Posts Tagged ‘tracks’

Sunrise at Butler

February 14, 2019

The sun is rising as Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited bangs the diamonds at Butler, Indiana, on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

It is May 22, 2014, and I am on the first leg of trip that will take me to Seattle on the Empire Builder, across Canada on VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian, and back home via the Maple Leaf and Lake Shore Limited.

No. 29 is a little behind schedule and will lose more time before reaching Chicago due to track work on NS in Northwest Indiana.

The crossing track is another NS route, which at one time was the Wabash Railroad line between Detroit and St. Louis.

The Next Train is Probably Never

May 12, 2018

Until November 1990, Amtrak served Canton, Ohio, with four trains a day.

Passengers could board the Broadway Limited for New York or Chicago and the Capitol Limited for Washington and Chicago.

But Conrail wanted Amtrak to assume all costs of maintaining a portion of the former Pennsylvania Railroad route used by the trains near Gary, Indiana, which Conrail said it no longer used or needed.

Amtrak balked at that and after a few years of disputing the matter it agreed to reroute both trains.

That left Canton without intercity rail passenger service for the first time in more than a century.

I made this image of the former Amtrak boarding platform in Canton on July 10, 2008.

At the time, the modular station Amtrak had built in the 1970s to serve Canton still stood, but had been re-purposed as a restaurant and that was closed at the time of my visit.

It is probably a matter of time before Norfolk Southern removes the platforms and remains of the PRR umbrella shed.

There is no realistic proposal for Amtrak to return to Canton. The tracks are in good condition as far west as Crestline, Ohio, but beyond there the rails are not maintained to passenger standards.

More than likely, the last passenger has boarded a train from this platform.

Yes, Watch Out for the Trains

February 16, 2018

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak have been working to boost train speeds on the Chicago-Detroit corridor, particularly on track in Michigan, that both entities own.

MDOT owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Dearborn and over the past couple of summers has sponsored track work designed to enable faster running.

One small indicator of that work is this sign in Chelsea, Michigan, located next to the former Michigan Central station, which is now owned by a local historical society.

Getting Amtrak here at 80 mph or any speed remains on my “to do” list for 2018. There is double track because there is a passing siding here.

Chelsea, located between Ann Arbor and Jackson, is not a stop for Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains, but it was a stop for the Michigan Executive commuter train that Amtrak operated through Jan. 13, 1984, when the state ended its funding of the service.

Michigan transportation officials and rail passenger advocates have been trying to resume commuter rail service ever since.

The St. Charles Air Line

January 19, 2018

Since March 1972, Amtrak trains going to and from the Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans have plied the St. Charles Air Line to gain access to Chicago Union Station.

At some point a train arriving or leaving Union Station must do a backup move to get into or out of the station. All of this adds to the running time and for years there has been talk of creating a more direct connection to the IC mainline and the route into Union Station.

But that has yet to come to fruition so six Amtrak trains a day use the St. Charles Air Line.

In the Illinois Central passenger train days, varnish going to and from the Iowa Division used a portion of the St. Charles Air Line.  Of course, freight trains use the Air Line, too.

Some Chicago officials and land developers would like to see the Air Line abandoned because it traverses territory that in the past decade has seen rapid grown of high-end residential housing. The former site of Central Station has been converted to a housing development.

But for the foreseeable future Amtrak and freight trains will continue to use the Air Line at all hours of the day.

I made the image above from the last car on Amtrak Train No. 393, the Illini, to Carbondale, Illinois, back in June 2010.

In a few minutes No. 393 will round the curve at South Wye Junction and gain the Mainline of Mid America. The train will accelerate as it passes beneath McCormick place and heads southward.

When the LSL Was a Regular Daylight Train in Cleveland

April 26, 2017

It was in 2007, I believe, that Amtrak rescheduled the eastbound Lake Shore Limited to arrive and depart Cleveland between 6 and 7 a.m., which meant it was a daylight operation for a good part of the year.

That schedule didn’t last long and No. 48 soon enough began leaving Chicago at 9:30 p.m., which puts it into Cleveland at 5:35 a.m.

I didn’t take advantage of the 2007 window of opportunity as much as I should have. A friend, though, did. He made it a point to photograph No. 48 in as many places as he could between Cleveland and the Pennsylvania border just east of Conneaut, Ohio, during the summer of 2007.

I did get downtown on a couple of occasions to photograph No. 48 in the station, including this view made on July 14, 2007.

Note that lead unit No. 156 is the one that is now painted in Amtrak’s Phase I locomotive livery.

Rocketing Into Joliet

February 6, 2017
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The Peoria Rocket arrives at Joliet Union Station on June 25, 1977, as a handful of people watch.

There was a time when the Rocket name meant very good service on the Rock Island Railroad. But June 1977 was not one of those times.

It is an early Saturday evening in Joliet, Illinois, as the Peoria Rocket approaches Joliet Union Station.

The Rocket is funded in part by the State of Illinois, but that will not be enough to keep it going much longer.

I had boarded the Rocket in Peoria earlier in the day for a day trip to Chicago. I was appalled by the condition of the train and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to ride Amtrak’s Lone Star to Joliet to pick up the Rocket for my return leg to Peoria.

The ride aboard the Rocket was rough and there had been few passengers on the trip to Chicago earlier in the day. The equipment was worn out.

