Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Empire Builder’

Amtrak to Build New Engine Facility in Seattle

June 15, 2017

Amtrak will build a $28 million locomotive service facility in Seattle to serve two long-distance trains and the state-funded Cascades service.

Construction is expected to begin this month and be completed in two years. The first step will be demolition of the site’s existing buildings, utilities, tracks and other structures.

Workers will then construct a new 31,000-square-foot locomotive shop that will have a new 125-ton drop table being funded by the Washington State Department of Transportation and a 55-ton overhead bridge crane.

Seattle is the western terminus of the Empire Builder from Chicago and the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles. The Cascades trains operate to Portland and Eugene, Oregon; and to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Empire Builder Subject to Delays in Montana

May 25, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder will be subject to delays as long as two hours through June 16 due to BNSF track work being undertaken in Montana.

The work will take place on the route of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train between Glasgow and Whitefish.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said westbound No. 7/27 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations west of Glasgow. Eastbound No. 8/28 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations east of Whitefish.

Amtrak noted that trains can make up time and passengers are encouraged to  check the status of their train before heading to the station.

Staying Cool in the Sightseer Lounge

May 5, 2017

Outside the temperature is going to be an unseasonably 90 plus degrees in North Dakota. But inside the Sightseer Lounge of Amtrak’s westbound Empire Builder, the passengers are staying cool.

There is hardly a seat to be found as the train rolls west of Minot.  When this image was made in May 2014, the oil boom was at its peak and BNSF was laying new tracks as fast as it could.

Oil is still pumped here, but the amount of it moving by rail has fallen off.

Operating Issues Plague Amtrak Trains

May 3, 2017

Amtrak long distance trains serving the Midwest have been hit with a long list of woes that have caused service disruptions, detours and cancellations.

The Texas Eagle was forced to detour in southern Missouri after a washout on its route via the Union Pacific’s Iron Mountain Subdivision prompted a detour on the former Cotton Belt route between St. Louis and Polar Bluff, Missouri.

Consequently Nos. 21 and 22 missed the scheduled stop at Arcadia Valley, Missouri, and ran late, arriving in Chicago 11 hours late on Sunday.

The Southwest Chief was delayed by a spring snowstorm between Dodge City, Kansas, and Lamar, Colorado, on Sunday that led to No. 3 being more than 15 hours late arriving in Los Angeles.

BNSF personnel provided grade crossing protecting during whiteout conditions.

A head-on collision of two Canadian National trains at Money, Mississippi, on Sunday caused the City of New Orleans to be terminated en route.

Passengers were taken from bus from Memphis to New Orleans on Sunday and Monday.

Northbound passengers rode a bus from Jackson, Mississippi, to Memphis on both days.

A BNSF derailment on Monday led to the Empire Builder being detoured in both directions. Nos. 7 and 8 were expected to detour on Tuesday over a Union Pacific route between Spokane, Washington, and Sandpoint, Idaho.

Track Work Cancels Portland Section of Empire Builder

May 2, 2017

The Chicago-Portland section of the Empire Builder will be affected by BNSF track work in Washington State on Mondays and Tuesdays on May 8 and 9 and on June 5 and 6.

In a service advisory Amtrak said Nos. 27 and 28 will not operate between Portland and Pasco, Washington, and passengers will ride a bus to and from Bingen-White Salmon, Washington; Vancouver, Washington; and Portland.

Westbound passengers will disembark at Pasco, Washington, to board the bus. Eastbound passengers will ride the bus to Pasco and then board their train.

Nos. 27 and 28 will not be serving Wishram, Washington, on the affected dates and alternate transportation is not being provided.

All buses will serve the Amtrak stations in their respective cities and operate according to schedules of Nos. 27 and 28 at those points.

Minnesota Legislature Approves Legislation to Zero Out Funding of MnDOT Passenger Rail Office

April 11, 2017

Legislation pending in the Minnesota legislature would remove funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Passenger Rail Office, which some believe could threaten work toward establishing a second Chicago–Twin Cities passenger train.

The departments of transportation of Minnesota and Wisconsin have been studying creating the train to supplement service provided by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Amtrak Nos. 7 and 8 provide the only intercity rail service in Minnesota.

