Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak western long-distance trains’

Clear Block in Springfield

October 15, 2022

With its station work complete in Springfield, Illinois, Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Texas Eagle is leaving the former Gulf Mobile & Ohio station in the capital city. The image was made on March 1. At one time the signal showing the clear indication was a home signal for an at-grade crossing of a Baltimore & Ohio branch line to Beardstown, Illinois. But the ex-B&O line is long gone so the signal is now just an intermediate signal.

Equipment Shortages Hurt Long-Distance Trains

October 13, 2022

Equipment shortages have led to cancellations of some trips of Amtrak’s long-distance trains while other trips have departed their terminals with less than the usual assigned cars.

At least twice in September the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief have left Chicago without a Sightseer lounge.

Aside from lacking enough “protection equipment” to cover all runs, the cancellations and the missing equipment issues have sometimes been caused by late inbound trains and crews that turn to make up the next departure of that train. In short, Amtrak has little margin for error.

A report on the website of Trains magazine noted that even in its best of times Amtrak has never had a large number of spare cars and locomotives to make up a trainset as a hedge against late inbound trains at some West Coast terminals.

Yet in the past, the Trains report said, there have been enough spare cars in Chicago and Los Angeles to make up an emergency spare train because those terminals are endpoints for three long-distance routes.

A lack of serviceable equipment that has resulted from shortages of mechanical workers has meant that, for example, the California Zephyr in recent weeks has operated with two Superliner coaches and sleeping cars, one less of each than it had in previous summers.

That has hindered Amtrak’s ability to accommodate passengers displaced by missed connections due to late trains.

The story can be read at

Hail to the One Summer Season Chief

August 21, 2022

It is Aug. 12, 1972, in Joliet, Illinois, and Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Chief is making its station stop. The Chief was a summer season only train that operated for just three months.

It operated on a 40-hour schedule and departed Chicago Union station at 9 a.m. Its eastbound counterpart departed Los Angeles at 1 p.m. By comparison the departure times of the Super Chief/El Capitan that summer were 6:30 p.m. from Chicago and 7:30 p.m. from Los Angeles.

No. 19 made its first westbound trip on June 11 with the first eastbound trip of No. 20 leaving Los Angeles two days later.

Amtrak created the Chief to alleviate crowding aboard the Super Chief/El Capitan. The combined capacity of the Chief and Super Chief/El Capitan exceeded what Amtrak offered on the route in summer 1971.

The westbound Chief carried New York-Los Angeles a through coach and sleeper conveyed between New York and Kansas City by the National Limited.

Host railroad Santa Fe objected to the creation of the Chief, saying that operating a second section of the Super Chief would be more economical and would take advantage of the Super Chief’s reputation and more convenient schedule.

Santa Fe had operated its own Chicago-Los Angeles Chief for several decades before its discontinuance in May 1968.

Although patronage of the Chief and Super Chief/El Capitan collectively exceeded what Amtrak handled on the Chicago-Los Angeles route in summer 1971, it was still disappointing.

Nos. 19 and 20 began their final trips on Sept. 10. This would be the only time in Amtrak history outside the New York-Miami route when two long-distance trains operated end point to end point over the same route.

Discontinuance of the Chief also marked the end of the New York-Los Angeles through coaches. A through sleeper between the two points continued to operate through August 1977.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Track Work to Disrupt Texas Eagle

August 2, 2022

Track work being performed by host railroad Union Pacific will affect operations of the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle on Aug. 7.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Train 21 will terminate at Longview, Texas, with alternate transportation provided between Longview and Fort Worth, serving the intermediate stops of Mineola and Dallas.

Train 22 will terminate at Fort Worth, with alternate transportation provided between Fort Worth and Longview, serving the intermediate stops of Dallas and Mineola.

The bus pickup in Fort Worth is scheduled for 2 p.m. and passengers will need to show their train tickets to receive bus transportation.

No. 4 in Arizona

July 1, 2022

It is autumn of 1997 as Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Chief motors through Lupton, Arizona, on the Santa Fe mainline. To be correct, these tracks are now part of BNSF, which had been created two years earlier by the merger of the Santa Fe and Burlington Northern.

A quick glance at No. 4 shows there are several material handling cars in the consist. It was the era when Amtrak though head end business would provide a financial boost.

It also was the era when the Phase III livery was in vogue. Note that all three locomotives wear that scheme.

Unchanged from then and now is how passengers about the Chief rode in Superliner equipment.

SW Chief Resumes Normal Operation

July 1, 2022

Amtrak’s Chicago- Los Angeles Southwest Chief resumed normal operation on Thursday with the departure of Train No. 3 from Chicago.

The train’s operations were disrupted by the Monday afternoon derailment of Train 4 in Mendon, Missouri, after it struck a dump truck at a grade crossing.

Three passengers and the truck driver died and 150 were injured in the incident.

The westbound departure of the Chief from Chicago was canceled. On Tuesday and Wednesday Nos. 3 and 4 originated and terminated at Kansas City, Missouri.

The first Chief to operated eastbound the length of its route left Los Angeles on Tuesday evening.

Passengers ticketed to travel on Nos. 3 and 4 between Chicago and Kansas City were given the option of riding a bus between the two cities or riding a combined Missouri River Runner and Lincoln Service train.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the derailment exacerbated Amtrak’s shortage of in-service Superliner cars.

The scheduled Los Angeles departure of Train 4 on Wednesday was cancelled due to the passenger carrier not having enough cars on hand to make up a train.

Using available Superliner equipment in Chicago, Amtrak made up a consist for No. 3 of three coaches, two sleepers, a dining car, a transition sleeper and a Sightseer Lounge.

