Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s City of New Orleans’

NOLA Service Restorations Underway

July 16, 2019

Amtrak said service to New Orleans will be restored this week now that Hurricane Barry has passed.

The Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Los Angeles will resume with the eastbound departure of Train 2 from Los Angeles on July 17, and the westbound departure of Train 1 from New Orleans on July 20.

The New York-New Orleans Crescent resumed with the westbound departure of Train 19 from New York on July 15 and the eastbound departure of Train 20 from New Orleans on July 16.

The Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans resumed normal service southbound on July 15 and northbound on July 16.

However, Nos. 58 and 59 are only operating between Chicago and Jackson, Mississippi, because host railroad Canadian National is still not allowing Amtrak to operate south of Jackson due to flooding.

Passengers between Jackson and New Orleans are riding chartered buses.

NOLA Service Suspensions Extended

July 12, 2019

In an updated service advisory, Amtrak has extended the service suspensions for trains serving New Orleans as tropical storm Barry heads for the Crescent City this weekend.

The New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited will terminate and originate in San Antonio through July 16.

The New York-New Orleans Crescent will terminate and originate in Atlanta through July 14.

The New Orleans-Chicago City of New Orleans will terminate and originate in Jackson, Mississippi, today. On July 13 and 14 Nos. 58 and 59  will originate and terminate in Memphis, Tennessee.

No substitute transportation is available between New Orleans and the points where these routes will temporarily originate and terminate.

Service Suspended Ahead of Severe Storm

July 11, 2019

Not Much Longer to Run

July 9, 2019

Amtrak’s northbound Hoosier State sits on Track 16 at Chicago Union Station on June 25 after having completed a trip that originated at Indianapolis Union Station.

Train 851 arrived at CUS 20 minutes early on this day.

It was the last week of operation of Nos. 850 and 851 after the Indiana legislature declined to continue its funding of the quad-weekly service.

In the background is the equipment that arrived earlier on the City of New Orleans.

End of Track at NOUPT

June 24, 2019

 

Depending on your perspective, this is either the end of the route of Amtrak’s City of New Orleans or the first few feet of the route north to Chicago.

The view is from the rear car on No. 58, which is boarding at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal.

The photo was made in March 2012.

Illinois Funding to Help Amtrak Services

June 13, 2019

Amtrak travelers in Illinois will benefit from a recently enacted capital spending program approved by the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. J. B. Pritzker, but it will be years before those benefits can be seen.

There remains much work to be done on engineering studies and land acquisition. Some of those efforts have been on hold since 2015.

In some cases, negotiations have yet to begin between the Illinois Department of Transportation and a host railroad.

That includes a project to improve on-time performance and reliability of Amtrak service using Canadian National tracks between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

An IDOT spokesman told Trains magazine that his agency needs to agree on the details with CN, but the project is expected to include some sidings, universal crossovers and other unspecified improvements.

The capital project has earmarked $100 million to improve service on the route used by the City of New Orleans and the state-funded Saluki and Illini.

Amtrak sued CN in 2012 over poor on-time performances of its trains in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor, but that litigation has become bogged down in the courts.

Trains reported that IDOT and CN have already held talks about how to alleviate some sources of delay to Amtrak trains.

IDOT and Union Pacific also need to agree on the nuts and bolts of what it will take to implement a long-discussed plan to reroute Amtrak and UP freight trains onto a grade-separated double-track line in Springfield.

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains now use a former Gulf Mobile & Ohio route that runs parallel to Third Street and which has numerous grade crossings.

The Illinois capital program has set aside $122 million to move Amtrak and its Springfield station to a corridor along 10th Street that will also be used by Norfolk Southern.

One downside of the move is that the Amtrak station would be further from the heart of downtown Springfield and the statehouse complex.

The capital funding program is expected to give a boost to two proposed new Amtrak routes.

One involves service between Chicago and Rockford using Metra’s Milwaukee West District to Big Timber Road west of downtown Elgin and thence over a UP line via Belvedere to Rockford.

A connection needs to be built at Big Timber to connect the Metra and UP routes.

The IDOT spokesman told Trains that there is no federal funding or service frequency plan for the service.

“The new infusion of funding will require us to re-engage with UP, Amtrak, and the local communities on scope, budget, and schedule after the hiatus,” the spokesman said, making reference to a decision by former Gov. Bruce Rauner to revoke funding approved earlier for development of the route.

Another new Amtrak route would link Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

The City of Moline, Illinois, has created a station for the service, but engineering and property acquisition needs to be done on a connection near Wyanet, Illinois.

The plan is to use the BNSF route now used by Amtrak’s Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg and California Zephyr, to Wyanet and then switch to the Iowa Interstate for the remainder of the trip into Moline.

“Negotiations with the railroad will proceed on the construction, operating, and maintenance agreements,” the IDOT spokesman said, noting that IDOT and Iowa Interstate have yet to discuss “scope, budget, and timelines” that must precede an environmental assessment and preliminary engineering.
The capital funding program allocated $225 million to match a route-specific federal stimulus grant that is set to expire on June 30, 2019,

However, IDOT is talking with the FRA about extending the deadline for the grant.

IDOT had not given a timeline for when the service to Rockford or Moline would begin.

Rockford was once served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Dubuque, Iowa, Black Hawk, before it was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1981.

Although Amtrak has never served Moline, the former Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific offered intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and nearby Rock Island, Illinois, until Jan. 1, 1979.

CN Won’t Allow Amtrak to Extend Nos. 58/59

June 3, 2019

Amtrak has been pressing Canadian National without success to allow the City of New Orleans to operate as far south as Hammond, Louisiana, or Macomb, Mississippi.

