Posts Tagged ‘Empire Builder lateness’

Empire Builder Subject to Delay

May 7, 2018

Track work being performed by Canadian Pacific in Wisconsin is expected to delay the Empire Builder through Oct. 3.

Train No. 8 will be held up to 60 minutes between Winona and La Crosse, departing no earlier than 11:47 a.m.

Train No. 8 will operate on a later schedule through to Chicago and passengers are advised to check for the latest schedule times.

In a service advisory said that although delays of up to an hour are expected, the delay could be less at individual stations because trains can make up time.

The advisory recommended that passengers check the status of their train at, with Amtrak mobile apps, speaking with station personnel or calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).

Amtrak also offers text or email delay alerts when booking a reservation.

Empire Builder Subject to Delays in Montana

May 25, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder will be subject to delays as long as two hours through June 16 due to BNSF track work being undertaken in Montana.

The work will take place on the route of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train between Glasgow and Whitefish.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said westbound No. 7/27 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations west of Glasgow. Eastbound No. 8/28 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations east of Whitefish.

Amtrak noted that trains can make up time and passengers are encouraged to  check the status of their train before heading to the station.

Operating Issues Plague Amtrak Trains

May 3, 2017

Amtrak long distance trains serving the Midwest have been hit with a long list of woes that have caused service disruptions, detours and cancellations.

The Texas Eagle was forced to detour in southern Missouri after a washout on its route via the Union Pacific’s Iron Mountain Subdivision prompted a detour on the former Cotton Belt route between St. Louis and Polar Bluff, Missouri.

Consequently Nos. 21 and 22 missed the scheduled stop at Arcadia Valley, Missouri, and ran late, arriving in Chicago 11 hours late on Sunday.

The Southwest Chief was delayed by a spring snowstorm between Dodge City, Kansas, and Lamar, Colorado, on Sunday that led to No. 3 being more than 15 hours late arriving in Los Angeles.

BNSF personnel provided grade crossing protecting during whiteout conditions.

A head-on collision of two Canadian National trains at Money, Mississippi, on Sunday caused the City of New Orleans to be terminated en route.

Passengers were taken from bus from Memphis to New Orleans on Sunday and Monday.

Northbound passengers rode a bus from Jackson, Mississippi, to Memphis on both days.

A BNSF derailment on Monday led to the Empire Builder being detoured in both directions. Nos. 7 and 8 were expected to detour on Tuesday over a Union Pacific route between Spokane, Washington, and Sandpoint, Idaho.

Empire Builder OT Performance Improves After BNSF Congestion Hurt Train’s Route in October

October 26, 2016

Amtrak’s Empire Builder is running more smoothly of late after suffering some severe delays due to congestion on its BNSF route through North Dakota and Montana.

Amtrak Empire BuilderAn analysis by Trains magazine found that Nos. 7 and 8 experienced delays not seen since the summer of 2014.

On at least eight occasions, No. 8 was delayed for at least seven hours while twice No. 7 was more than six hours late arriving in Seattle and Portland.

On Oct. 15, No. 7 was terminated at Spokane, Washington, and its passengers sent by bus to their destinations because the train was running nine hours late.

The equipment coming into Seattle and Portland makes a same-day turn to head back east to Chicago.

The magazine said BNSF attributed the congestion to weather-related interruptions and an increase in grain traffic to the Pacific Northwest.

The bulk of the delays occurred between Minot, North Dakota, and Whitefish, Montana.

On some days the Empire Builder arrived so late in Chicago that passengers missed their connections.

The string of delays was finally broken  on Oct. 20 when No. 8 reached Chicago ahead of schedule for the first time since Oct. 6.

Trains reported that a good on-time record had helped the Empire Builder post a 4.8-percent ridership gain in September and 3.7 percent for the 2016 fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

A BNSF spokeswoman said the railroad is mitigating the freight congestion by rerouting some trains and recalling 60 furloughed employees to help relieve crew shortages.

Empire Builder Suffering from Late Running Again

July 7, 2015

A Trains magazine study of the on-time performance of the Empire Builder has found that the train is again being plagued by delays.

Slow orders that were imposed in late June have resulted in the trains taking more than 10 hours to travel 430 miles between Havre, Montana, and Minot, North Dakota.

The Chicago-Seattle/Portland train is scheduled to take seven hours between the two cities, both of which are service stops for the Builder.

In 2014, the Empire Builder suffered from extreme delays due to BNSF track work and freight congestion.

The route used by Nos. 7 and 8 has seen an increase in freight traffic, much of it driven by crude oil trains coming from the oil fields of North Dakota.

Amtrak had created a sixth equipment set to protect the Builder and after the on-time performance of the route improved, it dispersed that equipment elsewhere and restored most same-day connections in Chicago that had been broken last year due to the chronic lateness of No. 8.

Trains noted that the en route delays had been virtually eliminated in North Dakota between Fargo and Minot.

