Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak late trains’

Another Sunday Another Very Late Amtrak Train

July 10, 2017

Well another Sunday and another late Amtrak train. This week it was the Capitol Limited’s turn. The lead engine had a traction motor fire while going up Sand Patch grade Saturday evening, disabling the unit and necessitating a freight unit to continue.

This made it about 10 hours late into Pittsburgh where Norfolk Southern 7630, a GE ES40DC,  took over duties. With a freight engine leading, No. 29 could only go about 50 miles per hour and continued to lose more time en route.

I caught it at the sag near Beloit, Ohio, about 11:30 a.m. It cleared Berea about 2 p.m. and as I write this article at about 9:30 p.m. the train has still not arrived in Chicago.

It would later arrive at Chicago Union Station at 9:52 p.m., 13 hours and 7 minutes late.

Besides the late train doing a daylight run across Ohio and Indiana, which is interesting itself, the train had five private cars trailing including a former Union Pacific dome observation car bringing up the rear.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon


The Other LSL Did Much Better

July 7, 2017

Sunday, July 2, was not a good day to be a passenger aboard Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited.

First, the train was delayed for five hours due to flooding and track inspections between Albany and Utica, New York.

Then it ran into a Norfolk Southern work window in Ohio by which it had to make a roundabout detour move that added four more hours of delay.

By the time it reached Chicago at 7:27 p.m. it was nine hours, 42 minutes late.

But those riding the eastbound Lake Shore Limited only had to deal with the “standard” delays.

It was a mere 30 minutes late reaching New York Penn Station although it was over an hour late at some stations in New York state.

It it shown above cruising through Painesville, Ohio, east of Cleveland after departing the latter station 40 minutes off the advertised.

A noteworthy point about this train is that the P42DC locomotives pulling it are consecutively numbered 15 and 14.

Late 48 in Mid Morning in Lake County

June 14, 2017

Akron Railroad Club member Jeff Troutman sent along this image of Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passing through Painesville just past 9:33 a.m. on Tuesday.

At the time, No. 48 had departed Cleveland 3 hours, 17 minutes behind schedule.

An online report indicated that the lateness could be attributed in part to the need to replace a bad-ordered car in Chicago.

No. 48 was 2 hours, 38 minutes late leaving Chicago Union Station on Tuesday night.

As often happens, things didn’t get better from there. When it departed Syracuse, New York, on Tuesday afternoon, No. 48 was nearly 6 hours late.

The train arrived in New York City at 11:42 p.m., five hours and 19 minutes late. The Boston section arrived at 1:47 a.m., five hours and 46 minutes late.

3 Hours Late on Amtrak Anniversary Day

May 2, 2016




For Amtrak’s 45th birthday I submit these photos of Amtrak No. 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited at Willowick Ohio.

I wanted to do something for Amtrak’s anniversary but didn’t think of taking night photos. Amtrak cooperated by running No. 48 almost three hours late.

I had heard it was running with only one engine and thought perhaps it had trouble. It didn’t and came through Willowick at track speed and a healthy 11-car train.

It still has a heritage dining car of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy vintage – at least I think it was, but I didn’t get the number – and six Amfleet cars, five of them coaches, brought up the rear. Other than a new baggage car it looks pretty much like it always has the last couple decades.

Article and photographs by Todd Dillon

If You Want to be Ontime Aboard Amtrak, Then You Need to Get on or Off at an Endpoint City

March 9, 2016

Only once have I lived in an Amtrak endpoint city. Otherwise, I’ve lived in places at or near an intermediate station.

I mention that because in my experience your best chance for an on-time arrival or departure is at an endpoint city.

For 20 years I rode Amtrak twice a year to visit my dad when he lived in downstate Illinois.

The westbound Capitol Limited or Lake Shore Limited typically arrived late into Cleveland, but on several occasions No. 29 or Nol 49 were on-time or even early arriving into Chicago Union Station, where both terminate.

My connecting train, the Illini, almost always departed Chicago on time, but more often than not arrived late at my destination of Mattoon, Illinois.

I’ve observed this phenomenon on other routes, too. In May 2014, I rode the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle.

On TransportationWe left Chicago 1 hour, 12 minutes late due to being held for a more than four-hour late arriving Lake Shore Limited.

During the 2,200-mile journey we were upwards of two hours late at times, but arrived into Seattle 15 minutes early.

How was that possible?

