Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

Private Car Trip to Operate Philly to Pittsburgh

September 7, 2019

A fall foliage special featuring former Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman car Catalpa Falls will operate from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and return on Oct. 18-20.

Tickets are $1,100 per person and includes round-trip private rail transportation, four meals, and all beverages aboard the train.

It does not include lodging in Pittsburgh.  The trip is limited to 20 passengers.

The trip is being sponsored by Executive Rail. For inquiries or additional information send an email to Tickets@ExecutiveRail.com or call Carolyn Hoffman at 862-763-0508.

During the journey on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian, passengers will cross the Rockville Bridge and traverse Horseshoe Curve.

There will be four meals served – two in each direction – that have been selected from menus of the Broadway Limited.

All meals will be prepared on-board by the Catalpa Falls’ executive chef using the original Pennsylvania Railroad recipes.

That will include the Pennsy’s famous pennepicure pie.

Executive Rail has arranged for a rate of $155 per night (plus fees and taxes) at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Rooms at this rate must be booked with the hotel directly by Sept. 16. Passengers should mention the Catalpa Falls to get the special rate.

However, passengers can also make their lodging arrangements at another hotel in Pittsburgh if desired.

PennDOT to Study Pittsburgh-Altoona Train

September 24, 2018

A feasibility study will be conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation of a Pittsburgh-Altoona passenger train.

PennDOT will review several studies on the Keystone West Corridor; and gather information about the existing right of way, current and projected freight-rail activity on the line.

The study will also develop cost estimates of the proposed service as well as three potential service plans, a travel-demand marketing assessment and ridership estimates.

The service would supplement the existing Amtrak Pennsylvanian, which operates between Pittsburgh and New York and is funded by PennDOT.

The route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is owned by Norfolk Southern.

Pennsylvania has commissioned previous studies of additional Amtrak service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh but thus far nothing has materialized.

PennDot Might Sponsor Buses Before Amtrak Service Expands from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh

May 23, 2017

As the Pennsylvania Senate considers approving legislation designed to increase Amtrak service to Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is eyeing sponsoring bus service until Amtrak service can be expanded.

The state funds the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian and is considering funding additional Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Senate Transportation Committee recent voted unanimously in favor of a nine-month review study into adding two more passenger trains between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The full Senate is expected to vote on the study proposal by the end of June.

The study would be conducted within nine months by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

The resolution also calls for looking at the prospect of adding service between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

A number of steps would need to be taken before the service could become a reality, including making improvements to the Norfolk Southern tracks that the trains would use and negotiating agreements with Amtrak and NS. The route to be used is a busy NS freight line.

Western Pennsylvania interests have long noted that since 2000, the state has invested $400 million to increase passenger service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia from six trains to 14.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency welcomes the review of what it would take to increase passenger service but that earlier studies have shown it would cost $3.75 million to $6 million to add one more passenger train, plus capital improvements estimated at $100 million in 2005.

Kirkpatrick said that in other regions of the country bus service has been paired with Amtrak service.

He said a dedicated bus could connect western Pennsylvania cities with Amtrak’s Keystone Service in Harrisburg to New York and Philadelphia.

Hurdles Remain for Western Pa. Amtrak Expansion

March 4, 2017

Although they continue to push for expanded Amtrak service, public officials in western Pennsylvania acknowledge that finding money for that service is a significant challenge.

“You’ve got a tight budget, so any additional money to expand rail service is tough to come by,” said State Rep. Bryan Barbin, a former member of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

pennsylvaniaBabin said the proposed service expansion is likely to take time to realize because other projects are high on the state’s list of priorities.

He said the potential hurdles include the state budget, cooperation with Amtrak and negotiations with Norfolk Southern, which own the tracks used by the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

The state-funded Pennsylvanian is the only intercity rail service on the NS line between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Support for additional service has been particularly strong in the Johnstown area. Officials from Johnstown and Cambria County testified last year in favor of the service at a meeting of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

Support has also come from public officials in Pittsburgh and Altoona.

Babin said that other projects higher on the state’s list of priorities so, “It’s going to be a while.”

Pennsylvanian Congressman Bill Shuster has also expressed support for the expansion.

“I believe these new investments will bring new economic growth to our communities,” said Shuster, who is chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Passenger rail service provides an important link for southwestern Pennsylvania to the rest of the country, and anytime there’s a market demand for new service, it’s something that should be looked at.”

Babin observed that Pennsylvania is operating at a deficit and the legislature is looking at the possibilities of raising taxes, cutting spending and closing loopholes in the state budget.

However, he noted that Pennsylvania spends $18 million per year on passenger rail of which $17 million goes to support trains in the eastern third of the state.

“We need to do the same thing if we’re going to connect the whole state,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the biggest transportation issue for the western part of the state.”

House Transportation Committee Chairman state Rep. John Taylor, of Philadelphia, said he is still committed to expanding rail service in the western part of the state.

“It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together,” said Eric Bugaile, the committee’s executive director. That would mean reaching an agreement among PennDOT, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern officials on the same page.

Aside from state budget challenges, another sticking point is the fact that the NS route to be used by the service is a busy freight corridor.

NS spokesman David Pidgeon said any expanded Amtrak service should not adversely affect NS freight customers.

Pidgeon said NS was amendable to what he termed “viable plans” for expansion, which would take the carrier’s concerns into account.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the carrier continues to work with PennDOT “to provide a thorough evaluation of additional service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Due to the nature of these requests, which often include multiple stakeholders, extensive research and negotiations, they can require a significant amount of time to finalize.”

Making History in Pittsburgh

November 14, 2016

pittsburgh

The date is Feb. 8, 2003. The place is the former Pennsylvania Railroad station in Pittsburgh, now used by Amtrak.

