Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Cleveland’

Amtrak Ticket Agent Walls to Retire

January 5, 2017

Many Akron Railroad Club members past and present know or have met Bob Walls.

He is a lead ticket agent for Amtrak in Cleveland and has also worked in the ticket offices in Canton and Akron when Amtrak stations were still active.

Walls, who has been with Amtrak since 1972, will retire on Friday. We’ve received word that he will host a farewell party at the Cleveland Amtrak station for friends and acquaintances on Friday from 10 to 2.

AAO Wants Added Track Capacity in Cleveland

August 12, 2016

An Ohio passenger advocacy group wants to see the tracks reconfigured in the vicinity of the Cleveland Amtrak station so that two trains could serve the station simultaneously.

Amtrak logoThe work would require expanding the existing platform, installing a crossover at CP 122 on the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern and rehabilitating an industrial track to make it a second station track.

All four Amtrak trains serving Cleveland arrive between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. If one or more of them are late, it means that one train has to wait while another does its station work.

Amtrak trains in Cleveland all use the former Track No. 1 of what used to be the double track Chicago Line in the Conrail era.

Congestion can become particularly acute if the Capitol Limited arrives from both directions at the same time.

Under normal circumstances, eastbound No. 30 completes its station work and departs well before the arrival of No. 29.

Both trains use  a connecting track built by Conrail that links the Chicago Line to the Cleveland Line at CP 122. However, Amtrak trains must be on Track No. 2 of the Cleveland Line to be able to access that connecting track at CP 122.

The nearest crossover east of CP 122 is at CP 114 in Garfield Heights 8.1 miles away.

In some instances, No. 30 has departed by backing up from the station to Drawbridge and crossing over to Track No. 1 of the Cleveland Line to get out of the way of No. 29 on Track No. 2.

In other instances, No. 29 is held at CP 114 until No. 30 reaches it and crosses over to Track No. 1.

At times No. 29 has continued to Drawbridge and then backed into the Cleveland Station because it was on Track No. 1 and couldn’t reached the connection at CP 122 due to No. 30 coming out on Track No. 1 or due to NS freight traffic.

AAO is calling for a crossover between Tracks 1 and 2 at CP 122 so Amtrak trains can depart on either track.

The group also said that Track 44, an industrial tracks used by NS and CSX, could be rebuilt to Federal Railroad Administration Class III standards to serve as a second station track. A connecting track would need to be built from the Chicago Line to Track 44.

As part of that project, the current platform, which is now 10-by-1,200 feet would be expanded to 15-by 1,600 feet.

That would allow a train with two locomotives and nine cars to serve the station from Track 44 and still not block the pedestrian walkway from the station.

That walkway crosses Track 44 and the double track Waterfront Line of the Greater Cleveland Transit Authority.

It is not clear who would fund the project or whether Amtrak and NS are studying it.

Increased Security at Cleveland Amtrak Station

July 19, 2016

Heightened security measures are in place this week for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which will also affect the Amtrak station.

Passengers are urged to allow extra time to reach the station due to street closures for security reasons.

Amtrak 4Amtrak said it will have additional personnel on hand during the convention, which wraps up on Thursday night.

Passengers age 16 and over should be prepared to present a valid photo ID to Amtrak personnel or police upon request.

There will be parcel restrictions in downtown Cleveland during this  period and passengers should be ready to provide documentation about their reasons for being in the secured area, such as an eTicket or hotel reservation confirmation, if they are carrying items larger than 18 inches by 13 inches by 7 inches.

Amtrak Police will have an increased presence in Cleveland during the convention.

Lake Shore Limited Began 40 Years Ago Today

October 31, 2015
Ad advertisement for Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited that was placed in newspapers in Massachusetts in early November 1975.

Ad advertisement for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited that was placed in newspapers in Massachusetts in early November 1975.

Forty years ago today Cleveland, Toledo and Elyria returned to the Amtrak map with the inauguration of the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York/Boston.

All three cities had been left out of the Amtrak network when the rail passenger carrier began service on May 1, 1971.

The only city in Northeast Ohio at which Amtrak stopped was Canton on the route of the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited.

A short-lived Chicago-New York train named the Lake Shore served Toledo and Cleveland slightly less than seven months.

