Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Southwest Chief’

Amtrak Posts New National Sked Few Changes Made to Heartland Train Schedules

January 22, 2018

Amtrak has a new national timetable posted online and only a few changes have been made to the schedules of its trains that serve the nation’s heartland, many of them minor.

Most  of the changes affect the six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The running times on the route are being shortened

Effective Jan. 22, No. 350 will depart Pontiac 5 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 15 minutes earlier than the current schedule. No. 353 will leave Pontiac 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago eight minutes earlier. No. 355 will depart Pontiac 20 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 32 minutes earlier. Times at stations en route have been adjusted.

No. 350 will leave Chicago at its current scheduled time, but arrive in Pontiac 24 minutes earlier. No. 353 will depart Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 27 minutes earlier. No. 354 will leave Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 14 minutes earlier.

The eastbound Blue Water will depart Chicago at its current time, but will be scheduled to arrive in Port Huron, Michigan, seven minutes earlier. There are corresponding changes at intermediate stations.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Blue Water or the Pere Marquette in both directions.

Effective Jan. 8, the Pennsylvanian began arriving in Pittsburgh from New York six minutes earlier.

There are no changes in the schedules of the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited or eastbound Cardinal. The westbound Cardinal is now scheduled to arrive in Chicago five minutes earlier, but there are no changes in time at intermediate stations.

No changes were made in any schedules of trains operating in the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans corridor. Likewise, all Lincoln Service schedules between Chicago and St. Louis and Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, remain the same.

Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has not changed.

The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are scheduled to arrive one minute earlier in Quincy, Illinois, but the rest of the schedules on the route are unchanged.

The counterparts of the same trains will arrive in Chicago two minutes earlier without any changes in times at intermediate stations.

The westbound Southwest Chief is departing Los Angeles five minutes earlier but its Chicago arrival time is unchanged. Some times have changed at intermediate stations. This change became effective last November.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Southwest Chief, or the California Zephyr, Empire Builder or Texas Eagle.

The Heartland Flyer arrives in Oklahoma City from Fort Worth, Texas, four minutes earlier, a change that took effect last October. The southbound Heartland Flyer schedule is unchanged.

Amtrak has not printed a national timetable since January 2016, but has posted one at its website since then.

The latest timetable features an image of the Maple Leaf traveling through snowstorm.

Missing from this timetable is a letter from Amtrak’s president, which had been a standard feature of previous timetables.

The typography is largely the same as in the previous timetables, but the schedule headings have been tweaked. The schedules were compiled before Amtrak said it was discontinuing the Pacific Parlour Car on the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

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Judge Find Man Who Shot Amtrak Conductor Had Intended to Kill Him

January 9, 2018

An Illinois judge has determined that an 80-year-old Wisconsin man was trying to kill an Amtrak conductor last May during a station stop at Naperville, Illinois.

As a result Edward Klein faces confinement in a mental health facility. In an earlier court hearing, Klein had been found unfit to stand trial.

But DuPage County Judge Jeffrey MacKay ruled that Klein was “not not guilty” and “not acquitted” of the multiple charges against him despite being found unfit to stand trial.

MacKay said that prosecutors have proven the charges against Klein beyond a reasonable doubt.

Klein was charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Amtrak conductor Michael Case, who had prevented Klein from disembarking from the eastbound Southwest Chief at Naperville.

Klein was ticketed to travel to Milwaukee, which is near his West Allis, Wisconsin, home.

Amtrak personnel had become concerned about Klein’s behavior during the trip from Kansas City and had been keeping a watch on him.

MacKay found that Klein knew he was doing wrong and intended to kill Case after becoming angry that the conductor would not let him get off in Naperville.

Case had testified at an earlier hearing that he was aware of a plan to escort Klein at Chicago Union Station and get him home safely to Wisconsin. He therefore closed and locked the doors to the car where Klein was located.

Case, who was shot in the abdomen as he assisted other passengers, described Klein as “enraged and belligerent.” He also said Klein was disoriented and frustrated because the crew refused his demand to get off the train in Naperville.

Evidence introduced in court proceedings show that doctors have diagnosed Klein as having an impaired cognition disorder and dementia. He is reportedly suffering from a major neuro-cognitive disorder.

During a court hearing last week, Klein appeared to spend much of the time staring up at the lights while occasionally shaking his head.

