Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited’

When the LSL Was a Regular Daylight Train in Cleveland

April 26, 2017

It was in 2007, I believe, that Amtrak rescheduled the eastbound Lake Shore Limited to arrive and depart Cleveland between 6 and 7 a.m., which meant it was a daylight operation for a good part of the year.

That schedule didn’t last long and No. 48 soon enough began leaving Chicago at 9:30 p.m., which puts it into Cleveland at 5:35 a.m.

I didn’t take advantage of the 2007 window of opportunity as much as I should have. A friend, though, did. He made it a point to photograph No. 48 in as many places as he could between Cleveland and the Pennsylvania border just east of Conneaut, Ohio, during the summer of 2007.

I did get downtown on a couple of occasions to photograph No. 48 in the station, including this view made on July 14, 2007.

Note that lead unit No. 156 is the one that is now painted in Amtrak’s Phase I locomotive livery.

Downtown Station Site Favored in Buffalo

April 24, 2017

The committee studying sites for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, has recommended building the station downtown rather than renovating Buffalo Central Terminal.

The exact site will be chosen by the New York Department of Transportation, although it is expected to be along Exchange Street.

The new station is expected to cost at least $35 million, of which the state is contributing $25 million.

Currently, Buffalo is served by two stations, one at Exchange Street and the other in suburban Depew.

Exchange Street serves all trains passing through Buffalo except the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Eleven of the 17 members of the station site committee favored a downtown location while four voted against downtown. One member abstained.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz voted against the downtown recommendation because he opposed the “arbitrary timeline” given the committee to make a decision this month.

“Not all the issues were taken into account,” Poloncarz said. “The process was flawed but not rigged. And, no, this is not the death knell for the [Buffalo] Central Terminal.”

But Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown defended the timeline. “The governor clearly wants it to be a fast-track process, and I think the same kind of time constraints we had as a committee will be placed on the Department of Transportation,” said Brown, who voted for a downtown location.

A downtown location had been favored by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering consulting firm hired by the state.

Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo businessman and head of Empire State Development, the state’s development arm, voted for downtown.

“This is really a transportation decision first and foremost, and from that standpoint downtown is a clear winner,” he said.

Zemsky said it was not a case of either or in terms of development of the long-dormant Central Terminal.

The Amtrak representative on the committee favored a downtown location. CSX, which owns the tracks in the vicinity of Central Terminal, said it doesn’t want passenger trains at Central Terminal because that might interfere with a nearby freight yard.

Intercity bus companies also favored a downtown site because they fear that clearance issues could prevent them from serving Central Terminal.

Also working against Central Terminal was the estimated $68 million to $149 million cost of renovating the structure. A downtown location is estimated to cost between $33 million and $86 million.

The Buffalo congressman who had championed Central Terminal was disappointed at the committee’s decision.

“This is a generational opportunity lost, said Brian Higgins said. “Obviously, the Central Terminal was not going to win out in an apples-to-apples cost comparison. It’s the vision you have for the property and what you do with the opportunity.”

Higgins said the downtown location will preclude passengers being able to board there if they are bound for Cleveland or Chicago.

He noted that Amtrak opposes having the Lake Shore Limited backing up for more than a mile to serve downtown Buffalo.

Higgins vowed to work to funnel state and federal funding toward development of Central Terminal.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy supported the Central Terminal and believes that although it lost out in the vote to become an Amtrak station there remains hope that the iconic structure will have a new life.

“There has been more attention paid to the Central Terminal than probably in the last 50 years,” Kennedy said. “I think this is going to be at the end of the day a win-win because of the renewed focus on transforming the Central Terminal into a historic building we can all be proud of once again.”

In the meantime, Canadian developer Harry Stinson said he is close to closing on deal to acquire the 523,000-square-foot Central Terminal, which includes a 17-story tower, concourse building, baggage building and ample underground and street-level parking.

“We’re days away from the final version of the agreement,” Stinson said. “It will have to go through a process, but the agreement is essentially done. There is nothing we see as collectively insurmountable.”

Stinson wants to develop the tower into office space, use the concourse for entertainment, dining and special events and transform the baggage building into a hotel.

Eventually, he will develop new housing at the site, which is now considered a brownfield.

3 Bids Received for Schenectady Station Work

March 31, 2017

Three bids have been submitted for the proposed new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

All of the bids appear to be within the $6 budget for the station.

The bidders were seeking to perform the first phase of the project, which includes razing the current station and doing concrete and structural work around the station platform.

That work is expected to begin this spring once a winning bidder is chosen by the New York State Department of Transportation.

