Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

When Amfleet Was New in the Midwest

September 22, 2016

shawnee-1977

Amfleet equipment had been assigned to Midwest corridor trains for just over a year when I made this image of the southbound Shawnee arriving in Effingham, Illinois, on a cold Saturday morning in February.

The Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, train was scheduled into Effingham in late morning and on this day was running close to on time.

Because of its daylight schedule I frequently saw Nos. 391 and 392, and photographed them a few times in the late 1970s.

A trainman is looking for passengers as No. 391 arrives on the Illinois Central Gulf tracks at a union station that once served the Illinois Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad.

In 1977, Effingham saw six Amtrak trains a day. Aside from the Shawnee, the city was served by the Chicago-New Orleans Panama Limited and the New York-Kansas City National Limited.

My recollection is the trainman is not wearing an Amtrak uniform. Some ICG employees assigned to Amtrak service did not wear passenger uniforms. It might have been because they did not regularly work Amtrak trains. There may have been another reason for that.

Amfleet equipment was an upgrade at the time that it was introduced in the Midwest because it provided consistent climate control. Trains were neither too hot or too cold, and the new equipment was more reliable than much of the steam-heated equipment that it replaced.

The Shawnee  operated with one equipment set, making a daily roundtrip from Chicago to Carbondale. Crews changed at Champaign and Centralia just as the ICRR passenger train crews had. It would be several years before the crew district became Chicago-Carbondale.

It would also be several years before the Shawnee would become a state-funded train and renamed the Illini. In the 1970s, the Shawnee was part of Amtrak’s basic network.

Surprise on the Point of the Panama Limited

September 10, 2016

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Amtrak train No. 58 was late. I don’t remember how late, but it was at least a couple hours.

I had plans to ride the then-named Panama Limited to Chicago for a day trip. Truth be told, my primary desire was to ride the train.

That the train was running late was not unusual back in the late 1970s, particularly in early 1977 when a brutal winter knocked a lot of Amtrak equipment out of service.

It is arriving in Mattoon, Illinois, with Illinois Central Gulf GP 10 No. 8010 leading. Trailing are Amtrak E8A No. 445 (former Atlantic Coast Line No. 546) and Amtrak P30CH No. 719.

It is quite an eclectic consist and not just because of the ICG freight geep on the lead. The passengers cars are all Amfleet, the result of the conventional equipment being removed the previous month due to the effects of severe cold that rendered a third of the Amtrak Midwest fleet inoperable.

The new Amfleet cars were more reliable in cold weather than the steam-heated cars assigned to long-distance trains at the time. The P30 provided head-end power for the Amfleet cars.

I don’t know why the ICG geep was assigned today, but it was removed at Champaign. That suggests that the automatic train stop device on Amtrak 445 was malfunctioning. North of Champaign the ICG had automatic block signals for much of the route with centralized traffic control near and in Gilman

The assignment of Amfleet equipment to Amtrak Nos. 58 and 59 turned out to be permanent and for several months the train operated without sleeping cars until some heritage equipment could be rebuilt for HEP operation.

Southwest Chief Superliners Leaving Joliet

September 7, 2016

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It is a Saturday afternoon in Joliet, Illinois. The date: Sept. 9, 1995. I’m spending time at Joliet Union Station catching whatever trains that I can, including a few Amtrak trains.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is still using the Santa Fe route between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois.

The train from Los Angeles is departing Joliet and will be in Chicago Union Station in about an hour having just begun the final leg of its 2,200-mile journey.

It is passing beneath a venerable signal bridge that held semaphore signals when I first saw it years earlier.

The Superliner equipment assigned to the Southwest Chief on this day is wearing the Phase III livery that was in vogue back then.

Has it been that long since this scheme was the state of the art look for Amtrak rolling stock? Yes it has been my friend, yes it has.

Late Night Hiawatha Service to Continue

September 7, 2016

The trial period of late Saturday night Hiawatha Service will continue.

Hiawatha 2Amtrak said it is extending indefinitely the operation of Train 343, which leaves Chicago at 11:10 p.m., and Train 344, which departs Milwaukee at 10:40 p.m.

Nos. 343 and 344 will replace Trains 329 and 330, which will continue to operate on weekdays. Amtrak said a Thruway Bus leaving at 6 a.m. will replace Train 330 on Saturdays.

Amtrak said in a news release that the Saturday late evening trains have shown higher ridership during the trial period than the early morning trains they replaced.

The Hiawatha Service is funded by the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin.

About 800,000 passengers rode Hiawatha trains last year. Intermediate stops include Glenview in Illinois and Sturtevant and Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport in Wisconsin.

Because Amtrak ticket offices on the route are closed before the departures of Trains 343 and 344, passengers may purchase tickets onboard the train without penalty.

Amtrak’s Quik-Trak kiosks are available at all stations except Glenview. More information about the Hiawatha Service route is available at Amtrak.com/Hiawatha-train

Carlinville Station Work Gets Underway

September 7, 2016

Carlinville, Illinois, officials recently broke ground for a new Amtrak station that has been years in the making.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgMost of the $3 million cost of the station is being paid by the federal government with the city paying $70,000.

The station, which is expected to open in June 2017, will serve Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio (Los Angeles) Texas Eagle.

Carlinville mayor Deanna Demuzio expects the station to attract passengers from a number of surrounding cities.

“We’re the only train station in (Macoupin) county. We’ll bring in a number of outside cities. It will become a regional hub for a number of passengers,” Demuzio said.

