Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak trains’

Here Comes Amtrak No. 48

June 22, 2019

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passes BE Tower in Berea, Ohio, in the Cleveland suburbs on a late spring morning.

The train was operating just over two hours behind schedule at the time.

BE Tower was closed several years ago by Conrail but the building continues to stand.

The Trips From Hell

June 8, 2019

A very late eastbound Capitol Limited cruises through Rootstown on Friday afternoon.

Even before their trip began on Thursday evening, passengers aboard Amtrak’s eastbound Capitol Limited were already experiencing adversity.

No. 30 pulled out of Chicago Union Station at 9:53 p.m., 3 hours and 13 minutes late.

Little did they know that that wasn’t the worst of what would turn into a journey from hell.

More than 200 miles away in Swanton, Ohio, a town of 3.600 that many of those aboard the train had never heard of, workers dealing with the aftermath of a derailment that was blocking both mains of the route used by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Those booked on Amtrak train No. 30 of June 6-7 to travel the distance to Washington Union Station would finally reach the end of their journey at 5:06 a.m. Saturday, 16 hours later than they expected.

Passengers aboard the Lake Shore Limited that left Chicago at 10 p.m., 30 minutes late would have an equally hellish ride. By the time No. 48 reached South Bend, Indiana, it was 58 minute down. The worst was yet to come.

Both Nos. 30 and 48 would not get beyond Bryan, Ohio.

Their train sets were combined in Bryan and returned to Chicago, leaving there at 1:28 p.m. and arriving in Chicago at 4:58 p.m.

But at least those traveling westbound got to where they were going on Friday. It would be a different story for those headed east on Nos. 30 and 48.

The equipment that had passed through Northeast Ohio on Nos. 29 and 49 early Friday morning turned back at Toledo.

Crews turned the entire consist of No. 29 which returned to Washington as No. 30. The locomotives of No. 49 were cut off and placed on what had been the rear of the train to transform it into No. 48.

As for the passengers, those going east disembarked at Bryan, which is a regular stop for the Lake Shore Limited, but not for the Capitol Limited.

Westbound passengers got off in Toledo. School buses rented from the Sylvania school district were used to shuttle passengers between trains.

The Blade of Toledo reported a passenger as saying that Amtrak underestimated how many buses were needed and coordination and accommodations could have been better.

But Meleke Turnbull told the newspaper it could have been worse, too. “I’m still in a positive, good mood,” she said.

Jack Ciesielski, who was en route by train from Baltimore to California, said his train halted some time after midnight. Passengers were told later there had been a derailment ahead.

“They handled it coolly and professionally,” Mr. Ciesielski said about the Amtrak staff.

Maureen Ciesielski said her fellow passengers maintained a positive attitude, helping each other with luggage and while being kind, and for the most part, understanding.

Railway Age magazine published on its website an account written by David Peter Alan, the chairman of the Lackawanna Coalition, a rail passenger advocacy group in New Jersey.

He was one of those aboard the eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

He said No. 48 arrived in Bryan at 3:20 a.m. The school buses that would transport them to Toledo did not arrive until 8 a.m.

One of the bus drivers reported that she was called at 6:30 a.m. to go to work transporting Amtrak passengers.

Alan said there were seven schools buses dispatched to Bryan, which he said was not nearly enough to handle the number of passengers from Nos. 30 and 48.

The first wave of passengers left Bryan at 8:27 a.m. and arrived in Toledo at 9:47 a.m. They then picked up passengers from Nos. 29 and 49 and took them to Bryan.

No. 29 had arrived in Toledo on time at 6:19 a.m. whereas No. 49 arrived at 6:19 a.m., 25 minutes late. Some passengers waited between four to six hours to catch a ride on their bus.

The buses left Toledo over a two-hour period, with the last two departing at 11:47 a.m. The combined Nos. 29 and 49 didn’t leave for Chicago until 1:28 p.m.

Amtrak officials said the earliest the combined Nos. 29 and 30 could reach Chicago was 3:30 p.m., which ensured that unless the western long-distance trains were held most of them would miss their connections.

It actually arrived at either 4:58 p.m. or 4:58 p.m., depending on which arrival time you want to believe on the Amtrak website.

Alan said passengers waiting to depart from Toledo had a long wait.

Harpist Jacob Deck tried to entertain the increasingly impatient crowd with music.

A boarding call for No. 48 was made at 11:06 a.m. but boarding did not begin until 11:50.

The train departed at 12:24 p.m. Passengers had to ride backwards because neither the train nor the seats had been turned.

At 2 p.m. No. 48 was nearing Olmsted Falls when, Alan said, it should have been 30 minutes from Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

On the other hand, Alan said, passengers also got to see Sandusky Bay in daylight.

Those traveling to eastern cities knew that if their projected arrival times were correct, they would reach their destination after most public transit has stopped operating for the night.

The projections were that No. 30 would get to Washington at 12:39 a.m. and No. 48 would get to New York at 1:20 a.m.

But those were wildly off the mark. It didn’t help that No. 48 lost three hours on CSX between Cleveland and Erie, Pennsylvania, most of that from sitting in the Erie station for nearly two hours.

No. 30 sat arrived in Pittsburgh at 6:39 p.m. but didn’t leave until 8:04 p.m. By then it was 14 hours, 44 minutes late.

Those dwell times might have been due to waiting for a “rested” crew.

When this post was written at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, No. 448 was projected to arrive at Boston South Station at 10:09 a.m., 14 hours and eight minutes late.

No. 48 was projected to arrive into New York Penn Station at 7:14 a.m., 12 hours and 39 minutes late.

