Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Lake Shore Limited’

LSL Boston Section Still Not Going to Chicago

February 9, 2016

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited is still not operating to Chicago, the National Association of Railroad Passengers reported on its blog last week.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedFor nearly a year, Nos. 448 and 449 have operated only between Boston and Albany-Rensselaer with passengers bound for points west having to make an across-the-platform transfer.

Amtrak attributed that to construction work to expand the Albany-Rensselaer station, which limited track capacity.

However, upon completion, the project was designed to enable more Amtrak trains to use the station simultaneously.

It had been expected that the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited would resume operating to Chicago on or about Feb. 1.

Now, NARP says, it is unclear when Nos. 448 and 449 might resume operating to Chicago or if that will happen.

Buffalo Eyes Replacing Exchange Street Station

July 17, 2015

Exchange Street station in Buffalo, New York, may be replaced by an underground facility, city officials say.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. say they want to place the station below an undeveloped tract of land north of the canal.

“Instead of getting off at a site that leads you to believe nothing is happening around you, you would now get off at a site where you’re entering what is planned to be a very vibrant area of the City of Buffalo,” said Brendan R. Mehaffy, executive director of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning.

The current station is a small brick structure located beneath an interstate highway interchange in downtown Buffalo.

It is served by Amtrak’s Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

In 2014, the station served 41,220 passengers, which was a 7.4 percent increase over 2013 patronage and more than double what it served in 2004.

Mayor Brown has been calling for a train station at Canalside for years.

“Erie Canal Harbor and the Mayor’s Office are on the same page about exploring the feasibility of putting the train station at the northern end of the site before any other projects are finalized,” Mehaffy said. “If we can get it done, it’s worth the investment in the area.”

Waterfront agency board member Sam Hoyt said the board has been discussing placing an Amtrak station on what is described as the northern Aud block.

“We are in the process of considering the next steps there, and a train station will absolutely be a part of that discussion,” he said.

Ten years ago, Hoyt called for having Amtrak use a proposed transportation that would have been placed at the site of the since demolished Memorial Auditorium.

A study conducted at the time found that a station at Canalside was feasible.

“We did thorough research when I was an assemblyman, and the answer is that the short tunnel under which the track goes underground could accommodate a station. It’s definitely doable,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt rode Amtrak between Buffalo and Albany when he served in the state assembly and said that a new station is long overdue.

“You want visitors welcomed by a good first impression,” he said. “As we have done with Buffalo Niagara International Airport, you are greeted by a beautiful state-of-the-art, well-designed airport. You come by Amtrak, and the message is certainly not that this is a city on the move, a city that is growing, prospering and has turned itself around.”

A new Amtrak station would require federal, state and city funds to build, but Hoyt said that hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in Canalside in recent years.

The site has also been listed as possible location for a new stadium for the NFL Buffalo Bills.

“Including a high-quality, intermodal station in the future development of the Aud site makes enormous sense,” Hoyt said. “The Mayor’s Office and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. agree that if we’re going to do a station in Buffalo, it ought to be at that site.”

Bruce B. Becker, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, agreed that the current station needs to be replaced.

“We feel Exchange Street is barely adequate, given the increasing ridership out of the station,” Becker said. “Our organization feels adamantly that with the development of downtown and Canalside and HarborCenter, there is a need for a much-improved Amtrak facility serving downtown.”

Amtrak serve Buffalo through two stations. The Empire corridor trains, Maple Leaf and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited all stop at a station in suburban Depew.

LSL Boston Section Operating as Shuttle Train

April 28, 2015

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited (Nos. 448/449) is running as a connecting train or bus through late May. This has resulted in shorter equipment consists for the Lake Shore Limited (Nos. 48/49) west of Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

Amtrak said CSX track work on the former Boston & Albany line used by Nos. 448/449 is the cause of the service changes.

On Sundays through Wednesdays until April 29, Nos. 448/449 have been replaced by a bus in both directions east of Albany.

The bus serves the intermediate stations in Massachusetts of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, and Framingham.

The bus does not stop at Back Bay station in Boston. Amtrak has advised Bay Bay passengers to use MBTA for travel between there and Boston’s South Station.

