Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Wolverine Service’

Polar Vortex Leading to Midwest Cancelations

January 28, 2019

A Polar vortex that is bringing extreme cold to the Midwest has prompted Amtrak to modify its service on Midwest corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Most of the changes are effective between Jan. 29 and 31.

The carrier said it will operate four round trips between Chicago and Milwaukee: Nos. 330, 331, 334, 335, 338, 339, 341 and 342. Nos. 329, 332, 333, 336, 337 and 340 will be cancelled.

Chicago to Carbondale No. 393 will be cancelled Jan. 28-30 while Carbondale to Chicago No. 390 is cancelled Jan. 29-31.

The City of New Orleans will continue to operate as will Nos. 391 and 392.

Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Nos. 351, 352, 353 and 354 will operate but Nos. 350 and 355 are cancelled on Jan. 29-31.

In the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, Nos. 301 and 304 are cancelled between Jan. 29 and 31. All others Lincoln Service trains as well as the Texas Eagle will continue to operate.

There will be no cancellations on routes linking Chicago with Quincy, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Port Huron, Michigan.

In a service advisory Amtrak said it expects the winter storm to reduce travel demand, but it was also acting out of “an abundance of caution.”

Amtrak said passengers holding reservations on the affected trains will be able to change their reservations for travel on other trains, including on other days, at no charge.

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Blasting Through Chelsea

January 12, 2019

Chelsea, Michigan, used to be an Amtrak stop. But that was back in the 1970s when the carrier still operated a commuter operation between Detroit and Jackson known as the Michigan Executive.

That serviced ended with the state pulled its funding in early 1984 and the Michigan Executive last ran on Jan. 13.

But Chelsea, located about halfway between Ann Arbor and Jackson, had already fallen off the Amtrak map. Amtrak service ended here on June 14, 1982.

However, Amtrak continues to pass through Chelsea six times a day even if none of the Wolverine Service trains stop here.

The tracks are now owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak has a top speed of 79 mph through much of Chelsea.

Shown is westbound No. 353, which is about 15 minutes behind schedule as it rushes toward Jackson.

To the left of the train is the former Welfare Building of the Glazier Stove Company. It was built to give employees a more productive and safer way to pass their free time than patronizing the local taverns.

The Welfare Building, built in 1906, had a swimming pool, library, billiards hall, theater and basketball court.

SW Michigan Wants Reroute of Pere Marquette

January 4, 2019

Transportation planners in southwest Michigan see falling ridership and changing transportation priorities as posing potential threats to the continued operation of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette on its current route between Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

They are hoping that rerouting the train between New Buffalo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana, to the same route used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains would help save the train.

Although Ryan Fellows, an associate planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said that no changes in service are expected in the short term it is the long term that has him concerned.

Studies have recommended revamping intercity rail service in Michigan to form a coast-to-coast network whose main stem would operate between Chicago and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

At Kalamazoo, trains would fan out for Grand Rapids, Detroit and Lansing.

However, the segment of the Pere Marquette route serving St. Joseph, Bangor and Holland might be discontinued and some or all of those cities served by connecting bus service.

What Fellows would like to see is a connection built at New Buffalo between CSX and an Amtrak-owned line that would enable the Pere Marquette to use the same route as Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

That route, he noted, would allow the Pere Marquette trains to operate at a top speed of 110 miles per hour while providing connections with other trains serving Michigan.

“A feasibility and engineering study is a necessary step prior to establishing a rail connection in New Buffalo to link the Pere Marquette and Wolverine-Blue Water services,” he said during a presentation to the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study agency.

That agency recently approved a resolution in support of studying building the proposed New Buffalo connection.

The transportation planners fear that funding of the Pere Marquette might fall by the wayside unless the Pere Marquette route become more efficient and reliable.

Between 2007 and 2017 ridership of the Pere Marquette declined by 11 percent, to 93,449 passenger.

During the same period, ridership on the Blue Water rose 46 percent while Wolverine Service trains posted a more modest ridership increase of 2 percent.

