Posts Tagged ‘The Saluki’

Are We on Time?

February 16, 2020

An Amtrak conductor checks his watch to see how close to schedule Train No. 391 is as it pulls into the station at Kankakee, Illinois.

The southbound Saluki was on-time early in its journey to Carbondale.

The image was made on Aug. 5, 2012.

That All Horizon Fleet Look

December 10, 2019

Amtrark’s northbound Saluki sports a consist of entirely Horizon Fleet equipment as it accelerates away from the station in Effingham, Illinois.

It is not necessarily a rare site, but typically Midwest corridor trains that use Canadian National tracks have a mixture of Amfleet and Horizon equipment.

It is common for Amtrak to use baggage cars in the consist in order to meet the CN-mandated minimum axle count.

I even once saw Viewliner dining car Indianapolis assigned to the Saluki to meet the axle count.

Perhaps during the holidays Amtrak will ensure that all of those coaches are open and available for passengers.

Going to be Crowded Trains Today

November 27, 2019

The Thanksgiving travel period is a busy one for Amtrak and is one of the few times of the year when the passenger carrier operates extra sections of some trains.

The Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor is not one of those routes that is getting or have had extra sections in the past, but Amtrak did plan to increase the capacity of trains in the corridor.

Shown is the southbound Saluki arriving at its station stop in Mattoon, Illinois, on Nov. 24.

The image was made from the Richmond Avenue bridge north of the station.

Parley Held to Discuss Lateness on Carbondale Route

November 27, 2019

Poor timekeeping in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor appears to correlate with falling ridership at Champaign-Urbana, Amtrak officials recently said at a conference to discuss the route.

“There is a correlation between poor on-time performance and reduced patronage at Champaign, and that affects Illinois taxpayers who help support the service,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

The conference was held Nov. 22 and involved representatives of Canadian National, Amtrak and officials from communities along the route.

Amtrak officials gave a PowerPoint presentation showing how delays to trains at Champaign seem to be correlated with ridership peaks and valleys over the past decade.

The chart shows that on the whole ridership from Champaign-Urbana, home to the University of Illinois and the largest metropolitan region on the route south of Chicago, has been growing since 2008.

However, the chart also shows that delays have been declining since 2013 when about 60 percent of the trains serving Champaign were late.

Delays fell to about 30 percent in 2015. Since then the percentage of trains arriving late at Champaign has varied between 30 to 40 percent.

In the period 2008 to 2013 delays were in the 50 to 60 percent range.

The corridor is home to the State of Illinois funded Illini and Saluki between Chicago and Carbondale, and the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans.

Between 2008 and 2019 ridership crested at 190,000 in 2013 before starting a steady descent that bottomed out at 160,000 in 2018.

However, in the past year, ridership has sharply rebounded to near its 2013 peak. The ridership low point was 2009 and 2010 when the lingering effects of the Great Recession might have had an influence. Ridership in those years was around 140,000.

The on-time performance has not affected all of the six trains in the corridor the same. The Saluki has borne the brunt of the delays, arriving at its endpoints on time just 26 percent of the time in fiscal year 2019, which ended on Sept. 30.

The City of New Orleans has performed better in part because it has more scheduled padding than the state-funded trains.

“Because the distance from Champaign to Chicago is relatively short [129 miles], we are much more vulnerable to leak ridership from there when taking the train becomes unreliable,” Magliari said.

The conference was not open to the news media or the public, but officials held a news conference afterward. The CN representatives did not participate in the news conference.

Amtrak and CN are currently involved in a case before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board regarding the passenger carrier’s contention that CN gives Amtrak trains poor handling.

The host railroad has required Amtrak trains since 2014 to have a minimum of 32 axles to ensure a proper shunt of signals and crossing gates.

CN has said this is necessary because Amtrak’s Amfleet and Horizon equipment might not otherwise activate grade crossing protection devices in a corridor where the top speed is 79 mph.

Amtrak contends that CN track maintenance procedures and not its equipment is to blame for instances in which safety devices failed to activate.

Another source of delay has been CN’s edict that the Saluki and Illini slow to 60 mph over any highway crossings protected by electronic warning devices between University Park and Centralia.

Those trains carry Amfleet and/or Horizon equipment whereas the City of New Orleans is assigned Superliner equipment.

“The schedule for each train has more than a half-hour of buffer – time added in addition to running time – but the delays still occur,” Magliari said.

He disputed CN’s contention that schedules need to be lengthened, saying the trains arrived early 11 percent of the time.

