Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Brightline Tests at Orlando Airport Station

May 19, 2022

Florida passenger operator Brightline saw its first train arrive at its Orlando International station this past Tuesday.

The train conducted testing of the 170-mile extension of Brightline’s service territory to the airport from West Palm Beach.

Brightline currently operates between West Palm Beach and Miami.

Brightline said the Orlando extension is nearly 80 percent complete and construction is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Crew training and qualifying between West Palm Beach and Cocoa began in January.

The test train this week operated between the airport station and a maintenance facility located south of the airport.

VIA 2021 Ridership up 31.9%

May 16, 2022

VIA Rail Canada said its 2021 ridership rose 31.9 percent compared with 2020’s ridership. Passenger revenue rose 54.3 percent.

In its annual report VIA said it stayed on budget and even saw its operating expenses decline by 3.2 percent.

A VIA news release noted that the passenger carrier has been restoring service gradually. Many services were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

VIA said it will continue to reinstate services this year as it focuses on resuming its role operating a national passenger-rail network.

New passenger equipment is being acquired from Siemens Mobility for use in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. The first new trainset was delivered last November.

Before the pandemic VIA operated more than 450 trains per week and carried 5 million passengers.

In its annual report, VIA said, “this volume essentially ground to a halt and gradually increased to reach 1.1 million passengers and 227 million passenger miles by year end.

“By the end of 2021, we were able to welcome a growing number of passengers back on board, with 1.5 million passengers representing 327.1 million passenger miles, while keeping strict health and safety guidelines in place across the network.”

Aside from buying new trainsets, VIA also is refurbishing its heritage fleet and has implemented a new reservations system.

Life After Amtrak

May 13, 2022

CSX1 leads the company’s executive train westbound through Berea, Ohio, on May 11 en route to Chicago from Buffalo, New York.

No. 1 is trailed by CSX2 and CSX3, all of them running elephant style and all of them having once pulled Amtrak trains.

No. 1 was built by EMD for Amtrak in April 1978 where it had roster number 280. After being retired from the Amtrak active motive power roster, No. 280 was acquired by the Ohio Central System.

CSX later acquired the unit and renumbered it 9998. After CSX applied a Baltimore & Ohio inspired livery to its executive fleet, No. 9998 became CSX1.

The locomotive is now classified as an F40PH-2 whereas at Amtrak it was an F40PHR.

Berkshire Flyer Schedules Released

May 13, 2022

Amtrak has released schedules for its new Berkshire Flyer, which will link New York City with Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The summer season train will operate on weekends this year and in 2023. It is considered a pilot project whose future will hinge in part on how much ridership it attracts.

Funding is being provided by government agencies in Massachusetts and New York State.

Trains will depart Penn Station in New York at 3:16 p.m. on Fridays and arrive at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center in Pittsfield at 7:12 p.m.

Intermediate station stops will include Yonkers, Croton-Harmon, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Hudson, and Albany-Rensselaer.

The Sunday return trip will depart from Pittsfield at 3 p.m. and arrive in New York at 7:05 p.m.

Hartford Line Service Restored

April 27, 2022

Full Amtrak service has been restored to the Hartford Line.

On April 25 Amtrak resumed operating at pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels on the route, which connects Springfield, Massachusetts, with New Haven, Connecticut, via Hartford.

Resuming service were two weekday trains, one Saturday train and four Sunday trains.

The line also hosts CTrail service of 29 weekday frequencies between New Haven and Springfield. Weekend CTrail service is nine trains on Saturdays and 12 on Sundays.

In a news release, the Connecticut Department of Transportation said service levels are increasing because ridership is also increasing as people are returning to work and travel more for business and pleasure.

Track Work to Affect Empire Service Schedules

April 22, 2022
The westbound Maple Leaf is about to arrive at Buffalo Depew station in July 2011.

Track work being performed in New York state will result in schedule changes for Empire Service trains and the Maple Leaf.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the work is occurring between Niagara Falls, New York, and Hoffmans.

The new schedules take effect April 25 and will remain in place through Oct. 23.

The eastbound Maple Leaf will depart Niagara Falls at its normal time of 12:17 p.m., with intermediate station adjustments from Buffalo Exchange to Albany-Rensselaer, where it is expected to arrive on its regular schedule.

Train 280 will depart Niagara Falls at 3:42 a.m., 10 minutes earlier than normal, with intermediate station adjustments from Niagara Falls to Rome. It will depart Utica on its regular schedule.

Train 284 will depart Niagara Falls at 6:31 a.m., 16 minutes earlier than normal, with intermediate station adjustments from Niagara Falls to Rome. It will depart Utica on it regular schedule.

The westbound Maple Leaf  will depart Albany-Rensselaer at 10:10 a.m., 10 minutes later than normal, with intermediate station adjustments between Albany and Niagara Falls for an arrival at the latter 25 minutes later than scheduled.

Train 281 will depart Rochester at 5:24 p.m., five minutes later than normal, with intermediate station adjustments between Rochester and Niagara Falls. It will arrive in Niagara Falls 10 minutes later than scheduled.