In retrospect I wished I had better appreciated the experience that I had, though. The Peoria Rocket was one of the last of its kind.

I also wish that I had better photography skills than I had when I made this image. Namely, that I had waited to snap the photograph until the nose of the locomotive was closer.

But I was young and had much to learn. Today this image reminds me of another time that is never going to come back around, but at least I did make the effort to experience it.

In Position as Required by Rule

December 17, 2016
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The rear brakeman of Amtrak No. 4 stands watch in Lamy, New Mexico, on Nov. 1, 1981.

Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Limited is making its station stop in Lamy, New Mexico, and the Santa Fe rear brakeman watches the boarding process from toward the rear of the train.

The two Superliner sleepers assigned to No. 4 today are on the rear end. I got to talking with this crew member during my journey, which began the night before in Los Angeles and would end early the next morning in Kansas City. Before he went off duty, he handed me the train bulletin for that day.

I made this image from the vestibule of the sleeper in which I had a room.

Coming and Going at Chicago Union Station

November 19, 2016

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Ever since Amtrak trains using the former Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans began using Chicago Union Station in March 1972, they have almost always backed in and out of the depot.

It is possible to pull straight out or straight into CUS, but that would mean having to go around a wye somewhere else.

In this scene it is Feb. 6, 1977, and I am looking over the shoulder of a trainman guiding the inbound Panama Limited into CUS.

A Burlington Northern commuter train is departing as we arrive. No. 58 arrived late, but that was par for the course during the brutal winter of 1977 when about a third of the fleet serving the Midwest was out of service due to the weather-related conditions.

The Panama Limited began operating with Amfleet equipment and for several months it had no sleeping car service.

A Surprise the Next Morning

October 13, 2016

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I had booked a room aboard Amtrak train No. 5 to Denver on the second leg of an ambitious journey by Amtrak that would see me traveling nearly coast to coast by rail.

I left Chicago Union Station in late afternoon on Oct. 24, 1981, aboard what was then the San Francisco Zephyr. It was not my first trip aboard Amtrak’s new Superliner equipment, but would be my first time traveling in a Superliner sleeper.

Most of the initial trip out of Chicago occurred during darkness and I don’t remember seeing much, if anything in Iowa. My dominant memory of this trip is how comfortable and cozy I felt inside my room aboard the train.

Somewhere in Nebraska the next morning I was surprised to look out my window and see that the ground was covered with snow.

I grabbed my camera, went to a vestibule door, opened the window and made this image.

If you did that today Amtrak personnel would let you know that it is not allowed. Maybe they felt that way then, too, but I just opened the window long to get the image and go back to my room.

The original slide of this image has badly faded, but the wizardry of digital scanning combined with Photoshop enabled me to bring it back to life.

My recollection is that the original slide was overexposed, so this is as good as it could be.

There is something about this image that makes it one of favorites from this era. The red, white and silver of the two F40PH locomotives leading the train add a touch of color to an otherwise barren and white landscape.

I also like how the tracks snake through the snow, lending a sense of going somewhere.

It was the Burlington Northern back then and under BNSF ownership today these tracks probably are still busy.

By the time we reached Denver, the snow was gone and I would not see any more of it during my trip. It must have been a fairly localized storm.

Turning the Shawnee in Carbondale

October 2, 2016

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It is a Monday afternoon in Carbondale, Illinois. I had a day off from work and spent part of it riding Amtrak’s Shawnee from Mattoon, Illinois, where I lived and worked at the time, to Carbondale.

I could board train No. 391 in late morning, arrive in Carbondale in early afternoon and then take No. 392, which was due to depart at 4 p.m., back, home.

The date is May 7, 1979, and the scene is pure 1970s. An Illinois Central Gulf geep has tied onto the rear of the Shawnee and will pull it to North Yard where the consist will be turned on a wye.

If you look hard enough you can see the light towers in the yard as well as the old coaling tower. A portion of the St. Louis Division office building is visible on the right edge in the distance.

The train is sitting in front of the former Illinois Central passenger station. At one time, Carbondale was a busy place where through cars for St. Louis were switched in and out of Chicago-New Orleans trains.

In Amtrak’s early years cars were added and subtracted from Amtrak Nos. 58 and 59 (Chicago-New Orleans), but that didn’t last long.

On the point of the Shawnee is P30CH No. 724, which was less than four years old at the time. Pooches were common fixtures on corridor trains running on ICG tracks.

The consist of the train is three Amfleet cars, one of them an Amcafe, and a baggage car. The latter did not routinely operate on Nos. 391/392 but in the 1970s Amtrak sometimes assigned a baggage car to the Shawnee during periods when the colleges along the line were starting or ending a term.

Today, much of what can be seen here is gone. The Pooches are long since been retired. The tracks are now owned by Canadian National and Amtrak built its own station at a location farther south. There aren’t as many tracks, either.

The Shawnee name is gone but there are now two pairs of Chicago-Carbondale trains, one named the Illini and the other the Saluki. College students still make up a substantial market for this corridor. The old IC passenger station still exists but has been re-purposed.

Although not apparent at the time, this scene captures the transition from the ICRR passenger train era to a modern Amtrak era in which passenger stations and the railroad infrastructure serving them have been much reduced in scope.

Back in 1979, though, you could still imagine what this place looked like when the trains wore orange and chocolate brown and the Carbondale station was a much busier place.