Posts Tagged ‘Southwest Chief’

Amtrak Expands Cancellations Due to Storm

December 22, 2022

Amtrak has expanded the scope of its service cancellations in the Midwest as a winter storm bears down on the region that is forecast to bring subzero temperatures and heavy snow.

For the period of Dec. 22 through Dec. 25, the following trains will not operate:

Trains 300, 301, 305 and 306 (Lincoln Service) between Chicago and St. Louis; Trains 311 and 316 (Missouri River Runner) between St. Louis and Kansas City; Trains 329, 332, 333, 336, 337, 340 and 343 (Hiawatha Service) between Chicago and Milwaukee; and Trains 352 and 353 (Wolverine Service) between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

Some trains will be canceled on certain dates. They include Train 370 (Pere Marquette) from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Dec. 22, and Train 371 from Grand Rapids to Chicago on Dec. 23.

Trains 390 and 391 (Saluki) between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, will be cancelled on Dec. 23 while Buses 3280 and 3381 between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, are cancelled on Dec. 23 and 24.

Some long-distance trains originating or terminating in Chicago also are being cancelled. This includes Train 3 (Southwest Chief) originating in Chicago on Dec. 23; Trains 7/27 and 8/28 (Empire Builder) originating in Chicago, Seattle and Portland during the period Dec. 21-23; Trains 29 and 30 (Capitol Limited) originating in Chicago and Washington on Dec.22 and 23; and Trains 48/448 and  49/449 (Lake Shore Limited) originating in New York, Boston and Chicago on Dec. 22 and 23.

Train 50 (Cardinal) will not originate in Chicago on Dec. 22 and 24 while Train 51 will not originate in New York on Dec. 21 and 23.

No alternative transportation is being offered for long-distance trains that are being cancelled.

In the case of routes from Chicago to St. Louis, Quincy, Carbondale, Milwaukee, and Detroit (Pontiac) some scheduled trains on all routes will operate on all days covered by the cancellations.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said it acted after consulting with state transportation departments, host railroads, emergency managers, and weather forecasters.

Amtrak Station Briefs

December 5, 2022

The Amtrak station in Gallup, New Mexico, is closed and passengers no longer have access to the waiting room or restrooms.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers can still reach the boarding platforms. The advisory did not provide a reason for the closure or say how long it would last.

The station closure began on Dec. 1. Gallup is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Amtrak’s station in Palm Springs, California, continues to be hindered by high winds and sandstorms that cause sand drifts near the station.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said its trains may bypass Palm Springs, which is served by the tri-weekly New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited, when conditions there are hazardous.

Passengers bound for Palm Springs on days when Trains 1 and 2 bypass the station will instead be taken to the Ontario, California, station located 70 miles west of Palm Springs.

No alternate transportation between Ontario and Palm Springs will be provided.

Amtrak said it is working with host railroad Union Pacific to implement a long-term fix.

The Amtrak Thruway stop in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has been moved. The current location is the Hampton Roads Transit Center at 1912 Arctic Avenue.

The new location will be Parks Avenue and 19th Street near the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The bus shelter is located between 19th and 20th Streets.

LaPlata Station Renovations Completed

November 16, 2022

A ceremony held Nov. 13 in LaPlata, Missouri, marked the completion of a $6 million station rehabilitation project.

The former Santa Fe station, built in 1887, is now accessible under ADA standards. LaPlata in northern Missouri is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

During the project the station received new windows, bricks, roof, gutters and siding.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said pre COVID-19 pandemic ridership for Trains. 3 and 4 was 11,000 annually, which he said is 10 times the population of La Plata.

Officials said the station was last modernized in 1945 and the objective of the recent rehabilitation was to maintain that 1940s appearance.  

Equipment Shortages Hurt Long-Distance Trains

October 13, 2022

Equipment shortages have led to cancellations of some trips of Amtrak’s long-distance trains while other trips have departed their terminals with less than the usual assigned cars.

At least twice in September the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief have left Chicago without a Sightseer lounge.

Aside from lacking enough “protection equipment” to cover all runs, the cancellations and the missing equipment issues have sometimes been caused by late inbound trains and crews that turn to make up the next departure of that train. In short, Amtrak has little margin for error.

A report on the website of Trains magazine noted that even in its best of times Amtrak has never had a large number of spare cars and locomotives to make up a trainset as a hedge against late inbound trains at some West Coast terminals.

Yet in the past, the Trains report said, there have been enough spare cars in Chicago and Los Angeles to make up an emergency spare train because those terminals are endpoints for three long-distance routes.

