Posts Tagged ‘photos of Amtrak’

Pushing Out of Sturtevant

January 17, 2022

Amtrak P42DC No. 128 catches some spring morning sunlight as it pushes Hiawatha Service Train 332 out of Sturtevant, Wisconsin, on May 20, 2006. Chicago-Milwaukee trains over the years have typically operated in push-pull service with a control cab on the south end and a locomotive on the north end. The train is on Canadian Pacific track once owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific. The train’s consist is pure Horizon fleet.

Now Arriving in Stamford

January 16, 2022

Amtrak Northeast Regional 131 is shown arriving in Stamford, Connecticut, on July 13, 2000. Note the contrasting liveries of the two AEM-7 electric locomotives pulling the train. It was during the changeover from Phase III to Phase IV.

A Sight Seen in Kalamazoo No Longer

January 8, 2022

For five decades Amtrak trains have passed Botsford Tower in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Better known as BO, the tower was razed on Dec. 28, after efforts to save and move the century-old structure failed.

The tower was built in 1914 by the Michigan Central to guard an interlocking crossing used by trains of the MC, Pennsylvania Railroad, and Grand Trunk Western.

Until closed in October 2016, BO Tower continued to control a crossing of tracks used by Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and the Grand Elk.

The tower once had a 44-lever interlocking machine. The tower structure itself was owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which was not opposed to preservation efforts.

However, Railfan and Railroad magazine reported on its website that the cost of moving the tower to a new location provided to be too much.

MDOT wanted the tower moved because it was too close to the tracks to remain in its current location.

In the photograph above, a westbound Wolverine Service train passes BO on July 16, 2016.

Blue Flag is in Place

January 5, 2022

On the railroad a “blue flag” is hung on a train when workers are servicing the locomotive or one of the passenger cars. It’s a safety rule that means that train is not to move until the “blue flag” is removed.

The “blue flag” is not a flag as such but a piece of metal. Shown above is a “blue flag” that has been attached to F40PH No. 245 in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 15, 2000.

The locomotive was providing the power for a chartered train operated during the National Railway Historical Society convention in Stamford, Connecticut.

Known as the Ambassador, the train operated north to Worcester, Massachusetts, on one route and returned on another to Stamford.

Looking Good in the Florida Sun

December 14, 2021

It is December 1979 and I’ve made a trip to and from Miami on the Silver Meteor southbound and the Silver Star northbound. In that era the trains on the route were pulled by SDP40F locomotives. No. 645 shown in the top image was assigned to pull the northbound Star out of Miami and I was to make a few photographs of as the train was boarding.

The bottom image was made in Jacksonville, Florida, in July 1977. I had just arrived on the southbound Floridian, which split at Jacksonville into Miami and St. Petersburg sections.

SDP40F No. 638 would lead the Miami section on this day. It parked on a station track when I photographed it.

In this era the Phase I paint scheme was still widely seen although the Phase II livery was already being applied to F40PH and P30CH locomotives.

Waiting to Board in Joliet

November 23, 2021

It is early in the Amtrak era and the wayback machine has landed us in Joliet, Illinois, at the Union Station. This was a good place to watch passenger trains in the early 1970s as it hosted Amtrak trains to St. Louis, Houston and Los Angeles, as well as Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific trains to Peoria and Rock Island. And that is not to mention commuter trains to and from Chicago.

A large crowd of passengers has gathered on the platform to board the Abraham Lincoln to St. Louis. The train is still operating with Gulf, Mobile & Ohio E7 passenger locomotives. No. 101 had been built by EMD in March 1945 for The Alton Road and has passed this station countless times over the years.

It was being leased by Amtrak and never joined the national passenger carrier’s permanent motive power roster.

If you look back in the consist you’ll see that there is a dome car.

The dispatcher must be planning to take the “Abe” out of town via the Santa Fe because it has come in on a Santa Fe track.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

One Day at Joliet in August 1972

November 4, 2021

Sometimes it is the full scene that explains a photo. The late Mike Ondecker and I were in Joliet, Illinois, on Aug. 12, 1972.

My eyes were first drawn to Rock Island 630, which was the last operating EMD E6A, and its train. Next my eyes looked at the station plus the train.

Then on the left I noticed the Santa Fe Warbonnet F-units just pulling into the station with an Amtrak train. 

As I said, it is sometimes the scene that tells a story.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Amtrak Daytrip to Carbondale Trip Report

October 3, 2021

The southbound Saluki arrives in Effingham, Illinois, on Sept. 12, 2021.

The southbound Saluki arrives in Effingham, Illinois, behind an SC-44 Charger locomotive.

Back in July Amtrak sent me an email warning that my Amtrak Guest Rewards account had been inactive for 24 months and my points would expire in mid September.

