Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak timetables’

Amtrak Website Tweaked to Help With Reserving Travel on Long-Distance Trains

October 30, 2020

Amtrak has tweaked its website to better help passengers plan travel on long-distance trains now that all of them except the Auto Train are operating tri-weekly or quad-weekly.

The “next travel day” feature will advise passengers seeking to make a reservation on the Amtrak website or via the Amtrak app that the train they wish to ride does not operate on the they have selected.

A popup screen will direct them to the next available day of operation.

However, passengers will still receive the message that “at least one portion of your trip is unavailable. Please try a different date and time.”

Updated timetables for long-distance trains that show days of operation also are available on the Amtrak website although finding them is a somewhat cumbersome task.

They will not come up when clicking on the “schedules” tab as was the case until last spring.

Instead, site users must click the “Destinations” tab. That brings up a U.S. map and clicking on the region of the country in you wish to travel will bring a list of rains operating in that region.

Clicking on a specific train brings up a box offering route “map” and “schedule” buttons.

Schedules that show long-distance and corridor trains are still unavailable.

Some corridor schedules are available on route specific websites although some of those still show timetables that are out of date.

Something to Promote at the Time

January 18, 2020

Amtrak was particularly keen to promote its new equipment in the 1970s as it continued to emphasize the slogan “we’re making the trains worth traveling again.”

That included the use of new SDP40F locomotives that began arriving in 1973 and continued to be delivered through 1974.

An example of that was the cover of the regional timetables that Amtrak issued in the middle 1970s that depicted one of the new locomotives along with a relic of the streamliner era, a dome-lounge-observation car.

Also note that the timetable cover shows a drawing of the new Amtrak station in Jacksonville, Florida.

It may look dated today and remind some of steps that Amtrak took that didn’t quite work out as planned — the use of SDP40F locomotives – or which have not quite stood the test of time — the modular stations designed in the 1970s.

But it was what Amtrak had to promote at the time it did so with pride.

Momentous Month

April 26, 2019

There have been times during the nearly 48 years of Amtrak’s existence when significant changes occurred. October 1979 was one of them.

The tenor of those times is shown by the covers of two timetables Amtrak issued that month.

Early in the month Amtrak discontinued several trains and routes, including the National Limited, Floridian, North Coast Hiawatha, Lone Star, Hilltopper, and Champion.

Discontinuance of those six trains had been in the works for some time.

Although the trains in question were to begin their last trips on Sept. 30 a few trains continued to operate for several days in early October under court orders before being discontinued.

Later that month, Amtrak assigned new Superliner equipment to the Empire Builder and instituted a new train between Los Angeles and Ogden, Utah, known as the Desert Wind; and created a Houston leg of the Inter-American.

The timetables featured muted colors printed on newsprint. No four-color glossy covers and slick paper as had been the practice for much of the 1970s.

This subdued style had been the practice in the previous couple of years, probably a reflection of the period of austerity that Amtrak was in.

As massive as the train discontinuances of 1979 were, they could have been worse. A U.S. Department of Transportation report issued in January 1979 called for ending even more trains, but they were saved due to political wrangling in Congress.

The late 1970s were also a time of transition between the streamliner era equipment that Amtrak inherited when it was formed in 1971 and new equipment that began service in the middle of the decade.

That transition is reflected on the cover of the Oct. 28 timetable in which Amtrak tries to establish a continuous onward march of progress dating back to the introduction of the Metroliners by Penn Central.

By contrast, the cover of the timetable issued on Oct. 1 took a more pragmatic approach of announcing changes without giving much, if any, indication of how widespread they were.

Amtrak was using a traditional public relations strategy of seeking to put a positive face on a situation many viewed as adverse.

The bottom text refers to the fact that some routes or portions of routes were being saved through state funding. This affected the San Joquin in California and a portion of the National Limited route in Missouri.

Contrary to the impression created by the late October timetable, Superliner equipment was not being introduced that month.

Superliner coaches had gone into service early in the year on some Midwest corridor trains on a temporary basis.

The Empire Builder would be the first train to permanently get the equipment.

Amtrak Posts New National Sked Few Changes Made to Heartland Train Schedules

January 22, 2018

Amtrak has a new national timetable posted online and only a few changes have been made to the schedules of its trains that serve the nation’s heartland, many of them minor.