That service, which began in mid May 1971, was premised on the promises of the states served by the train to underwrite its losses. But none of them put up any money and Amtrak canceled the train in early January.

The Amtrak Improvement Act of 1973 required Amtrak to launch one experimental route a year.

Ohio officials lobbied Amtrak hard for service to be reinstated to Cleveland and Toledo via the former Water Level Route of the New York Central, which by the time Amtrak arrived had become Penn Central.

At the time that Amtrak began in 1971, Cleveland was the largest city in the county not served by Amtrak.

Secretary of Transportation Claude S. Brinegar announced on June 27, 1974, that Chicago-Boston would be Amtrak’s experimental route for 1974. A week later, Amtrak said the train would have a New York section.

Service was expected to begin within six months but was delayed for more than a year due to an equipment shortage, particularly of sleeping cars.

A public relations special operated eastbound over the route on Oct. 28-29, 1975.

Amtrak President Paul Reistrup was aboard the special and he spoke at the Cleveland stop along with Ohio Senator Robert Taft Jr., who had pushed Amtrak hard for restoration of service via Cleveland.

Taft noted that it had been a long and hard fight to get intercity passenger service restored via the former New York Central route through northern Ohio.

Reistrup had favored the route all along, saying he was amazed that it had not been part of the Amtrak network.

“This was an unwanted child, no secret about it,” Resitrup said in Cleveland. “They (Amtrak) didn’t want to run this train.”

The publicity special arrived in Cleveland at 5:30 p.m. to a crowd of about 500. The train was pulled by a pair of SDP40F locomotives, the newest equipment in the consist.

The Cleveland station was a pair of trailers, the current station having not yet been built.

“This probably will be the most important inaugural I take part in,” Reistrup told the crowd. “It’s up to you out there in this crowd to keep this train running.”

When Nos. 48/448 and 49/449 began service on Friday, Oct. 31, 1975, the Chicago-New York running time was 21 hours, which was two-and-a-half hours slower than the Lake Shore of 1971.

The Chicago-Boston running time was 25 hours, which included a backup move the train had to make at Castleton Junction, New York, because the connection that Boston-bound New York Central trains had made for decades east of Rensselaer had been removed by Penn Central.

Amtrak officials emphasized at every stop of the publicity trip that the Lake Shore Limited was experimental and if ridership was poor it would be discontinued after a two-year trial.

On the day that scheduled service began, a crowd of 300 showed up at the Cleveland Amtrak station. Most of them were bus company employees who protested federal funding of the train. They said that made rail cheaper than the bus, which threatened their jobs.

But the public embraced the train and two years after it began the Lake Shore Limited was averaging 272 passengers per trip, a figure that eclipsed the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited.

The U.S. Department of Transportation lifted the experimental status for the Lake Shore Limited on May 9, 1978.

The Lake Shore Limited was the first direct Chicago-Boston train since the Dec. 3, 1967, discontinuance by the New York Central of the New England States.

However, the NYC and later Penn Central ran through cars between the two cities that were interchanged at Buffalo, New York.

News accounts published in October 1975, noted the longer travel time for Amtrak compared to what the New York Central once offered.

Amtrak officials blamed that on poor track conditions. Conrail would not take over the route until the following spring and it would take years to rebuild the track.

When it began, the Lake Shore Limited was scheduled to arrive and depart Chicago in mid afternoon.

The westbound train was scheduled out of Cleveland at 7:30 a.m. The eastbound train was scheduled at 11:20 p.m.

At that time, not all of the western long-distance trains departed Chicago as they do today by mid afternoon.

When the Brown Took to the Rails

August 18, 2015
The Amtrak special for the Cleveland Browns with the team's stadium, First Energy Stadium, in the background.

The Amtrak special for the Cleveland Browns with the team’s stadium, First Energy Stadium, in the background.

Back in the day, all professional teams traveled by rail. In some small towns, there would be a buzz when members of a traveling Major League Baseball team stepped off onto the platform as the train made a service stop.

Travel by train by professional sports teams went away as the jet age approached. Teams took to chartering flights between cities.

On occasion, sports teams still take to the rails to travel. It is most likely to occur in the Northeast Corridor and involve teams traveling between such cities as Philadelphia and Washington, or Washington and New York.

