Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Midwest Corridor trains’

Amtrak Adding Extra Trains for Thanksgiving

October 17, 2017

Amtrak will add eight extra trains in Illinois and 10 in Michigan to handle Thanksgiving travelers.

In a news release, the carrier said it will operate every available passenger car during the holiday period.

On the route between Chicago and St. Louis, train No. 300 from St. Louis will operate 35 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Lincoln Service extra No. 309 will depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Normal, Illinois, where it will arrive at 12:58 p.m.

No. 308 will depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and make all scheduled stops en route to Chicago, arriving at 3:41 p.m. These schedules are in effect on Nov. 22 and 26.

On the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, route, Illinois Zephyr No. 383 will operate 31 minutes later than scheduled.

Carl Sandburg extra No. 385 will depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and arrive Quincy at 3:53 p.m., making all scheduled intermediate stops.

Extra No. 384 will depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:23 p.m. after making all scheduled intermediate stops.

These schedules are in effect on Nov. 22 and 26.

On the Wolverine Service route, Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago on Nov. 22, 25 and 26 at 9:30 a.m., stopping in Michigan at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson before arriving in Ann Arbor at 3:10 p.m.

Extra No. 359 will depart Ann Arbor on the same dates at 4:05 p.m. and make the same stops, en route to Chicago, arriving at 7:46 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 will leave Chicago at 10 a.m. and make all stops en route to Holland, arriving at 2:11 p.m. It will depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and make all scheduled stop en route to a 5:27 p.m. arrival in Chicago.

These schedules are in effect on Nov. 22 and 26.

Reservations will be required between Nov. 21 and 27 for travel aboard the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service.

Amtrak said that in 2016 it carried 760,755 passengers throughout its national network during the Thanksgiving travel period and it expects similar patronage this year.

It plans to assign every available passenger car to its trains during the holiday travel period.

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Saluki to Depart 2 Hours Earlier

October 4, 2017

Amtrak’s southbound Saluki will depart Chicago two hours earlier on weekdays between Oct. 8 and 27 due to Canadian National track work.

Train 391 will operate two hours earlier at al stations en route to Carbondale, Illinois. Intermediate stops are made at Homewood, Kankakee, Gilman, Rantoul, Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia and Du Quoin.

The scheduled departure time of the Saluki from Chicago is 8:15 a.m. but during the work window it will leve at 6:15 a.m.

The work window will be in effect Oct. 9-13, 16-20 and 23-27,

Siemens Cars to Replace Sharyo Cars

September 2, 2017

Single-level passenger cars built by Siemens will replace bi-level coaches that were to have been built by Nippon Sharyo.

The departments of transportation of California and some Midwest states had ordered 130 bi-level cars from Sharyo that were to be built in Rochelle, Illinois.

However, design problems and an inability of a prototype to pass federal rigidity tests delayed the order.

Now the California Department of Transportation, which is leading procurement of the cars, has said it will substitute 130 Siemens cars for the Sharyo order.

The number of seats will be reduced, but state officials said the time frame for delivering the cars will be shortened from five years to 24 to 34 months.

In the Midwest, the Siemens cars are expected to replace Horizon equipment.

Chargers to Sport Amtrak Midwest Logo

August 30, 2017

The new Charger locomotives that are entering service on Amtrak’s Midwest corridor route will sport an Amtrak Midwest logo on their noses.

Amtrak showed off the new locomotives earlier this week at a press conference in Chicago.

The passenger carrier in a news release touted the SC-44 locomotives built by Siemens for their enhanced smoothness, speed capability and safety features.

The locomotives are owned by the state departments of transportation that pay for the corridor trains that will use the new units.

Thirty-three Chargers will be based in Chicago to serve trains that carried more than 2.6 million Amtrak passengers last year.

Chargers will also be assigned to the Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City.

The locomotives were built in Sacramento, California, and are being promoted for their lower maintenance costs, reduced fuel consumption and quieter operation.

The SC-44 is powered by a Midwest-made 4,400 horsepower Cummins QSK95 diesel engine.

The locomotives came operate at speeds up to 125 mph, with faster acceleration and braking for better on-time reliability.

They are the first higher-speed passenger locomotives to meet the EPA Tier 4 standards, meaning a 90 percent reduction in emissions and a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 16 percent compared to the previous locomotives.
The locomotives were purchased with $216.5 million in federal funds.

Amtrak to Put More Chargers Into Service

August 29, 2017

Amtrak will soon place into service its new Charger locomotives on three more Midwest corridor routes.

The Siemens-built SC-44 locomotives have already entered revenue service on the Hiawatha Service route between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Amtrak officials said the units are expected to enter service this week on Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, trains

In the near future, Chargers are expected to be assigned to Chicago-Carbondale, Illlinois, service and to the Pere Marquette to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The new locomotives are being withheld from Chicago-St. Louis trains, and the Blue Water and Wolverine Service trains pending testing of Wabtec’s I-ETMS positive train control system and the two versions of Incremental Train Control installed on the routes of those trains.

“These are new installations, it’s a different locomotive, and the systems have to be merged and integrated with the Siemens software, so we will continue to run 110-mph between Porter and Kalamazoo with the existing P42  locomotives until testing is completed,” said Tim Hoeffner, director of Michigan’s rail office.

