Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited overtakes a CSX ethanol train in Conneaut, Ohio, last Friday. At the time, No. 48 was running nearly 3 hours behind schedule. Late running has become the norm for Amtrak trains that serve Northeast Ohio. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)
This might be old news, but Wednesday was a bad day for Amtrak trains that serve Northeast Ohio. OK, Amtrak has a had a lot of bad days this year. So what was so bad about this one?
At 7 a.m. on Thursday morning, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited that had departed Chicago on Tuesday night had still not reached New York City, according to the Amtrak website.
Or maybe it had and no one bothered to report the train’s arrival. The website estimated that No. 48 would arrive at Penn Station at 4:31 a.m., making it 10 hours late.
That train had left Cleveland just before 2 p.m. on Wednesday when it was 8 hours late.
No. 48 would lose nearly another two hours between Cleveland and Buffalo and was almost 10.5 hours late by the time it left Syracuse, N.Y. The last report for the train was out of Croton-Harmon, N.Y., at 3:51 a.m.
The excessively tardy eastbound Lake Shore had begun in what these days is all too typical fashion by departing Chicago Union Station just over an hour late on Tuesday night. By the time it reached its first stop, South Bend, Ind., it was 3.5 hours late.
No. 48 then needed nearly three hours to travel 17 miles to its next stop at Elkhart, Ind. The scheduled travel time is 23 minutes.
By the time the train left Toledo it was more than eight hours behind schedule.
An online report, though, indicated that an hour of that tardiness was due to the crew making a lengthy inspection of the two locomotives while parked at Toledo Central Station.
The report did not indicate why that inspection needed to occur, but it did report that Norfolk Southern’s Toledo Yard dispatcher was annoyed to learn of it when she called the train on the radio to ask if it was ready to go east. That was 20 minutes after it arrived.
The dispatcher had the 22W waiting for those 20 minutes to follow No. 48 out of town. This is a hotshot intermodal for NS and it, too, was running hours late according to the online report.
Earlier on Wednesday, the eastbound Capitol Limited also fell victim to the NS “black hole” between Chicago and South Bend.
No. 30 left Chicago one minute late but by the time it rolled out of South Bend, it was 5 hours, 12 minutes late.
It needed nearly 1.5 hours to reach Elkhart and was 8 hours, 15 minutes down when it departed Waterloo, Ind. The distance between South Bend and Waterloo is 72 miles and in “normal” circumstances No. 30 travels that distance in an hour and 14 minutes.
But conditions on the NS Chicago Line this summer have been far from normal with trains stacking up all over the place and the railroad pressed to find enough available crews to move its freight trains.
The eastbound Capitol Limited on Wednesday continued to lose time as it headed eastward, although in smaller increments. It arrived in Cleveland at 10:44 a.m. and pulled out 13 minutes later. By now it had topped the 9 hour tardiness mark.
It gained a few minutes en route to Pittsburgh, departing Alliance 8 hours and 54 minutes late and leaving the Steel City 8 hours, 51 minutes late.
But it would gain no more time. By the time it left Rockville, Md., at 10:21 p.m., No. 30 was just over 10 hours late.
Schedule padding enabled the train to halt at Washington Union Station 9.5 hours late at 10:45 p.m.
By then every same-day connection that No. 30 can make was gone. Well, not quite. No. 66, the Northeast Regional train to Boston that is scheduled to leave Washington at 10:10 p.m. was held and departed at 11:24 p.m.
Most passengers ticketed for connections in Chicago from the westbound Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited also were able to make their connections to Amtrak’s westbound trains.
The westbound Capitol was doing all that bad, relatively speaking, in its timekeeping. It left Alliance and Cleveland nearly 1.5 hour late on Wednesday morning. It got out of Toledo 1 hour, 41 minutes late.
It would lose 26 minutes by the time it left Waterloo, but then fell into the NS “black hole,” leaving Elkhart and South Bend 4.5 hours late and halting at the Chicago Union Station bumper post at 2:36 p.m., nearly 6 hours late.
The westbound Lake Shore Limited faced the same story. It left New York City on time and was just over an hour late leaving Cleveland. That had increased to 1.5 hours late out of Toledo.
The tardiness reached 2.5 hours out of Bryan, Ohio, 4.5 hours out of Elkhart, and 5 hours, 18 minutes from South Bend. No. 49 reached Chicago at 3:25 p.m., 5 hours, 40 minutes late.
Amtrak held the westbound Southwest Chief for 50 minutes, which enabled connecting passengers from Nos. 29 and 49 to continue their trip uninterrupted if a bit frazzled.
The westbound California Zephyr was held for more than an hour before leaving at 4:03 p.m. The outbound Texas Eagle was held nearly 2 hours to accommodate connections from both trains.
But if you were connecting to the westbound Empire Builder, you were out of luck. No. 7 left at 2:17 p.m., two minutes late and didn’t connect with either No. 29 or 49.
Today (Thursday, Sept. 25), things are looking slightly better for the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.
No. 30 departed the Cleveland Lake Front Station at 7:55 a.m. That is 6 hours late. No. 48 was not far behind and arrived at 8:09 a.m., That is 2 hours, 34 minutes late.
As for the westbound trains, No. 49 was running nearly 3 hours late and No. 29 was plugging along 48 minutes late. But it was on the brink of the NS “black hole,” so it’s anyone’s guess how it will fare into Chicago.
As for the New York-bound Lake Shore Limited that left Chicago on Tuesday night, the Amtrak website was finally updated. No. 48 arrived at Penn Station at 4:33 a.m., 10 hours and 10 minutes late.