Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Southwest Chief’

Amtrak Expands Cancellations Due to Storm

December 22, 2022

Amtrak has expanded the scope of its service cancellations in the Midwest as a winter storm bears down on the region that is forecast to bring subzero temperatures and heavy snow.

For the period of Dec. 22 through Dec. 25, the following trains will not operate:

Trains 300, 301, 305 and 306 (Lincoln Service) between Chicago and St. Louis; Trains 311 and 316 (Missouri River Runner) between St. Louis and Kansas City; Trains 329, 332, 333, 336, 337, 340 and 343 (Hiawatha Service) between Chicago and Milwaukee; and Trains 352 and 353 (Wolverine Service) between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

Some trains will be canceled on certain dates. They include Train 370 (Pere Marquette) from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Dec. 22, and Train 371 from Grand Rapids to Chicago on Dec. 23.

Trains 390 and 391 (Saluki) between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, will be cancelled on Dec. 23 while Buses 3280 and 3381 between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, are cancelled on Dec. 23 and 24.

Some long-distance trains originating or terminating in Chicago also are being cancelled. This includes Train 3 (Southwest Chief) originating in Chicago on Dec. 23; Trains 7/27 and 8/28 (Empire Builder) originating in Chicago, Seattle and Portland during the period Dec. 21-23; Trains 29 and 30 (Capitol Limited) originating in Chicago and Washington on Dec.22 and 23; and Trains 48/448 and  49/449 (Lake Shore Limited) originating in New York, Boston and Chicago on Dec. 22 and 23.

Train 50 (Cardinal) will not originate in Chicago on Dec. 22 and 24 while Train 51 will not originate in New York on Dec. 21 and 23.

No alternative transportation is being offered for long-distance trains that are being cancelled.

In the case of routes from Chicago to St. Louis, Quincy, Carbondale, Milwaukee, and Detroit (Pontiac) some scheduled trains on all routes will operate on all days covered by the cancellations.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said it acted after consulting with state transportation departments, host railroads, emergency managers, and weather forecasters.

BNSF Replaces Semaphores on SW Chief Route

November 29, 2022

Twenty-two semaphore signals have been replaced in New Mexico by BNSF on the route used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

The signals, which originally had been installed by the Santa Fe, were removed on Nov. 18-19 on the BNSF Glorieta Subdivision.

They stood between Las Vegas and Bernal, and were the last of their type still in use on a Class I railroad in the United States. 

BNSF has been replacing in recent years semaphore signals used on the Chief’s route.

There remain 11 semaphore signals still in use on the route between Colmor and Wagon Mound, New Mexico, on the Raton Subdivision. Another five working semaphore signals are located west of Lamy on the State of New Mexico’s Albuquerque Subdivision.

Replacement signals for the western stretch on the Albuquerque Sub are already in place.

More Semaphores to Fall on S.W. Chief Route

October 15, 2022

Many railfan photographers have traveled to New Mexico in recent years to photograph the last stretches of working semaphore signals in the country.

Now BNSF is planning to replace two dozen semaphores with modern signals on its Glorieta and Albuquerque subdivisions.

Railfan and Railroad magazine recently reported that equipment for the new signals has been placed along the right of way with installation to occur this fall.

The semaphore signals were placed into service decades ago by the Santa Fe Railway and some are a century old.

There also remain semaphore signals in operation north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, on the Raton Subdivision.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief is the only train regularly running on the Raton Sub.

Maintenance Worker Shortage Seen as Cause of Checked Baggage Suspension on 2 Trains

October 1, 2022

A recent Amtrak announcement that checked baggage service will be suspended on two routes raised a few eyebrows because of the reason given for it.

The announcement cited equipment shortages, yet Amtrak in recent years has received 70 new Viewliner baggage cars that were built by CAF USA as part of a 125-car order placed in 2014.

The checked baggage service suspension will begin Oct. 3 on the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian.

The Amtrak announcement said the suspension will run through Nov. 17. Also affected on the Pennsylvanian will be checked bicycle service.

Trains magazine reported on its website that just five Viewliner baggage cars are known to be out of service.

The magazine’s report said the root cause of the service suspension is a lack of mechanical workers to perform maintenance on cars and locomotives.

