Posts Tagged ‘The Saluki’

Saluki to Depart 2 Hours Earlier

October 4, 2017

Amtrak’s southbound Saluki will depart Chicago two hours earlier on weekdays between Oct. 8 and 27 due to Canadian National track work.

Train 391 will operate two hours earlier at al stations en route to Carbondale, Illinois. Intermediate stops are made at Homewood, Kankakee, Gilman, Rantoul, Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia and Du Quoin.

The scheduled departure time of the Saluki from Chicago is 8:15 a.m. but during the work window it will leve at 6:15 a.m.

The work window will be in effect Oct. 9-13, 16-20 and 23-27,

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Appeals Court Strikes down STB On-time Standards

July 17, 2017

Another federal court has struck a blow at the efforts of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to establish on-time standards for Amtrak trains.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the STB standards to be unconstitutional, saying that the STB had “exceeded its authority” in creating the standards.

The appeal court ruling came in the wake of a similar U.S. Supreme Court ruling that development of on-time metrics by the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak as directed by Section 207 of 2008’s Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act was unconstitutional.

In the Eighth Circuit ruling, Chief Judge Lavenski R. Smith acknowledged that the absence of such on-time standards would make it impossible for the STB to investigate or adjudicate disputes brought by Amtrak against host railroads in the event that punctuality fell below 80 percent for two consecutive quarters.

However, the court in essence decided that the STB’s inability to measure on time performance is not a problem for the judiciary to solve.

There are two cases pending before the STB in which Amtrak alleges that host railroads needlessly delayed Amtrak trains.

One case involve the handling by Canadian National of the Saluki and Illini between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, while the other regards Norfolk Southern’s handling of the Capitol Limited west of Pittsburgh.

In both cases, Amtrak contends that dispatching decisions made by the host railroads are delaying its trains.

The STB had contended that it had the legal right to establish on-time standards “by virtue of its authority to adjudicate complaints brought by Amtrak. Any other result would gut the remedial scheme, a result Congress clearly did not intend.”

Supporting the STB’s position were 13 intervenors, including the National Association of Railroad Passengers and its state affiliates along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Challenging the STB were Union Pacific, CSX, CN and the Association of American Railroads.

They argued that the “gap-filling rationale does not allow one agency to assume the authority expressly delegated to another.”

The court found that the only place in federal law where the 80 percent standard was spelled out was in section 207, which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional because Amtrak had a hand in developing it.

Although the court let stand Congress’ setting a statutory right of passenger train “priority” over freight trains, the practical effect of the court decision is that Amtrak has no way to challenge a host railroad’s systematic denial of that right.

Instead, the only motivation for railroads to keep Amtrak trains on time are the proprietary and confidential incentive contracts Amtrak has been able to negotiate with its host railroads pertaining to on-time handling.

The only action Amtrak can take against a host railroad would be to refuse to make incentive payments due to non-performance under the terms of its operating contracts with a host railroad.

The court rulings do suggest that Congress could give the FRA a mandate to establish on-time standards provided that Amtrak was not a participant in the writing of those standards.

Amtrak Discounting Fares for Solar Esclipse

June 30, 2017

Amtrak is offering a 30 percent discount on certain tickets for trains serving Carbondale, Illinois, which will experience a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

The discounts will apply for travel aboard the Illini and Saluki between Aug. 16 and 22. Both trains are funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The eclipse will have its longest duration near Carbondale, lasting 2 minutes, 38 seconds.

It will be the first total coast-to-coast solar eclipse in North America in nearly a century, moving at a speed of greater than 930 mph from Oregon to South Carolina.

The prime viewing near Carbondale will be no later than noon CDT.

Amtrak is a sponsor of the Carbondale Eclipse event, so the Amtrak logo is on viewing glasses distributed at the Eclipse Marketplace. Space for bicycles on the trains is limited, as are supplies of the souvenir glasses.

In a news release, Amtrak said that fares from Chicago to Carbondale are still available for as low as $24 each way, plus $10 each way for a bicycle.

Amtrak also serves Carbondale with its City of New Orleans, which operates between Chicago and New Orleans.

