Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Michigan’

Wolverine Passengers Have ‘Trip From Hell’

October 11, 2022

Passengers aboard an Amtrak Wolverine Service train to Chicago on Friday had a trip from hell experience.

Locomotive failure left the Train 351 from Pontiac to Chicago without power, meaning there was no heat, lighting, food service or operating toilets.

The train finally arrived at Chicago Union Station nearly 14 hours late but not before some passengers had bailed out, including some who opened a door as the train sat near Gray, Indiana, and crossed tracks of Norfolk Southern’s Chicago Line to a nearby expressway and called ride share services to pick them up.

A report posted on the website of MLive.com said the failure to the SC-44 locomotive began 19 miles west of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

An Amtrak spokesman told Trains magazine the crew was unable to restart the engine or put it on standby to provide head-end power.

Amtrak officials decided to couple No. 351 to Wolverine Service No. 353, which was following behind by three hours, but the crews encountered difficulty doing that.

The combined train didn’t arrive in Jackson, Michigan, until 3;30 p.m. Crew members were never able to get the SC-44 on No. 353 to operate the equipment on No. 351.

Conductors would not permit passengers on No. 351 to ride in the equipment for No. 353, saying there wasn’t enough space to accommodate them.

The combined train was further delayed by an emergency medical situation involving a passenger, battery issues, and sticking brakes.

The passengers who disembarked near Gary did so as the train awaited a relief crew to arrive to continue the journey to Chicago after the original crew had exceeded its maximum hours of service.

MLive quoted some passengers aboard the train as saying they received little to no information about what was going on.

“We’re feeling like we can’t stay on this train anymore,” passenger Michael Bamberry told MLive. “We’re getting no information from Amtrak. Again, we’re cold, hungry, people need to use the bathroom. It smells awful. And a percentage of people are having acute anxiety symptoms and screaming.”

He said he paid $200 to an Uber driver who took him to his hotel in Chicago.

The MLive report said Amtrak sent emails to passengers booked aboard the train apologizing for the experience and offering travel vouchers.

Amtrak Delays Return of Michigan Trains

September 20, 2022

Amtrak has extended the suspension of two Wolverine Service trains until Oct. 24.

In announcing the suspensions earlier this month, the passenger carrier had said that Nos. 350 and 355 were being suspended due to lack of crews and equipment.

At the time, the trains were to have been reinstated on Sept. 17.

No. 350 is the early morning departure from Chicago while No. 355 departs Pontiac, Michigan, in suburban Detroit in late afternoon.

Two other Wolverine Service roundtrips are unaffected by the service suspensions.

Service suspensions also remain in effect on two other Midwest corridor routes.

Lincoln Service Trains 300 and 305 remain suspended through at least Oct. 23.

No. 300 is scheduled to depart St. Louis at 4:35 a.m. while No. 304 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 5:20 p.m.

The Chicago-St. Louis route continues to field three other Lincoln Service roundtrips plus the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Suspended until at least Dec. 5 is the Saluki from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, and the Illini from Carbondale to Chicago.

The former departs Chicago in the morning while the latter leaves Carbondale in late afternoon.

The trains were suspended last January due to shortages of operating crews and equipment.

One factor keeping the trains sidelined is the insistence of host railroad Canadian National that all trains on the Chicago-Carbondale route use Superliner equipment.

Until about two years ago, the State of Illinois-sponsored Chicago-Carbondale trains used Horizon and Amfleet equipment.

Other trains in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor include the northbound Saluki, which departs Carbondale in the morning, and the southbound Illini, which departs Chicago in late afternoon.

The City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans also covers the corridor but is operating just five days a week. Nos. 58 and 59 are slated to resume daily operation on Oct. 8.

2 Wolverine Service Trains to be Suspended

August 28, 2022

Amtrak Train 350 swings onto the Michigan Line in Porter, Indiana, on Feb. 27, 2002.

Amtrak is citing equipment and personnel shortages for suspending two Wolverine Service trains until mid-September.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Nos. 350 and 355 between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) would be suspended starting Aug. 29 and continuing through Sept. 16.

No. 350 is the early morning departure from Chicago while No. 355 is the late afternoon departure from Pontiac.

No alternative service is being provided for the suspended trains. Amtrak said Nos. 350 and 355 will resume operating on Sept. 17.

The suspensions will not affect operations of Wolverine Service Trains 351, 352, 353 and 354.

Amtrak has attributed various Midwest corridor service suspensions this summer to a shortage of equipment and personnel.

Among the trains suspended for a few days to more than a week have been the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois; and two Lincoln Service trains between Chicago and St. Louis.

Since January the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor have been suspended and no date has been announced as to when those trains will be restored.

Personnel Issues Hinder Midwest Corridor Trains

August 23, 2022

Amtrak cited a shortage of personnel for combining two Michigan trains on Sunday that operated hours late as a result.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the Blue Water to Port Huron, Michigan, was combined with Wolverine Service No. 354 as far as Battle Creek, Michigan.

The combined train left Chicago at 6:31 p.m., which was 2.5 hours late for the Blue Water and 41 minutes late for No. 354.

By the time the combined train reached Battle Creek at 10:38 p.m., the lateness had stretched to three hours for the Blue Water, which maintained that lateness level to Port Huron.

Amtrak cited “mechanical issues” on its Twitter feed as causing the delayed departures.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains that the situation was aggravated by a shortage of personnel.

It was among the latest of a series of disruptions to Amtrak’s Midwest corridor services that have occurred this summer.