Travel by Amtrak by professional sports teams between the coasts is almost unheard of. Hence, it was big and unusual news when word got out on Trainorders.com that the Cleveland Browns had chartered an Amtrak train to travel to Rochester, New York, for a scrimmage session with the Buffalo Bills.

After a Sunday morning practice, Browns players and staff boarded buses at the training camp site in Berea and traveled to the Lakefront Amtrak station to board a seven-car Amfleet equipment train pulled by two P42DC locomotives.

The equipment had been brought to Cleveland by the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak is not well-known for its charter trains and the Class 1 railroads are even less known for agreeing to host a charter. Apparently being a National Football League team helps.

Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon made his way downtown on Sunday and sent along these images of the Browns chartered Amtrak train.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

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Cleveland Intermodal Hub Idea Revived

February 3, 2015

An intermodal facility that serves Amtrak in Cleveland will be discussed today by the planning and development committee of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

The location of the proposed center has yet to determined other than it would be near Lake Erie and adjacent to the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern.

Although an intermodal center has been discussed for years, the idea faltered due to the declining fortunes of the Flats entertainment district along the Cuyahoga River.

But activity in Flats is picking up and Greyhound will soon need a new home after it vacates its station on Chester Avenue on the east edge of downtown.

The Amtrak station, which was built in the late 1970s, needs work to bring it into compliance with the federal Americans with Disability law.

RTA officials said these development have created a new opportunity to pursue the intermodal transportation hub idea.

The city of Cleveland has been eying the art deco style Greyhound station, which was built in 1948, for repurposing as part of an effort to build retail operations in the neighborhoods flanking Cleveland’s Playhouse Square and Cleveland State University.

Greyhound confirmed that it’s investigating a new and modern location for its Cleveland operations.

The next step in the development is to conduct a study of combining Greyhound, Amtrak and transit operations in one place.

Before joining RTA, General Manager Joe Calabrese oversaw the development of the Walsh Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

Boardings on all transportation modes in Syracuse grew 20 percent after the center opened in 1999.

The rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio estimates that 1 million people a year would use a multimodal center in Cleveland if RTA, Greyhound, Amtrak and transit operations could serve an intermodal terminal.

Aside from RTA, the facility could serve Laketran, Akron Metro RTA, Megabus, taxi operations, and transit routes from Portage and Stark counties.

“That’s more than what occurs at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport. That’s enough to support spin-off retail, restaurants, rental car counters, car sharing and bike sharing services at the center. This would be like having an airport in downtown Cleveland,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast.

All Aboard Ohio favors putting the transit hub just north of the convention center and linking it to renovation of the Amtrak station along the lakefront tracks between West 3rd and East 9th streets.

The city of Cleveland had that location in mind in 2010 when it announced plans for a multimodal center north of the east edge of Mall C, possibly extending over railroad tracks to just south of the Shoreway, with walkways to the mall and North Coast Harbor.

Then-city planning director Bob Brown said the station, which would also include a parking deck and bicycle connectors, could be one of the most complete multimodal centers in the United States.

Brown said the facility would help link the new medical mart, convention center and Flats east bank redevelopment.

That idea foundered, though, due to the estimated $50 million price tag of the project. Much of the funding was expected to come from state and federal sources.

More recently, Prendergast said, there’s been “some pretty underwhelming discussion” about locating a hub at the far east end of the Cleveland Muni Lot on Marginal Road.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s Siberia,” he said. “If you’re a low-income Cleveland resident and trying to get to the Greyhound station, how do you get there?”

 

 

 

 

Blizzard of Daylight Amtrak Trains in Cleveland

November 19, 2014

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With all four Amtrak trains scheduled through Cleveland in darkness, especially this time of year, it has been a treat to see and photograph several late trains in daylight this past week.

I’m sure the passengers don’t see it as a “treat,” but Amtrak and the host roads have made some good efforts to keep them on time.

As is often the case, though, a blast of winter throws a monkey wrench into those efforts. Here are three examples of weather delayed trains.

In the top photograph Amtrak train 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, creates its own “blizzard within a blizzard” just a few minutes before arriving at the Cleveland station last week.

In the middle photograph, Amtrak 48 is again shown at Battery Park in Cleveland. There is still a touch of color in those trees.

