Posts Tagged ‘Seattle-Portland Corridor’

Adverse Weather Prompts Service Cancellations

January 8, 2022

Adverse weather conditions have led to a spate of Amtrak train cancellations.

Heavy snowfall in West Virginia was cited by Amtrak for multiple cancellations of the Chicago-New York Cardinal this week.

Trains magazine reported on its website that on Tuesday night Train 50 was terminated after reaching Rennselaer, Indiana, with passengers returned to Chicago by bus.

The westbound Cardinal was cancelled on Wednesday and Friday. The eastbound Cardinal was canceled on Thursday.

On Saturday morning the Amtrak website was showing Train 50 as still set to depart later that evening for New York.

Amtrak could have operated the Cardinal Thursday night to Indianapolis and then had that equipment turn Saturday morning to return to Chicago. But it elected not to pursue that option.

The Trains report said about 8 inches of snow fell in the region around Charleston, West Virginia, on Thursday and four more inches was expected in Northern Virginia on Friday morning.

Heavy snow that downed tree limbs across tracks led to operational issues that led to passengers being marooned for hours aboard trains in Virginia earlier this week.

Elsewhere, Amtrak cancelled the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder trains that were to have departed Thursday from Portland and Seattle.

Stalled BNSF freight trains were blocking the route and also prevented the westbound Empire Builder on that day from getting through.

Saturday morning Amtrak posted on Twitter that today’s westbound Empire Builder from Chicago has been canceled due to severe weather.

The Empire Builder that was to have originated in Seattle on Friday instead originated in Spokane, Washington.

Mudslides near Kelso, Washington, prompted Amtrak to cancel all service between Seattle and Portland on Thursday through Saturday. The cancellations did not affect trains operating between Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

In the east, Northeast Regional 171 to Roanoke, Virginia; No. 93 to Norfolk, Virginia; and train 85 to Richmond, Virginia; were canceled on Friday along with their counterparts from the same destinations, trains 176, 84, and 86.

The Silver Meteor from Miami to New York was canceled on Friday along with the southbound Meteor that was to have departed New York on Friday.

Eight additional Northeast Regional trains were cancelled Friday. Trains that did operate were subject to hours-long delays between Washington and Richmond.

Cascades Service to Increase May 24

April 28, 2021

Additional Cascades Service roundtrips are set to begin service May 24.

Amtrak will restore three of four Seattle-Portland roundtrips and both Portland-Eugene roundtrips.

For more than a year the corridor has been limited to a single daily Seattle-Eugene roundtrip.

The trains will use a combination of Talgo Series 8 transets owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Amtrak owned Horizon equipment.

An additional full-corridor departure will leave Seattle at 7:25 a.m. and return from Eugene at 4:40 p.m., arriving at 11 p.m.

The new schedule has Train 507 departing Seattle at 6:10 p.m. and its equipment leaving Portland the next day at at noon.

The current schedule has a Talgo departing Seattle (No. 505) at 2:20 p.m. and leaving Eugene the next morning (No. 500) at 5:30 a.m. and arriving in Seattle at 11:50 a.m.

State transportation officials had wanted to shift the departure of No. 500 from Eugene to 8 a.m. but host railroads Union Pacific and BNSF would not allow it, Washington Department of Transportation Communications Manager Janet Matkin told Trains magazine.

Because the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel, Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver remains suspended.

At present, Amtrak operates a Thruway bus to Bellingham, Washington.

Washington state transportation officials said one Seattle-Vancouver roundtrip could be restored in July.

An official said Amtrak crews are qualified on the route and if the border opens sooner rail service could resume before July.

No date has yet been given as to when Amtrak will resume using the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma.

Officials are eying late summer or early fall but said it is up to host railroad Sound Transit.

The public transit agency conducted testing on the route earlier this year and has been working through a crew qualification process.

Matkin said the Cascades will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity in compliance with Washington and Oregon’s ‘Ride Safe’ Initiatives.

