Archive for the ‘Amtrak News’ Category

Inspection Train Examines Route to Montreal

July 19, 2017

Amtrak ran an inspection train on Tuesday from St. Albans, Vermont, to Montreal as part of a review of the feasibility of extending the Vermonter into Canada.

The inspection train traveled the freight-only Swanton Subdivision of New England Central and Canadian National.

The consist included Amtrak P42DC No. 101, Amcafe 43371 and American View, the Viewliner theater inspection car.

Stops were made to inspect various structures and track.

Amtrak’s former Montrealer served the route north of St. Albans until 1995. That train originated in Washington and operated via New York.

Amtrak continues to serve Montreal with its Adirondack, which operates via Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Roanoke Service to Begin Oct. 31

July 19, 2017

Roanoke, Virginia, will rejoin the Amtrak network on Oct. 31.

Tickets are not yet being sold and the schedule has not yet been announced, but Roanoke will be served by an existing Northeast Regional train that will travel to and from Washington with continuing service to New York.

There is expected to be one roundtrip a day, leaving Roanoke at approximately 6:20 a.m. and returning before 10 p.m.

On Oct. 30, a publicity special will arrive at the Roanoke station, which is still under construction, at about noon for a ribbon cutting-type event.

Amtrak previously served Roanoke with The Hilltopper, which operated between Washington and Catlettsburg, Kentucky. That train made its last trips on Sept. 30, 1979.

Workers are constructing a boarding platform along Norfolk Avenue near the city bus station.

The finished station will feature a canopied boarding platform about 800 feet long. It will be a high-level platform.

New Thruway Links Cardinal with W.Va. Cities

July 18, 2017

Amtrak has launched a Thruway bus route to link its Chicago-New York Cardinal with cities in north central West Virginia.

The bus will connect the eastbound Cardinal with Morgantown, Fairmount, Clarksburg/Bridgeport, Weston, Sutton/Flatwoods, and Clendenin.

The bus route will serve the Amtrak station in Charleston, where No 50 stops on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

The bus will depart from Morgantown at 4:50 a.m. on the days that the Cardinal operates to Charleston.

Arriving in Charleston at 8 a.m., the bus is scheduled to return to Morgantown and all intermediate cities at 8:45 a.m. The Cardinal is scheduled to stop in Charleston at 8:21 a.m.

Baron’s Bus lines is operating the service and uses motor coaches equipped with Wi-Fi and electrical outlets.

Moorman Upbeat About Future of Rail Passenger Service

July 17, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman gave an upbeat assessment of passenger rail even as he acknowledged that the passenger carrier faces challenges fixing decaying infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Moorman said Amtrak’s need for federal funding was no excuse for not operating “like a great company.”

Moorman

Nonetheless, Moorman said that getting pressure from government officials and tight budgetary resources have taken their toll.

He said that in the 1990s and 2000s Amtrak lost sight of its customers as a result. As an example he cited carpet cleaning.

Amtrak saved $1 million by not shampooing the carpets in its passenger cars as often, but passengers noticed the dirty carpets.

“That’s not the experience we want to create for our customers,” he said.
Providing a better customer experience has been one of four focuses that Moorman has brought to Amtrak after becoming its president last year.

“The customer experience is ticketing, the station, our employee interactions, and our equipment,” he said.

The equipment used by Amtrak is, in Moorman’s words, starting to look “stale,” but the carrier has taken steps to improve it.

“It’s old, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good,” he said.
Moorman said rail passenger transportation in general is a particularly good business model.

The creators of Amtrak chartered it as a for-profit corporation even though they knew it was not a good business model.

However, Moorman said, they sold at the time to President Richard Nixon and the Congress at the time as a concept of “Create this and [it] will become profitable.”

In essence, Moorman said Amtrak is a government contractor that unlike other contractors can’t always present to government officials a bill that factors in the costs of doing business plus a profit to benefit shareholders.

“We rely on what are in effect user fees – passenger fares,” he said. “And because the marketplace doesn’t sustain the passenger fares we need to make that profit, we ask the government to make up the difference.”

Among Amtrak’s many challenges Moorman said the one that worries him the most is the aging Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

He said the NEC has eight major bridges and only is younger than 100 years old. The B&P Tunnel in Baltimore is 127 years old and well past its “sell-by date.”

Moorman express confidence that the idea of having a national rail passenger network is taking hold and predicted the development of more corridors offering rail passenger service between urban areas.

He also circled back to the need to provide good customer service.