Finally, Amtrak 49, the westbound Lake Shore Limited,  has just departed Cleveland.

I had set up to catch it banking into that curve but a freight train showed up. Evidence of the snows around Buffalo can be seen on The Big Game Train engine.

I saw Amtrak 30, the eastbound Capitol Limited, in daylight before the 48/49 duo, but it wasn’t good for photos yet.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Back-to-Back Amtraks in Daylight

September 2, 2014

 

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I managed to catch back-to-back daylight window Amtrak trains in Cleveland last week. As described below, it’s been a tough few weeks for on-time performance. First up was No. 30, the eastbound Capitol Limited (top photograph) followed by No. 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, known these days as the “Late Shore Limited.” Both are seen on the “new 2” bypass track near West 73rd Street for an underpass construction. As of this writing Chicago Line main No. 1 is still being used in it’s original location off to the right in these photos.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Amtrak No. 48 Does the Cleveland Shuffle

January 11, 2014
Amtrak 48 is approaching on 44 Industrial. An Amtrak agent waits with the baggage cart. The train would have to do all of its station work at a "grade crossing" of a sidewalk that leads from the Amtrak station out across two tracks of the Waterfront Line of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and across 44 Industrial before reaching the platform.

Amtrak 48 is approaching on 44 Industrial. An Amtrak agent waits with the baggage cart. The train would have to do all of its station work at a “grade crossing” of a sidewalk that leads from the Amtrak station out across two tracks of the Waterfront Line of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and across 44 Industrial before reaching the platform.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited on Friday morning was already running four hours late when it reached the outskirts of Cleveland. Here, it would encounter a complicated situation that delayed it by three more hours.

I don’t know all of the information behind the situation, only a few bits and pieces. I’ll pick up the story when I arrived at the Cleveland Amtrak station at almost 9 a.m. with the objective of getting some daylight photos of No. 48. The scheduled arrival time for No. 48 is 5:35 a.m. Amtrak’s website estimated that it would arrive at 9:08 a.m.

I took up a position on the platform and waited. Shortly thereafter, I saw a train coming toward the platform, but it wasn’t Amtrak. It was a CSX local with steel coil cars doing a backup move. “Not a good sign,” I thought. Amtrak must have been delayed further.

The CSX local went past and stopped east of the station. From the angle I saw I thought it had backed into a siding. Apparently not. A report on Train Orders.com indicates that the CSX crew outlawed and its train was sitting on the mainline that Amtrak uses to go east to Buffalo, N.Y. To see that post and photos go to:

Maybe so, but I also later learned that about 7:30 a.m. a CSX local had run a stop signal near the Cleveland Drawbridge on NS. NS supervisors were on the scene investigating. The CSX crew reportedly claimed that the slack ran out on the train, which is why it went past the stop signal. Whatever the case, it was a factor in Amtrak 48 having to do its station work in Cleveland from a track known as 44 Industrial.

It is not unheard of for Amtrak trains to use this track, but typically that is only for specials. I’m not aware of a scheduled Amtrak train using 44 Industrial to do its station work. It may have happened before, but it is probably not all that common.

There must have been something else going on because Amtrak 48 was stopped west of the Cleveland Drawbridge for quite some time. Initially, the Amtrak agent said 48 would arrive at 9:30 a.m. Then a half-hour later an announcement was made that the train was stopped with mechanical problems. Whatever was going on, No. 48 did not arrive at the Cleveland station until 11:08 a.m.

The train had to make three stops to do its station at the “grade crossing” of 44 Industrial.

The engineer on No. 48 had gone into the station while the boarding was completed. When he came out all of the passengers were back aboard as well as the two conductors. He expressed surprise that the train had been “buttoned up” already. That’s because he wanted to go to the café car the refill his coffee.

He noticed that I had a hand held scanner and asked if I was on channel 64 — the NS Road channel. He seemed surprised to see a digital readout of the frequency and not the AAR number. He also asked “how do you key this thing up.” I explained that it was a receiver and not a two-way radio.

He must have found a two-way radio someplace because I heard him asking the conductors to meet him at the café car for a job briefing. He also must have gotten his coffee refilled while inside the café car.

