Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

Illinois Amtrak Ridership Fell in FY 2016

January 12, 2017

Amtrak ridership in Illinois fell by 3.5 percent in fiscal year 2016. Recent figures released by state transportation officials show that more than 4.6 million rode on Amtrak trains in the state.

IllinoisNot surprisingly, Chicago topped the list of the busiest Amtrak stations in Illinois.

Most of the cities on that list are college towns. Behind Chicago the busiest Amtrak stations were Normal-Bloomington, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, Carbondale, Galesburg and Macomb.

All of those cities also have multiple Amtrak frequencies per day.

Systemwide, Amtrak carried more than 31 million people in FY 2016, an increase of 2 percent over the previous year.

Just 11 Miles Away from Journey’s End

January 9, 2017

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Passengers aboard the inbound California Zephyr are just 11 miles away from the end of their journey to Chicago Union Station as train No. 6 rushes through Riverside, Illinois, on the BNSF Raceway.

Those who know the route might already be gathering their belongings and thinking ahead to what they are going to be doing once they disembark at CUS.

Others, though, might be watching a suburban landscape that must must appear to be one Metra station after another.

Whatever the passengers are doing, the end of their trip aboard this train will arrive soon.

Bringing up the Rear

January 1, 2017

For a while in 2011 Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, trains operated with a locomotive on each end in order to avoid having to turn the train. That practice proved to be short-lived.

The southbound Illini is shown leaving Mattoon, Illinois, on June 1, 2011, with P42DC No. 127 carrying the markers.

Tomorrow, No. 127 will lead the northbound Saluki out of Carbondale to Chicago. The tracks here are owned by Canadian National.

Chicago Suburbs Continue to Push for Full Environmental Study of Proposed Hiawatha Service Expansion

December 22, 2016

Public officials and residents of five northern Chicago suburbs are continuing to call for more comprehensive study of a proposal to expand Amtrak service between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Hiawatha 2About 100 people attended a meeting held this week in Lake Forest, Illinois, to discuss how the communities might be affected by the service expansion.

One point of contention is a passing siding that would be built to allow Canadian Pacific freight trains to wait for Amtrak and Metra trains to pass.

The siding has drawn sharp criticism from residents of Lake Forest, Deerfield, Northbrook, Glenview and Bannockburn.

A presentation at the Lake Forest meeting said the additional trackage, which would range from 13,000 to 18,000 feet, would enable faster rail service.

But Lake Forest City Manager Bob Kiely said it would also mean that freight trains would be 14 feet closer to homes along the west side of the tracks.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation initially proposed the service expansion, which would increase the number or daily Hiawatha Service roundtrips from seven to 10.

Also participating in the study are the Illinois Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The Illinois and Wisconsin transportation departments jointly fund the Hiawatha Service.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the FRA will make the final decision on whether the expansion can proceed because it is expected to provide most of the funding for the $150 track improvements, including the controversial passing siding.

The FRA released an environmental assessment of the project last October and public comment is being taken through Jan. 15.

That assessment concluded that the service expansion would not adversely affect adjacent properties through either noise or vibration.

Kiely said the suburban communities want the FRA to conduct a full environmental impact statement, which would be more comprehensive.

“That’s why the communities initially said they’d like to see a full environmental impact study done so we all have complete knowledge and information as to what those noise and vibration impacts are going to be,” he said.

The FRA’s environmental assessment noted that ridership in the Chicago‐Milwaukee corridor nearly doubled between 2001 and 2013, growing by an average of 5.9 percent per year.”

WisDOT wants the service increase in order to keep up with travel demand on the route.

“As ridership grows, near‐capacity and over‐capacity conditions (especially on trains 330, 332, 337 and 339) are expected to occur more frequently if no improvements are made to the service. Peak trains are often over capacity. Ridership is continuing to increase, despite the fall in gas prices. There is also significant and growing ridership on the mid-day off-peak trains,” said WisDOT spokesman Mae Knowles.

Public comments about the expansion plan can be made by sending an email to DOTChicagoMilwaukeePassengerRailEA@dot.wi.gov or by calling 608-261-6123.

 

The National Limited Takes a Detour

December 19, 2016
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The westbound National Limited arrives in the station at Mattoon, Ilinois, in May 1977 on a detour move. The train is using the former New York Central route to St. Louis due to track work on its regular route over the former Pennsylvania Railroad route via Effingham, Illinois.

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The National Limited handled mail from New York to Los Angeles that was interchanged to the Southwest Limited in Kansas City. Note that the former NYC passenger platform is still in place at right nine years after the last NYC passenger train here was discontinued.

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The Amtrak conductor and two other crew members wait in the vestibule of a coach as the eastbound National Limited arrives in Mattoon, Illinois, in May 1977 on a detour move.

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The eastbound National Limited departs from Mattoon, Illinois, on former New York Central rails. It will regain its regular route in Terre Haute, Indiana. A portion of the former NYC passenger station is visible at right.