Amtrak has been running a connecting train between Albany and Boston on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays. Effective April 30 that connecting train will operate daily.

Field reports indicate that the 448/449 shuttle has featured a single P42 locomotive, Viewliner baggage car and three or four Amfleet coaches.

Nos. 48/49 have been operating between Chicago and New York with four or five Amfleet coaches, an Amcafe, full-service diner, three Viewliner sleepers and a Viewliner baggage car.

Amtrak said the Boston-Albany shuttle train will operate through May 22, serving all stations.

No. 48 Leaves Chicago Today 14 Hours Late

January 8, 2015

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited that was supposed to have departed from Chicago Wednesday night was delayed nearly 14 hours due to winter conditions, leaving many of the the passengers irate and angry.

The train finally left Union Station at 11:08 a.m. this morning, 13 hours and 38 minutes late. It has since last additional time, departing Waterloo, Ind., at 4:07 p.m., nearly 15 hours behind schedule.

Passengers for the train, which was scheduled to depart at 9:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, were forced to spend the night in Union Station.

Some of them told reporters that they had to sleep on the floor with “thin blankets” as well as crowd around a single heater.

“They froze us last night,” Kathleen Bluemke told the Chicago Tribune  in a tired voice as the train was finally ready to leave. “We couldn’t sleep, it was so cold. The glass doors to the terminals kept getting jammed open. It was basically like being outside. I wasn’t even worried about myself. It was terrible for my children.”

Bluemke said her 7-year-old daughter’s hands became swollen and chapped because of the cold.

Cioly Ryan was traveling from Lincoln, Neb., where she had spent the holidays with family, back to Long Island with her daughter, Avasa, 1.

“I don’t know what to say, I was so disrespected,” Ryan said, her voice cracking as her baby screamed in the background.

“This morning, we were told we were not allowed to get off the train and that, if we did, we would not be allowed to get back on,” Ryan said. “It was outrageous. They weren’t keeping us updated on anything that was going on. I paid a ridiculous amount of money to get on this train, and then we were all disrespected.”

Approximately 172 passengers were expected to board No. 48 on Wednesday night.

Amtrak officials said the company offered refunds to those who wanted them and tried to make the rest as comfortable as it could in the station.

“We offered full refunds without penalty to those who left and chose other modes of transportation,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

But Ryan disputed that, saying she was unaware of any passengers who got refunds.

“Absolutely not,” she said, shouting. “100 billion thousand million percent not. There is not one person on that train that got a refund. No one said anything to us about that. It’s a lie.”

Some passengers told reporters that they received conflicting reports on why the train had been delayed.

Faith Barlow, who was headed home to Albany, NY., from Flagstaff, Ariz., said passengers were initially told that there was a weather-related mechanical problem and then were later told that the train needed to add another passenger car.

“They told us that there was going to be a delay,” she said. “They said, ‘Oh, you know, it’ll be fine. It’s just going to be a little delay. …Then they came back on and they said ‘Okay, well, the train is going to be pulling in any minute. Everybody line up. Get your IDs ready. Get your tickets ready.’”

After the all-night wait in Union Station, passengers finally were able to board about 4 a.m.

No. 48 left about 7:55 a.m. but halted at the bridge over the South Branch of the Chicago River about 2 miles south of the station. Norfolk Southern officials ordered a new crew be put aboard that was more rested. The Lake Shore Limited uses NS tracks between Chicago and Cleveland.

Amtrak had wanted to change crews down the line in Indiana, but NS nixed that. So, the train backed up to Union Station and passengers waited some more.

An online report indicated that NS was having weather related problems with switches and decided to “straight rail” its Chicago Line. NS feared an Amtrak train crew going dead on the law would tie up the railroad.

“We fed passengers overnight when the concessions were closed,” said Amtrak spokeman Magliari. “We provided snacks, coffee and hot chocolate. We fed passengers again as we left Chicago this morning.

“We certainly understand their concern and we share it,” he added. “We apologized to our customers last night and this morning.”

Passenger Bluemke said the snacks included “Jimmy Dean frozen sandwiches.”

Magliari told Chicago TV station WLS that mechanical problems initially delayed the train.

