Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak station in Cleveland’

Nighttime on the Capitol Limited in Cleveland

March 6, 2020

Amtrak’s eastbound Capitol Limited is making its nocturnal station stop in Cleveland in late May 2013.

The Superliner car in the foreground is a sleeper and chances are most of its passengers are in their beds asleep and unaware of the Cleveland stop.

I was at the station waiting for the westbound Capitol, which was due in shortly before 3 a.m., and which I would be riding to Chicago.

It’s eastbound counterpart, No. 30, is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. and on this night it must have been running late if I saw it.

The tall building behind the train is Key Tower, which at 57 stories (947 feet) is the tallest building in Cleveland and the 34th tallest in the United States.

To the right of the Key Tower is the top portion of Terminal Tower, which at one time was Cleveland’s primary train station.

Cleveland Regional Transit Authority trains still use the station, which is now known as Tower City.

The Cleveland Shuffle

January 15, 2020

It’s 0 dark 30 at the Cleveland Amtrak station and passengers are coming and going from the eastbound Lake Shore Limited. I set my camera on a tripod and captured this seen with a telephoto lens.

The view is looking primarily at the Amfleet II coaches. No. 48 still carried a Heritage Fleet dining car and crew dorm in those days.

One Night at the Cleveland Amtrak Station

January 7, 2020

On most days if you want to photograph Amtrak in Northeast Ohio you’ll need a good tripod because the four trains that cross the region daily do so between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Back in the late 1990s I dabbled with making night photographs of Amtrak trains at the Cleveland station.

The two images shown above were made on Aug. 22, 1998. You’ve probably forgotten but it was a momentous day in railroad history because Norfolk Southern and CSX took administrative control of Conrail.

That had no effect on Conrail operations because the carrier continued to operate as normal until being formally divided on June 1, 1999.

In 1998 Amtrak’s P42DC locomotives still wore the Phase III livery in which they were delivered although some had the Phase IV look and the now ubiquitous Phase V livery would be introduced in the next year.

Shown above is dome lounge No. 2511. Like any Heritage Fleet car that was still operating in the late 1990s, this car has an interesting history.

It was built by Budd in April 1950 as Pacific Park for the Union Pacific, a 10 roomette, 6 double bedroom sleeper. At UP it was No. 1430.

It initially carried Amtrak roster 2623 and became the 2923 when rebuilt in September 1977 for head end power capability.

It was transformed into a dorm lounge in April 1998. Amtrak’s thinking at the time was that it could double as a lounge, but that apparently didn’t happen because Amtrak onboard crew members objected to having revenue passengers in their dorm car.

Amtrak retired the 2511 in June 2006. It was stored at the Beech Grove shops for several years until being offered for sale in 2018.

Will the Lansing Ever Play in Lansing?

August 30, 2019

The Viewliner diners that Amtrak has taken delivery of in recent years and continues to receive from CAF USA are named after state capital cities.

In many instances those cities are not on the Amtrak map. Some haven’t been for years, i.e., Columbus; and some have never been served by Amtrak, i.e., Dover, Delaware.

Lansing is an interesting case. Amtrak passes through the capital of Michigan but the station is located in East Lansing.

The city is served by the Blue Water, which has either an Amfleet or Horizon food service car.

Given that, it seems unlikely that diner Lansing will ever see its namesake city unless . . .

The Lansing could pass through Lansing if it ever gets assigned to the Blue Water to help meet a Canadian National-mandated minimum axle count.

For now, though, the Lansing is assigned to eastern long-distance trains. It is shown in Cleveland on the eastbound Lake Shore Limited where it was serving as the lounge for sleeping car passengers.

Photograph by Edward Ribinskas

Lucky Me That I Picked the Wrong Day to Travel

July 17, 2019

Passengers get into position to board Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited in Cleveland as it arrives more than three hours late on the morning of June 26, 2019. (Photograph by Edward Ribinskas)

On the evening of June 25, 2019, Amtrak Train No. 48 departed Chicago Union Station on time at 9:30.

It would be the only time that No. 48 would arrive or depart from a station on schedule during its 959 mile journey to New York City.

What Amtrak said would be a seven hour trip to Cleveland ballooned to 10-and-a-half hours.

