Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-St. Louis Corridor’

Chicago-St. Louis Corridor Rebuilding Nearing Completion

April 18, 2017

The Illinois Department of Transportation says a $1.95 billion rebuilding of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor is close to being finished.

The project, which began eight years, will conclude with work in the coming months in Madison and Macoupin counties in Illinois near St. Louis.

IDOT officials say that 75 percent of the 284-mile corridor will feature speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.

Among the work yet to be done is temporarily closing 18 grade crossings to allow for the installation of new gates, fencing and other improvements.

Grade crossings will receive “four-quad” gates to block two traffic lanes on each side of the track and keep vehicles from going around the gates

Sidewalk gates will keep pedestrians from crossing while a train is approaching and 3-foot-high pedestrian fences will be installed at to encourage people to cross where they should.

Officials said some service will be suspended between May 16 to 23 for bridge work in the Metro East area of St. Louis.

The suspensions will affect trains operations between St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois. Chartered buses will replace trains during that period.

Much of the route upgrading, which has included laying new rails and putting down concrete ties has been funded by the federal government.

IDOT officials said increasing the maximum speed in open areas to 110 will cut about an hour off the corridor travel time.

“Currently, it’s about five and a half hours from end to end,” said Scott Speegle, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation. “It’ll be about four and a half once the project is finished and we’re able to run the 110 high speed.”

However, officials said that although they expect the higher speed project to be finished this year they cannot yet say when the 110 mph speeds will be allowed.

It could be in 2018, but that will depend on testing the line’s positive train control system.

“They have to be very conservative with testing,” said Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

Speegle said aside from higher speeds, the PTC system will allow for better train flow and increased reliability.

He noted that much of the corridor is a single track line hosting passenger and freight trains.

Some double track and lengthened siding have been added to facilitate meets of opposing rail traffic.

The Chicago-St. Louis corridor is used by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

RTG Turboliner Memories

April 14, 2017

A photograph that my friend Bob Farkas sent me this week of an Amtrak RTG Turboliner at Joliet, Illinois, brought back a lot of fond memories.

I rode the Turboliner when I lived in Springfield, Illinois, in the mid-1970s, but many of my memories involve watching the French-built train.

Sometimes on a late Friday afternoon I would go to the Amtrak station to see the Turboliner from St. Louis arrive en route to Chicago.

During my first semester at the then-named Sangamon State University, I had a class that met in the early evening.

It got out shortly before the evening Turboliner was to leave Springfield for St. Louis. Parking for the downtown SSU campus was in a lot next to the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio tracks, which were Illinois Central Gulf by then.

If it a searchlight signal next to the tracks was green, the Amtrak train was in the station out of sight a few blocks to the north. I’d sit in my car until the train came past and then go home.

My first ride on a Turboliner came in February 1975 when I made a trip to St. Louis to visit my grandparents.

I liked the Turboliner. It was modern, had nice large windows and lived up to its billing in a an Amtrak radio advertisement of the time with a tagline of “hitch a ride on the future.:

But not everyone did felt the way that I did. Many passengers disliked the narrow seats that barely reclined, the narrow aisles and the sometimes hard to open doors. Another drawback was limited seating in the café car.

The Turboliner had a fixed capacity of 296, so some passengers were left standing during peak travel periods.

Those who regularly rode Amtrak in the Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis corridor preferred conventional equipment over the Turboliner.

Some locomotive engineers wouldn’t work on the Turboliner because they didn’t feel they would be protected enough during a grade crossing collision with a large truck.

When they began service on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor on Oct. 1, 1973, Amtrak touted the Turboliner as the greatest advancement in transportation since the 747.

Although much was made of the capability of the Turboliner to run more than 100 mph, the fastest it could sprint between Chicago and St. Louis was 79 p.m.

But the Turboliner schedule was a half-hour faster than trains using conventional equipment and 11 minutes faster than GM&O trains of the late 1940s.

An Amtrak official conceded to Trains magazine editor David P. Morgan that the purpose the flashy-looking Turboliners was to show that Amtrak was doing something to improve passenger service other than making cosmetic improvements to hand-me-down equipment.

Morgan said the Turboliner reminded him of the low center of gravity lightweight trains that railroads tried in the 1950s but which failed to catch on.

The last Turboliner in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor ran on Trains 301/304. It was withdrawn from the route after it struck an asphalt truck at Elwood, Illinois, on Nov. 18, 1975.

About a month later, Nos. 301/304 because the first Midwest corridor trains to receive the new Amfleet equipment.

My last trip aboard a Turboliner came in November 1980 when I rode the Lake Cities from  Chicago to Toledo via Detroit.

