of the Peoria Rocket, a Chicago-Peoria train operated by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific until late 1978.

That service received some funding from the State of Illinois during the Amtrak era.

The Patrick Engineering study noted that its cost figure includes a 40 percent contingency.

The would-be host railroads were not consulted during the study, which assumes that capacity increases would be needed on most of those lines before they could host passenger trains.

The City of Peoria conducted a survey in which 95 percent of the 31,000 respondents said they would be likely to ride the service if it is established.

Ridership projections conducted by engineering consultant Kimley Horn projected an average of 600 passengers a day would use a passenger rail service running five daily round trips from downtown Peoria to Chicago’s Union Station.

Amtrak is considered to be the likely operator of the service, if it comes to fruition, a process expected to take as many as 10 years.

The passenger carrier operated for nearly two years a Chicago-East Peoria train known as the Prairie Marksman. It was discontinued in 1981.

That train used Toledo, Peoria & Western track from East Peoria to Chenoa, where it got onto the Chicago-St. Louis route used by Amtrak.

Track Work to Disrupt California Zephyr

July 27, 2022

Track work being performed by host railroad Union Pacific will affects the operations this week of the California Zephyr.

The work affects the operations of Nos. 5 and 6 between Denver and Salt Lake City.

On July 27 No. 5 will terminate at Denver, with no alternate transportation provided between Denver and Salt Lake City.

Train 1005 will originate at Salt Lake City, operating between Salt Lake City and Emeryville on Train 5’s regular schedule.

On the same date, Train 1006 will operate in lieu of Train 6 between Emeryville, California, and Salt Lake City, on Train 6’s regular schedule.

Train 6 will originate at Denver, with no alternate transportation provided between Salt Lake City and Denver.

On July 28 no service will be provided to Frasier-Winter Park, Granby, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Green River, Helper and Provo.

San Joquins to Stop for Baseball Game

July 27, 2022

San Joaquin Trains 711 and 718 will make extra stops on Aug. 7 to accommodate fans attending a Major League Baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland As.

The trains will terminate and originate from Oakland Coliseum, beyond the normal start and end point of the Oakland Jack London station to serve passengers attending the game.

NCRR to Acquire Greensboro Station

July 27, 2022

A century-old railroad station in Greensboro, North Carolina, is being acquired by the North Carolina Railroad.

The depot was built by the Southern Railway and is 123 years old. It is now owned by Norfolk Southern and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The NCRR plans to preserve and redevelop the station, officials said in a news release.

It is working with Preservation Greensboro Development Fund and Downtown Greensboro Inc. on the project. The transaction is expected to close on Aug. 12.

Over time the building has been modified to remove its original peaked roof, its third floor, and a prominent conical tower on one corner. Several windows have been reduced in size.

The North Carolina Railroad is a private company but all of its stock is held by the State of North Carolina. It manages a 317-mile rail corridor from Charlotte to Morehead City.

NY Prodding Amtrak on Return of Adirondack

July 27, 2022

Members of the New York congressional delegation have asked Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner to explain why the New York-Montreal Adirondack has yet to return to service after being suspended in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic .

Letters to Gardner raising the issue have been signed by the state’s two U.S. senators and a congresswoman who represents the area served by the train.

Trains magazine in a report that neither Amtrak nor the New York Department of Transportation would comment on the issue

The letters note that host railroad Canadian National has said it would resume allowing the train as soon as Amtrak is ready to run it.

One of the letters also said Amtrak officials had indicated earlier that “staffing was no longer the primary issue for returning service to the rail line, but operational issues needed to be addressed with our Canadian partners.”

The letters are seeking to prod Amtrak into issuing a timeline for the resumption of the Adirondack.

Amtrak recently restored the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and said it will restore the Seattle-Vancouver, British Columbia, Cascades this fall.

NYDOT in a July 18 statement said it has asked Amtrak “resume Adirondack service as soon as practicable.”

Amtrak later issued a statement saying it is “actively engaged with our congressional delegations regarding the return of Adirondack service and continue to work with the appropriate host railroads’ operation agreements.”

More information is available at