Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-St. Louis Corridor’

Bus Service Begins at New Alton Station

August 10, 2017

The new intermodal station has opened in Alton, Illinois, but no date has been set as to when Amtrak will begin using it.

The local transit system in Madison County, Illinois, began using the facility on Aug. 6 and Amtrak expects to begin stopping there within the next few weeks.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier is likely to begin using the new facility in September but first must inspect it and agree to a lease with the City of Alton.

The new station is located at the site of the old city golf course near Homer Adams Parkway and is about two miles northwest of the existing Amtrak station.

Amtrak currently uses the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio depot at 3400 College Avenue. The 89-year-old station is in danger of being razed once Amtrak pulls out of it.

Union Pacific has offered to give the station away to a group that will move it from the site.

But that will cost at least $150,000 and thus far no one has offered a plan to save the station, said Terry Sharp, president of the Alton Area Landmarks Association.

“Maybe it’ll take bringing the wrecking ball right up against the building to get people interested,” Sharp said.

Alton is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Among the features of the new Alton station  are lockers for bicyclists, a pay parking lot and surveillance cameras. Nearby is green space and biking and hiking trails.

City officials hope the 55-acre former golf course site will draw development of new stores, offices and housing.

The project, including associated road improvements, cost about $24 million, which includes the $3.4 million value of the land.

The American Association of Railroaders is planning an outing to mark the end of Amtrak service at the ex-GM&O station and the startup of service at the new Alton station.

“We like to do firsts and lasts related to transportation,” President Rich Eichhorst said, adding that his group’s members rode the last train from St. Louis Union Station in 1978.

Eichhorst believes the last Amtrak train from the Alton GM&O station will be a late-night run from Alton to St. Louis.

The AAR plans to ride from St. Louis to Alton or vice versa or from Alton to Carlinville or the reverse.

The AAR will will sell tickets covering a short train-trip leg and a ride back on its bus with Eichhorst providing commentary.

Tickets are expected to be $25 and limited to 40 people.

Anyone interested  should send a self-addressed stamped envelope to AAR, 9600 Tesson Ferry Road, St. Louis, Mo., 63123, and indicate preference for the last train from the old station or the first train using the new one or both.

Prospective riders should also include their telephone number in case only short notice is given regarding Amtrak’s station change.

Normal to Buy Vehicle to Transport Passengers at Station

July 7, 2017

The Normal, Illinois, city council has approved the purchase of an electric vehicle to shuttle Amtrak passengers between the station and a platform that is currently under construction.

The vehicle, which will cost $26,000, will be used to transport passengers with disabilities or limited mobility.

However, the platform that the vehicle will serve isn’t expected to open for service until late October or early November.

City Manager Mark Peterson said the vehicle needed to be ordered now because it will be three months before it is delivered.

The vehicle will transport passengers to and from the south platform from the station via the Broadway Avenue or Linden Street crossings.

The vehicle will be operated by Amtrak employees and Peterson said Amtrak asked the city to buy the vehicle.

When some council members questioned why the city would spend its funds for the vehicle, Peterson said, “Amtrak has a very inflexible budget.”

He said Amtrak doesn’t pay rent at the station, although it does pay for its use of utilities, and city officials consider that a reasonable cost of having the service.

“We see other uses in the uptown area if the Amtrak use goes away,” said Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich.

The $2.5 million new platform is being funded by federal money as part of a high-speed rail project that is wrapping up this year.

Normal is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Normal Close to Decision on Crossing at Station

June 19, 2017

The planning staff of the City of Normal has recommended building a underpass at the site of the Amtrak station.

Materials prepared for a June 19 meeting of the city council said that the underpass would have a park with it.

The council will vote at the meeting on which option for a railroad crossing will be studied by a consultant and thus given favorability.

Normal’s 2014 Uptown 2.0 plan recommended the underpass and estimated its cost at $12.7 million. The plan said an overpass would cost $8.6 million.

