Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-Carbondale corridor’

Amtrak to Operate Special Train for Solar Eclipse

August 7, 2017

Amtrak will operate a special sold-out train offering passengers the opportunity to make a day trip to Southern Illinois to view the solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

The Eclipse Express sold out within 24 hours, Amtrak said. The train will depart Chicago Union Station at 3 a.m. and arrive in Carbondale, Illinois, at 8:30 a.m. after making an intermediate stop in Champaign-Urbana at 5:05 a.m.

The return trip is scheduled to depart Carbondale at 5:15 p.m., stop in Champaign at 7:55 p.m. and arrive back in Chicago at 10:45 p.m.

The Eclipse Express will not carry pets or bicycles. There will be a café car although it won’t have business class seating.

Due to the middle of the night departure, Amtrak said the overhead lighting in the coaches will be turned off.

Amtrak said it conducted protracted negotiations with host railroad Canadian National to schedule the special, which will operate as Nos. 399 and 398.

Although the eclipse will affect much of the United States, its longest duration of totality will be over Makanda, Illinois, which is located south of Carbondale on the former Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans.

The first phase of the eclipse begins at 12:52 p.m., reaching totality between 1:20:07 p.m. and 1:22:44 p.m., with the partial phase ending at 2:47 p.m.

Tickets for the Eclipse Express went on sale in the Amtrak reservation system on Sunday.

Amtrak operates three daily trains between Chicago and New Orleans, but the first of those, the southbound Saluki is not scheduled to arrive in Carbondale until 1:45 p.m.

No. 390 has arrived in Carbondale more than 30 minutes late half the time during the past two weeks.

The travel time of the Eclipse Express is the same as the Saluki even though the special train will make eight fewer station stops.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the special was scheduled so as to not affect the operation of other Amtrak trains serving Carbondale.

Among the events being held in Carbondale is an “Eclipse Day” festival at Saluki Stadium on the campus of Southern Illinois University.

There will also be a Family Fun Zone area and Shadowfest held in Carbondale within walking distance of the Amtrak station.

Many eclipse watchers are also expected to ride the northbound Illini from Carbondale to Chicago. No. 392 has been sold out for several weeks and will have an extra coach.

Passengers riding the southbound Eclipse Express will be given special glasses that are needed to prevent permanent eye damage from viewing the sun in its partial eclipse phase.

Metra to Show Plans to Renovate Homewood Station

July 6, 2017

Metra plans to renovate the station that it shares with Amtrak in Homewood, Illinois.  The commuter rail agency will give the public a preview of the plans during a meeting at 7 p.m. on July 10 in the board room at Homewood Village Hall, 2020 Chestnut Road.

The former Illinois Central station is used by the Metra Electric line and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki. Built in 1923, the station serves 1,200 Metra passengers a day.

Among the renovations being considered are reconstruction of the east and west entrances, installation of new stairs and ADA compliant ramps, new stairs leading to the Amtrak platform, and reconstruction of the Amtrak platform and canopy.

Other work will include installation of water seepage barriers and a drainage system in the tunnel, new tunnel walls, ceiling and lighting; and reconfiguration of parking on the Park Avenue side of the station.

Although rebuilding of the Amtrak facilities is expected to begin in 2018, Metra won’t work on its own part of the station until funds are available.

Metra completed interim repairs to the Homewood station in 2015, including replacing all the steps on the metal stairway that connects the pedestrian tunnel with the platform; replacing all of the ceiling tiles above those stairs; cleaning, sealing and painting all windows above the stairs; repairing and painting stucco; painting areas throughout the station; painting ceiling tiles at the east and west entrances; and adding LED bulbs in the tunnel.

NB Saluki to Operate 2 Hours Earlier

June 29, 2017

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki will operate two hours earlier on weekdays between July 19 and Aug. 4.

The schedule change is due to Canadian National track work. The schedule change will not affect the operation of No. 390 on weekends when it will depart its originating station in Carbondale, Illinois, at 7:30 a.m.

