Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Wolverines’

No Extra Amtrak Service to Michigan for Thanksgiving

November 1, 2019

Think Thanksgiving and images of turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie come to mind along with football games on TV and extra Amtrak trains to Michigan.

Well, you can scratch the latter from this year’s list of Thanksgiving traditions.

Amtrak will not be operating extra service to Michigan this year as it has in recent years.

The carrier said this week that rather than operate additional trains on its Pere Marquette (Chicago-Grand Rapids) and Wolverine Service (Chicago-Detroit) routes, it will instead assign additional coaches to existing trains.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine that Amtrak made the decision to scrap the extra trains after reviewing ridership data from last year that found travel demand is spread out more evenly across more days than it has been previously.

The passenger carrier also decided to drop additional holiday service to Michigan because of poor on-time performance on host railroad Norfolk Southern in Chicago and northwest Indiana.

NS freight train interference accounted for 58 percent of the 20,143 delay minutes incurred by Amtrak trains traveling on the NS Chicago Line between Chicago and Porter, Indiana, where the routes to Michigan peel off.

About a quarter of the delays have been incurred by Wolverine Service No. 352, which departs Chicago at 1:20 p.m.

“If we try to put additional trains on those tracks and delays occur, this could have a cascading effect delaying outbound trains because inbound equipment didn’t arrive on time,” Magliari said.

So Amtrak will add an additional coach to all Wolverine Service trains operating between Nov. 27 and Dec. 1.

Other trains operating before and after that time period will also gain additional coaches.

Amtrak plans to add a coach to two Lincoln Service between Chicago and St. Louis round-trips, the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, Illini, and all Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, trains.

Extra trains will operate between Chicago and Quincy, and Chicago and Normal-Bloomington, Illinois, on Nov. 27 and Dec. 1.

But falling by the wayside are the additional Chicago-Holland, Michigan, and Chicago-Ann Arbor, Michigan, Thanksgiving holiday trains.

Wolverine to Run 15 Minutes Earlier

July 3, 2019

 

Blasting Through Chelsea

January 12, 2019

Chelsea, Michigan, used to be an Amtrak stop. But that was back in the 1970s when the carrier still operated a commuter operation between Detroit and Jackson known as the Michigan Executive.

That serviced ended with the state pulled its funding in early 1984 and the Michigan Executive last ran on Jan. 13.

But Chelsea, located about halfway between Ann Arbor and Jackson, had already fallen off the Amtrak map. Amtrak service ended here on June 14, 1982.

However, Amtrak continues to pass through Chelsea six times a day even if none of the Wolverine Service trains stop here.

The tracks are now owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak has a top speed of 79 mph through much of Chelsea.

Shown is westbound No. 353, which is about 15 minutes behind schedule as it rushes toward Jackson.

To the left of the train is the former Welfare Building of the Glazier Stove Company. It was built to give employees a more productive and safer way to pass their free time than patronizing the local taverns.

The Welfare Building, built in 1906, had a swimming pool, library, billiards hall, theater and basketball court.

Wolverines To Allow Bikes Onboard

July 24, 2018

Bicycles will be allowed onboard Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains effective July 26.

The service will be available at all stations and cost $10 per bike.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said bicycle reservations are required and bike tickets must be presented to the conductor when boarding the train.

Passengers can reserve space for their bikes by selecting “add bike” when booking their reservation at Amtrak.com.

Bike reservations also can be made by calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245) and at Amtrak ticket offices. Only four bicycles are permitted per train.

Passengers will be provided a bike tag by station employees and by the train crew at unstaffed stations. Passengers must present their bike tag to retrieve their bike from the train crew at their destination.

Amtrak is advising passengers carrying on bikes to arrive 45 minutes before  train departure to allow sufficient time to obtain their ticket and baggage tag, and to get their bike onto the train.

Only one standard size bicycle will be permitted per passenger. Large seat/saddle bags must be removed from the bikes. These items can be carried on the train and will count as a carry-on item.

Passengers must be physically capable of lifting their bicycle up to shoulder height to an employee standing in the vestibule of a passenger car.

Passengers may stow their bicycle in open spaces at the ends of the car. They may not be stored in the vestibule.

Upon reaching their destination, passengers will be responsible for preparing their bicycle prior to detraining. A bike should be positioned in the doorway, so the passenger can lift it off the car with the chain facing away.

Niles Ticket Office Closed

April 4, 2018

The Amtrak ticket office in Niles, Michigan, closed on April 2. In a service advisory, Amtrak said all Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains scheduled to stop in Niles will continue to do so.

Passengers will continue to have access to the station waiting area and restrooms for all train arrivals and departures during normal station hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

However, three of the eight trains serving Niles stop there after 5 p.m.

