Archive for the ‘Amtrak Photos’ Category

The Skyline is Watching

May 10, 2021

The Cleveland skyline watches over a very late westbound Lake Shore Limited as it sits in the station. Dining car Silver Restaurant was built by Budd for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and has carried two roster numbers at Amtrak. The image was made in November 1997.

2 for Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary

May 3, 2021

I wanted to get out and photograph Amtrak on its 50th anniversary day last Saturday. I began my quest by setting next to the CSX Monon Subdivision south of Linden, Indiana, to capture the westbound Cardinal.

No. 51 was right on the money about 10 minutes past 5, having made a station stop, in Crawfordsville about 12 minutes earlier. It was about a half-hour after sunrise.

Next I motored over to east central Illinois to get the northbound Saluki, a corridor train funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation that originates in Carbondale and travels to Chicago.

No. 390 is shown above taking a signal at Humboldt, Illinois. It, too, was running on time.

None of the equipment seen in these photographs existed in 1971 and most of it had not been created yet as a concept.

The Amfleet coaches and food service car of the Cardinal come closest because Amfleet equipment was based on the design of the Budd Metroliners of the 1960s. Superliner equipment was inspired by the Hi-Level cars of the Santa Fe.

In 1971 EMD E and F units with a handful of passenger equipped geeps, U boats and SDs were the common motive power. It all wore the markings and liveries of its owners.

The Saluki does not normally operate with Superliner equipment, but has since Amtrak reduced the frequency of most long-distance trains last year to tri-weekly.

Starting May 24 Amtrak plans to begin to restore daily service to most long-distance trains — the Cardinal and Sunset Limited are exceptions — so the Superliners now on the Saluki probably will be replaced with Horizon and Amfleet equipment.

But not for long as Amtrak has begun taking delivery of and testing the new Siemens Venture cars and they are expected to begin revenue service later this year.

The long distance trains are also slated to begin receiving Charger locomotives similar to the SC-44 seen above pullking the Saluki albeit with a difference livery.

With Amtrak things are always changing even if it doesn’t always appear that way at first glance.

Amtrak Anniversary Saturday: The Greatest Travel Advance Since the 747

April 30, 2021

Over the course of five decades, Amtrak has written a lot of chapters in its history, some of which largely have been forgotten or were never widely known.

One of those is illustrated in the photograph above made in Joliet, Illinois, in 1974 by Robert Farkas.

In Amtrak’s early years it was limited as to what it could do to improve intercity rail passenger service.

It could tinker with schedules somewhat, but much of its fate was in the hands of its contract railroads, which employed the operating and onboard personnel associated with the trains. In essence the freight railroads ran the trains and sent Amtrak the bill.

One opportunity to show that Amtrak was doing something to “make the trains worth traveling again” as the marketing slogan went, came in late 1972.

The French company ANF-Frangeco was building 16 sets of turbine-powered trains for the French National Railways.

The latter agreed to lease to Amtrak sets 9 and 10 with an option to buy.

The first Turboliner arrived in Chicago on Aug. 11, 1973. The red, white and blue train was billed by Amtrak in more than a bit of hyperbole as being perhaps the greatest advance in travel since the 747.

An Amtrak advertisement described the Turboliner as “the jet train that glides down the track . . . so smoothly you can hardly feel the rails.”

The Turboliner made a publicity run between Chicago and Bloomington, Illinois, on a rainy Sept. 28, 1973, piloted by Wilton V. Hall, whose father had been the engineer of the first diesel-powered train from Chicago to Bloomington, Illinois, on the Alton Route in the 1930s.

Revenue service for Amtrak’s Turboliners between Chicago and St. Louis began on Oct. 1.

That month the Chicago Tribune sent three reporters on a “race” from Tribune Tower to the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

One reporter flew out of Midway Airport and went the distance in three hours, 15 minutes. A second reporter rented a car and drove to St. Louis, arriving at the hotel in five hours, 20 minutes.

The third reporter took Amtrak. He was delayed leaving Union Station by eight minutes and his train stopped in a siding three times. He arrived at the hotel in six hours, 14 minutes.

The Turboliners received a lot of attention, but also displeased many because of their narrow seats that reclined very little, narrow aisles, and doors that could be difficult to open.

With a fixed consist, some passengers had to stand on days when more people boarded than there were seats and some passengers were turned away.

Capable traveling 125 miles per hour, the top speed on the now Illinois Central Gulf route was 79 p.m., although the Turboliner running time was a half-hour faster than convention equipment on the Chicago-St. Louis route.

The Federal Railroad Administration rejected Amtrak’s bid to operate the Turboliners at 90 mph because of their superior braking ability.

In its decision the FRA said the route lacked an automatic train stop or cab signal system. At the time the FRA made its ruling, a series of grade crossing collisions involving Turboliners had received widespread news media attention even though no one had been killed or seriously hurt in any of those incidents.

Amtrak ordered additional Turboliners and placed them in service in the Chicago-Detroit corridor in April 1975. Unlike the Turboliners used on the St. Louis run, the Michigan Turboliners had drop down tables and more luxurious reclining seats.

The Turboliners were credited with driving an immediate sharp increase in ridership on the Detroit route.

Amtrak President Paul Reistrup would testify at a congressional hearing that Amtrak was fortunate to be able to buy something off the shelf that was flashy, had large windows, and looked like it was going a million miles an hour when in reality it was actually doing 60 on well-worn Penn Central rails.