Alan said the sorry story of the fates of Nos. 30 and 48 illustrate “that Amtrak’s preparedness is dreadfully deficient.”

He said the derailment occurred before Nos. 30 and 48 left Chicago, leading him to wonder why Amtrak didn’t detour the trains and therefore avoid the bus bridge?

He also wondered why it took more than five hours to get buses out of Bryan and why there weren’t enough westbound buses originating in Toledo.

“Why were eastbound passengers forced to wait almost three hours at Toledo to continue their trip? Why did the combined Chicago-bound train leave Bryan so late? Why, why, why?” he wrote.

Alan believes Amtrak needs a service recovery plan to deal with emergencies such as this one.

If such a plan existed, it would have enabled Amtrak to have gotten buses into position sooner.

That plan would also include providing stranded passengers with food, which Alan said Amtrak did not provide other than the “emergency snack packs” kept aboard trains that he said are small and not exactly nutritious.

There are answers to those questions and some of them might involve factors beyond Amtrak’s control.

Whatever the case, you have to wonder how many of those affected by those trips from hell will be willing to board Amtrak again anytime soon.

In the meantime, No. 30 left Chicago Friday night at 12:11 a.m., 5 hours and 31 minutes late while No. 48 departed at 12:23 a.m., 2 hours and 53 minutes late. Both trains were projected to reach Northeast Ohio after 8 a.m. today.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

In Its Customary Position

May 21, 2019

An Amtrak Viewliner baggage car brings up the rear of the westbound Lake Shore Limited as it cruises through Olmsted Fall, Ohio, en route to Chicago.

The next stop for Train 49 will be Elyria, Ohio.

The typical operation of Nos. 48 and 49 has the Boston section at the front of the train. Only the New York section still has a baggage car and it is always on the rear.

And that’s for good reason, too. You would not want passengers walking through a baggage going to and from the Boston and New York sections.

Ahead of the baggage cars are a pair of Viewliner sleepers and Viewliner dining car Dover.

Service Stop in Albuquerque

April 7, 2019

Superliner equipment had been assigned to Amtrak’s Southwest Limited for less than two years when I rode the No. 4 from Los Angeles to Kansas City.

The train is shown here making a service stop in Albuquerque.

On the rear is sleeper George M. Pullman, car No. 32009. It was the last passenger car made by the Pullman-Standard, a predecessor company of the Pullman Car Company founded by George Pullman.

Amtrak initially ordered 235 Superliners from Pullman-Standard in April 1975 but soon upped that to 284 cars.

No. 32009 was one of two sleepers on No. 4 on this day, but I had accommodations in the car ahead of it.

Nos. 3 and 4 have since been renamed the Southwest Chief.

 

Not a Good Restart for No. 48

February 2, 2019

First there was the severe cold that sidelined Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited for two days.

Although other long distance trains out of Chicago were to resume operations on Thursday night (Jan. 31), the restart of the Lake Shore was held until Friday.

Make that Saturday morning. No. 48 left Chicago Union Station 6 hours and 28 minutes late.

It managed to gain back some time en route but was still 5 hours, 35 minutes down when it reached Cleveland on Saturday morning.

It is shown passing through Olmsted Falls, a Cleveland suburb, just before 11 a.m. on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

Amtrak Has Reduced Level of Public Information

January 12, 2019

Amtrak is providing fewer statistics to the public regarding the operation of its trains.

In a news brief in the newsletter of the American Association of Passenger Rail Car Owners, Washington reporter Ross Capon said the reduction of information is significant because the missing statistics better show the value of long-distance passenger trains.

Amtrak provides monthly performance reports known as the Route Level Results.

Unlike past reports, the current reports are not longer showing longer shows gross ticket revenue, seat miles, or passenger-miles.

Capon wrote that the passenger-mile (one passenger carried one mile) “best reflects the LD trains’ value.”

He cited as an example the September 2017 report, which indicated that Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains accounted for 40.1 percent of Amtrak’s passenger-miles in fiscal year 2017.

That information is missing from the September 2018 report.

Capon, a former executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said this has enabled Amtrak executives to get away with claiming that long-distance trains account for only 15 percent of Amtrak ridership.

Not Open for Meals

August 1, 2018

Bringing up the rear of Amtrak’s northbound Saluki is Viewliner diner Indianapolis.

But the diner is not open to serve meals to passengers. Instead, it’s purpose is to help Train 390 meet an axle count requirement mandated by host railroad Canadian National.

It’s a safety measure to ensure that the train triggers grade crossing warning devices. Any Amtrak train using a CN route must have a minimum number of axles.

The Indianapolis is the not the only dining car on the Saluki. Ahead of the baggage car is Heritage diner No. 8505, a former Northern Pacific car built by Budd in 1957.

Amtrak may have retired its Heritage diners from their intended purpose, but some of those cars continue to run up miles in a different type of revenue service.

The Saluki is shown departing Effingham, Illinois.

S.W. Chief Travel Time Being Cut

August 1, 2018

Even as a fight is going on about the future of Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, the passenger carrier is decreasing the travel times of Nos. 3 and 4.

Starting July 31, No. 4 will depart Los Angeles 10 minutes earlier at 6 p.m. and arriving earlier in Chicago.

No. 3 will depart Chicago 10 minutes earlier at 2:50 p.m. and arrive earlier in Los Angeles.

Amtrak has yet to post the new schedules on its website.

In a passenger advisory, Amtrak said the faster travel time was made possible by increased speeds in Kansas and Colorado.

 

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.

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.