Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-St. Louis Corridor’

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.

Track Work Affects Lincoln Service, Texas Eagle

July 26, 2019

Platform at Summit Closing for Construction

July 21, 2019

Due to platform resurfacing at the station used by Amtrak and Chicago rail commuter agency Metra, the north platform at the Summit, Illinois, station will be closed temporarily starting July 24.

Passengers traveling to and from Summit should board and detrain on the south side platform, closest to the parking lot.

Summit is served by Lincoln Service trains between Chicago and St. Louis.

 

The ‘Abe’ In Joliet Once Upon a Time

April 25, 2019

The Abraham Lincoln was one of the top passenger trains operated between Chicago and St. Louis by the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio before the coming of Amtrak in 1971.

The new passenger carrier kept the Abe and another GM&O running mate, The Limited, when it began operations on May 1, 1971.

The Limited name, which had been shorted years earlier from The Alton Limited when the train was operated by the Alton Railroad, vanished on Nov. 14, 1971, when Amtrak began operating its Chicago-St. Louis trains between Milwaukee and St. Louis.

But the Abraham Lincoln name stayed, probably because it was well suited for a train whose route was primarily within the Land of Lincoln as Illinois as long called itself.

The photo above was made at Joliet, Illinois, on Aug. 11, 1972, and shows former Milwaukee Road 31A and 31B. Note the “rainbow era” consist that includes Milwaukee Road and Great Norther cars still wearing their original colors.

The Abraham Lincoln name vanished from Amtrak timetables on Oct. 1, 1973, when RTG Turboliner equipment was assigned to the Chicago-St. Louis trains.

The Abe name returned on Oct. 26, 1975, when conventional equipment replaced the Turboliner equipment on Nos. 302 and 303.

The Abraham Lincoln became the Ann Rutledge two years later. The GM&O had had a train named Ann Rutledge at one time. Ann is thought to have been a love interest of Lincoln at one time.

Although Amtrak had never again had a train named Abraham Lincoln, it did rename its Chicago-St. Louis trains Lincoln Service in 2006 so the spirit of the name continues to live on.

Amtrak Not Close to Playing in Peoria

April 5, 2019

The last time a passenger train halted in Peoria, Illinois, it was New Year’s Eve 1978 and a snowstorm had shut down Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Two years late, intercity rail passenger service returned to the Peoria area, but lasted just over a year.

Peoria officials would like to see rail return and have looked with longing eyes at the development of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor serving Bloomington-Normal and Springfield.

Although there has been talk about restoring service to Peoria, officials say that nothing has happened in the past five years.

An Amtrak Thruway bus links Peoria with the Amtrak stations in Normal, which is served by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle; and Galesburg, which is served by the Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg.

Various proposals to return passenger service to Peoria have been made over the years, but cost has been a major stumbling block.

The Illinois Department of Transportation studied launching a rail connection to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor at Normal and found it would cost $100 million.

The study concluded that providing a bus connection would be more economical.

Eric Miller, executive director of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, said his agency sought a federal grant to fund rail service during the Obama administration.

But the bid was turned down and Miller said things have been quiet ever since.

“There hasn’t been a lot of activity on the (Peoria train service) issue in the last five years,” he said.

It hasn’t helped that the service Peoria did have during the first decade of Amtrak operations left much to be desired and was plagued by low ridership.

At the dawn of Amtrak in 1971, Peoria was served by the Peoria Rocket of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific.

The Rock Island didn’t join Amtrak because the $4.7 million buy-in fee exceeded the carrier’s annual passenger losses of $1 million.

The Rocket continued to operate, although it did receive some funding from the State of Illinois.

The Peoria Rocket had a slow route and deteriorating equipment. Efforts to convey the train to Amtrak and find a new route failed and the Rocket left Chicago for the final time on Dec. 31, 1978.

Even as the Rocket was blasting off for the final time, Amtrak and IDOT were working on a plan to resume service to Peoria.

That involved using the Toledo, Peoria & Western between East Peoria and Chenoa, Illinois, where the TP&W crossed the Illinois Central Gulf, which at the time owned the Chicago-St. Louis line used by Amtrak.

The Prairie Marksman began service on Aug. 10, 1980, for a 14-month trial.

A year later a state financial crisis prompted budget cuts that included state support for Amtrak service.

The Prairie Marksman left Chicago for the final time on Oct. 3, 1981.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis supports restoring passenger rail to his city. “There are a lot of people in and around Peoria who would utilize passenger rail,” he said. “Passenger rail through Peoria should be part of any state and federal capital/transportation bills going forward.”

He recognizes, though, that it would take financial support from the Illinois General Assembly, perhaps under the Illinois Fast Track Initiative.

“So if it takes five years or more to fund it and build it, let’s get started,” said Ardis.

What route a Peoria-Chicago train would take remains an open question. The tracks used by the Peoria Rocket are still in place, now owned by Iowa Interstate.

But the top speed on the line leading north from Peoria is 35 mph. Contrast that to the top speed of 90 mph achieved by the Peoria Rocket in its heyday.

Rick Harnish, the executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association suggested asking Iowa Interstate how much it would cost to rebuild the line for a top speed of 85 mph.

“Would it take $500 million? Microsoft is spending $220 million out west on design work for rail service out of Seattle. If Caterpillar, for example, got involved, it might go forward,” he said.

Miller of the Tri-County Planning Commission has a more practical take.

“Our transportation system is now underfunded while we’re facing other infrastructure issues,” he said.

Just the idea of starting some news, such as passenger train service out of Peoria is an obstacle.

Another is the Illinois River. The Prairie Marksman never served Peoria proper because of the expense and added time that would be incurred to cross the river.

Miller said the railroad bridge over the river is already heavily used by freight trains.