Posts Tagged ‘Santa Fe Railway’

Branson Scenic Buys 3 Amtrak Cars

August 2, 2019

A Missouri tourist railroad has acquired three retired Amtrak cars.

The Branson Scenic Railway purchased Amtrak baggage cars 1204 and 1245, and dining car 8521.

All three cars are expected to be moved later this month from Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis.

Both baggage cars are of Santa Fe heritage and were built by Budd in 1953. The dining car was built by Budd in 1949 and used by the Southern Railway on is Crescent between Washington and New Orleans.

The diner was also assigned by the Southern to the Royal Palm, Southerner, and Tennessean,

Amtrak acquired it in 1979 when the Southern ceased operating its last passenger train, the Southern Crescent.

The diner was rebuilt by Amtrak to HEP capability in 1984 when it received its current roster number. It was overhauled in 2012 and retired from Amtrak revenue service in 2015.

Branson Scenic plans to rename the diner Silver Belle and used it as a backup diner for Branson’s dinner train and as a premium car for its Polar Express excursions.

The baggage will be used for parts and storage but one may become a power car.

The Branson Scenic uses tracks owned by Genesee & Wyoming’s Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad through the Ozark Mountains.

Trains operate on 40-mile round trips north or south of Branson.

Michigan Group Buys Pacific Parlor Cars

March 22, 2019

A Michigan museum and excursion operator has acquired two passenger cars once used as first-class lounges on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.

Trains magazine reported this week that the Steam Railroading Institute of Owosso, Michigan, bought the former Pacific Parlour Cars, which had been built by Budd in 1956 for the Santa Fe as Hi-Level lounges.

SRI plans to use the car on excursion trains, including its annual North Pole Express holiday trips pulled by 2-8-4 No. 1225, a former Pere Marquette Berkshire-type locomotive.

The cars were reported to be located at Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis, but are expected to be ferried to Michigan soon.

Trains said that SRI officials would not discuss how much the cars cost other than to say the price tag was fairly high.

SRI officials expect to recoup its investment through ticket sales of Christmas season trips.

The cars are also expected to be assigned to fall foliage specials operating on State of Michigan-own track between Mount Pleasant and Cadillac in early October.

Few changes to the interiors of the cars are expected to be made for now, but officials said the lower-level theater seating might be replaced by washrooms, wheelchair accommodations, coach seating or other uses.

The upper lounge and dining seating upstairs will be used to offer catered meal service.

Proposals Sought for OK Passenger Service

June 23, 2018

Watco Companies has issued a request for proposals to provide intercity rail passenger service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The request came from Watco subsidiary Stillwater Central Railroad and proposals are due by July 27.

The request for proposals seeks comprehensive proposals from providers of passenger rail services to operate passenger rail service to be known as the Eastern Flyer between Sapulpa and Del City on the Sooner Subdivision.

Oklahoma City currently is served by Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer while Tulsa has never had Amtrak service.

The last passenger trains to Tulsa were provided by the Santa Fe and discontinued with the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Fort Madison Reaches Pacts for New Boarding Platform

November 8, 2017

Officials in Fort Madison, Iowa, have approved three agreements that will make possible moving the Amtrak station to the former Santa Fe depot.

City Manager David Varley said the agreements will provide for construction of a new platform that Amtrak will use once it is completed. The passenger carrier has agreed to pay $150,000 toward the construction costs.

Amtrak also has agreed to pay $400 month in rent to use the recently restored station for 20 years. Amtrak will use 813 square feet of the depot while the city will be responsible for maintenance and repairs.

Varley said the agreements involving the $1.2 million project took a long time to reach because of the multiple parties involved.

“So BNSF will own the platform because it is on their property,” he said. “And then BNSF will lease it to Amtrak. And since we own and operate the depot, and the platform will be attached to the depot, they lease it from Amtrak back to the city. It sounds kind of crazy but it’s because of the ownership of the property.”

Varley said the depot project is a good candidate for funding from hotel-motel tax funds, and recommended a 60/40 percent split of operation costs between the hotel-motel tax and the general fund, respectively.

He estimated that first year operation costs for running the station will be about $50,000, but after some one-time costs, the annual number will drop to about $35,000.

Going with the lower number would mean an annual cost of $21,000 from the hotel-motel tax and $14,000 from the city’s general fund.

Fort Madison is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief and handles about 6,600 passengers annually.

