Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

One Needed Money, Another Needed a Building. The 40-Year Saga of Ann Arbor’s Michigan Central Depot Continues to Affect Rail Passengers Today

August 23, 2015
The Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor as it looks today.

The Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor as it looks today. “Gandy Dancer” by Sally – originally posted to Flickr as Amtrak station, Ann Arbor. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons –

A westbound Wolverine Service train in May 2012 passes the crumbling remains of the platform in front of the former Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor. The edge of the addition to the station, which is now a restaurant, can be seen at the far right.

A westbound Wolverine Service train in May 2012 passes the crumbling remains of the platform in front of the former Michigan Central station in Ann Arbor. The edge of the addition to the station, which is now a restaurant, can be seen at the far right.

A concrete stairway leads from Broadway to the Amtrak station in Ann Arbor. A Wolverine No. 350 has just arrived on July 24, 2009.

A concrete stairway leads from Broadway to the Amtrak station in Ann Arbor. A Wolverine No. 350 has just arrived on July 24, 2009.

Penn Central needed money. Detroit restaurateur Chuck Muer needed a building in which to open a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. More than 40 years later the intersection of interests continues to hold implications for rail passengers.

At the center of the story is a grand Romanesque railroad station opened in 1887 by the Michigan Central Railroad.

Designed with castle-like walls by Detroit architect Frederick Spier, the station was called the finest on the MC’s route between Chicago and Buffalo, New York.

But by 1969, Penn Central passenger patronage in Ann Arbor had shrunk to about 25 a day.

The financially beleaguered PC didn’t need a grand depot to serve the nine trains a day that used the station. some of which were commuter runs to Detroit that didn’t operate on weekends.

When Muer offered to buy the station, Penn Central agreed to sell it and in 1970 a seafood restaurant named the Gandy Dancer opened there.

At the time, many viewed Muer as a hero for saving a building in which much local history was vested and which had been neglected by the New York Central and Penn Central.

Former Ann Arbor Mayor Lou Belcher recalled walking the site with Muer and looking at what would later become the restaurant’s main dining room.

He described it as nothing but dirt, poles, railroad ties and equipment.”It was filthy,” Belcher said.

As for Penn Central passengers, they were forced to use a former express office just east of the Broadway Bridge.

“It had a ticket office, restrooms and a waiting area furnished with an old wooden bench with seating for 12 passengers,” said Clark Charnetski, an Ann Arbor resident and former chairman of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers.

At the time, the outlook for intercity rail passenger service, particularly on routes operated by Penn Central, was bleak.

PC announced in March 1970 that it would end all intercity passenger service west of Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

The Interstate Commerce Commission stalled that plan, but in June when Penn Central filed for bankruptcy protection, Congress moved to create Amtrak.

When Amtrak took over on May 1, 1971, it kept just four trains between Chicago and Detroit. Penn Central continued to operate the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter trains.

And passengers continued to wait for trains in that tiny station area in the former express building.

Then Amtrak improved the service and patronage quickly grew.

In 1975, the Michigan Department of Transportation agreed to fund the Detroit commuter trains and Amtrak agreed to operate them.

Named the Michigan Executive, the trains began originating in Jackson and also served Chelsea and Ypsilanti.

In truth, those trains had always originated there because Penn Central had a crew base there. The trains just deadheaded between Jackson and Ann Arbor.

MDOT also built a 75-space parking lot west of the Broadway Bridge where the present Amtrak station is situated today.

Patronage kept growing and the small station, which was cramped even during the Penn Central era, became even more crowded.

Then Muer said he wanted to expand the former Michigan Central station. Battle lines were being drawn and something had to give.

* * * * *

Many in a community tend to get nostalgic when talking about their city’s railroad station even if they have never used it for train travel or haven’t been in it for many years.

Ann Arbor is no exception and many continue to extol the virtues of the past for a building that has been extensively re-purposed.

Of course, there was a time when the Michigan Central station played a central role in Ann Arbor life.

A historic marker at the station grounds says that enthusiastic crowds gathered to see presidents, prominent politicians and visiting dignitaries, some of whom spoke from the rear platforms of trains.

University of Michigan football teams left from there to play games in far-flung stadiums in the Big Ten conference.

