Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Blue Water Service’

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.

Fire Prompts Amtrak Train Evacuation in Michigan

January 23, 2021

A fire aboard Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water on Friday resulted in the evacuation of 49 passengers and crew members.

The fire in the train’s Charger locomotive was reported as the train was passing through Decatur Township in Michigan.  The fire was reported to be small in nature.

The passengers were removed from the train because the head end power had to be switched off and that left the train without any heat.

Amtrak terminated the train at Niles, Michigan, and provided alternative transportation for the displaced passengers to Chicago.

Modest Amtrak Expansion Seen For This Summer

May 12, 2020

An Amtrak planning document shows that the carrier plans to continue to operate most services this summer with reduced consists and reduced frequencies on some routes. However, this will represent a slight increase over what the intercity passenger carrier ran this spring.

The Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service corridor will continue to operate with one daily roundtrip whereas until the COVID-19 pandemic struck it had three daily roundtrips.

There will be no change in operations of the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water.

The planning document shows the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette not operating, but that appears to be an error.

The Amtrak website shows Nos. 370 and 371 as operating starting June 1 and reservations can be made.

Amtrak also plans to restore the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and gradually ramp up service in the Keystone Corridor in eastern Pennsylvania.

Starting June 1 Amtrak will restore Keystone Service to nine roundtrips operating between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

On July 5 one roundtrip will be extended to New York. On Sept. 5 service between Harrisburg and New York will be restored to all trains.

The level of service planned this summer will be two roundtrips fewer than what Amtrak operated last summer.

Keystone Service trains will operate with their normal consists while the Pennsylvanian will have its normal consist of four coaches, one business class car, a food service car and a baggage car.

The consist of the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited is slated to expand this summer.

Nos. 29 and 30 are set to operate with three coaches, two sleepers and a diner-lounge. There will be no separate lounge car or baggage car.

The summer consist for the Capitol Limited will be down one sleeping car from last summer, the documents said.

The Capitol Limited currently is carrying two coaches, one sleeper and a diner-lounge.

The Lake Shore Limited summer consist will be three sleepers, four coaches, one dining car for sleeper class passengers, one club dinette and a baggage car.

The planning document, which is dated May 7, said this consist is down one sleeper and one coach from what Nos. 48/448 and 49/449 carried last summer.

However, that may be an error in regards to sleeping car capacity because trackside reports and photographs show the Lake Shore seldom operated with four sleepers as the planning documents suggests.

Nos. 48 and 49 will be the only eastern long-distance train carrying a Viewliner II dining car for sleeper class passengers.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal will see no change this summer from its current consist of two coaches, one sleeper and a diner-lounge.

Track Work Changes Michigan Amtrak Schedules

May 6, 2020

Track work being performed by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern will result in schedule changes for Wolverine and Blue Water trains.

The Blue Water will arrive in Port Huron, Michigan, 28 minutes later at 11:59 p.m. and depart Port Huron 28 minutes earlier, at 5:52 a.m., arriving in Chicago 17 minutes later at 12:02 p.m.

Wolverine Service No. 351 will depart Pontiac 38 minutes earlier at 5:12 a.m., but is expected to arrive in Chicago at its scheduled time of 10:32 a.m.

Train 352 will depart Chicago 30 minutes earlier at 12:55 p.m. and arrive in Pontiac 7 minutes later at 8:39 p.m.

Amtrak did not say in it service advisory how long the revised scheduled will be in effect.

FRA Grants to Benefit Passenger Rail in Mich., Pa.

August 27, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced the awarding of more than $272 million in grant funding to 10 rail projects through its State of Good Repair Program.

Two of the projects will benefit passenger rail corridors in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The Michigan Department of Transportation was awarded $23.3 million for a rehabilitation work on the state-owned line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn that is used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

The project entails rebuilding rail, crossties and track surfaces, and replacing two railroad bridges in Jackson.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation received $15.1 million to rehabilitate and upgrade an interlocking plant in Philadelphia at the junction of the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor and Northeast Corridor main lines.

Work will include slope stabilization and reconstruction of retaining walls, rehabilitation of an existing but underutilized track, and switch and signal reconfiguration.

Charging Through Michigan

July 26, 2019

A recent visit to Durand, Michigan, netted the information that SC-44 Chargers are now operating on the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water.

