Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Cascades’

Amtrak Cascades 501 Derailment Engineer Wants Job Back

June 2, 2021

The locomotive engineer who was at the controls of an Amtrak Cascades train that derailed in December 2017 is still trying to get his operating license back and resume his career.

But in an interview with the Seattle Times, Steven Brown, 59, said he recognizes that is unlikely.

Brown said he knew Cascades No. 501 was speeding as it entered a 30-mph curve at 80 mph on Dec. 18, 2017, at DuPont, Washington.

But he thought the train could make it through the curve and even though he also knew “it was going to be uncomfortable.” Instead the train derailed and some passenger cars landed on Interstate 5 below.

Three passengers were killed and 65 others injured in the derailment. A subsequent investigation determined the train was traveling 78 mph when it derailed.

Amtrak fired Brown for violating safety rules and the Federal Railroad Administration suspended his license.

Brown told the newspaper he relives the derailment “all day” during his waking hours. He had become a locomotive engineer in 2013 after working nine years as a conductor.

“I was satisfied with where I got in life. I was really, truly, happy,” he said. “In an unbelievable instant, it’s all gone.”

The derailment left Bown with broken ribs, a broken jaw and cheekbone, compressed vertebrae, and elbow damage requiring partial replacement.

The incident occurred during the first trip of an Amtrak train on the Point Defiance bypass. Amtrak immediately ceased using the route and has yet to return to it although it will conduct crew qualification runs on the line between June 1 and July 25.

Engineers will be required to complete at least six practice round trips and a series of 10-hour days mimicking the actual operating schedules.

Brown said he had made one southbound run and two northbound trips as an engineer as well as seven to 10 observational trips.

FRA Taps Existing Cascade Route in Oregon

May 10, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration selected the existing Amtrak Cascades route in a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said this makes the agency eligible to pursue grants for route improvements between Eugene and Portland on tracks owned by Union Pacific.

ODOT said that work will be conducted within the existing right-of-way and therefore improvements may be “separated into relatively small, lower-cost elements” so the work may be done “incrementally as funding becomes available.”

Cascades Service to Increase May 24

April 28, 2021

Additional Cascades Service roundtrips are set to begin service May 24.

Amtrak will restore three of four Seattle-Portland roundtrips and both Portland-Eugene roundtrips.

For more than a year the corridor has been limited to a single daily Seattle-Eugene roundtrip.

The trains will use a combination of Talgo Series 8 transets owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Amtrak owned Horizon equipment.

An additional full-corridor departure will leave Seattle at 7:25 a.m. and return from Eugene at 4:40 p.m., arriving at 11 p.m.

The new schedule has Train 507 departing Seattle at 6:10 p.m. and its equipment leaving Portland the next day at at noon.

The current schedule has a Talgo departing Seattle (No. 505) at 2:20 p.m. and leaving Eugene the next morning (No. 500) at 5:30 a.m. and arriving in Seattle at 11:50 a.m.

State transportation officials had wanted to shift the departure of No. 500 from Eugene to 8 a.m. but host railroads Union Pacific and BNSF would not allow it, Washington Department of Transportation Communications Manager Janet Matkin told Trains magazine.

Because the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel, Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver remains suspended.

At present, Amtrak operates a Thruway bus to Bellingham, Washington.

Washington state transportation officials said one Seattle-Vancouver roundtrip could be restored in July.

An official said Amtrak crews are qualified on the route and if the border opens sooner rail service could resume before July.

No date has yet been given as to when Amtrak will resume using the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma.

Officials are eying late summer or early fall but said it is up to host railroad Sound Transit.

The public transit agency conducted testing on the route earlier this year and has been working through a crew qualification process.

Matkin said the Cascades will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity in compliance with Washington and Oregon’s ‘Ride Safe’ Initiatives.

Limited food and beverage service may begin at the same time or soon after the May 24 schedule expansion.

Siemens to Build New Cars for Amtrak

April 21, 2021

Amtrak will contract with Siemens for new equipment that will be assigned to service in the Northeast Corridor, on some state-supported trains and for the New York-Savannah, Georgia, Palmetto.

The passenger carrier said Siemens was chosen as the “preferred bidder” to build 83 intercity trainsets.

Siemens is already constructing new Venture cars to be used for Midwest and California corridor services.

Amtrak said it chose Siemens as part of a competitive procurement process that began in January 2019.

The new equipment will feature dual power in some cases and will replace Amfleet I and Metroliner cab cars.

The equipment is also expected to replace existing equipment used in Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest.

Siemens and Amtrak are talking about a contract for construction and long-term service that both parties hope to sign this summer.