The short answer is what Amtrak euphemistically calls “recovery time.”

It is built into the schedule to enable a late Amtrak train to make up time before arriving at an endpoint city.

You often find recovery time by examining the running time between an endpoint city and the next station.

The running time of the Capitol Limited from South Bend, Indiana, to Chicago is 1 hour, 54 minutes. The running time from Chicago to South Bend is 1 hour, 29 minutes.

For the Lake Shore Limited, the running time from South Bend to Chicago is two minutes longer, but exactly the same from Chicago as the Capitol Limited.

The City of New Orleans has a running time of 49 minutes from Chicago to Homewood, Illinois, a distance of 24 miles. Yet its inbound counterpart “needs” 1 hour, 16 minutes to travel the same distance.

As this is written, Amtrak and its host railroads are sparring in a rule-making proceeding by the Surface Transportation Board over on-time standards.

A 1973 federal law gives preference to passenger trains over freight trains and Amtrak is arguing for an absolute interpretation of that standard. The Association of American Railroads sees it differently.

The STB is not going to get involved in every instance in which an Amtrak train is late.

Rather, the issue is a repeated pattern of a host railroad favoring freight trains over passenger trains and/or the host railroad’s repeated failure to dispatch Amtrak trains in a manner that results in on-time performance.

Amtrak argues that when a train arrives or departs at intermediate stations should be taken into account when considering if a host railroad has engaged in a pattern of preferring its freight trains over passenger trains.

The ARR counters that Amtrak schedules are unrealistic given the operating and physical characteristics of today’s railroads.

Both parties want to have it both ways. It’s a bit cheeky for Amtrak to talk about on-time performance at intermediate stations when its own schedules are skewed in favor of endpoint cities.

When Amtrak and the State of Illinois were negotiating a contract a few years ago for the state to fund certain corridor trains, Amtrak refused to agree to an on-time standard for intermediate cities, insisting that only arrival and departure times from originating cities and terminus cities be included in the standard.

In short, if the Illini is late arriving in Mattoon, tough luck. Illinois only can reduce its payments to Amtrak if the Illini is late arriving in Carbondale or Chicago.

The AAR brief might have you believe that Amtrak imposes its schedules upon its host railroads.

The same brief mentions that individual railroads have negotiated agreements with Amtrak pertaining to on-time performance.

I find it hard to believe that any host railroad that has an “incentive” contract for Amtrak on-time performance would not have a major say in Amtrak schedules over its line.

Recovery time exists in part to benefit the host railroad so that it has a better chance of earning incentive payments.

The STB proceeding is about rules that may or may not have mean much in the daily performance of any given train on any given day.

Like any legal rules, the on-time standards the STB is considering would only come into play if Amtrak initiates a proceeding against a host railroad as it has done with Canadian National over its handling of Amtrak trains between Chicago and Carbondale.

Obviously, each party wants the rules slanted in favor of its own interests and positions of strength.

Amtrak hopes that if the rules favor it that will encourage host railroads to give Amtrak the benefit of the doubt more often than not when passenger trains and freight trains are in conflict.

From a passenger perspective, Amtrak’s position has appeal. The eastbound Capitol Limited is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. If it arrives at 2:15 a.m., it is a half-hour late as far as passengers getting off are concerned. It doesn’t matter that it arrived in Washington on time.

The interests of passengers might seem to be central to the STB proceedings but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Amtrak has already decided that although all passengers have an interest in arriving and departing on time, the interests of some passengers outweigh those of others.

That is why it is advantageous to get on at an originating city and get off at the end of the line. You’re more likely to leave and arrive when the schedules says that you will.

Amtrak Reaches Cleveland Before 6 a.m. Today

October 17, 2014

It may not be worth stopping the presses to report, but all four Amtrak trains serving Northeast Ohio arrived in Cleveland today (Friday, Oct. 17), before 6 a.m.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited was a mere nine minutes late, even making up four minutes of time after leaving Elyria.

Alas, the eastbound Capitol Limited was the spoiler, having halted in Cleveland nearly 3.5 hours late at 5:44 a.m.

As for the westbound trains, No. 29 arrived at 3:31 a.m. (39 minutes late) and No. 49 arrived right behind it at 3:44 a.m. (7 minutes late).

How will those trains fare getting into Chicago? It is tough to say as the performance of Nos. 29 and 49 has been all over the map for the past few days.

