Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

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.

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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.

Chicago Suburbs Still Concerned About Hiawatha Expansion

October 18, 2017

Residents in north suburban Chicago are still concerned about a proposal to expand Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service and they aired their grievances during a public hearing held last week.

That meeting was sponsored by the cities of Lake Forest, Glenview, Northbrook, Bannockburn and Deerfield.

Most of those who attended expressed concern about a proposal to add a siding on which freight trains would wait to be passed by Amtrak and Metra commuter trains.

They are worried about matters of noise, pollution and quality of life issues.

In particular, the residents are concerned about idling Canadian Pacific freight locomotives and they thought that those speaking at the meeting were not viewing the situation from the perspective of nearby homeowners.

“They just presented a railroad perspective,” said JoAnn Desmond, president of the Academy Woods Homeowners’ Association. “They didn’t tell us anything about whether it would be safe, or reduce our property value.”

Another homeowner, Greg Billie of Glenview, said the presenters “didn’t address any of the things we came for”

Judy Beck, former president of the Glenview Park District Board, said there was nothing wrong with the presentations, “but they need to balance it out with what the community needs are.”

Lake Forest City Manager Bob Kiely, who helped organize the hearing, said there has yet to be much discussion of “the underlying issue of freight traffic. And this is an opportunity to learn more about the future of freight traffic.”

Some who attended the hearing cited a March 15 derailment in Lake Forest of tanker cars carrying molten sulfur. None of the derailed cars leaked.

The Federal Railroad Administration is undertaking an environmental impact statement of the proposed Hiawatha expansion and the infrastructure changes is would need. That study is not expected to be completed until early 2018.

Some had the hearing said the panelists failed to explain enough detail about the expansion project.

Northbrook Village Manager Rich Nahrstadt said later that he wasn’t surprised by that.

“When all the city managers got together, we thought we’d try to answer some of the questions that came up about freight during the public hearings,” on the Hiawatha project, he said. “We didn’t plan it to be a replication of the public hearings.”

Panelists did, though, indicate that the proposed siding is needed to avoid rail congestion.

The project also envisions a new overpass over Shermer Road south of Northbrook.

Northbrook Village President Sandy Frum said that early discussions have indicated that freights trains waiting for passenger trains would sit south of Techny Road in an industrial area.

“The answers we’re getting – and this is not confirmed – is that it would actually improve the crossing at Techny (Road) and we would actually have less blockage,” Frum said. “If that’s the case, and it really doesn’t impact Northbrook residents, this is a decision that’s not too hard to make.”

Frum said that the decisions about train operations will be made by the railroads working with federal and state officials.

“Ultimately, freight trains are not going away, despite how much we might wish them to go away,” Frum said. “The thing to do now is to figure out the next step.”

Amtrak Adding Extra Trains for Thanksgiving

October 17, 2017

Amtrak will add eight extra trains in Illinois and 10 in Michigan to handle Thanksgiving travelers.

In a news release, the carrier said it will operate every available passenger car during the holiday period.

On the route between Chicago and St. Louis, train No. 300 from St. Louis will operate 35 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Lincoln Service extra No. 309 will depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Normal, Illinois, where it will arrive at 12:58 p.m.

No. 308 will depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and make all scheduled stops en route to Chicago, arriving at 3:41 p.m. These schedules are in effect on Nov. 22 and 26.

On the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, route, Illinois Zephyr No. 383 will operate 31 minutes later than scheduled.

Carl Sandburg extra No. 385 will depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and arrive Quincy at 3:53 p.m., making all scheduled intermediate stops.

Extra No. 384 will depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:23 p.m. after making all scheduled intermediate stops.

These schedules are in effect on Nov. 22 and 26.

On the Wolverine Service route, Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago on Nov. 22, 25 and 26 at 9:30 a.m., stopping in Michigan at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson before arriving in Ann Arbor at 3:10 p.m.

Extra No. 359 will depart Ann Arbor on the same dates at 4:05 p.m. and make the same stops, en route to Chicago, arriving at 7:46 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 will leave Chicago at 10 a.m. and make all stops en route to Holland, arriving at 2:11 p.m. It will depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and make all scheduled stop en route to a 5:27 p.m. arrival in Chicago.

