Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak western long-distance trains’

Amtrak Marks 90th Anniversary of Empire Builder

June 13, 2019

Amtrak this week observed the 90th anniversary of is Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

The train was created by the Great Northern Railway with the first westbound train departing Chicago on June 10, 1929.

The train was named for James Hill, the “empire builder,” who in the late 19th century founded what became the GN.

GN and three railroads merged in 1970 to form Burlington Northern, which continued to operate the Empire Builder until May 1, 1971, when Amtrak took it over and changed the route to include Milwaukee by using what is now Canadian Pacific between Chicago and St. Paul.

In October 1979, the Empire Builder became the first overnight train to be assigned bi-level Superliner rail cars.

Amtrak said that last year 428,854 passengers rode the Empire Builder.

River Runners Suspended Through June 10

June 4, 2019

Amtrak said today that it has extended the suspension of its Missouri River Runner service between St. Louis and Kansas City through June 10.

It cited continued heavy freight traffic on host railroad Union Pacific on the route of the River Runners, which has been the result of flooding in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The service suspension has been in effect since May 22. Passengers are being transported to and from all stations served by the trains via chartered buses that seek to operate close to the schedule of the trains they’ve replaced.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said it along with the Missouri Department of Transportation, which funds the River Runners, is continuing to monitor the situation on a daily basis.

UP officials said that flooding has receded slightly in some areas, but a level break  is expected to cause severe flooding at Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Also out of service for now is Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, which has been suspended between St. Louis and Fort Worth, Texas.

Nos. 21 and 22 continue to operate between Chicago and St. Louis and between Fort Worth and San Antonio.

Flooding in Missouri briefly caused a suspension of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief last week, sending passengers to chartered buses.

Amtrak’s Missouri River Runners use the Sedalia Subdivision between Kansas City and Jefferson City, Missouri, and UP officials have been carefully watching flooding near that route.

Another UP route between Kansas City and Jefferson is closed due to flooding.

A report said the BNSF Ottumwa Subdivision, used by Amtrak’s California Zephyr, had water covering the tracks in Burlington, Iowa.

However, trains were operating through there at reduced speed and the Mississippi River had reportedly crested at 24.5 feet last Saturday.

A breached levy did not affect the BNSF tracks in Burlington because they are outside of the level system used to protect downtown.

BNSF personnel were relaying operating instructions to passing trains via radio because power to switches had been disrupted.

The flooding in the Midwest is the worst the region has seen since 1993.

Flooding Leads to More Service Suspensions

June 2, 2019

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle has been canceled between St. Louis and Fort Worth, Texas, through June 7 due to flooding.

In the interim, Nos. 21 and 22 will continue operating between Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas, and between Chicago and St. Louis.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the flooding has increased freight traffic on host railroad Union Pacific. The same issue led to the suspension of Missouri River Runner service through June 2 between St. Louis and Kansas City.

No substitute transportation is being provided to the stations between St. Louis and Fort Worth although Amtrak said that Trinity Railway Express offers commuter train service between Fort Worth and Dallas.

Amtrak said some tickets are available for passengers wishing to travel an alternate routing between Illinois or Missouri and Texas using the Southwest Chief and Heartland Flyer  via an Amtrak Thruway Bus connecting Newton, Kan., and Oklahoma City (Routes 8903 & 8904).

Flooding Prompts CZ Detour

May 30, 2019

Flooding that affected the BNSF route used by Amtrak’s California Zephyr between Chicago and Omaha, Nebraska, had Nos. 5 and 6 detouring on Wednesday.

The trains used the former Chicago & North Western line now owned by Union Pacific.

Amtrak said No. 6 will also use the ex-CN&W on Thursday.

However, Amtrak is unsure what route that No. 5 departing Chicago today will be taking.


Yuma Seeking Funding for New Amtrak Station

May 14, 2019

Officials in Yuma, Arizona, are seeking funding to improve the city’s Amtrak station.

The city would like to convert the station into a multimodal transportation center, but lacks the funding needed to launch that project.

Their efforts to win a federal grant for the work have been rejected for three consecutive years although the city is trying for a fourth time.

If funding can be found, the city wants to remodel the Hotel Del Sol building that has been closed since the 1970s.

It would be used for Amtrak, local transit routes and a shuttle to the airport.

Deputy Mayor Gary Knight said once funding is secured the new transportation hub could be completed in two years.

One Amtrak passenger described the current Amtrak station in Yuma as a “Barren Oasis.”

Another regular passenger said the nearest location with restroom facilities or to get something to eat or drink is a half-mile away.

Amtrak’s tri-weekly New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited serves Yuma.

Private Car Trip Celebrates Golden Spike Anniversary

May 8, 2019

In what its organizers have described as likely the last of its kind, four private rail cars are traveling on Amtrak this week as part of the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike in Utah to complete the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.

The cars are Berlin, built by Pullman Standard in 1956 for the Union Pacific; Pacific Union; Cimarron River, built in 1948 as a Pullman sleeping car; and the Milwaukee Super Dome.