The consultant, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, has narrowed the options to an overpass for Amtrak passengers only; two varieties of public overpasses; and three varieties of public underpasses

Adding a park to the underpass would be the most expensive option, but it was also preferred by many who spoke at an April 27 hearing or who submitted written comments.

“Out of the 41 public comments received, 29 strongly supported the underpass (with park),” said Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich in a memo.

The consultant has already ruled out an at-grade crossing.

The voted in early 2015 to postpone plans for an overpass, which had been designed and funded, and instead research an underpass.

Normal is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

New Amtrak Station Opens in Pontiac, Illinois

June 9, 2017

The new Amtrak station in Pontiac, Illinois, has opened along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Served by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains, the facility cost $2.65 million to build.

The new station has 1,350-square-feet of space and is located a block south of the old station. The design featured a peaked roof, glass facade, and such amenities as pedestrian paths, free Wi-Fi, and parking for vehicles and bikes.

Funding for the station came from a federal grant administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

New stations on the Chicago-St. Louis route also are being planned for Lincoln, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois. The stations in Normal and Springfield will be renovated.

Track Work to Disrupt Lincoln Service

June 2, 2017

Track work will affect Lincoln Service train between Springfield, Illinois, and St. Louis during the period of June 3-7.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that the following schedule changes have been made.

Saturday, June 3, 2017: Trains 305 and 307

Trains 305 and 307 will operate between Chicago and Springfield only. Alternate transportation will be provided to and from Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Sunday, June 4 – Tuesday, June 6, 2017: Trains 300 – 307

From June 4 through June 6, 2017, all Lincoln Service trains (Trains 300  through 307) will operate between Chicago and Springfield only. Bus service will replace all trains except No. 300 between Springfield, Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Wednesday, June 7: Trains 300 and 302

Trains 300 and 302 will operate between Springfield and Chicago only. Bus service will be provided for Train 302 from St. Louis, Alton and Carlinville, to Springfield. Bus service will not be provided for Train 300.

Throughout the period, northbound charter buses will leave earlier than their respective trains.

Chicago-St. Louis Corridor Disruptions Set

May 6, 2017

Amtrak has announced a series of service disruptions and detours on its Chicago-St. Louis corridor between May 15 and 24 due to track work being undertaken to bring higher train speeds to the route.

Lincoln Service trains 305 and 307 on May 15 will operate from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, with bus service between Springfield and Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Between May 16 and 23 all Lincoln Service trains will operate between Chicago and Springfield only with buses replacing all trains except No. 300 between Springfield and St. Louis.

On May 24, Nos. 300 and 302 will operate between Springfield and Chicago only. Bus service will be provided for No. 302 from St. Louis to Alton, Carlinville and Springfield.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that the charter bus service replacing Nos. 302, 304 and 306 will depart earlier than their respective trains. Passengers are advised to pay close attention to the bus departure time on your ticket.

The westbound Texas Eagle will depart Chicago two hours early at 11:45 a.m. between May 16 and May 23 and detour via the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois route of UP between Chicago and St. Louis.

No. 21 is scheduled to depart St. Louis westbound at its regularly scheduled time of 7:55 p.m.

The detour route will miss the scheduled intermediate stops in Illinois of Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

Texas Eagle passengers are advised to travel instead on Lincoln Service trains or buses.

The eastbound Texas Eagle will operate as scheduled from St. Louis to Chicago between May 16 and 23, but will be detouring over the same route as its westbound counterpart.

No. 22 will miss its scheduled stops at Alton, Carlinville, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac and Joliet.

Passengers on No. 22 traveling to Chicago from point south of St. Louis will remain on the train.

Those traveling to the missed intermediate point on No. 22 will instead be transported by bus.

Amtrak said Nos. 21 and 22 may encounter delays of up to 45 minutes while traveling on the detour in addition to the two hours of time added to the train’s timetable in each direction.

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.