Posts Tagged ‘passenger trains’

The Rio Grande Zephyr is Now Boarding

February 6, 2019

It’s early Sunday morning in Salt Lake City and the Denver-bound Rio Grande Zephyr is ready for boarding. The date is July 29, 1979.

I will ride the train all the way to Denver, enjoying the sights of the Rocky Mountains from one of the dome cars on the train.

Nos. 17 and 18 enjoyed one of America’s most scenic routes and Amtrak would have loved to have served it when it began operations in May 1971.

But the Denver & Rio Grande Western elected not to join Amtrak in 1971 so the remnant of the fabled California Zephyr continued to roll on.

Rising losses prompted the D&RGW to allow Amtrak to use its tracks between Denver and Salt Lake City and the Rio Grande Zephyr ended in February 1983.

Most of the RGZ’s route today is traversed by Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

Waiting for His Passengers

January 16, 2018

An Amtrak sleeping car attendant stands on the platform of the north concourse of Chicago Union Station to welcome passengers for his car aboard the westbound Empire Builder.

These tracks were once used by trains of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and today Amtrak uses the ex-Milwaukee Road route between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

Although boarding of No. 7 began on time, the train will depart late from Chicago largely due to late inbound trains, most notably the Lake Shore Limited. Also being held on this day for connecting passengers were the departing California Zephyr and Southwest Chief.

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

Cruising Through the Pennsylvania Hills

October 25, 2017

Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvania is six minutes off the advertised as it rolls on Track No. 2 of the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern through Summerhill, Pennsylvania.

The train would lose time en route, arriving at New York Penn Station a half-hour late. The delays in this area of the route appeared to have been due to track work being performed by NS as it gets ready to cut in new signals and positive train control.

Behind lead P42DC No. 160 is an all Amfleet consist that includes coaches and a cafe car.

From the Vestibule Aboard the National Limited

May 31, 2017

In the early days of Amtrak, crew members often said little to nothing if you made photographs from the windows of the vestibule doors.

I’m sure there were crew members who would chase you out of the vestibule if they saw you standing there, but I had some good luck in being able to make images while the crew either looked the other way or gave their tacit approval.

The conductor of Amtrak’s westbound National Limited fell into the latter category along with the rear brakeman. In fact the brakeman talked to myself and another passenger at length and even led us to the vestibule window at the rear of the train.

In the photograph above, No. 31 is arriving at Indianapolis Union Station on a Saturday morning in April 1977. Those Amtrak passenger cars on the other tracks might be waiting to go to the Beech Grove shops. At the time Nos. 30 and 31 were the only Amtrak trains serving Indianapolis.

The bottom photograph was made as No. 31 was going around a curve in East St. Louis, Illinois, to cross the Mississippi River over MacArthur Bridge and enter St. Louis.

On the point of No. 31 are a pair of freight diesels, Penn Central SD35 No. 6029 and Conrail SD40 No. 6319, both former Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives. That seemed appropriate given that much of the route of the National Limited across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois was former PRR trackage. The exception was the track between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana, which was former New York Central.

I do not know where these freight units were put on. They were on  the train when it rolled in Dayton, Ohio, where I boarded. I can only guess that Amtrak E8A No. 477 had mechanical problems en route. By coincidence, No. 477 was also a former PRR diesel, No. 5790.

There were limits to the crew’s tolerance. After we crossed the Mississippi, the conductor came back and shooed us into the coach. I remember him saying, “I let  you ride [in the vestibule] across the river.”

Indeed he had and I was grateful for that. I returned to my seat where I remained for the rest of the journey to Kirkwood, Missouri.

Springfield Union Station to Reopen in June

March 27, 2017

Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station will reopen on June 24 to serve Amtrak and offer restaurant and shops.

The depot was closed in 1974 but restored as part of a $95 million project that left many of its original features intact.

The station opened in 1926 and hosts the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, the Vermonter and several Northeast Regional trains.

Congressman Richard E. Neal, who help lead the restoration effort, said during a news media tour that the revitalized station should help increase Amtrak ridership and spur further commercial development.

During the restoration, the station’s terrazzo floors were restored, a new roof was installed, period light fixtures were put into place and eight murals depicting Springfield’s history were hung. A clock was placed in the grand concourse.

“I kicked off my political career here 40 years ago, so [the station] still has great meaning to me and the people of Springfield,” said Neal. “Restoring this station can make Springfield a transportation and commercial center, as well as do a lot of good.”

AAO Still Trying to Move the Passenger Needle

February 22, 2017

A message showed up in my email inbox the other day from All Aboard Ohio, a passenger advocacy group, that has released a report titled, “Ohio Passenger Rail Assessment of Needs.”

The report was timed to coincide with the Ohio legislature getting to work in hammering out the state’s budget for the next two years.

ohioAAO is trying to push legislators to “begin planning, constructing or completing $23.6 million worth of passenger rail improvements” over the next two years.

Much of that work involves upgrading stations served by the state’s three Amtrak trains, the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and Cardinal.

Some of the funding would also be used to plan potential future intercity rail routes, including a proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus route that has never seen Amtrak service.

As AAO sees it, more than $80 million in state funding could be available under state law to be used for passenger rail development without paying for the operating costs of any actual trains.

An AAO news release about the report was written in the typical optimistic tone of rail passenger advocates and sought to put the best possible face on intercity rail.

It focused on such facts as how Amtrak covers 94 percent of its costs through revenues and set a ridership record in fiscal year 2016.

It also reiterated a tactic that AAO has used in the past of trying to shame Ohio policy makers into taking action by noting how neighboring states and the Canadian province of Ontario are investing millions in the development of intercity routes and services while Ohio spends zilch.

The state capital of Columbus is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere without passenger rail service.

Some folks in Phoenix might quibble with that although the Valley of the Sun does have a light rail system that is seeking to expand.

Rail passenger advocates tend to be an optimistic lot. They have to be. If they acknowledged the long and difficult road ahead they might throw up their hands in frustration. AAO is no exception.

“We look forward to continuing our dialogue with Ohio’s policymakers in achieving realistic, near-term improvements to our state’s transportation system,” said AAO Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “We urge Ohioans to contact their state lawmakers in Columbus today and inform them with a short, polite message that they want better passenger rail service in Ohio.”

AAO has around 500 members and even if all of them contacted their legislators it is doubtful that it would have much effect on what the legislature is likely to do in terms of supporting intercity passenger rail.

Ohio has never spent a dime on funding intercity rail service, unlike neighboring Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

It received a federal grant to help develop the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor, but Gov. John Kasich killed the project shortly after winning election in 2010 and the federal government took back the grant and reallocated it elsewhere.

Ohio’s apathy, indifference or hostility – choose which word you think fits best – toward intercity rail development is not likely to change this year.

Kasich is still governor and is unlikely to change his views toward intercity rail service. Nor is the current legislature likely to be any more open to rail than is the governor. They are not going to be shamed or moved to action.

There may be some small victories, such as state funding of existing station improvements, but little to nothing else.

So AAO works to develop support for a rail a little at a time. Like I said, it’s going to be a long struggle.

Not Much Longer to Wait

February 13, 2017

north-coast-hiawatha-september-24-1979-06

It is a Monday night at Amtrak’s Midway Station in St. Paul, Minnesota. I waiting for the Chicago-bound North Star to arrive and in the meantime the Seattle-bound North Coast Hiawatha is in the station.

A conductor stands by a vestibule looking for boarding passengers. It is ritual that he won’t be performing much longer for this train. In less than two weeks, Nos. 17 and 18 are slated to be discontinued as part of a massive Amtrak route restructuring.

A court order will keep the North Coast Hiawatha running for a few more days, but it will eventually succumb and intercity rail passenger service on the former Northern Pacific route will end.

The Empire Builder will continue to operate between Chicago and Seattle, but the “North Coast Hi” will be history.

This image was scanned from a slide and made on Sept. 24, 1979.

Rocketing Into Joliet

February 6, 2017
rock-june-25-1977-x

The Peoria Rocket arrives at Joliet Union Station on June 25, 1977, as a handful of people watch.

There was a time when the Rocket name meant very good service on the Rock Island Railroad. But June 1977 was not one of those times.

It is an early Saturday evening in Joliet, Illinois, as the Peoria Rocket approaches Joliet Union Station.

The Rocket is funded in part by the State of Illinois, but that will not be enough to keep it going much longer.

I had boarded the Rocket in Peoria earlier in the day for a day trip to Chicago. I was appalled by the condition of the train and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to ride Amtrak’s Lone Star to Joliet to pick up the Rocket for my return leg to Peoria.

The ride aboard the Rocket was rough and there had been few passengers on the trip to Chicago earlier in the day. The equipment was worn out.

In retrospect I wished I had better appreciated the experience that I had, though. The Peoria Rocket was one of the last of its kind.

I also wish that I had better photography skills than I had when I made this image. Namely, that I had waited to snap the photograph until the nose of the locomotive was closer.

But I was young and had much to learn. Today this image reminds me of another time that is never going to come back around, but at least I did make the effort to experience it.

Last Broadway Limited in Akron

January 16, 2017

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It’s the wee hours of the morning on Sept. 10, 1995. Amtrak’s Broadway Limited is making its final trips.

Earlier, No. 41 had passed through Akron, Ohio, en route to Chicago. Now, No. 40 is making its final station stop in Akron.

A small crowd had gathered on the platform. One guy was even hawking tee shirts to mark the end of an era.

No one knows that within a couple years Amtrak will be back in Akron using the numbers 40 and 41 although under the name Three Rivers.

Actually, Nos. 40 and 41 didn’t go away after this September 1995 day. The trains simply began operating under the Three Rivers name between Pittsburgh and New York.

I rode the last Broadway Limited from Chicago to Akron. I’ve just disembarked and I’m walking toward the station. The view is looking eastward. I made this hand-held view with print film that I later scanned.

Although the image shows Amfleet coaches, I rode in a Heritage Fleet coach to Akron. Heritage Fleet sleepers, a dining car and a baggage car are on the head end behind the two F40PH locomotives.