Posts Tagged ‘AAPRCO charter trains’

Chasing the AARPCO Specials in Chicago

September 6, 2022

METX 90 backing the train onto the Metra Electric in Blue Island, Illinois.
South Shore 2009 leads across the Canadian National diamond at Stillwell, Indiana.
The AARPCO special navigates the remaining 10th street running at Michigan City, Indiana.
Caritas brings up the rear. This remnant of the street trackage has lost its wires and is only used by freight and diesel-powered equipment moves.  All the houses and businesses on the south side of the street have been torn down and construction of a new double track line has begun. Eleventh Street is already been torn up and a new track is being laid.  When complete the former single track street trackage will be completely double tracked and on private right of way. It’s sad to see but it will certainly improve speeds and schedules by eliminating this bottleneck.

I was in the Chicago area for Labor Day weekend. The plan was to do some railfanning and visit the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois, on Saturday and the Heston Steam Museum in LaPorte County, Indiana, on Sunday.

While I did visit IRM, Sunday’s plans were radically changed.

After railfanning Metra near downtown Chicago, I  proceeded to Grayslake station on the Northwest side.

This is on the former Milwaukee Road North line and sees Metra, Canadian Pacific, and Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service as well as the Empire Builder. Across the street is a hobby shop which I also visited.

Some customers informed me that a passenger car special would go by northbound around 1 p.m. It was just after that so I assumed It had not been by yet (I had not seen it downtown either).

A few other trains went by and then the northbound track which was green changed to a red signal.

A few minutes later a train led by METX No. 90, Metra’s Chicago & North Western heritage paint, came with what turned out to be the American Association of Private Passenger Car Owners special.

As it turned out their convention was in Chicago that weekend and it was running over most of Metra’s routes.

It had left Chicago earlier in the morning and run out to Elgin on the Milwaukee Road West mainline and had returned but taking the wye to turn north. This is how I had missed it.  It was now returning south to Chicago and I got a special catch.

I then continued on my journey to IRM which was open late (9:30 p.m. instead of the usual 6 p.m. closing time). 

I discovered that AARPCO was running a whole series of trips which would continue the rest of Saturday and into the next week.

After I had caught it, the special continued through Union Station and went to Joliet via the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio line. It then reversed and took the Rock Island district to LaSalle Street Station.

This brings me to Sunday morning. Sunday’s trip would go west to Blue Island then east on the Metra Electric to Kensington.

There it would be handed off to the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend to Michigan City, Indiana, through the remaining street running and then head south to Kingsbury on a former Nickel Plate line that the South Shore now operates as freight only.

This is very rare mileage as the Metra Electric has never hosted a diesel powered passenger train and the Kingsbury line has not seen a passenger movement in 75 years.

Needless to say the Heston museum plans were thrown out and the AARPCO special would be the day’s focus.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

AAPRCO Special Rolls Through Cleveland

October 3, 2016

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On Sunday morning a seven-car American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners special went west through Cleveland.

The special consisted of Amtrak P42DC’s 134 and 190; Pennsylvania 120; Juniata Terminal’s Warrior Ridge; Morristown and Erie’s Alexander Hamilton; former New York Central 43, Mount Vernon; former Pullman Pacific Home; and former NYC Babbling Brook.

I caught the special going through Berea and thought it looked somewhat like the Great Steel Fleet that the New York Central ran in the postwar era.

I probably should have gone to a more representative location such as Olmsted Falls with the depot but sometimes you take what you can get.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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Private Car Train to See Indiana, Kentucky Rails

September 15, 2015

A private car train is taking the long way around to go from Chicago to St. Louis to reach the 38th annual convention of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners.

The Spirit of St. Louis will do much of its traveling through Indiana and Kentucky.

That will enable the train to spend about 80 percent of its transit time getting rare mileage on freight-only routes of Norfolk Southern and BNSF.

The train of all private passenger cars that will be pulled by two Amtrak P42DC locomotives will be assembled in Chicago on Sept. 26 and depart the next day.

The first day will find the train using the NS Fort Wayne line to Fort Wayne, Indiana, over former Nickel Plate Road trackage.

In Ft. Wayne, the train will take an original Lake Erie & Western route to New Castle, Indiana, that was acquired by the NKP in 1922.

From New Castle, the train will use a former Pennsylvania Railroad route via Richmond, Indiana, to Cincinnati. A portion of that route in the Richmond area will put the train on the route of the PRR’s Spirit of St. Louis, which was once a luxury train between St. Louis and New York.

After spending two days in Cincinnati, the private car train will depart on Sept. 29 via the  former Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific First Subdivision to Danville, Kentucky.

It will then turn west in Danville onto the former Southern Railway’s Louisville District to its namesake city.

After two days in Louisville, the train will depart on Oct. 1 via the former Southern mainline between Louisville and St. Louis via Mount Vernon, Illinois. The AAPRCO convention will be held Oct. 2-5.

At the conclusion of the convention, the private car train will depart on Oct. 5 on a former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy line to Burlington, Iowa, that is now owned by BNSF.