Amtrak personnel on the train will assist customers with boarding and detraining.

Passengers who pay cash for their tickets may continue to do so aboard the train, but if they have not already made reservations they will pay at the highest fare and it will be subject to availability.

The closest Amtrak station with an open ticket office is at South Bend, Indiana, located 14 miles south of Niles.

Although Amtrak advised passengers to use that depot if they have unaccompanied minors traveling on Amtrak or need other services provided by employees, the Amtrak service advisory failed to say that none of the trains serving Niles also serve South Bend, which is on the route of the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Jackson Ticket Office Closed

April 4, 2018

Ticket agent staffing of the Jackson, Michigan, Amtrak station ended this week.

Amtrak said that effective April 2, it closed its ticket office in Jackson, but will continue to serve the station with its six daily Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers will continue to have access to the station waiting area and restrooms for all train arrivals and departures during normal station hours of 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

However, half of the Wolverine trains arrive and depart in Jackson outside of during those hours.

Amtrak personnel aboard the trains will assist customers boarding and detraining.

Passengers who pay for their tickets with cash may still do so aboard the train, but such tickets will be priced at the highest fare and subject to availability if not reserved in advance.

Amtrak said passengers who require full customer service for unaccompanied minors traveling on Amtrak or other services provided by employees should travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, located 37 miles east of Jackson.

Snow, Ice Pile Delay Wolverine Service Train

February 14, 2018

An Amtrak Wolverine Service train struck a pile of ice and snow left close to its tracks, damaging the locomotive and delaying passengers for more than four hours during which the train lacked heat and the restrooms were inoperable.

The incident occurred on Monday evening and involved Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac) Train No. 352.

The train struck ice and snow that a local snow plow crew had left close to the rails near Michigan City, Indiana.

A Chicago radio station said some passengers felt sick and one said she feared losing consciousness during the ordeal.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was forced to stop after striking the snow and ice while Amtrak personnel re-aligned the snow plow on the locomotive.

That task took nearly two-and-a-half-hours and during that time the head-end power to the passenger cars was disconnected.

Magliari said that Amtrak police and managers distributed snacks to passengers during the delay and provided what help they could. Two other Amtrak trains using the route were also delayed.

Amtrak will discuss with the unnamed town involved the need to avoid piling snow next to railroad tracks, Magliari said.

Michigan Trains Running Faster Now

January 24, 2018

Most Amtrak trains serving Michigan have faster running times, the Michigan Department of Transportation said this week.

Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) have seen 20 minutes cut from their schedules. Blue Water service between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan, has seen a smaller running time cut.

Both lines use rails owned by Amtrak between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak dispatchers control the Chicago-Detroit line as far east as Dearborn except for a portion of track in Battle Creek that is owned by Canadian National.

MDOT acquired 135 miles of track from Norfolk Southern in 2012 that are used by Amtrak between Kalamazoo and Dearborn except for the CN track in Battle Creek.

The top speed between Porter and Kalamazoo 110 mph. The maximum speed is 79 mph on the MDOT-owned track, but that is expected to rise to 110 mph this year after the completion of positive train control testing and assignment of Siemens Charger locomotives to the route.

The State of Michigan has used $347 million in federal funds to replace rails, smooth curves, upgrade crossings and signals and improve train signaling and communication systems. These improvements are expected to result in higher running speeds.

MDOT funded a connection in West Detroit for a faster route to a CN line that serves Amtrak stations in Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy and Pontiac.

“At MDOT’s direction, Amtrak work crews have corrected years of deferred maintenance and have taken over dispatching,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak vice president of state-supported services in a statement. “We have created the longest railroad segment outside the northeast that is being made ready for an even more reliable and faster Amtrak service.”

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.

Wolverine Service Train Delayed 12 Hours on Monday

January 2, 2018

Passengers aboard Wolverine Service No. 354 were delayed by 12 hours on New Year’s Day due to weather and mechanical issues.

The delays began in Chicago where the train was scheduled to depart at 6 p.m. but didn’t get out of the station until 8:25 p.m. due to mechanical issues with the locomotive.

Severe winter weather that affected a switch then delayed the train by another hour between 10:45 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. near New Buffalo, Michigan.

The train sat in Kalamazoo, where it arrived at 1 a.m., for four hours until a relief crew arrived after the original crew ran afoul of the hours of service law.

Leaving Kalamazoo at 5:30 a.m., the train then stopped at Albion two hours later where another crew took over the train. It arrived in Pontiac at 1:42 p.m. The scheduled arrival time is 1:17 a.m.

The train had about 148 passengers aboard, Amtrak said.