San Diego Amtrak Station Sold

October 14, 2017

The Amtrak station in San Diego has been sold to an unidentified investor who is considering developing it. Amtrak operations at the 102-year-old former Santa Fe depot are not expected to change.

Located at Broadway and Kettner Boulevard, no immediate changes are expected, but a San Diego architecture firm has been hired to complete an assessment report and recommend needed maintenance and restoration steps.

Officials said Amtrak will continue to lease space in the station and any changes likely are years away.

The buyer was identified as Santa Fe Depot LLC. The seller was Prologis Inc. The sale price was not disclosed.

“The sale is significant to the San Diego community and represents the seller’s deep commitment to preserving the landmark asset,” said real estate broker Kipp Gstettenbauer of Voit Real Estate Services, which represented the seller.

The San Diego station is located amid new development near the waterfront. The depot has 10,000 square feet of space and is zoned for retail use.

“By working closely with the buyer and Heritage Architecture, we will be able to restore parts of the building that have gone unused for more than 50 years, while providing additional services in the station, expanding ridership for Amtrak and increasing the building’s historic value,” Gstettenbauer said.

Santa Fe built the station, which features California mission and Spanish colonial style design, to serve the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park.

The railroad considered razing the station in the 1970s and building two-high rise office towers on the site.

But that plan was fought by the Save Our Heritage Organization as well as then-Mayor Pete Wilson. The depot was subsequently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego later acquired the former baggage building and a master plan was written to oversee redevelopment of the land around the depot.

Bosa Development has built several condominium towers adjacent to the station.

City Manager Says New Amtrak Station Platform in Fort Madison May be Completed This Year

January 18, 2017

Amtrak is waiting on Federal Railroad Administration approval of a new platform reconstruction project in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Amtrak 4City officials said that although the project was projected to go out for bids in April, that is now more likely to occur in May or June. Construction is expected to take six to eight months.

The project will move the Amtrak stop for the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief to the former Santa Fe passenger station, which has recently been rehabilitated.

Fort Madison City manager David Varley said once the FRA signs off on the project the platform plans will be reviewed by BNSF, which owns the station site.

“The final construction plans have been submitted,” Varley said.

Once BNSF reviews the platform plans, they will be passed on to the Iowa Department of Transportation for its review. “IDOT will be the group that will be bidding out the project,” Varley said.

Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must issue a 404 permit because the Amtrak platform will be located in a flood plain.

“We are working on getting that permit, which is required,” Varley said. “We are trying to tie up some of the final paperwork and review of the final plans approved, and once that all gets together, we will get a definitive date as to when it will go on a schedule as to when it will go to be bid out.”

And then the Fort Madison City Council will need to approve the plans.

“We need to clarify what the duties and responsibilities of both parties are,” Varley said. “These have to be approved by both parties before the project goes out to bid and before construction starts.”

Despite having a lot of hoops to jump through, Varley does not expect any problems to crop up that will keep the platform from being built.

Tulsa Still Hoping for Rail Passenger Service

January 12, 2014

A demonstration service set to begin in February between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla., may be a blueprint for extending the Heartland Flyer to Tulsa or it may be a short-lived experiment that will become yet another footnote in Amtrak’s history of service expansions that never came to be.

Iowa Pacific Holdings, will sponsor three round-trips between Tulsa and Oklahoma City that have been dubbed the Eastern Flyer. The Tulsa World described the excursions as a test to determine if there is even enough interest to launch regular scheduled service.

“We really want to see what the demand is for regular passenger rail,” said Tracie VanBecelaere, a spokeswoman for Watco Cos., a small railroad operator based in of Pittsburg, Kan., and a partner on the Eastern Flyer excursions. “The main reason to run this is to get a feel for what passenger service could be like.”

Iowa Pacific and Watco will bring retro passenger cars to Oklahoma on three weekends, making round trips from Sapulpa starting in the morning with a return trip at night. Tickets start at $70 with additional charges for sitting in luxury cars and food service.

The Heartland Flyer between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, has carried more than a million passengers since it started nearly 15 years ago and reportedly the route was eventually be expanded to Tulsa.

No one involved with the Eastern Flyer has described it as the type of passenger rail service that some in the region have sought for decades. Ticket costs are too high to justify commuter passenger service and the trip is too slow.

But it has been 42 years since Tulsa had rail passenger service of any kind and 46 years since Oklahoma’s two largest cities were linked by train. Tulsa’s last passenger trains were the Santa Fe’s Tulsan, which made their last trips between Kansas City and Tulsa on April 30, 1971.

