Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak late trains’

Many Amtrak Trains on CSX Tracks Took Taken Hit in Timekeeping in July, But Not all of Them

August 29, 2017

Not all Amtrak trains that run on CSX rails were plagued by poor timekeeping this past July, but many of them were.

An analysis by Trains magazine found that the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Palmetto, Cardinal, Hoosier State and Maple Leaf suffered serious deterioration in their on-time performance in July compared with the previous 12 months.

The Silver Service and Palmetto ran late 80 percent of the time compared with 56 percent of the time over the past 12 months.

The Cardinal was late 77 percent of the time compared with 43 percent in the previous 12 months.

The on-time performance of the Hoosier State dipped to 54 percent in July, down from 77 percent over the past 12 months.

The Maple Leaf’s timekeeping declined from 77 percent over the past 12 months to 61 percent in July. However, issues on Metro-North in the New York City region caused some of the delays.

Emerging relatively unaffected by the CSX troubles were the Auto TrainCapitol LimitedLake Shore LimitedEmpire Service, and Carolinian/Piedmont. The on-time performance of those trains either improved or held steady.

When the on-time performance did decline, it has more to do with factors other than CSX dispatching.

For example, the Capitol Limited was late 66 percent of the time in July compared with 58 percent during the previous year.

Much of the delay to Nos. 29 and 30 occurred on Norfolk Southern between Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Likewise, most of the delays to the Lake Shore Limited could be attributed to NS.

The Lake Shore Limited was late 64 percent of the time in July, which was down from 53 percent in the past 12 months.

Half of the delays to Nos. 48 and 49 occurred between Chicago and Cleveland, which is owned and dispatched by NS.

Thirty-percent of the delays to the Boston section of the Lake Shore were due to CSX freight train interference.

On the Empire Corridor, trains posted a 78 percent on-time performance in July, down from 84 percent over the past 12 months. However, most of the delays occurred on Metro North tracks.

The Auto Train’s timekeeping improved in July to 66 percent versus 56 percent over the past year.

The Carolinian/Piedmont service posted a 57 percent on-time record in July, which was up from 54 percent over the past year.

Although Amtrak would not say if poor on-time performance has affected ridership, spokesman Marc Magliari said arriving on time is the biggest single factor in customer satisfaction.

“Amtrak performance on a route is often the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ ” Magliari said. “If our trains are not running well, the freight trains are often not running well.

“The numbers speak for themselves every month. Host railroads make operational and dispatching decisions that can result in delays to our trains and cause our trains not to make the times on the schedules the host railroads have agreed to meet.”

For its part, CSX acknowledges Amtrak trains have been delayed, but spokesman Rob Doolittle compared it to the undesired effects that CSX customers have had as the railroad implemented a new operating plan.

“We value all of our customers, including Amtrak, and we have worked diligently to resolve those issues as they have emerged.”

Doolittle insisted that CSX dispatcher continue to provide Amtrak trains with preference in accordance with federal law.

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Amtrak 29 Suffers Another Bout of Severe Lateness

July 16, 2017

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited rolls through Olmsted Falls, Ohio, late on Saturday morning.

For the third consecutive weekend, a very late Amtrak train made a daylight appearance in Northeast Ohio.

On Saturday, the westbound Capitol Limited halted in Cleveland at 10:44 a.m. and left at 10:55 a.m., seven hours and 56 minutes late.

The train had departed Washington on  Friday 4 hour and eight minutes late and lost another two hours before leaving Rockville, Maryland, 6 hours and 21 minutes down. Washington and Rockville are 16 miles apart.

An unconfirmed online report said that failure of the air conditioning system in two coaches was the cause of the delay leaving Washington.

It is not clear why No. 29 lost two more hours before getting out of the Washington metropolitan region.

After leaving Cleveland, No. 29 left Elyria at 11:23 a.m. and Sandusky at 12:08 p.m. It was nine hours and 15 minutes late when it departed Toledo at 2:37 p.m.

Needless to say, the Capitol Limited missed all of its connections with the western trains in Chicago, where it finally arrived at 5:42 p.m., which was 8 hours and 27 minutes late.

Also having severe timekeeping problems on Saturday was the westbound Cardinal. Between White Sulphur Springs and Alderson, West Virginia, it lost considerable time.

An online report suggested that No. 51 had a locomotive failure. The report said the train was seen with a CSX locomotive leading it.

The Cardinal arrived in Cincinnati at 8:34 a.m., 7 hours and three minutes late, and was 6 hours and 38 minutes late when it arrived in Indianapolis.

It finally reached Chicago at 3:59 p.m., for a final accounting of 5 hours, 59 minutes late.

Operating went much more smoothly for Amtrak on Sunday. No. 29 departed Cleveland

39 minutes late while its eastbound counterpart, No. 30, was 38 minutes late.