Most  of the changes affect the six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The running times on the route are being shortened

Effective Jan. 22, No. 350 will depart Pontiac 5 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 15 minutes earlier than the current schedule. No. 353 will leave Pontiac 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago eight minutes earlier. No. 355 will depart Pontiac 20 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 32 minutes earlier. Times at stations en route have been adjusted.

No. 350 will leave Chicago at its current scheduled time, but arrive in Pontiac 24 minutes earlier. No. 353 will depart Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 27 minutes earlier. No. 354 will leave Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 14 minutes earlier.

The eastbound Blue Water will depart Chicago at its current time, but will be scheduled to arrive in Port Huron, Michigan, seven minutes earlier. There are corresponding changes at intermediate stations.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Blue Water or the Pere Marquette in both directions.

Effective Jan. 8, the Pennsylvanian began arriving in Pittsburgh from New York six minutes earlier.

There are no changes in the schedules of the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited or eastbound Cardinal. The westbound Cardinal is now scheduled to arrive in Chicago five minutes earlier, but there are no changes in time at intermediate stations.

No changes were made in any schedules of trains operating in the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans corridor. Likewise, all Lincoln Service schedules between Chicago and St. Louis and Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, remain the same.

Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has not changed.

The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are scheduled to arrive one minute earlier in Quincy, Illinois, but the rest of the schedules on the route are unchanged.

The counterparts of the same trains will arrive in Chicago two minutes earlier without any changes in times at intermediate stations.

The westbound Southwest Chief is departing Los Angeles five minutes earlier but its Chicago arrival time is unchanged. Some times have changed at intermediate stations. This change became effective last November.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Southwest Chief, or the California Zephyr, Empire Builder or Texas Eagle.

The Heartland Flyer arrives in Oklahoma City from Fort Worth, Texas, four minutes earlier, a change that took effect last October. The southbound Heartland Flyer schedule is unchanged.

Amtrak has not printed a national timetable since January 2016, but has posted one at its website since then.

The latest timetable features an image of the Maple Leaf traveling through snowstorm.

Missing from this timetable is a letter from Amtrak’s president, which had been a standard feature of previous timetables.

The typography is largely the same as in the previous timetables, but the schedule headings have been tweaked. The schedules were compiled before Amtrak said it was discontinuing the Pacific Parlour Car on the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

The Challenge of Penn Central

November 3, 2017

Amtrak faced many challenges in its early years, one of which was operating over track owned by Penn Central.

Years of deferred maintenance by PC predecessors New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad took a toll in slow orders, derailments and greatly delayed trains.

With Penn Central in bankruptcy proceedings, the prospect of things improving were not that great.

What Amtrak could do was to warn passengers of what they were getting into.

Shown above is a schedule for the Chicago-New York/Washington Broadway Limited that was published in 1975. Notice the note about how these schedules are slower than Penn Central is supposed to provide.

A similar notice appears with schedules of the New York-Kansas City National Limited.

Earlier versions of this notice warned that Nos. 40/41 and Nos. 30/31 were subject to delay west of Pittsburgh. With those delays unlikely to go away due to poor track conditions, Amtrak simply adjusted its schedules to make them slower.

What the 1971, Coming of Amtrak Meant for Varnish Running on the Main Line of Mid-America

January 13, 2017

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A comparison of timetables shows pre- and early Amtrak service on the Illinois Central Railroad between Chicago and New Orleans.

Those familiar with Amtrak’s early history are aware of how on April 30, 1971, dozens of trains began their final runs because they were not included in the new passenger carrier’s initial route network.

Numerous routes lost intercity passenger service, some of them for good.

On routes that kept service, the number of trains often was thinned to no more than one or two roundtrips per day.

One of the little known facts about pre-Amtrak service is that the Illinois Central mainline between Gillman, Illinois, and Du Quoin, Illinois, did not lose a single intercity passenger train between the early 1950s and Amtrak day in 1971.

In part this was due to the strong ridership the ICRR enjoyed on its passenger trains into the 1960s, but other factors came into play as well.

The New York Central used the IC mainline between Chicago and Kankakee, Illinois, for its Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati trains. The IC’s Chicago-St. Louis trains used the mainline between Chicago and Gilman. IC passenger service from St. Louis to the South came onto the mainline at Du Quoin or Carbondale, Illinois.