That also has led to temporary suspensions of some Midwest Corridor trains from Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac), St. Louis, and Carbondale, Illinois.

In the wake of the service advisory announcing the suspension of checked baggage service on the Pennsylvanian and Carolinian, a printed service advisory posted in some stations erroneously said checked baggage service was being suspended on the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

That posted advisory said Amtrak “may occasionally suspend checked baggage and bicycle service along the route, due to equipment shortages.”

Although the Capitol Limited has long had checked baggage service, until this summer that was provided in the baggage compartment of a Superliner coach.

Amtrak added a Viewliner baggage car to Nos. 29 and 30 to increase capacity for checked bicycle service. However, in recent days the Viewliner baggage car has been absent from the Capitol.

No. 4 in Arizona

July 1, 2022

It is autumn of 1997 as Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Chief motors through Lupton, Arizona, on the Santa Fe mainline. To be correct, these tracks are now part of BNSF, which had been created two years earlier by the merger of the Santa Fe and Burlington Northern.

A quick glance at No. 4 shows there are several material handling cars in the consist. It was the era when Amtrak though head end business would provide a financial boost.

It also was the era when the Phase III livery was in vogue. Note that all three locomotives wear that scheme.

Unchanged from then and now is how passengers about the Chief rode in Superliner equipment.

SW Chief Resumes Normal Operation

July 1, 2022

Amtrak’s Chicago- Los Angeles Southwest Chief resumed normal operation on Thursday with the departure of Train No. 3 from Chicago.

The train’s operations were disrupted by the Monday afternoon derailment of Train 4 in Mendon, Missouri, after it struck a dump truck at a grade crossing.

Three passengers and the truck driver died and 150 were injured in the incident.

The westbound departure of the Chief from Chicago was canceled. On Tuesday and Wednesday Nos. 3 and 4 originated and terminated at Kansas City, Missouri.

The first Chief to operated eastbound the length of its route left Los Angeles on Tuesday evening.

Passengers ticketed to travel on Nos. 3 and 4 between Chicago and Kansas City were given the option of riding a bus between the two cities or riding a combined Missouri River Runner and Lincoln Service train.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the derailment exacerbated Amtrak’s shortage of in-service Superliner cars.

The scheduled Los Angeles departure of Train 4 on Wednesday was cancelled due to the passenger carrier not having enough cars on hand to make up a train.

Using available Superliner equipment in Chicago, Amtrak made up a consist for No. 3 of three coaches, two sleepers, a dining car, a transition sleeper and a Sightseer Lounge.

The derailment will take eight Superliner cars out of service until they can be repaired.

4th Person Dies in SW Chief Derailment

June 30, 2022

A fourth person has died following the derailment on Monday afternoon of Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Chief in Missouri.

Three of the fatalities were Amtrak passengers while the fourth fatality was the driver of the dump truck that the train struck at a grade crossing in Mendon, Missouri, at a crossing lacking flashing lights and gates.

The incident left 150 people injured. They were treated at 10 area hospitals and officials said the injuries ranged from minor to serious.

Mendon is located about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

National Transportation Safety Board officials released more information on Wednesday about the collision and derailment.

The truck involved in the incident was owned by MS Contracting LLC of Missouri and was transporting materials to a nearby Army Corps of Engineers’ project when it was struck.

Amtrak Train 4 had a consist of two P42DC locomotives and eight cars, all of which derailed.

The train was carrying 275 passengers and had a crew of 12. It was traveling on track owned by BNSF.

Trains are authorized a top speed of 90 miles per hour in the area where the derailment occurred and investigators determined that Train 4 was traveling at 87 mph at the time of the derailment.

It had slowed from 89 mph a quarter mile from the collision site. NTSB officials said the locomotive engine was sounding the horn at the time of the collision.

“We do not have concerns about mechanical issues,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy during a news conference. “We tested the brakes and there are no issues with the brakes,” she said.

Homendy said the steep grade to the grade crossing is of concern: “We have to look at the approach of this crossing. It’s very steep. There’s a lot resting on a driver to see a train at these crossings, particularly when there’s such a steep incline.”

She also indicated that the investigation would require the tracks at the derailment site to remain closed for “a number of days.”

