Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Empire Corridor’

Second Generation Turboliner

May 29, 2018

Back in the mid 1970s Amtrak tried to make a splash by leasing a couple of French-built gas turbine trains.

Capable of traveling 125 mph, Amtrak knew that the Turboliners would not be able to get close to that in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor where they were introduced in August 1973.

But the Turboliners were the newest equipment that Amtrak had to show off.

The first sets of Turboliners were built in France, but California-based Rohr Industries would build seven Turbotrain sets that were delivered between 1976 and 1977.

These Turboliners were based on the earlier French design but had American couplers and a re-designed cab car.

The Rohr or RTG Turboliners were capable of operating in electrified third rail territory so they were assigned to Empire Corridor Service in New York.

I was waiting for a commuter train in Beacon, New York, in December 1982 on what is now Metro North when one of the RTG Turboliners came charging past.

I had just enough time to get my camera  out and compose this image.

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LSL New York Section Suspension Begins May 26

May 12, 2018

The New York section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited will be suspended between May 26 and Sept. 4.

During that time Nos. 48 and 49 will operate only between Chicago and Boston. Passengers bound to and from New York will connect at Albany-Rensselaer with other Amtrak trains.

At the same time, Amtrak’s Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf will begin using Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The service changes are due to an infrastructure renewal program at New York Penn Station and the route leading to it from the Empire Corridor.

This includes construction in the Empire Tunnel and the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge. Workers will also be rebuilding Track 19 at Penn Station.

Work on Track 19 will occur between June 8 and July 20 during which time Amtrak will operate on a modified schedule.

Suspension of the Lake Shore Limited combined with making Washington the temporary eastern terminus of the Cardinal means that there will be no direct scheduled intercity rail passenger service for the first time since the 19th century.

Schenectady Station to Open in Fall

April 30, 2018

The New York State Department of Transportation expects to open the new Amtrak station in Schenectady in a few months.

In a project update, NYSDOT said the station front is starting to resemble the architect drawings and that steel is going in on the platform.

“They’re working on the head house now, which is the part of the station you encounter when you come off the train, the entryway into the station,” said NYSDOT spokesman Bryan Viggian.

“We’re pleased with the progress. It’s moving on time and on schedule.

The facility replaces a 1970s era station build by Amtrak was razed last summer. “It had reached its time. Schenectady deserved a nice, more modern station here,” Viggiani said.

The station will resemble a former Union Station that was built in 1910 but demolished several decades later.

Viggiani said the $23 million station would be finished in the fall and is part of a 15-year plan to transform Erie Boulevard.

“It took us a longer time to get it going than I would’ve liked, but the governor was a big help in terms of finally putting that package together,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy.

Near the station are the Rivers Casino, Riverhouse apartments and restaurants and offices on the Mohawk riverfront.

“The train station is really just the cherry on top of the sundae there,” said Schenectady County Legislator Gary Hughes.

Schenectady is served by Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack, Maple Leaf and Empire Service trains to Niagara Falls, New York.

New York Section of LSL Reportedly Will be Suspended During New York Penn Station Work This Summer

March 1, 2018

An online report said that Amtrak plans to return FL9 locomotives to service this summer and to temporarily drop the New York section of the Lake Shore Limited due to construction at New York Penn Station.

The report, which did not provide sources, said the FL9s are owned by the State of Connecticut and will be used as cab cars when some Empire Service trains begin using Grand Central Terminal.

The former New Haven locomotives are needed because for emergencies there must be an exit from a train in the Park Avenue Tunnel. Side doors cannot be used on outside tracks so passengers would need to be evacuated through the rear door

However, Amtrak’s P32AC-DMs locomotives lack a nose door. Therefore, the FL9s will be used to lead trains into Grand Central. The trains will be turned there so that the FL9s will lead at all times.

The report said the FL9s will need to be rebuilt at the Amtrak shops in Rensselaer, New York, for cab car use.

Metro-North P32AC-DM engines are able to use the Park Avenue tunnel because they were built with nose doors.

The planned consists of trains using Grand Central will be a cab car or non-powered FL9 leading; an unoccupied Amtrak P32AC-DM to provide traction and head-end power, and the train’s passenger cars.

