Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Union Station’

That Early 80s Look

July 12, 2019

Amtrak was in the midst of rebuilding its Chicago infrastructure when I made this image in the early 1980s.

My recollection is that I was part of a group making a tour of Amtrak facilities at the time, but I don’t remember much about. it.

Amtrak was well into its transition from steam heated equipment to head end power and its general of P30CH and F40PH locomotives were rapidly overtaking EMD E and F units inherited from the freight railroads and the ill-fated SDP40F locomotives that Amtrak itself ordered.

Not also that this motive power set of a P30 and two F40s is wearing the then new Phase III livery.

These units had helped to introduce Phase II, but it didn’t last long.

Not Much Longer to Run

July 9, 2019

Amtrak’s northbound Hoosier State sits on Track 16 at Chicago Union Station on June 25 after having completed a trip that originated at Indianapolis Union Station.

Train 851 arrived at CUS 20 minutes early on this day.

It was the last week of operation of Nos. 850 and 851 after the Indiana legislature declined to continue its funding of the quad-weekly service.

In the background is the equipment that arrived earlier on the City of New Orleans.

Proposal New Chicago Transit Hub Includes Amtrak

June 6, 2019

Chicago may be getting a second Amtrak station if a Wisconsin developer is able to follow through on an ambitious proposal.

Landmark Development wants to create a transit center across Lake Shore Drive near Soldier Field on the southside of downtown Chicago. The location is close to the site of Central Station, which the Illinois Central razed in the middle 1970s after Amtrak ceased using it in March 1972.

The center would serve Metra, CTA and Amtrak. The developer also plans to build a $20 billion residential and commercial complex on a platform that would span the tracks running alongside Lake Shore Drive.

Those tracks are used by Metra Electric trains and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki.

A recent state capital funding plan approved by the Illinois General Assembly would make $5 billion in state funding available to help finance the transit center.

The proposal calls for extending the CTA Orange Line and Metra’s BNSF route to the site.

It is not clear if that would mean that Metra BNSF route trains would no longer use Chicago Union Station.

The transit center would have parking for 6,500 vehicles and feature a bus line connecting it to Navy Pier, museums and other tourist attractions along the Lake Michigan shore in and near downtown Chicago.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce paid for a study that concluded that the transit center, to be known as One Central, generate $120 billion in new tax and fee revenues to state and local governments over 40 years.

Student funding is necessarily for the project to qualify for federal transportation funding.

All of Amtrak’s trains serving Chicago originate and terminate at Union Station. Some of those Amtrak routes have suburban stops, but no Amtrak train stops for passengers within Chicago other that at Union Station.

One Morning at Chicago Union Station

May 3, 2019

It is mid morning at Chicago Union Station. I’ve just stepped off the inbound Capitol Limited after boarding several hours earlier in Cleveland.

On an adjacent track is the inbound Broadway Limited. Nos. 40 and 41 are living on borrowed time and will be discontinued in just over a month.

It’s difficult to make good images of trains at CUS due to low lighting conditions not to mention the limited sight lines.

The sleepers on the rear of No. 41 caught my attention. Maybe there is just enough light to make a serviceable image on the slide film I was using.

The images turned out dark and a little blurry. But they remind me of something I can’t see anymore, which is Heritage Fleet sleepers on a train that has been gone more than a decade.

I also liked the mood of the subdued lighting, which seems well suited to portray a passenger car designed for nighttime travel.

No. 2432 in the top photograph was built by the Budd Company in 1950 as Union Pacific 1449, Pacific Waves.

Amtrak retained the name and rebuilt the car to HEP capability in June 1980. Its original Amtrak roster number was 2642.

No. 2051 in bottom image has had a more varied history. It was built by Budd in 1949 as New York Central 10360.

The Central rebuilt the all-roomette care in 1961 to a sleeper coach with a configuration of 16 single rooms and 10 double rooms.

Amtrak reapplied the name Fairport Harbor, which had been dropped by either NYC or Penn Central. At one time it carried Amtrak roster number 2001.

No. 2432 was sold in 2001 and according to the book Amtrak by the Numbers by David C. Warner and Elbert Simon No. 2051 at last report was for sale in 2011. It may have been sold or donated to a museum by now.

