Posts Tagged ‘Superliners’

Accelerating in Waterloo

June 27, 2021

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is picking up speed as it accelerates away from its station stop in Waterloo, Indiana, one hour and 15 minutes late.

It is the first image I’ve made of the Capitol in well over a year and getting this photograph took good timing and fast acting.

Before leaving home I had checked the status of Amtrak trains through Waterloo. There wasn’t enough time to get there before the Lake Shore Limited arrived and chances were good I would miss No. 29 by 15 minutes or so.

It had been reported out of Cleveland an hour and 20 minutes but Amtrak’s website projected No. 29 would make up a good chunk of that and arrive in Waterloo 59 minutes late.

If that held, I had no chance. But I also knew Amtrak can get delayed between Waterloo and Toledo.

As I neared Waterloo I checked the Amtrak website again. No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:46 a.m. I figured to miss by that about five minutes.

The exit ramp for Waterloo onto U.S. Route 6 from Interstate 69 is just beyond the bridge over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

As I passed the exit signs for Route 6 it was 7:47 a.m. on my car’s clock. I slowed for the bridge and exit ramp and looked toward the east. No headlight was in sight.

That was a good sign This just might work after all.

Nearly a month earlier as I had driven over that same bridge I had seen the headlight of a fast approaching Amtrak 49. I was going to fast to get to the side of the road in time to try to get a grab shot and a pickup truck also getting off at the exit was right on my tail.

So close and yet so far away.

This time I drove to a road that crosses the Chicago Line at grade shortly after I got onto Route 6. The gates were up. Another good sign.

I checked the Amtrak website and saw No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:53 a.m., three minutes from now. Did I have time to get to the station?

I began driving down a road that runs parallel to the tracks. Then there it was up ahead. I immediately pulled to the side of Lincoln Street, grabbed my camera and dashed into the weeds to make this image.

There was no time so think about what I wanted to do. I barely was able to get all of the train in the frame.

Photographing the Capitol Limited is a challenge because much of its journey occurs at night. On the western end of the route the train is always operating in the wrong light. Only on the eastern end can you get 29 or 30 in good light.

In Northeast Ohio, No. 30 is scheduled into Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. and No. 29 at 2:53 a.m.

Still, you can get an interesting image on the western end of the route if you work it right.

The glint off P42DC No. 190 was happenstance but I also knew that this time of year the early morning light would favor the north side of the train.

I’m hoping it won’t be another year before I can photograph the Capitol Limited again.

Amtrak Refurbishing Superliner Interiors

June 27, 2021

Amtrak publicity photo of the new seating designs for Superliner coaches.
The new seating shown here in a Superliner Sightseer Lounge will also be applied to dining cars.

Amtrak has begun a three-year program to renovate the interiors of its Superliner fleet with the first of the new look cars entering revenue service later this month.

The passenger carrier will spend $28 million to give all of its 450 bi-level Superliner cars new seating cushions and upholstery, carpets, LED lighting, tables and curtains.

Booths in lounge and dining cars are being replaced with seating with a distinctive arched seat back.

Sleeping cars will receive new bedding and towels. The new bedding was tested last year on the Auto Train.

A supply shortage means the refurbishment of sleeping cars won’t start until August. The new bedding and towels will be provided in all sleepers as soon as the supplies are available, including in unrefurbished cars.

In sleeping car bedrooms, the single-use containers will be replaced by large pump dispensers for soap, shampoo and conditioner.

Amtrak officials said this change is similar to what major hotel chains are doing in an effort to reduce the significant amount of trash generated by single-use containers.

Superliner cars were delivered to Amtrak in the 1980s and 1990s. They are assigned to all western long distance trains plus the Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans and Auto Train. At times, some Superliner cars have been assigned to Midwest corridor trains.

Amtrak displayed this week at Chicago Union Station cars that have already been refurbished.

Superliner dining cars will receive a look similar to that recently applied to Viewliner I sleeping cars including the same color scheme, fabric selections, and design elements.