The Chargers, which the Michigan Department of Transportation helped to buy for Amtrak Midwest corridor services, were slow to be assigned to Michigan trains that use Amtrak-owned track west of Kalamazoo, due to the need to upgrade the software on the locomotives to be compatible with the line’s positive train control system.

Apparently those upgrades have been made.

Nos. 364 and 365 operate with locomotives in each end to avoid having to turn the train in Port Huron during its nightly layover.

No. 365 is shown leaving Durand for its next stop of East Lansing before continuing on to Chicago.

Train Time in Durand

June 23, 2018

We recently made a trip to Flint, Michigan, to visit Mary Ann’s cousins. That gave me an opportunity to get over to Durand for some railfanning, something I had not done there in nearly two years.

I scheduled my visit to coincide with the arrival of Amtrak’s Blue Water, a state-funded train linking Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan.

No. 365 is scheduled into Durand at 8:04 a.m. The good news is that it arrives in daylight. The bad news is that it arrives in daylight.

Say what? At 8 a.m. in the summer the sunlight in Durand does not favor a westbound train on the former Grand Trunk Western’s Flint Subdivision. It’s not even all that favorable for a glint shot.

But I worked with what I had and converted the image to black and white, which often is a good move to make with a digital image if the color is less than spectacular.

No. 365 operates with a locomotive on each end so it doesn’t have to be turned in Port Huron. That made for a nice going away image in good light.

As the Blue Water came into view, I thought for a few moments that it might have one of those new Charger locomotives that Amtrak is using on Midwest corridor service.

But that was not the case. The Blue Water and Wolverine Service trains that serve Detroit use a stretch of Amtrak-owned track between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana, that is equipped with a positive train control system that is not yet compatible with the Chargers.

The issue is getting the PTC software of the Siemens-built Chargers to talk with the Wabtec PTC software.

That is not likely to happen until at least fall, so P42DC units are pulling  Amtrak trains in Michigan except the Pere Marquette, which doesn’t use the Amtrak-owned track.

No. 365 was followed by less than a half-hour two CN westbounds, a stack train and a manifest freight, but still arrived in Durand on time.

There is a fence that separates Durand Union Station from the passenger platform and a station caretaker must unlock and open it.

Despite being a town of 2,500, Durand has good passenger loads based on my experience.

The Blue Water had the standard Midwest Corridor consist of mostly Horizon Fleet coaches with a couple of Amfleet cars, one of them a cafe car with a herald for Illinois high-speed rail service.

Amtrak would prefer the trains be three or four cars, but CN imposes a minimum axle count on Amtrak trains using its tracks to ensure that the trains will activate grade crossing signals.

In Illinois, some Chicago-Carbondale trains run with retired baggage cars, but I’ve never seen that done on the Blue Water.

The train halted and the conductor and assistant conductor both opened doors and put down step boxes.

It didn’t take long for the boarding to be completed, so the conductor radioed a highball and No. 365 was on its way. Next stop, East Lansing.

Michigan Amtrak Trains Running Faster

January 24, 2018

Most Amtrak trains serving Michigan now have faster running times, the Michigan Department of Transportation said this week.

Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) have seen 20 minutes cut from their schedules. Blue Water service between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan, has seen a smaller running time cut.

Both lines use rails owned by Amtrak between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak dispatchers control the Chicago-Detroit line as far east as Dearborn except for a portion of track in Battle Creek that is owned by Canadian National.

MDOT acquired 135 miles of track from Norfolk Southern in 2012 that are used by Amtrak between Kalamazoo and Dearborn except for the CN track in Battle Creek.

The top speed between Porter and Kalamazoo is 110 mph. The maximum speed is 79 mph on the MDOT-owned track, but that is expected to rise to 110 mph this year after the completion of positive train control testing and assignment of Siemens Charger locomotives to the route.

The State of Michigan has used $347 million in federal funds to replace rails, smooth curves, upgrade crossings and signals and improve train signaling and communication systems.

These improvements are expected to result in higher running speeds.

MDOT also funded a new connection in West Detroit for a faster route to a CN line that serves Amtrak stations in Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy and Pontiac.

“At MDOT’s direction, Amtrak work crews have corrected years of deferred maintenance and have taken over dispatching,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak vice president of state-supported services in a statement. “We have created the longest railroad segment outside the northeast that is being made ready for an even more reliable and faster Amtrak service.”