“We had mechanical issues with locomotives all night long,” he said. “You might do everything you can to make sure your car starts in the morning and something happens and it doesn’t. It’s similar with rail equipment. Despite everyone’s best efforts, we weren’t able to get all the locomotives in the right line in the right way to go east. We had that done this morning.”

Passenger Ryan, though, wasn’t saying much good about Amtrak.

“I am hungry,” she said. “I am tired. I feel disrespected. This is not how a company should treat its clients. I’m absolutely speechless.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 & 33 Not Lucky Numbers for This Train

July 21, 2014
Running more than 10 hours late, Amtrak's westbound Lake Shore Limited rushes through Olmsted Falls just before 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Running more than 10 hours late, Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited rushes through Olmsted Falls just before 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

For some reason I awakened Sunday morning just after 2 a.m. Rather than toss and turn, I thought I’d work on my laptop for to update the Akron Railroad Club blog and then go back to sleep after a while.

For the heck of it I checked the Amtrak status maps at the NARP website and saw that Amtrak No. 49 was running nearly 10 hours late out of Rhinecliff, N.Y., at 2:42 a.m. Rhinecliff is the third stop after leaving New York City.

The train had left New York Penn Station six hours late after a Saturday afternoon rock slide near Peerskill, N.Y., blocked the tracks. Not only was Amtrak affected, but so were Metro North commuter trains.

Hmmmmm. If this keeps up, No. 49 will be through Cleveland in late morning or early afternoon. No. 49 is scheduled to arrive into Cleveland at 3:27 a.m. and although it is frequently late, it seldom is late enough to be seen in daylight.

I kept an eye on No. 49 and decided to capture it at Olmsted Falls. Amtrak Julie predicted a 1:44 p.m. arrival before I left my house just after 11 a.m.

At some point, the Amtrak website put No. 49 into “service disruption” mode and the last report was departing Buffalo Depew station at 10:44 a.m., 10 hours and 45 minutes late.

I would later learn that No. 49 had arrived in Cleveland at 2:06 p.m., 10 hours and 33 minutes late.

With Julie of no help, I had to rely on radio reports on the NS road channel. The NS dispatchers had their hands full, particularly the Toledo East dispatcher who had to contend with 18 miles of single track west of CP 216 near Vermilion.

At one point, trains 21Z, 21G, 27J, 15N and 417 were backed up waiting for track as a small fleet of eastbounds was allowed to move on the single track.

On the Cleveland Terminal side, westbound 19A tripped the detector southeast of Cleveland. Trains 65R and 65K were re-crewed in the Cleveland area and from the sound of things on the radio more westbounds were coming.

I called Akron Railroad Club Bulletin editor Marty Surdyk to give him a heads up about the late Amtrak No. 49. Marty and his brother Robert often go west on Sundays in pursuit of trains. They had planned to go to Bellevue, but after hearing about No. 49 they changed their destination to Vermilion.

Marty would later report that it had been many years since he had shot the “Late Shore Limited” in daylight.

The first report I heard of No. 49 was about 2:10 p.m. when the Cleveland Terminal dispatcher reported that Amtrak had just left the station. Shortly thereafter, the terminal dispatcher called Amtrak 49.

“Hey, do you guys have any passengers on that train?”

“Oh yeah, we’re packed.”

Presumably, the dispatcher took this information into account in deciding what trains to move and when. His immediate interest was the 65K, which had re-crewed at CP Max and was ready to leave. At first the dispatcher told the 65K that it would follow Amtrak out of CP Max.

Then the 65K was told to take ’em down to Eastland Road. Ultimately, the 65K was told to watch for signal indication at CP 194. No sooner had that information been conveyed but the Toledo East dispatcher came on to tell the 65K not to go past Lewis Road (MP 195) until instructed to do so.

Amtrak typically leaves the Cleveland station on Track No. 1 but must cross over to Track No. 2 to work the platform at Elyria. I am not sure if No. 49 crossed over at CP Max or at Berea. Whatever the case, the engineer called a clear signal for Track No. 2 at 195.

Shortly after Amtrak had passed Olmsted Falls at 2:35 p.m., I heard the Toledo East dispatcher tell the foreman at the single tracking site that five eastbounds would the next movements.

