Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited’

Capital Region Track To Be Done by Summer

March 20, 2017

Amtrak expects to finish a massive rail improvement project in New York’s Capital Region this summer.

The $163 million program is adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, New York, in order to eliminate a bottleneck on the single-track route used by the Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, the Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf.

The work also includes upgrading the signal system and improving grade crossings.

An earlier stage of the project involved lengthening two passenger platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, primarily for the benefit of passengers boarding and disembarking from the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak officials said the work is nearly finished south of the Capital Region and that the second track between Albany and Schenectady should go into service in late spring or early summer.

A NYDOT spokesman said contractors are still placing ballast on the new track, as well as making deck repairs on the Union Street and Erie Boulevard bridges in Schenectady, cleaning and improving culverts, and removing poles, now that the new signal system is underground.

However, officials say that earlier ides to increase the level of service west and north of the region are uncertain at best.

Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, a government planning organization that oversees the disbursement of federal transportation funds, said there are no serious proposals to extend Empire Service trains now terminating at Albany-Rensselaer to Schenectady or Saratoga Springs.

The New York Department of Transportation will say only that it continues to consider increased service.

Saratoga County residents who are now served by the New York-Montreal Adirondack said that they need additional service to provide them more flexibility in their travel plans.

Some now drive an hour to the Albany-Rensselaer station to take advantage of its higher level of service to New York City.

In a related development, NYDOT officials have been asked to replace the locomotives used between Albany-Rensselaer and New York Penn Station.

The dual model locomotives are able to run on diesel fuel or electric current, but use electric power in the Manhattan tunnels that bring trains into Penn Station.

Replacing the fleet with 25 new locomotives would cost an estimated $250 million.

The current locomotives are old and prone to breakdowns that delay trains.

Amtrak Restoring Service Today

March 15, 2017

Amtrak said it would operate on a modified schedule on Wednesday in the East as a result of winter storm Stella.

The eastbound Capitol Limited has resumed operated to Washington. It had terminated at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Today’s No. 29 originated in Pittsburgh.

The Lake Shore Limited did not depart from either Chicago or New York/Boston on Tuesday.

The Amtrak website showed tickets are available for No. 48 leaving Chicago today as well as No. 49 leaving New York.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said all long-distance trains that use the Northeast Corridor will resume scheduled service today.

The Acela Express and Northeast Regional service will operate on a modified schedule between New York and Boston with trains terminating short of their destination or cancelled.

Acela Express and Northeast Regional service between New York and Washington will also operate on a modified scheduled.

Also operating on modified schedules will be the VermonterKeystone Service and Empire Service trains. The Downeaster and Springfield Shuttle will resume scheduled service.

Winter Storm Leads Amtrak to Shorten Route of Capitol Limited, Cancel Boston LSL Section

March 13, 2017

A severe winter storm that has prompted Amtrak to cancel and reduce service along the Northeast Corridor will also affect some trains operating to the Atlantic Seaboard from outside the region.

The Capitol Limited will not operate on Tuesday (March 14) between Pittsburgh and Washington.

The Lake Shore Limited will not operate between Boston and Albany/Rensselaer, New York.

Amtrak said there will be no Acela Express service between New York and Boston, and there will be modified Acela Express service between New York and Washington.

Northeast Regional service will operate on a modified schedule between Boston and Washington with the routes of some trains shortened and other trains being canceled. This will affect some trains that operate beyond Washington to points in Virginia.

Also operating on modified schedules will be Empire Service, Downeaster Service and Keystone Service trains.

Kicking Up a Little Snow

February 27, 2017

amtrak-48-berea-april-7-2007

Contrary to appearances, this image of Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited was made in April.

No. 48 is running several hours late as it kicks up the snow in Berea, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Snow in Northeast Ohio, even heavy snow, during April is not unusual.

I didn’t know that No. 48 was running late. I might have learned about it from a radio transmission or simply seeing an Amtrak train come around the bend.

We don’t always get this much snow in April, but it happens. The photo was made on April 7, 2007, and was scanned from a slide.

Side by Side in Conneaut

February 23, 2017

amtrak023

It was an Amtrak two-fer day although the second of the photo ops was not planned.