Few Changes in New Amtrak Timetable

January 22, 2018

Amtrak has a new national timetable posted online and only a few changes have been made to the schedules of its trains that serve the nation’s heartland, many of them minor.

Most  of the changes affect the six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The running times on the route are being shortened

Effective Jan. 22, No. 350 will depart Pontiac 5 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 15 minutes earlier than the current schedule. No. 353 will leave Pontiac 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago eight minutes earlier. No. 355 will depart Pontiac 20 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 32 minutes earlier. Times at stations en route have been adjusted.

No. 350 will leave Chicago at its current scheduled time, but arrive in Pontiac 24 minutes earlier. No. 353 will depart Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 27 minutes earlier. No. 354 will leave Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 14 minutes earlier.

The eastbound Blue Water will depart Chicago at its current time, but will be scheduled to arrive in Port Huron, Michigan, seven minutes earlier. There are corresponding changes at intermediate stations.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Blue Water or the Pere Marquette in both directions.

Effective Jan. 8, the Pennsylvanian began arriving in Pittsburgh from New York six minutes earlier.

There are no changes in the schedules of the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited or eastbound Cardinal. The westbound Cardinal is now scheduled to arrive in Chicago five minutes earlier, but there are no changes in time at intermediate stations.

No changes were made in any schedules of trains operating in the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans corridor. Likewise, all Lincoln Service schedules between Chicago and St. Louis and Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, remain the same.

Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has not changed.

The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are scheduled to arrive one minute earlier in Quincy, Illinois, but the rest of the schedules on the route are unchanged.

The counterparts of the same trains will arrive in Chicago two minutes earlier without any changes in times at intermediate stations.

The westbound Southwest Chief is departing Los Angeles five minutes earlier but its Chicago arrival time is unchanged. Some times have changed at intermediate stations. This change became effective last November.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Southwest Chief, or the California Zephyr, Empire Builder or Texas Eagle.

The Heartland Flyer arrives in Oklahoma City from Fort Worth, Texas, four minutes earlier, a change that took effect last October. The southbound Heartland Flyer schedule is unchanged.

Amtrak has not printed a national timetable since January 2016, but has posted one at its website since then.

The latest timetable features an image of the Maple Leaf traveling through snowstorm.

Missing from this timetable is a letter from Amtrak’s president, which had been a standard feature of previous timetables.

The typography is largely the same as in the previous timetables, but the schedule headings have been tweaked. The schedules were compiled before Amtrak said it was discontinuing the Pacific Parlour Car on the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

Some Day, These Will be Classic

December 29, 2016

Amtrak at Durand 12-x

A lot of railfans are not overly fond of the modern signals that Class 1 railroads have been installing in recent years.

They don’t like how these modern signals tend to look alike and how they are replacing signals seen as classic, such as Baltimore & Ohio color position light signals and the searchlight signals found on some railroads.

Some signals are even associated with a particular railroad, adding little touches that made them distinct from other signals. Signals of the B&O, Pennsylvania, Nickel Plate Road and Chesapeake & Ohio come to mind.

Shown are a set of modern signals on a cantilever signal bridge in Durand, Michigan. The train beneath it is Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water en route to Chicago.

The first strike against modern signals is that the basic structure is similar to that used on interstate highways. This signal belongs to Canadian National, but with its generic look it could be standing guard over anywhere on any class 1 railroad in North America.

The second strike against this signal is that it replaced a set of classic searchlight signals put up by the Grand Trunk Western decades ago.

It might be difficult to imagine today, but someday this signal might be seen as classic. It might also be that this signal will not always be here, too.

Signaling technology may advance to a point where railroads no longer need lineside signals. The signal indication will be relayed by satellite to the locomotive cab through an advanced positive train control system.

We can’t say when that might come about or how long this signal will remain in service.

In time, it might be that future generations of railfans who never saw a B&O color position light or searchlight signal will have the same fondness for this technology as many today have for signal technology rooted in the early to middle 20th century.

I happen to like this image even if the signal is not classic and feature LED lighting rather than lightbulbs. It captures a scene in railroading that is timeless by showing the fleeting relationship between a train and the signals telling the crew that it is safe to proceed.

And that, in essence, is the purpose of signals. It may be that railroads no longer distinguish themselves by adding small touches to the design of their signals.

But no matter the design, signals and trains are still made to go together.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders