Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

Extra Trains Set for Thanksgiving Travel Period

October 19, 2016

Amtrak said it will offer extra trains between Chicago and points in Illinois and Michigan during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

Amtrak logoIn Illinois, the additional trains will operate between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, and Chicago and Quincy. All of these trains will operate on Wednesday, Nov. Nov. 23, and Sunday, Nov. 27.

In Michigan, extra trains will operate between Chicago and Ann Arbor on Nov. 23, 26 and 27. Extra trains will also operate between Chicago and Holland on Nov. 23 and 27.

Train No. 309 will depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and arrive in Bloomington-Normal at 12:58 p.m., making all intermediate stops served by Lincoln Service trains.

No. 308 will depart Bloomington-Normal at 1:15 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 3:39 p.m.

Train No. 385 will depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and arrive in Quincy at 3:53 p.m.

No. 384 will depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:23 p.m. The Chicago-Quincy trains will operate as Carl Sandburg Extra service.

Some regularly scheduled trains will have altered schedules during the holiday period. Lincoln Service train 301 will depart Chicago at 7:30 a.m., a half-hour later than normal, on Nov. 23 and 27.

Lincoln Service train 300 will depart St. Louis on Nov. 23 and 27 at 4 a.m., a half-hour earlier than normal.

Illinois Zephyr No. 383 will depart Chicago on Nov. 23 and 27 at 6:15 p.m., which is 20 minutes later than normal.

In Michigan, the Wolverine Service Extra trains will depart Chicago at 9:30 a.m. and arrive in Ann Arbor at 3:10 p.m., operating as No. 356. Intermediate stops will be made at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

No. 359 will depart Ann Arbor at 4:05 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 7:47 p.m., making the same intermediate stops as No. 356.

There will no change in schedules for other Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The Pere Marquette Extra will depart Chicago at 10 a.m., operating as No. 372, and arrive in Holland at 2:11 p.m. It will make all intermediate stops also served by the regular Pere Marquette. No. 373 will depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m.

There will be no change in the schedule of the daily Pere Marquette.

Amtrak said that during the holiday travel period it will operate every available passenger car in its fleet.

Hiawatha Designated Peak, Off Peak Service

October 19, 2016

Amtrak is designating Hiawatha Service trains as peak and off peak. The carrier said in a service advisory that the distinction on the Chicago-Milwaukee route is being done to reduce overcrowding on the busiest trips.

Hiawatha 2Weekday Trains 330, 332, 337 and 339 have the highest ridership and are being designated as peak trains.

Passengers traveling on off-peak trains will pay lower fares, although the advisory did not say what the fare deferential would be.

Amtrak noted that 10 of its 14 weekday trains — and all weekend service — is designated as off-peak.

In a related development, Amtrak has increased the ticket price for monthly and 10-ride passes. However, Amtrak said pass buyers will continued to receive a discount.

Discounted fares are also available for students, veterans, senior citizens, military, AAA members and children under 12.

Moment in Time on the Panama Limited

October 19, 2016


Amtrak dropped the Panama Limited name from its timetables in early 1981. It was time. Amtrak trains 58 and 59 hardly came close to offering the level of service that the Illinois Central had offered aboard its flagship Chicago-New Orleans passenger train.

Amtrak’s Chicago-New Orleans trains have never come close to offering the elite level of service that the IC offered. Then again, Amtrak didn’t need to offer that type of service, which it is ill suited to provide.

Shown is the northbound Panama Limited arriving in Mattoon, Illinois, in September 1977.

It is a low point in the train’s Amtrak history. Sleeping cars were removed in January 1977 when the train received Amfleet equipment. Also removed was the full-service diner. Passengers on this day had to be content with an Amcafe offering.

But the train had checked baggage service and sleepers would return in a few months.

It was common in the late 1970s for Nos. 58 and 59 to be pulled by a lone P30CH. Class unit No. 700 is doing the honors today as the baggage man watches the platform.

Another Edition of Train Time on Amtrak

October 10, 2016


Thousands of times a day an Amtrak train pulls into the station, passengers get off, passengers get on and the conductor gives the engineer a highball to move on to the next station.

It’s a ritual that has played out for more than four decades and more than a century if you go back to the era when railroads operated their own passenger trains.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about this moment in Mattoon, Illinois, involving the southbound Saluki.

