Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-Detroit Corridor’

Wolverines Being Pulled by Chargers

January 9, 2020

An online report this week indicated that all Amtrak Midwest Corridor trains in Michigan are now being pulled by Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotives.

Chargers have been pulling some Amtrak trains in Michigan for several months, most notably the Blue Water between Chicago and Port Huron.

But the units were slow to be assigned to Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The delay in introducing Chargers to the Detroit corridor was due to the need to develop software for positive train control that was compatible with the Incremental Train Control System used on Amtrak-owned tracks between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana.

The first Charger to enter revenue service for Amtrak did so on Aug. 24, 2017, on a Hiawatha Service train between Chicago and Milwaukee. The units are not commonly used on corridor trains in Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The Chargers used by Amtrak in the Midwest were ordered by the Illinois Department of Transportation in conjunction with state transportation agencies in Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin that also fund Amtrak corridor service.

Amtrak in December 2018 ordered 75 Chargers that will replace GE P42DC locomotives on long-distance trains starting in 2021.

Wolverine to Run 15 Minutes Earlier

July 3, 2019

 

SW Michigan Wants Reroute of Pere Marquette

January 4, 2019

Transportation planners in southwest Michigan see falling ridership and changing transportation priorities as posing potential threats to the continued operation of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette on its current route between Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

They are hoping that rerouting the train between New Buffalo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana, to the same route used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains would help save the train.

Although Ryan Fellows, an associate planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said that no changes in service are expected in the short term it is the long term that has him concerned.

Studies have recommended revamping intercity rail service in Michigan to form a coast-to-coast network whose main stem would operate between Chicago and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

At Kalamazoo, trains would fan out for Grand Rapids, Detroit and Lansing.

However, the segment of the Pere Marquette route serving St. Joseph, Bangor and Holland might be discontinued and some or all of those cities served by connecting bus service.

What Fellows would like to see is a connection built at New Buffalo between CSX and an Amtrak-owned line that would enable the Pere Marquette to use the same route as Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

That route, he noted, would allow the Pere Marquette trains to operate at a top speed of 110 miles per hour while providing connections with other trains serving Michigan.

“A feasibility and engineering study is a necessary step prior to establishing a rail connection in New Buffalo to link the Pere Marquette and Wolverine-Blue Water services,” he said during a presentation to the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study agency.

That agency recently approved a resolution in support of studying building the proposed New Buffalo connection.

The transportation planners fear that funding of the Pere Marquette might fall by the wayside unless the Pere Marquette route become more efficient and reliable.

Between 2007 and 2017 ridership of the Pere Marquette declined by 11 percent, to 93,449 passenger.

During the same period, ridership on the Blue Water rose 46 percent while Wolverine Service trains posted a more modest ridership increase of 2 percent.

Pere Marquette ridership increased by 4.4 percent between 2016 to 2017, generating $3.2 million in ticket revenue.

Planners have pointed to a 2017 Midwest Regional Rail System report that projected that connecting Chicago with Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Detroit would increase ridership from 200,000 to 1.5 million, with connections to cities throughout the region.

However, the existing Pere Marquette route was seen as lacking enough population to attract the ridership that the proposed coast-to-coast network would generate.

Efforts to boost ridership of the Pere Marquette have included making special stops for such events as the Senior PGA at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, and the Tulip Festival in Holland.

Detroit Diamonds Replaced

August 23, 2018

Amtrak, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Norfolk Southern and CSX teamed up to replace a four-diamond crossing at Wayne in the Detroit area this week.

Work at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 14 after an NS freight passed through.

Workers removed the old diamonds and installing a prefabricated unit. Complicating the work was that the diamond has four crossings, making it a heavy lift and requiring precision alignment to reconnect to existing rail lines.

During the work, Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains terminated at Ann Arbor, Michigan, with passengers riding a bus to stations at Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy, and Pontiac.

CSX and NS trains were rerouted or halted.

The project was completed at 4 p.m. on Aug. 15. Amtrak resumed using the route over the crossing on the morning of Aug. 16.

The project received 75 percent of its funding from CSX and 25 percent from MDOT.

Wolverines To Allow Bikes Onboard

July 24, 2018

Bicycles will be allowed onboard Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains effective July 26.

The service will be available at all stations and cost $10 per bike.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said bicycle reservations are required and bike tickets must be presented to the conductor when boarding the train.

Passengers can reserve space for their bikes by selecting “add bike” when booking their reservation at Amtrak.com.

Bike reservations also can be made by calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245) and at Amtrak ticket offices. Only four bicycles are permitted per train.

Passengers will be provided a bike tag by station employees and by the train crew at unstaffed stations. Passengers must present their bike tag to retrieve their bike from the train crew at their destination.