The refurbishment is only a partial rebuild. Shop workers are not stripping the cars down to the walls and rebuilding the interiors.

Amtrak vice president Roger Harris said the carrier is replacing those things that can be replaced quickly.

For example, Harris said, Amtrak is not changing the lighting or anything that needs to be done during a heavy maintenance overhaul.

Larry Chestler, vice president, long distance service line, said the project is expected to be completed in 24 months with coaches completed in about 18 months.

The work is being done at the Beech Grove heavy maintenance shops in Indiana as well as maintenance shops in Seattle and New Orleans.

Chestler said just three cars will be out of service at any one time to be refurbished.

The Way They Began Service

May 25, 2021

Amtrak’s Superline fleet lounge cars are today known as Sightseer Lounges, but when those cars began revenue in the early 1980s they were named “lounge cafe” cars.

Note also the broad red and blue strips with white accents that ran the length of the car.

When this image was made in Albuquerque in early November 1981, Superliner equipment was still relatively new. The car shown is in the consist of the eastbound Southwest Limited, which later would be renamed the Southwest Chief.

Looking Down on a Sightseer Lounge

April 9, 2021

On Amtrak trains that are assigned Superliner equipment, the Sightseer lounge is a popular place to hang out and view the passing scenery.

It doesn’t offer the same perspective as a dome car but with its large windows that extend into the ceiling you can still see quite a bit.

Shown is the Sightseer lounge on the westbound Capitol Limited as it sits in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, making its station stop.

I wondered if anyone in the lounge noticed me photographing their train.

Since Nos. 29 and 30 went to tri-weekly operation in October 2020, the Capitol has been running without a Sightseer lounge. Will it be restored for summer operation?

Cooling Their Heels

May 10, 2020

A gaggle of American Superliners sit in the coach yard outside Chicago Union Station awaiting service, repairs or the call to return to the road.

This image was made from aboard the outbound Illini as it was backing out of the station en route to Carbondale, Illinois, on June 2, 2012.

Sunny Side Up or From the Dark Side?

October 10, 2019

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited was about an hour and a half late when it arrived in Waterloo, Indiana, on a Friday morning.

The sun has just climbed over some low clouds in the eastern sky, creating  nice warm light.

The rear of No. 29 cleared North Center Street, which afforded me an opportunity to photograph the train from both sides.

The top image was made from the south side of the tracks at the grade crossing. It had more direct sunlight on the side of the eight-car train.

The bottom image was made from the platform on the north side of the Norfolk Southern tracks and the side of the train is in shadows although quite a bit of direct light illuminated the platform.

No. 29 was on Track 2 following a double stack train. About a half hour behind the Capitol was the Lake Shore Limited on the same track.

All of the NS traffic was going west on this morning around the time that both Amtrak trains showed up with Track 1 devoted to slow unit trains hauling coal and tank cars.

What An Extra 2 Hours Can Do

August 11, 2019

Amtrak’s City of New Orleans is a challenge to photograph in east central Illinois because of its schedule.

The southbound train passes through in darkness no matter the time of year and the northbound train arrives just before or at dawn.

During the summer the latter might be possible to photograph in early summer, particularly if it is running late.

For one week in late July and early August No. 58 operated two hours later than its normal schedule to accommodate track work being performed by host railroad Canadian National.

I took advantage of that to get the northbound CONO at Pesotum, Illinois, on the last day of the later schedule.

For some reason, it was operating on this day as Train 1158.

 

Superliner, Amfleet Equipment for Sale

May 8, 2019

Amtrak is offering for sale Superliner and Amfleet cars that have long been out of service.

The cars are now being stored at maintenance facilities in Beech Grove, Indiana; and Bear and Wilmington, Delaware. Bids are due by May 31.

Up for sale are 22 Superliner cars and 19 Amfleet or former Metroliner coaches. Many of the cars on the block have been sidelined due being damaged in derailments and crashes.

