Posts Tagged ‘railroad tracks’

Sunrise From Train 29

January 19, 2022

In recent years I’ve become intrigued by programs featuring photographs made from aboard Amtrak trains. A few years ago the Rail Passengers Association posted on its website one photograph every week made aboard an Amtrak train by one of its members.

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art last November presented a virtual program by Stacey Evans of images she made while making 29 trips aboard trains in America. The description of the program, which can be viewed on the Center’s YouTube channel, likened it to using trains as a moving studio.

“Stacey makes photographs focused on regional similarities and differences while composing how we occupy, shape, and transform the land,” the Center wrote about her program.

I’ve never sought to create a similar program although I might be able to based on images I’ve made aboard trains I’ve ridden in the past decade.

In my experience of riding trains, few passengers spend much time watching the scenery roll past let along contemplate how the world looks from the window of a train.

Instead, their focus is on their smart phones, laptops, tablets or traditional print media such as books. I remember once being in the sightseer lounge aboard the Empire Builder “listening” to a young woman talking on her phone. She might have been looking out at the North Dakota countryside west of Minot, but I doubt that she was seeing any of it.

The view from the train is not all that much different than that seen from a bus or automobile. In both instance you are in a moving object and have to look quickly lest you miss something.

In describing Evans’ program, the Center said it would show “her unique perspective not accessible by foot, plane, or car.” That suggests that seeing from a train is somehow different from any other way of travel.

Perhaps to appreciate that perspective it helps if you have a passion for trains, something many Amtrak passengers do not necessarily have. For them Amtrak is a means of getting from Point A to Point B that just happened to fit their schedule, budget and availability.

Both images shown above were made from the rear door of a Superliner coach on the westbound Capitol Limited as it traveled between Edgerton, Ohio, and Butler, Indiana, on May 22, 2014. The sun began rising as we neared Edgerton, the last town on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern, so I moved to the back of the car to capture it.

Perhaps these photographs reflect what the Center for Railroad Photograph and Art meant in saying that there are views from a train that are different from any other form of travel. In their own way, these are glimpses of the nature of rail travel.

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.