“For 46 years, a lot of people [at Amtrak] were there trying to keep the flame alive, understanding that someday the world would come to the point where people started to say, ‘We really need to have passenger rail as an option.’ I think that day has come,” Moorman said.

“The better we run Amtrak, the better we deliver on projects, the more people understand how good our company is, the easier every funding conversation is,” he said.

In a related note, Moorman said disruptions at New York’s Penn Station may extend in the fall.

He told the New York Post that Amtrak has the ability to finish the remaining work at Penn Station with subsequent weekend outages extending beyond the planned July to early September work curfew.

“We’ve done an exceptional and extraordinary amount of planning on the material side and we know it all fits, and we have a lot of skilled people,” he says.

After those repairs are concluded, Moorman said Amtrak will need to to schedule signal and power system repairs at a later date.

Amtrak 29 Suffers Another Bout of Severe Lateness

July 16, 2017

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited rolls through Olmsted Falls, Ohio, late on Saturday morning.

For the third consecutive weekend, a very late Amtrak train made a daylight appearance in Northeast Ohio.

On Saturday, the westbound Capitol Limited halted in Cleveland at 10:44 a.m. and left at 10:55 a.m., seven hours and 56 minutes late.

The train had departed Washington on  Friday 4 hour and eight minutes late and lost another two hours before leaving Rockville, Maryland, 6 hours and 21 minutes down. Washington and Rockville are 16 miles apart.

An unconfirmed online report said that failure of the air conditioning system in two coaches was the cause of the delay leaving Washington.

It is not clear why No. 29 lost two more hours before getting out of the Washington metropolitan region.

After leaving Cleveland, No. 29 left Elyria at 11:23 a.m. and Sandusky at 12:08 p.m. It was nine hours and 15 minutes late when it departed Toledo at 2:37 p.m.

Needless to say, the Capitol Limited missed all of its connections with the western trains in Chicago, where it finally arrived at 5:42 p.m., which was 8 hours and 27 minutes late.

Also having severe timekeeping problems on Saturday was the westbound Cardinal. Between White Sulphur Springs and Alderson, West Virginia, it lost considerable time.

An online report suggested that No. 51 had a locomotive failure. The report said the train was seen with a CSX locomotive leading it.

The Cardinal arrived in Cincinnati at 8:34 a.m., 7 hours and three minutes late, and was 6 hours and 38 minutes late when it arrived in Indianapolis.

It finally reached Chicago at 3:59 p.m., for a final accounting of 5 hours, 59 minutes late.

Operating went much more smoothly for Amtrak on Sunday. No. 29 departed Cleveland

39 minutes late while its eastbound counterpart, No. 30, was 38 minutes late.

No. 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was on time out of Cleveland after arriving 16 minute early. The westbound Lake Shore Limited was 27 minutes late at Elyria and 22 minutes down out of Toledo.

Second Track Opens on Amtrak Empire Corridor

July 14, 2017

Work to install a second track on a CSX route in New York State heavily used by Amtrak has been completed.

The $91.2 million project involved building the second track between Schenectady and Albany in order to eliminate a bottleneck that often delayed Amtrak trains on a 17-mile stretch of single track.

The track went into service on June 26 to conclude a three-year project.

Some trains waited as long as 20 minutes in Schenectady or Rensselaer for opposing traffic to clear.

The track had been removed when the rails were owned by Penn Central.

Overseeing the project were the New York State Department of Transportation, Amtrak and CSX.

In a related development, New York officials released design details for a new $23 million Amtrak station in Schenectady. The station is expected to be completed in late 2018.

The design will feature a wraparound awning outside the building, a weather vane in the shape of New York state on top of a gold dome on the roof, and over-sized arched windows similar in design to those of the 1910-era Union station that once sat at the site.

Earlier this year, Amtrak finished work to improve its station serving Albany-Rensselaer.

That $50.5 million project involved construction of a fourth passenger loading track, extending the loading platforms and upgrading block signals.

Much of that work will benefit the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, which splits at the Albany-Rensselaer station.

Still to be completed is a $3.5 million state-funded project to rebuild platform elevators and replace the escalators.

Other work that remains in the Empire Corridor includes making grade crossing and signal improvements south of Rensselaer on the route to New York City.

Most of the funding for the work in the Capitol Region of New York came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Federal Railroad Administration in a separate allotment had granted New York $33 million to be used to install positive train control technology between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady.