NB Saluki to Operate 2 Hours Earlier

June 29, 2017

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki will operate two hours earlier on weekdays between July 19 and Aug. 4.

The schedule change is due to Canadian National track work. The schedule change will not affect the operation of No. 390 on weekends when it will depart its originating station in Carbondale, Illinois, at 7:30 a.m.

The weekday schedule of the Saluki during the affected time period will put it two hours behind the scheduled times of the northbound City of New Orleans.

The Saluki makes stops in Du Quoin, Rantoul and Gilman, Illinois, that are skipped by No. 58.

NB Saluki to Operate 2 Hours Earlier

June 19, 2017

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki will operate two hours earlier Monday through Friday between July 19 and August 4 in order to accommodate track work being undertaken by Canadian National.

No. 390 is scheduled to depart Carbondale, Illinois, at 7:30 a.m., but will now depart at 5:30 a.m., putting it just over two hours behind the City of New Orleans, which is scheduled to depart Carbondale at 3:16 a.m.

The early schedule will not apply to No. 390 on  Saturdays or Sundays.

 

Now Arriving From Carbondale, The Saluki

December 23, 2016

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The view is from the observation deck of Willis Tower in Chicago looking south on May 20, 2013. There is a clear view of the St. Charles Air Line which Amtrak trains use to get to and from the former Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans.

The train that is visible in the top image crossing the Chicago River is the inbound Saluki from Carbondale, Illinois. It will cross over the Amtrak and Metra coach yards en route to reaching the BNSF Raceway at Union Avenue.

No. 390 will then back into Chicago Union Station. This move has been standard operating procedure for Amtrak trains arriving from New Orleans, Carbondale and Champaign since 1972.

On occasion, Amtrak has diverged from the St. Charles Air Line to the former IC Iowa Division at 16th Street Tower, crossed the route used by eastern Amtrak trains at 21st Street, and done a backup move on the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio route into Union Station.

I’ve also been on an Amtrak train that pulled out straight out and backed around the wye onto the Raceway to access the St. Charles Air Line.

Whichever route that an Amtrak train bound for or coming off the former IC takes, it will need to do a backup move at some point. Click on the photographs to enlarge them.

Another Edition of Train Time on Amtrak

October 10, 2016

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Thousands of times a day an Amtrak train pulls into the station, passengers get off, passengers get on and the conductor gives the engineer a highball to move on to the next station.

It’s a ritual that has played out for more than four decades and more than a century if you go back to the era when railroads operated their own passenger trains.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about this moment in Mattoon, Illinois, involving the southbound Saluki.

The equipment on No. 391 will turn at Carbondale, Illinois, and return north as No. 392, the Illini. It will be the next train to play out this ritual on this platform today.

Tomorrow, it will play out again with a slightly different cast of characters.

3 Illinois Corridor Trains Using Superliners

February 17, 2015

Passengers riding the Illini, Saluki and Carl Sandburg trains in Illinois can expect to be accommodated in Superliner equipment through the end of February.

Amtrak said the usual equipment assigned to business class service on those trains has temporarily removed.

Passengers who purchase business class tickets will receive most if the amenities normally offered on the single-level Horizon and Amfleet cars, including priority boarding, use of the Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago Union Station, complimentary beverages and a newspaper.

Half of the upper level of the of the Superliner food service car will be curtained off for Business Class passengers.

Amtrak said in service advisory that the primary difference in business class on Superliner equipment is two-by-two seating, rather than a row of single seats on one side of the aisle.

The Saluki and Illini operated between Chicago and Carbondale, Ill., while the Carl Sandburg operates between Chicago and Quincy, Ill.

In the meantime, Amtrak has discontinued business class service on the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State. Also disconnected was AmtrakConnect® Wi-Fi. Light refreshments are not longer available on Nos. 850 and 851.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said those services, which were made available on the Hoosier State last October have been removed because  the Indiana Department of Transportation has chosen not to fund their continuation.

CN Called Out for on Amtrak Delays in Illinois

August 22, 2014

During a public hearing this week Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said Amtrak’s on-time performance is threatening the success of passenger rail in that state.