On Thursday, No. 29 was 39 minutes late at Cleveland, but nearly two hours late arriving into Chicago. The Capitol got there at 10:37 a.m., whereas the scheduled arrival time is 8:45 a.m.

The Capitol Limited was just over an hour late into Cleveland on Wednesday and 1:34 late into Chicago. On Tuesday, it was 59 minutes late at Cleveland, but 3:35 late into Chicago.

No. 49 has followed a similar pattern. On Thursday, it was nearly 3 hours late at Cleveland and 4:11 late into Chicago. The scheduled arrival time in the Windy City for the Lake Shore Limited is 9:45 a.m.

On Wednesday, the Lake Shore Limited was 48 minutes late at Cleveland and 56 minutes late into Chicago. On Tuesday No. 49 was 44 minutes late into Cleveland, but 4:15 late into Chicago.

The eastbound Capitol Limited had its best day on Wednesday when it arrived in Cleveland 56 minutes late. The scheduled arrival time is 1:45 a.m.

No. 30 was 2:17 late on Thursday and nearly three hours late on Tuesday.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited was 1:55 late on Thursday, 3:06 late on Wednesday and 6:37 late on Tuesday.

Neither Amtrak nor its passengers can be pleased with these performances although there is a glimmer of hope that things are looking up and the excessive late running that has plagued these trains over the past two months may become more of an abnormality rather than the rule.

Amtrak’s Woes Shown in Photographs

October 13, 2014
The Lake Shore Limited has just crossed Brookside Drive in Olmsted Falls on Sunday. It won't go much further as traffic is ahead of it.

The Lake Shore Limited has just crossed Brookside Drive in Olmsted Falls on Sunday. It won’t go much further as traffic is ahead of it.

Amtrak’s problems with tardiness between Chicago and Cleveland on the Norfolk Southern Chicago Line have been written about widely on this blog.

After taking this image on Sunday of a 5-hour late eastbound Lake Shore Limited at Olmsted Falls, it occurred to me that much of what hinders Amtrak can be seen here. But you need to know where to look.

Let’s start with the buckets in the foreground. More than a week ago new ties were laid aside Track No. 2 in preparation for track work.

On this day the work gang was west of here with a crew working at the Mapleway Drive grade crossing, which is a few blocks behind me.

Trains had to contact the foreman to get permission to pass the stop board. Look in front of the nose of the train. The intermediate signals at MP 195 display a stop indication for Track No. 2.

Look further and you’ll see why. An eastbound intermodal train is in the block ahead of the Amtrak.

Look at little to the left and you’ll see what appears to be a crude oil train parked in the Berea siding. Less than three minutes before I made this image an auto rack train went west on Track No. 1 and other trains were backed up behind it headed west.

No. 48 left Chicago on Saturday more than 3 hours late. Note the battered rear of the baggage car. This car is a Union Pacific coach built in 1960 that Amtrak converted to a baggage car.

Who knows how many miles it has racked up and the places it has seen. It could probably continue to roll on but Amtrak’s new Viewliner II baggage cars can’t get here fast enough to give it a respite.

No. 48 arrived into Cleveland at 11:19 a.m., 5 hours and 37 minutes late. It would reach New York Penn Station at 11:45 p.m., 5 hours and 20 minutes late.

When I posted this at 8:15 a.m. EDT today, No. 48 was running 3 hours late.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The rear of the westbound auto rack train passes the head end of No. 48. New ties line the shoulder of Track No. 2. Interestingly, there are no new ties (yet) along the shoulder of Track No. 1.

The rear of the westbound auto rack train passes the head end of No. 48. New ties line the shoulder of Track No. 2. Interestingly, there are no new ties (yet) along the shoulder of Track No. 1.

P42 No. 111 leads Amtrak No. 48 on Sunday. Can we call this an Amtrak bar code unit?

P42 No. 111 leads Amtrak No. 48 on Sunday. Can we call this an Amtrak bar code unit?


A bit of fall colors enlivens the scene.


Capitol, Lake Shore Resume Going to Chicago

October 12, 2014

Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited resumed operating to Chicago on Saturday after nearly a week of terminating and originating at Toledo.

The first westbound Capitol Limited to Chicago was greeted with a seven-hour delay between Alliance and Cleveland and finally limped into Chicago Union Station at 7:46 p.m., 11 hours late.

