Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak western long-distance trains’

Winding Through the Mountains

February 15, 2020

It is July 31, 1979. I’m riding the westbound San Francisco Zephyr en route to Oakland, California, after having boarded in Denver the day before.

No. 5 is twisting and turning through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California on the tracks of Southern Pacific.

Up front pulling the train is a pair of SDP40F locomotives.

It’s my first trip on this route and I’m not sure where I made this photograph.

But it was out an open vestibule door window. It was quite a warm day and by the time we got out of the mountains the air conditioning has ceased working in some cars.

Standing by an open vestibule window felt good.

Empire Builder Still Disrupted

January 16, 2020

BNSF was still working to reopen its Scenic Subdivision in Washington State that is used by Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

The route has been closed due to downed trees and wires caused by snowslides.

An Amtrak spokeswoman told Trains magazine on Wednesday that the carrier was providing bus service between Seattle and Spokane, Washington. Buses were also being operated for passengers traveling between Spokane and Portland, Oregon.

Olivia Irvin said Amtrak would resume operating west of Spokane when it safe to do and host railroad BNSF give the OK.

The Amtrak website showed that the status of the westbound Builder from Chicago today (Jan. 16) as unavailable due to a service disruption.

The site also shows the same for No. 7 that is scheduled to depart on Friday and Saturday.

The last Empire Builder to operate across the BNSF Scenic Sub ran on Jan. 11.

Trains that originated on or before Jan. 11 headed eastbound were subject to major delays.

No. 8 that left the West Coast on Jan. 10 was delayed for more than nine hours at Leavenworth, Washington, due to weather conditions. Irvin said there were 68 passengers on board that train.

CZ Consists Expand West of Denver

January 16, 2020

A posting on a Facebook page for the the Friends of the California Zephyr said that Amtrak is assigning another coach to the Nos. 5 and 6 west of Denver.

The coach is operating between Denver and Emeryville, California, where the Zephyr originates and terminates.

The reason given for the assignment is to handle increased passenger demand between Sacramento, California, and Reno, Nevada, and between Denver and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

During the winter the normal consist of Nos. 5 and 6 is two coaches, two sleepers, dining car, Sightseer Lounge, transition sleeper, and a baggage car.

The extra coach will be removed from No. 6 in the evening and added to No. 5 in Denver the next morning, the posting said.

Severe Weather Results in Empire Builder Cancellations

January 15, 2020

Some sections of Amtrak’s Empire Builder were canceled this week in the wake of severe winter weather that closed host railroad BNSF in the Pacific Northwest.

Amtrak issued a service alert that the rain that departed Chicago on Jan. 13 would turn at Spokane, Washington. The train departing Chicago on Jan. 14 was also expected to turn at Spokane.

However, a check of the Amtrak website indicated that the depart status for both of those dates was unavailable due to a service disruption.

A later update indicated that alternative service was to be provided for Empire Builder passengers between Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Amtrak also said in a service alert that alternative transportation is being provided between Spokane and Seattle and Portland.

Trains 7 and 27 scheduled to depart today (Jan. 15) from Chicago have been canceled. The Amtrak website said the status for Nos. 7 and 27 for Jan. 16 to 20 through  is unavailable due to a service disruption.

An online report said Nos. 8/28 did not arrive in Chicago on Jan. 14th and will not arrive today.

A service alert said Nos. 8/28 on Jan. 16 and 17 will originate in Spokane.

The BNSF mainline across Washington State saw heavy snow trigger snowslides and downed trees.

At one point the Scenic Subdivision between Seattle and Wenatchee had more than 250 trees fall across its rails.

Aboard the North Coast Hiawatha During Its Last Days

January 8, 2020

I made it a point in September 1979 to make a trip from Chicago to Seattle aboard the North Coast Hiawatha.

The train was set to be discontinued on Oct. 1 although a court order kept it running for a few more days before the inevitable occurred.

Shown is the dome car assigned to No. 17. I made this image from an open vestibule door as the train made its way through Montana.

Dome cars on Amtrak’s western trains were becoming an endangered species at the time.

New Superliner equipment was coming and watching the Rocky Mountains from a dome would within another year or two become a thing of the past unless you were traveling in a private car.

No. 17 is on the tracks of the former Northern Pacific, which heavily promoted its use of dome cars on its North Coast Limited.

