Philly Solari Board Might Stay in Some Form

December 13, 2018

The Solari train information board at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia might be staying after all, a Pennsylvanian congressman said.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania) said he spoke with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson in a plea to save the 1970s era relic that Amtrak has said it plans to replace with a computerized state-of-the-art system.

Boyle said Anderson was receptive to the idea of keeping the Solari board at the station in some form.

Earlier news reports indicated the board would be given to a museum.

According to Boyle, Anderson suggested that the passenger carrier could either refurbish the board or replace it with a new model integrated into Amtrak’s computer network.

Some in Philadelphia have protested the pending removal of the Solari board, having grown accustomed to its whirling and clacking as it updates train information.

In late November Amtrak had issued a news release saying it planned to replace the Solari board, which is the last of its kind still in use in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

However, Boyle said Amtrak hasn’t yet solicited bids from suppliers for the Solari’s replacement.

Boyle suggested that a newer model Solari-like information board might be acquired by Amtrak for use at 30th Street Station.

In announcing that the Solari board would be replaced, Amtrak said the Italian manufacturer of the board no longer makes replacement parts for it.

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IDOT Survey to Ask About Amtrak Service

December 13, 2018

The Illinois Department of Transportation is conducting an online survey that will seek public views on various topics, including Amtrak service in the state.

IDOT funds Amtrak corridor trains linking Chicago with Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Illinois cities of Quincy and Carbondale.

Responses to the Illinois Traveler Opinion Survey are being accepted through Dec. 31 at http://www.idot.illinois.gov.

The survey is being conducted in a partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield and covered such other areas as road conditions, ice-and-snow removal, commuting habits and driving behaviors.

The survey has been conducted annually since 2001. A copy of the 2017 survey and results, along with data collected from past years, can be viewed at bit.ly/2Uu4DnF.

VIA Awards Contract for New Train Sets

December 13, 2018

Artists drawing of the new equipment being ordered from Siemens by VIA Rail Canada.

VIA Rail Canada has awarded a C$989 million ($741 million) contract to Siemens Canada to build 32 intercity train sets for use in the Quebec City–Toronto–Windsor corridor.

The new single-level equipment is expected to begin revenue service in 2022. It will be pulled by a locomotive based on the design of the Charger locomotives used by Amtrak.

VIA said in a news release that the new equipment will significantly increasing capacity to 9,100 seats.

VIA bases in Montreal and Toronto will maintain the equipment with support from Siemens under a 15-year Technical Services and Spares Supply Agreement.

The equipment will have LED lighting, USB ports, wide seats, quiet zones, bicycle storage racks, and flexible luggage space.

The fleet will exceed current accessibility standards for passengers with reduced mobility, including Braille seat numbering, companion seating, at-seat emergency call buttons, accessible toilets, and an integrated mobility device lift.

Siemens won the contract over bids submitted by Bombardier, Stadler and Talgo.

Ex-Amtrak Depot in Tallahassee to be Renovated

December 13, 2018

The former Amtrak station in Tallahassee, Florida, is going to be renovated and become the new home of the county’s tourism office.

Leon County Commissioners recently approved the sale of a downtown tourism building to raise money to pay for renovation of the station, which was used by the Sunset Limited until August 2005.

The station now houses the county’s Human Services and Community Partnership department.

Southern Strategies Group plans to buy the four-story tourism building on Jefferson Street for $2.2 million.

Tourism Director Kerri Post said the old train station is a better location for her agency and Visitor’s Center.

“When you look at all the development happening, it makes sense and it’s the right time for tourism to be relocated down here,” Post said. “This is activated, it’s been activated and it will continue to be activated.”

The station is near the campuses of Florida State University and Florida A&M University as well as multiple hotels and a convention center under development.

Formerly a Seaboard Air Line freight station, it was built in 1858 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

It was a passenger station until 1905 when the SAL built a new passenger depot to the east. That station still stands and is used by CSX.

The 1905 station hosted t passenger service until May 1, 1971, when the New Orleans-Jacksonville Gulf Wind, a joint service of Seaboard Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville, was discontinued.

The renovation work will highlight its exposed beams, barn doors and brick walls.

The building is just one of three railroad stations in Florida that was built before the Civil War that is still standing.

The Sunset Limited began serving Tallahassee in 1993 but was suspended east of New Orleans in August 2005 after portions of the route sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Katrina.

CSX Retains Rights on Line it is Selling

December 13, 2018

CSX plans to continue using a portion of the former route of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited in the Florida Panhandle even though it is selling the track to a short-line railroad.

The Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad plans to begin operations on the line between Jacksonville and Pensacola on Jan. 6, 2019.

However, a filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board indicates that CSX will retain trackage and haulage rights on the route.

The Sunset Limited operated over the line until August 2005 when portions of its were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Despite numerous efforts by southern rail passenger agencies, Amtrak has not reinstated service east of New Orleans.