These schedules are in effect on Nov. 22 and 26.

Reservations will be required between Nov. 21 and 27 for travel aboard the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service.

Amtrak said that in 2016 it carried 760,755 passengers throughout its national network during the Thanksgiving travel period and it expects similar patronage this year.

It plans to assign every available passenger car to its trains during the holiday travel period.

New Carlinville Station Close to Opening

October 6, 2017

A new Amtrak station in Carlinville, Illinois, is expected to open soon.

A least lease agreement between the city of Carlinville, which owns the building, and Union Pacific, which owns the ground, has been reached.

But the city must work out a lease agreement with Amtrak, but the negotiations have snagged over liability insurance.

“We’re still dilly dallying with the Amtrak lease of the station and the platforms,” said City attorney Rick Bertinetti.” Everything is pretty well getting ironed out in that agreement except for one significant major item that pertains to liability and insurance.”

Bertinetti said he placed language in the lease stating Amtrak would indemnify the city over anything that happens with regard to Amtrak’s use of the platform, its agents, its employees and its passengers.

“We do have a good clause in there as far as indemnity that they have approved,” he said. “Now, we’re just trying to put together what insurances we do have to carry and maintain in effect because of our other agreement to lease the property — the platform in particular — from Union Pacific Railroad.”

Mayor Deanna Demuzio said a meeting has been scheduled with an attorney from Amtrak.

“We hope to get everything finalized very, very soon. This is something we’ve been working on for over a year.”

The Carlinville City Council recently approved a stipulation by the Illinois Department of Transportation for a passenger information display system that will provide passengers with infromation regarding arriving and departing trains.

Bertinetti said the PIDS agreement had to be approved by the council since the displays are improvements to the property and included a grant received by the city.

“We don’t have any monetary obligation here, other than we are the owner,” he said. “We have to carry insurance on it and we’re basically responsible if it gets damaged, vandalized, stolen, something like that. We’ll carry insurance on it, just as we have to carry insurance on the station itself.

Carlinville is served by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Illinois Trains Making Detour in Galesburg

July 13, 2017

Amtrak’s Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are making a 5.7 mile detour in Galesburg, Illinois, due to work on the new Main Street underpass.

As part of that project, a bridge is being built under the BNSF mainline for Main Street and tracks 2 and 3 are removed until at least noon on Friday.

The regular route for Nos. 380, 381, 382 and 383, uses Track No. 2 through the Galesburg Amtrak station, thus making a detour necessary through the Galesburg yard even it is never more than a half-mile away from the normal route.

Using an eastbound train as an example, the detour route begins at Saluda, the south end of the Galesburg yard complex, and takes the lead to the Graham Cut-off Line.

At the Graham Cut-off connection, Amtrak trains continue compass north, passing beneath the Waterman lead to the Graham Cut-off.
North of the underpass, Amtrak stays on the westernmost (compass direction) track, passing west of the hump and immediately east of the locomotive tracks at the Galesburg shops.

Amtrak trains then stay to the west, pass the Prospect Street switch under the West Third Street overpass, and turns northeast to enter the Ottumwa Subdivision mainline at the west end of A-Plant.

At that point, the trains cross over from Track 3 to Track 1 to serve the Amtrak station, which is unusual for these trains. Track 1 is currently the only open track through town on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy mainline.

NB Saluki to Operate 2 Hours Earlier

June 29, 2017

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki will operate two hours earlier on weekdays between July 19 and Aug. 4.

The schedule change is due to Canadian National track work. The schedule change will not affect the operation of No. 390 on weekends when it will depart its originating station in Carbondale, Illinois, at 7:30 a.m.

The weekday schedule of the Saluki during the affected time period will put it two hours behind the scheduled times of the northbound City of New Orleans.

The Saluki makes stops in Du Quoin, Rantoul and Gilman, Illinois, that are skipped by No. 58.

