Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Lincoln Service’

Projects to Benefit Amtrak Routes

February 9, 2019

Amtrak stands to benefit from some of the railroad improvement  projects that recently won federal grant funding.

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week that it will award more than $56 million in grants, covering 18 projects in 16 states as part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

In Florida, the installation of supplemental safety features at 48 grade crossings will benefit the Virgin Trains USA route between West Palm Beach and Miami.

Officials said the work is expected to cut the number of grade-crossing violations by keeping motorists and pedestrians from trespassing as trains approach.

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle will see a trip time reduction of three minutes due to a reconfiguration of the Lenox Interlocking in Mitchell, Illinois, located 16 miles northeast of St. Louis.

The project is expected to provide operating flexibility at a junction of four rail lines used by six railroads operating 46 trains per day.

In St. Louis, funding was awarded to replace the Broadway Truss of the Terminal Railway Association of St. Louis’ MacArthur Bridge across the Mississippi River.

The bridge is more than 100 years old and serves as the nation’s second longest railroad bridge. The work will work will increase horizontal clearance of the bridge, which is used by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

In New York, replacement of timber bridge decks with ballast decks on three bridges on the Hudson Line in Dutchess and Columbia counties will eliminate current speed restrictions and allow for future 110-mph operation.

Twenty-six Amtrak trains per day use these bridges, including the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack and Empire Service trains.

Work will be performed in Vermont to stablize slopes along an 80-mile section of the New England Central Railroad used by Amtrak’s Vermonter.

The project will lead to the elimination of slow orders that have resulted in 216 hours of annual passenger delays and 520 hours of freight delays as well as decreasing safety risks.

A second second platform, elevator towers, and an overhead pedestrian bridge will be built at the Milwaukee Airport Amtrak station, allowing passenger trains to use both tracks and ease congestion resulting from the current single-track configuration for passenger service.

The station is used by Hiawatha Service trains.

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Polar Vortex Leading to Midwest Cancelations

January 28, 2019

A Polar vortex that is bringing extreme cold to the Midwest has prompted Amtrak to modify its service on Midwest corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Most of the changes are effective between Jan. 29 and 31.

The carrier said it will operate four round trips between Chicago and Milwaukee: Nos. 330, 331, 334, 335, 338, 339, 341 and 342. Nos. 329, 332, 333, 336, 337 and 340 will be cancelled.

Chicago to Carbondale No. 393 will be cancelled Jan. 28-30 while Carbondale to Chicago No. 390 is cancelled Jan. 29-31.

The City of New Orleans will continue to operate as will Nos. 391 and 392.

Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Nos. 351, 352, 353 and 354 will operate but Nos. 350 and 355 are cancelled on Jan. 29-31.

In the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, Nos. 301 and 304 are cancelled between Jan. 29 and 31. All others Lincoln Service trains as well as the Texas Eagle will continue to operate.

There will be no cancellations on routes linking Chicago with Quincy, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Port Huron, Michigan.

In a service advisory Amtrak said it expects the winter storm to reduce travel demand, but it was also acting out of “an abundance of caution.”

Amtrak said passengers holding reservations on the affected trains will be able to change their reservations for travel on other trains, including on other days, at no charge.

It’s The Turboliner Era All Over Again

January 16, 2019

I posted earlier this month about how the promised “high speeds” on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor have yet to materialize despite $1.95 million having been spent to rebuild the route to allow for 110-mile per hour operation.

Instead, the top speed for Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle is 79 mph, which means that Chicago-St. Louis trains go no faster than, say, Chicago-Carbondale trains.

Trains in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor did travel 110 mph for a time in what Amtrak spokesman Marc Magilari later described as a demonstration project.

So when are higher speeds finally going to become routine for Lincoln Service trains?

The latest word from the Illinois Department of Transportation is that we might see 90 mph speeds this year.

But 110 mph? IDOT won’t go there anymore in predicting when that will happen.

The explanation being given for the delay is the positive train control system that will make higher speeds possible is still being tested.

There is probably a lot of truth to that given that PTC is a relatively new form of technology.

But even when the PTC is ready to go, it will hardly make the Chicago-St. Louis corridor a high-speed operation.

IDOT has said 90 mph speeds will shave 15 minutes off the travel time from the Windy City to the Gateway City.

That doesn’t like seem like much given how much money has been spent on this project.

But then again this was never intended to result in a high-speed rail project even if it might have been framed that way.