The derailment will take eight Superliner cars out of service until they can be repaired.

Texas Eagle in Big D

June 28, 2022

As the skyline of downtown Dallas looms behind it, Amtrak’s westbound Texas Eagle crosses the Trinity River. The image was made in October 1985 during an era when the Eagle had a varied consist.

Upfront are two F40PH locomotives pulling a mixture of Superliner and Heritage Fleet cars. Among the latter are former Santa Fe Hi-Level cars and a single-level sleeping car. Also tucked into the consist is an Amfleet food service car and heritage fleet baggage car.

Today Train 21 has P42DC motive power and an all-Superliner consist.

Unusual Visitor in Cheyenne

May 19, 2022

It is August 1971 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, during Amtrak’s first summer of operation. The City of San Francisco is making its tri-weekly appearance on the Union Pacific leg of the Chicago-Oakland route.

By now Amtrak consists have entered the rainbow era with passenger cars being mixed from the various host railroads and still wearing whatever livery they had when Amtrak took them over.

But there is something out of the ordinary about this train. Look at the rear car. It is painted in Illinois Central colors with the word “Pullman” in the letterboard.

Very few cars from former IC passenger trains operated on Amtrak outside the Chicago-New Orleans line in IC colors. But it as not unheard of. I recall riding in a coach on the National Limited in December 1972 painted in IC orange and chocolate brown with “City of Miami” on the letter board.

But getting back to the City of San Francisco, in summer 1971 it usually ran in two sections. Daily service was provided between Chicago and Denver, but the train ran tri-weekly between Denver and Oakland, leaving both terminals on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Initially, Amtrak operated one train east of Denver on days when the Oakland section also ran. But this resulted in a consist of up to 23 cars so most days during the summer the Oakland and Denver sections operated separately between Chicago and Denver.

The two sections operating independently between Chicago and Denver ended in fall 1971.

Most of the equipment assigned to the City of San Francisco during Amtrak’s first summer was of Burlington Northern and UP heritage. The BN equipment included cars built for the Burlington Route, Northern Pacific and Great Northern.

One notable type of ex-BN car that was not operated on the Oakland section were Budd-built domes. Southern Pacific, which hosted the train between Ogden, Utah, and Oakland wouldn’t allow them, citing clearance issues.

So if you look at the image above, you’ll see an SP full dome bar-lounge car. You’ll also see an SP sleeper. However, SP equipment tended to be in a minority among first summer City of San Francisco consists.

A typical consist in August 1971 was a baggage-dorm, five coaches, a lunch counter lounge, diner, the SP dome and three sleepers. All of these cars operated between Chicago and Oakland.

As for that IC sleeper, it might have once operated on the Panama Limited and City of Miami. I couldn’t make out the car number so I don’t know if it made it onto Amtrak’s roster. As it turned out few ex-IC passengers were picked up by Amtrak.

Racing West on the Raceway

February 14, 2022

Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr is less than 20 miles into its trek to the San Francisco Bay area as it races through Riverside, Illinois. This former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy route is known between Chicago and Aurora as the raceway because trains race along. Aside from eight Amtrak trains a day that includes Metra commuter trains as far as Aurora. The image was made on May 23, 2013.

Tracks Work to Disrupt Pacific Surfliners

February 9, 2022

Track work on the route used by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains will result in schedule changes on Feb. 19 and 20. Also affected will be the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight.

Train 761 will terminate at Los Angeles with passengers accommodated on Bus 4861 from Los Angeles to Oxnard. Train 1761 will operate from Oxnard to San Luis Obispo.

Train 765 will terminate at Los Angeles with Bus 4865 operating in its place from Los Angeles to Oxnard. Train 1765 will operate from Oxnard to Goleta.

Train 777 will terminate at Los Angeles and be replaced by Bus 4877 from Los Angeles to Oxnard. Train 1777 will operate from Oxnard to San Luis Obispo.

Train 785 will terminate at Los Angeles with Bus 4885 operating from Los Angeles to Oxnard and Train 1785 operating from Oxnard to Goleta.

There will be no alternate transportation provided to the missed stations of Glendale, Burbank Airport, Chatsworth, Simi Valley, Moorpark or Camarillo.

Northbound Buses 4861, 4865, 4877, 4885 and Trains 1761, 1765, 1777, 1785 schedules may not match normal station arrival/departure times.

Train 770  will originate at Los Angeles. Train 1770 will operate from Goleta to Oxnard and operate as Bus 4870 from Oxnard to Los Angeles.

Train 774 will operate as Train 1774 from San Luis Obispo to Oxnard, as Bus 4874 from Oxnard to Los Angeles and as Train 774 from Los Angeles to San Diego.

Train 784 will originate at Los Angeles. Train 1784 will operate from Goleta to Oxnard and operate as Bus 4884 from Oxnard to Los Angeles.

Train 794 will operate as Train 1794 between San Luis Obispo and Oxnard and as Bus 4894 from Oxnard to Los Angeles. Connection will be maintained at Los Angeles to Train 594.

No alternative transportation will be provided to missed stations of Glendale, Burbank Airport, Chatsworth, Simi Valley, Moorpark or Camarillo.

The schedules of buses 4870, 4874, 4884, 4894 and Trains 1770, 1774, 1784, 1794 may not match normal station arrival/departure times.

The Coast Starlight on Feb. 19 and 20 will be annulled between Sacramento and Los Angeles.

No alternate transportation will be provided to Davis, Martinez, Emeryville, Oakland Jack London Square, San Jose, Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Van Nuys, Burbank and Los Angeles.

Passengers have the option of traveling on some of their journey aboard San Joaquins, Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner and Thruway bus services.