Limited food and beverage service may begin at the same time or soon after the May 24 schedule expansion.

Cruising in Back in Time in Washington State

February 23, 2021

The Amtrak wayback machine has landed us in Steilacoom, Washington, on Aug. 12, 1974. We’re just in time to see E8A No. 346 leading a corridor train between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The photographer didn’t say which train it was but it appears to be either the Mount Rainier or the Puget Sound. Both of those trains in 1974 operated with dome coaches and offered snack and beverage service.

No. 346 was built for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy in September 1950. Amtrak would retire the unit a year later.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Study Backs High-speed Rail in Cascadia Corridor

July 18, 2019

High-speed rail service between British Columbia and Oregon could cover its operating costs as soon as 2040 a recently released study concluded.

The study, released by the Washington State Department of Transportation, said that a route between Vancouver and Portland via Seattle would deliver economic and social benefits but before it can be implemented decisions must be made as to what equipment would be used and where it would operate.

Among the options are conventional rail, maglev or hyperloop. Other unresolved issues include funding and the cost of construction.

The benefits of the rail system would include a faster travel time, reducing current traffic congestions, cutting greenhouse emissions and creating jobs.

The travel time between Seattle and Portland could be as little as an hour.

Ridership was projected at more than 3 million trips annually with farebox revenues of $156 million to $250 million a year by 2040.

The recent study is an extension of one conducted earlier. Funding for the study was provided by Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and software maker Micosoft.

“The need for continued additional transportation infrastructure investment in the Cascadia megaregion is clear — crowded roads, congested airports, and limited intercity rail service constrain the mobility of residents, businesses, and tourists,” the report said. “Vancouver; Seattle; and Portland have the fourth, sixth, and tenth-most congested roads in North America, respectively. Airport delays are making air travel increasingly unreliable, and the travel time and frequency of intercity rail service are not competitive for most trips.”
The study focused on what it termed ultra-high-speed ground transportation, which would travel as fast as 250 miles per hour.

No construction timeline was provided other than it could being in six to eight years with costs ranging from $24 billion to $42 billion. Who would pay those costs is not directly address by the study.

“It’s really like building another I-5, only one that is faster, more reliable, safer and more environmentally friendly,” said Janet Matkin, a spokesperson for WSDOT.

Trains would operate on a dedicated right of way and service frequency would be 21 to 30 roundtrips a day.

The $42 billion cost of the system caught the eye of a state legislator who said he doesn’t see the state taking on the project on its own and doesn’t see construction starting in eight years as outlined in the study.

“I don’t see that happening,” state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said of the ambitious schedule.

Saying the cost can’t be covered by the state, Hobbs said it needs to be in partnership with the private sector.

“There needs to be more analysis, especially on the financial part,” he said.

Cascades Service Modified Due to Weather

February 9, 2019

Amtrak has canceled some Cascades Service between Portland and Seattle due to weather related concerns.

The changes took effect today (Feb. 9) and are expected to continue through Sunday until conditions improve.

Canceled were trains train 506, 507 and 517. In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers with reservations on those trains will be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or another day. Reservation books fees will be waived.

These changes are in additional to other service modifications Amtrak had previously announced for Cascades Service due to Union Pacific track work in Oregon.

Those service changes are in effect between Feb. 9 and 13 and affect Amtrak Cascades Trains 505, 506, 508, 511 and 513 on the following dates

On Feb. 9 and 10 Train 506, which normally operates between Eugene and Seattle, will originate in Portland.

Bus 3506 will operate from Eugene to Portland, departing Eugene, Albany, Oregon City and Salem one hour earlier to connect with Train 506.

Train 513, which normally operates between Portland and Eugene is cancelled and alternate transportation will be provided via Bus 3513, to missed station stops at Eugene, Albany, Salem and Oregon City. There is no connecting train at Portland.

On Feb. 11, 12 and 13, Train 508, which normally operates between Eugene and Seattle, will originate in Portland.