Klein has been held on $1.5 million bail after being charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count each of aggravated battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Police said Klein reached out an open window and fired at Case with a .38 caliber revolver.

Case was hospitalized for six weeks while recovering from his injuries.

Amtrak Establishes Williams Shuttle

January 9, 2018

Amtrak has established a Thruway shuttle service between Flagstaff, Arizona, and Williams, Arizona, the gateway to the Grand Canyon.

The new service, which accommodates passengers using the Southwest Chief, replaced a now-discontinued station stop at Williams Junction, Arizona.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the shuttle fare is $24 and has a guaranteed connection. The shuttle will stop at the Holiday Inn Express, 1150 W. Cataract Lake Road, in Williams.

Passengers traveling from Chicago and points west on Train 3 to Williams will detrain in Flagstaff and connect to Thruway bus 8953 departing at 10:10 p.m.

Passengers traveling from Williams westbound toward Los Angeles, will take Thruway bus 8853 departing at 8:30 p.m. to connect with Train 3 in Flagstaff.

Passengers on Train 4 traveling from Los Angeles and points east to Williams will detrain in Flagstaff and take Thruway bus 8954 departing at 6:00 a.m.

Passengers traveling from Williams heading eastbound toward Chicago on train 4, will take Thruway bus 8854 departing at 4:15 a.m. to connect with Train 4 in Flagstaff.

 

Grand Canyon Shuttle Ends at Williams Junction

January 2, 2018

Shuttle service between the Amtrak station at Williams Junction, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon ended with the coming of 2018.

The company providing the shuttle said it ended the service because it was becoming too much of a burden to offer, citing wear and tear on its vans due to the rough roads leading to the station.

Xanterra Parks and Resorts decided last year to stop the free shuttle service at Williams Junction.

Company spokesman Bruce Brossman said Amtrak’s inconsistent performance meant that passengers who arrived late at night or before dawn lingered in the hotel lobby at the Grand Canyon, which made guests and staff uncomfortable.

“We really think that it’s going to be a better experience for the train passengers to go to a real train depot in Flagstaff,” Brossman said.

Trace Ward, director of the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city has been working with Amtrak to let passengers know what’s open around their scheduled arrivals and departures.

Both Williams Junction and Flagstaff are served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Restoration of Lawrence Station Moves Ahead

December 8, 2017

Restoration of a former Santa Fe passenger station used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Lawrence, Kansas, is moving forward.

The project stalled after the Kansas Department of Transportation received no bids for the work.

However, the Lawrence city council recently approved a resolution directing KDOT to award the restoration work bid to First Construction of Lawrence in the amount of about $1.8 million.

Another $240,000 has been spent on engineering work for the project to restore the station, which was built in the 1950s.

A KDOT grant will pay for 80 percent of the restoration costs while the city will pay up to $409,000 for its share of the project.

That is far more than the $24,000 the city expected to pay when the restoration work was proposed in 2014

A memo written by city staff indicated that the possible sale of historic tax credits and reimbursement from Amtrak for upgrades required by the Americans with Disabilities Act will make up the difference.

BNSF owns the property on which the one-story brick station is located, but has donated the station to the city.

The depot is an example of mid-century modern architecture. The restoration work is expected to be finished in 2018.

Trucker Blamed for 2016 S.W. Chief Derailment

November 24, 2017

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that a truck driver’s failure to properly secure an unattended truck led to the March 2016 derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief near Cimarron, Kansas.

The derailment resulted in 28 people being injured and caused $1.4 million in damage to the tracks of the BNSF La Junta Subdivision.

The NTSB said that the day before the incident, the unattended truck rolled downhill and damaged the BSNF tracks.

The Chicago-bound Southwest Chief derailed when it crossed the misaligned tracks.

In its report, the NTSB said neither the truck driver or his supervisor reported the incident to local authorities.

“Railroads are not required to post emergency contact numbers other than at grade crossings,” NTSB said in its report. “In situations such as this one, the correct approach is to call 911 and report the concern. Using this approach, local emergency officials can notify the railroad about any potential issue with its equipment.”

The Southwest Chief was operating at the time with two locomotives and 10 cars.

Fort Madison Reaches Pacts for New Boarding Platform

November 8, 2017

Officials in Fort Madison, Iowa, have approved three agreements that will make possible moving the Amtrak station to the former Santa Fe depot.