Cheering crowds welcomed home or sent off troops in shows of patriotic fervor. Distinguished lecturers and concert artists arrived to perform at the University of Michigan or other venues in town.

In the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon both spoke at the depot.

Also making whistle stops in Ann Arbor over the years were Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan and even Winston Churchill.

The station’s interior featured ornate waiting rooms, an elaborate ticket booth, red oak ceilings and trim, French tile floors, stained glass windows and a large terra cotta fireplace. The grounds outside included a garden with a fountain.

Two smaller buildings, a railway express office and a baggage facility, were connected to the depot by a metal canopy.

That is how the station is often described and while it looked like that during the heyday of rail travel, it was much less attractive by the late 1960s.

“Some local historians say that Muer saved the old station, but it is my understanding that there was never any threat to its existence,” Charnetski said. “Similar stations in Jackson, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and Niles were never torn down. With the exception of Battle Creek, those other stations are now used by Amtrak.”

Amtrak was painfully aware of the limitations of the station facilities that it inherited from Penn Central.

Some thought that Amtrak was eyeing taking over the former Michigan Central station, which was designated a historical site by the Michigan Historical Commission in 1974 and then entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

A city commissioner even warned Muer at a ceremony to “watch out for the Amtrak wolves who might want the station back.”

Amtrak was testing French-built Turboliners on the Chicago-Detroit route and permanently assigned the new equipment there on April 10, 1075. When a second Turboliner was added on April 27, Amtrak launched a third Chicago-Detroit roundtrip, bringing service between the two cities to six trains a day.

Passengers liked the equipment and ridership in May 1975 was up 40 percent over that of April. By July, so many wanted to ride the Turboliners that as many as 100 had to stand in the aisles on weekend trips.

The growth in the Chicago-Detroit corridor coincided with a plan by Muer to build an addition to the station, a plan that divided the folks of Ann Arbor between late 1975 and 1976. The city council ultimately voted to allow the expansion, despite protests from historic preservationists.

Muer expanded the Gandy Dancer’s dining and kitchen facilities by enclosing the space between the main building and the former baggage station, which was then used for storage.

He also installed a new glassed-in dining area beneath the metal canopy on the track side.

The expanded restaurant opened in September 1976.

* * * * *

For its part, Amtrak sought in 1978 to enlarge its waiting room by glassing in the canopy between the express building and the depot  in a manner similar to what the Gandy Dancer had done with the restaurant portion.

Workers tore off the glass entrance to the small Amtrak station and poured concrete footings for the addition.

But Muer objected to the work, saying the number of passengers using the station had grown to 250 a day by 1975 and there wasn’t enough parking. In response, the city issued a stop-work order and a small station became even smaller.

Many passengers were forced to wait for trains outside in the cold and snow.

As a makeshift solution, Amtrak bought an old surplus portable classroom building from the Ann Arbor schools and installed it beneath the Broadway Bridge to serve as an overflow waiting room.

In 1979, MDOT asked the Michigan passenger advocacy group if Ann Arbor needed a new station. By now Ann Arbor was the second heaviest used Amtrak station in Michigan. Of course it did, but where would it be located?

Following a June 1979 meeting between MDOT and city officials, a committee was formed to recommend a station site.

On the committee were representatives of the city, MDOT, Amtrak, the University of Michigan, Greyhound and other interested parties, including the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers.

Pollack Design Associates of Ann Arbor conducted a 98-page study that was released in November 1979.

It examined a number of locations, but the parking lot for commuters that MDOT had built on Depot Street was favored.

Congressman Carl Pursell obtained a federal earmark for the new Amtrak station, which was built in 1983. The site included a 100-space parking lot across the tracks.

A year later, the Michigan Executive was discontinued. Since then, Amtrak service through Ann Arbor has remained at six trains a day. For the past several years, the service has operated under the Wolverine Service moniker.

* * * * *

Although on the small side, the 1983 station is still used and is the busiest Amtrak station in Michigan, seeing 147,093 passengers in 2014, a 31 percent increased over a decade earlier.

In many ways, Ann Arbor is in the same situation it was in the late 1970s with an Amtrak station that many, including the current city administration, views as inadequate to meet the city’s present and future needs.

