Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s California Zephyr’

Man Pleads Guilty in CZ Incident

July 14, 2018

The man charged in connection with an October 2017 incident in which the emergency brakes of the eastbound California Zephyr were activated in Nebraska has pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge.

Taylor Wilson, 26, of St. Charles, Missouri, also pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered weapon, a charge stemming from an FBI search of his home.

Wilson was said to have entered the trailing locomotive  of Train No. 6 and activated the braking system. He was then confronted by the Amtrak operating crew and later arrested by Nebraska authorities.

When the judge presiding in the case asked Wilson why he stopped the train, he responded, “I was high.”

News accounts said Wilson reportedly told investigators he had dropped acid before the incident.

A written plea agreement also noted that Wilson told a sheriff’s deputy that he [Wilson] said he was “going to save the train from the black people.”

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Greyhound May Use Amtrak Station in Reno

June 14, 2018

Greyhound Bus Lines may be moving into the Amtrak station in Reno, Nevada, next year.

The bus carrier’s lease on its current station expires at the end of this year and the building was recently sold to a new owner.

A Greyhound official said his company is talking with Amtrak about using its station, which is a stop for Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

The Greyhound official said the bus carrier might use a vacant side of the train station.

Some Reno City Council members had express concern that Greyhound using the Amtrak station would prompt issues with traffic, pedestrian safety and the historic value of the station.

If the Amtrak station doesn’t work out, Greyhound might investigate use of the 4th Street transit station.

Amtrak, BNSF to Implement PTC on Select Routes

June 12, 2018

Amtrak expected to implement positive control operations this week on trains using BNSF tracks, including the Southwest Chief and California Zephyr

It will be the first activation on host-owned territory used by Amtrak. BNSF and Amtrak expect full activation of PTC operations on BNSF routes that host these two trains to be completed by the end of August.

“This is a great step for Amtrak,” said BNSF Assistant Vice President Network Control Systems Chris Matthews. “We have the infrastructure in place that allows Amtrak to operate on our network. We have partnered with them on the federal mandate and in some cases beyond the federal mandate to install PTC on subdivisions not required of BNSF. We look forward to continuing that partnership as they roll-out PTC along our routes.”

As for its own physical plant, Amtrak said it is making progress toward installing and activating PTC.

To date Amtrak said it has installed PTC on 380 of 444 Amtrak-owned locomotives and that 86 percent of the motive power fleet is PTC operable.

Amtrak said 607 of its 900 routes miles has PTC in operation, 95 percent of employees who require training have completed it, and 104 of 120 radio towers have PTC full installed and equipped.

The passenger carrier said it is working with its host railroads on PTC implementation and expects nearly all of them to qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule as allowed under federal law.

A risk analysis study is being undertaken for operating on routes under an extension or under an FRA-approved exemption.

That study is expected to result in developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis.

Reiterating a position that Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson stated earlier, Amtrak said that on a very limited number of routes where a host railroad has not met the federal PTC deadline that Amtrak “will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance.”

Man Pleads Guilty in Amtrak Incident

May 11, 2018

A Missouri man has asked a court to change his plea to guilty to terrorism charges stemming from his halting Amtrak’s California Zephyr last October in Nebraska.

Taylor Wilson, 26, of St. Charles, Missouri, changed his plea to guilty rather than face trial in June on two charges of terrorism against mass transportation.

During the incident, Wilson accessed the trailing P42DC locomotive of Train No. 6 and activated the emergency brakes as the train was near Oxford, Nebraska.

When confronted by the train crew, Wilson was found to be carrying a handgun, ammunition and a knife.

His guilty plea was part of a proposed deal that would also resolve three federal felony gun charges that stemmed from weapons that authorities found in his home following the Amtrak incident.

More Ticket Office Closings Planned

May 1, 2018

Amtrak will close 15 ticket offices in the next several weeks serving seven long-distance route. The closings will begin on May 15 and extend through late June.

Spokesman Marc Magliari said the closing are a bid to reduce expenses that was “made jointly by the operating divisions and the Long Distance Service Line.”