City Manager David Varley said the agreements will provide for construction of a new platform that Amtrak will use once it is completed. The passenger carrier has agreed to pay $150,000 toward the construction costs.

Amtrak also has agreed to pay $400 month in rent to use the recently restored station for 20 years. Amtrak will use 813 square feet of the depot while the city will be responsible for maintenance and repairs.

Varley said the agreements involving the $1.2 million project took a long time to reach because of the multiple parties involved.

“So BNSF will own the platform because it is on their property,” he said. “And then BNSF will lease it to Amtrak. And since we own and operate the depot, and the platform will be attached to the depot, they lease it from Amtrak back to the city. It sounds kind of crazy but it’s because of the ownership of the property.”

Varley said the depot project is a good candidate for funding from hotel-motel tax funds, and recommended a 60/40 percent split of operation costs between the hotel-motel tax and the general fund, respectively.

He estimated that first year operation costs for running the station will be about $50,000, but after some one-time costs, the annual number will drop to about $35,000.

Going with the lower number would mean an annual cost of $21,000 from the hotel-motel tax and $14,000 from the city’s general fund.

Fort Madison is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief and handles about 6,600 passengers annually.

Colorado Board OKs Matching Funds for TIGER Bid

October 30, 2017

The Pueblo [Colorado] Board of County Commissions has approved a resolution pledging $12,500 in matching support toward a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant application.

The money, if awarded, would be used to repair tracks used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

A news report indicated that 23 communities in three states have passed similar resolutions or submitted letters of support to pledge matching funds totaling nearly $9.2 million.

The TIGER grant bid is being submitted by Colfax County New Mexico, and is seeking $25 million from the federal grant program.

Also pledging money have been The City of La Junta and Otero County, which have agreed to put up $12,500 each.

It is the fourth time communities served by Amtrak Nos. 3 and 4 have rallied matching support funds for a TIGER grant.

Officials have said that the latest grant bid would wrap up necessary repairs in Colorado to save the Southwest Chief, which carried 367,267 passengers in 2016.

The route of the Chicago-Los Angeles train needs more than $50 million in rail repairs to the BNSF tracks.

In a related development, the Front Range Rail Commission of Colordao is working on getting a through car that would travel between the Pueblo Union Depot and the city of La Junta, offering a daily connection from Pueblo to the Southwest Chief.

Wisconsin Man Charged With Shooting Amtrak Conductor Deemed by Judge to be Mentally Unfit to Stand Trial

October 14, 2017

A Wisconsin man charged with shooting an Amtrak conductor has been ruled to be mentally unfit to stand trial.

Edward Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wisconsin, stands accused of shooting the conductor in Naperville, Illinois, on May 18.

DuPage County Judge Judge Daniel Guerin this week accepted a doctor’s statement that Klein is suffering from a major neurocognitive disorder, possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

One report said that Klein has an impaired cognition disorder and dementia while a second report said he suffers from a major neuro-cognitive disorder. The reports concluded that neither disorder is likely to be cured by medication.

A physician said in one report Klein is not oriented in time, place or situation and would be unable to recall details in his defense. Judge Guerin set a discharge hearing for Dec. 18.

During the hearing prosecutors said Klein could be acquitted, declared not guilty by reason of insanity, or declared not guilty due to being unable to stand trial.

Klein remains in police custody and the court could decide to have him involuntarily committed to a mental facility for up to two years.

Police have said Klein told them he shot Amtrak conductor Michael Case because he would not allow him to disembark in Naperville from the eastbound Southwest Chief.

Klein was ticketed to travel to Milwaukee via Chicago Union Station.

Case was critically injured when he was shot in the abdomen and hospitalized at Edward Hospital for 10 weeks.

Prosecutors have charged Klein with attempted first-degree murder and several weapons charges.

TIGER Grant Sought for SW Chief Route Upgrades

October 11, 2017

Officials in Colfax County in New Mexico are seeking a TIGER grant to upgrade the tracks used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

If awarded, it would be the third federal grant used to improve the tracks, which are owned by BNSF.

Four state departments of transportation have pledged $1 million each while Amtrak and BNSF have each pledged $3 million in matching funds. Some local governments have also pledged matching funds.

The $25 million project will rebuild tracks within New Mexico. Previous TIGER grants of $25 million and $12 million were used for track work in Kansas and Colorado.