“Ridership and revenue are at all-time highs for Amtrak, and unfortunately so are delays. Late trains and unnecessary delays turn passengers away from Amtrak and can slow the incredible growth we have seen so far,” Durbin said.

Amtrak’s on-time performance has suffered the most along the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route owned and operated by CN, according to Durbin. The Illini and Saluki trains are arriving on time only 49 percent of the time, he said.

The route is also served by the Chicago-New Orleans long-distance train the City of New Orleans. Also attending the meeting in Champaign were Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott and Amtrak board member Tom Carper. Elliott is meeting with community leaders throughout Illinois to discuss the delays along routes operated by Canadian National.

“We’re investing almost $2 billion in federal funds into our passenger rail infrastructure in the state,” Durbin said. “These funds are building new locomotives and train cars that will be used here in Champaign and across the Midwest. We cannot let these investments go to waste due to unnecessary freight train interference. Canadian National’s lack of cooperation with the State of Illinois and Amtrak is disappointing and I encourage them to step up and make the changes necessary to improve Amtrak service.”

In January 2012, Amtrak filed a complaint with the STB about CN’s interference of Amtrak trains on the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale corridor.

Amtrak and CN have tried to mediate the issue through the STB, but Amtrak’s on-time performance has continued to decline and CN has been more “recalcitrant” since a recent D.C. Circuit Court decision that invalidated Amtrak’s on-time performance metrics, according to Durbin’s press release.

Amtrak has indicated it will seek to reopen the case and the STB to rule on it.

Under its contact, CN’s on-time performance is measured based on whether the train moves across the Class I’s route in the pre-set number of minutes. Since winter ended, on-time performance of the Illini and Saluki has improved significantly as fluidity across CN’s North American rail network has slowly improved, said CN spokesman Patrick Waldron.

“Amtrak’s on-time performance figures recently published in the press incorporate delays not attributable to or involving CN, such as delays at stations, delays as the result of Amtrak equipment problems, or delays as the result of trains not coming to CN at the scheduled times,” said Waldron. “CN has provided the state of Illinois and Amtrak several proposals for infrastructure investments to add capacity and reduce passenger delays, particularly for the Illini train, on this busy and congested passenger and freight corridor.”

In 2008, Durbin helped pass legislation that gave STB the authority to enforce Amtrak’s rights to the rails. Last month, Durbin called on the STB to exercise its authority to investigate the causes of Amtrak delays and enforce on-time performance standards.

Earlier this month, Durbin wrote to Amtrak’s president and CEO Joe Boardman and its board chairman, Anthony Coscia, asking for a study to increase the number of trains along the Chicago-Carbondale line.

Train Time at Mattoon; End of an Era for Me

July 23, 2014
Amtrak's northbound Saluki is about to halt at the Mattoon, Ill., Amtrak station in March 2014.

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki is about to halt at the Mattoon, Ill., Amtrak station in March 2014.

I don’t remember when my first visit to the Illinois Central passenger station in Mattoon, Ill., occurred. It probably was the Sunday morning when my mother dropped my dad off at the station to catch the City of New Orleans to Carbondale, Ill., where he attended a one-day seminar.

I remember standing on the platform when the colorful streamliner came to a halt. My dad got a seat at a window facing the station and I waved at him as the train departed. I was probably 8 years old then, maybe slightly younger.

I was 13 when I boarded my first IC train at this station in May 1966 for a day trip aboard the Seminole to the Museum of Science and Industry. I would ride the IC to and from this station 10 times between 1966 and 1968.

My next trip from this station occurred in November 1972 and was my first trip aboard Amtrak. It was a day trip on the Panama Limited to Chicago to visit the Museum of Science and Industry.

Over the next decade, I boarded or disembarked from numerous Amtrak trains here. I really should someday count how many trips that was.

In August 1983, I moved away from Mattoon. Although I would get back there on occasion to visit my dad and stepmother, seldom did I take the train. I drove.

Another decade later that changed. I had moved to Cleveland and in April 1994 began a ritual that would play out over the next 20 years.