That wasn’t all bad, I suppose. I got to see Sandusky Bay in daylight and got some “bonus” time at no extra fare aboard a train I had not ridden since May 2014.

Yet when the Lake Shore Limited finally halted at the Cleveland station I was more than ready to get off. I had things to do and places to go and had expected to be well underway in doing them already.

Officially, No. 48 arrived in Cleveland at 9:07 a.m., 3 hours, 29 minutes late.

How does a train lose 3.5 hours? Darn if I know because the crew never told us how or why, not that I expected them to do that.

A detailed accounting of that lost time exists somewhere. Amtrak conductors keep logs of time lost en route and report that information to a superior who forwards it to Amtrak headquarters.

Amtrak aggregates that information into report cards that the carrier periodically issues to show how its host railroads are doing in keeping Amtrak trains on time.

Those reports, though, are not necessarily a complete accounting. I’ve heard Amtrak crew members agree in radio conversations with each other to not report a particular cause of delay.

I also once heard an Amtrak engineer refuse to cooperate with the conductor in explaining why No. 30 had lost time in Indiana.

Amtrak operating personnel do not have access to the communication that goes on in the dispatching offices of the host railroads.

If a dispatcher for Norfolk Southern decides to hold Amtrak at a control point to wait for two westbound freight trains to clear before switching Amtrak from Track 2 to Track 1 in order to go around a slow freight train ahead on Track 2, the Amtrak crew doesn’t know why the decision was made to hold them rather than holding one or both of the westbound freights further east until Amtrak could go around the slow eastbound freight.

Further, they don’t know whether that decision was made by the dispatcher, by the dispatcher’s supervisor or by a computer program that NS uses to dispatch its railroad. Nor do they know with certainty the logic behind the decision even if they have some idea.

In fact, the scenario outlined above happened in the darkness of northern Indiana west of South Bend during my trip.

My train was moving slowly and I got my scanner out and listened to the NS road channel for a while.

As best I could tell, most of the time that No. 48 lost on the night and morning of June 25-26 could be attributed to the host railroad.

Amtrak might see it as freight train interference while NS might call it traffic congestion.

In the days preceding my trip, Amtrak had posted a passenger advisory warning that NS track work in the Chicago area would cause delays of up to an hour because two main tracks would be out of service.

Perhaps NS freight traffic was heavier than usual on the night I was aboard No. 48 as the freight carrier was getting caught up from delays to its own trains stemming from the track work.

We can’t blame NS for two other delays due to bridges being open in Toledo and Cleveland for marine traffic.

I’ve made dozens of trips on Amtrak through Toledo over the past 25 years and it was the first time I’d ever been aboard a train delayed by the Maumee River Bridge being open.

Otherwise, nothing happened during that trip of June 25-26 that I had not experienced before between Cleveland and Chicago. Many times.

Much of the lost time was racked up between Elkhart, Indiana, and Toledo where Amtrak trains have been losing time for decades, going back into the Conrail era.

What had been 1 hour, 11 minutes late at Elkhart skyrocketed to 2 hours, 51 minutes by the time we stopped at the Bryan station.

By then it was daylight and I got my radio out again and listened to the engineer on No. 48 call a steady drum beat procession of approach signal indications from Bryan to the west side of Toledo.

We finally got around a long manifest freight in Toledo and I’m not sure if it was a case of that train having mechanical problems, being underpowered or some other reason.

Of course there was a steady stream of westbounds on Track 1, including Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.

Shortly after we moved around that manifest freight the dispatcher said we would have to wait for Amtrak 49 to depart the Toledo station, where there is just one track that Amtrak can use.

Once we got across the Maumee River we moved at a steady pace but we were even later at Sandusky than we had been at Toledo.

NS has been particularly outspoken about its disdain for Amtrak’s report cards and at one point threatened legal action if Amtrak didn’t stop issuing them.

Of course NS is upset because those report cards suggest it does a poor job of dispatching Amtrak trains.

NS management would argue that dispatching decision making takes into account a myriad of factors and seeks to strike a balance in serving the interest of freight trains and passenger trains.

