Posts Tagged ‘Riverside Illinois’

The Chief’s Way

May 16, 2018

Back in the early 2000s it was a common site to see a string of head-end cars on the rear of Amtrak trains.

They carried perishable produce, mail and any other time-sensitive cargo from shippers willing to pay Amtrak a premium rate.

Amtrak’s host railroads didn’t like it and said so. They saw Amtrak as trying to cut into their own freight business.

The Amtrak CEO at the time, George Warrington, said this revenue would be used to make Amtrak self-sufficient.

Shown is the eastbound Southwest Chief cruising through Riverside, Illinois, on May 20, 2004. No. 4 is 13 miles away from Chicago Union Station.

On the rear is a cut of refrigerator cars that were a mainstay on Nos. 3 and 4.

But not for long. Within a year Amtrak would have a new CEO, David Gunn, and he would discontinue the mail and express gambit.

The only head-end car the Chief carries today is a baggage car.

Just 11 Miles Away from Journey’s End

January 9, 2017


Passengers aboard the inbound California Zephyr are just 11 miles away from the end of their journey to Chicago Union Station as train No. 6 rushes through Riverside, Illinois, on the BNSF Raceway.

Those who know the route might already be gathering their belongings and thinking ahead to what they are going to be doing once they disembark at CUS.

Others, though, might be watching a suburban landscape that must must appear to be one Metra station after another.

Whatever the passengers are doing, the end of their trip aboard this train will arrive soon.

Double Shot of Amtrak P32-8 Locomotives

December 30, 2016


I’ve only seen a pair of Amtrak P32-8 locomotives paired together on the point of a train one time. Maybe it used to be a common occurrence, but not that I saw.

Usually, one P32-8 was paired with a P40DC or P42DC. I even once saw a consist of a P40, a P32-8 and an F40PH.

I had my camera with me when I saw these two P32s, each wearing their original livery, wheeling the Chicago to Los Angeles Desert Wind through Riverside, Illinois.

It is April 8, 1996, and during the height of the era when some Amtrak long-distance trains did not operate daily.

One of those was the California Zephyr, which had long forwarded the Desert Wind through cars out of Chicago.

But on this day the Desert Wind is operating solo. The Zephyr will be back tomorrow, but probably not a pair of P32 units working in tandem.

Express Cars Remind Me of George Warrington

October 29, 2016


Whenever I see a photo of an express car attached to an Amtrak train I think of George Warrington.

I will always remember the former Amtrak president for saying that Amtrak was on a glide path to profitability. Mail and express revenue was the centerpiece of the “flight plan.”

On paper the idea that Amtrak could use head-end revenue to wipe out its operating deficits might have made sense.

For many years the private railroads did well with head-end business. Then the post office yanked most of the railway post office cars and head-end business was diverted to freight trains.

Of course the railroads had more of an infrastructure to handle head-end business back then. They also had dedicated mail and express trains and/or carried most of their head-end business on slow locals.

So Amtrak was trying to gin up business that it had never seriously sought before. Amtrak over the years has carried some mail, but it never sought to emulate the late Railway Express Agency until the early 2000s.

Warrington was probably telling Congress what some of its members wanted to hear. They didn’t want to fund Amtrak in the first place and there was political advantage to be gained by sniping about its financial losses.

Shown is an express car on the rear in the Southwest Chief, which is passing through Riverside, Illinois, on the BNSF raceway.

If you rode Amtrak back in the early 2000s, you probably remember your train pulling out of Chicago Union Station and stopping to add head-end cars.

The crew assured you the time needed to do that was built into the schedule.

Warrington’s sucessor, David Gunn, gave up on head-end business although it took awhile for it to cease altogether.

Some of those express cars that Amtrak leased or acquired are still in service and can be spotted on manifest freights from time to time. Some of them are still wearing their Amtrak silver.

Somethin’ Different on the California Zephyr

September 3, 2016

Amtrak WB California Zephyr 2013 04-x

The knock on Amtrak trains is that they all look alike. The California Zephyr looks the same as the Southwest Chief which looks the same as the Empire Builder.

It’s all Superliner equipment pulled by a pair of P42DC locomotives painted in blue and silver. It’s been that way for years and promises to be that way for the future.

Aside from an occasional heritage P42, another thing that can add some interest to a passing Amtrak train is private cars.

Shown on May 23, 2013, on the rear of the westbound California Zephyr is open platform car Suitsme, which is owned by Zephyr Rail Services.

The car was built in 1928 as Pullman Palace Car No. 100 for the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad and named Itsuitsme.

The name is reportedly taken from the comment made by B&A President Percy Todd when asked what he thought of the new car.

Todd is said to have replied, “it suits me.” The next day that name was painted on the side of the car in gold lettering. The car is shown in Riverside, Illinois, on the BNSF raceway.