A lack of serviceable equipment that has resulted from shortages of mechanical workers has meant that, for example, the California Zephyr in recent weeks has operated with two Superliner coaches and sleeping cars, one less of each than it had in previous summers.

That has hindered Amtrak’s ability to accommodate passengers displaced by missed connections due to late trains.

The story can be read at

Amtrak Suspends Service in Advance of Possible Railroad Work Stoppage Later This Week

September 13, 2022

As railroads begin to embargo traffic ahead of a possible national railroad strike and/or lockout that could begin as early as Friday, legislation has been introduced in the Senate to settle the dispute.

Amtrak said it would suspend service on four long-distance routes in advance of a possible railroad work stoppage.

The Senate resolution would force railroad labor unions and railroads to accept the recommendations made last month by a presidential emergency board.

It was introduced by Sens. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Negotiations for a new contract have been ongoing for more than two years with unions representing locomotive engineers and train conductors at loggerheads with management over wages, benefits and work rules.

To date, eight of the 12 railroad labor unions have reached tentative contract agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management in the negotiations.

Those agreements have been described in statements issued by the two sides as generally following the recommendations of the PEB.

The PEB issued its recommendations on Aug. 16 and under federal law strikes and/or lockouts are prohibited for 30 days following that. The 30-day cooling off period will expire at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

Amtrak said it will suspend service today on the routes of the Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr and portions of the route of the Texas Eagle.

The latter involves the Los Angeles to San Antonio segment of the Texas Eagle route, which overlaps with the route of the Sunset Limited.

The passenger carrier said suspensions could expand to all routes outside the Northeast Corridor by the end of the week.

The Amtrak statement said suspensions being imposed today will ensure that the affected trains can reach their endpoint terminals before a strike and/or lockout begins.

Although neither Amtrak or its workers are parties to the railroad labor negotiations, the passenger carrier uses track owned by freight railroads where a strike and/or lockout may occur.

In the event of a strike and/or lockout, Amtrak said it would continue operating trains that wholly use track that it owns or is owned by public agencies.

This includes the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington; the line between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts; the Empire Corridor between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York; and the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

An Amtrak statement said passengers affected by service suspensions due to the labor dispute will be contacted and offered the opportunity to change their travel dates or offered a full refund of their fare without any cancellation fees.

In a related developments, Class 1 railroads have begun embargoing certain types of shipments starting today.

Norfolk Southern told its shippers that it will stop accepting intermodal and automotive traffic.

The NS notice said it will close the gates for loaded or empty intermodal units at its terminals as of noon Tuesday and would also stop accepting traffic at on-dock port facilities and privately owned intermodal terminals.

The notice said the gates would remain open for intermodal pickup until further notice. Customers using railroad-operated EMP and TMX containers will be unable to make reservations after 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. They will be able to return empty containers to NS terminals as normal until further notice.

Automotive traffic gates will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, with an embargo on auto traffic beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

The railroad also said it is planning “for the orderly lay down of trains in the bulk network” and will contact customers moving bulk commodities in unit trains with specific details.

CSX has also began on Monday an embargo of “high hazardous, toxic by inhalation and poisonous by inhalation” cargo.

Renovations Completed at 2 Kansas Stations

August 2, 2022

Ribbon cutting ceremonies were recently held to mark the completion of two station improvement projects in Kansas on the route of the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Amtrak said the $7 million projects were undertaken at Dodge City and Hutchinson.

The $3.8 million project in Dodge City involved replacement of the existing asphalt platforms with a new 780-foot concrete platform.

There is now a dedicated passenger loading area to accommodate eastbound and westbound boarding. Other upgrades include new station signs, a mobile lift enclosure, and LED light fixtures along the platform and pathways.

Amtrak said in a news release that sloped accessible walkways connect platform entries with the existing elevated brick plaza area adjacent to the station, which is a former Harvey House built in 1898 sand restored in 2003. A portion of the building provides an Amtrak passenger waiting area.

In Hutchinson, the 1954 station received a new 350-foot boarding platform with new station signs; a mobile lift enclosure; LED lighting; guardrails; new accessible pathways providing improved connections to city sidewalks; and new parking locations.

Interior building improvements included renovated restrooms with new fixtures, accessories and adequate clearances for accessibility; new entry doors; accessible drinking fountain; and full accessibility for all passengers within the station waiting area.

NTSB Issues Early Report on SW Chief Crash

July 27, 2022

A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety board into the June derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Missouri does not draw any conclusions but sets out some of the facts about the event uncovered thus far by investigators.

Investigators continue to focus on the grade crossing where a collision between Amtrak Train 4 and a dump truck triggered the derailment.

