Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak trains’

Shorter Lake Shore Limited This Summer

June 21, 2018

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited is typically one of its longest trains. But it has grown much shorter this summer due to the New York section being suspended due to bridge work in New York City.

The LSL now operates only between Chicago and Boston and is operating as Nos. 448/449 the length of the route. Those numbers previously were used for operating purpose between Boston and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

The train is shown above passing through North East, Pennsylvania, on May 31, less than a week after the New York section was dropped until early September.

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UP Reopens Tunnel on Coast Starlight Route

June 21, 2018

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is expected to resume service soon over its entire length after Union Pacific reopened a tunnel that had been blocked by a cave-in in Oregon on the railroad’s Cascade Subdivision.

Service had been suspended for nearly a month although Amtrak for a time was taking passenger by bus around the closed section of track.

The tunnel collapsed on May 29 while maintenance work, which affected 40 to 50 feet of track.

UP said it will take several days for traffic flow in the area to return to normal.

So Long Durand

June 15, 2018

The passengers have boarded Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water and the conductor has given the highball command on the radio.

Train No. 365 is on time as it departs Durand, Michigan, en route to Chicago. The next stop, though, is East Lansing, Michigan.

P42DC No. 126 is the rear of the train since the Blue Water operates with locomotives on each end so as to avoid having to turn the locomotive or the train in Port Huron, Michigan, during its overnight stay.

Amtrak in Durand uses the Durand Union Station, which once had service provided by the Grand Trunk Western and Ann Arbor railroads.

The station also houses a railroad museum.

Amtrak, BNSF to Implement PTC on Select Routes

June 12, 2018

Amtrak expected to implement positive control operations this week on trains using BNSF tracks, including the Southwest Chief and California Zephyr

It will be the first activation on host-owned territory used by Amtrak. BNSF and Amtrak expect full activation of PTC operations on BNSF routes that host these two trains to be completed by the end of August.

“This is a great step for Amtrak,” said BNSF Assistant Vice President Network Control Systems Chris Matthews. “We have the infrastructure in place that allows Amtrak to operate on our network. We have partnered with them on the federal mandate and in some cases beyond the federal mandate to install PTC on subdivisions not required of BNSF. We look forward to continuing that partnership as they roll-out PTC along our routes.”

As for its own physical plant, Amtrak said it is making progress toward installing and activating PTC.

To date Amtrak said it has installed PTC on 380 of 444 Amtrak-owned locomotives and that 86 percent of the motive power fleet is PTC operable.

Amtrak said 607 of its 900 routes miles has PTC in operation, 95 percent of employees who require training have completed it, and 104 of 120 radio towers have PTC full installed and equipped.

The passenger carrier said it is working with its host railroads on PTC implementation and expects nearly all of them to qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule as allowed under federal law.

A risk analysis study is being undertaken for operating on routes under an extension or under an FRA-approved exemption.

That study is expected to result in developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis.

Reiterating a position that Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson stated earlier, Amtrak said that on a very limited number of routes where a host railroad has not met the federal PTC deadline that Amtrak “will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance.”

Lake Shore Limited Summer Consist

June 2, 2018

As soon as the eastbound Lake Shore Limited rounded a curve in North East, Pennsylvania, I had the answer to a question I had come here to have answered.

The Chicago-Boston only edition of the train is much shorter than the usual order.

A summer track and bridge project on the route that Nos. 48 and 49 use to access New York Penn Station prompted Amtrak to suspend the New York Section of the train through early September.

Passengers boarding the Lake Shore Limited bound for New York City must make an across the platform transfer in Albany-Rensselaer, New York, to reach the Big Apple and all other points served buy No. 48 south of Albany.

I expected a shortened consist for the Lake Shore, but was a little surprised at how short it was.

What I saw on Thursday was one P42DC locomotive, a Viewliner baggage car, four Amfleet II coaches, two cafe cars and two Viewliner sleepers.

This is just three cars longer than the normal consist of the Boston section of a Viewliner baggage car, cafe car, Viewliner sleeper and two coaches.

Also different is that the train is operating as Nos. 448/449. Those numbers have long been used by Amtrak to denote cars assigned to the Boston section.

But it was the first time I’ve heard the train use those numbers for operational purposes west of Albany.

