Posts Tagged ‘Midwest Corridor trains’

Track Work to Affect Amtrak’s Saluki

December 17, 2018

Canadian National track work will affect operation of Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, Saluki on Dec. 18.

Train No. 391 will terminate at Champaign, Illinois, with alternative bus service provided to all stations between Champaign and Carbondale.

Train No. 390 will originate in Champaign, departing at 10:45 a.m., which is 31 minutes than the regular schedule. It will use the equipment that arrived on No. 391, which is scheduled to arrive at 10:25 a.m.

Alternative bus service will be offered at intermediate stations between Carbondale and Champaign.

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Extra Midwest Trains Set for Thanksgiving Travel

November 15, 2018

Amtrak will operate additional trains in the Midwest between Nov. 20-25 to accommodate an expected surge of Thanksgiving holiday travelers.

Other Midwest corridor trains are expected to operate with increased capacity.

During the holiday travel period, reservations will be required for travel aboard the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains.

Holders of monthly or 10-ride tickets are exempt from the reservations requirement, but seating is not guarantee.

On the Wolverine Service corridor, additional trains will operate on Nov. 21, 24 and 25 between Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with intermediate stops in the Michigan cities of New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago at 9 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor at 2:25 p.m. It will depart Ann Arbor at 4:28 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 8:04 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10 a.m. and arrive in Holland, Michigan, at 2:11 p.m. with intermediate stops in St. Joseph and Bangor, Michigan.

No. 373 is scheduled to depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m. These trains will operate on Nov. 21 and 25.

An extra section of the Carl Sandburg will operate between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

No. 385 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Quincy, where it is set to arrive at 3:53 p.m.

No. 384 is scheduled to depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:22 p.m.

On the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, extra Lincoln Service trains will operate between Chicago and Normal, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

Extra No. 309 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Normal-Bloomington, where it is set to arrive at 12:58 p.m.

No. 308 is set to depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:41 p.m.

Pere Marquette Now Arriving

October 10, 2018

Although Amtrak’s Pere Marquette originates and terminates in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it didn’t always sit overnight in the station.

For several years the equipment for the Chicago-Grand Rapids train sat overnight in a CSX yard and deadheaded to the station the next morning.

The photo above was made in June 1995 and the train is shown about to arrive at the station.

SB Illini To Run Later on Weekdays

August 29, 2018

Train work being conducted by Canadian National will result in the southbound Illini operating 1 hour and 15 minutes later on weekdays between Sept. 4 and 21.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the schedule change will be in effect for the length of the train’s route from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois.

The schedule for Train 393 will not change on Saturdays and Sundays.

New Platforms in Use in Carlinville

August 13, 2018

New platforms at the Amtrak station in Carlinville, Illinois, are now in use.

In a service advisory Amtrak said its trains can arrive and depart on the west or east platform so passengers should check the station information displays and listen for announcements to know where their train will be arriving or departing.

Passengers are urged to use caution when crossing between platforms on the north ends where the sidewalk and Illinois Route 108 (West Main Street) cross the tracks.

Carlinville is served by Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Amtrak’s Transformation at Work in the Midwest

August 13, 2018

Last week Amtrak touted improvements it has made in its Midwest corridor network, including schedule adjustments to allow for more intra-Midwest connections and implementing student discount fares.

But in Amtrak’s statements was a hint that there might be another agenda at work.

It may be that Amtrak was doing nothing more than trying to get some marketing mileage from a series of relatively small steps. Yet if you view what was announced in a larger context you might see a transformation at work.

Throughout 2018, Amtrak has taken or talked about implementing actions that passenger advocates fear are designed or will weaken the carrier’s long-distance network.

In early June Amtrak yanked the full-service dining cars from the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Last spring it sharply restricted the carriage of privately-owned passenger cars and all but eliminated special moves and charter trains.

Amtrak has talked about creating a bus bridge for its Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dodge City, Kansas, rather than continue to operate over a BNSF segment in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico that lacks positive train control and over much of which Amtrak is the sole user and thus responsible for the maintenance costs of the rails.

The carrier also has changed its booking practices to make it more difficult for tour operators to book large blocks of sleeping car rooms.

A Trains magazine columnist wrote last week that he’s been told of Amtrak plans to remove chefs from the dining cars of the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

The columnist said he’s heard from passengers who’ve ridden long-distance trains lately that complimentary juice in sleeping cars is gone and coffee is being limited to one half-pot per day.

Fewer towels and bottles of water are being distributed to sleeping car passengers.

An amendment sponsored by Ohio senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown to force Amtrak to reopen ticket offices closed in a cost-cutting binge last spring was quietly removed from a transportation funding bill recently approved by the Senate.

Some passenger advocate see these and other moves as part of a larger plot to make long-distance trains unattractive so ridership will fall and management can make the case that the need for these trains isn’t there anymore.

Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson has reportedly told state department of transportation officials that the carrier has studied chopping up long-distance routes into a series of corridors, each of them less than 750 miles in length.

That would force the states to fund those routes under the terms of a 2008 law that requires states to fund corridor routes that Amtrak had previously underwritten.

Those plans are not expected to be implemented immediately, but perhaps Amtrak management is just biding its time.

What does this have to do with the announcement about improvements to Midwest connectivity?

If Amtrak is seeking to re-invent itself as a provider of short- and medium-distance corridors it needs to show that it is developing a network of them.

Most people probably think of the Midwest corridors as ways to link cities in their state with Chicago.

Yes, some travelers connect in Chicago to other Amtrak trains, including the long-distance trains, but how many people think about getting on in Milwaukee and going to Detroit or St. Louis?

Well they might think about it and some do it every day, but Amtrak hasn’t always made such connections convenient. Some layovers last for hours.

The schedule changes made this summer are designed to address that, at least on paper, or in Amtrak’s case on pixels given that paper timetables are a thing of the past.

Amtrak touted its “new” schedules, noting that you can travel between Milwaukee and Detroit twice daily, and Milwaukee and St. Louis three times daily. Of course that means changing trains in Chicago.

To be sure, Amtrak gave a nod to the long-distance trains, noting that in making the departure of northbound Hiawatha train No. 333 from Chicago to Milwaukee later, it enabled connections from long-distance trains from the East Coast.

As for the student discount, it is 15 percent and designed for Midwest travel. Amtrak also plans to soon allow bicycles aboard the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

When the new Siemens Charger locomotives went into service on Midwest corridor trains, they came with the tagline “Amtrak Midwest.”

Those locomotives were purchased by the states underwriting Amtrak’s Midwest corridor routes. Those same states are also underwriting development of new passenger cars to be assigned to the Midwest corridor routes.

It is getting to the point where Amtrak is becoming a middleman of Midwest corridor routes, offering a station and maintenance facility in Chicago; operating, service and marketing support; and a brand.

For now, the state-funded corridors combined with the long-distance trains provide intercity rail passenger service to many regions of the Midwest, including to such states as Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio that do not currently fund Amtrak service.

That might well change if Amtrak follows through on its proposals to chop up the long-distance routes into state-funded corridors. Would Ohio step up to help pay for, say, a Chicago-Toledo, Chicago-Cleveland or Chicago-Pittsburgh  route in lieu of the Capitol Limited?

Would Iowa agree to fund a Chicago-Omaha train in lieu of the California Zephyr?

Would Minnesota agree to fund a Chicago-Minneapolis/St. Paul train in lieu of the Empire Builder? What about Chicago-Fargo, North Dakota, with funding from Minnesota and North Dakota?

I’m not optimistic about that.

First Glimpse of a Charger

July 24, 2018

Amtrak’s SC-44 Charger locomotives have been in service for several months on Midwest corridor routes, but it was only recently that I got my first glimpse of one.

I was in Effingham, Illinois, to observe the arrival of the northbound Saluki, which is shown above.

The Chargers are operating on most Midwest routes with the notable exception of Wolverine and Blue Water trains.

Amtrak has said the Chargers won’t be assigned to those trains until the positive train control system can be aligned with the PTC system used on Amtrak-owned track in Michigan and Indiana.

My first impression of the Chargers was favorable unlike my first thought about the now ubiquitous P42 and P40 units.

The nose of the Charger is similar in design to that of a Genesis locomotive and we’ve all had years to become accustomed to the latter.

Wolverines To Allow Bikes Onboard

July 24, 2018

Bicycles will be allowed onboard Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains effective July 26.

The service will be available at all stations and cost $10 per bike.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said bicycle reservations are required and bike tickets must be presented to the conductor when boarding the train.

Passengers can reserve space for their bikes by selecting “add bike” when booking their reservation at Amtrak.com.

Bike reservations also can be made by calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245) and at Amtrak ticket offices. Only four bicycles are permitted per train.

Passengers will be provided a bike tag by station employees and by the train crew at unstaffed stations. Passengers must present their bike tag to retrieve their bike from the train crew at their destination.

Amtrak is advising passengers carrying on bikes to arrive 45 minutes before  train departure to allow sufficient time to obtain their ticket and baggage tag, and to get their bike onto the train.

Only one standard size bicycle will be permitted per passenger. Large seat/saddle bags must be removed from the bikes. These items can be carried on the train and will count as a carry-on item.

Passengers must be physically capable of lifting their bicycle up to shoulder height to an employee standing in the vestibule of a passenger car.

Passengers may stow their bicycle in open spaces at the ends of the car. They may not be stored in the vestibule.

Upon reaching their destination, passengers will be responsible for preparing their bicycle prior to detraining. A bike should be positioned in the doorway, so the passenger can lift it off the car with the chain facing away.

Wolverines Get New Schedules

July 11, 2018

Amtrak has changed the schedules of some Wolverine Service trains in an effort to improve their connections with other Midwest trains. The changes are effective July 16.

Train 352 will operate 45 minutes later to allow new connections from Trains 300 (Lincoln Service) and 334 (Hiawatha Service).

Train 353 will operate 45 minutes earlier to allow new connections to Train 393 (Illini).

Train 355 will also begin operating 15 minutes later.

Far From Illinois

June 18, 2018

Amtrak equipment is interchangeable, hence I ran across this Amfleet cafe car in the consist of the Blue Water, a Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan train.

It came with a logo for an Illinois high-speed rail program between Chicago and St. Louis.

The car probably has operated in Lincoln Service train consists many times and might wind up back there soon. But for now it is running around in Michigan.

I wonder how many passengers notice the “welcome” greeting in tiny letters that easily are dwarfed by the high-speed logo.