The platform is mostly empty as the eastbound Pennsylvanian waits for time to depart for Philadelphia. It is the penultimate run of this train as it is constituted on this day.

Later tonight the Pennsylvanian will originate in Chicago for the final time. Once it completes its last Chicago to Philadelphia trip, it will revert to Pittsburgh-New York operation and its role of carrying mail and express business will end.

That ExpressTrak boxcar on the rear of the train is a reminder of the reason why the train was extended to Chicago in the first place.

The Pennsylvanian had begun life on April 27, 1980, as a state-funded Pittsburgh-Philadelphia train that sought to take up the slack left by the discontinuance of the New York-Kansas City National Limited in 1979.

It was extended to New York in 1983 and to Chicago in November 1998 at which time the eastern terminus shifted back to Philadelphia.

Today, the Pennsylvanian has returned to its roots as a state-funded Pittsburgh-New York train. The mail and express business is now just another chapter in the train’s history that has passed.

Capitol Limited Stowaway Charged With Acquiring Travel Vouchers With a Stolen Credit Card

October 20, 2016

Police arrested a man in Pittsburgh who authorities said stowed away aboard Amtrak’s Capitol Limited using travel vouchers acquired with a stolen credit card.

amtrak-capitol-limitedAmtrak police arrested Javon Damian Jones who appeared before a judge in Pittsburgh on Oct. 19.

Police are unsure of Jones’ hometown, but said the last place they were able to determine that he lived was in a community shelter in Cleveland.

Although police have yet to disclose details about why Jones was detained, authorities said they had been watching him as part of a continuing criminal investigation.

Jones is alleged to have used nearly $7,000 in vouchers that he acquired with a stolen credit card.

Police said Jones made a number of trips between Chicago and Washington, traveling alone and without luggage in a sleeping car room.

Jones was charged with receiving stolen property and being a stowaway. Police said additional charges are pending.

Losing a Locomotive Along the Way

September 18, 2016

amtrak-blog-4

This is not a photograph that I would have been able to get under ordinary circumstances.

The eastbound Capitol Limited in arriving in Pittsburgh in broad daylight. Had the train been on-time or even close to its schedule, it would have halted in Penn Station in the darkness and before I got there.

But something happened to No. 30 along the way and it arrived in Pittsburgh with just one locomotive. It is Feb. 19, 2005.

No. 30 departed Chicago the previous evening on time. I know because I was in Chicago Union Station waiting to board the Three Rivers to Pittsburgh.

In those days the Three Rivers was the last train of the day out of Chicago. I was riding the Three Rivers to Pittsburgh because it was slated to be discontinued in another month.

A friend and I had ridden to Chicago from Cleveland on the Lake Shore Limited and we would take Greyhound home.

But it would be awhile before the bus left so we had time to kill. I had noticed an unusually large number of passengers sitting in the Pittsburgh station. I no longer remember how we learned that No. 30 had yet to arrive.

But we found out and I was able to get this image of the Capitol Limited arriving.

It wasn’t funny to the passengers riding No. 30 on this day, but my friend and I were amused that we had departed Chicago hours after No. 30 left and arrived in Pittsburgh an hour or two before it got there.

Late in the Broadway Limited Era at Pittsburgh

September 2, 2016

Amtrak BL in ittsburgh September 4, 1995-x

It is Sept. 4, 1995. Five days from now, Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Broadway Limited will begin its final trips as it is discontinued in a massive route restructuring that was implemented that year.

The damage could have been even more. At one point Amtrak proposed eliminating the Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee and ending service between Detroit and Pontiac, Michigan, among other cuts.

A friend and I had decided to ride No. 40 from Youngstown to Pittsburgh. We’ve just gotten off the train at Penn Station and moved to the head end to get some photographs.

The F40PH is still the primary road engine being used by Amtrak and Heritage Fleet equipment is still commonplace on eastern long-distance trains.

The engineer who will take No. 40 east of Pittsburgh is going to work and a Conrail locomotive is partly visible at right awaiting its next task.

It looks like just another day on the railroad and in many ways it is. But it is also short time for Nos. 40 and 41.

Pittsburgh Group Pushing Added Amtrak Service

May 23, 2016

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is supporting efforts to increase the level of Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation for the group, plans to meet with Gov. Tom Wolf to push the service expansion, which she said would cost $10 million to $13 million a year.

“This is a very affordable transportation project,” Beattie said. “This is not an extravagant project. It’s very doable.”

Amtrak logoPittsburgh officials are seeking to increase service from one roundtrip a day to three roundtrips.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation underwrites most of the costs of the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency has asked Amtrak how much it would cost to add one train a day and whether it has the needed equipment and track access.

Under a law approved in 2013, the state has about $8 million a year earmarked for rail service but Kirkpatrick said those funds are already allocated.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the passenger carrier is working on a comprehensive study for the state but he wouldn’t discuss any specifics.

“We are working as fast as we can to put together the information,” Tolbert said. “At this point, I do not have a time frame for when that will be done.”

Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, said additional Amtrak service would also benefit such communities as Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewistown because they have few public transportation options.

Beattie said that the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg route has the second highest percentage of filled seats among Amtrak’s top 17 routes with patronage having increased every year since 2005 when the service fell from two roundstrips to one with the discontinuance of the Three Rivers.

“We think there’s an unmet demand for more service,” she said. “It can only grow so far with one train.”

Beattie also noted that Pennsylvania helps to fund 14 daily trips on the Harrisburg-to-Philadelphia segment of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia route.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing what the governor has to say about rail, especially service to the western part of the state. [Additional service] would connect parts of the state that aren’t connected now,” she said.