Posts Tagged ‘railroads and winter’

Meeting in a Swirl of Snow

January 16, 2021

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited meets a westbound CSX manifest freight in Perry, Ohio, during a heavy lake effect snowstorm. The trains are running on the CSX Erie West Subdivision. The freight was stopped due to traffic ahead. Amtrak No. 48 was running a few hours late.

Cold Day in Geneva

September 24, 2018

Outside the temperature is in the single digits, but inside Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited the passengers are nice and warm as their train heads for points in New York and Massachusetts.

The train is shown passing through Geneva, Ohio, with the next scheduled stop being Erie, Pennsylvania.

Running in a Winter Wonderland

January 22, 2018

When the weather in the upper Midwest turns wintry, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited often runs late.

Earlier this month Nos. 48 and 49 were running as much as six hours or more behind schedule due to the effects of winter conditions. Delays in turning the equipment in Chicago were given some of the blame, but winter operating conditions can also lead to frozen switches, broken rails and freight train emergencies that are not Amtrak’s fault.

If No. 48 leaves Chicago late, it likely will be even later as it rolls eastward toward New York and Boston.

On a sunny but frigid day last week when the early morning temperatures were in the low teens and the wind chill was sub zero, I braved the elements to photograph No. 48 at Geneva, Ohio, which was more than two hours off its schedule.

It was running a few minutes behind an eastbound CSX stack train. I can only speculate that the dispatcher put the intermodal train out ahead of Amtrak because it would not be stopping in Erie, Pennsylvania, but Amtrak would be.

Swinging Around the Curve

December 28, 2017

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited was late. OK, I hear some of you saying “so what’s new?” They don’t call it the Late Shore Limited for nothing.

But on this day 2007, No. 48 was several hours late when it came through Berea, Ohio, in a snowstorm.

But this snow didn’t fall in December or January or February. It fell on April 7. Snow in April in Northeast Ohio isn’t rare, even if it tends not to last long.

I’m not sure why No. 48 was so late on this day. By the time it reached Cleveland it was late morning. Maybe the weather had something to do with it.

Kicking Up a Little Snow

February 27, 2017


Contrary to appearances, this image of Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited was made in April.

No. 48 is running several hours late as it kicks up the snow in Berea, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Snow in Northeast Ohio, even heavy snow, during April is not unusual.

I didn’t know that No. 48 was running late. I might have learned about it from a radio transmission or simply seeing an Amtrak train come around the bend.

We don’t always get this much snow in April, but it happens. The photo was made on April 7, 2007, and was scanned from a slide.

Amtrak Ran Mostly OT Despite Winter Storm

February 3, 2015

With some exceptions, Amtrak performed well during the severe winter conditions that struck the Midwest last weekend.

That was in contrast to a day last month when many trains left Chicago Union Station hour late if they left at all.

This past Monday, eight of Amtrak’s 28 trains out of Chicago left more than 10 minutes late.

One notable exception was a Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service train that broke down. As a result the Hiawathas suffered a cascading series of delays.

The problems began when southbound No. 338 became disabled south of Sturtevant, Wis., Monday afternoon and arrived in Chicago at 10:17 p.m. nearly 6 hours late. Reportedly, the train did not lose heat or lighting.

Train No. 340, the next Milwaukee departure, coupled on to the disabled consist, but the delay caused that train to arrive three hours late. Amtrak created a makeshift consist to pull the 5:08 p.m. Chicago departure of No. 339 for Milwaukee. This train, which does a heavy commuter business, left Chicago at 7 p.m.

That equipment consist arrived back in Chicago after 10:30 p.m. on Monday.

Modification of Amtrak’s P42 locomotive traction motors, winterizing of freeze-prone Horizon fleet cars and a revised inspection building procedures for train servicing in Chicago helped Amtrak to maintain reliability.