The Eastern Flyer has given some hope that a route to Oklahoma City might be within reach. It’s been 46 years since the state’s two largest cities have been linked by train.

More than 700 tickets have been sold for the Eastern Flyer, Iowa Pacific officials said.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has received thousands of comments supporting a rail plan, saying it would connect Oklahoma City to Tulsa and reduce the need to drive.

One obstacle to starting a Tulsa-to-Oklahoma City route is a 97.5-mile stretch of state-owned rail line known as the Sooner Sub.

The class II railroad route between Sapulpa and Oklahoma City is a windy stretch of rail that the state bought in 1998 to keep it from being abandoned.

Stillwater Central Railroad, a part of Watco Cos., leases that rail line for about $500,000 a year.

The remaining stretch that connects Sapulpa to Tulsa is owned by BNSF Railway.

After 15 years of ownership, ODOT says interest has grown in the Sooner Sub line and the state has put the stretch of rail up for sale.

“The intention since the line was purchased was always to sell it at a later date,” said Tim Gatz, ODOT’s deputy director.

However, Gatz said that there are provisions in state law to ensure the Sooner Sub line is available for passenger rail in the event of a sale.

Passenger rail advocates fear that the sale of the Sooner Sub line could kill the chances of service between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Watco Cos. is interested in developing passenger rail on the line and will likely make a bid on the railline, VanBecelaere said.

But the rail line is in need of an estimated $200 million in repair and upgrades to bring it up to passenger train standards. Passing sidings would need to be added.

The top speed on the line is 30 miles per hour, said Craig Moody, rail programs division manager at ODOT.

At that rate, a trip from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City would take more than three hours, nearly double the travel time of a car on the nearby Turner Turnpike.

ODOT plans to take bids on the Sooner Sub line through Jan. 30, and the department will pass a recommendation on to a board of the governor’s cabinet later in 2014.

Oklahoma City had a 20-year absence of rail passenger service until the Heartland Flyer began in 1999.

But even with higher-than-expected patronage rates, the service was nearly discontinued when a federal grant ended in 2005. But a rally to restore the service resulted in the Oklahoma Legislature giving $2 million a year to fund the service.

Extending the route to Tulsa would seems like an obvious addition that could eventually be further extended to Kansas City, Mo.

“Oklahoma City to Tulsa is the missing link in this part of the country,” said Evan Stair with Passenger Rail Oklahoma, a private advocacy group. “The demand is there. They could do four to six trips a day.”

The Federal Railroad Administration in 2009 identified Tulsa to Oklahoma City as one of 11 potential rail projects targeted for possible federal funding.

ODOT made a proposal for federal transportation dollars in 2009 for a high-speed rail project that would accommodate a train running 110 miles per hour, but the $2 billion proposal was rejected.

Local and state politicians have tackled the concept of an Oklahoma City-to-Tulsa rail line several times over the past two decades, but those efforts have fizzled as high costs for the project were replaced by other funding priorities.

Tulsa Transit studied a link to connect Broken Arrow to downtown Tulsa, but the proposed $43 million project lost momentum because of costs and a lack of popular support.

Another proposal being studied by lawmakers and transportation officials in Kansas calls for extending the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kan., just north of Wichita, to connect with the Chicago-Los Angles Southwest Chief. That route would bypass Tulsa.

“It’s really the best way to connect Oklahoma City to the rest of the country,” said Gary Lanman, vice president of the Northern Flyer Alliance. “If you want Amtrak service, this is the way to go.”

The Tulsa City Council formed a committee in 2012 to advocate for a passenger rail line to Oklahoma City and get it established as quickly as possible. A report from the task force said that cities along the Fort Worth-to-Oklahoma City route have seen increases in local sales because of passenger rail traffic.

In early 2013, the Oklahoma Legislature commissioned a study on the Oklahoma City-to-Tulsa passenger rail corridor, calling for an environmental study and developing proposals for what passenger rail might look like.

The intent of the study, Gatz said, is to have a “shovel ready” rail project in the event that a federal transportation grant develops to cover costs on repairs, upgrades and equipment purchases.

It’s too early, said Gatz, to see if ODOT may endorse a plan to bring a national carrier such as Amtrak to extend service to Tulsa or to contract with a local operator such as Watco Cos.

The state intends to finish gathering data sometime in 2014, develop a handful of proposals and then hold a second round of public meetings sometime next year. The entire study should be finished by summer 2015.