Before now, that would have resulted in the outbound No. 30 being significantly delayed, but Amtrak said it would put together another equipment set for the Capitol.

It apparently did that because No. 30 left on Saturday a mere mine minutes behind schedule.

However, the good fortune would not last. No. 30 departed Sunday morning from Cleveland 4 hours and 5 minutes late.

The westbound Lake Shore Limited fared better, although it was still very late. It departed Cleveland on Saturday 2 hours, 11 minutes late. It halted in Chicago at 3:14 p.m., 5.5 hours late.

No. 48 departed Chicago more than three hours late on account of the crew needing to rest. It was operating nearly four hours late Sunday morning. Its westbound counterpart departed Cleveland 1 hours, 16 minutes late on Sunday.

Amtrak still Terminating at Toledo

October 8, 2014

Amtrak will continued to originate and terminate the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited in Toledo through Oct. 11. The information was posted online and has not yet been provided on the Amtrak website.

Passengers will be transported between Chicago and Toledo via chartered buses. All intermediate stops will be served.

On Wednesday morning, the trains were running late, albeit not as late as they ran over the weekend.

The Amtrak “Track-a-Train” feature at 6:20 a.m. show No. 29 was running about an later whereas No. 48 was operating just over two hours late. No. 29 was about two hours late and No. 49 was nearly one-and-a-half hours late.

An online report indicated that No. 30 left Toledo just over an hour late at 12:52 a.m. and reached Pittsburgh at 7:06 a.m. No. 48 departed Toledo at 5:15 a.m., which was nearly two hours late.

On Tuesday, online reports indicated that No. 30 Toledo left at 1:53 a.m. on Tuesday rather than the scheduled 11:49 p.m. departure time. It arrived in Cleveland at 4:30 a.m. and was about three hours late into Pittsburgh.

No. 48 departed Toledo at 4:57 a.m. rather than the scheduled 3:20 a.m. It reached Cleveland at 8:11 a.m., which was almost 2.5 hours late.

Nos. 29 and 49 may have terminated at Toledo. Amtrak’s website would not provide status information for either train, saying that both had suffered a service disruption.

However, information kept on the site that hosts Amtrak status information showed that No. 49 departed Cleveland Tuesday morning two minutes late and that No. 29 left 2 hours and 11 minutes late. No. 29 was just 46 minutes late leaving Alliance.

The status file archive at Dixielandsoftware did not show times at any station west of Toledo for Nos. 29 or 49.

A report filed on by a passenger who was ticketed to travel from Chicago to Waterloo, Ind., on Monday described a chaotic boarding process and lack of communication.

Although the buses were apparently loaded by 6:30 p.m., 10 minutes before the Capitol Limited is scheduled to depart, they were held for connecting passengers from a late-arriving train.

Double Amtrak Entrée With a Creamsicle Treat

October 6, 2014
The observation car on the rear of the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was one of many highlights of a Sunday of railfanning in Olmsted Falls.

The observation car on the rear of the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was one of many highlights of a Sunday of railfanning in Olmsted Falls.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do on Sunday as far as railfanning. The weather forecast called for sun and clouds.

Upon seeing that Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited were both running many, many hours late my Sunday plans were set.

With daylight Amtrak trains through Northeast Ohio no longer a sometimes thing, I decide to try to do an Amtrak double dip. I had been wanting to photograph the Lake Shore and Capitol on the same day. Here was my chance.

After getting to Olmsted Falls, I called Amtrak Julie to get a status report on the late trains.

The Amtrak website had not been working properly when I left home, rendering inoperative the reservations and train status functions. I would later learn that this problem would last for much of the day on Sunday.

But now the problems had migrated to Amtrak’s reservation phone number.

Instead of getting Julie, I heard a voice I’d never heard before saying that Amtrak was experiencing higher than normal call volumes.

Those who were calling to make a reservation were urged to call later or on Monday. Those who wished to speak to an agent were warned that the wait could exceed a half-hour. Those who just wanted train status were SOL. I would have to rely on my scanner, which, fortunately, was working just fine.

The NS radio channels were quite busy Sunday morning and the railroad was experiencing traffic congestion.

Two eastbound trains had locomotive problems and were stopped in the vicinity of CP Max. The powers that be decided to swap a locomotive from a westbound with one of the eastbounds, whose third and fourth units were not working properly.

West of Cleveland, an eastbound stack train, the 26T, had outlawed between Cleveland and Elyria. That reduced the Chicago Line to a single track but with the Cleveland Terminal tied up, it didn’t matter that much.

