Posts Tagged ‘Late Amtrak trains’

Durbin Wants FRA to Pressure Railroads to Run Amtrak Trains On Time

May 11, 2018

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has joined Carbondale, Illinois, officials in seeking to pressure the Federal Railroad Administration into leaning on Amtrak’s host railroads to operate Chicago-Carbondale trains on time.

During the past year trains on the route were on time on just 32 percent of their trips.

“That’s simply unacceptable and deserves the FRA’s immediate attention and action,” Durbin wrote in his letter to the FRA.

“Amtrak’s Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route continues to be one of the worst preforming routes in the country,” he said. “The Illini and Saluki trains are consistently delayed by CN’s freight interference and the ongoing speed restrictions put in place by CN in 2015.”

The speed restriction that Durbin referenced was put into place along a 200-mile stretch of the 309-mile corridor as a safety precaution following repeated mechanical issues.

However, Amtrak and CN have been in a stalemate over finding a solution to solve that issue and lift the speed restriction.

Durbin wants the FRA to take a more active role to ensure that Amtrak trains operate on time in Illinois and around the country.

“My constituents have waited long enough while the Amtrak service they rely on has suffered,” Durbin said. “It’s time for the FRA to take on a larger oversight role in the ongoing dispute between Amtrak and CN, and I urge you to begin convening regular meetings between the leadership at FRA, CN, and Amtrak that include my staff so the FRA can set deadlines, prevent further delays, and ensure greater accountability.”

Durbin also contended that freight train interference has played a major role in causing delays to Amtrak trains.

“Canadian National in particular has a long history of holding up Amtrak trains and holding back investments that could improve passenger and freight service in downstate Illinois,” Durbin said.

Durbin’s letter came shortly after Carbondale city officials met with him and Amtrak managers to discuss the paltry on-time performance of Chicago-Carbondale trains, most of which are funded by the State of Illinois.

The route also hosts Amtrak’s Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.

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Frigid Outside, Warm Inside

January 25, 2018

Outside the temperature was in the low teens and the wind chill was below zero. A friend and I were waiting to photograph Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited roaring through Geneva, Ohio. No. 48 was running two hours late. It also was running a few minutes behind a CSX stack train.

The usual consist of the eastbound Lake Shore Limited has the Boston cars toward the front and the New York cars on the rear. Typically, No. 48 has two Viewliner sleepers for New York.

This day was no exception. Shown above is the first of the two New York sleepers. Some passengers in those rooms might just now be getting up and about while others might be watching the wintry countryside of Northeast Ohio fly by. Still others might be having breakfast in the “dining car” just ahead of the first New York sleeper.

I placed the phrase “dining car” in quotations because it is not the same as the dining cars that used to run on this train. With Viewliner diners, presumably, being readied for revenue service, the Lake Shore Limited might get a full dining car some day.

Late 48 at 12:35 p.m. on Consecutive Fridays

January 6, 2018

I photographed Amtrak No. 48 at the Painesville station of the former New York Central  running more than six hours late at the same time – 12:35 p.m. – on consecutive Fridays. The top image shows the eastbound Lake Shore Limited on Friday, Dec. 29. The bottom photo shows the train on Friday, Jan. 5 when the air temperature was 7 degrees.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Moorman Looks Back on Amtrak Tenure

December 5, 2017

You could say that Amtrak co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman is a big fan of his fellow CEO Richard Anderson.

Moorman

“We really hit a home run in that Richard Anderson agreed to come on board,” Moorman said during a speech last week at the RailTrends 2017 conference.

Moorman cited Anderson’s leadership skills, saying Amtrak needs his aggressive nature.

During his presentation, Moorman also said Amtrak has made progress in such areas as safety, maintenance and customer service.

The former CEO of Norfolk Southern also singled out the passenger carrier’s new chief financial officer, William Feidt, who Moorman said has brought discipline to Amtrak that was lacking.

Moorman said Chief Marketing Officer Tim Griffin understands marketing a passenger service as well as revenue and yield management. “We have a first-rate management team now,” Moorman said.

Griffin and Anderson have both worked in the airline industry with Anderson having been a former CEO at Delta Air Lines.

Moorman, who will leave Amtrak soon, said that although the passenger carrier is developing a better safety culture, it continues to trail Class I railroads in those efforts.

He also said that Amtrak has a spotty record in delivering on capital projects

Amtrak needs to be a better steward of its assets, including its rolling stock and facilities.

“Shabby chic can be fashionable, but not on a passenger train or in a train station,” Moorman said.

Pointing out that much of Amtrak’s equipment had a worn-out feel to it, Moorman directed the interiors of Amfleet I cars to be refurbished after he learned that it would be relatively inexpensive.

In time, the refurbishment program will be extended to cars used on long-distance trains.

One lesson that Moorman said he learned from Anderson from the airline industry is to consistently upgrade the interiors that passengers see.

“You don’t want to know how many 40-year-old airplanes you’ve flown,” Moorman said.

In fiscal year 2017, which ended on Sept. 30, Amtrak reduced its operating loss to just under $200 million, which covers 95 percent of its expenses. Moorman said the goal is to reduce the operating loss to zero.

It will seek to do that by bumping up ridership and revenue. However, he said that will be a challenge to achieve if the current less than desirable on-time performance means that Amtrak service is unreliable.

Moorman said a two- or three-hour delay for a freight train doesn’t mean much, but is unacceptable for a passenger train.

He said Amtrak and its host freight railroads need to work more closely to reduce delays while the freight railroads need to realize that to a certain extent the public’s perception of American railroading is shaped by Amtrak and the level of service it provides.

Some Michigan Trains Subject to Delays

August 3, 2017

Amtrak has warned that some Michigan corridor trains are subject to delay due to the performance of system maintenance.

Affected are Wolverine Service trains 350, 355 and Blue Water trains 364 and 365. The service advisory said the trains may experience delays of 15 to 30 minutes.

Amtrak did not say how long the maintenance program would last.

Another Sunday Another Very Late Amtrak Train

July 10, 2017

Well another Sunday and another late Amtrak train. This week it was the Capitol Limited’s turn. The lead engine had a traction motor fire while going up Sand Patch grade Saturday evening, disabling the unit and necessitating a freight unit to continue.

This made it about 10 hours late into Pittsburgh where Norfolk Southern 7630, a GE ES40DC,  took over duties. With a freight engine leading, No. 29 could only go about 50 miles per hour and continued to lose more time en route.

I caught it at the sag near Beloit, Ohio, about 11:30 a.m. It cleared Berea about 2 p.m. and as I write this article at about 9:30 p.m. the train has still not arrived in Chicago.

It would later arrive at Chicago Union Station at 9:52 p.m., 13 hours and 7 minutes late.

Besides the late train doing a daylight run across Ohio and Indiana, which is interesting itself, the train had five private cars trailing including a former Union Pacific dome observation car bringing up the rear.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Amtrak Where You Don’t Normally See It

July 3, 2017

It isn’t every day that you an Amtrak train in Bellevue. The National passenger carrier has never run through here in scheduled service, only on detour moves.

Amtrak No. 49 takes the Toledo District in the mini plant in Bellevue on its circuitous detour

Crossing the Portage River in Oak Harbor.

On Sunday (July 2) Norfolk Southern was changing out the diamonds at Sandusky and Vickers (Toledo). As a result Amtrak 49, the westbound Lake Shore Limited, needed to detour through Bellevue.

Normally this would not have been an issue; however, it was running about 5 1/2 hours late when it reached Cleveland. The other Amtrak trains did not need to detour as they were on time.

No. 49 took the Sandusky district to Bellevue and the Toledo district west. It would have an interesting route to get to Toledo going past Ironville tower and the Wheeling Belt before regaining the Chicago Line. I didn’t chase the train that far however I was able to get a few photos at Bellevue and Oak Harbor Ohio.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

A Late Lake Shore Limited

May 24, 2017

Sometimes you are just not in the right position to get a good photograph. Such was the case when I “caught” Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passing through Willoughby, Ohio.

I didn’t know it had not come through yet, that it was running 1 hours, 28 minutes late. I might have known that had I checked on its status with Amtrak. But I didn’t.

The appearance of No. 48 caught me by surprise and the best I could do was get this image looking down Erie Street.

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.