The term high-speed rail gets thrown out a lot in this country and when it does many people think of super trains such as the Japanese Shinkansen, the German ICE or maybe even Amtrak’s Acela Express.

Some of those overseas trains have taken on mythical stature in American minds and when I give presentations on transportation history I’m often asked when the United States will have such trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

My standard answer is not in your lifetime because there is too much political opposition and not enough money to make it happen.

Even in Europe where transportation policy makers look more favorable on intercity rail transportation it can take at least a decade to develop a new rail line.

It is hardly news that even in a best-case scenario the efforts to develop the Chicago-St. Louis were never going to result in a high-speed rail line the length of the corridor.

At best it could result in a corridor with high-speed rail in some places but many other places where even 79 mph would be a dramatic improvement.

There is slower going in the Chicago and St. Louis terminals, but also in en route cities such as Springfield where city officials have been talking about putting all of the rail lines into a single corridor for as long as I can remember.

Every so often I run across a news story reporting some progress in those efforts, but it has been incremental.

No one has come up with a viable plan to boost speeds in metropolitan Chicago and St. Louis, only through the corn and soybean fields of the hinterlands.

All of this reminds me of when Amtrak introduced French-built Turboliners to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor in October 1973.

They were capable of traveling 125 mph but couldn’t go any faster than – you guessed it – 79 mph on track then owned by the Illinois Central Gulf.

Super fast running, though, was not the point of introducing the Turboliners an Amtrak official confided to the late David P. Morgan, the editor of Trains magazine.

The purpose of the Turboliners was to show Amtrak was doing something to improve intercity rail passenger service other than making cosmetic changes to equipment that had been built before, during or shortly after World War II.

Come to think of it, the same could be said about the money spent to rebuild the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

It is a way of showing that something is being done to improve intercity rail service between two cities that if they were located in Europe or Asia would already have had frequent high-speed rail service.

Presumably, Amtrak and host railroad Union Pacific will get the kinks worked out and someday trains will cruise at 90 mph and, maybe, 110 mph.

The Turboliners would have been right at home there. But they were removed from service more than two decades ago and are now just a footnote in the history of a corridor still looking to become something better than what it has been since Amtrak started 47 years ago.

Amtrak Back on Normal Route in Chicago

January 15, 2019

Amtrak returned to its regular route on Tuesday between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois, after being disrupted on Monday by a freight train derailment.

The line, which is owned by Canadian National, was closed after an early morning wreck near Willow Springs.

Metra Heritage Corridor service was canceled on Monday and some Amtrak trains were detoured over Metra’s Rock Island District. At least two Lincoln Service trains were canceled.

The first Amtrak train to resume its normal route on Tuesday was St. Louis-bound No. 301, which departed Chicago Union Station at 7 a.m.

CN Derailment Hinders Amtrak in Chicago

January 15, 2019

Amtrak trains in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor faced delays, cancellations and detours following a derailment near Willow Springs, Illinois, of a Canadian National freight train on Monday morning.

Two Lincoln Service trains, Nos. 300 and 301, were canceled while the Texas Eagle and six Lincoln Service trains detoured between Chicago and Joliet on Metra’s Rock Island District.

Also scrapped was Metra Heritage Corridor service between Chicago and Joliet.

CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis said five freight cars ended up on their side during the derailment.

A car carrying a plastic resin was leaking, but hazardous materials were involved and railroad officials said there was no public danger.

Higher Speeds Continue to Elude Chicago-St. Louis Line

January 4, 2019

Although some $1.95 million has been spent to rebuild the Chicago-St. Louis corridor for speeds of 110 miles per hour operation, the route still has a top speed of 79 mph.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, which oversaw the rebuilding, had said 90 mph top speeds would be allowed in 2018, but that didn’t happen.

The agency is no longer willing to say when 110 mph running will be possible.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported that higher speeds have been kept at bay due to delays in installing and testing new GPS-related safety technology.

IDOT now says that a top speed of 90 mph will go into effect between Alton and Springfield next summer with those speeds being implemented on the rest of the route by the end of 2019.

A top speed of 90 mph would cut the 5.5 hour Chicago-St. Louis travel time by about 15 minutes.

Although IDOT had predicted at one point that the corridor would see 110 mph speeds by 2019, an agency spokesperson said host railroad Union Pacific is still working with the state to test and place into service a positive train control system that will allow those speeds.

UP owns 25 miles of the 285-mile Chicago-St. Louis route. Amtrak is also working with other carriers that own segments of the corridor to achieve higher speeds.

