Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

One Foggy Morning in Mattoon

May 11, 2018

It was foggy in the early morning hours in Mattoon, Illinois, as I awaited the arrival of Amtrak train No. 58, the northbound City of New Orleans.

Under normal circumstances I would have been able to see the headlight of the approaching train more than a mile away. But not on this day.

My first glimpse of the headlight was just beyond the Charleston Avenue bridge in the distance.

Nos. 58 and 59 had undergone a makeover earlier that had included retiring the Panama Limited name and reviving the City of New Orleans name.

The trains also received rebuilt heritage fleet equipment, but Amfleet cars continued to be mixed in.

On this day the motive power is an F40PH, but it could have been a P30CH, which were still widely used on this route at the time.

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Durbin Wants FRA to Pressure Railroads to Run Amtrak Trains On Time

May 11, 2018

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has joined Carbondale, Illinois, officials in seeking to pressure the Federal Railroad Administration into leaning on Amtrak’s host railroads to operate Chicago-Carbondale trains on time.

During the past year trains on the route were on time on just 32 percent of their trips.

“That’s simply unacceptable and deserves the FRA’s immediate attention and action,” Durbin wrote in his letter to the FRA.

“Amtrak’s Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route continues to be one of the worst preforming routes in the country,” he said. “The Illini and Saluki trains are consistently delayed by CN’s freight interference and the ongoing speed restrictions put in place by CN in 2015.”

The speed restriction that Durbin referenced was put into place along a 200-mile stretch of the 309-mile corridor as a safety precaution following repeated mechanical issues.

However, Amtrak and CN have been in a stalemate over finding a solution to solve that issue and lift the speed restriction.

Durbin wants the FRA to take a more active role to ensure that Amtrak trains operate on time in Illinois and around the country.

“My constituents have waited long enough while the Amtrak service they rely on has suffered,” Durbin said. “It’s time for the FRA to take on a larger oversight role in the ongoing dispute between Amtrak and CN, and I urge you to begin convening regular meetings between the leadership at FRA, CN, and Amtrak that include my staff so the FRA can set deadlines, prevent further delays, and ensure greater accountability.”

Durbin also contended that freight train interference has played a major role in causing delays to Amtrak trains.

“Canadian National in particular has a long history of holding up Amtrak trains and holding back investments that could improve passenger and freight service in downstate Illinois,” Durbin said.

Durbin’s letter came shortly after Carbondale city officials met with him and Amtrak managers to discuss the paltry on-time performance of Chicago-Carbondale trains, most of which are funded by the State of Illinois.

The route also hosts Amtrak’s Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.

Track Work to Affect Lincoln Service, Texas Eagle

April 30, 2018

Track work being performed on May 4 by Union Pacific will affect certain Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle between Chicago and St. Louis.

Train 300 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided. Train 302 will be canceled with bus service being provided to intermediate stops in Illinois at Alton, Carlinville, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Dwight, Joliet and Summit.

Bus 5002 will make limited intermediate stops at Alton, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Joliet.

Trains 301 and 303 will be cancelled. Alternate transportation will be provided for missed stops will be as follows

Bus 3301 will make all stops for Train 301 at Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and Alton. Bus 3303 will make all stops for Train 303 at Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton. Bus 5003 will make limited intermediate stops at Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and Alton.

The Texas Eagle will detour between Chicago and St. Louis and miss all scheduled intermediate stops. Passengers traveling to points other than intermediate stations in Illinois will remain on the train.

No alternative transportation is being provided to the missed intermediate stations in Illinois. However, passengers for those points will be able to ride Lincoln Service trains or buses.

Nos. 21 and 22 may experience up to an hour of delay on the detour route. Buses may arrive or depart stations earlier than the train schedule.

 

CONO Sked Change Delayed

April 5, 2018

Amtrak has delayed a temporary schedule change for its City of New Orleans until April 13.

The change, which is expected to extend through early May, will provide a daytime work window for Canadian National to rebuild segments of the train’s route.

Nos. 58 and 59 will operate three hours earlier, a change that Amtrak originally said would begin on April 4. Notices of the schedule change were posted in stations and on the Amtrak website.

However, not all of those notices have been changed to reflect the delay in the schedule change.

Under the temporary schedules, No. 58 will depart New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 10:45 a.m. versus the regularly 1:45 p.m. departure time. That will put No. 58 into Chicago at 6 a.m.

No. 59 will leave Chicago at 5:20 p.m. instead of its regular 8:05 p.m. departure. It will arrive in New Orleans at 12:47 p.m.

This will mean No. 59 will operate less than two hours behind the Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, Illini, which is funded by the State of Illinois. No. 393 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 4:05 p.m.

Much of the schedule change is oriented toward accommodating CN track work on its Yazoo Subdivision south of Greenwood, Mississippi.

