Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland’

Amtrak Says 3C+D Could Start in 2 Years

May 21, 2021

Amtrak service between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton could be up and running in as little as two years, company executives said this week.

Amtrak Chairman William Flynn and President Steven Gardner joined several Ohio elected and civic officials in an online roundtable designed to build support for the proposed service.

However, getting the service out of the station hinges on Congress appropriating the billions the passenger carrier is seeking to develop a series of new corridors across the country.

Gardner also noted that Amtrak needs to negotiate agreements with the host railroads whose tracks it will use on the 250-mile route.

“We believe we could start initial service, maybe one round-trip or a few, without much initial investment, using current track speeds,” Gardner said. “We believe we could get started here in hopefully what would be a relatively short period of a couple of years.”

In the meantime, what was once called the 3C corridor is now being branded as the 3C+D route to include Dayton in the nomenclature.

Garnder said the length of the route is is the sweet spot for successful intercity passenger rail service.

“This service is the type of service we should have for major cities, and for an important state like Ohio,” he said. “Frankly, it should have happened a long time ago.”

The 3C+D corridor is part of an ambitious plan by Amtrak to expand intercity service.

Aside from the Cleveland-Cincinnati route, Amtrak has proposed creating additional service on existing routes through Cleveland to Detroit and Buffalo.

The passenger carrier would front the money to be used for capital costs to develop the routes and initially pay the operating costs of the trains.

But state and local governments would be expected to assume operating costs on a sliding scale with Amtrak’s share declining until states would pay all of the operating costs.

Although the proposed 3C+D service received endorsements from various mayors who joined the call, Ohio Gov. Michael DeWine has been noncommittal about it.

Last month DeWine said he was reserving judgment on the plan until he could learn more about it, including its potential cost to the state.

Although neither DeWine nor a representative of the Ohio Department of Transportation participated in this week’s online roundtable, Gardner said Amtrak is “anxious to work with the state to look at what that partnership could be and put together a model that makes sense for Ohio.”

During the roundtable, Amtrak said the3C+D route would have stations in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati as well as at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Crestline, Delaware, Springfield and Sharonville.

Service is expected to be three round-trips per day with additional trips being added as ridership grows.

The route is expected to draw as many as 500,000 passengers annually and provide an economic impact of $130 million.

The Cleveland-Cincinnati travel time would be about 5.5 hours, but track improvements could cut that to 4 hours and 55 minutes.

Gardner said that a train does not need to be faster than car travel, but does need to be competitive. “The time on the train is productive time, which is not the same as driving time,” he said. “You can work, you can have access to wi-fi, you can socialize, you can walk around. It’s a much more comfortable and productive method,” he said.

Cleveland has the most current Amtrak service of the cities in the 3C+D corridor being served by the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Trains on both of those routes, though are scheduled to pass through Cleveland between midnight and 6 a.m.

Cincinnati has a similar situation with the Chicago-New York Cardinal. Dayton and Columbus have lacked Amtrak service since the Oct. 1, 1979, discontinuance of the New York-Kansas City National Limited.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was one of the participants in the roundtable and gave the 3C+D a hearty endorsement.

“We simply don’t have the luxury of choosing not to do this,” he said. “It is about positioning Ohio for the future. It’s not a question of rural or urban or suburban or Democrat or Republican. It’s about do we as Ohioans want to be competitive in the world, in this nation?”

Also participating in the roundtable were Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley; Crestline Mayor Linda Horning-Pitt, and William Murdock, the executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Columbus is the second-largest metro area in the country without Amtrak service. Phoenix is the largest. 

“Not being in that network puts us at a disadvantage,” Murdock said. 

“Businesses and residents are clamoring for this,” he said. “We know the community is behind it. Investing in Ohio, it makes a lot of sense. It’s grounded not just in major cities, it’s really important to rural areas and smaller metros.”

Murdock said when young people arrive in Columbus one of the first questions they ask is, “Where’s the train stop?”

MORPC released 30 letters of support from community leaders who want expanded Amtrak service in Ohio.

Some of the funding Amtrak hopes to land to develop the 3C+D route would come from the $80 billion earmarked for Amtrak by President Joseph Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.