At Burlington, the Spirit of St. Louis will join the BNSF route used by Amtrak’s California Zephyr for the last leg into Chicago.

Private Cars Face Oct. 1 Amtrak Rules Deadline

September 27, 2014

Private car owners are facing an Oct. 1, 2014, deadline to comply with Amtrak regulations that all wheels and axles must be ultrasound tested before being allowed to operate on Amtrak trains.

As of Sept. 22, Amtrak had tested 89 cars of which five failed the standards announced in early 2013.

Lee Trombecky, Amtrak’s manager of regulatory compliance, said of the five cars that failed inspection, seven axles were found to have condemnable defects.

There are about 450 private cars, including railroad-owned equipment, that could be Amtrak-certified, but no more than about 125 actively operate in Amtrak service.

“We are planning to bring the defective axles to Wilmington and cut them open so our engineers can investigate what we’re finding inside those axles,” Trombecky said during the recent convention of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners. “I know everybody was upset why we were doing this but it is all about safety. We don’t want cars out on the railroad and something breaking, and we know (testing) has been painstaking and costly, but we appreciate what you’re doing.”

Brian Gallagher, Amtrak’s operations director, said that that poor Empire Builder on-time performance precluded picking up a private car in Fargo, N.D., that its owner wanted to send to the AAPRCO convention.

“But I called the division and we had to say ‘no’ because that 25 to 30 minutes (needed to add the car and complete a brake test) could make or break the rest of that trip,”  Gallagher said.

He says that anytime a train loses time, host railroads “lose more for us. If we’re not where we say we are going to be, we get sidetracked – literally.”

Gallagher said that costs are “through the roof on late trains. If you have to charter a plane to fly a crew to some little grass strip in the middle of Montana, that’s significant.”

Gallagher also said that Amtrak is looking at a plan to rebuild more P42 and P40 locomotives. However, it lacks funding for the project and can’t afford or to buy new locomotives.

“We’ve had some catastrophic failures out there but we’re doing the best we can do,” he said.

Despite Amtrak’s meager financial resources, Gallagher said, “the board (of directors) and the administration has made a decision: We’re not cutting any trains. That I can tell you.”

Pine Tree Ltd. Came Back a Little Shorter

September 26, 2014

The Pine Tree Limited is shown crossing Conneaut Creek a week ago on its trip from Cleveland to Binghamton, N.Y. The car at left is the Cimarron River, a Frisco sleeper once assigned to the Meteor. The car is now owned by Tony Marchiando.

The Pine Tree Limited is shown crossing Conneaut Creek a week ago on its trip from Cleveland to Binghamton, N.Y. The car at right is the Cimarron River, a Frisco sleeper once assigned to the Meteor. The car is now owned by Tony Marchiando.

It was a little shorter, but the Pine Tree Limited made a return trip through Northern Ohio today en route to Chicago.

The train had originated in Chicago on Sept. 18 and spent the night in Cleveland before departing the next day for Binghamton, N.Y.

Eventually, the train made a three-day, 1,245-mile trip with 26 private cars pulled by three Amtrak P42 locomotives to reach Portland, Maine, and the annual convention of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners.

A published schedule of the return trip to Chicago indicated that the Pine Tree Limited was due into Toledo at 7:35 a.m. It was to arrive in Chicago at 12:20 p.m., but given the freight congestion that these days is routinely delaying Amtrak trains by hours that arrival time might be rather optimistic.

The journey of the Pine Tree Limited included 681 miles of former Nickle Plate Road; Delaware, Lackawanna & Western; and Boston & Maine tracks owned by Norfolk Southern; New York, Susquehanna & Western; and Pan Am Railways that haven’t hosted scheduled intercity passenger service for at least 50 years.

The train was split into two sections for the return home with section operating to Chicago having 14 cars. The other 12 cars were be attacked to regular Amtrak trains out of Boston South Station.

The Chicago section was to follow the routes of the Downeaster and Lake Shore Limited.

Pine Tree Limited Was Quite a Sight

September 20, 2014

The Pine Tree Limited, the inbound convention special for the American Association of Private Railroad Car owners soars over Conneaut Creek on Friday morning behind three Amtrak P42 locomotives.

The Pine Tree Limited, the inbound convention special for the American Association of Private Railroad Car owners soars over Conneaut Creek on Friday morning behind three Amtrak P42 locomotives.

Edward Ribinskas and I had a small window of opportunity on Friday morning to catch the Pine Tree Limited, the convention train of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners. The special, which was bound for next week’s AAPRCO convention in Portland, Maine, left Cleveland early Friday morning over the former Nickel Plate Road mainline.

The train had originated in Chicago on Thursday and became bogged down in the usual congestion these days on Norfolk Southern’s Chicago Line. The special had originally been set to travel the ex-NKP between Chicago and Cleveland, but NS requested that it move to the Chicago Line due to a crew shortage.

Known as the Pine Tree Limited, the train was scheduled to spend the night in Cleveland. On Friday it was to travel to Binghamton, N.Y., via the Southern Tier.