At the conclusion of the spring semester, I would take Amtrak from Cleveland to Chicago and connect to the Illini to reach Mattoon. Almost always these trips occurred in mid May or early June. In some years, I’d make another trip by train to Mattoon, usually in August.

I always looked forward to those trips. During the Chicago layovers I’d railfan on one of the busy freight lines served by Metra – the BNSF raceway being my favorite – or conduct research at the Chicago Public Library.

Much can change in 20 years. The Burlington Northern became Burlington Northern Santa Fe and then just BNSF. The Chicago & North Western merged into Union Pacific. The Soo Line became part of Canadian Pacific. And the Illinois Central was swallowed up by Canadian National.

Back in 1994, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited still had Heritage Fleet coaches and dome cars pulled by F40PH locomotives.

Aside from dining cars serving the Lake Shore, and baggage cars on both trains, the Heritage Fleet equipment is gone. F40s have given way to P42s.

Interestingly, the equipment on the Illini remains Horizon coaches just as it was when I began the ritual of taking Amtrak to visit my dad. However, the exterior livery and seat upholstery have changed.

Some changes had a tremendous upside. In October 2006, Amtrak introduced the Saluki, a state-funded Chicago-Carbondale service.

Scheduled to leave Mattoon at 9:31 a.m. for Chicago, it had a far more convenient schedule for me than the previous 5:23 a.m. scheduled departure of the City of New Orleans. Sure the City afforded me more layover time in Chicago and I liked having breakfast in the diner. But, man, it was early when I had to get up to go catch it.

I made countless memories during my trips to and from Mattoon over the past 20 years. I met a lot of interesting people in the dining car of the City. During one of those trips I had the best French toast that I’ve ever eaten.

I  knew that someday this ritual, like all of our life rituals, would end. I just always hoped it wouldn’t be soon.

The winds of change began blowing harder in February 2013 when my stepmother died. My dad was 87 and becoming frail. He had never had to live by himself. He got by all right for a year but my sister convinced him to move to Arizona to live with her.

Last March, I got in one more trip on Amtrak that I knew would be my last trip by train to see my dad in Mattoon.

It was a bittersweet experience that I made sure to document. As usual, there was quite a crowd waiting to board No. 390 in Mattoon on the morning that I departed.

The IC opened this station on Jan. 21, 1918. Thousands of trains and passengers have passed through its doors since then. Presidential candidates have given speeches. In April 1970, Steve Goodman got off here, having just completed the journey that would provide the impetus for him to finish a song about the train they call the City of New Orleans.

Many of the passengers on this March day were younger and probably students are nearby Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. More than likely, they have no memories and little knowledge of the Illinois Central Railroad. They’ve probably never seen photographs of the orange and chocolate brown trains that the IC once ran here that zipped along at speeds up to 100 mph between Mattoon and Champaign.

For most, if not all, of those passengers, it was just another trip. For me, it was the end of an era.

The ticket office at left is no longer used as Mattoon is not a staffed station.

The ticket office at left is no longer used as Mattoon is not a staffed station.

Waiting on the benches has long been a railroad station tradition. My dad is the man in the middle wearing gloves and holding a cane.

Waiting on the benches has long been a railroad station tradition. My dad is the man in the middle wearing gloves and holding a cane.

The former ICRR depot is now owned by the City of Mattoon and was restored to its early 20th century exterior appearance during a rehabilitation project a few years ago.

The former ICRR depot is now owned by the City of Mattoon and was restored to its early 20th century exterior appearance during a rehabilitation project a few years ago.

Waiting on the platform. Thousands have boarded Amtrak and Illinois Central Railroad passenger trains here since the IC began service here in the 1850s.

Waiting on the platform. Thousands have boarded Amtrak and Illinois Central Railroad passenger trains here since the IC began service here in the 1850s.

The conductor is looking ahead for passengers as the Saluki approaches the station in Mattoon.

The conductor is looking ahead for passengers as the Saluki approaches the station in Mattoon.

Aboard Amtrak No. 390 as it made the station stop in Champaign, Ill.

Aboard Amtrak No. 390 as it made the station stop in Champaign, Ill.