Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Lake Shore Limited’

Capital Region Track To Be Done by Summer

March 20, 2017

Amtrak expects to finish a massive rail improvement project in New York’s Capital Region this summer.

The $163 million program is adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, New York, in order to eliminate a bottleneck on the single-track route used by the Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, the Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf.

The work also includes upgrading the signal system and improving grade crossings.

An earlier stage of the project involved lengthening two passenger platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, primarily for the benefit of passengers boarding and disembarking from the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak officials said the work is nearly finished south of the Capital Region and that the second track between Albany and Schenectady should go into service in late spring or early summer.

A NYDOT spokesman said contractors are still placing ballast on the new track, as well as making deck repairs on the Union Street and Erie Boulevard bridges in Schenectady, cleaning and improving culverts, and removing poles, now that the new signal system is underground.

However, officials say that earlier ides to increase the level of service west and north of the region are uncertain at best.

Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, a government planning organization that oversees the disbursement of federal transportation funds, said there are no serious proposals to extend Empire Service trains now terminating at Albany-Rensselaer to Schenectady or Saratoga Springs.

The New York Department of Transportation will say only that it continues to consider increased service.

Saratoga County residents who are now served by the New York-Montreal Adirondack said that they need additional service to provide them more flexibility in their travel plans.

Some now drive an hour to the Albany-Rensselaer station to take advantage of its higher level of service to New York City.

In a related development, NYDOT officials have been asked to replace the locomotives used between Albany-Rensselaer and New York Penn Station.

The dual model locomotives are able to run on diesel fuel or electric current, but use electric power in the Manhattan tunnels that bring trains into Penn Station.

Replacing the fleet with 25 new locomotives would cost an estimated $250 million.

The current locomotives are old and prone to breakdowns that delay trains.

Amtrak Restoring Service Today

March 15, 2017

Amtrak said it would operate on a modified schedule on Wednesday in the East as a result of winter storm Stella.

The eastbound Capitol Limited has resumed operated to Washington. It had terminated at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Today’s No. 29 originated in Pittsburgh.

The Lake Shore Limited did not depart from either Chicago or New York/Boston on Tuesday.

The Amtrak website showed tickets are available for No. 48 leaving Chicago today as well as No. 49 leaving New York.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said all long-distance trains that use the Northeast Corridor will resume scheduled service today.

The Acela Express and Northeast Regional service will operate on a modified schedule between New York and Boston with trains terminating short of their destination or cancelled.

Acela Express and Northeast Regional service between New York and Washington will also operate on a modified scheduled.

Also operating on modified schedules will be the VermonterKeystone Service and Empire Service trains. The Downeaster and Springfield Shuttle will resume scheduled service.

Gov. Pledges Funds for New Schenectady Depot

January 12, 2017

New Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed spending $15 million to build a new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

The funding was mentioned in his State of the State speech given this week.

Amtrak 3Amtrak currently uses a depot on Erie Boulevard. Cuomo cited the Schenectady station project while discussing plans to upgrade transportation hubs across the state.

It is not clear how much new state money will be spent on the new station. Some federal and local funding is also expected to go into the project.

The New York Department of Transportation has budgeted $15 million for the station, but that includes some federal funding that may no longer be available.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the state is expected to kick in some additional money in order to get the project going and the station open by 2018.

“Anybody that’s gone through that station, it’s an embarrassment,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t reflect the quality of the community we’re building. We’re doing demolitions in the neighborhoods, working on home ownership, getting the casino online, and that train station is just an embarrassment.”

In March 2016, NYDOT sought bids for a new station, but received just one response. That bid was $10 million over budget, so the state scrapped its plans.

Instead, it decided to split the work into two projects, one involving razing the 1970s era that Amtrak built and now uses and another to build a replacement station.

The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, New York-Toronto Maple Leaf, the New York-Montreal Adirondack, the New York-Rutland (Vermont) Ethan Allen Express and four New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains serve Schenectady, which handled 61,000 passengers last year.

Amtrak and the NYDOT are building a second track between Schenectady and Albany-Rensselaer to alleviate rail traffic congestion on the route. That track is expected to be completed this spring.

