Posts Tagged ‘Canadian National’

Qualifying Runs Being Made on Adirondack Route

October 28, 2022

Amtrak has been operating qualifying run trains in advance of reinstating service by the Adirondack to Montreal.

The New York-Montreal train has not operated in Canada since the early days of COVID-19 pandemic.

The qualifying trips operated in Canada over Canadian National tracks and went to Montreal’s Central Station.

Amtrak has not given a date for the resumption of service to Montreal. It restored service to Vancouver, British Columbia, in September.

A Trains magazine report said the qualification runs have operated from Montreal to the U.S. border and then returned to Montreal.

These runs have have been operating for the past two weeks.

CONO Operating on Modified Schedule Through October Due to Host Railroad Track Work

August 16, 2022

Canadian National track work will result in Amtrak’s City of New Orleans operating on a modified schedule on some days through Oct. 14.

In a service advisory posted on Amtrak’s website, the passenger carrier said trains 58 and 59 will operate earlier or later than their current schedules.

For the period Aug. 17 to Aug. 19, No. 58 will operate as Train 1058 and depart New Orleans at 2:45 p.m., an hour later than normal.

At Jackson, Mississippi, the train will be held until 8:14 p.m. and depart 2.5 hours later than its scheduled departure time. It will maintain that later schedule all the way to Chicago.

During the same time period, No. 59 will depart Chicago Union Station a half hour later than normal at 8:35 p.m. and maintain that schedule to New Orleans.

On Aug. 22 and Aug. 23, No. 59 will operate as No. 1059 and depart Chicago 90 minutes earlier than normal at 6:35 p.m. It will operate 90 minutes earlier to all stations en route to New Orleans.

For the period of Aug. 24 through Oct. 4, No. 58 will depart Jackson 30 minutes later than normal at 6:14 p.m. and maintain this schedule to Chicago. No. 58 will operate on its normal schedule on Labor Day (Sept. 5).

The City of New Orleans is slated to resume daily operate on Oct. 8. From that date through Oct. 14, No.58 will operate as No. 1058 and leave New Orleans at 2:45 p.m., an hour later than normal.

It will be held at Jackson until 8:14 p.m. where it will depart 2.5 hours later than normal. It will maintain that schedule to Chicago.

During this same time frame, No. 59 will depart Chicago at 8:35 p.m., 30 minutes later than normal and maintain that schedule to New Orleans.

CN Rejects Amtrak Dispatching Proposal

July 31, 2022

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki charges through Arcola, Illinois, on the Champaign Subdivision of Canadian National on May 28

Canadian National has rejected an Amtrak proposal that could lead to the passenger carrier taking over dispatching control of CN lines with on-time performance for Amtrak trains.

In a 297-page filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, CN called the idea “an outrageously self-serving recipe” and urged regulators to reject it “out of hand.”

CN contends that if implemented, the plan would harm its freight service.

“Amtrak’s proposal treats CN’s network as if it were Amtrak’s property and would likely result in a material lessening of the quality of freight service on CN’s network, and more broadly, the nation’s inter-dependent freight network,” CN wrote in its filing.

For its part, Amtrak wants the STB to turn down CN’s latest proposal for a contract between the two companies because it would fail to comply with performance metrics established by the Federal Railroad Administration and “would lead to the absurd result that CN can earn incentives . . . when Amtrak passengers are routinely late as a result of CN’s actions.”

Amtrak and CN have long been at odds over the latter’s handling of passenger trains, particularly on the former Illinois Central route between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

The two railroads have been unable to agree on a new operating contract and thus continue to use a pact dating to 2011.

The passenger carrier had proposed in May that under certain conditions it would take over dispatching of CN track used by Amtrak.

That would be the case if Amtrak trains operating on CN exceeded a set number of minutes of delay for four consecutive calendar quarters.

In response to the CN filing, Amtrak submitted its own 407-page response. The copies of the CN and Amtrak filings that were made available to the public were heavily redacted, Trains magazine reported in a story posted on its website.