Landslide Disrupts Cascades Service

January 8, 2020

A landslide has resulted in Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland being replaced by buses through Jan. 9.

In a service alert, Amtrak said host railroad BNSF imposed a moratorium on passenger operations on the route until the landslide site can be cleared and the tracks repaired.

The landslide occurred on Tuesday between Tacoma and Lacey, Washington, and has blocked both tracks.

Northbound Cascades originating in Eugene, Oregon, were being held at Portland.

Also terminating in Portland will be the northbound Coast Starlight.

Cascade trains will continue to operate between Portland and Eugene, Amtrak said.

Empire Builder Returning to Normal

January 6, 2020

Amtrak’s Empire Builder is slowly making its way back to normal after its route reopened in Idaho.

The route had closed on Jan. 1 after a westbound BNSF train derailed near Katka, about 10 miles east of Bonners Ferry, on the Kootenai River Subdivision.

The derailment closed the route for three days and sent Empire Builder passengers riding a bus west of Whitefish, Montana.

BNSF said a rockslide caused the derailment in which there were no injuries.

On Sunday the westbound Builder reached Whitefish  more than 8 hours late because of delays on the previous eastbound run.

Trains that originated in Seattle and Portland on Sunday were on time as they were traveling to Spokane, Washington, where they combine into a single train for Chicago.

No. 8 arrived in Spokane 37 minutes early while No. 28 was 30 minutes early.

BNSF Idaho Derailment Disrupts Empire Builder

January 4, 2020

Operations of Amtrak’s Empire Builder were disrupted this week due to a derailment of a BNSF freight train in Idaho that closed the carrier’s route to the Pacific Northwest.

The westbound manifest freight derailed on Wednesday evening on BNSF’s Kootenai River Subdivision near Katka, about 10 miles east of Bonners Ferry.

Three locomotives and six cars left the tracks with the lead unit landing in the Kootenai River.

Rescue workers had to use ropes to rescue the crew, but otherwise there were no injures.A rockslide is thought to have caused the derailment.

Amtrak’s Chicago to Seattle Train No. 7 was turned on Thursday at Whitefish, Montana, after it received serving in the BNSF yard.

That included restocking the dining car with food from local grocery stores.

Passengers were taken west of Whitefish on chartered buses.

Trains 8 and 28 were expected to depart Seattle and Portland respectively on Friday as normal. The train that departed Chicago on Thursday was to be held in Whitefish on Friday until BNSF reopens the line.

Remembering The Empire Builder’s 70th Anniversary

January 3, 2020

For the 70th anniversary of the Empire Builder in 1999, Amtrak commissioned artist J. Craig Thorpe to create a design that would appear on a commemorative menu cover to be used aboard the train.

I rode No. 6 to Chicago in 1999 when those menus were being used. I asked the dining car steward if I could have one but she said no.

So the reproduction above was scanned from a menu that I later purchased from Amtrak.

Back then the Empire Builder even had its own magazine, which was published twice a year.

In a piece written for the National Park Traveler, Thorpe noted that he had created paintings of the Empire Builder in various settings at the eastern end of Glacier National Park and ridden the train to and from the park.

He describes his work in illustrating the Empire Builder in the park in the article, which can be found here:

The Empire Builder has since celebrated its 80th and 90th anniversaries and although Amtrak did mark it occurred in a more muted way.

A news release noted that passengers departing Chicago on the 90th anniversary of the Empire Builder received commemorative certificates. Sleeping car passengers received a wooden train whistle.

The online Amtrak store had for sale prints of some of Thorpe’s paintings of the Empire Builder along with other merchandise. But there was no special menu cover.

Given the view that the current Amtrak management has toward long-distance trains and its emphasis on saving every possible dime, it seems unlikely that we’ll see menu covers like the one above again anytime soon.

EB California Zephyr Detours After BNSF Derailment

November 14, 2019

Amtrak’s California Zephyr detoured between Chicago and Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday due to a derailment on its BNSF route in western Iowa.

The train operated on the former Chicago & North Western, a line now owned by Union Pacific.

BNSF said the derailment occurred near McPherson about 3:30 a.m.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the eastbound Zephyr passengers detoured on the UP route with passengers taken by bus to missed intermediate stops.

Westbound passengers were expected to ride the Southwest Chief to Galesburg, Illinois, where they would board chartered buses to travel across Iowa.

However, an online report said No. 5 departed Chicago at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.