It was not unusual for Amtrak’s National Limited to detour between Terre Haute, Indiana, and St. Louis.

The scheduled route was via the former Pennsylvania Railroad via Effingham, Illlinois, but the Penn Central dispatcher had the option of running the train over the ex-New York Central route through Mattoon, Illinois.

After Conrail took over Penn Central in 1976, it began rebuilding the ex-Pennsy route used by Amtrak Nos. 30 and 31.

In late April 1977, the National Limited was rescheduled to operate during the afternoon hours between St. Louis and Effingham. That also coincided with the track gang hours.

So, for a good part of May 1977, Nos. 30 and 31 detoured via the ex-NYC route, making the Effingham stop at the former NYC passenger platform in Mattoon

The last NYC passenger train through Mattoon had been discontinued in March 1968, but the platform was still in place on the south side of the tracks.

I was a young reporter for the Mattoon Journal Gazette and I gave myself an assignment one afternoon to cover the detour of the National Limited.

I went down to the tracks, interviewed waiting passengers, and made photographs of both trains using Kodak Tri-X film.

Much has changed since that May 1977 day. The National Limited was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1979, and in March 1982, Conrail abandoned the former NYC tracks through Mattoon. The rails were picked up a year later.

The former NYC station has since been razed. The platforms remained in place for several years after the tracks were pulled up, but were eventually taken out in the early 2000s to make way for a parking lot for the YMCA.

Last Hurrah for the Prairie Marksman

December 11, 2016

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If you remember Amtrak’s Prairie Marksman you are either an old guy or really know your Amtrak history.

The Chicago-East Peoria, Illinois, train operated for just two years with funding from the State of Illinois.

Low ridership and a state budget crunch would lead to the train being discontinued in early October 1981. The state had considered Nos. 311 and 312 to be experimental.

I rode the last westbound trip to East Peoria on Oct. 3, 1981. For the final trips, Amtrak assigned a Heritage fleet coach which was given a Prairie Marksman drum head. This image was made at Chicago Union Station before the train departed.

The Prairie Marksman name was used for a Toledo, Peoria & Western business car and for a freight rain. The TP&W once used the slogan “The Route of the Prairie Marksman,” but I found no evidence in a search of the Official Guide of the Railways that the TP&W had a passenger train of that name.

Some Lincoln Service Trains, Texas Eagle to be Disrupted on Dec. 12 by Track Work

December 5, 2016

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle will be disrupted on Dec. 12, 2016, due to track work.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgSome Lincoln Service passengers will ride chartered buses while the Eagle will be detoured.

The track work is related to the program to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis route to allow a top speed of 110 miles per hour in some places.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that Trains 300, 301, 302 and 303 will be canceled with bus service replacing all trains (except Train 300) at all stations on the route.

The buses will depart earlier than their respective trains. Trains 304, 305, 306 and 307 will run on their normal schedules.

Passengers ticketed on the Texas Eagle to all intermediate stops between Chicago and St. Louis will have the option of riding on a Lincoln Service train or a chartered bus.

This affects passengers at the Illinois cities of Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

Texas Eagle passengers bound for Chicago or St. Louis will remain aboard the train. Amtrak advises that the Eagle might encounter delays of up to 45 minutes traveling on the detour route.

An F40PH Triple Play in Naperville

December 1, 2016

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During the F40PH era I often would see two of those units working together to get an Amtrak train over the road.

But I only saw an Amtrak F40 triple header once. That occurred on September 1, 1996, in Naperville, Illinois, on the famed Burlington raceway.

This brace of F40s is leading train No. 5, the westbound California Zephyr.

I’ve seen photographs of Nos. 5 and 6 with three F40s, which I presume was the practice to help the train get through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Naperville is a station stop for the California Zephyr, the first after leaving Chicago Union Station.

No One Boarding the Illini in Homewood

November 25, 2016

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An Amtrak crew member is picking up the step box and will soon board the northbound Illini at Homewood, Illinois, as it departs for its final stop at Chicago Union Station. The date is Aug. 31, 1996.

Amtrak does not carry passengers from Homewood to Chicago except when they are connecting there with other Amtrak trains.

Homewood is shown as a discharge only station for the northbound Illini.

Some passengers who disembarked here are still lingering on the platform before walking down a stairway to a tunnel that leads to the station.

Amtrak to Fund Macomb Station Upgrade

November 21, 2016

Amtrak has said it will provide some funding for plans to upgrade the station in Macomb, Illinois, to make it ADA compliant.

IllinoisThe renovations will include adding a ramp on the south side of the building, rehabilitation of the indoor restrooms, and a reconfiguration of the indoor seating to make the space more easily navigable.

Macomb is served by the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr.

Local officials said that Santa Claus will riding into town on Amtrak on Dec. 2 and 3.