The CN filing, for example, redacted information about how many trains its dispatchers handle on a typical shift.

The Amtrak filing removed a description of a CN proposal for mediation in one area of the dispute and omitted an Amtrak argument as to why regulators should reject a CN proposal regarding review of schedules.

The Amtrak filing made public did contain its argument that in the passenger carrier’s view what CN has proposed is that if Amtrak trains post a poor on-time record over a six-month period that the two engage in what Amtrak termed “a time-consuming process of investigations, meetings, and discussions about the causes of Amtrak’s delays.”

Amtrak argued that a failure by the two parties to agree on remedial action could result in the dispute dragging on for months and may years more.

The filing revealed that CN wants Amtrak to reimburse it for crew overtime, fuel, and equipment costs resulting when freight trains make way for Amtrak trains.

Amtrak responded that a host railroad “is not entitled to reimbursement for discharging its statutory obligation to provide preference to Amtrak trains.”

The Trains story can be read at

Vintage VIA Equipment

June 16, 2022

Like Amtrak, VIA Rail Canada has has its share of vintage equipment that operated for a time before being retired. Here are a couple of examples of that.

The top image shows a Turbo Train that was manufactured by United Aircraft in Brockville, Ontario, for Canadian National. After CN spun off its passenger services to VIA in 1978, the turbos were repainted a bright yellow as shown here in Toronto.

CN and VIA used the Turbos in the Toronto-Montreal market. CN operated five train sets of seven cars each. The VIA turbos made their final runs on Oct. 31, 1982, replaced by new LRC equipment.

The bottom image was made at Bayview Junction in Ontario on June 21, 1980. It shows a former Canadian Pacific Rail Diesel Car train

Unlike the turbos, VIA’s RDC equipment has had a longer and less trouble free existence.

VIA also inherited some RDCs from CN and the 84-car fleet was the second largest RDC fleet in the world.

Most VIA RDCS operated on secondary and feeder routes. Budget cuts over the years reduced the fleet until the last VIA under VIA operation were confined to the Sudbury-White River route in Northern Ontario.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Amtrak Wants STB to Impose New Operating Agreement with Canadian National

June 2, 2022

Amtrak wants the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to create a new seven-year operating agreement with host railroad Canadian National that would in some instances give the passenger carrier the right to dispatch CN lines.

The new agreement Amtrak is seeking also would change the terms of service under which CN is paid to host Amtrak trains.

CN and Amtrak have since 2013 been locked in a dispute over the freight carrier’s dispatching practices.

In August 2019, federal regulators ordered the two parties to enter mediation overseen by the STB but that failed to reach an agreement to end the dispute.

If the Board accepts Amtrak’s proposal, CN would be paid less money in incentive payments when Amtrak trains on a CN route fail to reach specified on-time standards.

The passenger carrier believes this would give CN an incentive to keep Amtrak trains running on time.

The Amtrak proposal adopting the customer on-time standards set in 2020 by the Federal Railroad Administration that measures the performance of passenger trains based on the percentage of passengers who arrive on time at their destination stations.

Those standards measure the number of passengers who reach their destination no later than 15 minutes after scheduled arrival, and sets 80 percent over two consecutive quarters as the minimum acceptable standard.

The Amtrak proposal acknowledges this “is not a perfect measure of CN’s performance on any of the routes, particularly those where there are other host railroads that host the lion’s share of the track-miles.”

Thus Amtrak is seeking a standard that would not penalize CN for delays incurred by Amtrak trains that CN did not cause.

The FRA standards also measure how much host freight railroads have delayed passenger trains.

Under the Amtrak proposal, incentive payments to CN would increase as the number of passenger-miles on a route increase, and as the number of delays attributable to CN per 10,000 train miles decrease.

The goal, Amtrak said, is to give CN an incentive to minimize delays within its control.

In extreme cases, Amtrak wants to take over dispatching of routes with poor on-time performance.