The Trains report noted that the Illinois Zephyr to Quincy, Illinois, was cancelled last week after an employee assigned to the run became unavailable an hour before departure time.

Passengers instead rode buses between Chicago and Quincy. The cancellations stretched out through Friday and affected four runs of the train.

Earlier, Amtrak cited equipment shortages for suspending one Lincoln Service roundtrip between Chicago and St. Louis.

Magliari told Trains that the suspended Lincoln Service trains will be restored on Aug. 24.

Grant to Improve Amtrak’s Michigan Line

August 22, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration announced last week that it has awarded more than $233 million in grants for infrastructure improvements to Amtrak routes.

The funding came from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program.

Most of the projects are located along the Northeast Corridor, but funding also will pay for projects in Michigan and California.

In Michigan up to $1.6 million was awarded for reconstruction of five deficient bridges on the state-owned rail line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains. The work will improve reliability, increase load ratings, and avoid future bridge closures.

Some Wolverine Service Times to Change

March 4, 2022

Amtrak will modify the schedules of three Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) effective March 7, 2022.

In a service advisory Amtrak said the scheduled changes are due to planned track work and other infrastructure projects being sponsored on the segment of the route owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak.

Train 350 will originate in Chicago 35 minutes earlier at 6:45 a.m. It is currently scheduled to depart Union Station at 7:20 a.m.

Train 352 will originate in Chicago 55 minutes later at 2:15 p.m. It is now scheduled to depart at 1:25 p.m.

Train 353 will originate in Pontiac 48 minutes earlier at 8:50 a.m. It now departs there at 9:38 a.m.

Times at en route stations will be adjusted accordingly and Amtrak advised passengers to check for the latest arrival and departure times at those cities.

CP to Allow Amtrak to Use Detroit River Tunnel

February 8, 2022

Canadian Pacific has agreed to allow Amtrak to use its tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, for one roundtrip per day, but it’s unclear if that will actually lead to any new service on the route.

The agreement was revealed in a filing by Amtrak in the case before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board of CP’s efforts to acquire Kansas City Southern.

Amtrak is supporting the merger and its filing cited a number of new service expansions for which CP has pledged to cooperate.

In theory, use of the Detroit River Tunnel might be a step toward reviving Amtrak service between Chicago and Toronto.

In practice, that concept faces many hurdles. Those begin with a lack of commitment by Amtrak or VIA Rail Canada to operate such a train.

The two passenger carriers once operated a Chicago-Toronto train known as the International, but it ran via Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario, on Canadian National tracks rather than via Detroit and Windsor.

The International was discontinued in April 2004 and replaced with the existing Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water that is funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

MDOT had not indicated if it would be willing to fund service that extends to Toronto.

Amtrak and/or VIA would need to construct a connecting track between CP track in Windsor and the CN route now used by VIA between Windsor and Toronto.

The existing VIA Toronto-Windsor route ends at a stub-end terminal north of downtown.

In Detroit, Amtrak would need to build a new station in downtown Detroit or else have trains engage in a time-consuming backup move to the existing Detroit station in the New Center neighborhood.

Existing Chicago-Detroit trains terminate and originate in suburban Pontiac and the Detroit Amtrak station is located along that route rather than on the line that leads directly into the CP Detroit River tunnel.

The CP-Amtrak agreement does not require any capital investment from Amtrak for use of the Detroit River tunnel.

Also unclear is where customs inspections for the Chicago-Toronto train would be conducted.

For the International, those inspections were done on each side of the border, which led to longer running times.

Amtrak to Back CP-KCS Merger

January 7, 2022

Amtrak said Thursday it will support the merger of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern during the regulatory review process.

The passenger carrier said CP has agreed to cooperate with Amtrak in various service expansions in the Midwest and South.

These include increasing the frequency of service between Chicago and Milwaukee; extending a Hiawatha Service trains west of Milwaukee to St. Paul, Minnesota; and allowing Amtrak to use the Detroit River Tunnel to extend service to Toronto via Windsor, Ontario.

The latter service would connect with trains of VIA Rail Canada.

CP also has agreed to work with Amtrak to launch new service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and to participate in a study of new service between Dallas and Meridian, Mississippi.

In a statement, Amtrak President Stephen J. Gardner cited CP’s “consistent record as an Amtrak host” railroad, having achieved an A rating in the passenger carrier’s annual host railroad report card.

Amtrak said CP is the first Class I railroad to “complete 100 percent  certification of its Amtrak schedules” to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

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.

Michigan City Wants to Connect Amtrak Routes

July 30, 2020

The city commission of St. Joseph, Michigan, wants to see a connection built that would enable all of Amtrak’s Michigan services to serve nearby New Buffalo.

Currently St. Joseph is a stop for Amtrak’s Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette, but that train does not stop in New Buffalo even though it passes through it.

City officials said connecting the line used by the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and the Chicago-Detroit Wolverine Service with the Pere Marquette route would enable residents of St. Joseph to connect in New Buffalo to points in eastern Michigan.

The route used by the Blue Water and Wolverine Service, which is owned by Amtrak, passes through the northeast section of New Buffalo where it crosses the CSX route used by the Pere Marquette.

The city commission asks Mayor Mike Garey to discuss the connection idea with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. The vote on the resolution was unanimous.

The Michigan Department of Transportation funds all three Amtrak routes in Michigan.

The Pere Marquette route merges with the Blue Water and Wolverine Service route in Porter, Indiana, and all three services use Norfolk Southern track between Porter and Chicago.