Superliner coaches that were removed from long-distance trains last month during the low travel season have been placed on Wolverine Service Nos. 350 and 355, Chicago-Quincy, Ill., Nos. 380 and 381, and Chicago-Carbondale, Ill., Nos. 390 and 393.

When corridor train consists are turned at their endpoints, Amtrak has been running locomotives at the front of each train to minimize traction motor snow ingestion.

BNSF closed its Mendota Subdivision on Monday between Aurora and Galesburg, Ill., forcing Amtrak to cancel the morning Chicago-Quincy services in each direction.

The line reopened that afternoon. The inbound and outbound California Zephyr and Southwest Chief operated close to on time.

BNSF feared a repeat of a January 2014 incident in which three Amtrak trains became stranded in snow drifts near Princeton, Ill.

The weekend storm dumped 19 inches of snow at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Amtrak Efforts to Avoid Winter Mechanical Issues May Not be Working as Quite as Well as Intended

January 11, 2015

Although it received the most attention, the Lake Shore Limited that departed Chicago more than 13 hours late last week was not the only train that day that left behind schedule.

Only eight of Amtrak’s 29 scheduled daily trains departed that day on time.

The problems with winter-induced mechanical problems also occurred despite Amtrak taking several measure before winter began to avoid a repeat of the problems that has hindered operation of its trains in the past.

Trains magazine reported that Amtrak has refused multiple requests to explain the nature of the locomotive problems that caused No. 48 to depart Thursday at 11:08 a.m. That train, which arrived in Cleveland after 8 p.m., did not reach New York Penn Station until 9:20 a.m. on Friday. That was nearly 15 hours late.

Last Wednesday, 14 of Amtrak’s Amtrak Chicago departures left the terminal more than a hour late.

Aside from the Lake Shore Limited, the Empire Builder left for Seattle and Portland at 8:08 p.m., nearly 6 hours late. The Los Angeles-bound Southwest Chief got out of town after a delay of 5 hours and 23 minutes, getting the highball at 8:23 p.m. The problems with the Lake Shore Limited began with its inbound counterpart was more than 4 hours late arriving.

No. 48 left once, but was turned back by Norfolk Southern because the Amtrak operating crew was on short time.

Amtrak was deadheading a new crew from Toledo for No. 48 aboard the westbound Capitol Limited and wanted to put that crew aboard when the trains met. But NS nixed that idea so No. 48 backed up into the station and didn’t leave for another three hours.

Trains reported that as part of Amtrak’s preparation for the winter of 2014-2015 Amtrak replaced the traction motors in its General Electric P42DC locomotives with newer models that were supposed to fend off short-circuiting ground faults caused by the ingestion of fine snow. The magazine said that anecdotal evidence suggests that that fix hasn’t worked and as occurred last winter Amtrak lacks enough engines ready in Chicago to stand in for those that are disabled. Trains reported that P42 locomotives can’t be freely substitute for each other because they are captive to routes that have signaling systems unique to the train’s route.

For example, the motive power on the Southwest Chief must have ex-Santa Fe Automatic Train Stop pickup shoes attached to its trucks

Trains operating between Chicago and St. Louis, and on the Chicago-Michigan routes must be equipped with different forms of Incremental Train Control cab signaling for 110 mph operation. The Empire Builder has performed remarkably well despite having to run through double-digit below zero temperatures and snowy conditions in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana.

Through late last week, No. 8 had arrived early into Chicago five times and was less than about an hour late on the other three occasions.

It remains to be seen if the train can sustain that performance once about 3 hours of eastbound recovery time is removed from the schedule that was added last April. Elsewhere,  winter conditions plagued various rail operations. On New Jersey Transit, trains were affected when the cold caused mechanical issues with the overhead wires that power the trains.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s trains were affected by concerns over cracked rails and air brake systems leading to slower operating speeds.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority—which serves the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia—saw five of its six metro rail lines suffer significant delays. Virginia Railway Express, which also serves Virginia and the District of Columbia, experienced problems as well.