Bus 3508 will operate from Eugene to Portland, departing Eugene, Albany, Oregon City and Salem one hour earlier to connect with Train 508.

Train 511, which normally operates between Portland and Eugene will be cancelled and alternate transportation, via Bus 4511, will be provided to missed stops at Eugene, Albany, Salem and Oregon City. There is no connecting train at Portland.

Cascades Engineer Missed Speed Warning Sign

January 27, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board said this week that the engineer of the Amtrak Cascades train that derailed in Washington State last month, killing three passengers, told investigators that he missed seeing a speed-limit sign along the track shortly before the train derailed.

The 55-year-old engineer remembered that the Portland-bound train was traveling 70 mph as it passed milepost 15.5. He said he was aware of an upcoming curve with a 30 mph speed restriction was at milepost 19.8 and planned to apply the brakes about a mile in advance.

However, the engineer said he did not see mileposts 16, 17 or 18 or a sign warning of the 30 mph zone, which is posted two miles before the curve.

In his interview, the engineer said he saw a block signal at milepost 19.8 — at the accident curve — but thought it a signal that is located north of the curve.

Upon seeing the 30 mph sign at the beginning of the curve, the engineer said he applied the brakes. Seconds later the train left the tracks on the curve.

Other points made by the engineer was that he didn’t feel that having a qualifying conductor in the locomotive with him was a distraction, that he had no reservations about his readiness to operate the train and that he felt rested when the trip began.

The train had locomotives on each end, 10 passenger cars and a baggage car. Investigators have said the train was doing 78 mph when it derailed on a bridge over Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington.

Two passengers cars landed on the interstate highway during the crash. There were 83 people on board the train with 62 of them suffering injuries. Eight people in vehicles on the highway were injured.

The conductor was in the lead locomotive to learn the route, which was being operated by Amtrak in revenue service for the first time on the day of the derailment.

He told investigators the engineer appeared alert during a job briefing and while operating the train. The NTSB investigation is expected to last 12 to 24 months.

Amtrak Wants Cascade Route PTC Turned On ASAP

January 15, 2018

Amtrak has told the departments of transportation in Oregon and Washington that that it wants positive train control tested and implemented on the Seattle-Portland route “as soon as possible.”

During a legislative hearing in Washington state last week, Amtrak Senior Government Affairs Manager Rob Eaton said sensors and radio links trackside, on locomotives and on a central server still need to be integrated.

“The testing and interaction of all three of these elements will take place during the second and third quarters of the year, after which PTC will be placed into operation,” he said.

Many believe that had PTC been in operation that derailment of a southbound Cascades Service train could have been avoided.

Three passengers died in the wreck, which authority had linked to the train going 78 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone near Olympia, Washington.

The train was traveling on the first day of revenue service on the Point Defiance bypass route.

Eaton said implementing PTC is complicated by the fact that three different railroads own sections of the route, including BNSF, Union Pacific and Sound Transit.

During the hearing Amtrak officials said PTC is not in operation on any Amtrak route west of the Mississippi River.

Washington state Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar testified that there was not undue pressure to launch high speed rail service before Amtrak locomotive engineers and crews had become qualified on the Point Defiance Bypass route.

“There was no deadline for initiating service,” Millar said, but did say there had been deadlines for completing construction on track and signal upgrades

Millar said those were not a factor in the December derailment.

Pacific Northwest Schedules Modified

January 2, 2018

Amtrak has modified schedules in the Pacific Northwest until further notice.

In service advisory Amtrak said that daily Cascades round-trips are being provided between Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Two additional roundtrips that had been scheduled to go into service on Dec. 18, 2017, have been canceled indefinitely due to lack of equipment.

One Talgo trainset was sidelined after a Dec. 18 derailment while another set has been out of service since a derailment last July.

Cascades service between Portland and Eugene and Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia are unchanged from the schedule that went into effect on Dec. 18, 2017. In addition to these schedules, the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Startlight will continue to operate to all scheduled stations.