Pere Marquette ridership increased by 4.4 percent between 2016 to 2017, generating $3.2 million in ticket revenue.

Planners have pointed to a 2017 Midwest Regional Rail System report that projected that connecting Chicago with Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Detroit would increase ridership from 200,000 to 1.5 million, with connections to cities throughout the region.

However, the existing Pere Marquette route was seen as lacking enough population to attract the ridership that the proposed coast-to-coast network would generate.

Efforts to boost ridership of the Pere Marquette have included making special stops for such events as the Senior PGA at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, and the Tulip Festival in Holland.

Niles Station Host Program Set to Launch

December 7, 2018

Hosting open house events is the first step that volunteers in Niles, Michigan, are taking as part of their efforts to launch a train station host program.

Training will be conducted this month for the two dozen people who showed up at the open houses to volunteer for the program.

Eight Amtrak trains a day stop in Niles and the volunteer hosts will be able to work whatever hours they’re able.

Earlier this year, Amtrak removed its ticket agent from Niles and hired caretakers to open, close and clean the station.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Niles station used to be open only through late afternoon, but with the caretakers and volunteers it is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.

If the last train of the day is late, someone should be on hand to allow passengers and those meeting them to have access to the waiting room, restrooms and a pay phone.

Serving Niles are six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) and the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water.

Magliari said the Niles community has been active in helping Amtrak look after the depot, which dates to the days when the trains were operated by the Michigan Central.

During that era a local gardener would present a flower to each woman passing through the Niles station .

For many years the Four Flags Garden Club has maintained the station’s flower beds and decorated the depot for the holidays.

When Amtrak was planning to remove its Niles ticket agent, it contacted the Niles DDA Main Street program to ask it to help organize the effort to start a volunteer host program.

Director Lisa Croteau said the host program will help carry on the station’s “long history of hospitality,”

Croteau said the hosts will greet travelers, share tidbits about the history of the depot and serve as “kind of a concierge for the downtown and the city of Niles,” to tell people where they can get a ride or a bite to eat or whatever they need.

Magliari said the Niles program could serve as a model elsewhere in Michigan or in Elkhart, Indiana.

“It’s something happening in more and more places around the country where communities are engaging with us to have a welcoming presence in the stations,” Magliari said.

One of the Niles volunteers is Pete Womer, who is retired after working 40 years in the utilities department at the University of Notre Dame.

He told the South Bend Tribune that he was looking for a volunteer project, has been a train traveler for more than 50 years, and he loves to meet people and chat.

“In the long run, it makes customers feel a little more comfortable,” Womer said. “It’s a good feeling knowing you’re helping people out.”

Extra Midwest Trains Set for Thanksgiving Travel

November 15, 2018

Amtrak will operate additional trains in the Midwest between Nov. 20-25 to accommodate an expected surge of Thanksgiving holiday travelers.

Other Midwest corridor trains are expected to operate with increased capacity.

During the holiday travel period, reservations will be required for travel aboard the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains.

Holders of monthly or 10-ride tickets are exempt from the reservations requirement, but seating is not guarantee.

On the Wolverine Service corridor, additional trains will operate on Nov. 21, 24 and 25 between Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with intermediate stops in the Michigan cities of New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago at 9 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor at 2:25 p.m. It will depart Ann Arbor at 4:28 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 8:04 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10 a.m. and arrive in Holland, Michigan, at 2:11 p.m. with intermediate stops in St. Joseph and Bangor, Michigan.

No. 373 is scheduled to depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m. These trains will operate on Nov. 21 and 25.

An extra section of the Carl Sandburg will operate between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

No. 385 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Quincy, where it is set to arrive at 3:53 p.m.

No. 384 is scheduled to depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:22 p.m.

On the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, extra Lincoln Service trains will operate between Chicago and Normal, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

Extra No. 309 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Normal-Bloomington, where it is set to arrive at 12:58 p.m.

No. 308 is set to depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:41 p.m.