CSX, though, said it has no plans to regularly operate trains on the line and sought the trackage rights as an insurance policy to provide it with operational flexibility.

The FF&A is a subsidiary of RailUSA and is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

Office Tower to be Built Next to CUS

December 13, 2018

Chicago Union Station will be getting a new neighbor.

BMO Financial Group said it will construct a 700-foot office tower next to the station that is expected to open in 2022 and be known as BMO Tower.

Construction may get underway next year. The company said the 50-story tower will house 3,600 of its on 14 floors.

The design of the proposed building now features less pronounced horizontal breaks at each setback and the previous X-shaped supporting stilts have been replaced by a less pronounced ‘V’ arrangement.

The building will be situated at the location of a parking garage owned by Amtrak that is located just south of Union Station’s transit center.

The base of the new building will have a 1.5-acre publicly accessible park that will conceal a 400-stall garage.

Zoning for the BMO building and conversion of the upper floors of the Union Station headhouse into 400 hotel rooms was approved last October by the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council.

After public outcry, a planned seven-story addition to the Union Station headhouse was dropped.

That addition, which would have contained apartments, was widely ridiculed for its design.

NS to Relocate HQ to Atlanta

December 13, 2018

Norfolk Southern will relocate its corporate headquarters to Atlanta from Norfolk, Virginia.

The Class 1 carrier earlier this year opened a new operations center in Atlanta from which all nine of its divisions are dispatched.

NS plans to build a $575 million headquarter complex that will be paid for in part by a $600 million dollar bond issue.

It said it is negotiating with Cousins Properties to purchase a site at 650 West Peachtree St. NW, where it will build the 750,000-square-foot headquarters in Midtown Atlanta.

Cousins will manage development of the site about which NS said more information will be released early next year.

No Injuries, But Long Delays in Train-Truck Crash

December 12, 2018

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited races through Berea, Ohio, in suburban Cleveland just after sunrise on Wednesday. It was delayed more than four hours after hitting a truck in West Virginia on Tuesday.

No injuries were reported after Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Capitol Limited struck a dump truck on Monday afternoon in West Virginia.

The incident occurred about 5:35 p.m. at a crossing near Ranson, West Virginia, when the truck stalled on the CSX tracks at Charles Town Road and Luther Jones Road.

The train was carrying 108 passengers and crew members. The truck driver jumped before the collision and was not hurt but was shaken up.

Witnesses said the impact split the vehicle in half. “You heard the brakes pull, there was a loud screech, and then the train slowly came to a stop,” said passenger Michael Malloy said. “Then probably five minutes later, over the intercom we heard the train was going to be stopped.”

Lead P42DC No. 162 suffered severe damage in the collision and its fuel tanks were ruptured.

Officials at the scene were quickly able to contain the spill.

Railroad workers set the lead Amtrak locomotive aside and the train continued to Chicago with the trailing unit, No. 62, pulling.

No. 29 was delayed for four hours and was on the move by about 9:30 p.m.,

However, the train incurred additional delays, particularly while traveling on Norfolk Southern tracks west of Cleveland.

No. 29 arrived in Cleveland at 7:33 a.m. down 4 hour and 40 minutes.

But that ballooned to 7 hours and 40 minutes by the time it halted at Chicago Union Station at 4:25 p.m.

Metra, BNSF Ripped at Public Hearing

December 12, 2018

A Chicago congressman has accused commuter rail agency Metra and host railroad BNSF of having “failed all to often” to provide reliable service.

The charge was made by U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, during a public hearing that he described as an effort to force Metra and BNSF to improve service.

“We all understand that problems can occur, but this year the Metra BNSF line has failed all too often. There have been repeated delays, cancellations, broken air conditioners, and other problems,” Lipinski said during the hearing in Western Springs. “I’ve told Metra and BNSF that this is unacceptable and the problems must end.”

Metra CEO James Derwinski and BNSF Vice President for passenger operations D.J. Mitchell told the audience of 80 that their organizations would do their best to address problems on the line.

The BNSF Line between Chicago Union Station and Aurora, Illinois, is the busiest of Metra’s 11 lines, carrying 64,000 riders a day.

The line is also used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains.

Metra operates 94 trains on weekdays while BNSF has up to 60 trains a day.

Holiday Train Planned to SPUD

December 12, 2018

Twin Cities commuter rail operator Northstar will operate a holiday special to St. Paul Union Depot on Dec. 15.

The train will operate from Big Lake, Minnesota, to SPUD and will offer free rides on a first-come, first-served basis.

Northstar trains normally operate between Big Lake and Minneapolis on BNSF tracks.

There will be a two-hour layover at SPUD, which will feature shopping, holiday entertainment with carolers and Santa Claus, arts and crafts, coloring and other activities.

This will be the second time for the holiday train has operated to SPUD, which is also used by Amtrak’s Empire Builder.