The equipment on No. 391 will turn at Carbondale, Illinois, and return north as No. 392, the Illini. It will be the next train to play out this ritual on this platform today.

Tomorrow, it will play out again with a slightly different cast of characters.

EIS Find No Impact for Added Hiawathas

October 8, 2016

Expanding Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service would result in no significant environmental impacts, a study released this week determined.

Most of the improveHiawatha 2ments planned for the route used by the Hiawathas would be constructed within the existing railroad right of way, the study said.

The draft environmental impact statement was conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Public comment on the study is being accepted through Nov. 15 and hearings have been scheduled for Oct. 27 in Milwaukee; Nov. 1 in Chicago; and Nov. 2 in Glenview, Illinois.

Amtrak has proposed adding three additional Chicago-Milwaukee roundtrips on a route that current hosts seven daily roundtrips plus the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. A portion of the route also has extensive Metra commuter train service in Chicago.

The passenger carrier has indicated that ridership of the Hiawatha Service has been rising and some trips feature standing room only conditions.

Metra owns the tracks used by Amtrak between Chicago and Rondout, Illinois; while Canadian Pacific owns the route between Rondout and Milwaukee.

CP has proposed building a 2-mile siding that has drawn opposition from some Glenview officials and residents who fear that CP freight trains might sit on that siding for long periods of time.

Normal May Pay for Underpass Study

October 3, 2016

The City of Normal, Illinois, may fund a $1.4 million study of the feasibility of building a pedestrian underpass under tracks used by Amtrak in that central Illinois community located on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgThe underpass would cost an estimated $10 million. The city was poised to begin a $6.3 million overpass two years but halted that project when members of the city council sought more research.

If the underpass study is approved, it would be finished by Oct. 15, 2018. The study is expected to determine how much an underpass would cost and what engineering issues might arise.

The underpass would connect the area of Uptown Circle to land south of the railroad tracks, which the city hopes will improve access and promote redevelopment south of the tracks. The study will be conducted by consulting firm WSP Parsons Brickerhoff.

In the meantime, Normal plans to construct a temporary at-grade crossing at the Amtrak station, which is being expanded.

City officials said construction of a boarding platform and other improvements are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Turning the Shawnee in Carbondale

October 2, 2016


It is a Monday afternoon in Carbondale, Illinois. I had a day off from work and spent part of it riding Amtrak’s Shawnee from Mattoon, Illinois, where I lived and worked at the time, to Carbondale.

I could board train No. 391 in late morning, arrive in Carbondale in early afternoon and then take No. 392, which was due to depart at 4 p.m., back, home.

The date is May 7, 1979, and the scene is pure 1970s. An Illinois Central Gulf geep has tied onto the rear of the Shawnee and will pull it to North Yard where the consist will be turned on a wye.

If you look hard enough you can see the light towers in the yard as well as the old coaling tower. A portion of the St. Louis Division office building is visible on the right edge in the distance.

The train is sitting in front of the former Illinois Central passenger station. At one time, Carbondale was a busy place where through cars for St. Louis were switched in and out of Chicago-New Orleans trains.

In Amtrak’s early years cars were added and subtracted from Amtrak Nos. 58 and 59 (Chicago-New Orleans), but that didn’t last long.

On the point of the Shawnee is P30CH No. 724, which was less than four years old at the time. Pooches were common fixtures on corridor trains running on ICG tracks.

The consist of the train is three Amfleet cars, one of them an Amcafe, and a baggage car. The latter did not routinely operate on Nos. 391/392 but in the 1970s Amtrak sometimes assigned a baggage car to the Shawnee during periods when the colleges along the line were starting or ending a term.

Today, much of what can be seen here is gone. The Pooches are long since been retired. The tracks are now owned by Canadian National and Amtrak built its own station at a location farther south. There aren’t as many tracks, either.

The Shawnee name is gone but there are now two pairs of Chicago-Carbondale trains, one named the Illini and the other the Saluki. College students still make up a substantial market for this corridor. The old IC passenger station still exists but has been re-purposed.

Although not apparent at the time, this scene captures the transition from the ICRR passenger train era to a modern Amtrak era in which passenger stations and the railroad infrastructure serving them have been much reduced in scope.

Back in 1979, though, you could still imagine what this place looked like when the trains wore orange and chocolate brown and the Carbondale station was a much busier place.

When Amfleet Was New in the Midwest

September 22, 2016


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


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


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.