On Sept. 19, 2014, a friend and I made out way to Conneaut, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border to photograph an American Association of Private Rail Car Owners special en route to the group’s convention in New England.

It operated on Norfolk Southern and was, technically, an Amtrak charter even if the only Amtrak equipment was the locomotives.

After photographing the special on the Conneaut trestle, we checked with Amtrak Julie just for the heck of it to see how No. 48 was doing.

Under normal circumstances, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited would be long past Conneaut. But the summer and fall of 2014 was far from normal circumstances for Amtrak operations between Chicago and Cleveland.

Sure enough, No. 48 was running late and we had time to get up to the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern station to get a photo of it rounding the curve beneath the water tank.

For good measure No. 48 came up alongside a CSX train slowly making its way eastward.

AAO Still Trying to Move the Passenger Needle

February 22, 2017

A message showed up in my email inbox the other day from All Aboard Ohio, a passenger advocacy group, that has released a report titled, “Ohio Passenger Rail Assessment of Needs.”

The report was timed to coincide with the Ohio legislature getting to work in hammering out the state’s budget for the next two years.

ohioAAO is trying to push legislators to “begin planning, constructing or completing $23.6 million worth of passenger rail improvements” over the next two years.

Much of that work involves upgrading stations served by the state’s three Amtrak trains, the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and Cardinal.

Some of the funding would also be used to plan potential future intercity rail routes, including a proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus route that has never seen Amtrak service.

As AAO sees it, more than $80 million in state funding could be available under state law to be used for passenger rail development without paying for the operating costs of any actual trains.

An AAO news release about the report was written in the typical optimistic tone of rail passenger advocates and sought to put the best possible face on intercity rail.

It focused on such facts as how Amtrak covers 94 percent of its costs through revenues and set a ridership record in fiscal year 2016.

It also reiterated a tactic that AAO has used in the past of trying to shame Ohio policy makers into taking action by noting how neighboring states and the Canadian province of Ontario are investing millions in the development of intercity routes and services while Ohio spends zilch.

The state capital of Columbus is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere without passenger rail service.

Some folks in Phoenix might quibble with that although the Valley of the Sun does have a light rail system that is seeking to expand.

Rail passenger advocates tend to be an optimistic lot. They have to be. If they acknowledged the long and difficult road ahead they might throw up their hands in frustration. AAO is no exception.

“We look forward to continuing our dialogue with Ohio’s policymakers in achieving realistic, near-term improvements to our state’s transportation system,” said AAO Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “We urge Ohioans to contact their state lawmakers in Columbus today and inform them with a short, polite message that they want better passenger rail service in Ohio.”

AAO has around 500 members and even if all of them contacted their legislators it is doubtful that it would have much effect on what the legislature is likely to do in terms of supporting intercity passenger rail.

Ohio has never spent a dime on funding intercity rail service, unlike neighboring Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

It received a federal grant to help develop the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor, but Gov. John Kasich killed the project shortly after winning election in 2010 and the federal government took back the grant and reallocated it elsewhere.

Ohio’s apathy, indifference or hostility – choose which word you think fits best – toward intercity rail development is not likely to change this year.

Kasich is still governor and is unlikely to change his views toward intercity rail service. Nor is the current legislature likely to be any more open to rail than is the governor. They are not going to be shamed or moved to action.

There may be some small victories, such as state funding of existing station improvements, but little to nothing else.

So AAO works to develop support for a rail a little at a time. Like I said, it’s going to be a long struggle.

NYDOT Pledges to Complete Building New Schenectady Amtrak Station by November 2018

February 9, 2017

A New York transportation official pledged on Wednesday that a new Amtrak station for Schenectady will go out for bid this year and be completed by November 2018. Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll said during a tour of the early 1970s era station that the project will be bid in two stages.

Amtrak 4The construction steel work will be released for bid on Feb. 24 and is expected to cost about $6 million.

The remainder of the project will go to bid this fall and is expected to cost $9 million.

Amtrak has agreed to pay some costs not directly associated with the station building, including track work.

Driscoll said the building alone — without repairs to a 100-year-old viaduct included in the first bid proposal — can be done with a $15 million budget.

Some bridge rehabilitation work will be funded by an Amtrak track rebuilding project that is currently in progress.

Amtrak and NYDOT are still discussing erecting a temporary station that passengers will use while the permanent depot is being built.