For a few weeks Nos. 58 and 59 have been operating between Chicago and Jackson, Mississippi, after CN banned operation of the train over the Bonnet Carre Spillway near New Orleans.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has opened the spillway in an effort to mitigate the effects of flooding in the region.

However, CN freight trains have continued to operate over the spillway. This is not the first time that CN has not allowed Amtrak trains to operate over the spillway while it was open.

While the spillway is open Amtrak passengers bound for points south of Jackson have been riding a chartered bus.

The Rail Passengers Association said it has learned CN has denied Amtrak requests to allow the City of New Orleans to operate farther south.

However, the railroad has apparently agreed to allow Amtrak to operate the City to New Orleans and across the spillway if no passengers were on board.

Although CN has cited safety concerns for its not allowing the City to operate with passengers over the spillway while it is open, RPA speculated CN”s behavior might be rooted in negative public attention that it has received following Amtrak’s posting of report cars on its website in which it grades host railroads on their on-time performance.

RPA noted that CN received a D- on the latest report card.

In a service advisory posted on the Amtrak website, the carrier said the use of buses between Jackson and New Orleans would continue “until further notice.”

CONO Passengers Back on the Bus to NOLA

May 18, 2019

Passengers riding Amtrak’s City of New Orleans are back on board a bus due to flooding in the South.

In a service advisory Amtrak said passengers will ride a bus between New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi, until further notice.

The advisory said Canadian National has closed the route used by Nos. 58 and 59 due to a planned emergency flood control endeavor.

It is the second time this year CONO passengers have had to ride a bus between New Orleans and Jackson due to flooding.

Amtrak said train service will be reinstated as soon as possible.

Affected are passengers traveling to and from the intermediate stations in Hazlehurst, Brookhaven, McComb, Mississippi; and Hammond, Louisiana.

Passengers departing from New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal are being advised to arrive at the station by 12:15 p.m. to board the charter buses.

One Menu Cover Being Used in Amtrak Dining Cars

May 9, 2019

While looking around on the Amtrak website recently I noticed that the carrier is now using the same menu cover for all of its full-service dining cars on long-distance trains.

Until recently, menu covers featured an image specific to each of those trains.

That practice, though, has been dropped. Train-specific images still are being used on menus for dining cars on the City of New Orleans and Cardinal.

Specific menus are also shown on the Amtrak website for the Auto Train, Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited but no train-special images accompany those menus.

The Auto Train has two menus, one for coach passengers and one for sleeping car passengers. If you were wondering, the entrees available in coach include flat iron steak, panko-crusted pollock, roasted chicken breast and lasagna.

The sleeping car menu on the Auto Train features beef petite tender filet, lemon pepper cod, thyme roasted chicken and mushroom bolognese lasagna.

Each menu has the same children’s menu of chicken tenders or macaroni and cheese. The desert fare is mostly the same in coach and sleeper except that sleeping car passengers are advised to ask their server about that day’s Amtrak signature dessert.

The menus for the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited are identical and there is no mention of the train names.

Amtrak has used a largely standardized dining car menu for its long-distance trains for a few years now although there were a few slight variations for some routes.

Also gone from the dining car menus are entrees created by chefs who were members of an Amtrak culinary advisory committee.

One thing that hasn’t changed are the high prices for entrees. The priciest is the land and sea combo, which features a Black Angus flat iron steak and a lump crab cake for $39.

If you just want the steak it will cost $25 if you are paying for your meal as opposed to it being included in your sleeping car room fare.

The crab cake is only available in the land and sea combo. The seafood entrees is Norwegian salmon. The chicken entree is thyme-roasted chicken breast while the pasta entree is a rigatoni pasta that is billed as being vegan compliant.

At $16.50 the rigatoni pasta is the least expensive dinner entree. As has been the practice for several years now, a side salad costs extra, although it is complimentary for sleeping car passengers.

Lunch entrees include an entree salad with chicken breast for an additional charge, black bean and corn veggie burger, Angus burger, baked chilaquiles, and steamed mussels.

Prices of the lunch entrees range from $14.50 to $12.50. At lunch and dinner there are four desert items available, including sugar free vanilla pudding, a flourless chocolate tart, New York-style cheesecake and a seasonal desert.

The breakfast fare seems rather pricey for what you get. Three pancakes cost $10.50, which doesn’t include a breakfast meat.

Scrambled eggs with roasted potatoes or grits and a croissant cost $8.50.

The continental breakfast of cereal or hot oatmeal accompanied with fresh seasonal fruit, Greek yogurt and a croissant is $8.75.

Other breakfast entrees include a made to order three-egg omelette, and cheese quesadillas with eggs and tomatillo sauce. Both of these come with a croissant and omelette also has potatoes or grits.

Breakfast meats include pork sausage, chicken sausage and bacon, but must be ordered separately. You will also pay extra for such toppings as cheese or guacamole.

CONO Breakdown Strands 145 in Carbondale

April 4, 2019

Passengers aboard Amtrak’s southbound City of New Orleans were forced to finish their trip by bus on Monday after mechanical issues halted the train for several hours in Carbondale, Illinois.

Attempts to fix the problem were unsuccessful and the 145 passengers were later put aboard buses.

As it was those going south of Jackson, Mississippi, were already slated to ride the bus because service between Jackson and New Orleans has been suspended in recent weeks due to flooding.

Amtrak provided some food for the stranded passengers who sat aboard their train in the cold.

News reports indicated that the mechanical issues occurred after the train made its regular station stop in Carbondale, which is also an Amtrak crew change point.