Detroit Diamonds Replaced

August 23, 2018

Amtrak, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Norfolk Southern and CSX teamed up to replace a four-diamond crossing at Wayne in the Detroit area this week.

Work at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 14 after an NS freight passed through.

Workers removed the old diamonds and installing a prefabricated unit. Complicating the work was that the diamond has four crossings, making it a heavy lift and requiring precision alignment to reconnect to existing rail lines.

During the work, Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains terminated at Ann Arbor, Michigan, with passengers riding a bus to stations at Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy, and Pontiac.

CSX and NS trains were rerouted or halted.

The project was completed at 4 p.m. on Aug. 15. Amtrak resumed using the route over the crossing on the morning of Aug. 16.

The project received 75 percent of its funding from CSX and 25 percent from MDOT.

Wolverines To Allow Bikes Onboard

July 24, 2018

Bicycles will be allowed onboard Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains effective July 26.

The service will be available at all stations and cost $10 per bike.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said bicycle reservations are required and bike tickets must be presented to the conductor when boarding the train.

Passengers can reserve space for their bikes by selecting “add bike” when booking their reservation at Amtrak.com.

Bike reservations also can be made by calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245) and at Amtrak ticket offices. Only four bicycles are permitted per train.

Passengers will be provided a bike tag by station employees and by the train crew at unstaffed stations. Passengers must present their bike tag to retrieve their bike from the train crew at their destination.

Amtrak is advising passengers carrying on bikes to arrive 45 minutes before  train departure to allow sufficient time to obtain their ticket and baggage tag, and to get their bike onto the train.

Only one standard size bicycle will be permitted per passenger. Large seat/saddle bags must be removed from the bikes. These items can be carried on the train and will count as a carry-on item.

Passengers must be physically capable of lifting their bicycle up to shoulder height to an employee standing in the vestibule of a passenger car.

Passengers may stow their bicycle in open spaces at the ends of the car. They may not be stored in the vestibule.

Upon reaching their destination, passengers will be responsible for preparing their bicycle prior to detraining. A bike should be positioned in the doorway, so the passenger can lift it off the car with the chain facing away.

Wolverines Get New Schedules

July 11, 2018

Amtrak has changed the schedules of some Wolverine Service trains in an effort to improve their connections with other Midwest trains. The changes are effective July 16.

Train 352 will operate 45 minutes later to allow new connections from Trains 300 (Lincoln Service) and 334 (Hiawatha Service).

Train 353 will operate 45 minutes earlier to allow new connections to Train 393 (Illini).

Train 355 will also begin operating 15 minutes later.

Amtrak to Renovate Jackson Station

June 25, 2018

Amtrak plans to rehabilitate the 144-year-old Michigan Central station in Jackson, Michigan, this summer to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The work also includes re-pointing the brick on the chimneys and working on the roof.

Other improvements include bathrooms being made ADA compliant, installing signs with braille markings and creating an ADA accessible path from the parking lot to the station.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said cost estimates won’t be available until the project is finished.

Amtrak has owned the station since 1973. It is served daily by six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The Victorian-Italianate-style structure opened on Sept. 1, 1873, and is one of Amtrak’s oldest stations that has been in continuous use as a passenger facility having served the Michigan Central, New York Central and Penn Central.

Other renovations were made in 1978, 2008 and 2013.

Police Probe Apparent Sabotage Effort in Michigan

June 14, 2018

Police released this photo showing the debris placed on a rail on track owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation and used by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern.

Police in Jackson, Michigan, are seeking a suspect who may have been trying to derail an Amtrak or Norfolk Southern train by placing debris on one of the rails.

An Amtrak police officer found the debris on Wednesday morning and notified the Jackson Police Department.

The debris included ballast and tie plates. Police said the debris resulted in a “dangerous situation.”

The debris was placed on a rail between North Jackson and North Blackstone streets.

Jackson is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains.

A Jackson Police spokesman said that walking on the railroad tracks, or property owned by the railroad is a misdemeanor offense.