Magliari said the carrier is still figuring out which, if any, of the affected stations will have trainside checked baggage.

He said 22 jobs are being eliminated although some of the affected agents are retiring, leaving Amtrak service or bumping another agent at another location by exercising their seniority rights.

“The different dates depend on the staffing in the area and also whether agents are moving from station to station as a result of attrition,” Magliari said.

Caretakers are being hired to open and close the waiting rooms of all affected stations before and after train arrival and departure times.

The affected stations and closing dates by route are:

Southwest Chief: Lamy, New Mexico, (July 31); La Junta, Colorado,(June 1); Topeka, Kansas, (May 20); Garden City, Kansas, (May 15); and Fort Madison, Iowa, (May 16)

Crescent: Meridian, Mississippi, (May 17) and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, (May 21)

Texas Eagle: Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas, (May 15) and Marshall, Texas,  (June 29)

Empire Builder
: Havre, Montana, (June 1); and Shelby, Montana, June 5)

Cardinal: Cincinnati (June 5) and Charleston, West Virginia, (June 6)

California Zephyr
: Ottumwa, Iowa, (May 19)

City of New Orleans
: Hammond, Louisiana, (May 15)

Amtrak management has for several years been guiding passengers to booking travel on its website and closing small town and lesser used ticket offices.

It has also offered some discounts that are only available online.

Magliari said just one in 10 reservations are booked by station agents.

“This seems to be part of Amtrak’s new cost-savings strategy under CEO Richard Anderson to cut station staffing and on-board service to the long-distance national network,” said Peter LeCody, Rail Passengers Chair and President of Texas Rail Advocates in a statement.

S.W. Chief Route Shortened Due to Track Work

April 4, 2018

BNSF track work will cause the Southwest Chief to cease operating between Chicago and Kansas City on April 7 and 8.

The affected stations are Chicago, Naperville, Mendota, Princeton and Galesburg in Illinois, Fort Madison in Iowa, and La Plata in Missouri.

Train No. 4 will operate from Los Angeles to Kansas City as scheduled with alternative bus service being provided for passengers traveling to all of the affected stations except La Plata and Fort Madison.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that the buses will only discharge passengers traveling to Galesburg, Princeton, Mendota, Naperville and Chicago.

Originating passengers in those cities will not be accepted aboard the buses.

Instead, passengers originating in those cities who held tickets aboard Train No. 4 are being advised to use Train No. 6 (California Zephyr) or the Illinois Zephyr or Carl Sandburg, both of which operate between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois.

Passengers should expect delays of up to 1 hour between Kansas City and these stations.

Train No. 3 will originate in Kansas City and operate as scheduled to Los Angeles.

Alternative transportation will be provided from Chicago to Kansas City by bus, departing Union Station at 1 pm, which is two hours earlier than current departure time of No. 3.

No alternate service will be provided at Naperville, Mendota, Princeton, Galesburg, Fort Madison and La Plata.

Passengers originating at the missed stations are being advised to rebook on other Illinois Service trains, the California Zephyr (Train No. 5) or on alternate travel dates.

Track Work Disrupts Cal Zephyr

April 4, 2018

Starting today and extending through April 7 Amtrak’s eastbound California Zephyr will be bypassing Reno, Nevada, due to track work being done by Union Pacific.

Train No. 6 will bypass Reno station, requiring all Reno passengers to board and detrain at Truckee, California, where alternative transportation will be provided to Reno.

The departure time from Reno will temporarily be adjusted to 1:15 p.m. which is 2 hours and 50 minutes earlier than current train departure.

All passengers destined for Reno will detrain at Truckee and transfer to a bus that will take them to Reno. The bus travel time is approximately 50 minutes.

Reno passengers will also have the option of booking travel through Truckee or traveling by train to Reno on an alternate date.

Greyhound Ceding Nevada Route to Amtrak

February 15, 2018

Citing low ridership, Greyhound is pulling out of five rural Nevada communities and suggesting that displaced passengers ride Amtrak instead.