However, other funding would be contained in a surface transportation bill Congress is expected to take up later this year.

That bill, though, would merely authorize spending. Other legislation would need to be adopted to appropriate federal funding for Amtrak expansion.

The 3C corridor has been the subject of numerous studies and failed attempts to launch service.

The most recent occurred 11 years ago when the state received a $400 million grant to start the route.

However, John Kasich campaigned for governor on a pledge to refuse the funding, which he made good on after being elected in 2010.

Before that ODOT proposed a Cleveland-Columbus service during a rebuilding of Interstate 71. That also failed to launch.

During the roundtable, Amtrak CEO Flynn said the carrier has spent the past three years developing a strategy to expand service.

Known as Amtrak Connect US, the expansion would touch up to 160 communities in 25 states on more than 30 routes It would be developed over the next 15 years.

Also included in the proposal is additional service between Cincinnati and Chicago via Indianapolis. That route would have an extension from Indianapolis to Louisville, Kentucky.

Although not part of the Amtrak Connect US network, studies are underway of a route between Chicago and Pittsburgh via Columbus.

Although no ODOT officials joined this week’s roundtable, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has spoken with ODOT and Ohio Rail Development Commission members.

Gardner acknowledged said that much work needs to be done to bring the 3C+D service to fruition.

“These are not insurmountable challenges,” he said.

Biden Campaign Train Rolls in Ohio, Pennsylvania

October 1, 2020

Democratic presidental candidate Joe Biden rode the rails in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania on Wednesday on a train dubbed the Build Back Better Express.

The train is shown here in Hudson, Ohio, located between Cleveland and Alliance.

The consist included Amtrak P42DC Nos. 100 and 114; conference car 9800; Amfleet I coaches 82810 and 82985; Amfleet I food service car 43394; Viewliner II dining car 68012 (Harrisburg);  Amfleet I coach 82546; and theater car 10004 (American View).

The train departed Cleveland Wednesday morning where Biden had spent the night after his Tuesday debate with President Donald Trump, his Republican opponent.

An online report said the train arrived shortly before noon. Security was tight with the Secret Service, Alliance Police, Stark County Sheriff’s Department, Amtrak Police and Norfolk Southern Police on the scene.

The report said the train arrived under cloudy skies and operated as symbol P098.

During the Alliance stop, Biden disembarked and answered a few questions.

Another online report said the train arrived at the Amtrak station in Pittsburgh at 2:49 p.m., 29 minutes late.

A camera mounted on the American View provided live video scenes of passing trains and other scenery.

The train ended its journey in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Blurring Its Way Out of Town

July 18, 2020

A time exposure provides the illusion that Amtrak’s Capitol Limited is moving at high speed as it departs the station in Cleveland.

The Superliner cars all seem to blur together. The lights on the side of the cars appear as green and red streaks. Some of the red reflecting off the side of the train comes from block signals just east of the station.

The image was made on Aug. 22, 1998, of Train No. 30.

When the LSL Was a Regular Daylight Train in Cleveland

April 26, 2017

It was in 2007, I believe, that Amtrak rescheduled the eastbound Lake Shore Limited to arrive and depart Cleveland between 6 and 7 a.m., which meant it was a daylight operation for a good part of the year.

That schedule didn’t last long and No. 48 soon enough began leaving Chicago at 9:30 p.m., which puts it into Cleveland at 5:35 a.m.

I didn’t take advantage of the 2007 window of opportunity as much as I should have. A friend, though, did. He made it a point to photograph No. 48 in as many places as he could between Cleveland and the Pennsylvania border just east of Conneaut, Ohio, during the summer of 2007.

I did get downtown on a couple of occasions to photograph No. 48 in the station, including this view made on July 14, 2007.

Note that lead unit No. 156 is the one that is now painted in Amtrak’s Phase I locomotive livery.

Viewing Cleveland From Amtrak

September 17, 2016

Cleveland Amfleet mural 2-x

Except during the summer, the four Amtrak trains that serve Cleveland pass through the city in darkness because they are scheduled there between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Cleveland is an important point on the Amtrak map, but not as important as others.

