Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-St. Louis Corridor’

Odd Running Mates

May 7, 2020

Penn Central E8A 4061 and former Gulf Mobile & Ohio E7A No. 101 team up to lead an Amtrak train headed for St. Louis out of Joliet Union Station on April 20, 1973. To the right is an ex-GM&O Alco RS1.

The image was made during Amtrak’s rainbow era when sights such as this were not unusual although they might have been a couple year earlier.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

All Aboard in Joliet

April 22, 2020

The conductor of Amtrak’s southbound State House is picking up the step box on the platform in Joliet, Illinois, in preparation for departure.

Although several passengers boarded Train No. 303 here on this July 1998 day, they didn’t need the step box to reach the steps of the Horizon coach.

The State House was funded in part by the Illinois Department of Transportation and was the first state-funded train on the Chicago-St. Louis route.

Today all trains between Chicago and St. Louis except the Texas Eagle are funded by IDOT and have been renamed Lincoln Service.

Amtrak Service Cuts Just Keep Coming

March 19, 2020

Amtrak service to Michigan will be reduced to two pairs of trains and service cuts will be imposed on three corridor routes in Illinois.

However, no service reductions are being planned for the long-distance network Amtrak spokesman Marc Magilari told Trains magazine.

Michigan trains that will continue to operate are the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water while Wolverine Service will consist of No 352, which departs Chicago at 1:25 p.m. and arrives in Pontiac at 8:32 p.m. and No. 351, which departs Pontiac at 5:50 a.m. and arrives in Chicago at 10:32 a.m.

Canceled are the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette and two Wolverine Service roundtrips.

On the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini will continue to operate while their counterparts are canceled.

The corridor is also served by the City of New Orleans which provides service northbound in the early morning hours and southbound in late evening.

Between Chicago and Quincy the Carl Sandburg will be canceled while the Illinois Zephyr will continue to operate.

Part of the Chicago-Quincy corridor will continue to be served by the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief.

The Chicago-Milwaukee corridor will be reduced to one Hiawatha Service roundtrip with the Empire Builder picking up some of the slack.

The one Chicago to Milwaukee Hiawatha will depart at 5:08 p.m. for a 6:45 p.m. arrival in Milwaukee.

There will also be a late night bus from Chicago to Milwaukee that leaves Chicago at 9:15 p.m.

The Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha will depart at 8:05 a.m. and arriving in Chicago at 9:34 a.m.

The Empire Builder will handle local passengers at all stops, including at Sturtevant, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee airport station, both of which Nos. 7 and 8 normally do not serve.

However, the Empire Builder is an afternoon operation in both directions between Chicago and Milwaukee so passengers will not be able to travel northbound in the morning or southbound in the evening.

On the Chicago-St. Louis corridor the southbound 7 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. departures from Chicago will be cut.

Lincoln Service trains will continue to depart Chicago at 9:25 a.m. and 7 p.m.

From St. Louis, Lincoln Service trains will depart at 4:35 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The Texas Eagle will also continue operating in the corridor. Canceled are northbound Lincoln Service departures from St. Louis at 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

For now Missouri River Runner service between St. Louis and Kansas City will continue operating on its current level of service of two roundtrips per day.

On the West Coast, the Capitol Corridor route will see a reduction from 15 to five weekday departures in each direction between Sacramento and Emeryville, California, effective March 23.

This does not include the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight, which uses part of the corridor.

Service reductions on the San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner corridors have not yet been announced.

Cascades Service is no longer operating north of Seattle and will see the last round trip of the day canceled.

A presentation by the Chaddick Institute at DePaul University in Chicago said Amtrak’s current bookings are down 60 percent, future reservations are off 80 percent, and passenger cancellations are up 400 percent compared with the same period last year.

In a related development the Trump administration has proposed that Amtrak receive $500 million in emergency aid.

The carrier had said it needs $1 billion to cover losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding is part of a supplemental appropriation proposal the administration has sent to Congress totaling $45.8 billion.

Amtrak Continues to Pare Service

March 19, 2020

It remains to be seen if Amtrak will suspend or reduce the operations of its long-distance trains, but an online report quoting a union official indicated that onboard service cuts are coming.

The official from the SMART Transportation Division said he has been told to expect sleeping car service to be suspended and dining removed from some trains.

