Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Capitol Limited’

Some Trains to Resume Daily Operation

March 26, 2022

Starting Monday, Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited will begin sharing train sets with the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

The move coincides with both trains resuming daily operation rather than the five-day-week operation they have been following since late January.

At that time the Capitol Limited began departing Chicago and Washington on Sunday through Thursday with no departures on Friday and Saturday.

At the time of the service reduction, Amtrak cited staffing shortages in reducing the operation of most long-distance trains from daily to five-days-a-week.

A report on the website of Trains magazine said the equipment from inbound No. 29 will make a same-day turn with minimal maintenance to become No. 21 for Texas.

Three days a week the Texas Eagle interchanges in San Antonio through cars to and from Los Angeles with the Sunset Limited.

Trains said the equipment sharing between the Eagle and Capitol will reduce the number of equipment sets needed to cover both trains from seven to six.

Currently, Amtrak assigns three equipment sets to Nos. 29 and 30 and four equipment sets to Nos. 21 and 22.

The trains will continue to be treated as separate for purposes of ticketing and those who are connecting from the Capitol to the Eagle or vice versa must disembark in Chicago rather than remain onboard.

The Eagle and Capitol have similar equipment sets of two coaches, a sleeping car and a Cross Country Café that serves as a dining car for sleeping car passengers and a café car for coach passengers.

The Eagle operates with a third coach between Chicago and St. Louis.

As part of the change, Amtrak plans to shift the federally-mandated 1,500 mile equipment inspection to St. Louis rather than Chicago.

To accommodate that, Amtrak is adding additional dwell time in St. Louis so that the Eagle will sit there for two hours in each direction.

During the St. Louis dwell time passengers will either have to disembark for the entire dwell time or remain in their coach seat or sleeping car room.

Amtrak wanted to retain the same schedule between St. Louis and San Antonio in both directions so it modified the schedule between Chicago and St. Louis.

No. 21 will now depart Chicago at 11:55 a.m. rather than the current 1:45 p.m. It will depart St. Louis at 9:22 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:21 p.m. Currently, No. 22 departs St. Louis at 7:55 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 1:22 p.m.

Currently, the St. Louis dwell time for the Texas Eagle in both directions is 30 minutes.

A potential challenge for the new schedule can occur if the inbound Capitol Limited is excessively late arriving in Chicago.

It is common for No. 29 to lose time while operating over host railroad Norfolk Southern west of Toledo.

In addition to the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle resuming daily operation, the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight will also begin operating daily next week.

Although Amtrak’s website shows all other long-distance trains now operating five days a week resuming daily operation on May 23, that is not guaranteed even though passengers are being allowed to book travel on days those trains currently do not operate.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Railway Age that the daily operation shown on the website for all long distance trains effective March 23 is the carrier’s spring schedule and the summer schedule has yet to be posted.

Amtrak has thus far declined to say how long the less-than-daily operation will continue.

That means the Lake Shore Limited, Crescent, City of New Orleans, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder will continue to operate on their present five-days-a-week schedules.

Also uncertain is when the New York-Miami Silver Meteor will resume operation.

Some corridor services will resume operating on March 28, including all trains in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor and some Empire Service trains that had been suspended between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

However, in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini remain suspended.

The former departed Chicago in the morning while the latter departed Carbondale in late afternoon.

Some shuttle trains between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts, also remain suspended.

A few Northeast Corridor trains also have yet to return, including overnight Nos. 66 and 67 between Boston and Washington.

This is not the first time Amtrak has operated equipment sharing for long-distance trains in Chicago.

In past years the Capitol Limited has shared equipment with the Southwest Chief, the Texas Chief has shared equipment with the City of New Orleans, and the Empire Builder has shared equipment with the City of New Orleans.

Magliari told Railway Age that combining the equipment sets for the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle was done due to shortages of operating and maintenance employees.

Another factor, he said, is that both are one-night trains, rather than taking two nights.

Sunrise From Train 29

January 19, 2022

In recent years I’ve become intrigued by programs featuring photographs made from aboard Amtrak trains. A few years ago the Rail Passengers Association posted on its website one photograph every week made aboard an Amtrak train by one of its members.

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art last November presented a virtual program by Stacey Evans of images she made while making 29 trips aboard trains in America. The description of the program, which can be viewed on the Center’s YouTube channel, likened it to using trains as a moving studio.

“Stacey makes photographs focused on regional similarities and differences while composing how we occupy, shape, and transform the land,” the Center wrote about her program.