The bus carrier said it will cease service on Feb. 21 to Elko, Winnemucca, Lovelock, Battle Mountain and Wendover. It also is ending service to Salt Lake City on a route that also serves Reno.

The bus cuts come on the heels of Megabus ending service to Reno on Jan. 9.

At the time that it ended service to Reno, Megabus cited aggressive pricing by airlines serving Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

Greyhound will continue to offer service from Reno to such western cities as Sacramento, San Francisco and Phoenix.

It said it has reached an partnership with Amtrak to allow those booked on Greyhound to take the train.

Amtrak’s California Zephyr between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay region offers service to Reno, Elko, Winnemucca and Salt Lake City on a similar schedule to what Greyhound operates.

Travelers to Battle Mountain, Lovelock and Wendover, however, will not receive similar accommodations.

Missouri Man Who Halted CZ Pleads Not Guilty

February 15, 2018

A Missouri man who is charged with terrorism after he stopped an Amtrak train in Nebraska last year may not have been mentally aware of what he was doing, his attorney said after entering a not guilty plea for his client in court.

Attorney Jerry Sena of Omaha, Nebraska, said his client did not “knowingly intend” to disable the train, as the criminal charges state.

Taylor M. Wilson, 26, of St. Charles, Missouri, has been accused by federal authorities of entering the trailing P42DC of the California Zephyr on Oct. 23 and activating the emergency brakes in the early morning hours near Oxford, Nebraska.

If convicted, Wilson could face penalties of up to life in prison.

Federal authorities allege that Wilson was behaving erratically when confronted by Amtrak personnel.

Reportedly, Wilson goaded them with profanities, wrestled with them, reached for his waistband and claimed to be the conductor.

Police found Wilson was carrying a fully loaded .38-caliber handgun; a “speedloader,” which enables rapid reloading of bullets; and a backpack containing three more loaded speedloaders, a box of .38 ammunition; a fixed-blade knife; tin snips; scissors; and a respirator-style face mask.

After saying in court that Wilson might not have known what he was doing in the locomotive cab, Sena was asked what Wilson was trying to do.

Sena said that was another question. The attorney also contended that Wilson is not a member of any white nationalist group and has untreated mental issues.

Police who searched Wilson’s apartment in Missouri have said in court documents that they found a hidden compartment holding a tactical vest, dozens of rounds of ammunition and “white supremacy documents and paperwork.”

On Feb. 1, a federal grand jury in Missouri indicted Wilson on four additional weapons charges related to that search, including in connection with Wilson’s alleged ownership of an illegal submachine gun.

U.S. Federal Magistrate Cheryl Zwart has rules that Wilson will stand trial on April 16. Wilson is being held at the Saline County Jail.

Man Indicted Over California Zephyr Incident

January 24, 2018

A grand jury has indicted a Missouri man on terrorism charges in connection with the stopping of Amtrak’s California Zephyr last year.

Indicted was Taylor Michael Wilson, 26, of St. Charles, Missouri.

He was indicted on one count of attempting to or threatening to “wreck, derail, and disable railroad on-track equipment and a mass transportation vehicle” and one count alleging he attempted “to interfere with, disable, or incapacitate any locomotive engineer or railroad conductor.”

Officials claim that got into the trailing P42DC locomotive of the train and tripped an emergency brake. Amtrak personnel found Wilson in the engineer’s seat “playing with the controls.”

The indictments were returned in a federal court in Nebraska.

The FBI reported finding “alt-right” and “neo-Nazi” literature in his home in Missouri.

Wilson has also been implicated in an incident in which he allegedly pointed a gun at woman during a “road rage” incident in St. Charles in 2016.

An FBI raid of the home he shared with his cousin in St. Charles last month found more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, “white supremacy documents and paperwork,” gunpowder and a “pressure plate” that an FBI agent described as a device commonly used to construct an improvised explosive.

Wilson’s father later gave the FBI 15 rifles and pistols and body armor that belonged to his son.

Wilson’s lawyer in Nebraska, Jerry Sena, said Wilson will plead not guilty to the indictment.