That would occur when delays occur on a route for four consecutive quarters. In that case, Amtrak or a third party that it designated would take over dispatching for two years or until the delay figure has been below 924 minutes per 10,000 train-miles for 12 consecutive months.

An alternative situation would allow a representative of Amtrak, its inspector general, or the STB to sit alongside CN dispatchers as they dispatched a route. This alternative would require CN to receive Amtrak’s prior approval for non-emergency maintenance work expected to affect Amtrak’s on-time performance.

CN and Amtrak are operating under a 2011 “interim agreement ordered by the STB because the two parties were unable to reach agreement on their own on an operating contract.

CN Bridge Work Affects Saluki, Illini

March 19, 2022

A bridge project being conducted by host railroad Canadian National will affect the operation of Amtrak trains in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor March 19-21.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Nos. 390 and 393 will not operate between Chicago and Homewood, Illinois, on all three days.

Passengers will be transported by bus between those two stations.

Train 390, the northbound Saluki, and Train 393, the southbound Illini, will originate and terminate in Homewood.

Train 390 will depart Carbondale at 8 a.m., 30 minutes later than normal while Train 393 will depart Homewood at 5:16 p.m., 30 minutes later than normal.

The bridge work will not affect operations of the City of New Orleans, which operates between Chicago and New Orleans.

Canadians Were Best Amtrak Hosts in 2021

March 12, 2022

Amtrak handed out report cards this week to its host railroads for their ability to keep passenger trains on time during 2021.

The class leaders were Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, which both received A grades.

Other Class 1 host railroads included BNSF, B+; CSX, B; Union Pacific, C+; and Norfolk Southern, D-. 

It was the sixth consecutive years that CP has led the class in report card grades.

Amtrak said freight train interference caused nearly 900,000 delay minutes during 2021.

Federal Railroad Administration standards are that for a train to considered on-time that 80 percent of its passengers must arrive at their destination within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time.

Only one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains, the City of New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans), met the FRA criteria. It ran on time 83 percent of the time.

The next best was the New York-Savannah, Georgia, Palmetto, which was on-time 62 percent of the time.

The worst were the Sunset Limited and Capitol Limited, which were on time just 28 percent of the time.  

More than half of the state-supported corridor routes fell below FRA standards for on-time performance.

The worst was the Cascades route between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, Oregon, via Seattle and Portland, which had a 57 percent on-time performance.

Leading state corridors was Hiawatha Service (Chicago-Milwaukee) at 95 percent on time.

The Hiawathas are hosted primarily by Canadian Pacific, which Amtrak honored in a short ceremony on Tuesday at Chicago Union Station.

Amtrak President Stephen Gardner presented CP President and CEO Keith Creel with an award recognizing the carrier’s A grade on Amtrak report cards.

Among the Class 1 hosts, NS has struggled the most with its grades since 2018, ranging from F to C.

CN has shown the most improvement going from a D- in 2018 to an A last year.

The Amtrak report cards can be read at

STB Sets Sked for Amtrak-CN Dispute Case

March 7, 2022

For years Amtrak and Canadian National have been at odds over the handling of Amtrak trains.

Amtrak in 2013 asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to intervene. Six years later regulators initiated mediation proceedings between the passenger carrier and the host railroad.

But the STB-appointed mediator notified the Board in late January that mediation efforts had failed.

Now the STB will proceed with the case and has set a procedural schedule for Amtrak and CN to submit further evidence and arguments.

In the dry language of legalese, the case is about the establishment of reasonable terms and compensation for Amtrak’s use of CN facilities and services.

As a practical matter, Amtrak thinks CN needs to do a better job of dispatching passenger trains in order to keep them on time. The two sides are also at odds over CN required minimum axle counts, which the host railroad said are needed for safety reasons. Underlying that issue is a dispute over how CN mantains its tracks.

CN is the primary host railroad handling Amtrak trains between Chicago and New Orleans, including the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

It dispatches much of the route used by the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water, east of Battle Creek, Michigan, and also dispatches Chicago-St. Louis corridor trains between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois.