However, some work is also being done in Southern Illinois, which will temporarily affect the schedule of the northbound Illini, causing it to operate 30 minutes later Monday through Friday.

The temporary schedules on the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans line are in effect through May 4.

CN has said it would be most cost-effective to conduct the track work during daylight hours because that would avoid the necessity of paying overtime to workers and the cost of lights for nighttime work.

By contract Amtrak must make adjustments for maintenance of way windows that affect its trains.

CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said “the work block duration for the track work on that subdivision across Northern Mississippi has been shortened, thus delaying the change in the schedule.”

He did not explain why the work window has been shortened.

Texas Eagle Detouring Again

April 3, 2018

Union  Pacific track work again has the Texas Eagle detouring in Illinois and has disrupted some Lincoln Service trains through April 5.

Lincoln Service trains are operating only between Chicago and Normal, Illinois, with alternate transportation being provided to missed stops at Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Amtrak said that St. Louis to Normal buses will operate earlier than the train schedule at St. Louis, Alton, Carlinville, Springfield and Lincoln.

Normal to St. Louis buses will operate later than the train schedule at Bloomington, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

The Texas Eagle will detour in both directions between Chicago and St. Louis via a former Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad route via Tuscola, Illinois.

Nos. 21 and 22 will miss all intermediate stops at Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

No alternate transportation is provided southbound. Instead, passengers are being referred to Lincoln Service trains and substitute buses.

However, northbound Texas Eagle passengers traveling to points in Illinois will be able to detrain in St. Louis and transfer to Bus 3022.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Nos. 21 and 22 may be delayed up to 60 minutes by the detour move.

Track Work to Affect NB Illini, NB CONO

March 16, 2018

On Monday through Friday of each week starting March 22 and extending through May 4, Amtrak’s northbound Illini will operate 30 minutes later at all stations en route due to track work being performed by Canadian National. Train 392 will operate on its normal schedule on Saturdays and Sundays.

Although it has not yet been announced, CN track work will also affect the schedule of the northbound City of New Orleans starting April 4.

No. 58 will begin departing New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 10:45 a.m., which is three hours earlier than the normal schedule. The train will be scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 6 a.m.

The revised scheduled will remain in effect through May 8 with the normal schedule resuming the next day.

Chargers Pulling Lincoln Service Trains

March 1, 2018

SC44 Charger locomotives have been assigned to Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains.

The first train to be pulled by a Siemens-built locomotives operated on Feb. 21.

Due to the lack of a device compatible with Union Pacific’s hybrid automatic train control-incremental train control system, trains pulled by Chargers are limited for now to 79 p.m.

The system allows for a 110 mph top speed between Dwight and Pontiac, Illinois, for trains with the proper PTC equipment.

In the weeks ahead the Feb. 21 trip, Chargers had operated on Lincoln Service trains but in the trailing position because of the need to pass “pre-revenue service acceptance” tests on the route.

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.

110 mph Running Delayed Until Next Year

November 25, 2017

Top speeds of 110 miles per hour are not expected to come to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor until 2018, the Illinois Department of Transportation has said.

IDOT said construction of the $2 billion high-speed rail project has taken longer than expected.

The original goal when the project began seven years ago was to have the higher speeds in place by late 2017.

Officials have not said when in 2018 the higher speeds will be allowed.

The latest delays have occurred in Springfield where five crossings have been closed while workers install safety fencing and make signal and gate upgrades.

The city of Springfield is seeking federal approval to establish a “quiet zone” of no train horns once the safety improvements are completed.

Trains began running at speeds up to 110 mph in 2012 between Pontiac and Dwight.

21 More Chargers Due in Chicago in January

November 16, 2017

Amtrak expects to receive 21 additional Charger locomotives in January. They will supplement the 12 that were delivered last August.

The locomotives have been assigned thus far to Hiawatha Service trains between Chicago and Milwaukee, and routes linking Chicago with the Illinois cities of Quincy and Carbondale.

Chargers also were expected to begin revenue service this week between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.

Scott Speegle, the passenger rail communications manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the passenger experience should be improved.

“They will provide a better acceleration and deceleration, and so we’ll have a smoother ride and better on-time performance,” Speegle said.

He said the new locomotives make it easier for more passenger cars to be added during peak travel days.

“They could pull more cars more efficiently than the older locomotives,” Speegle said. “We generally look to add cars at times there is a greater demand.”

The Chargers were built by Siemens in California and are also being used on West Coast corridor routes.

They have a Cummins engine that was built in Indiana, can reach speeds up to 125 mph and are capable of having positive train control.

Amtrak has labeled the Chargers with an “Amtrak Midwest” brand. The locomotives are owned by the states of Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan and are leased to Amtrak.

The locomotives were purchased with $216.5 million in federal funds.