During this period the Lake Shore Limited will continue to operate between Chicago and Boston.

More Empire Corridor Track Work Planned

December 6, 2017

More track work is planned for Amtrak’s Empire Corridor rail officials said this week.

Speaking at a ceremony to make the 50th anniversary of the New York-Buffalo, New York, route, Amtrak’s Joe McHugh, vice president of state supported services and business development, said work is planned for the Empire Connector, which leads into New York’s Penn Station.

The ceremony was held at the Capital District Transportation Authority rail station in Rensselaer.

McHugh and other officials wouldn’t provide any specifics, but the Albany Times-Union reported that sources with knowledge of the plans said Empire Service trains would have to be temporarily redirected to Grand Central Terminal next summer.

Amtrak apparently still needs to reach an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to use GCT.

The event was held to look back on the history of the Empire Corridor, which was developed in 1967 by the New York Central Railroad.

McHugh said that in the middle 1960s it wasn’t clear whether there was a future for passenger rail.

“The people who rethought the roles that trains could fill are the people who saved the railroad,” he said.

In recent years, Amtrak has rebuilt some tracks used by Empire Service trains, added a fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer station, and installed a second track between Albany and Schenectady.

A new station for Schenectady is currently under construction.

Amtrak is still awaiting delivery of new dining cars and sleeping cars for its long-distance trains, including the Lake Shore Limited.

McHugh said the diners that have been delivered have received positive comments from passengers, and that refurbishment of the interiors of the carrier’s Amfleet I cars should be completed by March 2018.

Amtrak to Mark 50th Anniversary of Empire Service

December 2, 2017

Amtrak and New York State on Monday will celebrate 50 years of Empire Service between New York and Buffalo, New York.

The event will be held at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station. Expected to be in attendance are elected officials, local dignitaries and prominent Albany civic leaders.

Amtrak plans to honor those who were at the New York Central in 1967 when the Empire Service was launched.

“Celebrating 50 years of rail passenger service is an accomplishment that Amtrak is proud to celebrate with all of its state partners and the communities along this route who have been integral to the Empire Service’s success,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of state supported services and business development.

The Empire Service was the result of restructuring of NYC intercity passenger service that the railroad hoped would reduce its passenger financial deficit.

Many long-distance trains were restructured and lost their names. The NYC also discontinued the fabled 20th Century Limited.

When Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971, the Empire Corridor hosted seven daily trains.

Today the corridor has 12 daily trains, although most of them operate only between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

Amtrak restored service to Niagara Falls in 1971 and to downtown Schenectady in 1978.

Amtrak’s Empire Service trains are supported by funds made available by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Trains in the corridor use dual-mode locomotives, which enables the trains to operate under diesel power and then switch to electric third rail power for operation into and out of New York Penn Station.

Until April 7, 1991, Amtrak’s Empire Service trains used New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

A recent track rebuilding has resulted in a 45-mile stretch of track between Hudson and Schenectady having a top speed of 110 miles per hour.

Rochester Station Cost 49% More Than Expected

October 18, 2017

The newly opened Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, has received high marks, but it also wound up costing 49 percent more than projected.

The new station replaced a modular facility that Amtrak built in the 1970s.

When the project was announced in 2014, the projected cost was put at $29.8 million.

Even that figure was an increase over projections of a few years earlier. Officials said that design changes and delays has increased the sticker price.

But when the station opened more than a week ago, officials said that the station had cost $44.3 million.

In a news release, the New York Department of Transportation said that $20.4 million of the expenses were covered by the federal government, $500,000 by the City of Rochester and $23.4 million by the state.

NYDOT said a number of things led to the increased cost. Those included unexpected costs related to skylights, bridges, soil removal and drainage work.

This included unforeseen problems once workers reached the basement of the former New York Central Railroad station that stood at the site.

Those increased design and construction contract costs from $29.5 million to $34.3 million.

Much of the remaining $10 million in added costs came from track work performed by CSX. This included moving two mainline tracks and building two new tracks for Amtrak’s use.

An open government group said that CSX was paid $8 million for that work.

Rochester is served by four Amtrak Empire Service trains, the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Schenectady Station Bid to be Opened

October 11, 2017

Bids for a new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York, will be opened on Oct. 19, the New York Department of Transportation said.

