Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Coast Starlight’

Amtrak to Build New Engine Facility in Seattle

June 15, 2017

Amtrak will build a $28 million locomotive service facility in Seattle to serve two long-distance trains and the state-funded Cascades service.

Construction is expected to begin this month and be completed in two years. The first step will be demolition of the site’s existing buildings, utilities, tracks and other structures.

Workers will then construct a new 31,000-square-foot locomotive shop that will have a new 125-ton drop table being funded by the Washington State Department of Transportation and a 55-ton overhead bridge crane.

Seattle is the western terminus of the Empire Builder from Chicago and the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles. The Cascades trains operate to Portland and Eugene, Oregon; and to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Coast Starlight Disrupted until Mid-May

May 2, 2017

Amtrak has announced that the Coast Starlight will not operate between Sacramento, California, and Seattle through mid-May due to bridge damage on its Union Pacific Railroad route.

Nos. 11 and 14 will run on their normal schedule between Los Angeles and Sacramento, but Pacific Parlour Car service will not be available.

Coast Starlight passengers traveling between Seattle and Eugene are being referred to Cascades trains between those points.

Likewise, Coast Starlight customers traveling between Seattle and Eugene who are connecting to or from the Empire Builder in Seattle or Portland will be re-accommodated aboard the Amtrak Cascades.

Passengers ticketed for travel to or from Chico, Redding, Dunsmuir, California; or Klamath Falls and Chemult, Oregon should contact Amtrak at 800-USA-RAIL for further information and options, as there is no service at these cities.

During the duration of the service disruption, Redmond Airport-Cheult, Oregon, Thruway bus service Nos. 6111 and 6211 are suspended.

Thruway buses 6114 and 6214 will stop at Klamath Falls and Chemult, but there will not be a train connection in Klamath Falls.

The Coast Starlight service disruption was triggered by a UP freight train derailment on April 25 that damaged a bridge near Redding, California.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that UP is repairing the bridge and will restore service.

Coast Starlight Route Temporarily Severed

April 28, 2017

Operations of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight have been disrupted following a derailment of a Union Pacific freight train in the Sacramento River Canyon this week.

UP officials say that it will take up to a month to repair the damage and reopen the route.

The Seattle-Los Angeles Amtrak train continues to operate between Los Angeles and Sacramento, but has been canceled for now between Portland and Sacramento.

The freight train derailment occurred about 12 miles south of Dunsmuir, California, on a bridge.

UP is rerouting trains from Roseville, California, and Los Angeles as far east as Salt Lake City to reach Portland via Pocatello, Idaho.

Higher-priority cargo is being routed on the Feather River Canyon east from Roseville to Keddie, California, and then via the BNSF Inside Gateway route to Klamath Falls, Oregon.

What Made the Coast Starlight Unique

March 10, 2017

In the Superliner era of Amtrak, the western long distant trains have all looked alike and offered pretty much the same service.

Over the years there have been a few tweaks, such as varying menu fare in the dining car by route, but otherwise there are no significant differences among the trains.

One exception has been the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight. During the 1990s a product line manager for Amtrak had former Santa Fe cars remodeled into the Pacific Parlour Cars that became the train’s signature service for sleeper class passengers.

In June 1999 I was at the Amtrak station in Sacramento, California, waiting for a excursion train to arrive that was being operated for members of the National Railway Historical Society. NRHS was holding its annual convention in Sacramento.

But the first order of business was the arrival of the southbound Coast Starlight. A few of us were standing near a doorway to the Pacific Parloir Car and we asked an Amtrak employee if we could go inside and take a look.

Sacramento is a service stop for Nos. 11 and 14 so we knew we had time. “Sure, come on up,” was the response.

So I got a glimpse inside something that made the Coast Starlight unique.

Amtrak Back on Track in the Northwest

February 11, 2017

Amtrak is expecting to restore service today in Washington State that was disrupted by landslides.

Amtrak logoBNSF, which hosts Amtrak trains serving Seattle and Portland, Oregon, had declared a 48-hour moratorium on rail traffic after the landslides occurred on Thursday.

Affected with the Cascades trains, the Empire Builder and the Coast Starlight.

The Cascades were canceled between Seattle and Portland, but operated north of Everett, Washington, and south of Portland.

Amtrak was providing alternative transportation between Seattle and Everett, but not between Seattle and Portland.

In a related development, BNSF has reopened its Hi Line used by the Empire Builder through Glacier National Park in Montana. That route was closed by avalanches twice this past week.

The line was initially closed on Sunday at Marias Pass, but reopened on Tuesday. Two days later the route was closed again due to avalanches blocking the tracks near Essex, Montana.

Avalanches Halt Empire Builder Again

February 10, 2017

Shortly after it was reopened, the route of Amtrak’s Empire Builder was closed again.

BNSF said that avalanches in Glacier National park closed its Hi Line near Essex.

Amtrak Empire BuilderThe closure came less than 48 hours after the railroad had reopened the line following avalanches that blocks the tracks at Marias Pass.

Railroad officials said warmer temperatures were a factor in causing avalanches because they were creating layers of unstable snow.

