Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s western trains’

St. Cloud Station Rehab Gets Underway

February 21, 2017

Work has begun to rehabilitate the Amtrak station in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The $1.3 million project will include updated restroom facilities, improved wheelchair accessibility and signs that comply with the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Amtrak 4Also included in the project are a new roof for the depot, a reconfigured parking lot and boarding platforms improvements.

St. Cloud is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, which handled 11,457 passengers there in 2016 compared with 9,950 in 2015.

Overall 2016 ridership of Nos. 7-27 and 8-28 for 2016 was 146,689, an increase of 5.8 percent over 2015.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Builder’s operating performance has improved after a period of time when high oil train traffic on host railroad BNSF resulted in severe delays and cancellations.

Not Much Longer to Wait

February 13, 2017

north-coast-hiawatha-september-24-1979-06

It is a Monday night at Amtrak’s Midway Station in St. Paul, Minnesota. I waiting for the Chicago-bound North Star to arrive and in the meantime the Seattle-bound North Coast Hiawatha is in the station.

A conductor stands by a vestibule looking for boarding passengers. It is ritual that he won’t be performing much longer for this train. In less than two weeks, Nos. 17 and 18 are slated to be discontinued as part of a massive Amtrak route restructuring.

A court order will keep the North Coast Hiawatha running for a few more days, but it will eventually succumb and intercity rail passenger service on the former Northern Pacific route will end.

The Empire Builder will continue to operate between Chicago and Seattle, but the “North Coast Hi” will be history.

This image was scanned from a slide and made on Sept. 24, 1979.

Avalanches Halt Empire Builder Again

February 10, 2017

Shortly after it was reopened, the route of Amtrak’s Empire Builder was closed again.

BNSF said that avalanches in Glacier National park closed its Hi Line near Essex.

Amtrak Empire BuilderThe closure came less than 48 hours after the railroad had reopened the line following avalanches that blocks the tracks at Marias Pass.

Railroad officials said warmer temperatures were a factor in causing avalanches because they were creating layers of unstable snow.

Thursday’s westbound Empire Builder was held overnight at St. Paul Union Depot and passengers bound for points between St. Paul and Minot, North Dakota, were taken to their destination buy bus.

Passengers going beyond Minot were to remain on the train. Amtrak said those passengers will be given a refund and taken back to Chicago on Friday.

Two other sections of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train were to spend the night Thursday in Montana. This includes an eastbound and a westbound section.

Landslides in Washington State resulted in the cancellation of Amtrak’s Cascades service between Seattle and Portland until Saturday.

Also canceled is the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

Last Days of the North Coast Hiawatha

February 8, 2017

north-coast-hiawatha-september-23-1979-02

The trip was somewhat bittersweet. It is Sept. 23, 1979. I am aboard the westbound North Coast Hiawatha en route to Seattle.

The North Coast Hi has less than a month to live, soon to become a victim of a massive Amtrak route restructuring that will end it, the Lone Star, the National Limited, the Floridian, the Hilltopper and the Champion.

I bought a ticket aboard No. 9 to ride the train before it ended. I rode in coach from Chicago to St. Paul and then had a roomette to Seattle.

We are somewhere in Montana on the former Northern Pacific, which at the time was controlled by Burlington Northern.

I made a few images from an open vestibule window as the train snaked through the mountains. I have not been back here since.

Bridge Fire Strands Sunset Limited near San Antonio

February 3, 2017

A bridge fire Thursday night shut down rail traffic near San Antonio, which brought Amtrak’s Sunset Limited to a halt.

sunset-limitedAmtrak chartered buses to rescue the 155 passengers and 12 crew members aboard the eastbound train, which also has through cars between from Los Angeles to Chicago that are interchanged in San Antonio with the Texas Eagle.

The fire broke out about 10 p.m. on a trestle on the Union Pacific tracks in Southwest Bexar County.

News reports said fire destroyed the 100-foot long bridge over a creek. The bridge is located near MacDonna LaCoste and Hackelberg roads.

Amtrak No. 2 was halted about 1 a.m. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said passengers had food, water, electricity and air conditioning, but a passenger called a local radio station to report that the train smelled of urine and feces. “We can’t even flush the toilet,” she said.

Union Pacific spokesman Jeff DeGraff said the fire broke out about midnight.

“For right now, we do have some trains that are being rerouted on alternate lines, mainly going north into Dallas, then they can come back down to San Antonio,” DeGraff said. “We also have some trains that have a little more flexibility in their schedule and we have been able to hold those.”

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited Will Depart LA 2 Hours Earlier on Select Days in January, February

December 24, 2016

The Sunset Limited will operate earlier from Los Angles to El Paso, Texas, on select days in January and February due to Union Pacific track work.

sunset-limitedThe altered schedules will also apply to passengers originatin on the Texas Eagle between those points, but will not affect the Eagle schedule east of San Antonio. The Los Angeles section of the Texas Eagle is conveyed by the Sunset Limited.

The effective dates are Jan. 11, 13, 15, 25, 27 and 29, and Feb. 8, 10 and 12.

On those dates, Train No. 2 will depart from Los Angeles at 8 p.m., two hours earlier than scheduled.

Arrival and departure times at intermediate stations between Los Angeles and El Paso will be two hours earlier.

However, No. 2 will depart from El Paso at its scheduled time of 3:35 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The track work will not affect the operation of the westbound Sunset Limited.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers will not be able to make connections on the affected days to No. 2 from the inbound Coast Starlight or some Pacific Surfliner trains.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Big Sky Country

October 20, 2016
Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak’s eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder passes through Montana during daylight hours in both directions, so Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee went chasing after the Builder during his trip to the Treasure State this past September.

He tracked down No. 8 in various locations including against a backdrop of mountains, open range and grain elevators, making images of the train near Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Malta and Havre.

This is the territory of the former Great Northern Railway, which was built by “empire builder” James Hill. For decades the Empire Builder was the premier passenger train on the GN and is now Amtrak’s only train linking Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

Today these tracks are owned by BNSF and Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the only passenger train to use these rails.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

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Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Making a station stop in Malta.

Making a station stop in Malta.

In the barren countryside between Cut Bank and Shelby.

I like how I could do a broadside of the whole train out there.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Getting fuel in Havre.

Getting fuel in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre. The stained glass shows “Rocky,” the GN mascot.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.