The spokesperson said it was difficult at the present time to estimate when 110-mph speeds will be permitted because further work is needed on the PTC systems.

The spokesperson also said Amtrak continues to upgrade software on its locomotives to communicate with the PTC system and IDOT is committed to working toward 110 mph speeds as soon as possible.

She said it also hinges on such other factors as how soon a second track is built in a national prairie area south of Joliet.

UP spokeswoman Hannah Bolte said her railroad is “100 percent committed” to doing what’s necessary to achieve 110 mph on the route, but added that the Federal Railroad Administration must approve the PTC systems.

Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, called the delays “incredibly frustrating,” but acknowledged that PTC testing will take time because the technology is new.

Even when the PTC systems are up and running the higher speeds on the route will be limited to rural areas outside the St. Louis and Chicago metro areas.

Expanded Hours Coming to Alton Station

December 23, 2018

The hours of operation of the Amtrak ticket office in Alton, Illinois, will expand on Dec. 31.

The office will be open daily between 7 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. Passengers will have access to the waiting room between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The expanded hours were part of a realignment of Amtrak staffing in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Transportation and City of Alton, which owns the Regional Multimodal Transportation Center.

Alton is served by all Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Extra Midwest Trains Set for Thanksgiving Travel

November 15, 2018

Amtrak will operate additional trains in the Midwest between Nov. 20-25 to accommodate an expected surge of Thanksgiving holiday travelers.

Other Midwest corridor trains are expected to operate with increased capacity.

During the holiday travel period, reservations will be required for travel aboard the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains.

Holders of monthly or 10-ride tickets are exempt from the reservations requirement, but seating is not guarantee.

On the Wolverine Service corridor, additional trains will operate on Nov. 21, 24 and 25 between Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with intermediate stops in the Michigan cities of New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago at 9 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor at 2:25 p.m. It will depart Ann Arbor at 4:28 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 8:04 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10 a.m. and arrive in Holland, Michigan, at 2:11 p.m. with intermediate stops in St. Joseph and Bangor, Michigan.

No. 373 is scheduled to depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m. These trains will operate on Nov. 21 and 25.

An extra section of the Carl Sandburg will operate between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

No. 385 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Quincy, where it is set to arrive at 3:53 p.m.

No. 384 is scheduled to depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:22 p.m.

On the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, extra Lincoln Service trains will operate between Chicago and Normal, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

Extra No. 309 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Normal-Bloomington, where it is set to arrive at 12:58 p.m.

No. 308 is set to depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:41 p.m.

Track Works Prompts Chicago Detours

October 19, 2018

Several Amtrak trains operating in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will detour on Sunday (Oct. 21) due to track work.

Workers will be replacing the diamonds at CP Canal where the Indiana Harbor Belt crosses a Canadian National route (nee Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) used by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

Amtrak will detour via the Metra route between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois, that was formerly operated by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific.

Lincoln Service trains affected include Nos. 300, 301, 302, 303 and 305, as well as the Texas Eagle in both directions.

The trains will operate on their normal route between Chicago Union Station and 16th Street where they will then get on the St. Charles Air Line to reach the former Rock Island route used by Metra.

The track work is not expected to affect Lincoln Service trains 304 and 307, but those trains may detour if work becomes delayed.

Union Pacific Track Work to Put Some Lincoln Service Passengers on Buses

August 13, 2018

Track work being performed by Union Pacific between Aug. 28 and 30 will affect some Lincoln Service trains.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Trains 301 and 303 will be cancelled with alternate transportation will be provided as outlined below:

Bus 3301 will operate limited service as Train 301 between Chicago and St. Louis to the missed stops at Chicago, Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Alton and St. Louis.

Bus 3303 will operate as Train 303 between Chicago and St. Louis to all missed stops including Chicago, Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Bus 5003 will operate as Train 303 between Chicago and St. Louis making limited stops at Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and Alton.

Trains 300 and 302 also will be cancelled with alternate transportation  provided as outlined below:

Bus 3300 will operate limited service between Springfield and Chicago as Train 300 making stops at Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Dwight, Joliet, Summit and Chicago.

Bus 5000 will operate as Train 300 between Springfield and Chicago making limited stops at Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Joliet.

Bus 3302 will operate between St. Louis and Chicago as Train 302 to all missed stops including Alton, Carlinville, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Dwight, Joliet and Summit.

Bus 5002 will operate will operate as Train 302 between St. Louis and Chicago making limited stops at Alton, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Joliet, only.

The buses will earlier than the respective trains they are replacing.