Schenectady is served by Amtrak’s Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited and Empire Service trains.

Schenectady Passengers Might Have to Make Do With a Shelter Until a New Station is Built

February 2, 2017

Schenectady, New York, officials knew that Amtrak passengers in their city would need to use a temporary facility while a permanent station was being built.

But it may be that the temporary facility will provide far less comfort than anyone expected.

Amtrak 4The Albany Times-Union reported that  in a cost-cutting move the New York Department of Transportation is looking at building what would be little more than a shelter that would not have a ticket office or restrooms.

A temporary station with those amenities was to have been completed by late 2016, but work has yet to begin on it other than the construction of stairs and a ramp.

Since 1979, Schenectady has been served by an Amtrak-built modular station that few have liked.

Since 2007, city and state transportation officials have been planning to replace the 1970s Amtrak station with something more modern and attractive.

But that project suffered a setback when the lone bid for the new station came in last year $10 million over the $12 million to $15 million budget for the depot.

The new station remains on track with Gov. Andrew Cuomo allocating $15 million for the project in his proposed state budget. That is in addition to $15 million already in hand, giving planners $30 million for the station project.

The temporary station is expected to be located north of the site for the permanent station, which is expected to open in late 2018.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations at the National Association of Railroad Passengers and a former head of the Empire State Passengers Association, said he was concerned about the proposed temporary facility.

“Our concerns are for both the benefit and the safety of the passengers,” he said.

Schenectady is served by Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains, the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, the New York-Montreal Adirdondack, and the New York-Rutland, Vermont Ethan Allen Express.

Gov. Pledges Funds for New Schenectady Depot

January 12, 2017

New Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed spending $15 million to build a new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

The funding was mentioned in his State of the State speech given this week.

Amtrak 3Amtrak currently uses a depot on Erie Boulevard. Cuomo cited the Schenectady station project while discussing plans to upgrade transportation hubs across the state.

It is not clear how much new state money will be spent on the new station. Some federal and local funding is also expected to go into the project.

The New York Department of Transportation has budgeted $15 million for the station, but that includes some federal funding that may no longer be available.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the state is expected to kick in some additional money in order to get the project going and the station open by 2018.

“Anybody that’s gone through that station, it’s an embarrassment,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t reflect the quality of the community we’re building. We’re doing demolitions in the neighborhoods, working on home ownership, getting the casino online, and that train station is just an embarrassment.”

In March 2016, NYDOT sought bids for a new station, but received just one response. That bid was $10 million over budget, so the state scrapped its plans.

Instead, it decided to split the work into two projects, one involving razing the 1970s era that Amtrak built and now uses and another to build a replacement station.

The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, New York-Toronto Maple Leaf, the New York-Montreal Adirondack, the New York-Rutland (Vermont) Ethan Allen Express and four New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains serve Schenectady, which handled 61,000 passengers last year.

Amtrak and the NYDOT are building a second track between Schenectady and Albany-Rensselaer to alleviate rail traffic congestion on the route. That track is expected to be completed this spring.

Another Viewliner II Diner Expected in March

January 7, 2017

The National Association of Railroad Passengers reported this week that Amtrak officials have said that the first Viewliner II diner has been performing satisfactorily in its trial revenue service.

Amtrak logoThe diner, built by CAF USA in Elmira, New York, has been operating on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor since late November.

Amtrak will place another Viewliner II diner in service in March with the remaining 23 diners that Amtrak ordered being delivered by late spring.

The diners are slated to be assigned to eastern long-distance trains. NARP said no date has been set for restoration of full dining service to the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

The Viewliner diners also are slated to be assigned to the New York-New Orleans Crescent.

Once the diners are delivered, CAF will focus on finishing the baggage-dorm cars and sleepers that Amtrak ordered.

NARP noted that Amtrak said adding the baggage-dorm cars to the Chicago-New York Cardinal will enable it make more sleeper space available to the public.

At present, the on-board crew of Nos. 50 and 51 are housed in revenue space and the availability of rooms on the Cardinal for the public is tight.

Amtrak’s Viewliner order was placed in 2010. When finished, CAF will have built 70 baggage cars, 25 diners, 10 baggage-dormitory cars and 25 sleepers.