Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak and winter’

Harsh Winter Hinders Amtrak in Midwest

February 18, 2021

Harsh winter weather continued to lead to delays and cancellations for Amtrak on Wednesday, including in the Midwest.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said a week of temperatures near zero caused a series of “weather-related equipment issues.”

A Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water round trip was cancelled on Wednesday as a result.

The same day the Chicago-bound Pere Marquette, which originates in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was terminated at its first intermediate stop in Hollard, Michigan, due to equipment problems.

Passengers were transferred to a bus to complete their journey to their destination.

Several corridor and long-distance trains that did operate on Tuesday and Wednesday encountered lengthy departure delays from Chicago.

That included the eastbound Cardinal to New York via Indianapolis and Cincinnati, which didn’t depart Chicago Union Station until 7:21 p.m.

The scheduled departure time for Train 51 is 5:45 p.m.

After a late Tuesday arrival in Chicago from Carbondale, Illinois, the Saluki was canceled on Wednesday and its counterpart to Carbondale, the Illini, was cancelled that day. Both trains were cancelled on Wednesday.

Today the westbound Capitol Limited reached Cleveland more than an hour late but the westbound Lake Shore Limited was reported to have arrived on time.

Winter Arrives Early, LSL Arrives Late

November 13, 2018

Akron Railroad Club member Ed Ribinskas write that he did his first winter photography earlier this week. He landed the new Amtrak Phase II heritage unit at about 10:40 a.m. as a trailing unit in a 4-hour late eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

In the top image, not the Painesville sign on the former New York Central station, which has been undergoing restoration.

Ed also reported that the old Nickel Plate Road trestle over the Grand River is now completely gone.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Running in a Winter Wonderland

January 24, 2018

When the weather in the upper Midwest turns wintry, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited often runs late.

Earlier this month Nos. 48 and 49 were running six hours or more behind schedule due to the effects of winter conditions.

Delays in turning the equipment in Chicago were given some of the blame, but winter operating conditions can also lead to frozen switches, broken rails and freight train emergencies that are not Amtrak’s fault.

If No. 48 leaves Chicago late, it likely will get even later as it rolls eastward toward New York and Boston.

On a sunny but frigid day last week when the early morning temperatures were in the low teens and the wind chill was sub zero, I braved the elements to photograph No. 48 at Geneva, Ohio, where it came through more than two hours off schedule.

It was running a few minutes behind an eastbound CSX stack train. I can only speculate that the dispatcher put the intermodal train out ahead of Amtrak because it would not be stopping in Erie, Pennsylvania, but Amtrak would be.

Late 48 at 12:35 p.m. on Consecutive Fridays

January 6, 2018

I photographed Amtrak No. 48 at the Painesville station of the former New York Central  running more than six hours late at the same time – 12:35 p.m. – on consecutive Fridays. The top image shows the eastbound Lake Shore Limited on Friday, Dec. 29. The bottom photo shows the train on Friday, Jan. 5 when the air temperature was 7 degrees.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Wolverine Train Delayed 12 Hours on Monday

January 2, 2018

Passengers aboard Wolverine Service No. 354 were delayed by 12 hours on New Year’s Day due to weather and mechanical issues.

The delays began in Chicago where the train was scheduled to depart at 6 p.m. but didn’t get out of the station until 8:25 p.m. due to mechanical issues with the locomotive.

Severe winter weather that affected a switch then delayed the train by another hour between 10:45 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. near New Buffalo, Michigan.

The train sat in Kalamazoo, where it arrived at 1 a.m., for four hours until a relief crew arrived after the original crew ran afoul of the hours of service law.

Leaving Kalamazoo at 5:30 a.m., the train then stopped at Albion two hours later where another crew took over the train. It arrived in Pontiac at 1:42 p.m. The scheduled arrival time is 1:17 a.m.

The train had about 148 passengers aboard, Amtrak said.

Severe Cold Taking Toll on Amtrak Operations

February 27, 2015

The brutal cold that has gripped the eastern United States in an icy vise has taken a toll on Amtrak trains serving Northeast Ohio.

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, said that delays of five hours for the westbound Lake Shore Limited have been common in the past week.

The group noted that on Wednesday night the eastbound Lake Shore Limited departed Chicago Union Station 5 hours, 47 minutes late.

No. 48 was more than six hours late when it met and passed No. 49 between Sandusky and Toledo at about 10 a.m. No. 49 at the time was operating more than four hours late.

The Lake Shore Limited operates between Chicago and New York with a section to and from Boston that joins the train at Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

Since Feb. 20, All Aboard Ohio said the average delays for trains serving Northeast Ohio have been:

  • Train 49 arriving Chicago: 5 hours, 57 minutes late
  • Train 48 arriving New York City: 4 hours, 15 minutes late
  • Train 30 arriving Washington D.C.: 2 hours, 44 minutes late
  • Train 29 arriving Chicago: 2 hours, 11 minutes late

Amtrak has also canceled the Boston section, citing severe winter weather across New England. It has provided substitute bus service between Albany and Boston to connect with trains 48/49.

In the meantime, the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal has been truncated since a Feb. 16 derailment of a CSX crude oil train in West Virginia.

Nos. 50 and 51 have been operating only between Chicago and Indianapolis. Buses have then taken passengers between Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

However, Amtrak has not provided substitute bus service between Cincinnati and Charlottesville, Va.

One track at the derailment site opened on Thursday, but early Friday morning the Amtrak website still showed the westbound Cardinal that was scheduled to depart from New York for Chicago today as being canceled.

Amtrak is accepting reservations for the next westbound No. 51, which will depart New York on Sunday morning.

In a news release, All Aboard Ohio said that some of the reasons for the delays are beyond Amtrak’s control

These include speed restrictions as low as 25 mph imposed by CSX and Norfolk Southern because they fear the cold will crack their seamless welded steel rails.

But the advocacy group said that other delays are Amtrak’s responsibility. These include equipment malfunctions, locomotives that have failed en route, doors between rail cars freezing into the open position, and cold temperatures inside passenger cars that led to toilets, pipes and water tanks to freeze and rupture.

“This is downright offensive to the traveling public,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “Amtrak President Joe Boardman must be held to account for this, starting with a personal apology to all passengers who had to endure this pathetic excuse for transportation in a civilized nation. It is clear by their poor performance that these trains are being neglected by Amtrak and its private-sector partners who own and manage the tracks. Rail transportation used to be largely indifferent to bad winter weather. Nowadays, the railroads can’t seem to get their trains through the snow and cold.”

Amtrak Did OK in Latest Severe Winter Storm

February 4, 2015

With some exceptions, Amtrak performed well during the severe winter conditions that struck the Midwest last weekend.

That was in contrast to a day last month when many trains left Chicago Union Station hour late if they left at all.

This past Monday, eight of Amtrak’s 28 trains out of Chicago left more than 10 minutes late.

One notable exception was a Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service train that broke down. As a result the Hiawathas suffered a cascading series of delays.

The problems began when southbound No. 338 became disabled south of Sturtevant, Wis., Monday afternoon and arrived in Chicago at 10:17 p.m. nearly 6 hours late.

Reportedly, the train did not lose heat or lighting.

Train No. 340, the next Milwaukee departure, coupled on to the disabled consist, but the delay caused that train to arrive three hours late. Amtrak created a makeshift consist to pull the 5:08 p.m. Chicago departure of No. 339 for Milwaukee. This train, which does a heavy commuter business, left Chicago at 7 p.m.

That equipment consist arrived back in Chicago after 10:30 p.m. on Monday.

Modification of Amtrak’s P42 traction motors, winterizing of freeze-prone Horizon fleet cars and a revised inspection building procedures for train servicing in Chicago helped Amtrak to maintain reliability.

Superliner coaches that were removed from long-distance trains last month during the low travel season have been placed on Wolverine Service Nos. 350 and 355, Chicago-Quincy, Ill., Nos. 380 and 381, and Chicago-Carbondale, Ill., Nos. 390 and 393.

When corridor train consists are turned at their endpoints, Amtrak has been running locomotives at the front of each train to minimize traction motor snow ingestion.

BNSF closed its Mendota Subdivision on Monday between Aurora and Galesburg, Ill., forcing Amtrak to cancel the morning Chicago-Quincy services in each direction.

The line reopened that afternoon. The inbound and outbound California Zephyr and Southwest Chief operated close to on time.

BNSF feared a repeat of a January 2014 incident in which three Amtrak trains became stranded in snow drifts near Princeton, Ill.

The weekend storm dumped 19 inches of snow at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Winter’s Beauty on the NS Chicago Line

January 15, 2015

Here is Amtrak's train 48 on Tuesday at Battery Park in Cleveland. It was nice catching clean units in the snow on a track that will be gone by the end of this year.

Here is Amtrak’s train 48 on Tuesday at Battery Park in Cleveland. It was nice catching clean units in the snow on a track that will be gone by the end of this year.

Wintry blasts have caused havoc with Amtrak operations in the past week. The Lake Shore Limited in particular has been running hours off schedule.

On Monday, No. 48 left Chicago nearly 4 hours behind schedule and halted in Cleveland at 10:20 a.m. When it departed 11 minutes later it was 4 hours and 41 minutes down.

But things are looking up for No. 48. It departed from Chicago on time on Tuesday night and got out of Cleveland a mere 19 minutes late.