The special was scheduled to leave at 6 a.m. on Friday and Ed and I guesstimated that that might put it through Painesville around 7 a.m. There isn’t enough daylight then to get good photographs so we decided to head east to Conneaut and photograph the train on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

As it turned out, we might have been able to photograph the train, which operated under the symbol Amtrak 040, back in Painesville. At about 7:50 a.m., we heard the Youngstown Line dispatcher tell a westbound auto rack train that it would be going into the siding at Sandborn to meet the Amtrak special.  The dispatcher noted that the Amtrak train was at Wickliffe.

The dispatcher told the crew of the auto rack train that the Amtrak special should be a fast mover, but it did not reach Conneaut until about 9:08 a.m.

We had in the meantime staked out a position beneath the bridge. I photographed every car on the train in some manner. It was quite an impressive sight. It is the first AAPRCO train I’ve seen and had more than 20 private passenger cars led by three Amtrak P42 locomotives.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The former Great Northern car is observation car City of Spokane.

The former Great Northern car is observation car City of Spokane.

The silver car to the right is the Mount Vernon. I had photographed this car earlier this year on a very late westbound Lake Shore Limited in Olmsted Falls.

The silver car to the right is the Mount Vernon. I had photographed this car earlier this year on a very late westbound Lake Shore Limited in Olmsted Falls.

The Iowa Pacific owned Caritas is decked out in an Illinois Central inspired livery.

The Iowa Pacific owned Caritas is decked out in an Illinois Central inspired livery.

Dome cars were well represented in the consist.

Dome cars were well represented in the consist.

Bringing up the rear was the "Georgia." We were surprised that no one appeared to be on the rear platform.

Bringing up the rear was the “Georgia.” We were surprised that no one appeared to be on the rear platform.

Private Car Charter to Pass Through Cleveland

September 16, 2014

A charter train of privately owned passenger cars will pass through Cleveland on Sept. 18-19 en route to a convention in Maine of private car owners.

The Pine Tree Limited, will depart Chicago Union Station on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 18, and spend the night in Cleveland at an undisclosed location.

The train will depart the next morning for its next stopover point in Binghamton, N.Y.

The train was chartered by the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and will be operated by Amtrak in cooperation with Norfolk Southern.

The train was originally scheduled to travel between Chicago and Cleveland via the former Nickel Plate Road mainline, but that has been changed to the Amtrak route via Toledo over the NS Chicago Line.

AAPRCO trains are known for taking routes that offer passengers “rare mileage” over freight-only rail lines.

The train will eventually reach Portland, Maine, on Sept. 21. Many of the cars will return to Chicago on Sept. 25-26, traveling in part on the route of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

The APPRCO convention will be held Sept. 21-25.

All passengers riding the special train must be members of AAPRCO or the guest of an AAPRCO member. Passengers and guests do not have to register for the convention to ride all of a portion of the trip.

Some owners of the cars that will make up the Pine Tree Limited are selling space to the public. Some of these cars will originate at distant points and travel to Chicago via Amtrak.

For example, car Vista Canyon was to depart Tucson, Ariz., on Sept. 11 on the Sunset Limited en route to Los Angeles where it would connect with the Southwest Chief for the trip to Chicago. It will return on Amtrak via New Orleans.

The fare to ride the Vista Canyon for its entire journey is $8,750, based on double occupancy.

The Los Angeles Railroad Club will offer three cars on the AAPRCO special. The fare aboard the Pacific Sands and Tioga Pass is $6,750 per person and space in both cars is already sold out.

The club will offer a third car, Salisbury Beach, at a fare of $5,350 per person. In early September, this car still had a few rooms available.

Closer to home, the Cincinnati Railway Company will operate three cars that were to originate in Cincinnati on Sunday, Sept. 14, traveling to Chicago via Amtrak’s Cardinal.

The Oliver Hazard Perry is being sold as a unit, not by individual rooms as is typically the case with private cars on special trains. The price for the car is $38,500.

The Cincinnati group also plans to take the Birch Grove and The Observatory to Maine.

Rooms in the Birch Grove were listed at $22,000 for a quad suite of two rooms en suite, $12,000 for a double bedroom and $6,000 for a roomette.

The Observatory was priced at $12,750 for a master bedroom and $12,500 for a double bedroom.

Two things are obvious in this cursory review. Its helps to be wealthy if you want to ride this train and you need to have a lot of free time.

Yet a friend of mine who is an avid rare mileage collector – and who will not be riding the Pine Tree Limited – once told me that some ordinary middle class individuals scrimp and save their money during the year to purchase a room aboard a private car for one of the APPRCO specials.

Aside from some rare mileage, those who ride these specials enjoy an experience that you just can’t get on Amtrak, even in the most pricey sleeper accommodations.

Many of these private cars carry their own chefs and have very attractive interiors. Most of the cars were built in the streamliner era. We’re not talking Amfleet or Superliner equipment.

For the rest of us, it is an opportunity to see an unusual train as well as to ponder what it must be like to ride like a railroad tycoon.

Article by Craig Sanders