The weekday schedule of the Saluki during the affected time period will put it two hours behind the scheduled times of the northbound City of New Orleans.

The Saluki makes stops in Du Quoin, Rantoul and Gilman, Illinois, that are skipped by No. 58.

NB Saluki to Operate 2 Hours Earlier

June 19, 2017

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki will operate two hours earlier Monday through Friday between July 19 and August 4 in order to accommodate track work being undertaken by Canadian National.

No. 390 is scheduled to depart Carbondale, Illinois, at 7:30 a.m., but will now depart at 5:30 a.m., putting it just over two hours behind the City of New Orleans, which is scheduled to depart Carbondale at 3:16 a.m.

The early schedule will not apply to No. 390 on  Saturdays or Sundays.

 

Illini to Run an Hour Later on Weekdays

April 19, 2017

Amtrak’s Carbondale, Illinois, to Chicago Illini will operate an hour later between April 24 and May 12 due to Canadian National track work.

The schedule change affects only trains operating on Monday through Friday. The Saturday and Sunday schedule of No. 392 remains unchanged.

Arrival times at all intermediate stations will be an hour later.

The Illini is funded largely by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

 

NB CONO Operating 4 Hours Later untill April 1

March 9, 2017

The northbound City of New Orleans is being rescheduled to operate four hours later between March 6 and April 1 due to Canadian National track work.

No. 58 will during that time frame depart from New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 5:45 p.m., and operate four hours later at all stations from New Orleans to Carbondale, Illinois.

North of Cardonable, No. 58 will operate on the schedule of No. 390, the northbound Saluki, and make all station stops served by No. 390.

That means that No. 58 will be stopping in Illinois at DuQuoin, Rantoul and Gillman, stations that it normally does not serve.

In order to provide three daily trains from Carbondale to Chicago, Amtrak will operate an extra train, No. 1158.

Passengers who hold tickets for travel on No. 58 between March 6 and April 1 will instead travel on No. 1158.

That train will operate on the schedule of No. 58 and serve all of its stations. It will use the equipment normally assigned to No. 390.

The northbound schedule for Train 392 (Illini) and the southbound schedules for Trains 59 (City of New Orleans), 391 (Saluki) and 393 (Illini) are unchanged for this period.

What the 1971, Coming of Amtrak Meant for Varnish Running on the Main Line of Mid-America

January 13, 2017
ic-timetables

A comparison of timetables shows pre- and early Amtrak service on the Illinois Central Railroad between Chicago and New Orleans.

Those familiar with Amtrak’s early history are aware of how on April 30, 1971, dozens of trains began their final runs because they were not included in the new passenger carrier’s initial route network.

Numerous routes lost intercity passenger service, some of them for good.

On routes that kept service, the number of trains often was thinned to no more than one or two roundtrips per day.

One of the little known facts about pre-Amtrak service is that the Illinois Central mainline between Gillman, Illinois, and Du Quoin, Illinois, did not lose a single intercity passenger train between the early 1950s and Amtrak day in 1971.

In part this was due to the strong ridership the ICRR enjoyed on its passenger trains into the 1960s, but other factors came into play as well.

The New York Central used the IC mainline between Chicago and Kankakee, Illinois, for its Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati trains. The IC’s Chicago-St. Louis trains used the mainline between Chicago and Gilman. IC passenger service from St. Louis to the South came onto the mainline at Du Quoin or Carbondale, Illinois.

The IC ended two of its three Chicago-St. Louis roundtrips in the late 1950s and the Chicago-St. Louis Green Diamond was shortened to Chicago-Springfield, Illinois, in the late 1960s.

NYC and Penn Central trimmed service on the Chicago-Cincinnati route in the 1950s and 1960s so that by the coming of Amtrak the only survivor was the James Whitcomb Riley. The last IC train from St. Louis to the South ended in 1970.

Although the IC ended trimmed operation of some trains tween Chicago and the South south of Carbondale in the middle to late 1960s, between Gillman and Du Quoin there was no net reduction in the number of intercity passengers trains for about two decades.