Amtrak continues to use its station at 1001 Puyallup Avenue for all trains.

Investigators Eye Whether Cascades Engineer Was Distracted Just Before Derailment that Killed 3

December 20, 2017

The engineer of an Amtrak Cascades Service train that derailed on Monday near Olympia, Washington, may have been distracted shortly before that accident that left three passengers dead.

Federal investigators have said the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone and left the tracks where the route curves to cross Interstate 5.

The distraction may have been caused by the presence of an employee in the lead locomotive who was being trained.

Investigators are focusing on why the engineer lost situational awareness.

National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said that the train’s emergency brakes were activated automatically and not manually set off by the engineer

Dihn-Zarr said that skid marks from the train’s wheels show where it left the tracks.

However, Dinh-Zarr said investigators still have not concluded why the train derailed or why it was going too fast.

Investigators plan to interview the engineer and other crew members as well as review the event data record from the lead locomotive and an engine on the rear of the train. They also will seek to get images from two on-board cameras that were damaged in the crash.

The second person in the cab of the Charger locomotive was described as a conductor trainee making a trip to become familiar with the route.

Cascades Service No. 501 was making Amtrak’s first revenue service trip over the Point Defiance Bypass.

Officials have not identified the engineer, but he was bleeding from the head after the crash and his eyes were swollen shut.

No. 501, which was traveling from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, had 85 passengers and crew members aboard at the time of the crash. More than 70 people were injured in the derailment of which 35 were hospitalized, 21 of them in critical or serious condition.

Dinh-Zarr said Amtrak crew members had been making test runs over the route for two weeks before scheduled service on it began. The route is owned by Sound Transit and had recently been rebuilt.

Two of the victims were identified as passenger rail advocates Jim Hamre, a retired civil engineer with the Washington State Transportation Department; and Zack Willhoite, a transit agency customer service employee. Both were members of All Aboard Washington.

In the meantime, Amtrak has resumed operating between Seattle and Portland over its previous route.

Cascades No. 502, the morning run from Portland to Seattle, was canceled but trains were to run as scheduled.

It is now known how long it will be before Amtrak can resume using the Port Definance Bypass. In the interim, Amtrak will also use is former station in Tacoma at 1001 Puyallup Ave.

Cascades Schedules to Change Dec. 18

December 14, 2017

Some schedules for Amtrak’s Cascades Service will change on Dec. 18, when two additional roundtrips will be launched between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The new service is being underwritten by the Washington State Department of Transportation. The corridor will now have 12 daily between Seattle and Portland.

Another change effective Dec. 18 will be opening of the Tacoma Dome station and a reroute of Amtrak trains to the Point Defiance Bypass.

The new trains will carry train numbers 511, 512, 514 and 519. Some existing train numbers will also have changed. For details, visit

In a service advisory, Amtrak provided a summary of the revised Cascades Service.

  • Trains 501, 503, 507, and 509 will operate between Seattle and Portland daily.
  • Train 505 will operate between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon, departing at 2:15 p.m. daily.
  • Train 511 will operate between Portland and Eugene departing at 9:45 a.m. Monday-Friday
  • Train 513 will operate between Portland and Eugene departing at 12:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays only.
  • Train 517 will operate between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Portland departing at 6:35 a.m. daily.
  • Train 519 will operate between Vancouver and Seattle departing at 5:45 p.m. daily.
  • Trains 500, 502, 504, and 506 will operate between Seattle and Portland daily.
  • Train 508 will operate between Eugene and Seattle departing at 4:30 p.m. daily.
  • Train 512 will operate between Eugene and Portland departing at 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • Train 514 will operate between Eugene and Portland departing at 9:00 a.m. weekends and holidays only.
  • Train 516 will operate between Seattle and Vancouver, departing at 7:45 a.m. daily.
  • Train 518 will operate between Portland and Vancouver, departing at 3:20 p.m. daily.