However, the official said he has not been advised by the carrier if it plans to suspend any long-distance trains.

Amtrak has suspended several Midwest corridor trains including three roundtrips in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor and one roundtrip between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette has also been suspended.

Service reductions for corridors in Illinois are expected but as of early Thursday morning had yet to be formally announced by Amtrak.

Amtrak operates three corridors in Illinois linking Chicago with Carbondale, Quincy and St. Louis.

The Chicago-Carbondale corridor has two roundtrips plus the Chicago-New Orleans City of Orleans.

The Chicago-Quincy corridor has two roundtrips while the Chicago-St. Louis corridor has four roundtrips plus the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

An online report indicated that effective March 21 Chicago-Carbondale service will be reduced to the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini.

A similar service pattern is expected to be implemented for the Chicago-Quincy corridor with service to Chicago in the morning and returning service in the evening by trains 381 and 381 respectively.

In both corridors, the remaining trains could be covered with one equipment set.

The Empire Builder is also expected to begin carrying local passengers to and from Sturtevant, Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee Airport station. Neither are regular stops for Nos. 7 and 8.

The New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian also has been suspended along with all Keystone Service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Service reductions have been made in all other eastern corridors as well.

In a service advisory Amtrak said some stations that have ticket agents may not be staffed for all train arrivals and departure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amtrak said passengers should proceed to the platform for boarding if they encounter an unstaffed station that normally has agents directing the boarding process.

Other online reports indicated that Cascade Service between Portland and Eugene, Oregon, will be reduced to one roundtrip with trains 500 and 505 providing the service.

2 Illinois Routes Saw Ridership Up in FY2019

November 23, 2019

Ridership of two Amtrak routes in Illinois increased in fiscal year 2019.

The Chicago-St. Louis corridor carried 756,062 passengers during the fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, an increase of 5.5 percent from the previous year, and 24 percent higher than fiscal year 2011.

Those figures include ridership of Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains as well as the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle, which used the route.

The Illinois Department of Transportation funds the Lincoln Service trains.

IDOT and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation jointly fund the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service, which saw a gain of 38,000 passengers.

Ridership of Hiawatha Service trains was 882,189 in FY2019, a 4.5 percent increase over FY2019.

Just 2 BUILD Grants Will Benefit Amtrak

November 17, 2019

Only two of the rail projects that recently received federal BUILD grants that were awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation will directly benefit Amtrak service.

Both involve Amtrak stations in Illinois.

A $14 million grant was awarded for building an underpass at the station in Normal, Illinois, that also serves nearby Bloomington.

The federal funds will pay for design and construction of a pedestrian, bicyclist, and passenger underpass and a second boarding platform at the station.

Normal is served by Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains as well as the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

The other grant was $14 million for design and construction of a new multi-modal transportation center in downtown Carbondale.

That station will replace a modular facility Amtrak opened in the 1980s.

Carbondale is the southern terminus of Amtrak’s Illini and Saluki as well as an intermediate stop for the City of New Orleans, which operates between Chicago and New Orleans.

USDOT handed out $900 million in BUILD grants for 55 transportation-related infrastructure projects in 35 states,

Half of the funding went to projects in rural areas of the country and the lion’s share ($603 million) went to highway projects.

Rail projects received $48.3 million or 5 percent of the total. Transit projects received $84.6 million or 10 percent of the total.

Florida received the largest amount of grant funding followed by North Carolina, Maine, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana.

California received two grants while Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut received no grant funding.

2 Midwest Routes Get Extra Trains at Thanksgiving

November 13, 2019

Amtrak will be operating additional trains on two Midwest Corridor routes during the Thanksgiving travel period.

On the Lincoln Service route a pair of extras will operate between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois.

Lincoln Service No. 309 will depart Chicago Union Station at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 27 and Dec. 1 and arrive in Normal at 12:58 p.m.

The equipment will turn and become Train No. 398 scheduled to depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:41 p.m.

Additional Carl Sandburg trains will operate on the same dates between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois.

No. 385 will depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m., using the equipment of inbound regularly scheduled Illinois Zephyr No. 380. No. 385 is scheduled to arrive in Quincy at 3:53 p.m.

The equipment from regularly scheduled Chicago to Quincy Carl Sandburg No. 381 will turn and operate as No. 384, departing Quincy at 1 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 5:22 p.m.