The magazine noted that delays to the Empire Builder in both directions have occurred on virtually every trip since June 25.

Combined with other periodic delays from Spokane, Washington, to Whitefish, Montana, and on the Portland section, late West Coast arrivals have resulted in tardy eastbound Seattle departures on seven of eight days beginning June 25.

A forest fire closed BNSF’s Scenic Subdivision in Washington state on June 29, which prompted Amtrak to consolidate the Seattle and Portland sections.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said additional speed restrictions have been imposed as a result of high temperatures on the Hi Line used by the Builder in Montana and North Dakota.

“Additionally, we have been conducting significant maintenance activity in these areas. Six separate gangs are at work on the Hi Line and Glasgow subdivisions and various expansion, replacement, and maintenance activity will be occurring across much of the region through the summer and into the fall,” she said.

McBeth said that BNSF is in the second year of a program to increase track capacity on its Northern Corridor.

She said the track work will result in enhanced infrastructure that will benefit Amtrak and BNSF freight customers.

Trains also reported that every other long-distance train from the West has suffered occasional significant delays in recent weeks.

Between June 21 and July 5, 16 eastbound arrivals missed all connecting trains in Chicago with the California Zephyr accounting for nine of these instances.

In the past, Amtrak has held the eastbound Lake Shore Limited for late in-bound western trains.

But it been doing that less and now rarely holds No. 48 for more than 20 minutes past its scheduled 9:30 p.m. departure from Chicago.

Some Empire Builder Connections Restored

January 23, 2015

Amtrak has restored connections to the Empire Builder that were severed last year when the train’s on-time performance became erratic.

This includes same connections between the Empire Builder and the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight in both directions in Portland, Ore.

Also restored was a connection in Chicago to Lincoln Service train No. 307 for St. Louis.

Improved timekeeping and a shorter schedule that became effective on Jan. 12 enabled Amtrak to restore the connections to Nos. 7 and 8, which operated between Chicago and Portland/Seattle.

Amtrak’s policies for connections are that there must be at least one hour of dwell time between the scheduled arrival of a train and the scheduled departure of the connecting train.

However, Amtrak blocks connections in its reservation system if a particular train has proven to be unreliable in arriving at a terminal in time to make a connection.

In doing this, Amtrak avoids the responsibility of getting travelers to their destinations by chartering buses or housing passengers overnight in hotel rooms.

After the Empire Builder’s arrival reliability in Chicago became suspect, the only connections in Chicago that Amtrak continued to ticket from the Empire Builder were to trains leaving more than four hours after the arrival of No. 8. Only the New York/Boston-bound Lake Shore Limited and the New Orleans-bound City of New Orleans met that criterion.

Empire Builder ridership and ticket revenue fell last year by 16 and 19 percent, respectively. The completion of BNSF track expansion projects in Montana and North Dakota has resulted in the Empire Builder seeing a greatly improved on time record.

WB Empire Builder Detour to Stay Until January

September 25, 2014

Amtrak announced this week that the detour of the westbound Empire Builder in North Dakota will continue through Jan. 12, 2015.

Amtrak agreed last May to move Chicago-Seattle/Portland No. 7 to the freight-only KO Subdivision via New Rockford, N.D., which meant missing stations at Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby. Those stations are currently served by a chartered bus service.

The eastbound Empire Builder continues to operate via its regular route through those communities.

In a news release, Amtrak said Empire Builder passengers can expect to encounter delays en route due to continued BNSF freight train congestion.

Amtrak estimates the average train delay is eight to 10 hours. Through June, Amtrak said ridership of the Empire Builder had fallen by 15 percent and the railroad estimated that the trains are losing $1 million per month.

Also contributing to the delays is construction on the route that BNSF is undertaking to increase its capacity. In particular, an increase in crude oil trains has necessitated the track capacity expansion projects, which are costing BNSF nearly $400 million.

Amtrak said it would reassess whether to continue the detour the westbound Empire Builder after the December holiday season.

Among the projects are additional and lengthened passing sidings and added double track. In a news release, Amtrak said that once those projects are completed it expected the on-time performances of the Empire Builder to significantly improve.

Amtrak to Track Train Delays Electronically

September 5, 2014

Amtrak has begun implementing an electronic delay reporting system that seeks to show the reasons why its trains are delayed en route.

Amtrak Vice President of Operations D.J. Stadtler discussed the delay reporting system at a Surface Transportation Board field hearing held in Fargo, N.D., to hear complaints from shippers about service on BNSF and Canadian Pacific.

Stadtler told Trains magazine that the railroad is testing the delay reporting system on the Fort Worth-Oklahoma City Heartland Flyer and Boston-Brunswick, Maine, Downeaster corridor.

Amtrak hopes to implement the delay reporting system on all route by the end of the year.

The passenger railroad already uses a GPS-based monitoring system to keep track of its trains. That system is accessible to the public on the “Track-a-Train” feature on the Amtrak website.

If Amtrak’s monitoring system detects a delay, the conductor of the delayed train will receive a prompt on his or her iPhone to report the reason for the delay.

That information will be sent to Amtrak’s Consolidated National Operations Center in Wilmington, Del., and relayed to the host railroad.

The thinking is that this will provide accountability for dispatchers and their supervisors as well as letting Amtrak personnel know about recurring trouble spots due to slow orders or rail traffic congestion. Currently, such information between Amtrak and its host railroads involves paper documents sent by fax.

Tardiness has become a problem for Amtrak this summer with systemwide long-distance train endpoint on-time performance falling below 40 percent in July.

Of particular concern has been the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. Its all stations on-time figure was 9.9 percent, the worst for any train on the system. Schedule padding enables Nos. 7 and 8 to arrive on time at their endpoint number 24.5 percent of the time.

Stadtler said BNSF officials told him that slow orders on the Devils Lake and Valley Subdivisions in North Dakota would be removed in October as six track and signal projects are completed.

Amtrak has been talking with BNSF about a schedule that will be more realistic and reliable than the most recent adjustment to the schedule implemented last April that extended the running times in both directions.

Stadtler said, though, that systemwide year-to-date trends “have shown little signs of improvement” and suggested that the STB monitor the on-time statistics that Amtrak publishes as well as asking the host railroads to report periodically on their handling of Amtrak trains.

Host railroads need to “take Amtrak on-time performance seriously,” Stadtler said.

“Amtrak services nationwide and particularly the long-distance trains are experiencing growing levels of delay on host railroads,” Stadtler said. “If this is not addressed, it will translate into significant impacts to our service, our passengers and our bottom line.

“We want to avoid [delays], and we prefer to address and fix this system-wide problem by working cooperatively with our host railroad partners,” he said. “We do, however, have an obligation to provide the traveling public with the level of service mandated by the statute, and we therefore believe that the STB could significantly assist us by monitoring the statistics.”

Track Work Delays Expected this Month

June 19, 2014

Summer if the time of baseball, backyard barbecues and beach visits, and also the season for delays to Amtrak trains due to track rehabilitation.

Amtrak has been posting notices on its website about expected delays along various routes.

Perhaps the poster child for delays is the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

A recent service advisory on the Amtrak website warned that “passengers traveling aboard Empire Builder trains can encounter significant delays due to very high volumes of freight train traffic along the route.”

Delays during May and June averaged between three and five hours. Trains are getting delayed o BNSF tracks west of St. Paul, Minn., because of work to expand the capacity of former Greater Northern Hi Line.

BNSF has experienced increased traffic due to the development of the Bakken Shield crude oil fields.

For the summer, the westbound Empire Builder is using a detour route that is normally freight only in an effort to mitigate the delays. That means that passengers for No. 7 to and from Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby, N.D. are traveling by bus to those cities. The detours are expected to last through Oct. 1.

Delays of up to 45 minutes are expected through June 28 for trains traveling on CSX in New York State.

Affected are the Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York), Maple Leaf (New York-Toronto) and Empire Service Nos. 280, 281, 283 and 284 (New York-Niagara Falls). CSX is performing track work west of Albany, N.Y.

Missouri River Runner Trains 311 and 314 will be replaced by buses on part of their routes June 16 through the 21 as Union Pacific Railroad does track work in Western Missouri.

Amtrak is carrying passengers booked on the morning trains from St. Louis (westbound Train 311) and Kansas City (eastbound Train 314) on buses between Jefferson City and Kansas City on selected days.

Trains 313 and 316 will operate as scheduled the length of the route.

Empire Builder Resumes, Delays Continue

June 7, 2014

The five-day suspension of the Empire Builder between Minot, N.D. and St. Paul, Minn., has ended but the train continues to be hindered by delays.

On Friday No. 8 arrived more than four hours late into Chicago. Early Saturday morning the various sections of Nos. 7 and 8 that were on the road were running between 4.5 to 1.5 hours late.

The Empire Builder this week was suspended between St. Paul and Minot with no alternative transportation provided between those points.

The cancelations were at the request of BNSF to make track repairs after frost heaves and other roadbed problems following a harsh winter. No. 8 from Seattle/Portland resumed June 4, while No. 7 from Chicago resumed June 5.

During the service interruption, Amtrak operated a four-car Nos. 807 and 808 between Chicago and St. Paul with a coach-baggage car, two regular coaches and a Sightseer lounge.

Trains were turned on the Division Street wye just east of St. Paul Union Depot, an operation that had been a daily move when the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and Great Northern operated the train.

In those days the Builder routinely used the wye to access the station when arriving from Chicago or Minneapolis.

The westbound Empire Builder will continue on its previously arranged summer-long detour over BNSF’s KO Subdivision between Fargo and Minot with Grand Forks, Devils Lake, and Rugby, N.D, stops served by a connecting bus.