Posts Tagged ‘New York Central Railroad’

New Buffalo Amtrak Station Opens

November 10, 2020

A ceremony featuring state and local officials was held on Monday to mark the opening of a new Exchange Street Station in downtown Buffalo, New York. 

The station was built on the site of the former 66-year-old New York Central facility of the same name.

The new $29.8 million Amtrak station, though, is elevated, located closer to the street and is twice the size of the depot it replaced.

Amtrak passengers will be able to make connections to local bus and light-rail service.

The low-level platforms of the station were redesigned to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act standards. The station features a covered pedestrian plaza.

The project was overseen by the New York State Department of Transportation.

The station is served by Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York. The New York-Toronto Maple Leaf also stops at the station.

The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, however, does not use the tracks passing Exchange Street station.

Just Like Sunday Mornings With Grandpa

August 18, 2019

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited is more than four hours late as it passes through Olmsted Falls, Ohio, on a Sunday morning in mid May.

It was a sunny and pleasant Sunday morning in Olmsted Falls as I stood next to the tracks of Norfolk Southern at the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern station that is now owned by a model railroad club, the Cuyahoga Valley & West Shore.

I was waiting for a tardy eastbound Lake Shore Limited that Amtrak predicted would arrive in Elyria at 9:12 a.m. and depart two minutes later.

If that held, that would put No. 48 through Olmsted Falls at about 9:25 a.m.

As I waited, my thoughts flashed back to Sunday mornings in the early 1960s when my grandparents on my mother’s side would come to my hometown in east central Illinois from St. Louis for a weekend visit.

On Sunday morning, grandpa would take my sister and I for a walk of about four blocks that we called “going to the trains.”

On the west side of Mattoon not far from our house was an open area that still had tracks leading to a an abandoned shop building once used by the Peoria, Decatur & Evansville, which was absorbed by the Illinois Central in the early 20th century.

The tracks leading into that long-closed shop were still in place, but rusty and covered in weeds. Cinders were plentiful in the ballast.

This area was located between the tracks of the IC – that former PD&E – and the St. Louis line of the New York Central.

We would walk across those tracks to stand near the Central tracks. Two NYC passenger trains were scheduled to pass through Mattoon during the mid to late morning hours.

The eastbound train was the Southwestern and the westbound train the Knickerbocker. They were all that was left of the Central’s service to St. Louis.

In the early 1960s, both of those trains were still quite grand with sleepers, dining cars and coaches, some of which operated through to New York and all of which operated to and from Cleveland.

Sometimes the motive power for the trains were E units still wearing NYC lightning stripes, but at others times the motive power was Geeps in the cigar band look.

I thought about those trains as I waited for Amtrak No. 48, which had lost time starting with a late departure from Chicago Union Station the night before.

But something happened between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, where the bulk of the lost time occurred.

Amtrak equipment, like much of that used by the Central, is silver-colored stainless steel. The Central had some two-tone gray smooth sided passenger cars that were assigned to the St. Louis trains.

There are some parallels to where the Central’s passenger service was in the early 1960s and where Amtrak is today.

NYC management under the leadership of Alfred Perlman was convinced that long-distance trains had no future and throughout the 1950s the Central had aggressively discontinued as many of those trains as regulators would allow.

There might not have been any NYC passenger trains for myself, my sister and my grandpa to watch during our walks “to the trains” had the Illinois Commerce Commission allowed the Central to discontinue all service to St. Louis as it wanted to do in the late 1950s.

Amtrak management under the leadership of Richard Anderson has been signaling that it wants to transform its network into a series of short-haul corridors between urban points.

That strategy would eviscerate Amtrak’s long-distance network and probably spell the end of the Lake Shore Limited, the only daily train between Chicago and New York.

Those walks “to the trains” did not last long. By the middle 1960s my grandparents were no longer traveling from St. Louis to Mattoon to visit us.

In the meantime, the Southwestern and Knickerbocker grew shorter, shrinking to one sleeper and a couple of coaches. The dining car no longer operated west of Indianapolis.

In late 1967 the Central posted notices of its intent to discontinue its last trains to St. Louis. By then the trains only operated between St. Louis and Union City, Indiana, the NYC having used the “Ohio strategy” to discontinue them between Union City and Cleveland.

The “Ohio strategy” was a rule of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that allowed a railroad to discontinue a passenger train within the state of Ohio without PUCO approval provided it was not the last passenger train on that route.

The NYC and other railroads used that rule to devastating effect in the 1960s.

The Interstate Commerce Commission stayed the discontinuance of the remnants of the Southwestern and Knickerbocker, but after conducting an investigation concluded they were not needed for the public necessity and convenience. They made their last trips in March 1968.

By then they had shrunk to one E unit and one coach.

My grandpa died in 1982, the same year that Conrail won regulatory approval to abandon the former NYC through Mattoon. The tracks were pulled up through town in May 1983.

In the meantime, the IC razed the former shops used by the PD&E. That area where we used to walk remains an open field passed by a handful of trains of Canadian National.

No. 48 was slowly gaining back some of its lost time a minute or two at a time as it made its was east from Toledo. It departed Elyria about when Amtrak predicted it would.

The Lake Shore Limited continues to be an impressive looking train with three sleepers, six coaches, a baggage car, café car, dining car and two locomotives. But the dining car no longer serves meals freshly prepared onboard.

Just like the Central did, Amtrak is slowing chipping away at onboard service in an effort to cut costs.

As the Lake Shore flashed past, I again felt myself going back to the early 1960s and watching the Southwestern rush past also en route to New York City.

I couldn’t think of too many better ways to spend part of a Sunday morning.

Passing the Olmsted Falls depot, now the home of a model railroad club.

All the meals being served in that dining car behind the Amfleet coach were prepared off the train. The chefs were laid off or reassigned to other runs.

New York Tourist RR to Get Amtrak Dining Car

April 29, 2019

A New York tourist railroad has acquired a former Amtrak dining car.

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad has received a Heritage fleet diner that was once New York Central lounge car No. 463.

Railroad officials said that car would have traveled through Utica, New York, where the ASR is based, and perhaps traveled over ASR tracks to Lake Placid, New York.

Amtrak agreed to donate the car to the ASR because of its history. Several other railroads were also interested in acquiring the car.

The car is expected to arrive on the ASR sometime in May.

Rochester Station Named for late Congresswoman

March 28, 2019

The Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, was recently dedicated to the memory of the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter.

Slaughter as instrumental in winning a federal TIGER grant of $15 million that was used to construct the station, which opened in October 2017 after a 15-year planning process.

Slaughter died in March 2018 and before her death helped to secure $18.5 million in federal funds for the station’s construction.

Her daughters, Emily Robin Minerva and Megan Secatore, joined Amtrak and New York public officials for a dedication ceremony.

The station will be called the Louise M. Slaughter Rochester Station. It serves Empire Corridor trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

It is built on the site of a “temporary” Amtrak-built station that was used for 36 years. That station was in turn built on the footprint of a former New York Central depot.

Amtrak to Mark 50th Anniversary of Empire Service

December 2, 2017

Amtrak and New York State on Monday will celebrate 50 years of Empire Service between New York and Buffalo, New York.

The event will be held at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station. Expected to be in attendance are elected officials, local dignitaries and prominent Albany civic leaders.

Amtrak plans to honor those who were at the New York Central in 1967 when the Empire Service was launched.

“Celebrating 50 years of rail passenger service is an accomplishment that Amtrak is proud to celebrate with all of its state partners and the communities along this route who have been integral to the Empire Service’s success,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of state supported services and business development.

The Empire Service was the result of restructuring of NYC intercity passenger service that the railroad hoped would reduce its passenger financial deficit.

Many long-distance trains were restructured and lost their names. The NYC also discontinued the fabled 20th Century Limited.

When Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971, the Empire Corridor hosted seven daily trains.

Today the corridor has 12 daily trains, although most of them operate only between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

Amtrak restored service to Niagara Falls in 1971 and to downtown Schenectady in 1978.

Amtrak’s Empire Service trains are supported by funds made available by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Trains in the corridor use dual-mode locomotives, which enables the trains to operate under diesel power and then switch to electric third rail power for operation into and out of New York Penn Station.

Until April 7, 1991, Amtrak’s Empire Service trains used New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

A recent track rebuilding has resulted in a 45-mile stretch of track between Hudson and Schenectady having a top speed of 110 miles per hour.

Buffalo Train Station Makes Endangered List

October 18, 2017

Buffalo’s Central Terminal has made a list of dubious distinction. It has been added to the 2018 World Monuments Watch, a group of international cultural heritage sites facing “daunting threats.”

The former New York Central depot that was used by Amtrak between 1975 and 1979 and for a time in 1971, is No. 22 on the list.

Closed in 1979, the station has undergone some renovation in recent years. However, it was bypassed when Amtrak recently sought a site for a new Buffalo station.

Amtrak has two stations in the  Buffalo region. These include a small and antiquated station at Exchange Street in the city and a station in suburban Depew.

MHSRA Seeks Phased Network Approach

September 12, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is calling for a “phased network approach” to implementing high-speed rail service in the United States, including the Midwest.

In a 50-page white paper, the group said a combination of high-speed trunk lines and upgraded feeder rail routes coupled with dedicated bus services can increase mobility.

Rather than focusing on a point-to-point fast train systems between major cities, the MHSRA plan would provide a blueprint for systems that serve multiple markets and as many constituencies as possible.

The report cited such existing networks in France, Germany and Japan that provide multiple connections from their main stems.

One example would be Chicago-Cincinnati corridor. The report said a combination of upgraded Metra Electric tracks from O’Hare International Airport through Chicago, a high-speed trunk connecting the Windy City with Indianapolis, and conventional feeders to other communities could reduce Chicago-Indianapolis rail travel times from five hours, ten minutes to 90 minutes.

Upgrading existing track to Cincinnati once used by New York Central’s James Whitcomb Riley could result in a three-hour Chicago-Cincinnati overall travel times.

The running time of the current Amtrak Cardinal is eight hours, thirty minutes.

“The core point is that rather than only trying to keep projects affordable, we should be figuring out how to put more people on trains,” said MHSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish. “We need a new ridership and revenue model that combines commuter, feeder, and intercity trips in a way suited to the geography and demographics to the Midwest.”

Waterloo to Hold Open House on June 25

June 20, 2017

The Waterloo, Indiana, Amtrak station will celebrate its first anniversary with an open house on June 25.

The station is located inside a former New York Central depot that was renovated by the city during a 10-year project.

The project, which was funded in part by a federal TIGER grant, involved moving the depot closer to the Amtrak boarding platform.

The open house will be held from 2-4 p.m. and feature refreshments, door prizes and historical information about the station.

More than 20,000 passengers board at the Waterloo every year. The station is served by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Hickory Creek to Ride Rear of LSL

June 14, 2017

The Hickory Creek, the ex-Twentieth Century Limited tail car will be traveling to Chicago for the Nickel Plate Road 765 trips. It will leave New York City on the Lake Shore Limited on June 14. It will head back to NYC on the Lake Shore on June 19.

Photograph by Jack Norris

The National Limited Takes a Detour

December 19, 2016

036

The westbound National Limited arrives in the station at Mattoon, Ilinois, in May 1977 on a detour move. The train is using the former New York Central route to St. Louis due to track work on its regular route over the former Pennsylvania Railroad route via Effingham, Illinois.

037

The National Limited handled mail from New York to Los Angeles that was interchanged to the Southwest Limited in Kansas City. Note that the former NYC passenger platform is still in place at right nine years after the last NYC passenger train here was discontinued.

038

The Amtrak conductor and two other crew members wait in the vestibule of a coach as the eastbound National Limited arrives in Mattoon, Illinois, in May 1977 on a detour move.

039

The eastbound National Limited departs from Mattoon, Illinois, on former New York Central rails. It will regain its regular route in Terre Haute, Indiana. A portion of the former NYC passenger station is visible at right.

It was not unusual for Amtrak’s National Limited to detour between Terre Haute, Indiana, and St. Louis.

The scheduled route was via the former Pennsylvania Railroad via Effingham, Illlinois, but the Penn Central dispatcher had the option of running the train over the ex-New York Central route through Mattoon, Illinois.

After Conrail took over Penn Central in 1976, it began rebuilding the ex-Pennsy route used by Amtrak Nos. 30 and 31.

In late April 1977, the National Limited was rescheduled to operate during the afternoon hours between St. Louis and Effingham. That also coincided with the track gang hours.

So, for a good part of May 1977, Nos. 30 and 31 detoured via the ex-NYC route, making the Effingham stop at the former NYC passenger platform in Mattoon

The last NYC passenger train through Mattoon had been discontinued in March 1968, but the platform was still in place on the south side of the tracks.

I was a young reporter for the Mattoon Journal Gazette and I gave myself an assignment one afternoon to cover the detour of the National Limited.

I went down to the tracks, interviewed waiting passengers, and made photographs of both trains using Kodak Tri-X film.

Much has changed since that May 1977 day. The National Limited was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1979, and in March 1982, Conrail abandoned the former NYC tracks through Mattoon. The rails were picked up a year later.

The former NYC station has since been razed. The platforms remained in place for several years after the tracks were pulled up, but were eventually taken out in the early 2000s to make way for a parking lot for the YMCA.