Amtrak Eyes Reducing Seat Pitch in Coaches

July 13, 2017

Amtrak may take a page out of the airlines playbook and try to squeeze more passengers into its coaches.

Co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman said this week that Amtrak is studying the creation of a new economy class that would have less room between seats, known as seat pitch.

“We are looking at doing some creative things in terms of creating an economy class,” Moorman told the National Press Club in Washington.

For years the airlines have been reducing seat pitch in an effort to increase seating and therefore increase the amount of revenue earned per flight.

Moorman said the carrier has not decided whether to implement the idea, but acknowledged “there will be some other things that just don’t make it quite as comfortable.”

For years, Amtrak has touted how it offers more leg room than the airlines and that its trains do not have a center seat as do many jetliners.

“We compete very well with the airlines,” Moorman said, adding that travelers in the New York-Washington who take Amtrak avoid New York’s LaGuardia Airport and lengthy airport security lines.

The tighter seat proposal was revealed on the same day that Moorman began sharing the CEO post with Richard Anderson, a former Delta Air Lines head.

Illinois Trains Making Detour in Galesburg

July 13, 2017

Amtrak’s Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are making a 5.7 mile detour in Galesburg, Illinois, due to work on the new Main Street underpass.

As part of that project, a bridge is being built under the BNSF mainline for Main Street and tracks 2 and 3 are removed until at least noon on Friday.

The regular route for Nos. 380, 381, 382 and 383, uses Track No. 2 through the Galesburg Amtrak station, thus making a detour necessary through the Galesburg yard even it is never more than a half-mile away from the normal route.

Using an eastbound train as an example, the detour route begins at Saluda, the south end of the Galesburg yard complex, and takes the lead to the Graham Cut-off Line.

At the Graham Cut-off connection, Amtrak trains continue compass north, passing beneath the Waterman lead to the Graham Cut-off.
North of the underpass, Amtrak stays on the westernmost (compass direction) track, passing west of the hump and immediately east of the locomotive tracks at the Galesburg shops.

Amtrak trains then stay to the west, pass the Prospect Street switch under the West Third Street overpass, and turns northeast to enter the Ottumwa Subdivision mainline at the west end of A-Plant.

At that point, the trains cross over from Track 3 to Track 1 to serve the Amtrak station, which is unusual for these trains. Track 1 is currently the only open track through town on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy mainline.

Track Work to Affect Service in North Carolina on July 19

July 13, 2017

Track work in Raleigh, North Carolina, will affect the operation of Amtrak’s Piedmont, Carolinian and Silver Star trains on July 18 and 19.

On July 18, Train 1092 will depart Miami at 9:15 a.m., two hours and 35 minutes earlier than its current schedule, and operate on the earlier schedule through its arrival into Philadelphia at 2:20 p.m.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Train 92 will wait in Philadelphia until it departs at 5:10 p.m, then operate according to its normal schedule at all remaining stations on the route.

Due to the earlier train departure, the train number for northbound Train 92 departing Miami on July 18 has been changed to Train 1092.

The earlier schedule for the Silver Star will also affect certain Thruway Bus routes.

Thruway Bus 6292 will depart earlier from Lakeland, Florida, while Thruway Bus 6092 will depart earlier from Fort Myers, Florida.

Passengers ticketed on those routes are urged to contact Amtrak for updated schedules by visiting Amtrak.com, using the Amtrak mobile apps or by calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).

On July 19, the Carolinian and Piedmont service will be cancelled and no alternative transportation provided. This affects Trains 73, 74, 75, 76, 79 and 80.

Hiawatha Service Restored Wednesday Afternoon

July 12, 2017

Amtrak restored Wednesday afternoon its Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service after it had been canceled earlier due to flooding.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that service resumed with the departure of Train 338 from Milwaukee at 3 p.m. and Train 337 from Chicago at 3:15 p.m.

The flooding occurred after heavy rain fell along tracks in both directions from Rondout, Illinois.

The tracks in the area are used by Amtrak, Metra and Canadian Pacific and are located in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, and Lake County, Illinois.

Metra temporarily suspended service on its Milwaukee District North Line between Chicago Union Station and Fox Lake, Illinois.

Metra said the interlocking plant was flooded at Rondout. Ballast was washed away and a downed tree blocked tracks just west of Libertyville.

The commuter rail agency sent ballast cars and machinery to the location of the washout to lay a new track structure.

The Milwaukee District North Line serves 22,900 passengers a day on 60 trains. Also using the route is Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.