The contract would also include technical support, spares and material supply.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said the carrier would not release any other information about the equipment order beyond what was reported in a news release.

Restoration of State-Funded Corridor Services Presents a Mixed Picture

March 27, 2021

Passengers board Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Saluki at Effingham, Illinois, on March 21. The Chicago-Carbondale corridor lost one roundtrip since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago

Although Amtrak plans to restore daily service to most long-distance routes starting in late May, the restoration of corridor service cut during the COVID-19 pandemic presents a more mixed picture.

Some states might restore service by summer but that is not guaranteed.

Michigan Department of Transportation Rail Director Peter Anastor said he didn’t known when two suspended Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) would return.

He indicated it will hinge in part on ridership and revenue trends.

“The CARES Act and the second stimulus bill helped fill the gap caused by fixed costs that stay the same whether you have 10 or 100 riders,” he said.

Michigan also funds the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette.

Although the Blue Water continued to operate throughout the pandemic, the Pere Marquette was suspended between March and last summer.

Anastor indicated new Venture coaches are expected to be assigned to Wolverine Service this spring, making it the first Midwest corridor train to have the new cars.

On other Midwest corridor routes, Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee is expected to increase to seven round trips on May 21.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Rail Division head Arun Rao said the service expansion will be promoted with an extensive advertising push and increased social media activity.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Speegle said his agency will decide in April when some other corridor services will be restored.

IDOT has suspended one round trip on the Chicago-Carbondale route, one roundtrip on the Chicago-Quincy route and two roundtrips between Chicago and St. Louis.

“We anticipate resuming full service no earlier that mid-July; the final decision on that time frame will be made in April, approximately 12 weeks prior to resumption of service,” he said.

Speegle said IDOT will review ridership and revenue numbers for the current service, anticipated costs, and the level of federal support.

Whether a second St. Louis-Kansas City Missouri River Runner will resume operating will depend on how much funding the Missouri legislature approves.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has requested funding for two daily roundtrips but the chair of a House budget committee has proposed funding just one roundtrip.

In the East, New York State has not announced its intentions in regards to restoring any suspended Empire Corridor trains.

Two routes funded by New York, the Maple Leaf to Toronto and Adirondack to Montreal have been suspended due to the U.S.-Canadian border being closed during the pandemic.

Elsewhere in the East, North Carolina will begin a fourth roundtrip starting April 5 in the Charlotte-Raleigh corridor.

Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation are reinstating a third Piedmont Service roundtrip, making this the first multi-frequency state corridor to be fully restored.

North Carolina reinstated a second and third round trip last August and December, respectively.

Another Downeaster trip to Maine is expected to resume in May after schedules are worked out with Amtrak and host railroad Pan Am Railways.

Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn said the new schedule will be a little different.

“Instead of just plugging two midday trains back into their old slots, we’re adding a 10:30 a.m. departure from Brunswick, which will turn as a 3 p.m. departure from Boston,” she said.

“Given the change in commute patterns, we decided to try something different, assuming we won’t need two trains leaving Boston for the evening rush hour, but the additional round-trip means we will again have a flex schedule for the late-night train from Boston to accommodate sports fans and concert goers.”

Quinn said weekday and weekend schedules will now be identical.

In the West, one Capitol Corridor roundtrip will on March 29 be extended from Oakland to San Jose.

Capitol Corridor managing director Rob Pagette said there will be a change in departure times based on the way customers now use the trains.

“We’re about at 15 percent of where we were in February 2020 but we are looking to have a more robust service by September,” he said.

“We’ve seen more demand spread throughout the day, and this has allowed us to improve the efficiency of how we use our equipment by (temporarily) going from seven to six consists.”

Pagette said officials will be watching to determine where people are riding after the schedule change to determine where we add back the seventh consist.” An eighth trainset will be added later.

The extended round trip to San Jose will originate in Auburn because there appear to be increasing numbers of “super commuters” who ride 80 miles or more to their jobs.

Ridership trends during the pandemic have shown that if passengers are less likely to travel every day, more will opt for less-costly housing further away from the Silicon Valley.

In the San Joaquin corridor, a fifth roundtrip is expected to be added in in the fall. However, the two round trips to Sacramento aren’t likely to return until early 2021 at the earliest.

Those plans, though, are contingent on ridership stabilizing.

In Southern California, the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency expects to restore one Pacific Surfliner roundtrip between San Diego and Goleta in July or August.

The date of that service restoration is dependant on available funding.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Washington Department of Transportation is eyeing returning two Seattle-Portland roundtrips in mid May.

Currently, the Cascades Service is operating with one Seattle-Eugene, Oregon, round trip.

Officials are considering increasing Portland-Eugene service to two roundtrips.