Three Amtrak passengers and the truck driver were killed as a result of the June 27 derailment near Mendon, Missouri. The NTSB report said 150 aboard the train were treated at 10 area hospitals for injuries that ranged from minor to serious.

In particular, the NTSB probe is focusing on the approach to the crossing of the BNSF Marceline Subdivision and County Road 113, also known as Porche Prairie Avenue.

Many of the facts reported in the NTSB preliminary report mirror those in news stories about the derailment.

The derailment occurred at 12:42 p.m. CDT. The Southwest Chief had 270 passengers and 12 crew members on board at the time of the derailment.

Amtrak and BNSF estimated the derailment caused damage of about $4 million.

Train 4 had two locomotives and eight cars. The crossing where the collision occurred had crossbucks and a stop sign, but no gates or flashing lights.

Investigators said the positive train control system in use was enabled and working at the time of the collision.

Train speed was 89 mph when the emergency brakes were activated. The weather was clear with no precipitation at the time of the crash.

“Future investigative activity will focus on highway railroad grade crossing design specifications, railcar design, survival factors, and passenger railcar crashworthiness,” the report said.

No. 4 in Arizona

July 1, 2022

It is autumn of 1997 as Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Chief motors through Lupton, Arizona, on the Santa Fe mainline. To be correct, these tracks are now part of BNSF, which had been created two years earlier by the merger of the Santa Fe and Burlington Northern.

A quick glance at No. 4 shows there are several material handling cars in the consist. It was the era when Amtrak though head end business would provide a financial boost.

It also was the era when the Phase III livery was in vogue. Note that all three locomotives wear that scheme.

Unchanged from then and now is how passengers about the Chief rode in Superliner equipment.

SW Chief Resumes Normal Operation

July 1, 2022

Amtrak’s Chicago- Los Angeles Southwest Chief resumed normal operation on Thursday with the departure of Train No. 3 from Chicago.

The train’s operations were disrupted by the Monday afternoon derailment of Train 4 in Mendon, Missouri, after it struck a dump truck at a grade crossing.

Three passengers and the truck driver died and 150 were injured in the incident.

The westbound departure of the Chief from Chicago was canceled. On Tuesday and Wednesday Nos. 3 and 4 originated and terminated at Kansas City, Missouri.

The first Chief to operated eastbound the length of its route left Los Angeles on Tuesday evening.

Passengers ticketed to travel on Nos. 3 and 4 between Chicago and Kansas City were given the option of riding a bus between the two cities or riding a combined Missouri River Runner and Lincoln Service train.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the derailment exacerbated Amtrak’s shortage of in-service Superliner cars.

The scheduled Los Angeles departure of Train 4 on Wednesday was cancelled due to the passenger carrier not having enough cars on hand to make up a train.

Using available Superliner equipment in Chicago, Amtrak made up a consist for No. 3 of three coaches, two sleepers, a dining car, a transition sleeper and a Sightseer Lounge.

The derailment will take eight Superliner cars out of service until they can be repaired.

4th Person Dies in SW Chief Derailment

June 30, 2022

A fourth person has died following the derailment on Monday afternoon of Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Chief in Missouri.

Three of the fatalities were Amtrak passengers while the fourth fatality was the driver of the dump truck that the train struck at a grade crossing in Mendon, Missouri, at a crossing lacking flashing lights and gates.

The incident left 150 people injured. They were treated at 10 area hospitals and officials said the injuries ranged from minor to serious.

Mendon is located about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

National Transportation Safety Board officials released more information on Wednesday about the collision and derailment.

The truck involved in the incident was owned by MS Contracting LLC of Missouri and was transporting materials to a nearby Army Corps of Engineers’ project when it was struck.

Amtrak Train 4 had a consist of two P42DC locomotives and eight cars, all of which derailed.

The train was carrying 275 passengers and had a crew of 12. It was traveling on track owned by BNSF.

Trains are authorized a top speed of 90 miles per hour in the area where the derailment occurred and investigators determined that Train 4 was traveling at 87 mph at the time of the derailment.

It had slowed from 89 mph a quarter mile from the collision site. NTSB officials said the locomotive engine was sounding the horn at the time of the collision.

“We do not have concerns about mechanical issues,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy during a news conference. “We tested the brakes and there are no issues with the brakes,” she said.

Homendy said the steep grade to the grade crossing is of concern: “We have to look at the approach of this crossing. It’s very steep. There’s a lot resting on a driver to see a train at these crossings, particularly when there’s such a steep incline.”

She also indicated that the investigation would require the tracks at the derailment site to remain closed for “a number of days.”