The next time I remember seeing a Turboliner was in the mid-1990s at the Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis. One of the Turboliner sets was sitting forlornly off to the side.

I’ve seen photographs of a Turboliner sitting in a junk yard near Dugger, Indiana. One of these days I’ve got to get out there to see if it is still there.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Some Lincoln Service Canceled on April 3. Texas Eagle to Detour Between Chicago and St. Louis

March 28, 2017

Track work being performed on Monday, April 3 will result in cancellations and detours in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Lincoln Service trains 300, 301, 302 and 303 will be canceled. All except No. 300 will be replaced by charter bus service at each station on the route.

The buses will depart earlier than the scheduled departure show in the Amtrak timetable.

Lincoln Service trains 304, 305, 306 and 307 will run on their normal schedules.

The Texas Eagle in both directions will detour and bypass the stations of Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

Amtrak said passengers ticketed to travel on Nos. 21 and 22 to or from these stations are advised to instead travel on Lincoln Service trains or buses.

Operations of the Texas Eagle will not be affected south of St. Louis. Amtrak said the detour may delay the Eagle by up to 45 minutes.

Keeping a Watch on the Platform in Joliet

January 25, 2017

rock-june-25-1977-2-x

Amtrak operating crew members have always had radios to communicate with each other. A conductor can tell the engineer by radio that boarding is complete and it is time to leave.

But engine crew members still like to do things the old fashioned way and look in the side mirror to see how the boarding process is going.

It is June 25, 1977, in Joliet, Illinois. The St. Louis-bound Statehouse has arrived and is boarding passengers.

At the time, it was the only train on the Chicago-St. Louis route funded by the State of Illinois.

The engineer is at the throttle of a P30PH locomotive. Known as “Pooches,” the P30s were a common sight on Midwest corridor trains in the 1970s, particularly on Illinois Central Gulf routes.

It was an era when the Statehouse and other corridor trains might be pull into the station behind a P30 or an F40PH. You just never knew.

Some Lincoln Service Trains, Texas Eagle to be Disrupted on Dec. 12 by Track Work

December 5, 2016

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle will be disrupted on Dec. 12, 2016, due to track work.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgSome Lincoln Service passengers will ride chartered buses while the Eagle will be detoured.

The track work is related to the program to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis route to allow a top speed of 110 miles per hour in some places.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that Trains 300, 301, 302 and 303 will be canceled with bus service replacing all trains (except Train 300) at all stations on the route.

The buses will depart earlier than their respective trains. Trains 304, 305, 306 and 307 will run on their normal schedules.

Passengers ticketed on the Texas Eagle to all intermediate stops between Chicago and St. Louis will have the option of riding on a Lincoln Service train or a chartered bus.

This affects passengers at the Illinois cities of Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

Texas Eagle passengers bound for Chicago or St. Louis will remain aboard the train. Amtrak advises that the Eagle might encounter delays of up to 45 minutes traveling on the detour route.

Texas Eagle to Detour, Lincoln Service Trains to be Replaced by Charter Buses in November

November 11, 2016

The Texas Eagle will detour and some Lincoln Service trains will be replaced with chartered buses on Nov. 17, 18 and 19 due to track work being conducted between Chicago and St. Louis.

Amtrak Texas EagleTrain 307 will operate only between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, on Nov. 17 and 18. Bus service will be provided to and all stations south of Normal.

On Nov. 18 and 19, trains 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305 and 306 will operate only between Chicago and Normal.

Bus service will replace all trains (except Train 300) at stations between Normal and St. Louis. Buses replacing Trains 302, 304 and 306 will depart early.

Chicago to San Antonio No. 21 will detour between Chicago and St. Louis on Nov. 18 and 19, missing all stops between those cities.

San Antonio to Chicago No. 22 will detour on the same dates. Passengers on No. 22 ticketed to Chicago will remain aboard the train.

Those originally scheduled to travel on No. 21 between Joliet and St. Louis will be provided replacement bus transportation.

Those who had been scheduled to travel on No. 22 between St. Louis and Chicago will have the option of taking one of the replacement buses for the Lincoln Service trains.

Amtrak said No. 21 and 22 will be subject to delays of up to 45 minutes while traveling on the detour route via Union Pacific via Pana, Sullivan and Tuscola, Illinois.

Springfield Rail Relocation Work Begins

November 1, 2016

Work has begun to get Amtrak out of the street in Springfield, Illinois.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgAmtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis trains have partial street running on Third Street in Springfield, but the plans are to add an additional track to a Norfolk Southern line (former Wabash) and move rail traffic off the Union Pacific (former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) line now used by the Texas Eagle and Lincoln Service trains.