Falling Concrete Delays Metra at CUS

May 2, 2019

Falling concrete affected Metra operations on Wednesday morning at Chicago Union Station.

Three tracks were closed after chunks of concrete fell on tracks at the south end of the station.

Officials said no one was injured and the falling debris did not land on any platform areas.

Some Metra trains were delayed while workers cleaned up the scene.

A Metra spokesman said Tracks 2, 4 and 6 were closed Wednesday morning for repairs.

The track closures affected Metra’s BNSF, Southwest Service and Heritage Corridor routes.

An Amtrak spokesperson said four Metra trains were delayed while its workers inspected the station, which Amtrak owns.

Amtrak Won’t Give Up Control of CUS

April 21, 2019

Amtrak won’t allow Chicago commuter rail operate Metra to take over ownership of Chicago Union Station.

The request was made by a Chicago area Congressman who also held a hearing about two recent signal malfunctions at the station that delayed thousands of Metra commuters.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski is chairman of a subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Unfortunately, we are here today because all too often Metra trains are seriously delayed, very uncomfortable or unexpectedly cancelled,” Lipinski said. “Metra riders are not getting the service they deserve.”

Attending the hearing were representatives of Amtrak, Metra, BNSF, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National.

About 90 percent of the trains using CUS belong to Metra and paid Amtrak $9.7 million last year in lease payments.

During the hearing, Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director of government affairs, said the carrier has “repeatedly apologized” for the incidents and that Amtrak is working to prevent future problems.

Lang said it is not unusual for Amtrak to be the minority operator at a station.

Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said called for his agency to “have control over our own destiny.

But Lang said Amtrak is not going to give up control of CUS.

Instead, he called for additional local, state, and federal funding for capacity improvements at the station.

Lang acknowledged that Lipinski’s committee will oversee drafting rail funding reauthorization legislation in 2020 that will include funding for Amtrak.

Signal Failures Ding Metra Again at CUS

April 13, 2019

Amtrak signals problems this week again delayed Metra commuter trains using Chicago Union Station on Thursday.

News reports said that trains were delayed 30 to 45 minutes during the morning commute. Only Metra trains using BNSF tracks were affected.

Metra said that its trains had to be talked by signals with delays occurring as trains stacked up waiting to get in and out of the station.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the signals issues were resolved before 9 a.m. and the passenger carrier is investigating the cause of the malfunction.

On Feb. 28, Metra and Amtrak trains were delayed after a similar but more far-reaching computer failed resulted in Amtrak dispatchers being unable to line switches and signals.

Amtrak Won’t Reimburse Stranded Metra Passengers

April 5, 2019

Amtrak has declined a demand by an Illinois Congressman that it reimburse Metra passengers who took alternative transportation home after more than 60,000 were stranded on Feb. 28 due to a computer malfunction at Chicago Union Station.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski had asked Amtrak to reimburse those who took a taxi or hired a ride sharing service after Metra service all but ground to a halt.

Amtrak has apologized for the incident, which it said occurred due to human error during a computer hardware upgrade.

The computer problem left Amtrak dispatchers unable to remotely control signals and switches at the station.

Although Amtrak trains were affected by the issues, Metra was hit hard because it accounts for 75 percent of the rail traffic and 90 percent of the passengers using Amtrak-owned Union Station.

Lipinski, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Rail, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said he’ll hold an ad hoc hearing in Chicago in the coming weeks to probe the incident.

He said he was “extremely disappointed” over Amtrak’s refusal to reimburse Metra passengers.

“This raises the question of whether Amtrak should give Metra operational control of the station,” Lipinski said.

News reports have indicated that Amtrak was installing positive train control equipment when a technician fell on a circuit board while holding a live wire.

That resulted in an electrical short resulted in the primary and secondary servers used to control the signals and switches.

Amtrak has said that it typically does not conduct maintenance or upgrades of signal equipment during rush hour, but an inexperienced manager authorized an experienced senior technician to go ahead with the work.

A letter from Amtrak Senior Vice President Stephen Gardner to Lipinski said the passenger carrier understands that thousands of commuters were adversely affected and that it is “taking immediate concrete steps to ensure the causes of this event are addressed.”

Metra Directors Rip Amtrak Over Computer Problems

March 22, 2019

Metra officials lambasted Amtrak this week during a board of directors meeting over a recent computer problem that hindered Metra operations at Chicago Union Station during rush hour.