A Trains magazine report about the conference noted that former CN CEO E. Hunter Harrison, sought to prevent Amtrak from instituting the Saluki in 2006 but backed down after U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) intervened.

Harrison was once CEO of the Illinois Central, which owned the tracks before they were acquired by CN in 1998.

Trains observed that delays to the Saluki have been prevalent in each direction since the train began service.

Durbin recently said he is ready to introduce legislation to give Amtrak a right to sue a host railroad for failure to give passenger trains preference.

But one member of Congress from Illinois, Rodney Davis, believes it is too soon for that.

Davis, who sits on the House committee that oversees Amtrak said giving the passenger carrier a right to sue a host railroad would prolong a solution to on-time performance issues.

He attended the news conference that followed the Nov. 22 conference.

“At this point, I want to try and solve (the on-time performance) problem without going to litigation,” Davis said. “When litigation is involved, it will prolong the final solution.”

CN Track Work to Disrupt Saluki on Nov. 19

November 12, 2019

Amtrak’s Saluki will operate only between Chicago and Champaign, Illinois, on Nov. 19 due to Canadian National track work.

Nos. 390 and 391 normally operate between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

In a service advisory, No. 391, which is scheduled to depart Chicago at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in Champaign-Urbana at 10:25 a.m. will turn back there to become No. 390.

No. 390 will depart Champaign at 10:45 a.m., which is 31 minutes later than its normal schedule and operate on that schedule through to Chicago.

Passengers boarding or disembarking at Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia, DuQuoin and Carbondale will ride a bus to and from Champaign.

Getting Lucky

August 9, 2019

At first glance this might appear to be another run of the mill image of an Amtrak train.

It’s the southbound Saluki rushing through Pesotum, Illinois, on its daily trek from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois.

But take another look at that intermediate signal. It is displaying two indications simultaneously of clear and stop.

I probably could not have planned this image if I had tried. I just happened to catch the signal head as it was transitioning from one signal indication to another and, apparently, green comes on a millisecond or two before the red goes out.

Those baggage cars, by the way, are not carrying anything. They are on the train to meet a Canadian National mandated minimum axle count.

CN Track Work to Disrupt Amtrak’s Saluki

March 14, 2019

Track work being performed on March 19, 21 and 26 by Canadian National will result in schedule adjustments and service cancellations of Amtrak,’s Saluki.

Train 390 will originate at Champaign, Illinois, departing at  10:45 am, 31 minutes later than its normal schedule.

Arrival times at Rantoul, Gilman, Kankakee and Homewood will be 31 minutes later than scheduled.

Passengers who would have boarded the Saluki at Carbondale, Duquoin, Centralia, Effingham and Mattoon will be transported to Champaign by bus to board No. 390.

Train 391 will terminate at Champaign and its equipment turned there to makeup Train 390.

Passengers bound for points served by No. 391 south of Champaign will complete their journey by bus.

Track Work to Affect Amtrak’s Saluki

December 17, 2018

Canadian National track work will affect operation of Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, Saluki on Dec. 18.

Train No. 391 will terminate at Champaign, Illinois, with alternative bus service provided to all stations between Champaign and Carbondale.

Train No. 390 will originate in Champaign, departing at 10:45 a.m., which is 31 minutes than the regular schedule. It will use the equipment that arrived on No. 391, which is scheduled to arrive at 10:25 a.m.

Alternative bus service will be offered at intermediate stations between Carbondale and Champaign.

First Glimpse of a Charger

July 24, 2018

Amtrak’s SC-44 Charger locomotives have been in service for several months on Midwest corridor routes, but it was only recently that I got my first glimpse of one.

I was in Effingham, Illinois, to observe the arrival of the northbound Saluki, which is shown above.

The Chargers are operating on most Midwest routes with the notable exception of Wolverine and Blue Water trains.

Amtrak has said the Chargers won’t be assigned to those trains until the positive train control system can be aligned with the PTC system used on Amtrak-owned track in Michigan and Indiana.

My first impression of the Chargers was favorable unlike my first thought about the now ubiquitous P42 and P40 units.

The nose of the Charger is similar in design to that of a Genesis locomotive and we’ve all had years to become accustomed to the latter.

CN Track Work Work Delaying Illini, Saluki

June 28, 2018

Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, trains have long been subject to delays on their host railroad, Canadian National, but now the carrier has formally acknowledged that.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that track work being performed by CN will subject the Saluki and Illini to be delayed 60 minutes or more through July 2

Trains 390, 391, 392 and 393 are funded in part by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The route also hosts the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, which is operating on an alternative schedule through mid-July due to CN track work.