It’s All Gone Now

September 5, 2016

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Just about everything  you see in this view is gone. That includes Amtrak E units, the National Limited, the tracks the train is using and the former New York Central passenger station on the right.

It is May 1977 and the New York-Kansas City National Limited is detouring through Mattoon, Illinois, due to track work on its regular route via Effingham.

It is early in the Conrail era and the decision has been made to favor the former Pennsylvania Railroad route to St. Louis via Effingham over the former New York Central route via Mattoon.

But it will be a few more years before Conrail can implement that plan. In the meantime, the ex-NYC route continues to host most of the St. Louis-bound manifest freights and, on occasion, Amtrak Nos. 30 and 31.

At the time, the National Limited was pulled by E units because Conrail had let it be known it didn’t want Amtrak’s SDP40F locomotives on its property.

Amtrak did serve Mattoon with its Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans trains, which used the former Illinois Central, which was Illinois Central Gulf in 1977.

That station was behind me and could be accessed from the former NYC platform via a freight elevator.

Pulling No. 30 is E9A No. 430, a former Union Pacific locomotive that on this day was looking rather tired and shabby. But it got the job done and that was all that counted.

In another hour the eastbound National Limited will pass through Mattoon, but I won’t be around to see it for I will have boarded No. 30 to travel to St. Louis.

The National Limited succumbed to a route restructuring plan that was implemented on Oct. 1, 1979. About a year before that, Nos. 30 and 31 lost their steam-heated equipment in favor of Amfleet and F40PH locomotives.

Conrail abandoned the former NYC through Mattoon in March 1982 and pulled up the tracks in May 1983.

The former NYC station and platform remained in place for more than 20 years after the tracks were removed. The station was razed on April 9, 2004.

Today this scene is a parking lot for a YMCA that was built north of where the NYC tracks used to run.

Quad Cities Station Project to Continue

September 2, 2016

Optimistic about the prospect of intercity rail passenger service coming in the future, developers are moving ahead with plans to build a $35 million multi-modal station and hotel in Moline, Illinois.

Amtrak 4The facility will be known as “The Q” and will include an extended-stay hotel, restaurants and shops.

The O’Rourke Building will house the station-hotel-shopping complex.

The State of Illinois has released about $5 million to help fund the program, but the state has yet to commit to spending $177 million to pay for Amtrak service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

Quad City officials acknowledged there is no timeline for the development of the rail service, but believe it won’t happen before 2018.

Chance Meeting of 2 Amtrak Trains

August 30, 2016

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Amtrak trains pass each other every day on every route, so the practice is common. It can be tricky, though, to know where two trains are going to pass on any given day.

Yes, you can determine the likely meeting places based on schedules and how the trains are operating that day. That’s easier to do on single track territory with a set number of passing sidings, but calculating a meeting point can be complicated on a double-track mainline.

Back in early August 2008 I was in Mendota, Illinois, to photograph the westbound Carl Sandburg and the eastbound Illinois Zephyr, which were scheduled into there seven minutes apart.

The Zephyr was running late and the Sandburg reached the station first. No. 381 had scarcely came to a halt when No. 380 came around the curve.

Perhaps this type of meet happens frequently in Mendota, but it was a lucky break for me.

 

Illinois Passenger Advocates Still Optimistic About Amtrak Expansion to Peoria, Quad Cities Region

April 10, 2016

Midwest rail passenger advocates remain optimistic that Amtrak will eventually reach Peoria, Illinois, and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

Speaking at a meeting held in Chicago, Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Rick Harnish said he is satisfied that the State of Illinois continues to discuss expansion.

“We’re going to expand Amtrak and we need to do it sooner, rather than later,” Harnish said.

The meeting came a year after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed cutting state funding for Amtrak service by 40 percent.

That came amid a budget crisis that still continues. However, the Illinois Department of Transportation in February announced an agreement with Amtrak to maintain service at its present levels until this summer.

Harnish said he has received a commitment from the Rauner administration to provide 110-mile-an-hour service on Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis corridor in 2017.

He said the widely-held belief that passenger rail is a Democratic issue and opposed by Republicans is a misconception. “It isn’t really that clear-cut,” he said.

Harnish said Republican governors, including Rauner, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have all supported passenger rail expansion programs.

Walker is known for having opposed an expansion of Amtrak service between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, shortly after he was elected in 2010. His administration has been supportive of the current Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee.

During the meeting, Amtrak officials said the passenger carrier plans to transform Chicago Union Station into a multi-level shopping arcade while moving its ticketing and passenger lounge to the station’s Great Hall in an attempt to eliminate crowding at Amtrak and Metra gates.

Illinois Senate OKs Spending on Amtrak

March 21, 2016

The Illinois Senate voted last week to authorize spending to pay the state’s bills from Amtrak.

But there is no assurance that the bill will win the approval of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has been at odds with the Illinois General Assembly since last year over a fiscal year 2016 budget.

IllinoisThe Senate bill would add another another $4 billion in spending onto the nearly $7.5 billion in backlogged bills.

But Senate Democrats, who control that chamber, acknowledged that even if the bill is adopted it won’t guarantee payment.

Similar to a bill passed by the House last month, the Senate bill adds payments to Amtrak and libraries operated by the secretary of state.

The Rauner administration described the bill as a “a cruel hoax on those it is purportedly designed to help.” Republicans have said the state lacks the money to spend on what is authorized in the spending bills.

The Senate bill will now be considered by the House.

Rauner has threatened to veto piecemeal spending legislation and has instead sought a bill that would give him broad powers to cut spending in order to free up money to pay for various programs.