Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Chicago’

That Late 1970s Look

July 12, 2019

Amtrak was in the midst of rebuilding its Chicago infrastructure when I made this image in September 1978.

My recollection is that I was part of a group making a tour of Amtrak facilities at the time, but I don’t remember much about. it.

Amtrak was well into its transition from steam heated equipment to head end power and its general of P30CH and F40PH locomotives were rapidly overtaking EMD E and F units inherited from the freight railroads and the ill-fated SDP40F locomotives that Amtrak itself ordered.

Not also that this motive power set of a P30 and two F40s is wearing the then new Phase III livery.

These units had helped to introduce Phase II, but it didn’t last long.

Proposal New Chicago Transit Hub Includes Amtrak

June 6, 2019

Chicago may be getting a second Amtrak station if a Wisconsin developer is able to follow through on an ambitious proposal.

Landmark Development wants to create a transit center across Lake Shore Drive near Soldier Field on the southside of downtown Chicago. The location is close to the site of Central Station, which the Illinois Central razed in the middle 1970s after Amtrak ceased using it in March 1972.

The center would serve Metra, CTA and Amtrak. The developer also plans to build a $20 billion residential and commercial complex on a platform that would span the tracks running alongside Lake Shore Drive.

Those tracks are used by Metra Electric trains and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki.

A recent state capital funding plan approved by the Illinois General Assembly would make $5 billion in state funding available to help finance the transit center.

The proposal calls for extending the CTA Orange Line and Metra’s BNSF route to the site.

It is not clear if that would mean that Metra BNSF route trains would no longer use Chicago Union Station.

The transit center would have parking for 6,500 vehicles and feature a bus line connecting it to Navy Pier, museums and other tourist attractions along the Lake Michigan shore in and near downtown Chicago.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce paid for a study that concluded that the transit center, to be known as One Central, generate $120 billion in new tax and fee revenues to state and local governments over 40 years.

Student funding is necessarily for the project to qualify for federal transportation funding.

All of Amtrak’s trains serving Chicago originate and terminate at Union Station. Some of those Amtrak routes have suburban stops, but no Amtrak train stops for passengers within Chicago other that at Union Station.

Amtrak Won’t Reimburse Stranded Metra Passengers

April 5, 2019

Amtrak has declined a demand by an Illinois Congressman that it reimburse Metra passengers who took alternative transportation home after more than 60,000 were stranded on Feb. 28 due to a computer malfunction at Chicago Union Station.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski had asked Amtrak to reimburse those who took a taxi or hired a ride sharing service after Metra service all but ground to a halt.

Amtrak has apologized for the incident, which it said occurred due to human error during a computer hardware upgrade.

The computer problem left Amtrak dispatchers unable to remotely control signals and switches at the station.

Although Amtrak trains were affected by the issues, Metra was hit hard because it accounts for 75 percent of the rail traffic and 90 percent of the passengers using Amtrak-owned Union Station.

Lipinski, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Rail, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said he’ll hold an ad hoc hearing in Chicago in the coming weeks to probe the incident.

He said he was “extremely disappointed” over Amtrak’s refusal to reimburse Metra passengers.

“This raises the question of whether Amtrak should give Metra operational control of the station,” Lipinski said.

News reports have indicated that Amtrak was installing positive train control equipment when a technician fell on a circuit board while holding a live wire.

That resulted in an electrical short resulted in the primary and secondary servers used to control the signals and switches.

Amtrak has said that it typically does not conduct maintenance or upgrades of signal equipment during rush hour, but an inexperienced manager authorized an experienced senior technician to go ahead with the work.

A letter from Amtrak Senior Vice President Stephen Gardner to Lipinski said the passenger carrier understands that thousands of commuters were adversely affected and that it is “taking immediate concrete steps to ensure the causes of this event are addressed.”

Human Error Blamed for Chicago Service Issues

March 3, 2019

A reported “human error” that disrupted Amtrak and Metra service at Chicago Union Station on Thursday turned out to be a worker falling onto a circuit board that in turn turned off computers used to oversee train operations.

The computers in question operate signals at the station. The service interruption occurred for much of the day.

Amtrak President Richard Anderson issued a statement on Friday blaming human error for the service disruptions, but didn’t explain what that was.

The workers who fell on the circuit board wasn’t the only cause of the 12-hour problem.

Amtrak also had decided to conduct a server upgrade to its computers during peak hours of service rather than during the middle of the night when only a handful of trains would be operating.

In his statement, Anderson acknowledged that the passenger carrier failed to provide the service that its passengers and Metra riders expect.

“We own the system. We will fix this problem. More importantly, we are taking steps to improve our operations in Chicago, which include appointing a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us,” Anderson said.

Metra service had returned to normal by Friday morning after signal operations were disrupted starting Thursday morning.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said workers had to shift from automated to manual control of signals and switches and that caused delays.

The signal problems began on Thursday at 8:35 a.m. and trains between Union Station and Western Avenue were halted about an hour later.

Although some delays were brief, other trains were delayed for almost three hour.

Metra shifted to a “load and go” operations plan for trains on its BNSF line between Chicago and Aurora, Illinois, its busiest route in Chicago.