The dispatcher told Amtrak that it would go two to one at CP 210, I think it was, and would pull in behind a freight at CP 216. If I understood this correctly, it meant that No. 49 would be waiting for the five eastbounds plus the westbound in front of him to get out of the way.

I would find out later that I had heard correctly. Marty reported that No. 49 went through Vermilion at 5 p.m. it had taken an hour and a half for No. 49 to travel about 20 miles.

Here is what Marty reported:

“It [No. 49] ended up sitting for six eastbounds and the 15N went ahead of it through the single lining. We never did see the 417; it was the low man on the pole and then some. They ran the 65R oil train around it, as well.

“The 65K was still being held as were the 145, 11V and at least two others. The 18N was coming out of Bellevue and wondering why he was going into the siding at Avery with the trains it was meeting no where in sight. ‘No where for you to go once you get to Vermillon,’ came the explanation from the dispatcher.

“The dispatcher shifted the traffic direction to eastbound for the 20E, just as we were leaving about 6:15 p.m.

“There were some good chuckles from listening to the radio conversations. The 65R and the foreman were having a tough time hearing each other, but everyone else on the railroad could hear both of them just fine.”

An online report indicated that No. 49 terminated at Toledo and the passengers were taken by bus to Chicago. Passengers for No. 48 on Sunday night were to travel by bus to Toledo.

At about 6 a.m. on Monday morning, the Amtrak universe in Northeast Ohio had returned to normal. No. 48 was doing 79 mph east of Sandusky and appeared to be operating about an hour late on the Track a Train feature. The status mechanism said information on arrival and departure times at Cleveland were unavailable due to a service disruption.

As for No. 49 today, it was running an hour and 16 minutes late. I’m sure some passengers grumbled about that. If they only knew what they missed had they been scheduled to board their train a day earlier.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

No. 49 was doing track speed now, but it would be cooling its heels for a while a few more miles down the road.

No. 49 was doing track speed now, but it would be cooling its heels for a while a few more miles down the road due to freight congestion caused by single tracking.

Three generations of rolling stock can be seen in this view. There are Amfleet II coaches, a heritage dining car and a Viewliner sleeper.

Three generations of rolling stock can be seen in this view. There are Amfleet II coaches, a heritage dining car and a Viewliner sleeper.

Private car Mount Vernon brought up the rear of No. 49. It had been on the train since New York. Two of its passengers can be seen waving at the photographer. One of the passengers on the car posted on Trainorders.com that the car is scheduled to travel to Cincinnati on July 27 on the back of the Cardinal.

Private car Mount Vernon brought up the rear of No. 49. It had been on the train since New York. Two of its passengers can be seen waving at the photographer. One of the passengers on the car posted on Trainorders.com that the car is scheduled to travel to Cincinnati on July 27 on the back of the Cardinal.

NS Derailment Sent Amtrak Trains Detouring

July 4, 2014

The Norfolk Southern derailment west of Toledo on Thursday morning (see story below) that blocked both mainline tracks of the Chicago Line played havoc with Amtrak operations, including an already excessively late westbound Lake Shore Limited.

Some Amtrak trains detoured around the wreckage via the route in southern Michigan used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains. This included the westbound Lake Shore Limited and the eastbound Capitol Limited that departed Chicago on Thursday night.

No. 49 left New York three minutes late on Wednesday but by the time it left Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y., it was just over six hours behind schedule. That ballooned to eight hours late by the time it departed Buffalo, N.Y.

Much of the tardiness was due to the Boston section, No. 448, arriving at South Station in Boston more than 10 hours late on Tuesday.

Whereas No. 448 is scheduled to arrive at 9:10 p.m., it didn’t reach South Station until 7:36 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

In ordinary circumstances, the equipment from inbound No. 448 has more than 12 hours before it is turned to become No. 449.

But on Wednesday No. 449 did not get out of South Station until 5:37 p.m., which is 5 hours and 42 minutes late.

Amtrak held No. 49 at Albany-Rensselaer for six hours until No. 449 arrived.

The cascading effect of late trains getting later had begun when No. 48 departed Chicago on Monday night at 11:25 p.m., which was nearly two hours off schedule.

The train then proceeded to lose time on its eastward journey, with much of the lost time occurring between Elkhart and Waterloo, Ind.