Thursday’s westbound Empire Builder was held overnight at St. Paul Union Depot and passengers bound for points between St. Paul and Minot, North Dakota, were taken to their destination buy bus.

Passengers going beyond Minot were to remain on the train. Amtrak said those passengers will be given a refund and taken back to Chicago on Friday.

Two other sections of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train were to spend the night Thursday in Montana. This includes an eastbound and a westbound section.

Landslides in Washington State resulted in the cancellation of Amtrak’s Cascades service between Seattle and Portland until Saturday.

Also canceled is the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited Will Depart LA 2 Hours Earlier on Select Days in January, February

December 24, 2016

The Sunset Limited will operate earlier from Los Angles to El Paso, Texas, on select days in January and February due to Union Pacific track work.

sunset-limitedThe altered schedules will also apply to passengers originatin on the Texas Eagle between those points, but will not affect the Eagle schedule east of San Antonio. The Los Angeles section of the Texas Eagle is conveyed by the Sunset Limited.

The effective dates are Jan. 11, 13, 15, 25, 27 and 29, and Feb. 8, 10 and 12.

On those dates, Train No. 2 will depart from Los Angeles at 8 p.m., two hours earlier than scheduled.

Arrival and departure times at intermediate stations between Los Angeles and El Paso will be two hours earlier.

However, No. 2 will depart from El Paso at its scheduled time of 3:35 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The track work will not affect the operation of the westbound Sunset Limited.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers will not be able to make connections on the affected days to No. 2 from the inbound Coast Starlight or some Pacific Surfliner trains.

Amtrak Adds Vacation Deals to National Parks

November 12, 2016

Amtrak Vacations has introduced 25 new rail-based vacation packages, increasing to about 350 the number of its offerings.

Amtrak logo“There are more than 350 itineraries total, an infinite number of variations,” said Frank Marini, president of Amtrak Vacations. “You can add, build, or change anything you want based on the customers’ needs.”

The new packages are centered around travel to U.S. national parks.

Called the Grand National Parks, the trips originate in Chicago and include visits to Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.

The 13-day package includes eight nights’ hotel accommodation, four nights onboard Amtrak and two meals, and is priced starting at $2,849.

Trains involved include the California Zephyr, Southwest Chief and the Coast Starlight.

“We watch what people are tailor-making and when we see a trend we create a package,” Marini said. “We introduce new programs throughout the year, not just at official launch dates.”

He said Amtrak Vacations has seen an increase in business as domestic travel has increased.

Trackside Checked Bicycle Service Now Available on Most Amtrak Long-distance Trains

September 19, 2016

Amtrak has begun checked trackside bicycle service on most long-distance trains.

Amtrak logoThe service is available only at stations that have checked baggage service.

Passengers with bikes must check in with a station agent, obtain a claim check/baggage tag for their bike, and then give that to a crew member inside the baggage car of their train.

Passengers must retrieve their bikes from the baggage car from a crew member once they reach their destination.

The new procedure has ended the need for passengers to break down and box their bikes on long-distance trains. Checked bikes also require payment of a $25 fee.

The service is not yet available on the Portland section of the Empire Builder, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited or on the Coast Starlight.

Amtrak said checked bike service will begin on the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight at a date to be announced.

Amtrak’s 70 new Viewliner II baggage cars have racks to hang bicycles.

Amtrak to Cut First-Class Amenities

February 8, 2014
The welcome board reception in the Lake Shore Limited diner in Chicago included wine and cheese, but also crackers and grapes.

The welcome board reception in the Lake Shore Limited diner in Chicago included wine and cheese, but also crackers and grapes.

Trains magazine reported Friday that Amtrak’s long-distance route directors have decided to end some first-class and dining car amenities in an effort to cut costs.

The decision was made at a late January meeting in Chicago. Among the amenities to be cut and their effective date are:

  • Cranberry juice in sleeping cars (Feb. 8)
  • Flowers and vases on dining car tables (Feb. 15)
  • Newspapers in sleeping cars (date depends upon vendor)
  • Wine and cheese tastings, Astor chocolate squares, and complimentary champagne or non-alcoholic cider for Coast Starlight and Empire Builder sleeping car passengers (March 31)
  • Pre-departure Lake Shore Limited wine and cheese reception at Chicago for      sleeping car passengers (March 31)
  • Coast Starlight and Empire Builder sleeper amenity kits (May 31)

The latest cuts are nothing new. At various times, Amtrak has added or dropped first class amenities in order to increase premium ticket revenue by providing a better product or in response to congressional pressure. In response to the most recent incident of the latter, Amtrak president Joe Boardman has promised to eliminate food losses in five years.

Trains reported that Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that the decision to cut amenities came from the route directors, not a corporate directive from Washington.

Magliari acknowledge, though that Amtrak “has made promises to stakeholders that we would continue to reduce costs.

“The route directors felt these changes would have a minimal impact on passenger revenue while reducing some confusion in passengers’ expectations between riding the Coast Starlight or Empire Builder and other long-distance service. Like a hotel, we would still provide travel kits to passengers that need them.”

Magliari said there are no plans to cease operating the Coast Starlight’s aging Pacific Parlour Cars.