I’ve never sought to create a similar program although I might be able to based on images I’ve made aboard trains I’ve ridden in the past decade.

In my experience of riding trains, few passengers spend much time watching the scenery roll past let along contemplate how the world looks from the window of a train.

Instead, their focus is on their smart phones, laptops, tablets or traditional print media such as books. I remember once being in the sightseer lounge aboard the Empire Builder “listening” to a young woman talking on her phone. She might have been looking out at the North Dakota countryside west of Minot, but I doubt that she was seeing any of it.

The view from the train is not all that much different than that seen from a bus or automobile. In both instance you are in a moving object and have to look quickly lest you miss something.

In describing Evans’ program, the Center said it would show “her unique perspective not accessible by foot, plane, or car.” That suggests that seeing from a train is somehow different from any other way of travel.

Perhaps to appreciate that perspective it helps if you have a passion for trains, something many Amtrak passengers do not necessarily have. For them Amtrak is a means of getting from Point A to Point B that just happened to fit their schedule, budget and availability.

Both images shown above were made from the rear door of a Superliner coach on the westbound Capitol Limited as it traveled between Edgerton, Ohio, and Butler, Indiana, on May 22, 2014. The sun began rising as we neared Edgerton, the last town on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern, so I moved to the back of the car to capture it.

Perhaps these photographs reflect what the Center for Railroad Photograph and Art meant in saying that there are views from a train that are different from any other form of travel. In their own way, these are glimpses of the nature of rail travel.

Amtral Cancels More Trains Today

January 17, 2022

Amtrak on Sunday posted more service cancellations for Monday (Jan. 17) due to a winter storm in the eastern United States.

Canceled in both directions is the Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington), making for the third consecutive day that No. 30 has not departed from Chicago. No. 29 last left Washington on Saturday.

The Pennsylvanian from Pittsburgh to New York was canceled as were Keystone Service Nos. 660, 661, 662 and 615 between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and New York. Keystone Service No. 667 will originate in Philadelphia rather than New York.

Also canceled in both directions are the Vermonter (Washington-St. Albans, Vermont) and Piedmont Service Nos. 73 and 74 (Raleigh, North Carolina-Charlotte, North Carolina).

Ethan Allen Express No. 291 (New York-Rutland, Vermont) will terminate at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Train 290 will originate in Albany-Rensselaer.

On the Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional train 99 (Boston-Newport News, Virginia) will terminate in Washington. Northeast Regionals 152 and 189 (Washington-New York) are canceled.

Northeast Regional 156 (Roanoke, Virginia-New York) is canceled as is Train 164 (Richmond, Virginia- Boston. Thus far one cancellation has been posted for Tuesday (Jan. 18). Ethan Allen Express No. 290 will originate at Albany-Rensselaer.

Amtrak ‘Day One’ Charger Heading East

July 19, 2021

Amtrak’s Day One tribute locomotive is making its way east from the Siemens factory in California.

ALC-42 No. 301 was in the motive power consist of the California Zephyr that left Emeryville, California, on Saturday.

That train was to arrive in Chicago on Monday afternoon but mechanic issues en route had it running more than seven hours late.

No. 301 is expected to leave Chicago on the Capitol Limited on Tuesday evening en route to Washington and eventually an Amtrak shop in Delaware.

The unit wears the one-off livery applied to a Penn Central E8A 4316 for a May 1, 1971, ceremony to mark the inauguration of Amtrak.

Amtrak has ordered 75 ALC-42s from Siemens to replace the GE-built P42DCs and P40s now pulling long-distance and certain corridor trains.

The Day One design is one of several liveries Amtrak created to mark its 50th anniversary.

Thus far only the Midnight Blue scheme applied to P42DC No. 100 is in revenue service. That locomotive has made several trips on the Lake Shore Limited in the past couple weeks.

One other ALC-42 has been accepted by Amtrak and is being tested.

Accelerating in Waterloo

June 27, 2021

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is picking up speed as it accelerates away from its station stop in Waterloo, Indiana, one hour and 15 minutes late.

It is the first image I’ve made of the Capitol in well over a year and getting this photograph took good timing and fast acting.

Before leaving home I had checked the status of Amtrak trains through Waterloo. There wasn’t enough time to get there before the Lake Shore Limited arrived and chances were good I would miss No. 29 by 15 minutes or so.

It had been reported out of Cleveland an hour and 20 minutes but Amtrak’s website projected No. 29 would make up a good chunk of that and arrive in Waterloo 59 minutes late.