It is the second time that bids have been submitted for the station work.

Last year one bid for the project came in $10 million over budget. State officials decided to break the station project into two phases.

The budget for the project is $15 million, most of which is from federal funding.

The project timeline calls for demolition of the station to be completed this year. Amtrak is constructing a temporary boarding platform at Liberty Street.

The contract for construction of the permanent station is expected to go out for bid this fall with construction starting in 2018.

The new station is expected to resembled the former Union Station, which was razed years ago. The current Amtrak station opened in 1979.

About 60,000 passengers per year board Amtrak at Schenectady, but city officials believe the station could become busier after the opening of the Rivers Casino and Resort.

No Injuries in LSL Chicago Derailment

March 29, 2017

No injuries were reported when the inbound Lake Shore Limited derailed at slow speed just outside of Chicago Union Station on Monday.

No. 49/449 was arriving at the station at 11:50 a.m. when three cars on the 11-car train left the rails.

Passengers in the three cars were helped into the cars that remained on the tracks.

The cause of the derailment is still being investigated, but the mishap occurred as the train was moving through a switch.

There were 197 passengers and nine crew members aboard. Damage to the passenger cars was minimal.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said there were no delays to Amtrak or Metra trains. However, a couple of Amtrak trains were held in the station to allow extra time for connecting passengers to transfer their luggage.

Springfield Union Station to Reopen in June

March 27, 2017

Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station will reopen on June 24 to serve Amtrak and offer restaurant and shops.

The depot was closed in 1974 but restored as part of a $95 million project that left many of its original features intact.

The station opened in 1926 and hosts the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, the Vermonter and several Northeast Regional trains.

Congressman Richard E. Neal, who help lead the restoration effort, said during a news media tour that the revitalized station should help increase Amtrak ridership and spur further commercial development.

During the restoration, the station’s terrazzo floors were restored, a new roof was installed, period light fixtures were put into place and eight murals depicting Springfield’s history were hung. A clock was placed in the grand concourse.

“I kicked off my political career here 40 years ago, so [the station] still has great meaning to me and the people of Springfield,” said Neal. “Restoring this station can make Springfield a transportation and commercial center, as well as do a lot of good.”

Buffalo Mulls Pros, Cons of New Station Sites

March 23, 2017

The debate over where to place a new Amtrak station in Buffalo continued this week with public hearing held by the committee appointed by the governor to consider a station site.

Brian Higgins, a western New York congressman, has been pushing hard for the choice of Buffalo Central Terminal.

But others favor a downtown location either near the site of the current Exchange Street station or at the site of the former Memorial Auditorium.

Supporters of a downtown site say it would be closer to Metro Rail, bus routes, hotels and other amenities.

“When you invest in the future, the action is always going to be downtown, adjacent to Canalside and the transit system,” said Robert Dingman, president of the New York and Lake Erie Railroad.

But supporters of Central Terminal say that reviving it as a train station would could be the last opportunity to restore the endangered art deco structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in danger of continuing a life of decay.

Placing Amtrak into Central Terminal, they say, could help boost a neighborhood that hasn’t seen significant investment in decades.

“If we can follow through and restore this great historic structure, and give it back to the people of Buffalo and to future generations, we will have done a great public service,” Higgins said.

A 17-member committee established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and chaired by Mayor Byron W. Brown will decide next month the location of the new station.

Transportation officials have indicated that it is not an either-or situation. Both sites could be tapped to become Amtrak stops with one designated as the main station and the other as a secondary stop.

The committee will also weigh the view of Amtrak and CSX, which owns the tracks used by Amtrak trains.

A desire to link the new train station with city bus service and possibly bus service between cities could also be a factor.

Officials say that Central Terminal, which opened in 1929, would be the best location to serve east-west Amtrak trains, including the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Central Terminal has the infrastructure to handle buses and taxis and offers more than 1,000 parking spaces.

It is not expected that all of Central Terminal would be used by Amtrak, which last stopped there in 1979.

Working against Central Terminal is its location a mile well away downtown Buffalo and a neighborhood filled with abandoned and vacant housing.

Critics also say the structure is too large for eight trains a day and that commercial development of it is not necessarily tied to its being used again as a train station.

“The train station is not the silver bullet for the East Side,” said architect Paul Battaglia. “Amtrak is not big enough, or have enough ridership.”

One drawback of the downtown site is that although it could be served by the Lake Shore Limited, Nos. 48 and 49 would need to make a backup move.

Neither Amtrak nor CSX might be willing to allow that.

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.