Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Superliners’

No Plans to End Long-Distance Trains Amtrak Executive Tell RPA During Meeting

May 30, 2018

Amtrak executives have pledged to the Rail Passengers Association that the carrier has no plans to discontinue long-distance trains.

The pledge came during a meeting last week between RPA CEO Jim Mathews and Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson and Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Gardner.

Anderson said during the meeting that Amtrak will always have long-distance trains and it plans selective upgrades to some long-distance trains. Amtrak will also work to improve meal service aboard all trains.

Writing on the RPA blog, Mathews said that in the wake of the meeting that long-distance trains are no longer targets for elimination for now.

The meeting yielded information about Amtrak’s plans, including selectively upgrading what Anderson termed “epic, experiential” trains such as the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight

Anderson and Gardner also said Amtrak will issue soon a request for proposals to replace the carrier’s diesel locomotives.

Amtrak plans to move quickly to award a contract and begin getting locomotives built and into service.

A similar request for proposals is expected this year about the availability of single-level train sets and diesel multiple units with the aim of getting that equipment under contract and under construction.

This equipment is expected to be used on corridor type service of less than 600 miles and ideally no more than 400 miles.

Gardner described this as a “sweet spot” in which multiple daily frequencies can be offered with an optimized number of train sets so that fares and trip times can be competitive with other modes of transportation.

Although no time frame was given, Amtrak is planning to replaced its Superliner fleet, which Anderson and Gardner described as having reached the end of its reasonable service life.

They acknowledged that Amtrak will not refurbish the interiors of Superliner cars as it has been doing with Amfleet equipment and Acela Express train sets.

Anderson said the Superliners need new frames and therefore management has decided to replace the cars rather than rebuild them.

In a side note, Anderson and Gardner said the refurbishment of Amfleet I cars is nearly finished.

RPA has pressed Amtrak about its food service in the wake of an announcement in April that the carrier would on April 1 eliminate full-service dining on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited in favor of cold meals for sleeping car passengers.

The Amtrak executives said that plan was always considered an experiment and the passenger carrier expects to introduce at least one hot meal offering at some point.

They said Amtrak wants to improve its food service system-wide and is prepared to spend money to do it.

Gardner said that in time Amtrak will upgrade its menus on the Capitol and Lake Shore and offer coach passengers the opportunity to buy meals from that menu in the diner or elsewhere.

In the meantime, Amtrak is seeking to renegotiate its food contracts, upgrade the quality of the food available, and implement a program for passengers to choose their meals ahead of time.

Once chosen, passengers will able to eat their meals when and where they want to eat, whether it be in a dining car, in their room or at their seat.

Amtrak also wants to go cashless, an idea that the carrier has discussed before but never implemented. On-board personnel will be given portable devices to charge passengers for food and beverages.

In a related development, Gardner said the new CAF diners sitting at the Hialeah shops near Miami will soon be in service. He said they are awaiting parts and modification.

Anderson and Gardner elaborated on their congressional testimony about the possibility that Amtrak will not operate on rail lines that are required to have positive train control by late this year but on which the equipment has not been installed.

Gardner said this is not a strategy to discontinue trains or routes, but rather a temporary action until PTC is installed.

Anderson indicated during the meeting that he is laser-focused on implementing an airline-style safety management system by the end of the year, which he said is required of Amtrak by FRA regulation following the National Transportation Safety Board’s implementation recommendation.

He said he has found that freight railroads have a “risk-tolerant” mindset by which “they’re perfectly willing to accept that they’ll wreck a train every three years.”

SMS has been used by airlines to assess individual risks to safe operation and identify specific mitigation steps for each risk.

Anderson said SMS has been proven in the aviation world to not only improve safety but to continuously drive down incidents and risk.

Amtrak plans to identify a range of ways to reach “PTC-equivalent” levels of safety in areas that aren’t fully PTC-compliant.

This includes such steps as issuing slow orders and spiking or blocking facing-point switches for mainline movement.

Different technologies will be deployed to assure accurate train location, sending the conductor up to the head end or, failing everything else, using buses to move passengers around an affected track segment.

Mathews wrote that his take away from the meeting is that that the nature of Amtrak service will evolve and change over time, but that the carrier is pursuing a growth strategy whose objective is to serve more Americans rather than fewer.

“In any case, the long-term shape of the national network will be determined by Congress, which makes the upcoming reauthorization of the surface transportation bill even more important to RPA and its members,” Mathews wrote.

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Cascade Trains Temporary Gets Superliners

May 7, 2018

Amtrak said that due to maintenance and equipment upgrades, some Cascades Service trains will use Superliner equipment between Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

During this time there will be no checked baggage, WiFi, Business Class, or bicycle space. Food service options will be limited.

