Posts Tagged ‘New River trains’

Amtrak Says it Would Have Run New River Train

March 4, 2019

Amtrak contends that it would have continued to operate the annual New River Train had its sponsors wished to do so.

However, the sponsor, the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, said last week it would cancel the train for 2019, citing increasing Amtrak fees.

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said Amtrak and the Society had discussions about operating the New River Train this year.

“We wanted to retain business with the historical society since we viewed the potential charter as a positive business relationship,” Woods said.

The Society said the New River Train lost more than $100,000 in 2018 due to rising costs, which included unexpected mileage and operating expenses that arose in the months before the trip.

The New River Train has operated for more than 50 years, usually in West Virginia between Huntington and Hinton.

Rising Amtrak Fees Prompt New River Train Cancellation

February 27, 2019

Amtrak’s changing practices pertaining to private rail cars have claimed another victim, the New River Train.

The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society said this week that it will not operate the train this year due to high fees demanded by Amtrak.

The excursions have operated for 52 years, usually between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia, during two weekends in October.

Trains magazine reported that the society said Amtrak jacked up its fees to operate the train by 9.6 percent two weeks after it gave the organization a price quote in January operate the service.

Society officials decided that the fees would make it uneconomical to run the excursion this year.

Amtrak said rising labor costs attributed to its increasing its initial price quote.

The 2018 New River Train lost more than $100,000, which society officials attributed to Amtrak’s raising fees after the trip had been announced.

The 2018 trip had been budgeted based on Amtrak’s published Oct. 1, 2017, tariffs.

The New River Train was the last scheduled mainline passenger operation in the United States. Earlier this year the last scheduled steam mainline excursion, the Denver Post train to Cheyenne, Wyoming, over Union Pacific rails, was canceled for this year.

The New River Train typically carried 4,800 passengers in 30-car consists. Many of those cars were privately owned rail cars.

At various times during its five-decade run the New River Train was pulled by steam locomotives, including Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Milwaukee Road No. 261, Chesapeake & Ohio No. 614, and Pere Marquette No. 1225.

The train provides an estimated $8 million annual economic benefit to West Virginia, particularly to Hinton where it lays over during its daylight run.

Society officials said they hope the suspension of the New River Train is only temporary.

W.Va. Officials Optimistic About Saving New River Train

April 25, 2018

West Virginia officials say they had a productive meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson about continuing the annual New River Train and expressed optimism that a deal will be worked out.

In a news release, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said the service has had a stellar record with no operational issues or citations

“I made sure that Amtrak knew the impact this would have on our economy and local non-profit,” Manchin said in the release. “Richard Anderson and I both agree that we need to find a solution and I received a commitment from him that they are committed to continuing their partnership with Collis P. Huntington and finding a solution that both sides are happy with.”

Echoing that was Rep. Even Jenkins who said the meeting has moved the New River Train one step closer to operating.

“There are still some issues that remain to be resolved, but every single person in the room wants to keep the New River Train running,” he said in a news release. “I will continue to work to ensure the New River Train runs for a 52nd year this fall and am encouraged by the results of today’s discussion.”

The New River Train has operated for 51 years, most recently between Huntington and Hinton.

It continued existence has been threatened by a new Amtrak policy that bans most special and charter movements.

Of late, Amtrak has expressed some willingness to allow a limited number of specials that use routes covered by scheduled Amtrak trains.

In the case of the New River Train, it uses CSX tracks also used by Amtrak’s Cardinal.

West Virginia interests have said the New River Train generates $5 million in tourism dollars.

Jenkins said that Anderson understands that the New River Train has a 50-year history and economic impact that distinguishes it from other charter trains.

Amtrak Clarifies Policy on Specials, Private Cars

April 20, 2018

Amtrak has clarified its new policy on special moves and the carriage of private railroad cars and as expected the passenger carrier is largely eliminating moves to and from intermediate points.

The guidelines say Amtrak will only accommodate private car moves at endpoint terminals or intermediate stations where the scheduled dwell time is sufficient to allow switching of the cars.

Amtrak listed 40 intermediate stations where switching will be permitted. The list includes such points as Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver; Houston; Kansas City; and St. Paul, Minnesota, but no cities in Ohio.

Private cars can also be added or removed from Amtrak trains at Pontiac, Michigan; Indianapolis; and Pittsburgh. However, the latter is limited to the Pennsylvanian, which originates and terminates in Pittsburgh.

Also excluded are Grand Rapids and Port Huron in Michigan, both of which are endpoints for the Pere Marquette and Blue Water respectively.

Nor is Huntington, West Virginia, included on the list. The omission of Huntington is notable because it is the origin of the annual New River Train and the home of the fleet of cars owned by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.

Amtrak said it will work with private rail car owners whose cars are marooned at prohibited intermediate switching stops on a one-time, one-way relocation move to a terminal or yard where private cars will still be permitted to operate.

The movement of private cars will also requires case-by-case written approval by Amtrak.

Amtrak plans to limit maintenance service for private-car owners to Federal Railroad Administration mandated repairs of safety appliances as necessary on private cars in the consist of Amtrak trains.

Private car owners will no longer be permitted to pay Amtrak’s maintenance services for preventative maintenance and general repair services. In the past Amtrak staff undertook such repairs and then billed the car owner for the work.

As for special moves and charters, Amtrak said those will be limited to existing Amtrak routes.

The guidelines also said Amtrak will continue to accommodate specials and charters that are already established in the Amtrak system. They must not be one-time trips.

That is good news for the annual New River Train, which uses the route of the Chicago-Washington Cardinal, but not so good news for the rare mileage specials sponsored by the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners.

Would-be operators of chartered trains that use Amtrak locomotives, equipment and personnel will be subject to the availability of those resources and their operation must not adversely affect scheduled operations.

A charter must also generate sufficient financial benefit for Amtrak to justify its use of its equipment and personnel, but the carrier did not explain how it calculates those.

The updated guidelines on charters and special moves do not apply to trains operated by Amtrak on its own or for governmental purposes.

Amtrak, W.Va. Officials to Talk About New River Train

April 16, 2018

Amtrak executives will meet on Tuesday with public officials from West Virginia to discuss the future of the New River Train, which operates annually in the fall between Huntington and Hinton.

The train, which has operated for the past 51 years, was reportedly in danger of being canceled after Amtrak said last month that it would no longer operate specials and charters.

The passenger carrier has also been restricting the use of its trains by privately-owned rail cars although a formal policy in that regard has yet to be announced.

Last week some West Virginia officials indicated that Amtrak had said it would make an exception to its policy to enable the New River Train to continue operating.

There has been discussion that Amtrak might be amendable to allow select specials on routes over which it runs regularly scheduled trains.

The New River Train uses the route of the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

The train, sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, has been touted for its economic impact, which has been put at $5 million.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin asked Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson for a meeting to discuss the future of the New River Train.

“I will continue doing everything I can to fix this problem,” Manchin said in a news release.

Amtrak to Allow New River Train to Roll

April 13, 2018

West Virginia public officials say that Amtrak has committed to operating the New River Train this fall despite a recent policy change that banned such special moves.

Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins said Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson agreed after a telephone conversation to allow the train to operate for its 52nd season.

During that conversation, Jenkins and Mike Hall, the governor’s chief of staff, discussed with Anderson the importance of the 300-mile passenger excursion that runs the third and fourth weekends of October between Huntington and Hinton.

“I am very encouraged after our call with Richard Anderson that we have a commitment to resolving issues with the New River Train,” said Jenkins, whose district includes much of the route of the train over the former Chesapeake & Ohio mainline used by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Jenkins said Anderson indicated that the passenger carrier is receptive to making “some limited exemptions to its ban on charter trains.”

Amtrak has not yet said what criteria it will follow for allowing special trains and charter moves.

Even before the policy change was revealed last month, owners of private rail cars had reported that Amtrak was increasingly rejecting their requests to have their cars attached to scheduled trains on some routes.

Amtrak also declined to operate a special for the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners between Nebraska and Denver.

W.Va. Congressman Protests Amtrak Policy Change

April 2, 2018

A West Virginia Congressman whose district includes Huntington, is trying to rally opposition to an Amtrak policy change that will in effect wipe out operation of the New River Train.

Amtrak said in a memorandum sent to employees last week that it will cease handling chartered and special train movements.

Evan Jenkins, who represents West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, has written to Amtrak President Richard Anderson to protest the policy, saying it will hurt the state’s tourism industry.

The New River Train is operated by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society and has run over former Chesapeake & Ohio tracks for 51 years.

The Society estimates the New River Train has an economic impact of $3.5 million in the Huntington region and $1 million in Hinton, West Virginia, the eastern destination of the train.

About 90 percent of New River Train passengers are from out of state.

Ann Adkins, a spokesperson for the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said losing the train would be devastating to West Virginia in general and particularly to Huntington and Hinton.

New River Trains Mark 50th Anniversary

October 22, 2016

Chartered trains through West Virginia’s New River Gorge marked their 50th anniversary this month.

West VirginiaThe trains are sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society and operated this year between Huntington and Hinton on the third and fourth weekends of the month.

Past years have seen such steam locomotives as the Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Milwaukee Road No. 261 and Pere Marquette No. 1225 pull the trains, but these days the motive power is Amtrak P40DC and P42DC locomotives.

The trains travel over the Kanawha and New River subdivisions of CSX.

For the 2016 trips, Amtrak assigned heritage units  822 and 156 to the 30-car trains, which included 24 private cars.

Among the private varnish in the consist this year was: Passaic River, Powhatan Arrow, St. Augustine, Wenonah, Nokomis, Lake Pepin, Alexander Hamilton, Wisconsin Valley, Super, Dome, Dover Harbor, Prairie View, Scenic View, Braddock Inn, New York Central 38, New York Central 43, Morris County, Birken Diner, New York Central 448 Diner, Kitchi Gammi Club, J. Pickney Henderson, Berlin, Moonlight Dome, Silver Lariat, and Dearing.