So I was surprised to find inside an Amfleet cafe car this mural of downtown Cleveland. The car was on display at the National Train Day festival in Toledo as part of an Amtrak exhibit train that was designed to approximate a miniature version of the Lake Shore Limited.

Interestingly, the cafe car was labeled on its exterior for Northeast Corridor service. The Lake Shore Limited does carry a car similar to this in its consist so perhaps this car has been assigned to Nos. 48 and 49 over the years.

The view in the photograph itself is looking northeastward. That is Progressive Field in the lower right-hand corner, which is the home of the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team.

When the Pennsylvanian Was New to Cleveland

November 10, 2014

Pennsylvanian at Berea

If you live long enough, everything that you’ve witnessed in your life will become history, even ancient history.

It was 16 years last Friday that Amtrak extended the Pennsylvanian to Chicago and thus created a scheduled daylight train in Northeast Ohio.

The Pennsylvanian began operating between Chicago and Philadelphia on Nov. 7, 1998. Prior to then, it had been a New York-Pittsburgh train.

The impetus for extending the Pennsylvanian to Chicago was to take some of the pressure off the Chicago-New York Three Rivers, which was about to reach its 30-car maximum. Most of the cars on the Three Rivers carried mail and express shipments on its route over CSX via Akron and Youngstown.

The Pennsylvanian would also be heavily oriented toward head-end traffic as well.

At the time, Amtrak was seeking to grow its way to profitability by aggressively going after head-end traffic.

Of course, Ohio rail passenger advocates have been trying for years to get the Pennsylvanian extended to Cleveland and Toledo.

Amtrak eventually exited the mail and express business and the Pennsylvanian in early 2003 fell back to being a New York-Pittsburgh train, which it remains today.

But on Nov. 22, 1998, when this image of Amtrak No. 44 was made at Berea, there was optimism that better days were ahead for Amtrak in Ohio.

Aside from the Pennsylvanian no longer operating west of Pittsburgh, much else has changed about this scene. Amtrak still uses P42 locomotives, but in this scene they are two liveries removed from the present day look.

Also, note the yellow Conrail service truck. In November 1998, Conrail was in its last year of independent operation.

Finally, the signal bridge at the west end of CP 194 has been replaced by modern signals.

Notes From 2,500 Miles Aboard Amtrak

April 2, 2009

The second seating in the diner of the City of New Orleans is just getting underway as the trains heads north through the Mississippi delta country on March 20, 2009.

The second seating in the diner of the City of New Orleans is just getting underway as the trains heads north through the Mississippi delta country on March 20, 2009.

Just over a week ago, my wife and I returned from an Amtrak trip between our home in  Cleveland and New Orleans. The journey covered more than 2,500 miles and involved riding the Capitol Limited between Cleveland and Chicago, and the City of New Orleans between Chicago and the Big Easy. Here are a few observations about our excursion.

Timekeeping was pretty good on all trains. No. 29 was seven minutes late arriving in Cleveland, but that was largely because the train had to do a run-around move and then back into the station. Arrival in Chicago was 31 minutes early. No. 59 reached New Orleans 48 minutes early and No. 58 halted at Chicago Union Station 15 minutes early. The eastbound Capitol Limited was three minutes late arriving in Cleveland.

To be sure, schedule padding had a lot to do with the early arrivals at the terminal points. No. 59 was late departing every station except Homewood and Jackson. The other three trains were often late at intermediate points, as much as 44 minutes late leaving Newbern on the southbound City of New Orleans.

Granted, I was asleep during many hours of our journeys, but I noted very little freight train interference en route. The longest delay we incurred was when the northbound City of New Orleans sat for a while next to the New Orleans airport waiting for the southbound City to clear the single track ahead.

Upon leaving Memphis on No. 58, I heard the CN dispatcher tell our engineer on the radio that a freight would be in the siding at Tipton and that we might catch up with another freight ahead of us and experience a slight delay. I’m not sure if that was the case or not.