Thin Hope to Save Talgos From Scrapping

March 5, 2021

The California company that purchased two Talgo trainsets from the Washington Department of Transportation has placed them up for sale, but that offer may not stand for long.

 “It’s a sensitive matter for everyone involved, and it wasn’t supposed to turn into a spectacle,” said Noah McCann of NSM Transportation Company in an interview with Trains magazine.

 “If anyone is interested, they are still available, but they are going to be gone in a matter of two or three days.”

WSDOT sold the trains sets to NSM for $21,000, but the buyer was responsible for the expense of moving them.

“We paid a lot more than that,” McCann said of the purchase price. “After the purchase, we aggressively tried to market them, but Amtrak doesn’t want them.”

The trainsets are the Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier, which moved from Seattle to Southern California as a special Amtrak move.

The special ran on the schedule of the Coast Starlight on a day the Seattle-Los Angeles train was not scheduled to leave Seattle southbound.

McCann told Trains that if no one buys the Talgos soon after they reach Los Angeles that his company will dismantle them.

“We’re reusing the interior fittings on other projects, but it’s a private job to dismantle them for the State of Washington. In reality, nobody is going to come in to pay to move these things, and they’re getting scrapped,” McCann said.

WSDOT had put the Talgos up for sale last year and rejected bids and requests for a donation of one trainset to a museum.

Trains reported that the Southern Rail Commission had inspected the Talgos to determine if they could be used in a proposed corridor service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

However, SRC’s Knox Ross said his agency’s delegation was unable to meet with a WSDOT representative for the purpose of getting answers to questions about the equipment.

Ross said a third-party representative sent to meet with the SRC delegation “wouldn’t answer any questions, so we didn’t bid.”

The Mt. Hood and Mt. Olympus have been out of service since July 2020. A third Talgo, the Mt. Adams, was destroyed in a Dec. 18, 2017, derailment of the Amtrak Cascades train.

The Mt. Adams had originally been owned by Amtrak, which later sold it to WSDOT.

Two Talgo trainsets are owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and continue to operate in Cascades service between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon.

Amtrak owns two Talgo trainsets that have been sitting idle at its Beech Grove shops in Indianapolis.

Three other Talgo trainsets that originally were built for use in Wisconsin corridor service but never operated there remain idle.

Talgos Sent to Scrap Dealer

March 2, 2021

Two Talgo Series 6 trains sets once used for Amtrak Cascades Service have been sent to a California scrap dealer.

The trainsets are owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and had been idle since a December 2017 derailment of another Talgo trainset in DuPont, Washington

The Talgos were removed from service after the National Transportation Safety Board concluded the Talgo design played a part in the severity of the derailment left three passengers dead.

Talgo has disputed the NTSB findings and filed a formal challenge to some of the report’s conclusions.

Two Series 6 Talgo trainsets that are owned by Amtrak were moved to the carrier’s Beech Grove shops Indianapolis last summer.

Changes Made in Oregon Thruway Bus Schedules

February 23, 2021

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s POINT Amtrak Thruway bus service has changed some of its schedules.

Bus 5504 is now operating 1 hour and 10 minutes earlier, departing Eugene station at 7 a.m.

Bus 5506 is now running 1 hour and 5 minutes earlier, departing Eugene at 1:10 p.m. while Bus 5518 will operate five minutes earlier, departing Eugene at 11:45 am.

Bus 5503 will operate 25 minutes earlier, departing Portland station at noon while Bus 5547will operate 30 minutes earlier, departing Portland at 5 p.m.

Other POINT bus schedules from Portland are unaffected by the changes.

Multi-ride tickets are available for use on both Amtrak Cascades and POINT services between Portland and Eugene.

Test Trains Run on Point Defiance Route

January 25, 2021

Amtrak earlier this month operated test trains over the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

It was the first Amtrak operation on the route since a December 2017 derailment of a Cascade Service train on the first day of service of the route left three dead and more than 70 injured.

The Point Defiance route between Tacoma and Nisqually Junction is designed to be a passenger-only line and divert Amtrak and commuter trains from a BNSF route closer to the Pacific coast.

The test trains on the 14-mile Point Defiance route were intended for familiarization and certification of train crews.

Amtrak has not set a date for when revenue service would resume on the route.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the Cascades derailment concluded that the train was speeding on a curve.

Loading Baggage on the Cascades

January 18, 2021

An Amtrak worker is loading checked baggage aboard a Talgo train used in Cascades service at Seattle’s King Street Station. This particular Talgo will be headed for Portland, Oregon. Note the hooks inside the car for hanging bicycles. The image was made on June 29, 1999.