Posts Tagged ‘railroad tracks’

Blasting Through Rantoul

July 28, 2020

It’s an early Sunday morning at the Amtrak station in Rantoul, Illinois.

I’m the only person around even through Amtrak’s northbound City of New Orleans will be come through here in a few minutes.

But Trains 58 and 59 don’t stop in Rantoul. Only the state-funded Saluki and Illini between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, stop here.

No. 58 is about 15 minutes off schedule as it roars through the Rantoul station. Note the engineer has his hand out the window to wave at the photographer.

It also has two P42DC locomotives up front. Normally, the City of New Orleans operates with a single locomotive.

Flying Away From Charlottesville

May 21, 2020

Amtrak’s westbound Cardinal is but a few seconds into continuing its trip to Chicago as it leaves the station in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This is one of the few places where multiple Amtrak routes cross at grade level.

The tracks in the foreground are used by Amtrak’s New York-New Orleans Crescent and a Northeast Regional train between Washington and Roanoke, Virginia.

The Crescent and the Roanoke train operate daily whereas the Cardinal only calls upon Charlottesville on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Sunrise at Butler

February 14, 2019

The sun is rising as Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited bangs the diamonds at Butler, Indiana, on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

It is May 22, 2014, and I am on the first leg of trip that will take me to Seattle on the Empire Builder, across Canada on VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian, and back home via the Maple Leaf and Lake Shore Limited.

No. 29 is a little behind schedule and will lose more time before reaching Chicago due to track work on NS in Northwest Indiana.

The crossing track is another NS route, which at one time was the Wabash Railroad line between Detroit and St. Louis.

Farewell to Jackson

May 17, 2018

I’m standing at the rear of Amtrak train No. 58, the northbound City of New Orleans, as it leaves the station at Jackson, Mississippi.

I’ve been through this station aboard the CONO a few times, but never seen the station other than the platform.

The waiting room and ticket office are at ground level, but the tracks are elevated through downtown Jackson.

My understanding is that this is the site of the former Jackson Union Station. The Illinois Central was the last railroad to have passenger service here in the pre-Amtrak era.

There were four trains a day on April 30, 1971, the IC City of New Orleans and the Panama Limited.

The next day the train count fell to two where it has remained ever since.

The Next Train is Probably Never

May 12, 2018

Until November 1990, Amtrak served Canton, Ohio, with four trains a day.

Passengers could board the Broadway Limited for New York or Chicago and the Capitol Limited for Washington and Chicago.

But Conrail wanted Amtrak to assume all costs of maintaining a portion of the former Pennsylvania Railroad route used by the trains near Gary, Indiana, which Conrail said it no longer used or needed.

Amtrak balked at that and after a few years of disputing the matter it agreed to reroute both trains.

That left Canton without intercity rail passenger service for the first time in more than a century.

I made this image of the former Amtrak boarding platform in Canton on July 10, 2008.

At the time, the modular station Amtrak had built in the 1970s to serve Canton still stood, but had been re-purposed as a restaurant and that was closed at the time of my visit.

It is probably a matter of time before Norfolk Southern removes the platforms and remains of the PRR umbrella shed.

There is no realistic proposal for Amtrak to return to Canton. The tracks are in good condition as far west as Crestline, Ohio, but beyond there the rails are not maintained to passenger standards.

More than likely, the last passenger has boarded a train from this platform.

Yes, Watch Out for the Trains

February 16, 2018

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak have been working to boost train speeds on the Chicago-Detroit corridor, particularly on track in Michigan, that both entities own.

MDOT owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Dearborn and over the past couple of summers has sponsored track work designed to enable faster running.

One small indicator of that work is this sign in Chelsea, Michigan, located next to the former Michigan Central station, which is now owned by a local historical society.

Getting Amtrak here at 80 mph or any speed remains on my “to do” list for 2018. There is double track because there is a passing siding here.

Chelsea, located between Ann Arbor and Jackson, is not a stop for Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains, but it was a stop for the Michigan Executive commuter train that Amtrak operated through Jan. 13, 1984, when the state ended its funding of the service.

Michigan transportation officials and rail passenger advocates have been trying to resume commuter rail service ever since.

The St. Charles Air Line

January 19, 2018

Since March 1972, Amtrak trains going to and from the Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans have plied the St. Charles Air Line to gain access to Chicago Union Station.

At some point a train arriving or leaving Union Station must do a backup move to get into or out of the station. All of this adds to the running time and for years there has been talk of creating a more direct connection to the IC mainline and the route into Union Station.

But that has yet to come to fruition so six Amtrak trains a day use the St. Charles Air Line.

In the Illinois Central passenger train days, varnish going to and from the Iowa Division used a portion of the St. Charles Air Line.  Of course, freight trains use the Air Line, too.

Some Chicago officials and land developers would like to see the Air Line abandoned because it traverses territory that in the past decade has seen rapid grown of high-end residential housing. The former site of Central Station has been converted to a housing development.