Some Cubs Fans Took Amtrak to See Their Team

October 27, 2016

Game 2 of Major League Baseball’s World Series drug on for more than four hours on Wednesday night. For a couple dozen fans of the Chicago Cubs that was just fine.

Amtrak logoThey had Amtrak tickets to return to Chicago after watching the Cubs defeat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 at Progressive Field.

Salvador Cardenas, a 28-year-old dentist from Aurora, Illinois, was one of them.

He paid $746 for a standing room ticket in left field during Game 2 and was at the Cleveland Amtrak station was giving high fives to other Cubs fans waiting to return home after the game.

“I had to call all my patients off. I said: ‘Hey, got to do this! I got to go to the World Series!’” Cardenas told a reporter for the Associated Press. “I’m a die-hard Cub fan, so I felt like that came first.”

The AP said about two dozen Cubs fans boarded the westbound Lake Shore Limited, which is scheduled to depart Cleveland at 3:45 a.m.

About an hour earlier, the Capitol Limited had left for Chicago with, presumably, a number of baseball fans onboard.

Marvin Thomas, 51, was aboard No. 49 wearing a blue satin Cubs jacket.

“Ernie Banks lived down the street from us when I was a kid,” said Thomas, who paid $800 a ticket to attend Games 1 and 2. “This is the most unbelievable feeling I’ve had outside my children being born. There was no way I wasn’t going to be here.”

The AP story noted that the number of baseball fans on Amtrak fell far short of the number who rode in 2009 in what some dubbed the Acela Series between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

Nor was there the hoopla that occurred aboard a train in 1985 for the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals.

Of course, many Chicago baseball fans probably flew or drove to Cleveland.

A check of Flightaware.com found that five chartered United Airlines jets departed Cleveland Hopkins International Airport between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. Thursday morning. They includes two 767 aircraft, two 737 aircraft and one 747.

Two of those were probably carrying the two teams to Chicago where they will play Game 3 on Friday night. But perhaps some of those flights also carried fans.

Traveling by train used to be the primary way that fans and teams once traveled.

When the Cubs won their last World Series in 1908 and last played in the Series in 1945, train travel was the standard way to travel.

Using chartered flight didn’t take off until 1946 when the Yankees began to charter flights on a regular basis.

Cardenas said he arrived in Cleveland at 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday, walked to the nearby Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, found a bench in front and fell asleep with his Cubs blanket covering him.

An Indians fan gave him a second blanket and told him to leave it there when he was done napping.

Cardenas saw Cubs owner Tom Ricketts at the Rock Hall later in the day.

“I was like, ‘Hey, Tom!’ like I knew him,” Cardenas said. “He waved to me. He said hello. He smiled.”

LSL Getting Business Class Service

October 22, 2016

Business class will be offered aboard Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited starting on Oct. 24.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedThe service will be available between Chicago and Albany-Rensselaer and Boston. Amtrak said passengers in business class will have reserved seating in car dedicated to business class.

Other amenities for business class passengers will include complimentary coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages; access to digital newspapers on AmtrakConnect; Amtrak Guest Rewards® Business Class bonus points; access to Chicago Union Station’s Metropolitan Lounge; and a fully refundable ticket if canceled prior to departure.

The service will begin with Train 48/448 originating in Chicago on Oct. 24 and on Train 49/449 originating at Boston and Albany-Rensselaer on Oct. 26.

The service is not available between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

Challenges of Building New Amtrak Station in Buffalo Addressed During Public Hearing

October 21, 2016

Building a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, will take some time and it won’t come cheap.

But those pushing for a new station are optimistic that it will be built.

Amtrak 4That was the consensus at a recent public meeting to discuss what needs to be done to get a depot to replace the current Exchange Street station.

That facility closed last month after its ceiling caved in following heavy rains.

Amtrak’s Empire Service and Maple Leaf continue to stop at Exchange Street.

For now, the only open station building in Buffalo is in suburban Depew, which is also served by the Lake Shore Limited.

Among the options for a new station are building in Canalside or restoring Central Terminal, which has not hosted scheduled passenger trains since 1979.

Speakers at the hearing said that before a station can be built, the region needs to undertake a study, obtain funding and get the support of political officials.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers,  said it remains to be seen if if the city or the state should guide the process.