The IC ended two of its three Chicago-St. Louis roundtrips in the late 1950s and the Chicago-St. Louis Green Diamond was shortened to Chicago-Springfield, Illinois, in the late 1960s.

NYC and Penn Central trimmed service on the Chicago-Cincinnati route in the 1950s and 1960s so that by the coming of Amtrak the only survivor was the James Whitcomb Riley. The last IC train from St. Louis to the South ended in 1970.

Although the IC ended trimmed operation of some trains tween Chicago and the South south of Carbondale in the middle to late 1960s, between Gillman and Du Quoin there was no net reduction in the number of intercity passengers trains for about two decades.

Yes, the IC tried to do away with some of those trains, but met resistance and could not win regulatory approval to end any of them.

On May 1, 1971, Amtrak did what the IC had been unable to do. It cut the number of Chicago-New Orleans trains from two to one and the number of Chicago-Carbondale trains from three to one.

Also ending was the every-other-day City of Miami, but Amtrak’s launched a daily Chicago-Florida train that used the IC as far south as Kankakee. The James Whitcomb Riley also continued under Amtrak auspices.

This comparison of the last public timetable issued by the IC with the first timetable of trains operated by the IC under contract for Amtrak shows how much things changed virtually overnight. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Inside Amtrak’s First ‘True’ Timetable

December 28, 2016

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Amtrak’s Nov. 14, 1971, timetable had a few errors that are humorous now, but were not so funny to Amtrak management at the time.

Amtrak issued three system timetables in 1971, its first year of operation. Two of those were just cut and paste jobs using graphics that the company that printed the folders already had on hand as a leftover from the days when the railroads operated their own trains.

But the first timetable that Amtrak could call its own came out on Nov. 14. Unlike the timetables issued on May 1 and July 12, the Nov. 14 folder featured more than minimal content and actually had been designed.

Reflecting the thinking of the an that the airlines did everything right and were role models to be emulated, Amtrak sought to create an airline-style timetable and a traditional railroad timetable.

In the front of the timetable were city listing that looked just like those of an airline timetable. The traditional linear railroading listing were relegated to the back.

Despite having had time to design the Nov. 14 folder, several embarrassing errors still crept in.

In the airline schedules section, Detroit was spelled “Detriot.” It was spelled correctly in the traditional railroad timetable section.

Also, the timetable for the Empire Builder had Fargo as a city in Indiana rather than North Dakota.

Despite the miscues, the Nov. 14 timetable was still one in which Amtrak could take pride and show that it was making the transition from the railroad era of passenger trains to the Amtrak era.

Amtrak First Day Timetables

December 6, 2016

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One of the many forgotten footnotes from Amtrak’s early years is how on May 1, 1971, many of Amtrak’s contract railroads published timetables just as they had done for decades.

But what was different is that these folders had notices on the cover that the trains shown were being operated under contract for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, which is Amtrak’s formal name.

I have in my collection 10 timetables issued by the following contract railroads on May 1, 1971: Burlington Northern; Illinois Central; Penn Central; Chesapeake & Ohio; Seaboard Coast Line; Southern Pacific; Union Pacific; Louisville & Nashville; and Richmond, Frederickburg & Potomac.

I do not have a first day timetable published by the Santa Fe, although I do have schedules/travel guides published by the AT&SF for Amtrak trains that the Santa Fe operated. Likewise, I do not have a first day timetable published by Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, although I have one dated Sept. 27, 1971.

I’ve never seen an Amtrak timetable published by Missouri Pacific even though MoPac handled the St. Louis-Kansas City leg of a New York-Kansas City train.

Some railroads that joined Amtrak did not host any trains and had no need to publish a timetable. These included the Baltimore & Ohio, Chicago & North Western, Central of Georgia, Delaware & Hudson, Grand Trunk Western, Norfolk & Western, and Northwestern Pacific.

The railroad-published Amtrak timetables generally used the same design and style as those published by those roads in the immediate years before Amtrak. But some were bare bones products that did little more than show timetables and were printed on newsprint.

Some railroads published a timetable on May 1 and that was it. But other railroads, IC and PC being notable examples, continued to publish their own Amtrak timetables well into 1972.

Shown above is a portion of my collection of first day Amtrak timetables. These railroad published timetables might be found at railroad flea markets and shows oriented toward timetable collecting, but I’ve seen few of them at general railroad collectible shows.