Amtrak Unions Want Dining Cars Back

June 2, 2018

Labor unions representing Amtrak workers say changes in dining service aboard the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited are threatening jobs and pensions as well as annoying passengers.

The unions want Amtrak to reinstate full dining-car service on the both trains, which serve northern Ohio.

The dining changes, which became effective on June 1, involve providing cold meals to sleeping car passengers.

Amtrak executives have characterized the cost-cutting changes as experimental and pledged to provide at least one hot entrée at a future time.

The executives told the Rail Passengers Association that Amtrak is studying making improvements system-wide food service improvements.

The Amtrak Service Workers Council, however, is not impressed.

“We pledge to do everything in our power to preserve these jobs and the unique Amtrak dining experience,” the council said in a statement.

The council said that seven chefs have been furloughed and given a little more than a week to make a major life decision, meaning moving to Chicago or Seattle in order to continue working for Amtrak.

Some of them have 30 years of service and live on the East Coast.

“Therefore, it is certain that closing dining cars on these routes will have immediate and ripple effects on Amtrak workers across the country, not only those employed on the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited lines.

The union group also took aim at how Amtrak sought to frame the change, issuing a news release and making statements charactering the changes as providing “fresh” and “contemporary” meal service.

The council said the new meal service is nothing more than a cold snack in a cardboard box being delivered to passengers in their rooms.

“Riders are paying close to $1,000 a ticket, only to be fed yogurt and sandwiches? We have been told by our members that passengers already are expressing their dissatisfaction with the upcoming service and meal plan changes,” the council said.

“Our members are on the frontlines, and they know that passengers view the current dining service as part of the experience of riding a train through the country along a long-distance route.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari declined to comment on the council’s statement other than to say the pre-packaged meals are not limited to the examples cited in statements.

Amtrak expects to save $3 million annual by eliminating full-service dining cars from the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Late Day in Jackson

June 1, 2018

It is late afternoon in Jackson, Michigan. Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Cities is making its scheduled stop at the venerable former Michigan Central station en route to Pontiac via Detroit.

To avoid having to turn the motive power in Pontiac, the Lake Cities and other trains on the Chicago-Detroit route at the time operated with a locomotive or cab car on one end.

I don’t recall what No. 353 had on the head end, but on the rear was P42DC No. 34 in the Phase IV livery.

When this image was made on Sept. 12, 2003, the Genesis locomotives had been mainstays on Amtrak corridor and long-distance trains for about a decade.

Some things have changed on the Chicago-Detroit corridor since I made this image. All trains have been renamed Wolverine Service and the trains no longer have locomotives or cab cars on both ends.

The Jackson station no longer has a ticket agent, only a caretaker to open and close the depot at train time.

Yet the P42DC remains the mainstay motive power, at least for now. Amtrak was to begin assigning Charger locomotives to this route, once it gets some positive train control issues worked out.

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.

CN Track Work to Affect CONO

May 22, 2018

Track work being performed by Canadian National on the southern end of its route will affect operations of Amtrak’s southbound City of New Orleans between May 29 and July 11.

No. 59 will depart Chicago as scheduled at 8:05 p.m. and operate normally between Chicago and Jackson, Mississippi.

The train will depart from all stations from Jackson to New Orleans, two hours later than the current schedule, Monday through Friday.

However, No. 59 will operate on its normal schedule between Jackson and New Orleans on Saturdays and Sundays.

It will also operate on the normal schedule between Chicago and New Orleans for the Independence Day holiday period on July 2.

Track Work to Disrupt Coast Starlight

May 22, 2018

Union Pacific track work will disrupt the operations of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight late this month and early next month in Oregon.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that on May 28 and 29 and on June 5, Train No. 11 will terminate at Eugene. Buses will transport passengers between Eugene and Klamath Falls, stopping at Chemult.

The train may be delayed between 30 and 60 minutes departing Klamath Falls.

On the same dates, Train No. 14 will terminate at Klamath Falls with buses operating between Klamath Falls and Eugene, stopping at Chemult.

A connection to Train No. 28, the eastbound Empire Builder, at Portland will be made via Bus 5528 at Eugene.

On the days of service disruptions, Train No. 14 may be delayed between 6 and 7 hours.

On June 5, Train No. 14 will not depart Klamath Falls until 10:45 a.m.