When it departed Waterloo, it was nearly eight hours late. No. 48 departed Cleveland at 2:20 p.m., on Tuesday, which was 8.5 hours late. It reached New York at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, which was just over 10 hour late.

Online reports on Thursday from a passenger aboard No. 49 on who posted the train’s progress on Trainorders.com, indicated that the Lake Shore left Toledo at 2:10 p.m., which was nearly eight hours late.

The train took much the same route that the former Amtrak Lake Cities took between Chicago and Toledo before it ceased serving Toledo in 1995.

Passengers aboard No. 49 en route to stations at Bryan, Ohio; and Waterloo, Elkhart and South Bend, Ind., disembarked at Toledo and rode a chartered bus to their destination.

A similar procedure played out for passengers aboard the eastbound Capitol Limited. They were taken by bus to South Bend, Elkhart and Waterloo on Thursday night. No. 30 does not stop at Bryan.

No. 49 reached Jackson, Mich., at 6:18 p.m. and Battle Creek at 7:09 p.m. where there was a crew change. Passengers were served dinner between 6 and 6:30 p.m., according to the online report.

“The on-board crew has been very pleasant and courteous,” the online report from aboard the train said. “Jason the Boston sleeper attendant and Susie in the cafe car (a 22-year Amtrak veteran) are great. Susie work for years in the Chicago reservation center until it closed and now works the cafe car on the Boston section of the Lake Shore.”

Detouring Nos. 49 and 30 were given a third P42 locomotive that could handle the high-speed section (110 mph authorized) of Amtrak’s Michigan Line.

No. 49 had P42 Nos. 35, 101 and 91 along with 15 cars. A photograph of the train posted on TO showed that all three sleepers were positioned at the rear of the train next to the Viewliner diner Indianapolis.

Ordinary operating practice is to have the Boston section sleeper as the second car behind the motive power.

No. 49 departed Battle Creek at 7:19 p.m. and then cleared Porter, Ind., at 8:05 p.m. CDT.

An online posted said he heard the NS Chicago West dispatcher say that he wanted to give No. 49 a “straight shot” as best he could, into Chicago.

The train arrived at Chicago Union Station just before 9 p.m. CDT.

The equipment on No. 49 that arrived in Chicago on Thursday night became the eastbound Lake Shore Limited that was scheduled to depart Thursday night.

Amtrak No. 30 picked up a pilot and cleared Porter at 8:51 p.m. CDT on Thursday.  It had locomotives 127, 23 and 202. High Iron Travel Rail Excursions Private Car Caritas was on the rear.

A passenger aboard the train said on TO that it reached Jackson, Mich., at about midnight.

No. 30 later departed Toledo at 4:59 a.m., which was 5 hours, 10 minutes late. It arrived in  Cleveland at 7:08 a.m., 5 hours and 23 minutes late.

In the meantime, No. 48 departed Chicago on Thursday night (actually Friday morning) at 1:46 a.m., which was 4 hours and 16 minutes late.

No. 48 did not detour via Michigan because NS had one track opened at the derailment site by the time No. 48 reached the Chicago Line.

It departed Elkhart at 5:26 a.m., 5 hours and 4 minutes late. It later departed Bryan at 6:45 a.m., which is 5 hours and 15 minutes late.

LSL Boston Section Canceled on Select June Dates

June 7, 2014

Track work being performed by CSX has resulted in the suspension of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited between Albany-Rensselaer and Boston during select days in June.

Eastbound No. 448 will not operate June 7 – 11 and 14 – 18, while westbound No. 449 will not operate June 8 – 11 and 15 – 18.

Passengers will instead reach their destinations via connecting buses. Stations affected include Albany-Rensselaer, Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston South Station.

Bus service will not be provided to Boston’s Back Bay station and passengers are being referred to MBTA for travel options to Back Back.

The New York section of the Lake Shore Limited will continue to operate normally during this period.

The Lake Shore Limited makes stops in Ohio in Cleveland, Elyria, Sandusky, Toledo and Bryan.

Amtrak Warns of Delays on CSX in New York State

May 19, 2014

Amtrak is warning of possible delays to its trains operating on CSX in New York State due to track work being performed between Amsterdam and Syracuse.