The email listed ways to keep my account active including buying an Amtrak ticket or redeeming points for travel or Amtrak-branded merchandise.

I filed all of this in my “to do” mental folder. As September dawned I needed to do something.

My account had 21,000 points, which isn’t enough for a spectacular trip, but I didn’t want to lose those points either.

I thought about using points for a day trip to Chicago on the Cardinal. I also considered making a short trip from Effingham to Mattoon, Illinois, on the Saluki, an Illinois Department of Transportation funded train between Chicago and Carbondale.

The distance between those two towns is 27 miles and the trip takes just 24 minutes. That wouldn’t be much of a train ride.

Instead I decided on something I hadn’t done since 1983.

The equipment for the southbound Saluki lays over in Carbondale for 2 hours, 20 minutes before returning to Chicago as the Illini.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s I had on occasion ridden Train 391 from Mattoon to Carbondale and returned that evening on Train 392. In those days they were named the Shawnee.

Since I was last in Carbondale, the Illinois Central passenger station has been renovated and received an IC equipment display of a GP11 and caboose. I could photograph that.

Amtrak opened a new Carbondale station three blocks south in October 1981. I have hundreds of photographs of Amtrak trains on the former Main Line of Mid-America but none in Carbondale.

However, instead of leaving from Mattoon, I would depart from Effingham.

I planned to use points for the trip but that changed when I discovered a one-way non-refundable fare of $8. Even if for some reason I couldn’t make the trip I would only be out $16.

I booked it for Sunday, Sept. 12, a mere three days before my points were to expire.

Booking travel on Amtrak is more involved than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

You must click a box agreeing to wear a mask in stations and aboard the train.

Amtrak also tried to get me to buy trip insurance. Did they really think I was going to do that for a $16 ticket?

The afternoon before my trip Amtrak sent me an email directing me to fill out a short form online. Aside from the standard COVID symptoms questions that I’ve become used to answering every time I visit a doctor I also had to agree – again – to wear a mask.

On the day of the trip I arrived at the Effingham station three hours before train time to get in some railfanning before No. 391 arrived.

Effingham back in the day had a station used by the IC and Pennsylvania Railroad. Flanking the passenger station were express depots for both railroads.

Today the passenger station is a cosmetology school and the ex-PRR express depot is used by a catering company as a kitchen.

Amtrak uses half of the ex-IC express depot with the other half used by a tattoo parlor.

I arrived to find work underway to rebuild the Amtrak boarding platform, which complicated my photography due to high construction zone fences and orange fabric barriers.

CSX sent one train through town, an eastbound grain train, while Canadian National sent two northbounds and a southbound past the station.

A CN train working the yard came north of the diamonds for headroom and to clear the block before going back into the yard.

Three of the four CN trains had IC SD70 locomotives wearing the pre-merger IC black “death star” livery.

One of the southbounds had a motive power consist of two IC “death stars” and a Grand Trunk Western geep in its original livery. Talk about a heritage consist.

I also observed the coming and going of the northbound Saluki.

For nearly a year Amtrak has assigned Superliner equipment to its Chicago-Carbondale trains. The Saluki and Illini are pulled by SC-44 Charger locomotives owned by IDOT and leased by Amtrak.

My foray to Carbondale would be my first trip behind a Charger locomotive. Interestingly, my first trip aboard a Superliner coach was a day trip to Carbondale in June 1979 when the then-new cars were in break-service on Midwest corridor trains before being assigned to the Empire Builder that October.

No. 391 was about 15 minutes late. I stood alone on the platform, mask firmly in place, the only passenger to board on this day.

I wasn’t surprised. When I had bought my ticket Train 391 was shown as at 13 percent of capacity.

I presented my ticket to the conductor but he said he had already checked me off. About 10 passengers disembarked.

I was one of just two passengers in my coach. The conductor came to my seat and asked if I had ridden with Amtrak before.

Yes, I have – many times actually – but not since before the pandemic. The conductor noted there was a café car up ahead. I didn’t plan to patronize it but thanked the conductor for that information anyway.

I settled back in my seat and enjoyed watching the countryside pass by. It had been more than three decades since I had seen Southern Illinois in daylight from the vantage point of an Amtrak coach window.

As we slowed for the Centralia station, a northbound BNSF coal train passed on an adjacent track. It had a distributed power unit on the rear.

Centralia was once the home of a large IC car shop. As best I could determine, most of that complex is gone.

It used to be that southbound passenger trains went around the Centralia yard complex on the west side. That wasn’t the case today although I could see that track still goes over that way.

We passed the yard on the east side.

The yard had a moderate number of freight cars and some motive power, including the two “death stars” and GTW geep I had seen earlier. A massive coaling tower still stands in the yard.

Our next stop was Du Quoin where Amtrak shares a small modern depot with the local chamber of commerce. It opened in August 1989.

Carbondale used to have a large yard, too, but most of it is gone. The former St. Louis division offices were razed years ago.

All that’s left are a few tracks and the twin coaling towers that stand near where the roundhouse used to be.

Due to schedule padding we arrived at the Carbondale station 15 minutes early and slightly less than two hours after leaving Effingham

It turns out most of the Carbondale passengers had been in other coaches.

Shortly after No. 391 arrived, the crew backed the equipment north to the yard and turned it on a wye track.

I made photographs of the ferry move in both directions passing the former IC station.

It was a warm day and I walked to a Circle K to get a large bottle of Gatorade. I walked around a bit, photographing the old IC station, which houses a small railroad museum that wasn’t open on this day, as well as offices of the chamber of commerce and a non-profit organization that promotes downtown Carbondale.

A statue of an IC conductor pays tribute to the railroad’s long history in Carbondale, which used to be where St. Louis cars were added or removed from trains bound to and from New Orleans and Florida.

A northbound CN tank car train came through during my layover.

I was dismayed to find the Carbondale Amtrak station is only open during the day on Wednesdays. But it’s open seven days a week at night to accommodate passengers for the City of New Orleans, which arrives in both directions in the dead of night.

There were around 50 of us waiting outside the station.

There would be just one conductor on tonight’s Train 392. He opened two doors of the train and stood on the platform.

I was expecting him to come up to the crowd and announce that boarding was ready to begin.

Instead he raised an arm and waved it a bit, which I interpreted as a signal to come out and get on board.

I started walking toward the train and the crowd followed me. Everyone was put in the same car.

We left on time and made the same stops as we had earlier. In Centralia I spotted a young man running from the parking lot toward the train, which was about done boarding.

If the conductor saw him, he ignored him because the train began moving. I expected the conductor to see the guy and order the engineer to stop. But we kept going.

CN and Amtrak have been at loggerheads for years over a number of operating issues including CN’s edict that Amtrak operate with a minimum number of axles to ensure that grade crossing signals are activated.

That is in part why I was riding a train with seven Superliner cars with far fewer passengers than the train’s capacity.

Amtrak and CN also have sparred over dispatching with Amtrak accusing CN of needlessly delaying Amtrak’s trains.

I know from years of experience in riding Amtrak between Mattoon and Chicago that delays due to freight train interference are not uncommon, particularly around Champaign.

But on this day we didn’t meet a single CN freight during on my trip.

I was the only passenger getting off at Effingham. Seven people were waiting on the platform to board.

A woman at the back of the line was not wearing a facial mask and the conductor refused to let her board.

I don’t know why she was maskless, but as I walked to my car I noticed the conductor had placed the step box aboard the train and stood in the doorway as the woman gestured while making her case – whatever that was – for not wearing a mask.

The conductor was having none of it and No. 392 left with the woman standing on the platform.

It had been an enjoyable outing and not all that much different from other trips I’ve made on Amtrak. The number of passengers aboard was less than I expected given that it was a Sunday, which normally is a heavy travel day on this route.

Sometime within the next year new Siemens Venture cars are expected to be assigned to Midwest corridor trains and maybe I’ll do another Carbondale roundtrip to experience them.

Two IC SD70s and a Grant Trunk geep pass the under construction new boarding platform in Effingham.
The DPU on a northbound BNSF coal train in Centralia
Disembarking at the Carbondale Amtrak station.
The equipment for the Illini backs past the former IC station in Carbondale.
A northbound CN tank car train passes the Carbondale Amtrak station where the Illini awaits its 4:05 p.m. departure.

Rounding the Curve in Mendota

July 19, 2021

Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr comes around a curve on host railroad BNSF and is about to pass the station in Mendota, Illinois.

Mendota is not a stop for Trains 5 and 6 so it will just slip right by. Train 5 has a consist of three sleepers, dining car, Sightseer Lounge, two coaches and a Viewliner baggage car. On the point are the customary two P42DC locomotives.

The image was made on July 14, 2021.

One Morning at Chicago Union Station

June 29, 2021

It is Sept. 9. 1995, on the north side of Chicago Union Station. A Hiawatha Service train sits adjacent to the equipment to be used later today for the outbound Empire Builder.

At the time, Hiawatha Service trains were using former Metroliner cab cars. This equipment also was common at the time on the Chicago-Detroit route.

Note the mismatching liveries on the Superliner equipment on the Empire Builder. Amtrak was moving into a new look for its rolling stock and the old and new continued to mix for a while.