Train 283 will depart Syracuse at 6:49 p.m., five minutes later than normal, with intermediate station adjustments between Syracuse and Niagara Falls. It will arrive in Niagara Falls 15 minutes later than scheduled.

Anyone Here to Get Onboard?

February 22, 2022

The boarding area at the Amtrak station in Mattoon, Illinois, may appear empty but there passengers waiting to board the northbound Saluki as it arrives on May 23, 2013. Most of them are behind me while others are still inside the station. Train 390 is scheduled to arrive at 9:31 a.m. The station was built by the Illinois Central in the early 20th century and is one of the few Amtrak stops between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, that still uses the original IC station waiting room.

CONO Next in Line to Get ALC-42 Chargers

February 22, 2022

The City of New Orleans will be the next Amtrak train to receive ALC-42 Chargers locomotives, Railfan & Railroad magazine reported.

The magazine on its website said Amtrak has sent No. 303 to New Orleans for crew training.

The ALC-42, which is built by Siemens Mobility, debuted recently on the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Amtrak has 100 Chargers on order from Siemens and in time the units are expected to replace P42DC locomotives that have been in service since the late 1990s.

On the northern end of the Chicago-New Orleans route, SC-44 Charger locomotives have been the standard motive power for more than three years on State of Illinois-funded trains operating between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

Railfan & Railroad reported that two Chargers that had been assigned to the Empire Builder experienced software issues with their positive train control system and had to have those resolved in a diesel shop in Chicago.

Assignment of ALC-42 units to Nos. 58 and 59 is expected to occur in the coming week, Amtrak Spokesperson Marc Magliari said.

Analysis Concludes VIA Facing Shaky Future

February 18, 2022

There was an interesting and insightful analysis published this week on the website of Railway Age arguing that VIA Rail Canada faces an existential crisis.

Journalist David Thomas said VIA faces challenges caused by lost ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic, an aging fleet, competition with commuter rail trains for station slots, and the fact that many Canadians have found alternative ways to travel other than by rail.

Even worse, VIA can’t rely on a federal infrastructure stimulus program such as that approved last year by the U.S. Congress to help save it.

Thomas said VIA’s gloomy future is foreshadowed in an obscure corner of its 2021-2025 Corporate Plan and almost hidden away on its website.

In his assessment, Thomas said if current trends continue, VIA will be left with a withered network of routes and services with even the carrier’s longtime flagship train, The Canadian, at risk of extinction.

Thomas writes that VIA itself appears “downright gloomy about its prospects” due to its dependence upon freight railroads and terminal operators whose self interests often clash with those of VIA.

“Because it cannot readily add frequencies, control departure, arrival and trip times or on-time performance, the company will eventually reach a saturation point where no tactical or strategic improvements can compensate these material operating constraints,” Thomas wrote.

“The eventual outcome to not addressing these elements will be both financial and reputational. Fewer passengers will imply lower revenues, poor operating conditions will increase costs, and the combination of those conditions will result in increased government subsidies and harm to the corporation’s brand.”

There have been a few glimmers of hope in recent months, including resumption of some services suspended during the pandemic. These include the Montreal-Halifax Ocean and the thrice-weekly Winnipeg to Churchill service.

VIA has taken delivery of new equipment from Siemens Mobility that will be used in corridor service on the Quebec City-Montreal-Toronto-Windsor route.

As Thomas sees it, VIA’s short term future hinges on a rebound of domestic travel and global tourism. Its long term future will depend on the willingness of the federal government to commit to large-scale funding of the service.

The analysis can be read at https://www.railwayage.com/news/for-via-rail-an-existential-crisis/

When Amtrak Was 40

January 18, 2022

The manner in which Amtrak celebrated its 40th anniversary provided quite a contrast in some ways with it how it observed its 50th anniversary.

For its 40th anniversary, Amtrak created a “museum train” of artifacts from throughout its history and sent it on a national tour. It is shown above in Jackson, Michigan, on Oct. 8, 2011.

The exhibits were contained in three baggage cars. Visitors could also tour an Amfleet food service car. The rear of the train had a sleeping car, but it was not open to the public for visits.

In 2021, Amtrak’s celebration consisted largely of repainting a few locomotives into earlier liveries, something it also did in 2011.

Of course in 2011 the nation wasn’t in the depths of a pandemic as it has been since March 2020. That pandemic sent Amtrak into a spiral that made such things as exhibit trains a costly luxury. On the day that Amtrak turned 50 many routes still had yet to have their pre-pandemic levels of service restored.

Presumably by 2031 when Amtrak turns 60, the pandemic will be long past. I’m assuming, course, that Amtrak will still be around in its current form then.

By then much will have changed, but it remains to be seen what those changes will be. The P42DC locomotive will no longer be the national network mainstay that it is today. New passenger equipment will have operated for several years on many routes. Will that include the long-distance routes?

Will Superliners, Amfleet and Horizon cars be a thing of the past? So many questions to resolve over the next decade.