Demotion of a building has begun to clear space for parking for Horace Mann Educators, which will lose parking spaces due to some of its land being used for an expanded railroad right of way along 10th Street.

The building being razed at 100 N. Ninth St. had housed offices of the Salvation Army, which is moving to another location.

Another demolition that is expected to begin in the coming weeks will remove a building at 901 E. Adams St. at  the site of future transit transfer center for the Springfield Mass Transit District that will open in 2017.

SMTD currently operates an on-street transfer operation at Fifth and Capitol.

Eventually the site will become a multi-modal center used by Amtrak, intercity buses and other public transportation services. City officials expect the area on both sides of the 10th Street rail corridor to develop into a retail-commercial area.

For now, Amtrak and UP freight trains will continue to use the ex-GM&O tracks along Third Street.

New Amtrak Station Opens in Dwight

October 28, 2016

A ceremony was held this week to mark the opening of a new $3.26 million station in Dwight, Illinois, that is served by Amtrak.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgThe Illinois Department of Transportation said it is the first new station to open on the route, which is being rebuilt for higher-speed service by Chicago-St. Louis trains.

Construction began in August 2015 and the new depot has 1,500 square feet of space, free Wi-Fi service and a temperature-controlled waiting room.

Funding was provided by a federal grant. IDOT said that stations in Lincoln and Springfield are slated to be renovated.

Trains stopping in Dwight include three southbound and four northbound Lincoln Service trains.

IDOT said the higher-speed rail project is expected to be completed in 2017

Extra Trains Set for Thanksgiving Travel Period

October 19, 2016

Amtrak said it will offer extra trains between Chicago and points in Illinois and Michigan during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

Amtrak logoIn Illinois, the additional trains will operate between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, and Chicago and Quincy. All of these trains will operate on Wednesday, Nov. Nov. 23, and Sunday, Nov. 27.

In Michigan, extra trains will operate between Chicago and Ann Arbor on Nov. 23, 26 and 27. Extra trains will also operate between Chicago and Holland on Nov. 23 and 27.

Train No. 309 will depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and arrive in Bloomington-Normal at 12:58 p.m., making all intermediate stops served by Lincoln Service trains.

No. 308 will depart Bloomington-Normal at 1:15 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 3:39 p.m.

Train No. 385 will depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and arrive in Quincy at 3:53 p.m.

No. 384 will depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:23 p.m. The Chicago-Quincy trains will operate as Carl Sandburg Extra service.

Some regularly scheduled trains will have altered schedules during the holiday period. Lincoln Service train 301 will depart Chicago at 7:30 a.m., a half-hour later than normal, on Nov. 23 and 27.

Lincoln Service train 300 will depart St. Louis on Nov. 23 and 27 at 4 a.m., a half-hour earlier than normal.

Illinois Zephyr No. 383 will depart Chicago on Nov. 23 and 27 at 6:15 p.m., which is 20 minutes later than normal.

In Michigan, the Wolverine Service Extra trains will depart Chicago at 9:30 a.m. and arrive in Ann Arbor at 3:10 p.m., operating as No. 356. Intermediate stops will be made at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

No. 359 will depart Ann Arbor at 4:05 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 7:47 p.m., making the same intermediate stops as No. 356.

There will no change in schedules for other Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The Pere Marquette Extra will depart Chicago at 10 a.m., operating as No. 372, and arrive in Holland at 2:11 p.m. It will make all intermediate stops also served by the regular Pere Marquette. No. 373 will depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m.

There will be no change in the schedule of the daily Pere Marquette.

Amtrak said that during the holiday travel period it will operate every available passenger car in its fleet.

Normal May Pay for Underpass Study

October 3, 2016

The City of Normal, Illinois, may fund a $1.4 million study of the feasibility of building a pedestrian underpass under tracks used by Amtrak in that central Illinois community located on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgThe underpass would cost an estimated $10 million. The city was poised to begin a $6.3 million overpass two years but halted that project when members of the city council sought more research.

If the underpass study is approved, it would be finished by Oct. 15, 2018. The study is expected to determine how much an underpass would cost and what engineering issues might arise.

The underpass would connect the area of Uptown Circle to land south of the railroad tracks, which the city hopes will improve access and promote redevelopment south of the tracks. The study will be conducted by consulting firm WSP Parsons Brickerhoff.

In the meantime, Normal plans to construct a temporary at-grade crossing at the Amtrak station, which is being expanded.

City officials said construction of a boarding platform and other improvements are expected to be completed by the end of the year.