Trains affected include Maple Leaf trains 63 and 64 and Empire Service trains 280, 281, 283 and 284. Although the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was not listed, it operates through the affected work zone during daylight hours.

The track work is being conducted between May 18 and 31, and between June 15 and 28.

Ashtabula Man Hurt After Hitting Amtrak Train

March 26, 2014

An Ashtabula man was seriously injured after he drove through a crossing gate and into the side of Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited earlier this week.

Murphy R. West was taken to a hospital in Geneva and transferred to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland via helicopter.

West was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, and was ejected from the vehicle. Police believe that alcohol was a factor in the accident. The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported that West, 58, was driving a 2003 Lincoln Town Car northbound on Ohio Route 45 and hit the train at about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The Saybrook Township Fire Department and EMS also responded along with the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office.

The train has two locomotives and 14 cars. No injuries were reported to anyone aboard the train.

SW Chief Battle May Have Consequences Here

March 3, 2014

A battle being waged over an Amtrak route in the mountains and high plains of the West could hold implications for the future of Amtrak service in Northeast Ohio.

That’s because some rail passenger service watchers believe that Amtrak is using the Southwest Chief routing issue to sidestep its congressional mandate to pay for long-distance trains — those traveling more than 750 miles — with federal funds.

Ostensibly, the fight over the Southwest Chief seems unrelated to that. It is being framed as a simple matter of a railroad not wishing to maintain a lightly-used freight route to passenger trains speeds and telling Amtrak to pony up the money if it wants to continue to operate at 79 miles per hour on the route.

This story has played out before in several places, including in Ohio when Conrail said in the 1980s that it didn’t wish to maintain the Fort Wayne Line to passenger trains speeds. At the time, the former Pennsylvania Railroad route hosted the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited and the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

The end result was that in late 1990 Amtrak rerouted the Capitol Limited to its current route via Cleveland and the Broadway Limited to a CSX route via Akron and Youngstown that had been freight only since Amtrak’s beginning in 1971.

And before that there was the fiasco of the first Lake Shore.

That train began shortly after Amtrak’s May 1, 1971, inauguration. There had been an outcry that Cleveland and Toledo had been left off the basic Amtrak route map.

Amtrak launched the Chicago-New York Lake Shore with the proviso that the states served pay its costs. But the states refused to do so – although Ohio was prepared to pay up – and the Lake Shore ended in early January 1972, having operated well less than a year.

Cleveland and Toledo regained Amtrak service in 1975 when the “experimental route” Lake Shore Limited was launched between Chicago-New York/Boston.

But the Southwest Chief route battle may be different.

Amtrak has proposed that it along with BNSF and the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas form a partnership to fund track maintenance of the former Santa Fe mainline in western Kansas, southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. Each would pay more than $40 million a year for a decade.

Legislators and local officials in towns and districts served by the Southwest Chief have introduced legislation or lobbied for state funding of the track maintenance needed to keep the Chief on its present route.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, though, has sounded the alarm about how the federal government is abrogating its legal responsibility to fund a national rail network.

The Republican governor has said in recent months that Amtrak is funded by Congress and any agreement should not leave New Mexico taxpayers with a large bill.

“According to the New Mexico [Department of Transportation], the state has never provided state funds for Amtrak service,” Martinez’s office said last month. “We’re willing to work together on this issue, but any agreement needs to take that reality into account.”

In 2013, Congress appropriated $1.5 billion to Amtrak with $71 million of that amount clawed back due to sequestration, a Nov. 13 Congressional Budget Office memo said.

“All told, the government covers almost all of Amtrak’s capital costs as well as more than 10 percent of its operating costs,” the memo said. “In 1970, when the Congress established Amtrak, it anticipated subsidizing the railroad for only a short time, until it became self-supporting. Since then, however, the federal subsidies to Amtrak have totaled about $45 billion.”

The year 2013 also saw a series of battles in statehouses over funding of Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles.

A law adopted by Congress in 2008 pressured Amtrak to reduce its dependence on federal funding by reaching agreements with states for money for short-haul trains by Oct. 1, 2013. Amtrak announced on Oct. 15 that it had successfully negotiated contracts with 19 states to increase state control and funding of 28 passenger rail routes.