“The key is finding the right agency or government organization to take the lead,” Becker said. “The City of Buffalo would be a natural to do that because it’s in the City of Buffalo, and would benefit the City of Buffalo. But somebody has to say, ‘I’m going to step up because this is important.’ ”

An advantage of using Central Terminal is that it would be able to serve all Amtrak trains passing through Buffalo.

Niagara Falls (New York) Senior Planner Tom DeSantis said his city spent nearly two decades planning and constructing a new station that Amtrak still has not agreed to use.

“You’re in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “It won’t probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we’ve gone over all of the options. We’ve weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want.”

The Niagara Falls station cost $43 million.

Becker said rehabilitating Central Terminal would be a more complex project than was constructing the station in Niagara Falls.

“We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark,” Becker said. “A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that’s a huge undertaking.”

The challenge of renovating the existing Exchange Street Station is that is in a less than ideal location and is not handicapped accessible. The station, the platform and the tracks have different ownership.

Trial Reroute of LSL via Michigan Delayed

October 6, 2016

A proposed trial rerouting of the Lake Shore Limited via Michigan has been postponed.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedAmtrak had considered rerouting the Chicago-New York train between Oct. 1-31, but did not do so because track and signal work on the route has not been completed.

That $600 million work is being undertaken on the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) route used by Wolverine Service trains.

The work on tracks owned by the state of Michigan will eventually allow a maximum speed of 110 mph on state- and Amtrak-owned track.

The reroute was being promoted by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak was interested in seeing how well Michigan-East Coast ridership would perform.

If the Lake Shore Limited is reroute via Michigan, it would serve most Wolverine Service stations between Dearborn and Niles, Michigan.

The reroute also would have tested how well a train would perform operationally between Toledo and Dearborn.

Entering the Shadows

September 24, 2016

amtrak-48-at-bort-september-4-03

Bort Road near North East, Pennsylvania, has long been one of my favorite locations to photograph Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

There is a one-lane ancient bridge here that arches over the CSX Erie West Subdivision that Amtrak uses.

The sun had not been up all that long when No. 48 came charging past on a Sunday morning in early September 2016.

On the point is P42DC No. 12 followed by a still new Viewliner II baggage car, three Viewliner sleepers, two food service cars and five Amfleet II coaches.

The shadows of the bridge are playing on the nose of No. 12 as it approaches. But it won’t be here long because train 48 is doing track speed and has places to  go.

LSL Boston Section Still Not Operating to Chicago

February 8, 2016

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited is still not operating to Chicago, the National Association of Railroad Passengers reported on its blog last week.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedFor near a year, Nos. 448 and 449 has operated only between Boston and Albany-Rensselaer with passengers bound for points west of there having to make an across the platform transfer.

Amtrak attributed that to construction work to expand the Albany-Rensselaer station.

It had been expected that the Boston section would resume operating to Chicago on or about Feb. 1. Now, NARP says, it is unclear when Nos. 448 and 449 might resume operating to Chicago or if that will happen.

LSL Boston Section Operating as Connection

April 27, 2015

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited is running as a connecting train or bus through late May. This has resulted in shorter equipment consists for the Lake Shore Limited (Nos. 48/49) west of Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

Amtrak said CSX track work on the former Boston & Albany line used by Nos. 448/449 is the cause of the service changes.

On Sunday through Wednesday through April 29, Nos. 448 and 449 have been replaced by a bus in both directions east of Albany.

The bus serves the intermediate stations in Massachusetts of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, and Framingham. The bus does not stop at Back Bay station in Boston.

Amtrak has advised Bay Bay passengers to use MBTA for travel between there and Boston’s South Station.

Amtrak had been running a connecting train between Albany and Boston on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays.

Effective April 30 that connecting train will operate daily.

Field reports indicate that the 448/449 shuttle has featured a single P42 locomotive, Viewliner baggage car and three or four Amfleet coaches.

Nos. 48/49 have been operating between Chicago and New York with four or five Amfleet coaches, an Amcafe, full-service diner, three Viewliner sleepers and a Viewliner baggage car.

Amtrak said the Boston-Albany connecting train will operate through May 22, serving all stations.