NS managers would say dispatchers seek to give Amtrak preference when they can but that is not always possible because things happen.

It isn’t the railroad’s fault that someone parked a car on the tracks that was struck by a container train that subsequently derailed and blocked both main tracks as happened in early June in Swanton, Ohio.

Nor can railroads predict when equipment failures will occur or acts of nature will strike.

These things also delay the transport of the freight of NS customers.

All of this is true as far as it goes, but overlooks that managers are people who make decisions based on their beliefs, biases and prejudices as to what is most important when conflicts occur in moving trains.

It also overlooks that these beliefs, biases and prejudices are built into the overall operating plan and tend to be viewed as sacrosanct.

It starts with the reality that we the host railroad own this railroad and not Amtrak. In our view the needs of the owner are just as important if not more so than those of the tenant.

I’ve ridden enough Amtrak trains to know that there is an element of luck involved in whether you will get to your destination on time or close to on time.

Had I departed Chicago on No. 48 on June 23 I would have arrived in Cleveland the next morning 27 minutes early. Had I left Chicago the day before I actually traveled I would have arrived in Cleveland 19 minutes late.

Had I traveled the day after I actually traveled I would have arrived in Cleveland 19 minutes late.

Had I left Chicago on June 27 I would have arrived in Cleveland one hour and 13 minutes late. That’s not good, but far better than 3.5 hours late.

So of five trains that operated the week I traveled I had the good fortune – yes, I’m being sarcastic – of choosing the travel day with the really late train.

But that was the date that worked best for me that week. It just didn’t work well for keeping the train even reasonably within range of being on time.

As for my fellow passengers who remained aboard No. 48 on June 26 after I disembarked, No. 48 would lose additional time on CSX, reaching its nadir of 4 hours, 19 minutes late at Schenectady, New York.

By the time it reached the end of the line at New York’s Penn Station, the lateness had been trimmed to 3 hours, 42 minutes, about what it had been in Toledo.

Whether it’s a plane, a train, or a bus, when you take public transportation you are rolling the dice that the carrier will get you to your destination when it says it will.

You know no carrier has a 100 percent on-time record, but always hope the aberration will occur on another day and affect someone else. Some people are naive enough to think it will not happen to them.

As you are loping along at restricted speed, waiting at a control point for opposing traffic or stopped because a heavy Great Lakes freighter has priority at a water crossing, there is a feeling of injustice that someone else’s priorities are more important than yours and there is nothing you can do about it.

If you are a writer you might dash off an indignant piece saying this ought to be done or that ought to have been done.

But if you know anything at all about transportation you should know better. Lengthy delays while traveling do occur and sooner or later they will occur to you.

It’s just that they can mess up your plans and, at times, spoil or dampen an experience you had long looked forward to having.

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.”

Middle of the Night in Cleveland

September 25, 2016

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Amtrak schedules its long distance trains to maximize connections and for optimal arrival and departure times at the end point terminals.

That means that if you live near the middle of a route between Chicago and the East Coast, you’re going to see Amtrak during nighttime hours. Cleveland is about the mid-point for the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited.

If you were to visit the Cleveland Amtrak station at 2 p.m. on any given afternoon, no one would be around and the station might even be locked. But go there are 2 a.m. and the place will be alive with waiting passengers.

All four Amtrak trains that serve Cleveland are scheduled to arrive between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. The “best” scheduled time is for the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, which is scheduled to depart at 5:50 a.m., which is not terrible, but still requires getting up rather early.

Of course, people travel every day on flights that leave about the same time, but with few exceptions domestic flights do not leave between midnight and 5 a.m. from U.S. airports.

This photo was made at 2:29 a.m. as I awaited the arrival of the westbound Capitol Limited. It was running late, but not by much.

Gone From the Lake Shore Limited

September 13, 2016

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The summer of 2016 may be remembered by some as the time when the Lake Shore Limited lost its full-service dining cars.

After several of the Heritage fleet diners were sidelined with cracked frames, Amtrak assigned Amfleet food service cars to Nos. 48 and 49. It wasn’t the first time that has been done and Amtrak claims that full-service diners will return to the Lake Shore Limited once enough new Viewliner diners are built by CAF USA and placed into revenue service.