No. 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was on time out of Cleveland after arriving 16 minute early. The westbound Lake Shore Limited was 27 minutes late at Elyria and 22 minutes down out of Toledo.

Empire Builder Subject to Delays in Montana

May 25, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder will be subject to delays as long as two hours through June 16 due to BNSF track work being undertaken in Montana.

The work will take place on the route of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train between Glasgow and Whitefish.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said westbound No. 7/27 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations west of Glasgow. Eastbound No. 8/28 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations east of Whitefish.

Amtrak noted that trains can make up time and passengers are encouraged to  check the status of their train before heading to the station.

Amtrak to Allow All to Get Late Alerts

May 23, 2017

Amtrak said this week that it will allow anyone to subscribe to automated email or text message notifications sent out when Amtrak trains are behind schedule at specific stations.

Until now, only passengers holding holding reservations or tickets could use this service.

In a news release, Amtrak said the messages will be sent out at no charge although data and message charges might be imposed by cellular carriers.

“This useful new tool allows anyone – whether you’re traveling on one of our trains, monitoring travel options or just picking up someone from a station – to stay informed,” Amtrak said in the news release.

The alerts will be of particular use to passengers who buy multi-ride tickets because they are not linked to specific train numbers.

Notifications will be provided for up to six trains and stations by either text or email and delivered on a single day, every day, or just certain days of the week.

The notifications schedule can be modified or deleted at any time by creating a subscription at Amtrak.com/delayalerts.

Operating Issues Plague Amtrak Trains

May 3, 2017

Amtrak long distance trains serving the Midwest have been hit with a long list of woes that have caused service disruptions, detours and cancellations.

The Texas Eagle was forced to detour in southern Missouri after a washout on its route via the Union Pacific’s Iron Mountain Subdivision prompted a detour on the former Cotton Belt route between St. Louis and Polar Bluff, Missouri.

Consequently Nos. 21 and 22 missed the scheduled stop at Arcadia Valley, Missouri, and ran late, arriving in Chicago 11 hours late on Sunday.

The Southwest Chief was delayed by a spring snowstorm between Dodge City, Kansas, and Lamar, Colorado, on Sunday that led to No. 3 being more than 15 hours late arriving in Los Angeles.

BNSF personnel provided grade crossing protecting during whiteout conditions.

A head-on collision of two Canadian National trains at Money, Mississippi, on Sunday caused the City of New Orleans to be terminated en route.

Passengers were taken from bus from Memphis to New Orleans on Sunday and Monday.

Northbound passengers rode a bus from Jackson, Mississippi, to Memphis on both days.

A BNSF derailment on Monday led to the Empire Builder being detoured in both directions. Nos. 7 and 8 were expected to detour on Tuesday over a Union Pacific route between Spokane, Washington, and Sandpoint, Idaho.

Losing a Locomotive Along the Way

September 18, 2016

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This is not a photograph that I would have been able to get under ordinary circumstances.

The eastbound Capitol Limited in arriving in Pittsburgh in broad daylight. Had the train been on-time or even close to its schedule, it would have halted in Penn Station in the darkness and before I got there.

But something happened to No. 30 along the way and it arrived in Pittsburgh with just one locomotive. It is Feb. 19, 2005.

No. 30 departed Chicago the previous evening on time. I know because I was in Chicago Union Station waiting to board the Three Rivers to Pittsburgh.

In those days the Three Rivers was the last train of the day out of Chicago. I was riding the Three Rivers to Pittsburgh because it was slated to be discontinued in another month.

A friend and I had ridden to Chicago from Cleveland on the Lake Shore Limited and we would take Greyhound home.

But it would be awhile before the bus left so we had time to kill. I had noticed an unusually large number of passengers sitting in the Pittsburgh station. I no longer remember how we learned that No. 30 had yet to arrive.

But we found out and I was able to get this image of the Capitol Limited arriving.

It wasn’t funny to the passengers riding No. 30 on this day, but my friend and I were amused that we had departed Chicago hours after No. 30 left and arrived in Pittsburgh an hour or two before it got there.

If You Want to be Ontime Aboard Amtrak, Then You Need to Get on or Off at an Endpoint City

March 9, 2016

Only once have I lived in an Amtrak endpoint city. Otherwise, I’ve lived in places at or near an intermediate station.

I mention that because in my experience your best chance for an on-time arrival or departure is at an endpoint city.

For 20 years I rode Amtrak twice a year to visit my dad when he lived in downstate Illinois.

The westbound Capitol Limited or Lake Shore Limited typically arrived late into Cleveland, but on several occasions No. 29 or Nol 49 were on-time or even early arriving into Chicago Union Station, where both terminate.

My connecting train, the Illini, almost always departed Chicago on time, but more often than not arrived late at my destination of Mattoon, Illinois.