Some 65,000 Metra passengers were delayed on Feb. 28 after a computer shut down during a hardware upgrade.

The computer is used to line switches and signals. The outage forced Amtrak to manually operate the switches and signals and only one train at a time was allowed in or out of Union Station.

During the director’s meeting, various Metra directors took turns venting their ire at the national passenger carrier, which owns Union Station.

“Deep in my heart, I don’t think Amtrak cares,” said director John Plante said. “That’s the biggest problem we have. They are just collecting our money. That’s where they are at; it’s always where they have been at. Until we get better control of the situation, I don’t expect Amtrak to improve at all.”

Although Amtrak apologized for the computer problems, Metra Director Steve Palmer called that “a bunch of crap.”

“I am not satisfied, I am not happy,” Palmer said. “I want to know what we’re going to get out of this (from Amtrak) besides, ‘It won’t happen again.’”

Metra’s chief operating officer, Bruce Marcheschi, told the directors the problems began during the morning rush hour and continued throughout the day.

He said an Amtrak employee doing wiring for positive train control in an equipment room slipped as he stepped down from a ladder.

That caused a live wire to touch an equipment rack, which shorted out the server controlling the signal system.

Although Amtrak described the computer outage as “human error,” it has not yet publically provided a detailed explanation of what that entailed.

The carrier was at the time installing PTC-related computer hardware.
Metra officials were critical of Amtrak for scheduling the hardware installation during rush hour.

Underlying the frustration of Metra officials is that they have little control over operations at Union Station because they are merely a tenant.

“It’s Amtrak that’s in control of the system, but it’s our brand name that’s out there,” Marcheschi said.

Metra director Director Don De Graf suggested seeking changes to its lease agreement with Amtrak. “They can own it, but we need to run it.”

Another complication, Metra officials said, was that the station’s Great Hall was not available for use as a holding area for passengers because Amtrak had rented it for use by a professional squash tournament.

Metra officials said they were unaware of that, which caused them to express concerns about the safety of their passengers.

Metra board Chairman Norm Carlson said the commuter railroad would be “communicating with our friends in Washington, D.C.”

Congress Wants More Info on Chicago Disruption

March 15, 2019

Some members of Congress aren’t satisfied with Amtrak’s explanation that human error caused a service breakdown at Chicago Union Station that delayed Amtrak and Metra trains.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipkinski, the chairman of the House subcommittee on railroads, has asked Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson to more thoroughly explain what caused the service disruption that affected 100,000 passengers.

Anderson has been given until March 29 to answer nine questions that Lipinski’s committee has posed.

The service disruption occurred on Feb. 28 and lasted for more than 12 hours.

In a public statement issued by Anderson, Amtrak took responsibility for the computer problems that triggered the service disruptions.

The statement said that the human error occurred as the carrier was conducting a software upgrade on a computer server.

However, Amtrak’s statement did not explain why that upgrade was being conducted during rush hour. The computer problems affected the dispatch control system, which in turn lines signals and switches.

One of the questions asked by the congressional committee is why the upgrade was being conducted at the time of the day that it was.

Some computer experts have said such upgrades are typically conducted during nighttime hours or on weekends to minimize a system crash should it occur.

Subsequent news reports indicated that the “human error” was a worker falling or colliding with the circuit system.

The letter to Anderson also seeks to determine if Amtrak has considered reimbursing those who paid for alternate means of traveling home, including by ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft.

Some news reports claim that some Metra commuters paid as much as $125 as a result of “surge pricing.”

Lipinski said he met with Anderson recently in Washington and was provided some “initial details” about the service disruption.

“I appreciated the candor CEO Anderson displayed when he met with me and accepted responsibility for the failures that led to the chaos at Union Station,” Lipinski said in a statement accompanying the letter.

“However, we need more than contrition and an acknowledgment of what went wrong in order to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to compensate passengers. I’ve asked him to conduct an in-depth review of Amtrak’s policies and procedures and present a corrective action plan to help build back the public’s confidence in our rail system and give commuters the reliable service they should expect.”

Anderson has said that Amtrak would take steps to improve operations in Chicago, including the naming of a “a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us.”

During the service disruption, Amtrak dispatchers had to manually operate signals and switches, and only allowed one train at a time to move.