The rail office sought funding of $900,000, which it would use for planning work for the proposed second train.

If the funding is not provided, the office would no longer be able to lead planning work for the second Chicago-Twin cities train or work on any other proposed passenger rail projects in the state.

The planning work is also being funded by the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority and the state of Wisconsin.

Trains magazine reported that funding for the passenger rail office could be channeled through a bonding bill, but the majority Republican legislature has not favored funding passenger rail in recent bonding bills.

Earlier, 84 Republican legislators wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao urging her to refuse $900 million in funding for a light rail line that was to be provided by the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton requested $1 million in bonding for rail projects that includes up to $500,000 for the second phase of a train study.

Columbus WI Ticket Office to Close April 28

April 3, 2017

The Amtrak ticket agent will be removed from the station in Columbus, Wisconsin, effective April 28.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers will continue to have access to the station waiting area for all train arrivals and departures during normal station hours from 10:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.

Boarding assistance will be provided by Amtrak on-board personnel while a station caretaker will be available at the station approximately 30 minutes before and after train departures to answer questions about Amtrak service.

Trainside checked baggage and bike service will be available in Columbus, but Amtrak Express Service is being discontinued.

Baggage tags will be available inside the station and passengers will check and retrieve their baggage and bike from an Amtrak on-board crew member at the baggage car.

Amtrak said that passengers using cash can pay for tickets on the train, but tickets paid for in cash on the train will be priced at the highest fare and subject to availability.

Unaccompanied minors will not be permitted to travel to or from Columbus.

The closest Amtrak station to Columbus that will continue to provide agent service will be Milwaukee, 64 miles to the east.

Columbus is served by the daily Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle/Portland.

Amtrak Pausing The Empire Builder

March 10, 2017

After seeing its Empire Builder stuck in a snow bank for nearly 13 hours this week, Amtrak has said it will not operate two trips of Nos. 7 and 8 this week.

Buses will be substitute for the Empire Builder through Saturday between Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota.

East No. 8 became stuck in 25-foot snow bank about five miles west of Rugby, North Dakota, on Tuesday night.

It arrived in Chicago on Thursday 21 hours late. The westbound No. 7 that left Chicago on Tuesday was stuck east of Rugby at Leeds, North Dakota.

Amtrak trains also have been delayed this week by mudslides north of Seattle and freight train congestion.

No alternative transportation is being provided west of St. Paul on Friday or Saturday.

In the meantime, Amtrak needs time to get equipment and operating crews into position before it resumes full operation of Nos. 7 and 8.

13 Hours Later No. 8 Freed from Snow Bank

March 9, 2017

It took four tries, but an eastbound Empire Builder finally managed to work its way out of a snow drift that had marooned the train and its 111 passengers for nearly 13 hours in North Dakota.

The 25-foot high snow bank stopped No. 8 dead in its tracks five miles west of Rugby at about 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

Westbound No. 7 was delayed 35 miles to the east with 96 passengers aboard.

No. 8 was finally on the move again after BNSF personnel inspected it and determined that it had not suffered any damage.

Railroad personnel used snowplows, skid-steer loaders and freight train engines trying to pull out the Amtrak train from behind. But none of those methods worked.

Thirty workers then dug the train out by hand, removing snow from beneath and between the Superliner cars.

A passenger aboard the stranded train, Miranda Fenner, said the train had power and the cafe and lounge were open so food was available. But many passengers spent the time sleeping.

No. 8 was already running seven hours late due to the weather had left Minot, North Dakota at 6 a.m. Wednesday rather than the scheduled 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

St. Cloud Station Rehab Gets Underway

February 21, 2017

Work has begun to rehabilitate the Amtrak station in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The $1.3 million project will include updated restroom facilities, improved wheelchair accessibility and signs that comply with the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Amtrak 4Also included in the project are a new roof for the depot, a reconfigured parking lot and boarding platforms improvements.

St. Cloud is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, which handled 11,457 passengers there in 2016 compared with 9,950 in 2015.

Overall 2016 ridership of Nos. 7-27 and 8-28 for 2016 was 146,689, an increase of 5.8 percent over 2015.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Builder’s operating performance has improved after a period of time when high oil train traffic on host railroad BNSF resulted in severe delays and cancellations.