I’ve observed this phenomenon on other routes, too. In May 2014, I rode the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle.

On TransportationWe left Chicago 1 hour, 12 minutes late due to being held for a more than four-hour late arriving Lake Shore Limited.

During the 2,200-mile journey we were upwards of two hours late at times, but arrived into Seattle 15 minutes early.

How was that possible?

The short answer is what Amtrak euphemistically calls “recovery time.”

It is built into the schedule to enable a late Amtrak train to make up time before arriving at an endpoint city.

You often find recovery time by examining the running time between an endpoint city and the next station.

The running time of the Capitol Limited from South Bend, Indiana, to Chicago is 1 hour, 54 minutes. The running time from Chicago to South Bend is 1 hour, 29 minutes.

For the Lake Shore Limited, the running time from South Bend to Chicago is two minutes longer, but exactly the same from Chicago as the Capitol Limited.

The City of New Orleans has a running time of 49 minutes from Chicago to Homewood, Illinois, a distance of 24 miles. Yet its inbound counterpart “needs” 1 hour, 16 minutes to travel the same distance.

As this is written, Amtrak and its host railroads are sparring in a rule-making proceeding by the Surface Transportation Board over on-time standards.

A 1973 federal law gives preference to passenger trains over freight trains and Amtrak is arguing for an absolute interpretation of that standard. The Association of American Railroads sees it differently.

The STB is not going to get involved in every instance in which an Amtrak train is late.

Rather, the issue is a repeated pattern of a host railroad favoring freight trains over passenger trains and/or the host railroad’s repeated failure to dispatch Amtrak trains in a manner that results in on-time performance.

Amtrak argues that when a train arrives or departs at intermediate stations should be taken into account when considering if a host railroad has engaged in a pattern of preferring its freight trains over passenger trains.

The ARR counters that Amtrak schedules are unrealistic given the operating and physical characteristics of today’s railroads.

Both parties want to have it both ways. It’s a bit cheeky for Amtrak to talk about on-time performance at intermediate stations when its own schedules are skewed in favor of endpoint cities.

When Amtrak and the State of Illinois were negotiating a contract a few years ago for the state to fund certain corridor trains, Amtrak refused to agree to an on-time standard for intermediate cities, insisting that only arrival and departure times from originating cities and terminus cities be included in the standard.

In short, if the Illini is late arriving in Mattoon, tough luck. Illinois only can reduce its payments to Amtrak if the Illini is late arriving in Carbondale or Chicago.

The AAR brief might have you believe that Amtrak imposes its schedules upon its host railroads.

The same brief mentions that individual railroads have negotiated agreements with Amtrak pertaining to on-time performance.

I find it hard to believe that any host railroad that has an “incentive” contract for Amtrak on-time performance would not have a major say in Amtrak schedules over its line.

Recovery time exists in part to benefit the host railroad so that it has a better chance of earning incentive payments.

The STB proceeding is about rules that may or may not have mean much in the daily performance of any given train on any given day.

Like any legal rules, the on-time standards the STB is considering would only come into play if Amtrak initiates a proceeding against a host railroad as it has done with Canadian National over its handling of Amtrak trains between Chicago and Carbondale.

Obviously, each party wants the rules slanted in favor of its own interests and positions of strength.

Amtrak hopes that if the rules favor it that will encourage host railroads to give Amtrak the benefit of the doubt more often than not when passenger trains and freight trains are in conflict.

From a passenger perspective, Amtrak’s position has appeal. The eastbound Capitol Limited is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. If it arrives at 2:15 a.m., it is a half-hour late as far as passengers getting off are concerned. It doesn’t matter that it arrived in Washington on time.

The interests of passengers might seem to be central to the STB proceedings but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Amtrak has already decided that although all passengers have an interest in arriving and departing on time, the interests of some passengers outweigh those of others.

That is why it is advantageous to get on at an originating city and get off at the end of the line. You’re more likely to leave and arrive when the schedules says that you will.

Capitol and Lake Shore Performance Improving

October 17, 2014

It may not be worth stopping the presses to report, but all four Amtrak trains serving Northeast Ohio arrived in Cleveland today (Friday, Oct. 17), before 6 a.m.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited was a mere nine minutes late, even making up four minutes of time after leaving Elyria.

Alas, the eastbound Capitol Limited was the spoiler, having halted in Cleveland nearly 3.5 hours late at 5:44 a.m.

As for the westbound trains, No. 29 arrived at 3:31 a.m. (39 minutes late) and No. 49 arrived right behind it at 3:44 a.m. (7 minutes late).

How will those trains fare getting into Chicago? It is tough to say as the performance of Nos. 29 and 49 has been all over the map for the past few days.

On Thursday, No. 29 was 39 minutes late at Cleveland, but nearly two hours late arriving into Chicago. The Capitol got there at 10:37 a.m., whereas the scheduled arrival time is 8:45 a.m.