The railroads probably did not publish that many of these timetables and most of those printed have long since been discarded.

Nonetheless, these folders are among the most prizes pieces in my collection of Amtrak memorabilia. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

 

Amtrak Issues 1st Online Only System Timetable

September 16, 2016

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Amtrak issued a new system timetable on Sept. 9 and for the first time in the company’s history it is available only online.

The timetable shows no changes in scheduled times for long-distance and corridor trains that serve the Midwest.

Although the timetable shows through cars between Chicago and Boston for the Lake Shore Limited, a check of Amtrak’s website found that passengers still must change trains at Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

However, through cars between Chicago and Boston are shown in the system as being effective Oct. 24.

The typography of the timetable is slightly different from the last system timetable, which was issued on Jan. 11, 2016.

Also missing from the latest timetable is the letter from Amtrak’s president. It has been replaced with a letter from D.J. Stadler, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief operations officer.

Previous Amtrak President Joseph Boardman retired on Sept. 1 and was replaced by Charles “Wick” Moorman, whose appointment had apparently not been finalized when the timetable production work was completed.

The cover features an image of the westbound California Zephyr passing colorful fall foliage near Grandby, Colorado. The image was made by Amtrak trainmaster Steve Ostrowski.

Another Railroad Tradition Bites the Dust

April 25, 2016

Perhaps it was inevitable. Airlines haven’t issued timetables for years so it was a matter of time before Amtrak followed suit because there was money to be saved.

Last week Amtrak said it would no longer print its system timetable. It will continue to create a system timetable as a PDF file that you can download from the rail passenger carrier’s website.

It also will continue to print route-specific folders that will be available at some stations and aboard trains.

You could summarize the reason for ending printing of the national timetable in two words: changing times.

But what, exactly, changed?

In a statement Amtrak said it was its patrons. “Surveys have revealed that few customers want or use the printed System Timetable and expressed a preference to access information on-line,” Amtrak said in a statement.

It also said that “schedules, policies, and programs are ever-changing, and it’s impossible to keep the printed document up-to-date.”

The latter assertion is blowing smoke. Routes rarely change and the vast majority of schedule changes are temporary adjustments made when a host railroad is undergoing major track work.

Amtrak also cited being “environmentally friendly,” which has become a catch-all excuse used by every company in America when it is trying to cut and/or shift the costs of printing to its customers.

Saving itself some money is, I suspect, a primary reason for ending the printed system timetable. Amtrak of late has seen its patronage drop and has been looking for ways to cut expenses.

Ending the printing of the system timetable will save some money, although it probably won’t be a substantial amount.

But it will be one more thing that Amtrak can put on a list when it goes before Congress to show that it has been fiscally responsible.

If the surveys – the results of which we will likely never see – really do reveal that few passengers want or use the national timetable, it is not difficult to understand why.

Aside from the trend toward using smart phones as a primary way of accessing the Internet, the system timetable is bulky and inconvenient to use on the go.

It won’t easily fit in a pocket and the typical traveler probably doesn’t care about schedules for any route other than the one he or she is traveling.

Much of the time if you wanted a system timetable you had to ask for it because they seldom were placed in a rack for distribution.

The system timetable hasn’t always been as large or even as attractive as it has been in recent years.

Although Amtrak timetables have always had a color cover, the interiors were often bare bones offerings of page after page of schedules printed on newsprint paper.

Today’s Amtrak system timetable features color printing and photographs along with numerous display advertisements.

I had always presumed that the revenue from those advertisements paid for the expense of printing the timetable. If so, they didn’t pay for it enough, apparently.

I’ve always been a fan of timetables and I have a near complete collection of Amtrak system timetables dating to the first one issued on May 1, 1971.

I enjoy leafing through the timetable as a way of vicariously traveling by train to countless places in America.

I could still do that, but it won’t be as convenient. I would have to collect all of the route folders and that won’t be easy to do.

In my experience, Amtrak tends to distribute route folders by region, so the Cleveland Amtrak station is not likely to have folders for routes on the West Coast.

Ending the printed system timetable might draw a few letters or emails of protest, but that isn’t likely to have any effect. In the end, Amtrak is probably correct that few passengers care or use the system timetable.

And so another railroad tradition falls by the wayside and I’m going to miss it.