Amtrak is advising passengers carrying on bikes to arrive 45 minutes before  train departure to allow sufficient time to obtain their ticket and baggage tag, and to get their bike onto the train.

Only one standard size bicycle will be permitted per passenger. Large seat/saddle bags must be removed from the bikes. These items can be carried on the train and will count as a carry-on item.

Passengers must be physically capable of lifting their bicycle up to shoulder height to an employee standing in the vestibule of a passenger car.

Passengers may stow their bicycle in open spaces at the ends of the car. They may not be stored in the vestibule.

Upon reaching their destination, passengers will be responsible for preparing their bicycle prior to detraining. A bike should be positioned in the doorway, so the passenger can lift it off the car with the chain facing away.

Amtrak to Renovate Jackson Station

June 25, 2018

Amtrak plans to rehabilitate the 144-year-old Michigan Central station in Jackson, Michigan, this summer to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The work also includes re-pointing the brick on the chimneys and working on the roof.

Other improvements include bathrooms being made ADA compliant, installing signs with braille markings and creating an ADA accessible path from the parking lot to the station.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said cost estimates won’t be available until the project is finished.

Amtrak has owned the station since 1973. It is served daily by six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The Victorian-Italianate-style structure opened on Sept. 1, 1873, and is one of Amtrak’s oldest stations that has been in continuous use as a passenger facility having served the Michigan Central, New York Central and Penn Central.

Other renovations were made in 1978, 2008 and 2013.

Police Probe Apparent Sabotage Effort in Michigan

June 14, 2018

Police released this photo showing the debris placed on a rail on track owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation and used by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern.

Police in Jackson, Michigan, are seeking a suspect who may have been trying to derail an Amtrak or Norfolk Southern train by placing debris on one of the rails.

An Amtrak police officer found the debris on Wednesday morning and notified the Jackson Police Department.

The debris included ballast and tie plates. Police said the debris resulted in a “dangerous situation.”

The debris was placed on a rail between North Jackson and North Blackstone streets.

Jackson is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains.

A Jackson Police spokesman said that walking on the railroad tracks, or property owned by the railroad is a misdemeanor offense.

Jackson Ticket Office Closed

April 4, 2018

Ticket agent staffing of the Jackson, Michigan, Amtrak station ended this week.

Amtrak said that effective April 2, it closed its ticket office in Jackson, but will continue to serve the station with its six daily Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers will continue to have access to the station waiting area and restrooms for all train arrivals and departures during normal station hours of 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

However, half of the Wolverine trains arrive and depart in Jackson outside of during those hours.

Amtrak personnel aboard the trains will assist customers boarding and detraining.

Passengers who pay for their tickets with cash may still do so aboard the train, but such tickets will be priced at the highest fare and subject to availability if not reserved in advance.

Amtrak said passengers who require full customer service for unaccompanied minors traveling on Amtrak or other services provided by employees should travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, located 37 miles east of Jackson.

Yes, Watch Out for the Trains

February 16, 2018

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak have been working to boost train speeds on the Chicago-Detroit corridor, particularly on track in Michigan, that both entities own.

MDOT owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Dearborn and over the past couple of summers has sponsored track work designed to enable faster running.

One small indicator of that work is this sign in Chelsea, Michigan, located next to the former Michigan Central station, which is now owned by a local historical society.

Getting Amtrak here at 80 mph or any speed remains on my “to do” list for 2018. There is double track because there is a passing siding here.

Chelsea, located between Ann Arbor and Jackson, is not a stop for Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains, but it was a stop for the Michigan Executive commuter train that Amtrak operated through Jan. 13, 1984, when the state ended its funding of the service.

Michigan transportation officials and rail passenger advocates have been trying to resume commuter rail service ever since.

Snow, Ice Pile Delay Wolverine Service Train

February 14, 2018

An Amtrak Wolverine Service train struck a pile of ice and snow left close to its tracks, damaging the locomotive and delaying passengers for more than four hours during which the train lacked heat and the restrooms were inoperable.

The incident occurred on Monday evening and involved Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac) Train No. 352.

The train struck ice and snow that a local snow plow crew had left close to the rails near Michigan City, Indiana.

A Chicago radio station said some passengers felt sick and one said she feared losing consciousness during the ordeal.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was forced to stop after striking the snow and ice while Amtrak personnel re-aligned the snow plow on the locomotive.

That task took nearly two-and-a-half-hours and during that time the head-end power to the passenger cars was disconnected.

Magliari said that Amtrak police and managers distributed snacks to passengers during the delay and provided what help they could. Two other Amtrak trains using the route were also delayed.

Amtrak will discuss with the unnamed town involved the need to avoid piling snow next to railroad tracks, Magliari said.