Late last year Amtrak sold single-level Heritage Fleet dining cars, sleepers, and baggage cars. It also sold four former Santa Fe Hi-Level coaches and five Hi-Level lounges with the latter once having served as Pacific Parlour cars on the Coast Starlight.

Some locomotives are also for sale, including two P40s and one AEM-7. Also up for sale are 11 gondolas being stored at Niles, Michigan.

Some of the cars for sale have been cannibalized for parts after Amtrak concluded that rebuilding or repairing them would be too costly.

The Superliners for sale are being stored at Beech Grove and were involved in such incidents as the 1995 Sunset Limited sabotage wreck in Arizona (one dining car) and a March 2016 derailment of the Southwest Chief (three coaches and a coach-baggage car) in Kansas.

The inventory being sold includes seven Superliner I coaches, one Superliner I coach-smoking lounge, two Superliner I coach-baggage: five Superliner I and II Sightseer lounges, three Superliner I sleepers; one Superliner II transition sleepers, two Superliner I diner-lounges and one Superliner I dining car.

Momentous Month

April 26, 2019

There have been times during the nearly 48 years of Amtrak’s existence when significant changes occurred. October 1979 was one of them.

The tenor of those times is shown by the covers of two timetables Amtrak issued that month.

Early in the month Amtrak discontinued several trains and routes, including the National Limited, Floridian, North Coast Hiawatha, Lone Star, Hilltopper, and Champion.

Discontinuance of those six trains had been in the works for some time.

Although the trains in question were to begin their last trips on Sept. 30 a few trains continued to operate for several days in early October under court orders before being discontinued.

Later that month, Amtrak assigned new Superliner equipment to the Empire Builder and instituted a new train between Los Angeles and Ogden, Utah, known as the Desert Wind; and created a Houston leg of the Inter-American.

The timetables featured muted colors printed on newsprint. No four-color glossy covers and slick paper as had been the practice for much of the 1970s.

This subdued style had been the practice in the previous couple of years, probably a reflection of the period of austerity that Amtrak was in.

As massive as the train discontinuances of 1979 were, they could have been worse. A U.S. Department of Transportation report issued in January 1979 called for ending even more trains, but they were saved due to political wrangling in Congress.

The late 1970s were also a time of transition between the streamliner era equipment that Amtrak inherited when it was formed in 1971 and new equipment that began service in the middle of the decade.

That transition is reflected on the cover of the Oct. 28 timetable in which Amtrak tries to establish a continuous onward march of progress dating back to the introduction of the Metroliners by Penn Central.

By contrast, the cover of the timetable issued on Oct. 1 took a more pragmatic approach of announcing changes without giving much, if any, indication of how widespread they were.

Amtrak was using a traditional public relations strategy of seeking to put a positive face on a situation many viewed as adverse.

The bottom text refers to the fact that some routes or portions of routes were being saved through state funding. This affected the San Joquin in California and a portion of the National Limited route in Missouri.

Contrary to the impression created by the late October timetable, Superliner equipment was not being introduced that month.

Superliner coaches had gone into service early in the year on some Midwest corridor trains on a temporary basis.

The Empire Builder would be the first train to permanently get the equipment.

Service Stop in Albuquerque

April 7, 2019

Superliner equipment had been assigned to Amtrak’s Southwest Limited for less than two years when I rode the No. 4 from Los Angeles to Kansas City.

The train is shown here making a service stop in Albuquerque.

On the rear is sleeper George M. Pullman, car No. 32009. It was the last passenger car made by the Pullman-Standard, a predecessor company of the Pullman Car Company founded by George Pullman.

Amtrak initially ordered 235 Superliners from Pullman-Standard in April 1975 but soon upped that to 284 cars.

No. 32009 was one of two sleepers on No. 4 on this day, but I had accommodations in the car ahead of it.

Nos. 3 and 4 have since been renamed the Southwest Chief.