Posts Tagged ‘BNSF’

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.

BNSF Seeks Federal Grant to Upgrade Track Used by Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Montana

November 16, 2022

The route of Amtrak’s Empire Builder may be getting some upgrading.

BNSF is seeking a federal grant for track work on its Hi-Line across Montana used by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train.

The Class 1 carrier has the support of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, which is seeking to bring back intercity rail passenger service to the southern part of the Treasure State.

If awarded, the $15 million grant would be used to rebuild the track between Malta and Havre, Montana.

News reports indicated that BNSF approached the Big Sky Authority to help in landing the grant because the railroad cannot pursue the grant on its own.

WB Empire Builder to Detour This Weekend

November 11, 2022

Passengers aboard the westbound Empire Builder view the North Dakota countryside in May 2013

A winter storm will result in the westbound Empire Builder skipping some stops in North Dakota today and Saturday.

Affected are the North Dakota cities of Grand Forks, Devils Lake, and Rugby.

Host railroad BNSF has told Amtrak it will impose directional running between Fargo and Minot for those two days.

A storm expected to dump 10 to 15 inches of snow and bring gusty winds and temperatures in the teens is bearing down on the Dakotas.

Westbound freight and Amtrak trains over those two days will use the New Rockford Subdivision between Fargo and Minot so the railroad can minimize meets.

The eastbound Empire Builder will operate over its regular tour on both days.

Bridge Work to Disrupt San Joaquins

October 28, 2022

Bridge work being conducted by host railroad BNSF will disrupt some Amtrak San Joaquin Service this weekend.

On Oct. 29, Train 719 will terminate at Stockton. Bus 4119 will provide alternate transportation for Train 719 between Stockton and Oakland-Jack London Square, making intermediate stops at Antioch, Martinez, Richmond and Emeryville.

On Oct. 30, Trains 710, 711 and 712, will originate/terminate at Stockton, operating between Stockton and Bakersfield only.

Buses will provide alternate transportation for Trains 710, 711 and 712, between Martinez and Stockton, excluding Antioch.

Trains 720, 724 and 737 will provide alternate transportation between Oakland and Martinez, making intermediate stops at Emeryville and Richmond.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers traveling to or from Antioch may use other San Joaquins service on this day.

Track Project Completed in Illinois

October 15, 2022

The Illinois Department of Transportation recently said work has been completed reconfiguring the Lenox interlocking plant northeast of St. Louis that is used by Amtrak.

The $10.1 million project was a joint endeavor by IDOT and the federal government.

Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains as well as the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle pass through the interlocking.

The work involved razing the 97-year-old Lenox Tower, realigning four rail lines, increasing train speeds through the project area, decreasing passenger train travel times, and reducing time lost to blocked grade crossings.

Funding of the work included a $5.1 million federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant, $2 million from Union Pacific, $1.3 million from IDOT, $1 million from Amtrak, $440,000 from BNSF, and $300,000 from Kansas City Southern.

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.

Equipment Shortage Sidelines Carl Sandburg

August 7, 2022

Amtrak cited equipment shortages for suspended its Carl Sandberg trains last week between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois. The suspension was to last through Aug. 7.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine Nos. 381 and 382 lacked enough usable equipment.

“We have exceeded the margin of spare equipment, so we had to suspend that round trip,” Magliari said. “We expect the release of enough usable equipment to be able to restore that service next week.”

The Trains report said federal maintenance rules require passenger cars to be taken out of service periodically.

Aggravating the situation in the Midwest has been the slower than expected assignment of new Venture coaches due to a defect with their doors.

Another factor has been that some Horizon equipment once used in Midwest service was sent to the Pacific Northwest after Talgo trains there were removed from service.

The Trains report said host railroad Canadian National has demanded that Amtrak assign Superliner equipment to its Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, trains.

Since January the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini have been suspended.

In other Amtrak equipment woes last week, some trips of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder were canceled.

However, a factor in those cancellations was the route being blocked by a BNSF freight train derailment in western Montana.

Cancelled were the westbound departure from Chicago on Aug. 3 and the eastbound departures from Seattle and Portland on Aug. 5.

The Empire Builder operates with five Superliner equipment sets consisting of three coaches, two sleeping cars, a transition sleeper, dining car, Sightseer lounge, and baggage car split between the Portland and Seattle sections.

Trains reported that is one coach and at least one sleeping car less than what the Builder normally carries.

Some of that equipment has been sidelined for weeks because Amtrak lacks enough mechanical workers to perform safety overhauls before the cars can return to revenue service.

NTSB Issues Early Report on SW Chief Crash

July 27, 2022

A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety board into the June derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Missouri does not draw any conclusions but sets out some of the facts about the event uncovered thus far by investigators.

Investigators continue to focus on the grade crossing where a collision between Amtrak Train 4 and a dump truck triggered the derailment.

Three Amtrak passengers and the truck driver were killed as a result of the June 27 derailment near Mendon, Missouri. The NTSB report said 150 aboard the train were treated at 10 area hospitals for injuries that ranged from minor to serious.

In particular, the NTSB probe is focusing on the approach to the crossing of the BNSF Marceline Subdivision and County Road 113, also known as Porche Prairie Avenue.

Many of the facts reported in the NTSB preliminary report mirror those in news stories about the derailment.

The derailment occurred at 12:42 p.m. CDT. The Southwest Chief had 270 passengers and 12 crew members on board at the time of the derailment.

Amtrak and BNSF estimated the derailment caused damage of about $4 million.

Train 4 had two locomotives and eight cars. The crossing where the collision occurred had crossbucks and a stop sign, but no gates or flashing lights.

Investigators said the positive train control system in use was enabled and working at the time of the collision.

Train speed was 89 mph when the emergency brakes were activated. The weather was clear with no precipitation at the time of the crash.

“Future investigative activity will focus on highway railroad grade crossing design specifications, railcar design, survival factors, and passenger railcar crashworthiness,” the report said.

FRA Urged to Create Rail Study Group

January 22, 2022

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has asked the Federal Railroad Administration to establish a group to study potential intercity rail passenger service to the Pacific Northwest.

In particular, the group would consider the establishment of service along the route once used by Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha between Chicago and Seattle.

That train, which was discontinued in early October 1979 as part of an Amtrak route restructuring prompted by a reduction in the passenger carrier’s federal aid, used a former Northern Pacific route through southern Montana and central North Dakota.

The proposed Greater Northwest Working Group would be given a mandate to “expedite” the establishment of service within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The group would review existing Amtrak long-distance service, explore options to restore additional routes, and find ways for Amtrak to work with local organizations.

Already a Montana group, the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, is working to restore rail passenger service to the former North Coast Hiawatha route.

The authority is comprised of several counties that lie along the route.

The route once used by the North Coast Hiawatha is operated in much of Montana by Montana Rail Link, which leases track from BNSF.

BNSF owns the rest of the former North Coast Hiawatha route and recently announced it would take track back from Montana Rail Link, effectively putting the regional carrier out of business.

It is not clear how BNSF’s plans might affect efforts to restore rail passenger service. The plan still needs to win approval of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and it is unclear when BNSF will seek that.

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.