Yes, the IC tried to do away with some of those trains, but met resistance and could not win regulatory approval to end any of them.

On May 1, 1971, Amtrak did what the IC had been unable to do. It cut the number of Chicago-New Orleans trains from two to one and the number of Chicago-Carbondale trains from three to one.

Also ending was the every-other-day City of Miami, but Amtrak’s launched a daily Chicago-Florida train that used the IC as far south as Kankakee. The James Whitcomb Riley also continued under Amtrak auspices.

This comparison of the last public timetable issued by the IC with the first timetable of trains operated by the IC under contract for Amtrak shows how much things changed virtually overnight. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Another Edition of Train Time on Amtrak

October 10, 2016

mto-06

Thousands of times a day an Amtrak train pulls into the station, passengers get off, passengers get on and the conductor gives the engineer a highball to move on to the next station.

It’s a ritual that has played out for more than four decades and more than a century if you go back to the era when railroads operated their own passenger trains.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about this moment in Mattoon, Illinois, involving the southbound Saluki.

The equipment on No. 391 will turn at Carbondale, Illinois, and return north as No. 392, the Illini. It will be the next train to play out this ritual on this platform today.

Tomorrow, it will play out again with a slightly different cast of characters.

Boarding in Champaign-Urbana

October 5, 2016

ic-005-champaign-may-16-2000

As the home of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana is one of busiest Amtrak stations in the Midwest. Much of the traffic is travels between here and Chicago, but a fair number of passengers board here to go to Carbondale, the home of Southern Illinois University.

Depending on how the trains are operating, there might be a few minutes to step off if you are a through passenger. That was the case on this day in May 2000. I was riding from Chicago to Mattoon, Illinois, but No. 391 was on time or even a little early.

I had enough time to get off and make a few photographs before getting back on board.

 

Turning the Shawnee in Carbondale

October 2, 2016

ic-024-may-7-1979

It is a Monday afternoon in Carbondale, Illinois. I had a day off from work and spent part of it riding Amtrak’s Shawnee from Mattoon, Illinois, where I lived and worked at the time, to Carbondale.

I could board train No. 391 in late morning, arrive in Carbondale in early afternoon and then take No. 392, which was due to depart at 4 p.m., back, home.

The date is May 7, 1979, and the scene is pure 1970s. An Illinois Central Gulf geep has tied onto the rear of the Shawnee and will pull it to North Yard where the consist will be turned on a wye.

If you look hard enough you can see the light towers in the yard as well as the old coaling tower. A portion of the St. Louis Division office building is visible on the right edge in the distance.

The train is sitting in front of the former Illinois Central passenger station. At one time, Carbondale was a busy place where through cars for St. Louis were switched in and out of Chicago-New Orleans trains.

In Amtrak’s early years cars were added and subtracted from Amtrak Nos. 58 and 59 (Chicago-New Orleans), but that didn’t last long.

On the point of the Shawnee is P30CH No. 724, which was less than four years old at the time. Pooches were common fixtures on corridor trains running on ICG tracks.

The consist of the train is three Amfleet cars, one of them an Amcafe, and a baggage car. The latter did not routinely operate on Nos. 391/392 but in the 1970s Amtrak sometimes assigned a baggage car to the Shawnee during periods when the colleges along the line were starting or ending a term.

Today, much of what can be seen here is gone. The Pooches are long since been retired. The tracks are now owned by Canadian National and Amtrak built its own station at a location farther south. There aren’t as many tracks, either.

The Shawnee name is gone but there are now two pairs of Chicago-Carbondale trains, one named the Illini and the other the Saluki. College students still make up a substantial market for this corridor. The old IC passenger station still exists but has been re-purposed.

Although not apparent at the time, this scene captures the transition from the ICRR passenger train era to a modern Amtrak era in which passenger stations and the railroad infrastructure serving them have been much reduced in scope.

Back in 1979, though, you could still imagine what this place looked like when the trains wore orange and chocolate brown and the Carbondale station was a much busier place.