Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak eastern long-distance trains’

Palmetto Running Later SB

February 25, 2022

CSX track work is disrupting operation of Amtrak’s southbound Palmetto on weekdays through March 3.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that starting Feb. 22 Train 89 would operate on a modified schedule to accommodate the maintenance work.

No. 89 will depart Philadelphia at 8 a.m., 20 minutes later than normal; will depart Washington at 10:45 a.m., 45 minutes later than normal; will depart Richmond  (Staples Mills station)  at 2:49 p.m., 150 minutes later than normal; and will operate at all stations between Dillon, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, 171 minutes later than normal.

The northbound Palmetto will operate on its normal schedule during the time period.

The Capitol Limited Has Arrived

February 9, 2022

It is May 20, 1998. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited has arrived at Chicago Union Station from Washington and passengers are disembarking and heading into the depot to continue on to where they are going. I was aboard this train but don’t remember if we were on time or, if not, how late we were. If the latter it probably was not too much lateness. I had boarded in Cleveland and had a more than six hour layover until boarding the southbound Illini to continue on to Mattoon, Illinois.

Amtrak Cancels Trains Due to Snowstorm

January 29, 2022

Amtrak announced Friday afternoon widespread service cancellations ahead of a winter storm expected to hit the Northeast today and dump up to two feet of snow in some areas.

Although most of the cancellations involve Eastern corridor services, some long-distance trains are affected, including the Lake Shore Limited.

Nos. 48 and 448 did not depart Chicago on Friday night. Combined with a scheduled cancellation of the Capitol Limited, this meant that no Amtrak trains for the East Coast departed Chicago on Friday.

Through late March, the Capitol is scheduled to skip departing Chicago and Washington on Fridays and Saturdays.

Amtrak’s website shows the Lake Shore still scheduled to leave Chicago Saturday night.

However, the westbound Lake Shore Limited from New York and Boston on Saturday has been cancelled, meaning there will be no Amtrak service from the East Coast to Chicago leaving today.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the northbound New York-Charlotte Carolinian will terminate in Washington on Saturday. The southbound Carolinian will originate in Washington on Sunday.

The same plan is in effect for the New York-Savannah, Georgia Palmetto.

The New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvania is thus far unaffected by the service cuts, but Keystone Service between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, via Philadelphia, will be limited. No Keystone trains will operate between Philadelphia and New York.

The Vermonter will be canceled Saturday the length of its route.

Empire Corridor service will be limited between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York, but the Maple Leaf and other trains to Niagara Falls, New York, are still scheduled to operate.

All service between New York and Boston, as well as the shuttle trains between Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, are canceled on Saturday.

Also canceled are all Acela trains between Washington and New York. Four Northeast Regional trains, including two that operate into Virginia, have been scrubbed. Downeaster service between Boston and Maine will be limited.

On Sunday Northeast Regional Nos. 150 and 160 (Boston-New York) are cancelled as is Downeaster No. 690.

Northeast Regional No. 195 (Boston-Richmond, Virginia) will originate in New York as will No. 195 (Boston-Newport News, Virginia).

Amtrak Flexible Dining Menu Expands

January 22, 2022

In passenger train advocacy circles French toast has come to symbolize what is right and wrong about dining aboard Amtrak.

When it is available on the breakfast menu passenger train advocates tend to be pleased. When it is not, they are upset.

Over the years French toast has come and gone from Amtrak dining car menus.

It made a comeback in traditional dining cars on western long-distance trains last summer and is now available on the menu of eastern long distance trains, too.

It was one of a number of additions that Amtrak quietly made to its flexible dining menu last year that increased the number of hot offerings for all meals.

But not all French toast is the same. Just read the menu descriptions for it on the traditional and flexible dining menus.

That offered in traditional dining cars is described as thick-cut Texas toast with whipped cream and seasonal berries. On flexible dining menus it is merely described as thick-cut Texas toast served with Applewood smoked bacon.

What the menus don’t say is that in traditional dining cars the French toast is created on board by a chef. In flexible dining cars all food is created off the train by a catering company and heated onboard.

Some passenger train advocates are still angry about Amtrak’s downgrading of dining service aboard eastern long distance trains starting in June 2018.

It was widely viewed as a cost-cutting move and resulted in fewer choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Further ruffling the feathers of passenger train advocates has been the limiting of dining car service to sleeping car passengers on all trains. Coach passengers were left to buy whatever is available in the café car.

Be that as it may, the current flexible dining offerings are more expansive than they were when the service began in 2018.

In its early days, breakfast under the flexible dining concept was limited to one hot offering – a breakfast sandwich – and such things as snack bars and yogurt.

Aside from French toast, the flexible dining menu now includes two more hot breakfast offering.

The continental breakfast comes with a breakfast sandwich, blueberry muffin, Greek yogurt, and assorted cold cereals and oatmeal.

A three egg omelet comes with Swiss, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and is accompanied by breakfast potatoes and chicken sausage.

What hasn’t changed is the lunch and dinner offerings are the same. You get a complimentary alcoholic beverage at dinner.

The current offerings include braised beef short ribs served with a Cabernet reduction
sauce, baby green beans, Parisienne carrots and chive mashed potatoes; vegen enchiladas with black beans, corn and cheese wrapped in corn tortillas with an ancho chili sauce and yellow rice; chicken ala rosa with fettuccine, broccoli, sundried cherry tomatoes, and Pecorino Romano cheese in a tomato vodka cream sauce; sesame glazed salmon with stir-fried vegetables and jasmine rice; and penne pasta with tomato sauce, meatballs, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

The menu posted at Amtrak’s website does not list dessert items, but carries the notation “ask your server about our seasonal dessert selection.”

Flexible dining service is provided on the Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Star, Silver Meteor and Texas Eagle.

Amtrak gave it the “flexible” moniker because there are no set seating times and meals can be served in your sleeping car room upon request.

Meal hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.

Amtrak officials have talked about upgrading dining service on eastern long-distance trains, but have not provided any specific details or a time frame for when that might happen.

Likewise they have spoken about making dining car meals, whether traditional or flexible, available for purchase by coach passengers but have not said when that might occur.

Nor have they said what form it would take. Prior to the launch of flexible dining coach passengers had the ability to be served in full-service dining cars.

It may be that once dining car meals are made available to coach passengers it might be on a “to go” basis rather than with sit down table service.

The infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year directed Amtrak to establish a food and beverage service task force, but that has yet to get underway and it remains to be seen what recommendations will be made and how or even if they will be implemented.

For now, the only traditional dining involving meals prepared fresh aboard the train is limited to the Auto Train, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Coast Starlight.

The current Auto Train menu differs slightly from those on the other trains with full-service dining cars.  

On the Auto Train all entrées include a small salad and dinner roll rather than an appetizer as is the case with western train dining cars.

The current entrees include an 8-ounce flat iron steak with a Cabernet reduction sauce served with baby green beans, Parisian carrots and a choice of mashed potatoes or a baked potato; pan-roasted chicken breast with wild mushroom risotto, English peas, fava beans, and Parisian carrots, all smothered in a morel mushroom sauce; grilled Atlantic salmon served with ancient grains, baby green beans and Parisian carrots in a miso soy beurre blanc sauce; tortellini with pesto cream and grape tomatoes, and English peas topped with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Entrees for children include an all-beef hot dog served with kettle chips, or macaroni and cheese served with baby green beans and Parisian carrots.

Desserts include flourless Chocolate Torte, cheesecake, carrot cake, vanillia ice cream, and sugar-free Jell-O.

The Auto-Train does not offer a full breakfast. Instead, sleeping car passengers receive a continental breakfast.

The current traditional dining car breakfast menu used on western long-distance trains includes a continental breakfast of seasonal mixed berries, croissant, Greek yogurt, assorted cereals, and a choice of oatmeal or grits; French toast; three egg omelet with choice of cheddar, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, red and green peppers and onions, all served with roasted breakfast potatoes and a croissant; and scrambled eggs.

The latter comes with the same options as the omelet along with roasted breakfast potatoes and a croissant.

Diners can add to their meal bacon, pork sausage links or chicken sausage links.

At lunch the entrees include a Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, and shaved parmesan cheese with the option to add a roasted chicken breast; grilled cheese sandwich with roasted turkey, bacon, provolone and cheddar cheeses on hickory-smoked onion bread; an Angus beef burger with cheddar or Swiss cheese, lettuce, and tomato, on a brioche roll; and vegan chilli served in a baked potato or in a bowl with a choice of toppings of cheddar cheese, bacon,
sour cream, and scallions.

The sandwiches come with a side of Terra chips and coleslaw.

Dinner entrees come with an appetizer and one complimentary alcoholic beverage. As is the case with flexible dining, soft drinks are complimentary throughout the trip.

The appetizers include a lobster crab cake, green chile cheese tamale, or a mixed greens salad with baby brie.

Dinner entrees and desserts are the same as those offered on the Auto Train. The traditional dining cars also make available at dinner offerings from the lunch menu.

The children’s menu includes grilled cheese (American and Swiss) with kettle chips; roasted chicken breast with green beans, carrot balls and cheesy polenta; white cheddar mac and cheese with green beans and carrots; and a all beef hot dog served with kettle chips.

Details Set For Amtrak Service Cancellations

January 18, 2022

Amtrak’s service cancellations of long-distance trains that take effect on Jan. 24 will mean that trains will not depart from their terminal of origin on consecutive days, Trains magazine reported on its website on Monday.

The cancellations, which extend through late March, were announced on Jan. 14. At the time Amtrak, cited employee shortages prompted largely by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in large numbers of workers being off work due to being sick or having to quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19

The announcement said 8 percent of departures would be cancelled system wide and 6 percent of its state-supported network trains.

As it turned out in the Midwest the only trains to be affected will be one roundtrip between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, and several Hiawatha Service trips between Chicago and Milwaukee.

All trains in the Chicago-St. Louis; Chicago-Michigan; Chicago-Quincy, Illinois; and St. Louis-Kansas City corridors will continue operating daily as scheduled.

Canceled until March 27 in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor was the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini. The suspension of Nos. 391 and 392 became effective Jan. 18.

The days that long distance trains will cease operating starting Jan. 27 are staggered.

Among western long distance trains the Southwest Chief (Chicago-Los Angeles) will not depart on Monday and Tuesday. The California Zephyr (Chicago-Emeryville, California) will not depart on Sunday and Monday.

The Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland) will not depart on Thursday and Friday. The Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio) will not depart on Wednesday and Thursday. The Coast Starlight (Seattle-Los Angeles) will not depart on Wednesday and Thursday).

Among eastern long distance trains, the Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington) will not depart on Friday and Saturday. The Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston) will not depart on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Crescent (New York-New Orleans) will not depart on Tuesday and Wednesday. The City of New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans) will not depart on Saturday and Sunday.

Unaffected by the cancellations are the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and Cardinal (Chicago-New York), both of which already operate three days a week.

The Silver Star (New York-Miami), Auto Train (Lorton, Virginia-Samford, Florida) and Palmetto (New York-Savannah, Georgia) will continue to operate daily.

The Silver Meteor (New York-Miami) is suspended entirely between Jan. 24 and March 27.

The staggered days of operation mean that for some trains their first day or not operating will occur after Jan. 24.

Cancellations of Hiawatha Service (Chicago-Milwaukee) is as follows: Trains 341 and 342 are cancelled in their entirety starting Jan. 24. Train 329 will operate only on Saturday and Sunday. Train 330 will operate only on Sunday. Train 343 will operate daily except Friday.

All of the service suspensions in the Empire Corridor will occur with trains operating between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York. All trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, via Buffalo, will continue operating daily.

In Pennsylvania, the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian will continue operating daily and there are no service suspensions planned for Keystone Service trains between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, via Philadelphia.

Buses to Replace Boston LSL Section

July 21, 2021

Track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will result in service disruptions to the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited between July 23 and 26.

During that period, Train 448 will terminate at Albany-Rensselaer, New York, with alternate bus transportation provided to the missed stops of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Boston South Station.

No alternate transportation will be provided to the missed stop of Framingham or Boston Back Bay. Those traveling to Back Bay will ride the bus to South Station and take an Amtrak or MBTA commuter train to Back Bay.

Train 449 will originate at Albany with alternate bus transportation provided from Boston South Station, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield.

 No alternate transportation will be provided from Boston Back Bay or Framingham.

Back Bay passengers will be given the option of boarding at Boston South Station or traveling on alternate dates.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak information desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Worcester will board the bus at the main entrance in front of the station. Boarding will not occur at the bus terminal.

Accelerating in Waterloo

June 27, 2021

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is picking up speed as it accelerates away from its station stop in Waterloo, Indiana, one hour and 15 minutes late.

It is the first image I’ve made of the Capitol in well over a year and getting this photograph took good timing and fast acting.

Before leaving home I had checked the status of Amtrak trains through Waterloo. There wasn’t enough time to get there before the Lake Shore Limited arrived and chances were good I would miss No. 29 by 15 minutes or so.

It had been reported out of Cleveland an hour and 20 minutes but Amtrak’s website projected No. 29 would make up a good chunk of that and arrive in Waterloo 59 minutes late.

If that held, I had no chance. But I also knew Amtrak can get delayed between Waterloo and Toledo.

As I neared Waterloo I checked the Amtrak website again. No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:46 a.m. I figured to miss by that about five minutes.

The exit ramp for Waterloo onto U.S. Route 6 from Interstate 69 is just beyond the bridge over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

As I passed the exit signs for Route 6 it was 7:47 a.m. on my car’s clock. I slowed for the bridge and exit ramp and looked toward the east. No headlight was in sight.

That was a good sign This just might work after all.

Nearly a month earlier as I had driven over that same bridge I had seen the headlight of a fast approaching Amtrak 49. I was going to fast to get to the side of the road in time to try to get a grab shot and a pickup truck also getting off at the exit was right on my tail.

So close and yet so far away.

This time I drove to a road that crosses the Chicago Line at grade shortly after I got onto Route 6. The gates were up. Another good sign.

I checked the Amtrak website and saw No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:53 a.m., three minutes from now. Did I have time to get to the station?

I began driving down a road that runs parallel to the tracks. Then there it was up ahead. I immediately pulled to the side of Lincoln Street, grabbed my camera and dashed into the weeds to make this image.

There was no time so think about what I wanted to do. I barely was able to get all of the train in the frame.

Photographing the Capitol Limited is a challenge because much of its journey occurs at night. On the western end of the route the train is always operating in the wrong light. Only on the eastern end can you get 29 or 30 in good light.

In Northeast Ohio, No. 30 is scheduled into Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. and No. 29 at 2:53 a.m.

Still, you can get an interesting image on the western end of the route if you work it right.

The glint off P42DC No. 190 was happenstance but I also knew that this time of year the early morning light would favor the north side of the train.

I’m hoping it won’t be another year before I can photograph the Capitol Limited again.

Manchin Wants Study of Daily Cardinal

June 27, 2021

Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is pushing for a study of making Amtrak’s Cardinal a daily train.

Nos. 50 and 51 currently operate tri-weekly, departing Chicago on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; and New York on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Manchin said in a news release that he was able to win approval of a measure to fund the study in the Surface Transportation Investment Act that is being considered by the Senate.

“The language I secured in the Surface Transportation Investment Act will require a study on potential options to restore the Cardinal line daily service, which provides access to and from much of West Virginia, Manchin said in statement.

“This is an important first step towards restoring the Cardinal line and I look forward to reviewing the results of this important study to determine how we can best move forward.”

Traditional Dining to Return to Eastern Trains

June 27, 2021

Dining aboard the Capitol Limited in route to Chicago in May 2012.

Goodbye flexible dining and hello French toast.

Amtrak announced on Tuesday its plans to return traditional dining to eastern long distance trains and allow coach passengers to buy meals in the dining car.

However, it gave no date for when those changes but indicated it would be late this year or in early 2022.

Traditional dining for sleeping car passengers is being reinstated on western long distance trains on June 23.

Amtrak officials also indicated the eastern trains likely will receive an abridged version of the menus used on western trains and that coach passengers might not necessarily be able to eat in the dining car but use a takeout service.

Those are moves Amtrak management expects to decide over the next few months.

The announcement was made on Tuesday at a press event at Chicago Union Station during which Amtrak showed off its first Siemens ALC-42 locomotives that will be used in the carrier’s national network.

The carrier also showed new interior designs for its Superliner fleet.

Robert Jordan, Amtrak’s vice president operations and customer services, said when traditional dining and coach passenger access to dining cars is implemented will depend on the reactions the carrier gets to the new dining-car menus planned for the western long-distance trains.

 “A lot of it is centered on two things,” he said. “First will be passenger reaction to the menu. “Do we need to make any adjustments? What is the most popular, and how long each of those items takes to cook, because we imagine that whatever is popular with our [sleeping-car passengers] is going to be as popular with our coaches,

“And then, once we understand that, we’ll figure out the logistics of what’s going to make sense. Is it opening up the dining room or additional tables for coach customers, or is it more of a take-out kind of menu, or is it a delivery? Those are the things we have to weigh. It is a priority for us to roll it out for coach customers, so hopefully within three or four months we can do that.”

As for the differences between menus of the eastern versus the western trains, Jordan said the former will receive “a version” of the new menu, but probably not the exact menu. 

“You’re only talking three or four meals, so I don’t know if we have to have every single menu item.”

Jordan indicated the return of traditional dining to eastern trains will likely occur late this year or early near year.

Traditional dining on Amtrak’s western trains will include the return of linen tablecloths and napkins, new flatware and glassware.

Dining car china will return in a few months once Amtrak is able to receive its order of china. Until then meals will be served on plastic plates.

Roger Harris, Amtrak’s executive vice president, chief marketing and revenue officer, said the return of traditional dining and upgraded silverware and dishes reflects an understanding that premium prices should be accompanied by premium service.

“We have so much demand that prices go up, because we’re a little bit of a supply-and-demand world,” Harris said.

“We look at it, and go, ‘wow,’ if we’re going to charge people more, we better do a better job of looking after them . . . I’s not just a tablecloth. The food product is better.”

Jordan said the fare to be served in dining cars was developed in consultation with Amtrak’s own chefs as well as those from vendors such as Cuisine Solutions and Aramark.

The menu they decided upon has a mixture of long-standing Amtrak menu items, including French Toast, Angus beef burgers, and flatiron steak and some new entrees.

 “Overall, we wanted healthy items, whole food items — fairly traditional, but we wanted to simplify it to some extent, as well,” Jordan said.

“Our previous menu had 18 items; this one has, not counting the appetizers, 12 items. So customers are not overwhelmed by the choices and it makes it easier for our chefs to prepare these.”

Traditional Dining to Return to Eastern Trains

June 16, 2021

Dining aboard the Capitol Limited en route to Chicago in May 2012.

Goodbye flexible dining and hello French toast.

Amtrak announced on Tuesday its plans to return traditional dining to eastern long distance trains and allow coach passengers to buy meals in the dining car.

However, it gave no date for when those changes but indicated it would be late this year or in early 2022.

Traditional dining for sleeping car passengers is being reinstated on western long distance trains on June 23.

Amtrak officials also indicated the eastern trains likely will receive an abridged version of the menus used on western trains and that coach passengers might not necessarily be able to eat in the dining car but use a takeout service.

Those are moves Amtrak management expects to decide over the next few months.

The announcement was made on Tuesday at a press event at Chicago Union Station during which Amtrak showed off its first Siemens ALC-42 locomotives that will be used in the carrier’s national network.

The carrier also showed new interior designs for its Superliner fleet.

Robert Jordan, Amtrak’s vice president operations and customer services, said when traditional dining and coach passenger access to dining cars is implemented will depend on the reactions the carrier gets to the new dining-car menus planned for the western long-distance trains.

 “A lot of it is centered on two things,” he said. “First will be passenger reaction to the menu. “Do we need to make any adjustments? What is the most popular, and how long each of those items takes to cook, because we imagine that whatever is popular with our [sleeping-car passengers] is going to be as popular with our coaches,

“And then, once we understand that, we’ll figure out the logistics of what’s going to make sense. Is it opening up the dining room or additional tables for coach customers, or is it more of a take-out kind of menu, or is it a delivery? Those are the things we have to weigh. It is a priority for us to roll it out for coach customers, so hopefully within three or four months we can do that.”

As for the differences between menus of the eastern versus the western trains, Jordan said the former will receive “a version” of the new menu, but probably not the exact menu. 

“You’re only talking three or four meals, so I don’t know if we have to have every single menu item.”

Jordan indicated the return of traditional dining to eastern trains will likely occur late this year or early near year.

Traditional dining on Amtrak’s western trains will include the return of linen tablecloths and napkins, new flatware and glassware.

Dining car china will return in a few months once Amtrak is able to receive its order of china. Until then meals will be served on plastic plates.

Roger Harris, Amtrak’s executive vice president, chief marketing and revenue officer, said the return of traditional dining and upgraded silverware and dishes reflects an understanding that premium prices should be accompanied by premium service.

“We have so much demand that prices go up, because we’re a little bit of a supply-and-demand world,” Harris said.

“We look at it, and go, ‘wow,’ if we’re going to charge people more, we better do a better job of looking after them . . . I’s not just a tablecloth. The food product is better.”

Jordan said the fare to be served in dining cars was developed in consultation with Amtrak’s own chefs as well as those from vendors such as Cuisine Solutions and Aramark.

The menu they decided upon has a mixture of long-standing Amtrak menu items, including French Toast, Angus beef burgers, and flatiron steak and some new entrees.

 “Overall, we wanted healthy items, whole food items — fairly traditional, but we wanted to simplify it to some extent, as well,” Jordan said.

“Our previous menu had 18 items; this one has, not counting the appetizers, 12 items. So customers are not overwhelmed by the choices and it makes it easier for our chefs to prepare these.”