It was mostly sunny when I arrived but soon thereafter clouds rolled in and it was mostly overcast skies for much of the afternoon.

Newly-minted ties had been deposited along the south shoulder of Track No. 2. The track work that has made the Chicago Line a single track railroad on many days is moving eastward.

Amtrak No. 48 had left Chicago at 1:29 a.m., nearly four hours late. No. 30 had departed Union Station at 2:54 a.m., 8 hours and 14 minutes late.

And that was before they reached the usual congestion on the Norfolk Southern Chicago Line.

Already eight hours late, Amtrak No. 48 was held at CP 203. As the Toledo East dispatcher put it, “we have to wait for three westbounds to be flushed out of Cleveland before I can get you a route.”

With the westbound traffic out of the way, No. 48 came rolling through Olmsted Falls at 2:16 p.m. It would arrive at the Cleveland station at 2:29 p.m., nearly nine hours late, but not before signal problems at the Drawbridge.

It would finally reach New York Penn Station at 3:50 a.m., which is nearly 9.5 hours late. The rear of No. 48 offered a bonus with four private cars.

I am not sure of the heritage of the observation car, but the tail sign read “The Crescent.” Shades of the days when this was the way of the Great Steel Fleet.

I was aware that the Interstate heritage unit was in Sandusky on Saturday and there had been speculation that it might go east.

Due to a heads up from my friend Adam Barr, who had been unable to get trackside on Sunday, I learned that the NS 8105 was leading a 262 out of Sandusky. It followed the 34N, which had brought out a relief crew for the 26T. The 262 then went around the 26T.

This was the first time I had seen and photographed the Interstate H unit. The 26T followed the 262, albeit slowly. This long stack train had four units, but the fourth locomotive was dead and the third unit wasn’t getting any amps.

The crew discussed the problem with the Toledo East and Cleveland Terminal dispatchers, but I am not sure how the matter was resolved or if it got resolved. I had been about ready to give up on No. 30. For all I knew it might have been annulled in Toledo.

But I decided to stick it out a while longer and my persistence would soon pay off. I heard the Toledo East Dispatcher talking to Amtrak No. 30 to give it a speed restriction through a crossover.

It finally showed up at 4:15 and must have been further delayed because the arrival time at the station downtown in Cleveland was 4:51 p.m.

But what’s a few more minutes when you are already 15 hours late? For the record, No. 30 finally reached Washington Union Station at 5:35 a.m. Monday, 16 hours, 25 minutes late.

The late departure from Chicago on Saturday (Sunday) likely was due in part to the fact that No. 29 arrived at 5:49 p.m. (9 hours, 4 minutes late) on Saturday and the combination of crew rest and equipment servicing moved the departure time way off.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Amtrak No. 48 had to wait for three westbounds west of Olmsted Falls, but what another half-hour of delay when you are already running more than eight hours late?

Amtrak No. 48 had to wait for three westbounds west of Olmsted Falls, but what’s another half-hour of delay when you are already running more than eight hours late?

With tie replacement poised to start in Olmsted Falls, railfans won't have to worry about one train blocking another for awhile.

With tie replacement poised to start in Olmsted Falls, railfans won’t have to worry about one train blocking another for awhile.

I can now check another NS H unit off my "to do" list. What a sight this engine was.

I can now check another NS H unit off my “to do” list. What a sight this engine was.

A wide angle perspective of the NS 8105. It was my first heritage unit sighting since mid summer.

A wide angle perspective of the NS 8105 also featured some interesting cloud patterns and side sunlight just as the train arrived.

It is not quite storm light, but a large crease in the clouds created a nice contrast between the white trailers of the two intermodal trains and the dark clouds to the east.

It is not quite storm light, but a large crease in the clouds created a nice contrast between the white trailers of the two intermodal trains and the dark clouds to the east.

Being persistent paid off in achieving my goal of photograph two late Amtrak trains on the same day in Northeast Ohio.

Being persistent paid off in achieving my goal of photographing two late Amtrak trains on the same day in Northeast Ohio.

No private cars on the rear of the 15-hour late eastbound Capitol Limited, but it was the first time I've photographed that train in Olmsted Falls.

No private cars on the rear of the 15-hour late eastbound Capitol Limited, but it was the first time I’ve photographed that train in Olmsted Falls.