If that held, I had no chance. But I also knew Amtrak can get delayed between Waterloo and Toledo.

As I neared Waterloo I checked the Amtrak website again. No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:46 a.m. I figured to miss by that about five minutes.

The exit ramp for Waterloo onto U.S. Route 6 from Interstate 69 is just beyond the bridge over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

As I passed the exit signs for Route 6 it was 7:47 a.m. on my car’s clock. I slowed for the bridge and exit ramp and looked toward the east. No headlight was in sight.

That was a good sign This just might work after all.

Nearly a month earlier as I had driven over that same bridge I had seen the headlight of a fast approaching Amtrak 49. I was going to fast to get to the side of the road in time to try to get a grab shot and a pickup truck also getting off at the exit was right on my tail.

So close and yet so far away.

This time I drove to a road that crosses the Chicago Line at grade shortly after I got onto Route 6. The gates were up. Another good sign.

I checked the Amtrak website and saw No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:53 a.m., three minutes from now. Did I have time to get to the station?

I began driving down a road that runs parallel to the tracks. Then there it was up ahead. I immediately pulled to the side of Lincoln Street, grabbed my camera and dashed into the weeds to make this image.

There was no time so think about what I wanted to do. I barely was able to get all of the train in the frame.

Photographing the Capitol Limited is a challenge because much of its journey occurs at night. On the western end of the route the train is always operating in the wrong light. Only on the eastern end can you get 29 or 30 in good light.

In Northeast Ohio, No. 30 is scheduled into Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. and No. 29 at 2:53 a.m.

Still, you can get an interesting image on the western end of the route if you work it right.

The glint off P42DC No. 190 was happenstance but I also knew that this time of year the early morning light would favor the north side of the train.

I’m hoping it won’t be another year before I can photograph the Capitol Limited again.

Amtrak to Receive First ACL-42

June 12, 2021

The first Siemens ALC-42 locomotive built for Amtrak is expected to be released today and will head east on the California Zephyr.

Trains magazine quoted unnamed sources as saying Charger No. 300 will be handled by Train 6 departing Emeryville, California, today (June 12) and arriving in Chicago on Monday.

No. 300 is expected to be featured on Tuesday at a media event at the Amtrak Chicago maintenance facility and depart on June 16 for Washington in the motive power consist of the Capitol Limited.

The Trains report said Amtrak expects to receive a handful of Chargers over the next few weeks that will be tested.

Regular deliveries of the locomotive are expected to begin in the second half of this year. Amtrak has ordered 75 ACLC-42 locomotives for use in its national network.

They will replace aging P42DC units that have been the standard motive power on most national network trains since the middle 1990s.

Charger locomotives are already in revenue service for various operators around the country, including on Amtrak corridor routes in the Midwest.

The intercity carrier is expected to complete receiving its ALC-42 locomotives in 2024.

Lounges to Remain Absent from 2 Trains

May 24, 2021

Sightseer Lounge cars won’t be returning to two long distance trains when they resume daily operation.

The Rail Passengers Association reported on its website that it has been told by Amtrak that the absence of the popular cars from the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle is temporary.

“While temporary, we do not yet have a defined timeline for increasing Sightseer Lounge availability, and have placed the other five Western [long distance] routes at a higher priority for deploying these popular cars,” said Larry Chestler, Amtrak’s vice president of the Long-Distance business unit. “We also are maintaining the Sightseer Lounge on the City of New Orleans due to our long-standing axle count requirements in Illinois.”

That means the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle will will continue to operate with a single food-service car.

Chestler said Amtrak has a shortage of the lounge cars due to coronavirus contingencies. He said the cars will be restored once it’s possible to do so.

The Capitol Limited is scheduled to return to daily operation on May 31 while the Texas Eagle will resume daily operation today (May 24).

In a related development, Amtrak expects to resume full-service dining aboard Western long distance trains as early as June. Last May it switched to the contemporary dining model as a response to COVID-19 pandemic.

The passenger carrier is recalling furloughed workers and getting them qualified.

RPA said it was told that once traditional dining returns to the Western trains, Amtrak will begin work on “improvements to dining services on other [long-distance] routes, including the Eagle.”

Tags: Amtrak onboard service, Amtrak Sightseer Lounge, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, Capitol Limited, COVID-19 pandemic, dining aboard Amtrak

Full-Service Dining Expected Back on Amtrak Long Distance Trains

March 14, 2021

An Amtrak manager has told the Rail Passengers Association that full-service dining will return to six western long-distance trains once they resume daily operation in late May or early June.