But for the foreseeable future Amtrak and freight trains will continue to use the Air Line at all hours of the day.

I made the image above from the last car on Amtrak Train No. 393, the Illini, to Carbondale, Illinois, back in June 2010.

In a few minutes No. 393 will round the curve at South Wye Junction and gain the Mainline of Mid America. The train will accelerate as it passes beneath McCormick place and heads southward.

Capitol Limited at Harpers Ferry

August 8, 2017

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is shown crossing the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, on July 25, 2017.

Nearly a week later, the Nos. 29 and 30 began operating only between Chicago and Pittsburgh after a CSX freight train derailment on Aug. 2  closed the Keystone Subdivision at Hyndman, Pennsylvania, for several days.

Rail traffic began moving through the area on Sunday, Aug. 6. The Capitol resumed serving Harpers Ferry and other points east of Pittsburgh that day.

In the interim, passengers had been accommodated by a bus.

When the LSL Was a Regular Daylight Train in Cleveland

April 26, 2017

It was in 2007, I believe, that Amtrak rescheduled the eastbound Lake Shore Limited to arrive and depart Cleveland between 6 and 7 a.m., which meant it was a daylight operation for a good part of the year.

That schedule didn’t last long and No. 48 soon enough began leaving Chicago at 9:30 p.m., which puts it into Cleveland at 5:35 a.m.

I didn’t take advantage of the 2007 window of opportunity as much as I should have. A friend, though, did. He made it a point to photograph No. 48 in as many places as he could between Cleveland and the Pennsylvania border just east of Conneaut, Ohio, during the summer of 2007.

I did get downtown on a couple of occasions to photograph No. 48 in the station, including this view made on July 14, 2007.

Note that lead unit No. 156 is the one that is now painted in Amtrak’s Phase I locomotive livery.

RTG Turboliner Memories

April 14, 2017

A photograph that my friend Bob Farkas sent me this week of an Amtrak RTG Turboliner at Joliet, Illinois, brought back a lot of fond memories.

I rode the Turboliner when I lived in Springfield, Illinois, in the mid-1970s, but many of my memories involve watching the French-built train.

Sometimes on a late Friday afternoon I would go to the Amtrak station to see the Turboliner from St. Louis arrive en route to Chicago.

During my first semester at the then-named Sangamon State University, I had a class that met in the early evening.

It got out shortly before the evening Turboliner was to leave Springfield for St. Louis. Parking for the downtown SSU campus was in a lot next to the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio tracks, which were Illinois Central Gulf by then.

If it a searchlight signal next to the tracks was green, the Amtrak train was in the station out of sight a few blocks to the north. I’d sit in my car until the train came past and then go home.

My first ride on a Turboliner came in February 1975 when I made a trip to St. Louis to visit my grandparents.

I liked the Turboliner. It was modern, had nice large windows and lived up to its billing in a an Amtrak radio advertisement of the time with a tagline of “hitch a ride on the future.:

But not everyone did felt the way that I did. Many passengers disliked the narrow seats that barely reclined, the narrow aisles and the sometimes hard to open doors. Another drawback was limited seating in the café car.

The Turboliner had a fixed capacity of 296, so some passengers were left standing during peak travel periods.

Those who regularly rode Amtrak in the Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis corridor preferred conventional equipment over the Turboliner.

Some locomotive engineers wouldn’t work on the Turboliner because they didn’t feel they would be protected enough during a grade crossing collision with a large truck.

When they began service on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor on Oct. 1, 1973, Amtrak touted the Turboliner as the greatest advancement in transportation since the 747.

Although much was made of the capability of the Turboliner to run more than 100 mph, the fastest it could sprint between Chicago and St. Louis was 79 p.m.

But the Turboliner schedule was a half-hour faster than trains using conventional equipment and 11 minutes faster than GM&O trains of the late 1940s.

An Amtrak official conceded to Trains magazine editor David P. Morgan that the purpose the flashy-looking Turboliners was to show that Amtrak was doing something to improve passenger service other than making cosmetic improvements to hand-me-down equipment.

Morgan said the Turboliner reminded him of the low center of gravity lightweight trains that railroads tried in the 1950s but which failed to catch on.

The last Turboliner in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor ran on Trains 301/304. It was withdrawn from the route after it struck an asphalt truck at Elwood, Illinois, on Nov. 18, 1975.

About a month later, Nos. 301/304 because the first Midwest corridor trains to receive the new Amfleet equipment.

My last trip aboard a Turboliner came in November 1980 when I rode the Lake Cities from  Chicago to Toledo via Detroit.

The next time I remember seeing a Turboliner was in the mid-1990s at the Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis. One of the Turboliner sets was sitting forlornly off to the side.

I’ve seen photographs of a Turboliner sitting in a junk yard near Dugger, Indiana. One of these days I’ve got to get out there to see if it is still there.

Photograph by Robert Farkas