Arguably, it helped that the track work season has yet to start in earnest. There was no severe weather to contend with. We traveled in March and in my experience that’s a good month to ride Amtrak. Perhaps with the recession there are fewer freight trains to get in the way. Still, it seemed that the dispatching provided by the host railroads has improved.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal service in the dining cars. Amtrak seems to slowly be upgrading food quality and perhaps the worst of the “diner lite” era is over. On the Capitol Limited to Chicago, I noted that you have something of a choice with the omelet. Last September when I rode the Capitol you had no choice because, I was told, the omelet was made from a mix and you could not leave anything out that you didn’t want.

It was my first experience with the cross country diner on the City of New Orleans and I couldn’t tell any difference in the quality of food or service in this car compared with other Amtrak diners. I did note, though, that the New Orleans style cuisine touted in the Amtrak timetable did not live up to its billing. There was no bread pudding in either direction, no jambalaya or red beans and rice. The menu did feature seafood gumbo, which I did not try.

The diner on the southbound trip did not have the chef’s special of crab cakes. The server claimed that those are put on by the commissary in New Orleans, which had failed to stock the diner well enough for the trip to Chicago and return. The crab cakes were
available on the northbound trip. I found them quite good, accompanied by a very tasty sauce. Sure, the crab cakes were not as good as the one I had in a French  Quarter bistro, but given what Amtrak has to work with that is probably not a fair comparison. It was good enough that I ordered the crab cakes on the Capitol Limited.

For the most part, the menu on the City of New Orleans was the same as that on the Capitol Limited, but with some variation. The City offered a cheddar and broccoli quiche at breakfast that was more like a casserole. It was so good that I ordered it twice. This offering was not available on the Capitol Limited, whose catch of the day at dinner was Mahi Mahi as opposed to salmon on the City of New Orleans. I sampled the salmon on the southbound trip and found it good, although not great. It was enhanced with a nice  sauce and garlic mashed potatoes. The latter tasted like homemade, not instant.

On all four trains, we had diners set up in the new configuration. I’m not sure what to think about this. Yes, it does give the diner a non-traditional look, but if you draw one of the short tables, you wind up sitting with your back to the window. That I didn’t like. Yes, I could see out the window on the opposite side of the car, but that required looking over someone else’s table.
 
I wonder if this new seating arrangement has reduced the capacity of the diner. That did not appear to be much of a problem on the City of New Orleans, but was an issue on the Capitol Limited. Shortly after leaving Chicago, a dining car employee announced he would soon come through the coaches to take dinner reservations with the earliest seating at 9 p.m. The train departs Chicago at 7:05 p.m. Serving begins as early as 6:30 p.m. but sleeping car passengers get first crack at reservations. With three sleepers on the train, there are a lot of first class passengers to feed.

The dining car guy never did come through the coaches to take reservations. When he announced the 9 p.m. seating, he apparently said something about open seating now. We went to the diner and were promptly seated. That the server never came through the coaches was hardly surprising. With just two servers and seatings every half-hour I just didn’t see where there would be time for anyone to break away to the three coaches to take dinner reservations. On nights like these, the diner could use some more help.

If you have not dined on Amtrak lately, they are still using the paper plates and stainless steel silverware with cloth napkins at some meals. This does not appear to compromise the quality of the food much, although real china would be better.

The on-board personnel of the City of New Orleans in particular was friendly and accommodating. There were coach attendants on the Capitol Limited, but they never seemed to be around much and I had no dealing with them. 

New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal has a first class lounge called the Magnolia Room. It is not staffed and you enter it by punching in a code that you must get from the ticket counter. It was a nice lounge, although it does not have enough chairs. Also, if you don’t wish to watch TV you are out of luck.

From my observations, all of the trains were full or near capacity. Although we had sleepers on the City of New Orleans, I heard an announcement as we sat in Chicago that the train was full and that every seat was needed. This was in March on a Monday night.
Presumably, Amtrak would be able to sell more seats during the peak travel season this summer if it has cars to add to the trains.

In summary everything worked out the way that it should. The few glitches that occurred were not significant enough to spoil our enjoyment. We both had a very good trip. This was Amtrak as good as it can be given the resources it has and the conditions under which it must operate these days.