In July 2013, Amtrak announced a $151 billion plan for improvements to routes in its Northeast Corridor, where it owns the tracks.

“I believe what they’re trying to do is set precedent to have the long-distance routes subject to state supplemental payments, because they cannot get enough money out of Congress to continue long-distance trains,” said Evan Stair, president of Passenger Rail Oklahoma.

Amtrak’s long-distance trains are its biggest money-losers some reports say.

The Southwest Chief had operating costs of $114.5 million in 2012 that resulted in a $62.6 million shortfall, according to a Brookings Institute analysis of Amtrak data. It’s a performance on par with most Amtrak long-distance routes.

Yet the long-distance routes are popular and continue to see increased ridership. From 1997 to 2012, patronage of the Southwest Chief increased by almost 100,000 passengers from 1997 to 2012, or 38 percent, according to the report.

Stair pondered for a minute the odds that governments along the route of the Chief will ante up the money needed to fix the tracks that is now uses.

“Is Amtrak sincere in wanting to keep the Southwest Chief or is this simply this decade’s sacrificial train to Congress?” he asked.

Amtrak has “had no discussions about discontinuing the service between Chicago and Los Angeles,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. “The options on the table are between staying where we are, which is our preference, or rerouting, which is not our preference.”

There are other options that few have talked about openly and Amtrak has not acknowledged. The Southwest Chief could be truncated to a Chicago-Kansas City train or it could be discontinued altogether. In that case, Amtrak might bring back the Desert Wind, a section of the Chicago-San Francisco Bay California Zephyr that carried through cars between Chicago and Los Angeles and operated via Las Vegas.

The Desert Wind was discontinued in a 1995 service cutback that also saw the end of the Broadway Limited although a replacement train, the Three Rivers, operated for a few years via Akron in the early 2000s between Chicago and New York before it ended when Amtrak got out of the mail and express business.

It is too soon to say what the outcome will be of the Southwest Chief battle. Amtrak’s contract to use the BNSF route in question via Albuquerque continues until Jan. 1, 2016.  After that date, BNSF has said that it will only maintain the track to a top speed of 30 miles per hour.

In theory, Amtrak could continue to use the route, but most likely it would not. Amtrak has indicated that funding from New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas needs to be approved by the end of 2014 even though it won’t be needed for another year.

That’s because Amtrak said it could take at least a year to plan a new route for the Southwest Chief.

At this point, the battle of the Southwest Chief is about track maintenance fees. Amtrak hasn’t said that it wants any of the eight states served by the Chief to help pay the train’s operating costs. At least not yet.

But could it be a precedent for asking states to pay infrastructure costs of long-distance trains?

One key difference between the Southwest Chief route battle and the situation with the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited is that the latter trains use well-traveled and maintained Norfolk Southern and CSX freight routes.

Ross Capon, the executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers has said that he suspects that neither Amtrak or BNSF wants to see the Southwest Chief move off its current route.

Putting the Chief on the Transcon route via Amarillo, Texas, would mean seeing yet another train on a route that is already one of BNSF’s busiest and one where the railroad has sunk millions of dollars to expand its capacity. True, the Southwest Chief uses the Transcon west of Albuquerque and everything seems to move there just fine.

But in the BNSF executive suite, the current Southwest Chief route is a matter of simple economics and politics. The railroad doesn’t need the ex-Santa Fe route in western Kansas except for local freight service. It would rather not add another train to the Transcon east of Belen, N.M.

BNSF officials no doubt have asked why their company should continue to pay to maintain track that it doesn’t use all that much to a level of utility that it doesn’t need. Hence, the decision was made to put the squeeze on the states for money to fix the tracks.

Amtrak has been the front man during the fight over public funding of the track maintenance of the Southwest Chief  route. BNSF has deliberately stayed in the background and said very little when asked about the situation. It would prefer that the narrative remain focused on this being an Amtrak issue.

Still, in railroad executive suites, congressional offices in Washington and state departments of transportation across the country, officials probably are watching the Southwest Chief track funding fight with some interest because it could be a precursor of things to come.

Here in Northeast Ohio, we should be watching it, too.