As occurred on the St. Louis route, the fixed capacity of the Turboliners of slightly less than 300 led to standees on busy travel days.

On the St. Louis route, the Turboliners were replaced for a time with conventional equipment and then Amfleet cars when those became available in late 1975. A similar process played out on the Detroit line although Turboliners continued on some Michigan trains into the early 1980s.

The Chicago-Toledo Lake Cities, which operated via Detroit, had Turboliner equipment in its early days, making it the only Amtrak train in Ohio to ever be turbine powered.

Turboliners also lasted in the Midwest on the Chicago-Milwaukee route into the 1980s. Another generation of turbine trains, built in California under license saw service on the Empire Corridor for several years and would be Amtrak’s last turbine powered trains.

While living in Springfield, Illinois, in the middle 1970s, I often saw and a few times rode the Turboliners. They were nice, but I preferred Amfleet coaches after they came along.

I even rode the Lake Cities when it still had Turboliners and rode on the Milwaukee line once in a Turboliner in 1980, my last time aboard one.

They rode fine, but I could always feel the rails. Nor did they glide down the track as the advertisement claimed. As for the interiors, I liked those large windows. The cafe section, though, was way too small.

I still remember radio jingles for the Turboliner when they went into service with a chorus singing the line, “hitch a ride on the future (pause) with Amtrak.”

The Turboliner may not have lived up to its billing as a high-speed conveyance but it did for a time enable Amtrak to achieve the objective of offering something new that promoted the appearance of the passenger carrier doing something to improve intercity rail travel after years of neglect, benign or intentional.

Turboliners were not Amtrak’s future but a transition step toward the Amfleet era, which is still very much with us today more than 45 years after it began.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Robert Farkas

Looking Down on a Sightseer Lounge

April 9, 2021

On Amtrak trains that are assigned Superliner equipment, the Sightseer lounge is a popular place to hang out and view the passing scenery.

It doesn’t offer the same perspective as a dome car but with its large windows that extend into the ceiling you can still see quite a bit.

Shown is the Sightseer lounge on the westbound Capitol Limited as it sits in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, making its station stop.

I wondered if anyone in the lounge noticed me photographing their train.

Since Nos. 29 and 30 went to tri-weekly operation in October 2020, the Capitol has been running without a Sightseer lounge. Will it be restored for summer operation?

On the Point in Miami

April 6, 2021

Amtrak SDP45 No. 645 is in position to lead the northbound Silver Star out of Miami on Dec. 13, 1979. At Auburndale, Florida, the Miami section will combine with the St. Petersburg, Florida, section of the Star before continuing its journey to New York.

The New York-Miami trains were among the last in the Amtrak long-distance network to be pulled by SDP40F locomotives.

When this image was made many long-distance runners had been turned over to F40PH and P30CH locomotives.

Very Early Amtrak Motive Power

March 14, 2021

It took a couple of years before the locomotives that pulled early Amtrak trains could be repainted into the new passenger carrier’s livery and colors.

Therefore the motive power at Amtrak continued to wear whatever scheme it had when the passenger carrier commenced on May 1, 1971.

In the photograph above, the scene is in Milwaukee in April 1973. At the time, the trains between Chicago and St. Louis continued through to Milwaukee, alternating motive from host railroads Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, and The Milwaukee Road.

In a bit of an anomaly, the photographer caught two locomotives of the two railroads both carrying roster number 103A.

The two GM&O units are E7A units that were leased by Amtrak but never owned by it.

MKE No. 103A is an FP7A that also never was on the Amtrak roster. It was known for pulling the “Cannon Ball,” a Milwaukee Road commuter train between Milwaukee and Watertown, Wisconsin.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Just One of Many

March 13, 2021

Over the course of its 300 mile journey from Carbondale, Illinois, to Chicago Amtrak Train No. 390 passes dozens of signals.

One of them is this one located in Pesotum on host railroad Canadian National.

The Saluki is shown on Feb. 27 getting a clear signal here one of many it would take before halting at Chicago Union Station to safely conclude another trip.

On Time at Pesotum

March 5, 2021

Amtrak’s daily Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, combination is still running these days with Superliner equipment. The northbound train, which operates as the Saluki, is on time as it barrels through Pesotum, Illinois, en route to its next station at Champaign-Urbana.

This equipment will turn later in the day to return to Carbondale as the Illini.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year about this time, the Illinois Department of Transportation paid for a pair of Chicago-Carbondale roundtrips. For now it is only sponsoring one roundtrip.

This image was made on Feb. 27.

Out of the Fog

March 2, 2021

Last Saturday’s weather forecast called for high temperatures in the 50s and mostly sunny skies so I ventured over to east central Illinois for my first railfan foray of 2021.

The day began, though, in heavy fog caused by a temperature inversion. When I arrived in Rantoul, Illinois, the temperatures were in the low 30s.

Those conditions wouldn’t last long, but while they did I was able to get this image of Amtrak’s northbound City of New Orleans cutting through the fog at the Rantoul station.

Although this is an Amtrak stop, the City is not scheduled to stop here. The train was operating as No. 1158 on a schedule 90 minutes than usual.

That was due to track work by host railroad Canadian Pacific in the South that has the northbound CONO running later than normal two days a week.

Train Time In Trenton

February 26, 2021

A southbound Amtrak Northeast Regional train pauses in Trenton, New Jersey, to pick up and drop off passengers. In the meantime, passengers for a northbound train are getting into position on the opposite platform as their train to New York will be arriving soon. The image was made on May 14, 2016.