The Capitol Limited was just over an hour late into Cleveland on Wednesday and 1:34 late into Chicago. On Tuesday, it was 59 minutes late at Cleveland, but 3:35 late into Chicago.

No. 49 has followed a similar pattern. On Thursday, it was nearly 3 hours late at Cleveland and 4:11 late into Chicago. The scheduled arrival time in the Windy City for the Lake Shore Limited is 9:45 a.m.

On Wednesday, the Lake Shore Limited was 48 minutes late at Cleveland and 56 minutes late into Chicago. On Tuesday No. 49 was 44 minutes late into Cleveland, but 4:15 late into Chicago.

The eastbound Capitol Limited had its best day on Wednesday when it arrived in Cleveland 56 minutes late. The scheduled arrival time is 1:45 a.m.

No. 30 was 2:17 late on Thursday and nearly three hours late on Tuesday.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited was 1:55 late on Thursday, 3:06 late on Wednesday and 6:37 late on Tuesday.

Neither Amtrak nor its passengers can be pleased with these performances although there is a glimmer of hope that things are looking up and the excessive late running that has plagued these trains over the past two months may become more of an abnormality rather than the rule.

Amtrak Woes Depicted in Photographs

October 13, 2014
The Lake Shore Limited has just crossed Brookside Drive in Olmsted Falls on Sunday. It won't go much further as traffic is ahead of it.

The Lake Shore Limited has just crossed Brookside Drive in Olmsted Falls on Sunday. It won’t go much further as traffic is ahead of it.

Amtrak’s problems with tardiness between Chicago and Cleveland on the Norfolk Southern Chicago Line have been written about widely on this blog.

After taking this image on Sunday of a 5-hour late eastbound Lake Shore Limited at Olmsted Falls, it occurred to me that much of what hinders Amtrak can be seen here. But you need to know where to look.

Let’s start with the buckets in the foreground. More than a week ago new ties were laid aside Track No. 2 in preparation for track work.

On this day the work gang was west of here with a crew working at the Mapleway Drive grade crossing, which is a few blocks behind me.

Trains had to contact the foreman to get permission to pass the stop board. Look in front of the nose of the train. The intermediate signals at MP 195 display a stop indication for Track No. 2.

Look further and you’ll see why. An eastbound intermodal train is in the block ahead of the Amtrak.

Look at little to the left and you’ll see what appears to be a crude oil train parked in the Berea siding. Less than three minutes before I made this image an auto rack train went west on Track No. 1 and other trains were backed up behind it headed west.

No. 48 left Chicago on Saturday more than 3 hours late. Note the battered rear of the baggage car. This car is a Union Pacific coach built in 1960 that Amtrak converted to a baggage car.

Who knows how many miles it has racked up and the places it has seen. It could probably continue to roll on but Amtrak’s new Viewliner II baggage cars can’t get here fast enough to give it a respite.

No. 48 arrived into Cleveland at 11:19 a.m., 5 hours and 37 minutes late. It would reach New York Penn Station at 11:45 p.m., 5 hours and 20 minutes late.

When I posted this at 8:15 a.m. EDT today, No. 48 was running 3 hours late.

The rear of the westbound auto rack train passes the head end of No. 48. New ties line the shoulder of Track No. 2. Interestingly, there are no new ties (yet) along the shoulder of Track No. 1.

The rear of the westbound auto rack train passes the head end of No. 48. New ties line the shoulder of Track No. 2. Interestingly, there are no new ties (yet) along the shoulder of Track No. 1.

P42 No. 111 leads Amtrak No. 48 on Sunday. Can we call this an Amtrak bar code unit?

P42 No. 111 leads Amtrak No. 48 on Sunday. Can we call this an Amtrak bar code unit?

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A bit of fall colors enlivens the scene.

 

Capitol, Lake Shore Resume Going to Chicago

October 12, 2014

Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited resumed operating to Chicago on Saturday after nearly a week of terminating and originating at Toledo.

The first westbound Capitol Limited to Chicago was greeted with a seven-hour delay between Alliance and Cleveland and finally limped into Chicago Union Station at 7:46 p.m., 11 hours late.

Before now, that would have resulted in the outbound No. 30 being significantly delayed, but Amtrak said it would put together another equipment set for the Capitol.

It apparently did that because No. 30 left on Saturday a mere mine minutes behind schedule.

However, the good fortune would not last. No. 30 departed Sunday morning from Cleveland 4 hours and 5 minutes late.

The westbound Lake Shore Limited fared better, although it was still very late. It departed Cleveland on Saturday 2 hours, 11 minutes late. It halted in Chicago at 3:14 p.m., 5.5 hours late.

No. 48 departed Chicago more than three hours late on account of the crew needing to rest.