Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-Carbondale corridor’

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.

Champaign-Urbana Saw Amtrak Ridership Decline in FY 2015 for the 2nd Consecutive Year

January 18, 2016
The southbound Illini makes its station stop in Rantoul in August 2012.

The southbound Illini makes its station stop in Rantoul in August 2012.

University towns tend to generate a lot of business for Amtrak and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, is no exception.

One some days the waiting room of the Illinois Terminal, the intermodal station that serves the hometowns of the University of Illinois, overflows with passengers.

Yet in fiscal year 2015, which ended last Sept. 30, ridership from Champaign-Urbana fell for the second consecutive year.

In FY 2013, Amtrak boarded 189,940 passengers in the Twin Cities but saw that number fall to 169,221 in FY 2015. FY 2014 ridership was 179,009.

At the next stop north of Champaign, ridership has shown a slight increase in Rantoul. The ridership numbers for Rantoul have been 5, 889 (FY 2013), 6,166 (FY 2014) and 6,199 (FY 2015)

Patronage fell in many areas of the country during FY 2015 and Amtrak has been blaming falling gasoline prices as a major culprit.

“We believe, as we’ve said before, as gasoline prices go up, so does ridership, and the inverse is true,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

He noted that parking, tolls and traffic tickets in and around Chicago have not changed.

Despite the ridership falloff, Magliari said, “we still have very strong ridership.”

IllinoisIn fact, Amtrak ridership remains at historic levels, with last year being the fifth-highest ridership year on record since 1979, said T.J. Blakeman, Champaign’s senior planner for economic development.

Local officials are concerned that Amtrak service may suffer cuts as a result of a budget stalemate between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly. The two have yet to agree on a budget for the current fiscal year.

Champaign-Urbana is served by three pairs of Amtrak trains, the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans, and the state-funded Illini and Saluki between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

The addition of the Saluki in 2006 provided a boost to Amtrak patronage from Champaign-Urbana, Blakeman said.

“It shows if we can continue to add service on this line, I believe we will continue to see increased ridership,” he said.

Between 2007 and 2014, Amtrak ridership in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor grew 41.6 percent.

Aside from budget uncertainty, another concern of Champaign County officials is delays.

Amtrak uses Canadian National tracks between Chicago and New Orleans and the two have sparred over freight delays.

Magliari said Amtrak has an action pending against Canadian National before regulatory authorities.

Ben LeRoy, an associate planner for the city of Champaign, thinks that bus carriers might also be siphoning away some Amtrak ridership due to the problems of delays.

LeRoy, said he takes Amtrak to conferences, but while a student at the University of Illinois he rode Greyhound because the fare was lower and the buses ran more frequently

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said she has left the night before a meeting in Chicago because of the possibility of delays making her late to the meeting.

“That drives away passengers if you can’t be on time. I think that’s the biggest problem, and it’s not Amtrak’s fault,” she said.

Nearly 1,000 people have signed Champaign County First’s online petition at chn.ge/1PtVaBP to support intercity rail passenger rail service on the Chicago-Carbondale corridor.

The petition has described the service as an economic engine for the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University, which together constitute the I-57 Amtrak Rail Knowledge Corridor.

“Just imagine what would happen to the highways if all those people were driving,” Prushing said.

Blakeman said increased Amtrak ridership has played a role in reducing traffic congestion and parking shortages on the University of Illinois campus.

“We’ve reduced parking on campus. We’ve convinced students to bring fewer cars to campus,” he said.

Illinois Amtrak Ridership Fell 4% in FY 2015

December 17, 2015

Ridership on Amtrak trains and routes serving Illinois and funded by the state fell by 4 percent in the past federal fiscal year, which Amtrak said was due to more driving and service interruptions.

Amtrak carried nearly 1.3 million passengers in Illinois for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2015.

Most of the service disruptions occurred on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor where Amtrak, Union Pacific and the Illinois Department of Transportation have been working on a $1.8 billion high-speed rail project.

At various times, Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains were canceled in favor of buses. The Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle detoured on those days on another UP route.

Amtrak has also cited weather-related delays and service suspensions for resulting in revenues and ridership being relatively flat during FY 2015.

“We had plenty of construction improvements,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in reference to the Illinois high-speed rail work of which the federal government is contributing $1.6 billion toward the goal of operating trains at 110 mph between Chicago and St. Louis.

Magliari said the buses have lower capacity and do not travel as fast as the trains.

Amtrak operates eight Lincoln Service trains plus the Texas Eagle in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Ridership between Chicago and St. Louis was 682,296, a decline of 5 percent from the previous year.

Patronage fell 4 percent on the Chicago-Carbondale route to 358,578 while the Chicago-Quincy route carried 244,444 passengers for a decline of 2 percent.

Illinois funds four trains in the Carbondale and Quincy corridors. The Carbondale corridor is also served by the City of New Orleans which operates between Chicago and New Orleans.

Although the administration of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed cutting the amount of state support for Amtrak operations, the state still plans to carry out the final phase of the high-speed rail work in 2016.

IDOT’s Brian Williamsen said work in 2016 will include crossing improvements, station and siding construction, and added bridge and structure upgrades. Positive train control systems will also be installed.

Amtrak trains began operating at speeds of up to 110 mph between Pontiac and Dwight in 2012, but Williamsen said the focus now is on completion of track and network upgrades in 2017.

“We don’t have 110-mph projections to pass along at this time,” he said.

Magliari said Amtrak expects to take possession of new locomotives next year that will allow for 110-mph speeds, but it has not yet been determined how many could be assigned to Illinois routes.

3 Illinois Corridor Trains Using Superliners

February 17, 2015

Passengers riding the Illini, Saluki and Carl Sandburg trains in Illinois can expect to be accommodated in Superliner equipment through the end of February.

Amtrak said the usual equipment assigned to business class service on those trains has temporarily removed.

Passengers who purchase business class tickets will receive most if the amenities normally offered on the single-level Horizon and Amfleet cars, including priority boarding, use of the Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago Union Station, complimentary beverages and a newspaper.

Half of the upper level of the of the Superliner food service car will be curtained off for Business Class passengers.

Amtrak said in service advisory that the primary difference in business class on Superliner equipment is two-by-two seating, rather than a row of single seats on one side of the aisle.

The Saluki and Illini operated between Chicago and Carbondale, Ill., while the Carl Sandburg operates between Chicago and Quincy, Ill.

In the meantime, Amtrak has discontinued business class service on the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State. Also disconnected was AmtrakConnect® Wi-Fi. Light refreshments are not longer available on Nos. 850 and 851.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said those services, which were made available on the Hoosier State last October have been removed because  the Indiana Department of Transportation has chosen not to fund their continuation.