Larry Chestler, who oversees Amtrak’s long distance trains, said the passenger carrier expects “something close to normal” this summer for sleeping car class bookings.

Chestler indicated that Amtrak wants to be able to offer a dining-car experience while tending to those who are anxious, fearful or do not desire the traditional communal dining experience that was common in dining cars before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a post on its website, RPA said Amtrak managers said the carrier is still developing plans for dining service restoration that may include “some new options targeting improved safety and improved meal quality.”

Since late last spring, Amtrak has offered its flexible dining model aboard all western long distance trains.

Initially begun in June 2018 aboard the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited, the flexible dining model involves serving prepackaged meals to sleeping car passengers in either the dining car or in their rooms.

The model, which was initially known as contemporary dining, was later expanded to all eastern long distance trains.

It meant a more limited offering of menu items and no more onboard food preparation other than heating already cooked meals.

It was a cost-cutting measure for Amtrak because it reduced dining service from three or more positions to one.

Onboard Amtrak food service workers displaced by the practice on the western trains were moved to the extra board.

Amtrak Long-Distance Trains to Resume Daily Service

March 11, 2021

Amtrak said Wednesday it will reinstate daily service on 12 long-distance routes starting in late May.

Trains on those routes shifted last year to tri-weekly or quad-weekly service in the wake of steep ridership declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement of expanded service came hours after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a pandemic relief package that contains increased funding for Amtrak.

The legislation also contains a mandate that routes that had daily service until last year resume daily operation and that furloughed employees be recalled.

President Joseph Biden is expected to sign the $1.9 trillion bill on Friday.

Two routes, the Chicago-New York Cardinal and New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited will be unaffected by the changes because those routes have operated on tri-weekly schedules for years.

Amtrak has already resumed selling tickets for the expanded days of operation on the 12 routes.

Trains returning to daily service on May 24 include the Chicago-Emeryville, California, California Zephyr; Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight; Chicago-Portland/Seattle Empire Builder, and the Chicago-San Antonio-Los Angeles Texas Eagle.

Daily operation returns May 31 for the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited; Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Resuming daily operation on June 7 will be the New York-New Orleans Crescent, New York-Savannah Palmetto, and the New York-Miami Silver Meteor (via Savannah) and Silver Star (via Raleigh).

In a news release, Amtrak said new Viewliner II sleeping cars will be making their debut on the Silver Service trains.

The Auto Train had continued to operate daily and its operations will remain unchanged.

Amtrak will receive $1.7 billion in emergency pandemic aid, which will help fund restoration of daily service on long-distance routes.

Thanksgiving Travel Relatively Quiet at Amtrak

December 1, 2020

The Thanksgiving 2020 travel period was a relatively quiet one for Amtrak.

In the past the intercity carrier has leased equipment from rail commuter agencies to offer additional service in the Northeast, added additional cars to long-distance trains, and operated extra sections on some Midwest Corridor routes out of Chicago.

But this year it was just business as usual with little additional capacity being added.

A report on the Trains magazine website indicated that the only extra trains added this year were a Boston-Washington Northeast Regional roundtrip and one Acela roundtrip between New York and Washington.

The COVID-19 pandemic depressed holiday travel this year although airlines reported their highest single day loads since the pandemic began in earnest last March.

The Trains report said few trains were sold out this year although some sellouts occurred on corridor and long-distance trains on certain days.

Due to the pandemic Amtrak is limiting coach class travel to 50 percent of capacity.

Amtrak has since October operated nearly all of its long-distance trains three days a week.

That meant that some trains did not operate on days that would ordinarily have a seen a high demand for travel.

On Sunday, which airlines say is historically the busiest travel day of the year, Amtrak had just one long-distance train, the Texas Eagle, departing from Chicago.

Some long-distance trains did experience sell outs, including the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Nos. 29 and 30 in recent months has been operating with just four cars, two coaches, a sleeper and a food service car.

But No. 30 departing Chicago on Saturday (Nov. 28) and Monday (Nov. 30) had no available seats available, the Trains report said.

The report said the Texas Eagle had no available coach seating between Chicago and St. Louis on Friday or Sunday in either direction.

The Trains report said space on many long-distance trains that experienced sell outs sold out weeks in advance of the Thanksgiving travel period.

However, Amtrak declined to add additional capacity to those trains.

With health officials seeking to discourage holiday travel, some long-distance trains experienced cancellations as the holiday period drew near, thus opening seats on the day of departure.