Finally, No. 48 got the signal to do the backup  move and exactly one hour after it had been projected to arrived, it came rolling past the platform at the Cleveland Amtrak station.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Two Cleveland Amtrak agents load and unload baggage from the Boston baggage car of 448.

Two Cleveland Amtrak agents load and unload baggage from the Boston baggage car of 448.

Passengers are lined up waiting to board the train. They are standing on the crossing of the Waterfront Line. The Amtrak station is out of view to the right.

Passengers are lined up waiting to board the train. They are standing on the crossing of the Waterfront Line. The Amtrak station is out of view to the right.

The baggage work is complete and No. 48 is pulling down for the first of two passenger stops.

The baggage work is complete and No. 48 is pulling down for the first of two passenger stops.

Passengers were allowed to detrain for a smoking stop or to stretch their legs. That break has ended and the last of the passengers is reboarding the train. The view shows the sidewalk that leads from the Amtrak station out across the RTA tracks and toward the platform. The two people in the foreground are the Cleveland Amtrak agents.

Passengers were allowed to detrain for a smoking stop or to stretch their legs. That break has ended and the last of the passengers is reboarding the train. The view shows the sidewalk that leads from the Amtrak station out across the RTA tracks and toward the platform. The two people in the foreground are the Cleveland Amtrak agents.

Everyone is on board and the Amtrak train has the signal to do a backup move. The plan was for Amtrak to backup onto Chicago Line No. 1 west of the drawbridge and wait for the CSX local to get out of the way west of the drawbridge on Chicago Line No. 2. Here No. 48 is backing up past the station on 44 Industrial.

Everyone is on board and the Amtrak train has the signal to do a backup move. The plan was for Amtrak to backup onto Chicago Line No. 1 west of the drawbridge and wait for the CSX local to get out of the way west of the drawbridge on Chicago Line No. 2. Here No. 48 is backing up past the station on 44 Industrial.

RTA Waterfront Line trains were passing the Amtrak station frequently as No. 48 did its station work. By the time I took this photograph, Amtrak 48 had been in Cleveland at the Amtrak station for 47 minutes.

RTA Waterfront Line trains were passing the Amtrak station frequently as No. 48 did its station work. By the time I took this photograph, Amtrak 48 had been in Cleveland at the Amtrak station for 47 minutes.

This is the photo that I originally had expected to make when No. 48 arrived. This image was made nearly three hours after the Lake Shore Limited had been projected to arrive.

This is the photo that I originally had expected to make when No. 48 arrived. This image was made nearly three hours after the Lake Shore Limited had been projected to arrive.

No. 48 is headed for New York where it arrived at 12:33 a.m., nearly six hours late. No. 448 arrived in Boston at 3:29 a.m., more than six hours late. The baggage car on the New York section looks like it has racked up quite a few miles and quite a bit of use.

No. 48 is headed for New York where it arrived at 12:33 a.m., nearly six hours late. No. 448 arrived in Boston at 3:29 a.m., more than six hours late. The baggage car on the New York section looks like it has racked up quite a few miles and quite a bit of use.

First Rays of Sunlight

June 4, 2012

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited was early in arriving into Cleveland on Sunday, June 3. I was returning from a brief, but enjoyable, trip out to downtstate Illinois to visit my dad and stepmother. It is an annual trek that I take right after Memorial Day.

I stowed my belonging in the trunk of my car — it is always a good sight to see my car still in the Amtrak parking lot — and then got out my camera to see what I could capture.

It was still quite dark, but the first rays of sunlight of the new day were just coming over the horizon. I set the ISO and white balance to automatic and experimented a bit with making the images lighter than what the camera wanted to do on its own.

In this image, you can see the Key Bank tower and the tower of the former Cleveland Union Terminal. Alas, a parking garage is another dominant feature. The wires are from the RTA Waterfront Line, which was not operating at this early hour.

The Lake Shore had its typical consist of two P42 locomotives up front, two baggage cars (one of which was on the end of the train), three Viewliner sleepers, six Amfleet II coaches, a Horizon food service car that served as the lounge, and Viewliner diner Indianapolis. It was the first time I’d seen Amtrak’s sole Viewliner diner.

In the image of the “Indy” below, you can see the interior of the diner through the windows. Although there was stirring in the kitchen area, breakfast would not be served until 6:30 a.m.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders