Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Midwest Corridor trains’

The Art of Black and White Photography

August 15, 2019

Digital photograph has many advantages but one of the most underused one is the ability to transform an image from color to black and white.

I don’t often see this done and I’m just as guilty as anyone else in not thinking about doing it.

What I have learned, though, is that recognizing when to convert an image from color to black and white is an art in itself.

It works well in situations in which the colors are subdued, often to the point of the image virtually being black and white anyway.

When I was processing this image of Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water at Durand, Michigan, it all but called out for conversion to black and white.

There is strong back lighting from the sun that washed out the color anyway.

Making the image black and white helped to draw out the contrast and enhance the mood.

Train No. 365 is waiting for time. It arrived in Durand a little early and all of the passengers have boarded.

A few onlookers are gathered along the fence waiting to see of a Boy Scout troop that boarded.

The conductor is standing by a vestibule waiting to give a highball and accommodate any late arriving passengers.

Note also the contrast in shapes of the Amfleet and Horizon coaches in the train’s consist, a testament to competing philosophies of passenger car design.

Amtrak Continues to Eye Chicago-Toronto Route

August 13, 2019

Amtrak continues to study the prospect of creating a Chicago-Toronto route via Detroit.

The proposal would extend one of the current Wolverine Service trains east of Detroit via Windsor, Ontario, where it would then operate on tracks used by VIA Rail Canada.

In a presentation last week at the Michigan Rail Conference at Michigan State University, an Amtrak representative said a precursor to launching the service would be upgrading tracks between the Windsor tunnel portal and the VIA station in Windsor/Walkerville as well as constructing a border crossing processing facility.

Wolverine Service trains currently operate between Chicago and Pontiac in the northern Detroit suburbs and is funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The presentation did not indicate how much it would cost to implement the service nor did it identify a funding source.

“There would be multiple railroads to work with that we currently partnership with, and so it would take some cooperation to get such service going,” said MDOT spokesman Michael Frezell.

Operating a connecting bus between the Detroit and Windsor stations was described as a possible short-term move.

Amtrak proposed in March the idea of a Chicago-Toronto route in its federal funding request.

The carrier once operated a train known as the International between Chicago and Toronto via Sarnia, Ontario.

In Michigan, the International used the route of the current Blue Water between Chicago and Port Huron.

The International operated between Oct. 31, 1982, and April 23, 2004.

Getting Lucky

August 9, 2019

At first glance this might appear to be another run of the mill image of an Amtrak train.

It’s the southbound Saluki rushing through Pesotum, Illinois, on its daily trek from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois.

But take another look at that intermediate signal. It is displaying two indications simultaneously of clear and stop.

I probably could not have planned this image if I had tried. I just happened to catch the signal head as it was transitioning from one signal indication to another and, apparently, green comes on a millisecond or two before the red goes out.

Those baggage cars, by the way, are not carrying anything. They are on the train to meet a Canadian National mandated minimum axle count.

Grain and a Train

August 7, 2019

Grain elevators and silos are a common sight along Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

The six trains using the Canadian National tracks that were once part of the Illinois Central’s Chicago-New Orleans mainline cut through the heart of farm country.

And where there are corn and soybean fields there will be grain elevators.

Amtrak’s southbound Saluki is shown passing one such grain elevator complex in Arcola, Illinois.

Passengers Describe Being in Illini Derailment

August 7, 2019

Passengers who experienced a derailment of Amtrak’s southbound Illini on Sunday afternoon described themselves as shaken but otherwise all right.

Five cars of the train derailed after striking a truck at a grade crossing in University Heights, Illinois, that killed the truck driver, Richard E. Millette, 77, of Frankfort, Illinois.

Two passengers suffered minor injuries. The derailed cars remained upright.

“They were up to 70 mph and there was a loud bang. There was metal scraping. You could see metal parts flying by our window – a truck hood, tires and things like that,” said Scott Mayer of Windsor, Illinois.

“The cafe car looked like a tornado went through there,” said Mayer who along with his wife were seated in the business class section. “Everything in the cafe car was on the floor. People who were standing in the cafe car ended up on the floor on impact.

“The (train’s) cars started going into the rocks and we stopped pretty fast,” said Mayer. “The gates were down. I don’t know what happened, but (the driver of the box truck) pulled out in front of the train just before it got there at that crossing. There was nothing the engineer could do. He set the brakes and that was all he could do.”

The train was carrying 300 and they were evacuated shortly after the derailment.

Mayer said most passengers handled the incident but some were panicked and upset.

“A lot of people came together and helped one another,” Mayer said.

Jim Myers of St. Elmo, Illinois, said it was difficult to describe the experience.

“It’s hard to explain, but we could feel the train derailing,” he said. “You could feel every tie that we ran across. The car rocked back and forth a little bit. I never wanted something to stop so fast in my life. It felt like an eternity, but it was like only a minute.”

Myers said he could smell diesel and saw a lot of dust floating in the air.

“There was terror in people’s eyes,” Myers said. “People were panicked, but at the same time, they were calm. It was two emotions mixed into one. It was like something you only see in the movies.”

Myers said Amtrak personnel told passengers to leave their things behind during the invacuation, but he said he grabbed a bag.

On the ground the passengers were instructed to move swiftly and walk to a nearby gas station about a half-mile away where they would wait for buses to take them to Governor’s State University.

“Survival mode kicked in,” Myers said. “We made sure all the kids and women got off first.

“I used to ride the train a lot. But I’m not planning to ride anytime soon.”

Megan Sherman, 24, of Bourbonnais, Illinois, said an Amtrak crew member had just stopped by their seats before the train collided with the box truck about 5 p.m.

“It felt like a lot longer, but it was probably just minutes before this all went down,” she said.

Sherman said she felt their train car shudder and saw plywood fly past their window.

She then felt a second shudder as she realized the train was derailing into gravel.

Sherman said the passengers exited the train calmly and in an orderly fashion.

Some passengers were crying but were checking on the well-being of others. Sherman and her husband helped an elderly woman seated in front of them with her bags and helped her get off the train.

Hanging With the Hoosier State in Its Final Week

August 4, 2019

Boarding has begun for the Chicago-bound Hoosier State on June 25 at Indianapolis Union Station.

By the time I arrived in Indianapolis Amtrak’s Hoosier State had just one week left to live.

I would experience No. 851 three times before it made its final trip on June 30, riding it once and photographing it trackside twice.

I have ridden the Hoosier State several times but not since August 1991.

Interestingly, my purpose for riding the Hoosier State nearly 28 years later would be the same as why I rode it in 1991.

I was moving and needed to go back to my former hometown to pick up a car and drive it to my new hometown.

In 1991 I had driven from Indianapolis to State College, Pennsylvania. In 2019 I drove from Cleveland to Indianapolis.

Boarding of No. 851 began shortly after I arrived at Indianapolis Union Station on the morning of June 25.

I was the second passenger to board the Horizon fleet coach to which most Indy passengers were assigned. The car was about two-thirds full.

The consist also included an Amfleet coach, an Amfleet food service car and two P42DC locomotives, Nos. 77 and 55.

We departed on time but a few minutes later received a penalty application near CP Holt that required a conversation with the CSX PTC desk.

We would later encounter a delay between Crawfordsville and Lafayette due to signal issues.

Yet there was no freight train interference en route that I observed. We stopped briefly in Chicago so a Metra train could go around us.

That was probably because we were early. We halted at Chicago Union Station 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

I had heard the former Monon can be rough riding, but I didn’t think it was any worse than other Amtrak routes I’ve ridden.

There wasn’t any of the abrupt sideways jerking that I’ve experienced on other Amtrak trains.

The journey did seem to be slow going at times, particularly through the CSX yard in Lafayette; on the former Grand Trunk Western west of Munster, Indiana; through the Union Pacific yard on the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois; and within Chicago.

Overall, the experience was much the same as riding any other Amtrak Midwest corridor train although it featured an entrance into Chicago that I had not experienced before in daylight.

The crew said nothing about it being the last week of operation for Nos. 850 and 851.

My next encounter with the Hoosier State came in Lafayette on June 28.

No. 851 arrived on time with a more typical consist that included cars being ferried from Beach Grove shops to Chicago.

These included a Superliner sleeping car, a Viewliner baggage car, a Horizon food service car, and a Heritage baggage car in addition to the standard Hoosier State consist of three cars. On the point was P42DC No. 99.

I was positioned next to the former Big Four station at Riehle Plaza so I could photograph above the train.

Although a sunny morning, the tracks were more in shadows than I would have liked. Nonetheless I was pleased, overall, with what I came away with.

After No 851 departed – it operates on CSX as P317, an original Hoosier State number – I went over to Fifth Street to photograph it sans railroad tracks.

One stretch of rails has been left in the street in front of the former Monon passenger station.

My last encounter with the Hoosier State would be my briefest.

I drove to Linden to photograph the last northbound run at the railroad museum at the former joint Monon-Nickel Plate depot.

No. 851 was 24 minutes late leaving Indianapolis Union Station and about that late at Crawfordsville.

It had a consist similar to what I had seen in Lafayette two days earlier. P42DC No. 160 had a battered nose with some of its silver paint peeling away.

I wasn’t aware until I saw them that two former Pennsylvania Railroad cars had been chartered to operate on the rear of the last Hoosier State.

They were Colonial Crafts and Frank Thomson. The latter carried a Pennsy keystone tail sign on its observation end emblazoned with the Hoosier State name.

It was a nice touch and after those cars charged past the Hoosier State was gone in more ways than one.

 

That’s my Horizon coach reflected in the lower level of the Lafayette station.

 

Watching the countryside slide by west of Monon, Indiana.

The Hoosier State has come to a halt on Track 16 at Chicago Union Station. That’s the inbound City of New Orleans to the left.

A crowd lines the platform in Lafayette as the Hoosier State arrives en route to Chicago.

The former Big Four station in Lafayette was moved to its current location to serve Amtrak. At one time it also served intercity buses.

Pulling out of Lafayette on the penultimate northbound trip to Chicago.

P42DC No. 160, which pulled the last northbound Amtrak Train No. 851 had a well-worn nose.

Two former Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars brought up the rear of the last northbound Hoosier State.

Track Work to Affect Carbondale Line Service Aug. 2

August 2, 2019

CP Nixes Hiawatha Expansion Without Illinois Siding

July 30, 2019

Canadian Pacific has said it won’t agree to any increase in Amtrak Hiawatha Service unless it gets infrastructure improvements in Illinois.

The railroad made its demands public by releasing a letter containing them that was written to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Release of the letter may have been the railroad’s way of expressing discontent with WisDOT announcing recently that it was moving ahead with expanded Hiawatha Service in the next two years.

WisDOT officials have said they planned to seek federal matching funds for infrastructure improvements in Wisconsin that would enable the addition of two additional roundtrips.

But CP said in the letter that improvements in Wisconsin alone won’t be enough to win the host railroad’s approval for the additional passenger trains.

Those improvements would expand track capacity in the Milwaukee terminal and at Muskego Yard.

“Should WisDOT do so, it does at its sole risk that there will be no additional Hiawatha train starts,” wrote C.E. Hubbard, CP’s director interline and passenger – South.

The letter said the the additional trains, “would unreasonably interfere with the adequacy, safety, and efficiency of our existing operations,”

CP is demanding that a freight holding track for CP freights that was proposed in suburban Chicago be part of any infrastructure plan for increasing Hiawatha Service.

The holding track between Glenview and Lake Forest triggered a political backlash that eventually prompted the Illinois Department of Transportation to decline to seek federal funding to build the track.

Additional track capacity was also proposed in the vicinity of Rondout, Illinois, where a Metra line diverges from the CP route to head to Fox Lake, Illinois.

“[T]hese improvements  . . . were identified by a joint team of stakeholders as necessary and required infrastructure to support any additional Hiawatha train starts,” Hubbard wrote. “Without these improvements, CP cannot support any additional Hiawathas in this corridor.”

South of Rondout Amtrak shares track with Metra and CP trains and the planned Hiawatha trains would operate during Metra’s rush hour when CP freights usually are sidelined.

No Time to Waste at Pesotum

July 26, 2019

A tardy southbound Saluki races past the former Illinois Central Railroad depot in Pesotum late on a Tuesday morning.

No. 391 had earlier met its northbound counterpart at Rantoul, where the southbound train was 24 minutes behind schedule.

It lost another 14 minutes between Rantoul and Champaign and by the time it reached DuQuoin it was 1 hour, 8 minutes down.

But through the “miracle” of recovery time, a.k.a. schedule padding, No. 391 pulled into Carbondale a mere 32 minutes late.

No passenger train has been scheduled to stop at the depot in Pesotum for several decades.

Track Work Affects Lincoln Service, Texas Eagle

July 26, 2019