Winter has a beauty of its own despite the cold and snow. Roger Durfee has been recording that along the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. Here is a sampling of his work.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Another late No. 48 rolling through Cleveland last week.

Another late No. 48 rolling through Cleveland last week.

NS 35N with the Lackawanna heritage unit leading.

NS 35N with the Lackawanna heritage unit leading.

A unit coil train in the snow.

A unit coil train in the snow.

Amtrak’s Winter Preperatory Work May Not Be Working as Well as Expected in Chicago

January 12, 2015

Although it received the most attention, the Lake Shore Limited that departed Chicago more than 13 hours late last week was not the only train that day that left behind schedule.

Only eight of Amtrak’s 29 scheduled daily trains departed that day on time.

The problems with winter-induced mechanical problems also occurred despite Amtrak taking several measure before winter began to avoid a repeat of the problems that has hindered operation of its trains in the past.

Trains magazine reported that Amtrak has refused multiple requests to explain the nature of the locomotive problems that caused No. 48 to depart Thursday at 11:08 a.m. That train, which arrived in Cleveland after 8 p.m., did not reach New York Penn Station until 9:20 a.m. on Friday. That was nearly 15 hours late.

Last Wednesday, 14 of Amtrak’s Amtrak Chicago departures left the terminal more than a hour late.

Aside from the Lake Shore Limited, the Empire Builder left for Seattle and Portland at 8:08 p.m., nearly 6 hours late. The Los Angeles-bound Southwest Chief got out of town after a delay of 5 hours and 23 minutes, getting the highball at 8:23 p.m. The problems with the Lake Shore Limited began with its inbound counterpart was more than 4 hours late arriving.

No. 48 left once, but was turned back by Norfolk Southern because the Amtrak operating crew was on short time.

Amtrak was deadheading a new crew from Toledo for No. 48 aboard the westbound Capitol Limited and wanted to put that crew aboard when the trains met. But NS nixed that idea so No. 48 backed up into the station and didn’t leave for another three hours.

Trains reported that as part of Amtrak’s preparation for the winter of 2014-2015 Amtrak replaced the traction motors in its General Electric P42DC locomotives with newer models that were supposed to fend off short-circuiting ground faults caused by the ingestion of fine snow.

The magazine said that anecdotal evidence suggests that that fix hasn’t worked and as occurred last winter Amtrak lacks enough engines ready in Chicago to stand in for those that are disabled.

Trains reported that P42 locomotives can’t be freely substitute for each other because they are captive to routes that have signaling systems unique to the train’s route.

For example, the motive power on the Southwest Chief must have ex-Santa Fe Automatic Train Stop pickup shoes attached to its trucks

Trains operating between Chicago and St. Louis, and on the Chicago-Michigan routes must be equipped with different forms of Incremental Train Control cab signaling for 110 mph operation.

The Empire Builder has performed remarkably well despite having to run through double-digit below zero temperatures and snowy conditions in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana.

Through late last week, No. 8 had arrived early into Chicago five times and was less than about an hour late on the other three occasions.

It remains to be seen if the train can sustain that performance once about 3 hours of eastbound recovery time is removed from the schedule that was added last April.

Elsewhere,  winter conditions plagued various rail operations. On New Jersey Transit, trains were affected when the cold caused mechanical issues with the overhead wires that power the trains.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s trains were affected by concerns over cracked rails and air brake systems leading to slower operating speeds.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority—which serves the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia—saw five of its six metro rail lines suffer significant delays. Virginia Railway Express, which also serves Virginia and the District of Columbia, experienced problems as well.

Amtrak Seeks to Reduce Cold at Chicago Depot

January 11, 2015

In the wake of a water pipe break incident and an episode in which some 170 passengers for the Lake Shore Limited froze and shivered their way through the night, Amtrak said it is changing traffic patterns for pedestrian flow at Chicago Union Station to improve temperature conditions.

The changes will be in effect through Feb. 28 and was undertaken in cooperation with the Metra commuter rail agency in Chicago. Amtrak owns the station.

The plan includes limiting the use of some doors, which Amtrak said will improve the control of the influx winter air into the station.

Amtrak said this should reduce the likelihood of such incidents as the sprinkler pipe break that occurred last week.

No changes are planned for the entrances at the Chicago River, and to and from Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard., Those are the highest volume routes for most station users and Amtrak said all exterior entry and exit locations will remain in service.

The connecting corridor between the north and south Concourses will be closed between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Foot traffic to the ticket offices for Amtrak, Metra and Greyhound, to and from Canal Street or to and from other services will be redirected.

Use of the automatic doors and escalators between the east side of Canal Street and the concourse will be limited in off-peak times. Elevators will operate at all times.

Doors to the service drive will be limited to emergency use or open only events in the Great Hall. Pedestrians will be directed instead through the Great Hall or to and from other entrances.