Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-Carbondale corridor’

Illini, Saluki Times to Change in January

December 22, 2022

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki rolls through Humboldt, Illinois, on Nov. 6.

Amtrak is using a time-honored trick to try to improve on-time performance in its Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

Starting Jan. 16, it will reschedule some trains to operate later at intermediate points. However, the running times of those trains between Chicago and Carbondale will remain the same.

The scheduled rimes for the northbound Saluki (No. 390) and Illini (No. 392 at Effingham, Mattoon, and Champaign-Urbana will be two to 10 minutes later. Times at Rantoul, Gilman, and Kankakee will be 10 to 20 minutes later, while Homewood will be 26 minutes later.

Time for the southbound Saluki (No. 391) and Illini (No. 393) will be three to 10 minutes later at  Kankakee, Gilman, and Rantoul, and 20 to 28 minutes later at Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia, and Du Quoin.

The arrival and departure times at Chicago and Carbondale for all four trains will remain unchanged. Also unchanged are the schedules of the City of New Orleans which uses the corridor during its daily trek between Chicago and New Orleans.

Amtrak and host railroad Canadian National have been locked in a dispute for years over time keeping for trains in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor and it is unclear if the schedule changes are a result of that dispute.

The Saluki and Illini are largely funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Track Work to Disrupt Carbondale Trains Dec. 13

December 9, 2022

Passengers board the southbound Illini in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, on May 29, 2001

Track work being performed by host railroad Canadian National will result in bus substitutions on Dec. 13 in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

On that date, the Saluki and Illini in both directions will be cancelled and replaced by bus service.

Buses 3390 and 3392 will operate from Carbondale to Chicago in lieu of Trains 390 (northbound Saluki) and 382 (northbound Illini). Express bus 3090 will operate from Champaign-Urbana to Chicago in lieu of Train 390.

Buses 3391 and 3393 will operate from Chicago to Carbondale in lieu of Train 391 (southbound Saluki) and 393 (southbound Illini). Express bus 3093 will operate from Chicago to Champaign-Urbana.

Buses will operate on the normal train schedule, but will not serve the intermediate stations of Du Quoin, Rantoul, Gilman and Kankakee.

The track work will not affect the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, which uses the same tracks between Chicago and Carbondale as the Illini and Saluki.

CN track work also continues to affect operations of the southbound Illini through Dec. 20.

No. 393 will depart Chicago at 5:05 p.m., an hour later than scheduled, and maintain that schedule to Carbondale.

Illini Running Hour Later Due to Track Work

November 16, 2022

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki sees some late fall foliage color in Humboldt, Illinois, on Nov. 6. The equipment for Train 390 turns in Chicago to become the southbound Illini later in the day.

Track work by host railroad Canadian National has the Chicago to Carbondale, Illini, operating an hour later than scheduled through Dec. 20.

Train 393 will depart Chicago Union Station during the period at 5:05 p.m. and hold that later schedule at all stations en route to Carbondale.

The track work does not affect operations of the Carbondale to Chicago Saluki.

Renovations Set for Homewood Station

October 28, 2022

Chicago commuter rail operator Metra has awarded a contract to renovate a station in Homewood, Illinois, that also is used by Amtrak.

The $14.5 million went to IHC Construction Companies to make the station headhouse more accessible by installing an entrance ramp.

Other work will include rebuilding the boarding platforms and installing wind breaks, a warming house and gatehouse.

Workers will install new drainage, ventilation, lighting and interior features in the pedestrian tunnel and replace the elevator connecting the tunnel to the platform.

The work is expected to begin next spring and take two years to complete.

Homewood is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans trains.

Rushing Through Arcola

August 24, 2022

Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Saluki rushes through Arcola, Illinois, and past the town’s massive grain elevator complex on Canadian National’s Champaign Subdivision. On the point is SC-44 Charger No. 4619. The train was running about 20 minutes late and incurred another short delay at Tuscola due to Union Pacific running a train across the diamonds. When the Amtrak locomotive engineer reported the delay to the CN rail traffic controller, he replied that he told his UP counterpart not to run a work train out in front of Amtrak. “But I guess they don’t care about that,” the CN dispatcher said.

Renovation of Effingham Station Completed

August 12, 2022

The Effingham Amtrak station is housed in a former express building and is shown in September 2021.

A station renovation project at Effingham, Illinois, was recently concluded.

The $2.5 million project began in 2019. Work included interior accessibility improvements and construction of a new 700-foot by 12-foot ADA-compliant boarding platform.

The Effingham station is a former Illinois Central express facility located next to a former union station that served the IC and Pennsylvania Railroad.

That complex opened in 1924. Effingham is served by Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki trains.

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.

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

Renovated Homewood Station Dedicated

June 27, 2022

Amtrak held a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Saturday to celebrate completion of the renovation of its station in Homewood, Illinois.

The Homewood station, which was built by the Illinois Central, was rehabilitated at a cost of $29 million.

Aside from serving Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Saluki and Illini trains on the Chicago-Cabondale-New Orleans corridor, the station also serve Metra Electric commuter trains in Chicago.

The Homewood station renovation work began in September 2020. Until the work was finished Amtrak passengers for Homewood had to ride a shuttle bus to the station in Kankakee, Illinois.

The work included building a new boarding platform, new restrooms, and improved lighting and utilities.

A ramp was constructed from the station to a tunnel under the Metra and Canadian National tracks leading to the boarding platform. A new elevator leads from the tunnel to the boarding area.

Saturday Memory: Going for a Train Ride

June 25, 2022

Amtrak’s southbound Shawnee is arriving in the station at Rantoul, Illinois, in May 1972. Waiting on the platform appears to be a group of school children who probably are going for a train ride to Champaign, the next stop down the line. It won’t be a long ride as the distance from Rantoul to Champaign is just 14 miles.

No. 391 is being pulled by two former Illinois Central E units, which was not a rare occurrence during Amtrak’s first couple of years. But soon the IC units will give way to locomotives brought in from other railroads. Amtrak leased a few IC units and repainted many of them into its own colors even as it retained the IC roster numbers.

Note that none of the passenger cars are in IC passenger colors. Had this image been made in May 1971 all of the equipment would have been IC varnish. But starting in summer 1971 cars from other carriers came to the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans trains.

Also note the train order semaphore signal and the train order stand. Much has changed since this image was made. The train order signal and stand are long gone. The IC passenger station is now privately owned. Amtrak has a shelter and boarding platform on the north end of the station property.

The Shawnee name has been retired with the Chicago-Carbondale trains operating as the Saluki and Illini.

I wonder if school groups still ride from Rantoul to Champaign so children can get a train ride. The IC used to promote that, but I’m not sure that Amtrak does or even ever did.