The STB’s order noted that in a Jan. 22 filing the parties “have certified 20 of the 26 regularly scheduled daily Amtrak trains that operate over CN’s lines in the United States as being aligned with the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) customer on-time performance metric.”

CN is seeking a “non-binding dispute resolution” for the remaining six Amtrak train schedules, and the two railroads are “working to agree on that dispute resolution process,” the Board said.

The STB said it will follow the procedural schedule in the case:

• May 2, 2022: Opening submissions due; each party’s submission should include a copy of the current operating agreement marked up to show the changes sought.

• July 1, 2022: Reply submissions due; these may include a revised markup of the current operating agreement.

• Aug. 1, 2022: Rebuttal submissions due. Once these filings are submitted, STB said it will determine whether oral arguments are required.

Ontario Service Resumption Eyed

February 17, 2022

A Canadian First Nation group hopes to work with short line operator Watco on restoring rail passenger service to the former Algoma Central in Ontario.

The Missanbie Cree First Nation wants to see the service restored over 296 miles between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst.

Scheduled passenger service on that route ended in 2015 after then owner Canadian National was unable to find a suitable contractor to operate the service.

Another passenger operation on a 114-mile portion of the route, the seasonal Agawa Canyon tourist train, did continue operating on the former Algoma Central, but was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is unclear if Watco will allow that train to continue and tourism officials in Sault Ste. Marie are hoping to meet with Watco officials about the matter next month.

The chief of the Missanabie Cree, Jason Gauthier, also hopes to meet with Watco officials about restoration of passenger service to Hearst.

He noted that when Watco announced in 2021 that it would acquire the former Algoma Central from CN that the Missanbie Cree signed a memorandum of understanding about its desire to restore passenger service to Hearst from Sault Ste. Marie.

Watco acquired the former Algoma Central as part of a transaction that included picking up former Wisconsin Central lines in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Gauthier wants the Canadian government to spend C$2 million on underwriting the Hearst service. He said other groups also are also pushing for the federal funding.

“We are known for doing things in the long haul, so these delays are not surprising to us. I know we will get through it,” he Gauthier told the Sault Star.

CP to Allow Amtrak to Use Detroit River Tunnel

February 8, 2022

Canadian Pacific has agreed to allow Amtrak to use its tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, for one roundtrip per day, but it’s unclear if that will actually lead to any new service on the route.

The agreement was revealed in a filing by Amtrak in the case before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board of CP’s efforts to acquire Kansas City Southern.

Amtrak is supporting the merger and its filing cited a number of new service expansions for which CP has pledged to cooperate.

In theory, use of the Detroit River Tunnel might be a step toward reviving Amtrak service between Chicago and Toronto.

In practice, that concept faces many hurdles. Those begin with a lack of commitment by Amtrak or VIA Rail Canada to operate such a train.

The two passenger carriers once operated a Chicago-Toronto train known as the International, but it ran via Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario, on Canadian National tracks rather than via Detroit and Windsor.

The International was discontinued in April 2004 and replaced with the existing Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water that is funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

MDOT had not indicated if it would be willing to fund service that extends to Toronto.

Amtrak and/or VIA would need to construct a connecting track between CP track in Windsor and the CN route now used by VIA between Windsor and Toronto.

The existing VIA Toronto-Windsor route ends at a stub-end terminal north of downtown.

In Detroit, Amtrak would need to build a new station in downtown Detroit or else have trains engage in a time-consuming backup move to the existing Detroit station in the New Center neighborhood.

Existing Chicago-Detroit trains terminate and originate in suburban Pontiac and the Detroit Amtrak station is located along that route rather than on the line that leads directly into the CP Detroit River tunnel.

The CP-Amtrak agreement does not require any capital investment from Amtrak for use of the Detroit River tunnel.

Also unclear is where customs inspections for the Chicago-Toronto train would be conducted.

For the International, those inspections were done on each side of the border, which led to longer running times.