Posts Tagged ‘Winona Minnesota’

Night Visit to Winona

January 28, 2017

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Winona, Minnesota, is one of many typical stations served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. And yet it isn’t because it is a crew change point.

The crew that boards to go eastbound always goes on duty in the daylight because No. 8 is scheduled into Winona in late morning.

Depending on the time of year, the crew that boards No. 7 to take it further westward, may or may not see daylight.

In this series of images, it is May 2014 and the new operating crew is getting on in darkness.

At the invitation of my sleeping car attendant, I decided to step off in Winona and make a few images to capture a nighttime station stop.

Winona May Create Station Volunteers Program

January 28, 2016

Residents of Winona, Minnesota, are considering launching a volunteers program to work at the city’s Amtrak station in the wake of the removal of the Amtrak ticket agent there late last year.

An Amtrak representative along with a member of a similar program in Kirkwood, Missouri, recently visited Winona to discuss how a volunteer program could be structured and operate.

Amtrak 4After removing its agent from Winona, Amtrak arranged for someone to open and close the station as well as do maintenance and cleaning.

Winona is a crew change point for the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Bill Burckhalter, the station manager for the Kirkwood Amtrak station said his community’s program started with volunteers serving in pairs and coming in an hour before train arrival times and staying for a half-hour after a train had departed.

The volunteers initially greeted passengers and saw them off, but the program has since evolved into providing information and receiving grants to operate, maintain and improve the station.

The City of Kirkwood later purchased the former Missouri Pacific station from Union Pacific.

Burckhalter said the volunteers are a mixture of of train enthusiasts and community members.

“I like the way the community has come together and surrounded the volunteer program,” Burckhalter said. “It’s grown so much.”

Charlie Monte Verde, an Amtrak government affairs representative, said the decision to remove the ticket agent from Winona was based on a shrinking need for staffed stations nationwide because many passengers purchase tickets and make reservations online.

“Nationally, and here in Winona, 85 percent of our customers were using e-ticketing,” Monte Verde said. “With that in mind we had come to the decision to reduce staffing here in Winona.”

Monte Verde said that Canadian Pacific still owns the Winona depot and uses part of it.

However, he said that developing a volunteer program in Winona could still work.  “I think it’s an environment where it can at least become a conversation,” Monte Verde said.

Winona Mayor Mark Peterson said there will be future meetings to discuss setting up a volunteer program.

In 2014, Winona had the second-highest passenger count among Amtrak stations in Minnesota, handling 20,318 passengers. St. Paul was the state’s busiest station with 94,077 passengers.

Amtrak Will Remove Winona Ticket Agent, But Install a Ticket Kiosk and Hire a Part-time Worker

November 24, 2015

The last Amtrak ticket agent in Winona, Minnesota, will sell his last ticket in late December and then transfer to another job.

The station, which is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, will remain open, but be maintained by a part-time worker, starting in early January.

Amtrak has agreed to install a ticket kiosk, but checked baggage service will end.

This represents a compromise of sorts after Winona residents and elected officials protested Amtrak’s plan to yank its ticket agents.

The initial plan, which Amtrak announced in August, was to have a caretaker open and close the station as well as keep it clean.

Winona is a crew change point for Nos. 7 and 8 and Amtrak said at the time that outbound conductors and engineers could answer questions from passengers as to when the train would be arriving.

Amtrak said most passengers buy their tickets online and that passengers desiring checked luggage service could take it to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, station, which will continue to have Amtrak ticket agents.

“So we have to make a business decision and the right business decision is to not have agents two stations in a row in both La Crosse and Winona,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari back in August.

But that didn’t sit well with Winona Mayor Mark Peterson.

He lobbied Amtrak to keep Winona’s station agent and sought the help of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation and U.S. senators.

Peterson noted that ridership at Winona was second only to St. Paul in Minnesota and only slightly less than that at La Crosse.

As a result, Amtrak agreed to maintain the ticket agent in Winona through the end of the year and to hire a part-timer who will provide travel and train information

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the employee will be more than a caretaker.

“A caretaker is just there to empty the wastebasket, but this is going to be doing more than emptying wastebaskets,” he said. “In some cases, the caretaker is more a custodian than someone who is there to help passengers, but in this case they will help passengers. They will be required to help passengers.”

Magliari said Amtrak on-board personnel will also be able to help passengers with their luggage.

Amtrak also plans to advise Winona residents how to launch a volunteer group to support the depot and greet travelers.

The railroad said it will pay for the leader of a friends of the depot group in Kirkwood, Missouri, to come to Winona to talk about the volunteer program.

“I’m pleased that they are listening and are doing something better than what they originally said they were going to do,” Peterson said.

However, he continues to hope to change Amtrak’s mind and keep a ticket agent in Winona.

Amtrak to Close Winona Ticket Office

August 20, 2015
The westbound Empire Builder during its stop in Winona, Minnesota, in May 2014.

The westbound Empire Builder during its stop in Winona, Minnesota, in May 2014.

Amtrak will close its ticket office at the station in Winona, Minnesota, at the end of August.

Winona Mayor Mark Peterson said Amtrak notified the city recently about the closing.

“It’s not what we wanted to hear,” he said.

The station will remain open to serve the daily Empire Builder and Amtrak has arranged for someone to open and close the station at train times as well as keep it clean.

But travelers will need to call Amtrak’s national reservations number or check its website for train and travel information.

Amtrak said the closing is part of a company-wide effort to close ticket offices that have seen a decline in ticket sales.

Ticket offices at Amtrak stations in St. Paul, Minnesota, and La Crosse, Wisconsin will remain open.

Winona station is the second-busiest in Minnesota, with 20,318 boardings and alightings in 2014.

The busiest station is St. Paul, which posted 94,077 boarding and alightings. La Crosse had 24,036 during the same period.

Amtrak said sales of tickets at its ticket offices has declined in recent years as many passengers turn to online ticket purchasing and have the ability to check arrival and departure times with automated phone apps.