The changes will affect Train 505 on May 4 and 9 and Train 511 on on May 7, 8 and 10, Train 500 on May 10, and Train 508 on May 7, 8 and 10.

Passengers ticketed for Trains 508 and 511 on May 9 will ride a bus between Portland and Eugene on May 9. There will be no offer checked baggage, WiFi, Business Class, bicycle space or food service.

Chicago Union Station, May 1997

May 5, 2018

It is May 1997 and this is the state of the art of Amtrak rolling stock and equipment as seen at Chicago Union Station.

Partly visible at far left is a Superliner train, perhaps the inbound Southwest Chief from Los Angeles.

In the middle is a Midwest corridor train, perhaps a train to or from Detroit. In this era, trains on that route operated with former Metroliner cab cars facing west.

To the right is another Midwest corridor train with a P32-8 wearing the one-of-a-kind livery in which those units were delivered.

Many wags described them as “Pepsi cans” because the scheme resembled a brand look of the beverage that was used at the time.

This livery proved to be fairly short lived and the P32s would later be repainted in the Phase IV livery that Amtrak adopted in 1997.

Nighttime on the City of New Orleans

May 3, 2018

If you are familiar with lyrics of the Steve Goodman song City of New Orleans, then after you read the headline of this post you know what comes next.

Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.

I once thought Goodman meant moving from one car to another, but that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Why would a passenger en route to New Orleans want to get up and move to another car?

It was later that I realized he probably was referring to the process of switching cars in Memphis.

This included removing head-end cars that came in from Chicago and adding cars that operate from Memphis to New Orleans.

Railroads used to do a lot of switching of cars in and out at major intermediate stations. Diners, sleepers, coaches, lounges, RPOs, and mail and express cars were added and subtracted.

It has been decades since the Illinois Central or even Amtrak has “changed” cars in Memphis.

Today Nos. 58 and 59 change operating crews in Memphis, but that is the extent of it.

In the photo above, the northbound City of New Orleans is shown making its Memphis station stop in March 2012.

Boarding CONO in New Orleans

March 16, 2018

The first call for boarding of Amtrak No. 58, the City of New Orleans, has been made at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal and the sleeper class passengers are the first allowed onto the platform to board their train.

They will shortly be in their assigned rooms, which are in the last car on the train today.

Further down the platform, station workers are stocking the dining and lounge cars. The first meal to be served will be dinner with initial seating coming somewhere in Mississippi. Passengers will watch the Illinois prairie roll by as they have breakfast the next morning.

Passing in Harpers Ferry

March 8, 2018

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited has completed its station work in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and is headed for its next stop in Martinsburg.

On the other track an eastbound CSX manifest freight is about to reach the station.

Station Stop in Greewood

February 17, 2018


Greenwood, Mississippi, is one of that places that has intercity rail passenger service because of Amtrak.

When Amtrak began service on May 1, 1971, it had been several years since a scheduled passenger train had halted in Greenwood.

It would remain 24 years before that would occur again. But thanks to a rerouting of the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans, Greenwood would join the Amtrak network.

No. 59 is shown at Greenwood during its station stop in March 2012.

The Conference is Over

January 24, 2018

Having conferred with the engineer of Amtrak’s westbound Empire Builder during a station stop in Milwaukee, the conductor is walking back to his post. No. 7 was running behind schedule due to having to wait in Chicago for connecting passengers from a late Lake Shore Limited. The Milwaukee Amtrak station was built by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad.

Waiting for His Passengers

January 16, 2018

An Amtrak sleeping car attendant stands on the platform of the north concourse of Chicago Union Station to welcome passengers for his car aboard the westbound Empire Builder.

These tracks were once used by trains of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and today Amtrak uses the ex-Milwaukee Road route between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

Although boarding of No. 7 began on time, the train will depart late from Chicago largely due to late inbound trains, most notably the Lake Shore Limited. Also being held on this day for connecting passengers were the departing California Zephyr and Southwest Chief.

Heritage In Harpers Ferry

January 4, 2018

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is coming to a stop in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, on July 16, 2014.

On the point is the Phase IV heritage locomotive wearing a livery that was relatively short-lived on Amtrak in its original incarnation.

The locomotive is not the only heritage to be seen on this train. The baggage car is from the Heritage fleet, having served for decades.

Since this image was made, Amtrak has placed in service its Viewliner baggage cars and most of the heritage baggage cars have been retired.

But the oldest thing in this image is the former Baltimore & Ohio passenger station next to the tracks.  It opened in 1889. Today it is used by the National Park Service and also used by Maryland Area Rail Commuter trains from Washington.