The bids to be opened are the second phase of the project, which involves construction of the station and parking lot.

That work is expected to occur in 2018 with the depot slated to open in October 2018.

The first phase of the project, demolition of the existing station, plus platform concrete work and new culverts was earlier awarded to Bette & Cring, which submitted the low bid of $5,409,091.

The new station, which is projected to cost $23.5 million, will replace an Amtrak-built facility that opened in 1979.

Transportation department officials have said the design of the new Amtrak station will have architectural features reminiscent of the Schenectady Union Station, which was built in 1908 and razed in 1971.

This will include a wraparound awning outside the building, a weather vane in the shape of New York state on top of a gold dome on the roof, and tall arched windows similar to those in the original Union Station.

Schenectady is served by Empire Corridor trains, including the Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston), Maple Leaf (New York-Toronto) and Adirondack (New York-Montreal).

New Rochester Station Opens

October 9, 2017

The new Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, opened last Friday at the same location as the previous Amtrak-built modular facility.

The new station is fully ADA-compliant and has a new high-level platform serving two dedicated boarding tracks.

Attending a ribbon cutting ceremony were Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. During the ceremony, the eastbound and westbound Maple Leaf’s met at the new station.

Aside from the Maple Leaf, Rochester is served by the Lake Shore Limited and four Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York.

Many Amtrak Trains on CSX Tracks Took Taken Hit in Timekeeping in July, But Not all of Them

August 29, 2017

Not all Amtrak trains that run on CSX rails were plagued by poor timekeeping this past July, but many of them were.

An analysis by Trains magazine found that the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Palmetto, Cardinal, Hoosier State and Maple Leaf suffered serious deterioration in their on-time performance in July compared with the previous 12 months.

The Silver Service and Palmetto ran late 80 percent of the time compared with 56 percent of the time over the past 12 months.

The Cardinal was late 77 percent of the time compared with 43 percent in the previous 12 months.

The on-time performance of the Hoosier State dipped to 54 percent in July, down from 77 percent over the past 12 months.

The Maple Leaf’s timekeeping declined from 77 percent over the past 12 months to 61 percent in July. However, issues on Metro-North in the New York City region caused some of the delays.

Emerging relatively unaffected by the CSX troubles were the Auto TrainCapitol LimitedLake Shore LimitedEmpire Service, and Carolinian/Piedmont. The on-time performance of those trains either improved or held steady.

When the on-time performance did decline, it has more to do with factors other than CSX dispatching.

For example, the Capitol Limited was late 66 percent of the time in July compared with 58 percent during the previous year.

Much of the delay to Nos. 29 and 30 occurred on Norfolk Southern between Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Likewise, most of the delays to the Lake Shore Limited could be attributed to NS.

The Lake Shore Limited was late 64 percent of the time in July, which was down from 53 percent in the past 12 months.

Half of the delays to Nos. 48 and 49 occurred between Chicago and Cleveland, which is owned and dispatched by NS.

Thirty-percent of the delays to the Boston section of the Lake Shore were due to CSX freight train interference.

On the Empire Corridor, trains posted a 78 percent on-time performance in July, down from 84 percent over the past 12 months. However, most of the delays occurred on Metro North tracks.

The Auto Train’s timekeeping improved in July to 66 percent versus 56 percent over the past year.

The Carolinian/Piedmont service posted a 57 percent on-time record in July, which was up from 54 percent over the past year.

Although Amtrak would not say if poor on-time performance has affected ridership, spokesman Marc Magliari said arriving on time is the biggest single factor in customer satisfaction.

“Amtrak performance on a route is often the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ ” Magliari said. “If our trains are not running well, the freight trains are often not running well.

“The numbers speak for themselves every month. Host railroads make operational and dispatching decisions that can result in delays to our trains and cause our trains not to make the times on the schedules the host railroads have agreed to meet.”

For its part, CSX acknowledges Amtrak trains have been delayed, but spokesman Rob Doolittle compared it to the undesired effects that CSX customers have had as the railroad implemented a new operating plan.

“We value all of our customers, including Amtrak, and we have worked diligently to resolve those issues as they have emerged.”

Doolittle insisted that CSX dispatcher continue to provide Amtrak trains with preference in accordance with federal law.