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited did not depart Chicago until 2:28 a.m., nearly five hours late.

Amtrak Cancels Most Midwest Service Due to Cold

January 30, 2019

Amtrak has canceled all trains that are scheduled to originate in Chicago today (Jan. 30) due to subzero temperatures in the Midwest.

This also includes trains that originate elsewhere today en route to Chicago.

Trains that originated on or before Jan. 29 will complete their trip to Chicago. Most of those are long-distance trains.

Amtrak said that all corridor trains will be canceled on Thursday, Jan. 31. Most long-distance trains originating in Chicago are also expected to be canceled on Thursday.

Also being canceled today and Thursday will be long-distance trains bound for Chicago that would be scheduled to arrive on Thursday and Friday.

One long-distance train, the Chicago to Seattle/Portland Empire Builder was canceled on Tuesday due to the severe cold.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine that decision was made in consultation with host railroad BNSF, which handles the train for most of its route.

The only Amtrak trains that will originate in the Midwest today and Thursday will be the two Missouri River Runner round-trips between Kansas City and St. Louis.

Amtrak typically operates 55 trains daily to and from Chicago hub.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers traveling on the affected trains will be able to change their travel to another date without an additional charge.

In a related development, intercity commuter carrier The South Shore Line suspended all service on Wednesday.

The carrier, which operates between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, said a test train encountered “significant overnight wire problems.”

The South Shore said it will evaluate weather and operating conditions and determine later today if it will operate on Thursday.

The severe cold also prompted Chicago commuter railroad Metra to operate today on a modified schedule.

Amtrak Back on Normal Route in Chicago

January 15, 2019

Amtrak returned to its regular route on Tuesday between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois, after being disrupted on Monday by a freight train derailment.

The line, which is owned by Canadian National, was closed after an early morning wreck near Willow Springs.

Metra Heritage Corridor service was canceled on Monday and some Amtrak trains were detoured over Metra’s Rock Island District. At least two Lincoln Service trains were canceled.

The first Amtrak train to resume its normal route on Tuesday was St. Louis-bound No. 301, which departed Chicago Union Station at 7 a.m.

Pair of F40s With Mismatching Looks

May 30, 2018

I was on a tour of Amtrak’s shops and coach yards in Chicago. We were allowed to visit a tower that overlooked the yards and I made this image of two F40PH locomotives on a ready track.

It is a contrast of the old and new, although the contrast is not that much.

No. 302 was built in April 1979 and wears the Phase III look that was introduced that year. It was retired by Amtrak in December 2001, still wearing this livery.

No. 255 was built in November 1977 and still sports the Phase II look. This unit would be involved in a derailment at Silver Spring, Maryland, in February 1996.

It was the trailing unit on the Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited that struck a MARC commuter train that had run past a stop signal.

Chicago Union Station, May 1997

May 5, 2018

It is May 1997 and this is the state of the art of Amtrak rolling stock and equipment as seen at Chicago Union Station.

Partly visible at far left is a Superliner train, perhaps the inbound Southwest Chief from Los Angeles.

In the middle is a Midwest corridor train, perhaps a train to or from Detroit. In this era, trains on that route operated with former Metroliner cab cars facing west.

To the right is another Midwest corridor train with a P32-8 wearing the one-of-a-kind livery in which those units were delivered.

Many wags described them as “Pepsi cans” because the scheme resembled a brand look of the beverage that was used at the time.

This livery proved to be fairly short lived and the P32s would later be repainted in the Phase IV livery that Amtrak adopted in 1997.

The St. Charles Air Line

January 19, 2018

Since March 1972, Amtrak trains going to and from the Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans have plied the St. Charles Air Line to gain access to Chicago Union Station.

At some point a train arriving or leaving Union Station must do a backup move to get into or out of the station. All of this adds to the running time and for years there has been talk of creating a more direct connection to the IC mainline and the route into Union Station.

But that has yet to come to fruition so six Amtrak trains a day use the St. Charles Air Line.

In the Illinois Central passenger train days, varnish going to and from the Iowa Division used a portion of the St. Charles Air Line.  Of course, freight trains use the Air Line, too.

Some Chicago officials and land developers would like to see the Air Line abandoned because it traverses territory that in the past decade has seen rapid grown of high-end residential housing. The former site of Central Station has been converted to a housing development.

But for the foreseeable future Amtrak and freight trains will continue to use the Air Line at all hours of the day.

I made the image above from the last car on Amtrak Train No. 393, the Illini, to Carbondale, Illinois, back in June 2010.

In a few minutes No. 393 will round the curve at South Wye Junction and gain the Mainline of Mid America. The train will accelerate as it passes beneath McCormick place and heads southward.

Amtrak Chicago Maintenance Worker Killed

January 17, 2018

An Amtrak maintenance worker was killed early Tuesday morning near the service and inspection building in Chicago.

The victim was identified as Martin Rivera, 42, of Chicago. The incident occurred at about 7:15 a.m.

No other injuries of Amtrak workers were reported. The National Transportation Safety Board in investigating the death.

News reports indicated that Rivera was already dead and lying on railroad tracks in the 1400 block of South Lumber Street when paramedics arrived.

Rivera was found lying on the tracks by another Amtrak worker who notified authorities.