The equipment that ran to Quincy as No. 385 will become the regularly scheduled Carl Sandburg No. 382, which is scheduled to depart Quincy at 5:30 p.m.

All of the trains are funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

UP Track Work to Disrupt Lincoln Service, Lead to Texas Eagle Detouring Between Chicago and St. Louis

September 14, 2019

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle has detoured many times over the former route used by Chicago & Eastern Illinois passenger trains between Chicago and St. Louis. No. 22 is shown passing through Tuscola, Illinois, on Aug. 6, 2012.

The Texas Eagle will detour and certain Lincoln Service trains will operate on modified schedules next week due to Union Pacific track work.

On Sept. 17, Train 307 will operate between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois.

Alternate transportation will be provided for the missed stops at Springfield and St. Louis.

On Sept. 18, Trains 300, 302, 304 and 306, will operate between Bloomington-Normal to Chicago. Alternate transportation will be provided between St. Louis and Normal with the buses operating earlier than their corresponding train schedules.

Also on Sept. 18, Trains 301, 303 and 305 will operate between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal.

Alternate transportation will be provided south of Normal with the buses operating later than their corresponding train schedules.

The Eagle on Sept. 18 will detour in both directions between Chicago and St. Louis and miss the scheduled intermediate stops in Illinois at Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

No alternate transportation will be provided for missed stops for passengers traveling from Chicago to those stations.

Passengers traveling to Chicago will remain on board Train 22 upon its arrival in St. Louis from San Antonio.

Passengers traveling to Alton, Carlinville, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac and Joliet will disembark in St. Louis and board bus 3322.

Amtrak said Nos. 21 and 22 may incur up to 60 minutes in delays along the detour route.

Short Lived Sight on Amtrak

September 12, 2019

In the first couple of years of Amtrak the locomotives that pulled the trains were typically adorned in the liveries of the host railroad.

By 1973 this had become a less common sight as Amtrak purchased and repainted locomotives from its host railroads that it had acquired or leased.

The Chicago-St. Louis route used Gulf, Mobile & Ohio locomotives in Amtrak’s first two years.

The hour was getting late for GM&O E7 No. 103A to work on Amtrak when this image was made at Joliet, Illinois, on Oct. 13, 1972.

Soon the GM&O units would be gone from their Amtrak assignments.

Although it served Amtrak, No. 103A was never officially on the Amtrak motive power roster except as a leased unit.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Faster Speeds Remain Elusive on Chicago-St. Louis Route

September 4, 2019

Faster speeds in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor are still several months away.

An Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the agency hopes that Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle will be able to operate at 90 miles per hour by the end of the year between a point south of Springfield and Granite City in the St. Louis metropolitan region.

Until then, though, trains in the corridor are restricted to a top speed of 79 mph.

Guy Tridgell, the IDOT spokesman, said the 90 mph top speed is expected to be implemented over the balance of the route next year.

But IDOT has declined to say when its stated goal of a 110 mph top speed will be achieved.

The agency with the help of federal funding has spent $1.95 billion over the past eight years to rebuild the tracks between Chicago and St. Louis for higher-speed service.

Most of the route is owned by freight operator Union Pacific.

Late last year, IDOT had projected that 90 mph speeds would be into effect during the summer of 2019, but that hasn’t happened.

IDOT has said that a 110 top speed would cut the typical 5½-hour running time between Chicago and St. Louis by 50 minutes.

A top speed of 90 mph speeds would cut it by 15 to 20 minutes.

Officials continue to attribute the delays in implanting higher speeds in the corridor to installation and testing of a new GPS-based positive train control system.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the Post-Dispatch that there is no guarantee that the 90 mph speeds will be reached this year.

“We have to test it and the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) looks at our test data,” he said

Since 2010, IDOT, Amtrak and UP have installed new rails and concrete ties on the route as part of its rebuilding.

Grade crossing protection equipment has been installed to prevent vehicles from going around crossing gates.

Sidewalk gates and fencing discourage pedestrians from crossing tracks while a train is approaching.

Additional passing sidings have been installed and some double-track segments have been lengthened.

Even when faster speeds are authorized by federal regulators, northbound trains in the corridor will still endure a segment of 30-mph running near Granite City that lacks signals for 79-mph operation.