But that is for the future, which may not be until 2017. In the meantime, let’s take a look back at a time when the Lake Shore Limited still had full-service Heritage Fleet dining cars.

Shown is a Heritage Fleet diner on the westbound Lake Shore Limited in May 2014 as it makes its station stop in Cleveland. It’s still too early for breakfast so the diner is empty at this early hour.

Group Seeks Cleveland Amtrak Station Changes

August 12, 2016

An Ohio passenger advocacy group wants to see tracks reconfigured in the vicinity of the Cleveland Amtrak station so that two trains could serve the station simultaneously.

Amtrak logoThe work would require expanding the existing platform, installing a crossover at CP 122 on the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern and rehabilitating an industrial track to make it a second station track.

All four Amtrak trains serving Cleveland arrive between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. If one or more of them are late, it means that one train has to wait while another does its station work.

Amtrak trains in Cleveland all use the former Track No. 1 of what used to be the double track Chicago Line in the Conrail era.

Congestion can become particularly acute if the Capitol Limited arrives from both directions at the same time.

Under normal circumstances, eastbound No. 30 completes its station work and departs well before the arrival of No. 29.

Both trains use  a connecting track built by Conrail that links the Chicago Line to the Cleveland Line at CP 122. However, Amtrak trains must be on Track No. 2 of the Cleveland Line to be able to access that connecting track at CP 122.

The nearest crossover east of CP 122 is at CP 114 in Garfield Heights 8.1 miles away.

In some instances, No. 30 has departed by backing up from the station to Drawbridge and crossing over to Track No. 1 of the Cleveland Line to get out of the way of No. 29 on Track No. 2.

In other instances, No. 29 is held at CP 114 until No. 30 reaches it and crosses over to Track No. 1.

At times No. 29 has continued to Drawbridge and then backed into the Cleveland Station because it was on Track No. 1 and couldn’t reached the connection at CP 122 due to No. 30 coming out on Track No. 1 or due to NS freight traffic.

AAO is calling for a crossover between Tracks 1 and 2 at CP 122 so Amtrak trains can depart on either track.

The group also said that Track 44, an industrial tracks used by NS and CSX, could be rebuilt to Federal Railroad Administration Class III standards to serve as a second station track. A connecting track would need to be built from the Chicago Line to Track 44.

As part of that project, the current platform, which is now 10-by-1,200 feet would be expanded to 15-by 1,600 feet.

That would allow a train with two locomotives and nine cars to serve the station from Track 44 and still not block the pedestrian walkway from the station.

That walkway crosses Track 44 and the double track Waterfront Line of the Greater Cleveland Transit Authority.

It is not clear who would fund the project or whether Amtrak and NS are studying it.

2 Ohio Intermodal Station Projects Seek Other Funding after Failing to Land a TIGER Grant

August 11, 2016

Intermodal station projects in Cleveland and Oxford, Ohio, failed to win a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant this year, but will continue to move forward while seeking other funding sources.

In Cleveland, transportation officials have been studying the creation of the Lakefront Multimodal Transportation Center that will serve Amtrak, intercity buses and Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority buses and trains.

Amtrak 4The center, to be located west of East Ninth Street, unsuccessfully sought a $37.4 million TIGER grant.

The total project cost is $46.7 million of which Amtrak is expected to pay $4 million.

The intermodal complex would be part of a planned Mall-to-Harbor walkway that is being built by the City of Cleveland. That project will get underway this fall.

The walkway will have stairs and an elevator linking it to the Amtrak station.

Improvements to the Amtrak station include bringing it into ADA compliance, platform resurfacing/widening, and parking lot and walkway improvements.

Planners are eyeing how to obtain funding for preliminary engineering and construction of the Greyhound portion of the transportation center.

In Oxford, the city, Miami University and the Butler County Regional Transit Authority have proposed developing an intermodal facility that would serve as a stop for Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Officials unsuccessfully sought $20 million in TIGER funds for the $26 million bus-rail intermodal station.

The Amtrak station platform, shelter and parking will cost about $600,000. The Cardinal currently does not stop in Oxford, but Amtrak has indicated it would be willing to serve Oxford if it provides suitable station facilities.