Berlin, Pacific Union and Cimarron River are all sleepers.

The cars departed Chicago on May 2 on the Southwest Chief. They transferred in Los Angeles to the Coast Starlight and later transferred to the California Zephyr.

The trip is being sponsored by Altiplano Rail and was marketed as the Golden Spike Rail Tour.

A spokesman for Altiplano Rail told Trains magazine that due to increased Amtrak fees and restrictions on operations of private rail cars “this will likely be one of the last trips we operate.”

Woman Kicked Off Sunset for Noisy Service Dogs

May 7, 2019

A woman riding the westbound Sunset Limited was recently kicked off the train in a small west Texas town after Amtrak personnel decided her service dogs were making too much noise.

The elderly passenger was put off the train in Alpine, Texas. She had been en route to the San Francisco Bay region to visit her daughter.

A news report of the incident said the woman began her trip in Killeen, Texas, and had a room in a sleeping car.

Making the trip with her were two support dogs. The passenger said a car attendant complained that the dogs were making too much noise, something the woman denied.

Police in Alpine notified the Rev. Johanna McLeod who came to the rescue of the stranded passenger.

The pastor and local police brought food to the woman and put her up in a hotel. Her daughter drove to Alpine from California, a 24-hour drive, to rescue the woman.

McLeod said it was not the first time she has come to the rescue of a passenger kicked off the Sunset Limited in Alpine for reasons she doesn’t always agree with.

She suspects the elderly woman a victim of discrimination because of her gender, disability, and race (African American)

An Amtrak spokesperson refused to discuss with a Texas TV station why the woman had been removed from the train, but did say the passenger carrier has refunded her ticket.

McLeod said the Ministerial Alliance she leads has had to help so many stranded Amtrak passengers that it has almost gone bankrupt.

Omaha Being Served by Buses

April 5, 2019

Although the California Zephyr has resumed operating between Chicago and Denver, it is for now bypassing the Amtrak station in Omaha, Nebraska.

Amtrak posted a service advisory on Thursday that Nos. 5 and 6 are using a detour route in Nebraska between Ashland and Oreapolis.

The CZ’s regular route is closed due to BNSF construction on a bridge damaged by recent flooding.

The service advisory did not say how long the Zephyr will be detouring.

Amtrak said that bus/van service would be used to transport ticketed passengers the Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, Amtrak stations.

Passengers will be offered the option of re-booking with the alternate transportation or traveling to/from alternate stations Lincoln or Creston, Iowa.

Buses 4005 and 4105 will connect to Train 5 while Buses 4006 and 4106 will connect to Train 6.

Bus 4006 will depart Omaha 3 hours, 14 minutes earlier than the normal train schedule.

CZ Resumption Pushed Back to Thursday

April 3, 2019

Amtrak plans to restore the California Zephyr this week between Chicago and Denver, but passengers for Omaha, Nebraska, will be riding a bus for a while longer.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the first eastbound CZ to operate through to Chicago departed from Emeryville, California, on Tuesday (April 2).

The first westbound Zephyr to originate in Chicago will depart on Thursday (April 4).

Amtrak said rail service to Omaha remains suspended due to the regular BNSF route of Nos. 5 and 6 being closed. Amtrak trains are detouring within Omaha.

The Zephyr has been suspended over its normal route through Iowa for two weeks due to flooding. For a short time, it detoured over a Union Pacific route via Ames, Iowa.

The service advisory said charter buses will provide transportation for Omaha passengers. They will board or disembark from the train in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Amtrak had expected to resume normal service east of Denver on April 1, but Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said host railroad BNSF said the route was not yet ready.

No alternative transportation has been provided to CZ passengers traveling to or from points between Chicago and Denver during the service suspension.

California Zephyr to Resume Operating to Chicago

March 30, 2019

The California Zephyr will return to its normal route between Chicago and Denver next week, but will bypass the Omaha, Nebraska, station through late April.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that trips originating March 30 from Emeryville, California, and on April 1 from Chicago use most of the normal route east of Denver.

Nos. 5 and 6 will detour in Omaha because the regular route over the Platte River was destroyed by flooding and is not expected to be rebuilt and reopened for several weeks.

Plans are for the Zephyr to detour between Ashland and Oreapolis, Nebraska.

Omaha passengers will be transported on chartered buses between Omaha and the Amtrak station in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Amtrak is working to create a bus connection between Omaha and Creston, Iowa, for eastbound passengers starting their journey in Omaha.

However, in the meantime, Omaha passengers traveling eastbound on No. 6 will have to leave at 2 a.m. to travel to Lincoln to catch their train.

The scheduled Omaha departure time of No. 6 is 5:14 a.m.

The rail travel time between Lincoln and Creston is shorter than the normal route via the Omaha station so No. 6 will be held in Creston until its scheduled 7:04 departure time if it is operating on time.

The California Zephyr detoured for a week between Chicago and Omaha on a former Chicago & North Western route, but that was ended in favor of Denver-Emeryville operation due to chronic lateness and equipment issues.