3 Killed, 50 Injured in Southwest Chief Derailment in Missouri After Hitting Truck

June 28, 2022

Three people were killed and at least 50 injured after Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Southwest Chief struck a dump truck in Missouri on Monday afternoon.

The dead included two aboard the train and the driver of the truck.

The incident occurred in Mendon, Missouri, a town of 160 located located about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City and 12 miles southwest of Marceline, Missouri.

Authorities said the collision occurred at a grade crossing with a stop sign but no flashing lights or gates.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were expected to arrive on the scene Tuesday morning.

Amtrak said Train No. 4 was carrying 275 passengers and 12 crew members when it collided with the truck at 12:45 p.m. (CDT).

NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said investigators are requesting speed data on the route as well as data recorder information and camera footage from Amtrak. 

The train had two locomotives and eight cars, including a baggage car. Seven of those cars derailed with many turning over onto their sides.

Among those reported onboard two Boy Scout troops headed home to Wisconsin after spending a week at the Philmont Boy Scout ranch near Cimmaron, New Mexico.

A news report said the Scouts broke windows of the train after it derailed and helped passengers evacuate.

The Scouts used their first aid training to provide assistance to injured passengers until first-responders arrived at the site.

One Scout was reported to have sought to comfort the driver of the truck before he died.

Two of the troop leaders were injured in the derailment and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of broken bones, broken ribs and a punctured lung. One Scout also was injured.

The Boy Scout troops are from Appleton, Wisconsin.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers aboard Train 4 that departed Los Angeles on Sunday, June 26, will be re accommodated as quickly as possible on other trains or buses as available.

Train 3 that is scheduled to depart Chicago on Tuesday, June 28, will now originate at Kansas City.

The Missouri incident was the second in the past two days involving an Amtrak train striking a vehicle at a grade crossing that resulted in fatalities.

On Sunday a train in Brentwood, California, struck a passenger vehicle, killing three people and injuring two others. All five were inside the vehicle. That collision also occurred at a grade crossing with only stop sign and no flashers or gates.

Amtrak Long-Distance Trains to Resume Daily Service

March 11, 2021

Amtrak said Wednesday it will reinstate daily service on 12 long-distance routes starting in late May.

Trains on those routes shifted last year to tri-weekly or quad-weekly service in the wake of steep ridership declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement of expanded service came hours after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a pandemic relief package that contains increased funding for Amtrak.

The legislation also contains a mandate that routes that had daily service until last year resume daily operation and that furloughed employees be recalled.

President Joseph Biden is expected to sign the $1.9 trillion bill on Friday.

Two routes, the Chicago-New York Cardinal and New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited will be unaffected by the changes because those routes have operated on tri-weekly schedules for years.

Amtrak has already resumed selling tickets for the expanded days of operation on the 12 routes.

Trains returning to daily service on May 24 include the Chicago-Emeryville, California, California Zephyr; Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight; Chicago-Portland/Seattle Empire Builder, and the Chicago-San Antonio-Los Angeles Texas Eagle.

Daily operation returns May 31 for the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited; Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Resuming daily operation on June 7 will be the New York-New Orleans Crescent, New York-Savannah Palmetto, and the New York-Miami Silver Meteor (via Savannah) and Silver Star (via Raleigh).

In a news release, Amtrak said new Viewliner II sleeping cars will be making their debut on the Silver Service trains.

The Auto Train had continued to operate daily and its operations will remain unchanged.

Amtrak will receive $1.7 billion in emergency pandemic aid, which will help fund restoration of daily service on long-distance routes.

BNSF Derailment Delays SW Chief

January 25, 2021

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief encountered delays on Sunday in Arizona due the derailment of a BNSF intermodal train.

Amtrak said the westbound Chief had halted in Albuquerque due to the derailment near Joseph City, Arizona, 23 miles east of Winslow.

No injuries were reported in the BNSF derailment that sent several double stack well cars off the tracks.

The Amtrak train that was delayed had departed Chicago on Saturday afternoon.

Around noon on Monday Amtrak said on Twitter that Train No. 3 was continuing to hold in Albuquerque until the track ahead could be repaired and reopened.