A similar situation exists in Illinois on Union Pacific track in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. A 110-mph section between Dwight and Pontiac is reverting to 79 mph until the new system is in place.

The maximum speed of Lincoln Service trains will increase to 90 mph after track and signal work are completed.

Once the Federal Railroad Administration certifies that the positive train control system on the route is reliable, then top speeds will rise to 110 mph.

Amtrak superintendent of locomotives Mike Yates said that 12 of the 33 Chargers that were ordered are now on Amtrak property and 10 are ready to be put into revenue service.

CSX Denies Deliberately Delaying Amtrak

August 25, 2017

CSX is denying that it has been short-changing Amtrak trains in favor of its own freight trains.

In a statement, a CSX spokesman said that the railroad “recognizes the important benefits that passenger rail service can provide to the public.”

Spokesman Rob Doolittle said that CSX has a long history of supporting passenger service across its network and that it provides Amtrak preference in accordance with federal law.

But the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier reported that those comments are at odds with a directive given by a CSX supervisor to dispatchers.

“Give high priority to [freight trains] Q031/Q032,” the supervisor  wrote in an email obtained by the newspaper. “If we are meeting with Amtrak make the delay on Amtrak first. If Amtrak is running down one of these trains go ahead and get to the point Amtrak is seeing the (end of the freight train) before we get them around.”

The Journal & Courier said that Amtrak’s own on-time performance statistics show that delays have become frequent while on CSX.

“We are one of the customers who have been disappointed by CSX’s performance on this and other routes around the country,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, making a specific reference to the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor used by Amtrak’s Hoosier State and Cardinal.

“CSX has made a series of operational decisions and dispatching decisions that have not given these trains the priority to which we’re entitled and the reliability that we  expect.”

Magliari said Amtrak has begun tracking how much money it has lost across its network due to CSX’s problems. That includes compensation for displaced passengers, the cost of getting passengers to other train stations to make connections, and additional crew costs.

“There has not been improvement in August thus far [in on-time performance], and there’s only a few days left,” Magliari said.

Amtrak crews will communicate to passengers why delays are occurring. “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and we are very transparent about how sweet or sour this pudding is,” Magliari said.

Hearing Set on Heartland Flyer Extension

August 24, 2017

The Oklahoma legislature will conduct a hearing on Sept. 6 to discuss extending the Heartland Flyer into Kansas.

The train currently operates between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, but a movement is underway to extend operation of the train to Newton, Kansas, where it could connect with Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

There has also been discussion about extending the Flyer to Kansas City, Missouri.

Newton Mayor Barth Hague and Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell plan to travel to the hearing to testify in support of the extension. Wichita has been without Amtrak service since October 1979.

Oklahoma is looking to build on an earlier study done by the state of Kansas.

The Heartland Flyer is funded primarily by Oklahoma with some funding coming from the state of Texas.

“Right now that train is funded by Texas and Oklahoma, so we certainly cannot do anything without working with them, and they want to work on it,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

The move to extend the Heartland Flyer into Kansas dates back to at least 2008.

A 2012 study conducted by the Kansas Department of Transportation estimated the cost of improvements needed for extension to Newton route would be $87.5 million.

Extending the Flyer to Kansas City would cost about $245.5 million.

“There will be need for an effort to put some good, positive advocacy pressure on our state to jump forward to provide funding,” Hague said.

Hague noted that the 2012 cost estimates have been changed several times.

“What Amtrak and BNSF have figured out is there might be a way to extend the line without ($100 million) in track improvements,” Hague said.

Amtrak ran an inspection train on the route on June 9.

Statehouse at Joliet

August 11, 2017

The southbound  St. Louis-bound Statehouse rolls into Joliet Union Station on June 19, 1998. Aside from the Phase III livery on the P42DC locomotive, the scene is similar in appearance to today in that some Chicago-St. Louis passenger trains feature a mix of Horizon coaches and Anfleet food service cars.

The Statehouse was funded in part by the State of Illinois and at the time operated on a mid-day schedule.

Hoosier State Struggled to Run on Time in June

August 3, 2017

Amtrak trains are struggling to operate on time in the Chicago to Indianapolis corridor and the passenger carrier says its contract railroads are to blame.

Just one in three trains bound for Indianapolis arrived on time in June. On the other hand, the on-time performance of trains running from Indy to Chicago was nearly 90 percent during the month.

Combined, that represents an on-time rate of 62 percent, which is down from the 80 percent rates that the route had been posting.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said almost all the delays have been caused by freight-train interference and dispatchers giving priority to freight trains over Amtrak trains.

“We made it clear to them that we’d like June to be an outlier performance,” Magliari said.

Since taking over the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State from Iowa Pacific Holdings earlier this year, Amtrak has launched business class, food and beverage services, free Wi-Fi and the ability to make reservations for carry-on items in an effort to match the level of service that IP provided.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is working with an engineering firm to study the ways to shorten the travel time, including the possibility of using a different route.

The Hoosier State operates on days that the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.  Both trains serve intermediate stations in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

Some Michigan Trains Subject to Delays

August 3, 2017

Amtrak has warned that some Michigan corridor trains are subject to delay due to the performance of system maintenance.

Affected are Wolverine Service trains 350, 355 and Blue Water trains 364 and 365. The service advisory said the trains may experience delays of 15 to 30 minutes.

Amtrak did not say how long the maintenance program would last.