Future of Alton Amtrak Station Remains Murky

June 14, 2017

The future of the soon-to-be former Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois, remains murky and city officials say there is little they can do about it.

“The city is out of the loop, the inquiries are to go to Union Pacific,” said Greg Caffey, Alton’s director of development and housing.

UP owns the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio depot and has said it will have it razed if no one comes forward with a plan to move the 89-year-old structure away from its current site at 3400 College Avenue.

The city has been trying to find a new owner for the station, but Caffey said UP has not informed him of any solid offer from a group wanting to buy and move the station.

Calli Hite, director of corporate communications for UP said in a statement that the railroad continues to evaluate options for the depot. “We do not have a timeline for a decision,” she said.

Amtrak leases the station from UP but plans to move this year to the under construction Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center.

The facility is expected to be completed this month although Amtrak and the city have yet to agree on a lease for the national passenger carrier to use it.

Under terms of the $13.85 million federal grant being used to fund development of the new station, it must be completed by June 30.

It is located at the former Robert P. Wadlow Municipal Golf Course, Golf Road at Homer Adams Parkway.

The grant also include money to raze the existing station, but UP would have to pay for that work on it own if it is not completed by Sept. 30.

Caffey said Amtrak would not likely move to the new station until mid or late July.

Terry Sharp, president of Alton Area Landmarks Association, said this week that although his organization has sought to generate interest in saving the College Avenue depot, time appears to be running out.

“We don’t have anything lined up; the last three to four months, myself and the group from Facebook (Save the Alton Train Station) have explored different ways in how to do it,” he said.

A St. Louis company that specializes in moving structures estimates it would cost $150,000 to move the 1,602-square-foot brick station to Gordon F. Moore Community Park or Rock Spring Park.

However, the city has said it doesn’t have any use for the station and therefore doesn’t want to be responsible for it.

UP has said it would sell the station for $1 and take a tax write off, but whoever buys it must pay to move it to a location off railroad property.

Sharp said it is hard to plan to move a building when no one has determined a destination.

“It is kind of a circular problem, trying to find a place to go and figure out a use for it,” he said. “I didn’t want to dump it on the city. They could work out a use for it, maybe it could be a concession stand, maybe they could put it at the entrance to Gordon Moore Park. Maybe they could use it as a clubhouse at Rock Springs Golf Course. I am trying to find a use for it. I am trying to find a place for it. I am going around in circles. I have talked to developers, businessmen and (an attorney) trying to get some interest, trying to pick their brains,” he said.

Sharp said another challenge is overcoming the lack of interest in the community toward saving the depot. “People talk about how great old train stations are that are still around, but we haven’t gotten a lot of public sentiment,” he said. “Maybe when it gets closer to the deadline. I was hoping this would be part of the (April 4) election, but none of the candidates brought it up. We’ve tried, I said I would try, but nothing has clicked.”

Texas Eagle Delayed 10 Hours En route to St. Louis

May 24, 2017

A detouring Texas Eagle this week got stuck behind a disabled freight train on Monday in Tuscola, Illinois, and wound up being delayed 10 hours.

The westbound Eagle had departed Chicago on time and was detouring over the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois route of Union Pacific due to track work being done on its regular route via Springfield, Illinois.

No. 21 did not arrive in St. Louis until 3:30 a.m. An Amtrak spokesperson said that a two-hour delay was expected, but not a 10-hour one.

“We were alerted by Amtrak that there might be some delays because apparently there is work on the track,” said passenger Janelle Jones. “Our first delay was about a three-hour standstill. They kept us pretty apprised of what was going on, they let people off the train for a smoke break and what not.

“Then we traveled for about an hour and then we stopped for another three hours. There was a lot of communication at that point that we were gonna get started as soon as possible. We rolled for about five minutes and then the communication stopped and we were at a standstill for another three hours. No one would tell us why we weren’t moving. Apparently, the crew had to switch out because they had been on board for 12 hours, so they were tired.”

Amtrak officials could not say when crew change occurred.

Jones said the café car was open until about 10 p.m.. “There were some hungry people on the train,” Jones said.