MDOT purchased from Norfolk Southern the tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo used by the Wolverines and has launched a track rehabilitation campaign to boost train speeds and cut the running times.

State officials are talking about expanding the number of trains between Chicago and Detroit with up to 10 roundtrips a day the long-term goal.

There also are discussions about restarting Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter service, although that is not imminent.

The city is again studying sites for a new station, which is expected to largely be funded by the federal government and built in 2017-2018.

“Today we have a similar choice of what to do,” Charnetski says of the process of studying potential sites for a new Amtrak station.

One of those options would be to do what some feared Amtrak wanted to do in the middle 1970s and take over the former Michigan Central station.

Because the station is privately owned, taking it over and re-configuring it for transportation use is not all that simple.

But the idea continues to glow in the minds of some with those dreams driven in part by nostalgia.

City Council Member Sabra Briere said she’s fascinated by the idea of having the depot becoming a train station again.

“There were a lot of really bad decisions made in the history of time, and many people would say that was a bad decision,” she said of letting the depot become a restaurant.

Former mayor Belcher understands the affinity that many have for the former station because it is part of the city’s history.

“I know at one time it meant a lot to the whole city, because that’s basically where all the U of M alumni, students, football traffic, everything else, came into Ann Arbor,” he said. “So many people who first came to Ann Arbor used that train station.”

But Belcher opposes converting the depot back to a train station and expressed doubt that the currently owner of the restaurant, Landry’s Inc., would agreed to it.

“It’s a hell of a place to eat,” Belcher said of the Gandy Dancer, noting it’s packed on Sundays for brunch, and patrons cheer and clap whenever trains pass.

“My view of historical buildings is that if a lot of people use them and enjoy them and revel in their history, that’s historical preservation,” Belcher said. “They can build another train station anywhere they want. That’s the Gandy Dancer now.”

Rail advocate Charnetski takes a similar position. He thinks that the best solution would be to build a new station on Fuller Road.

“I personally favor the Fuller Road site, mainly because of its location on the most important bus transit route in Michigan and its proximity to the [University of Michigan] Medical Center,” Charnetski said.

The Fuller Road site is also along the proposed route of the Ann Arbor Connector, a high-capacity intracity transit system that’s in the planning stages.

Acknowledging that three decades ago he favored a Depot Street location, Charnetski noted that the Fuller Road location would require using city parkland. But he said circumstances have changed and so has his opinion.

* * * * *

Eli Cooper is Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager. He said the city is looking at using the former Michigan Central station because the FRA asked it to do so.

“They requested the same level of concept planning and cost estimation as the other sites remaining in the analysis,” Cooper said.

But that also includes the current site of the existing Amtrak station on Depot Street. Although there has been talk for years of a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, the latest efforts only began in 2014.

The city had ruled out using the former Michigan Central station and instead focused on the Fuller Road site or the existing Amtrak station site.

Then the FRA handed down an edict to include the former Michigan Central station in the study.

Cooper said the project team had already included a study of the MC station location as part of the environmental review process.

“We submitted materials to the FRA including information about the (Gandy Dancer) site,” he said. “The FRA requested we continue to evaluate this location as part of the environmental review. They asked that we develop concept plans and costs associated with use of the (Gandy Dancer) as one of the alternatives.”

A reporter for the Ann Arbor News has sought comment from the owner of the Gandy Dancer, but has yet to receive a reply.

The city recently submitted to MDOT a preliminary report about sites for the proposed new Amtrak station.

But officials are being tight-lipped on which site they favor, saying that they expect to hold public hearings this fall.

Chuck Muer, the restaurant owner who started this process decades ago by buying the Michigan Central station from Penn Central, won’t be around to see the outcome.

Muer, whose fine dining restaurant empire grew to more than 20 seafood restaurants, vanished in 1993 after setting sail from the Bahamas in a 40-foot sailboat. No trace of him and his boat, Charley’s Crab, were ever found.

Recommendation has Been Reached, but Not Yet Made Public on Ann Arbor’s New Station Site

August 21, 2015
Wolverine Service No. 352 calls at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station.

Wolverine Service No. 352 calls at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station.

A recommendation on a site of a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been reached, but not yet made public.

Ann Arbor transportation program manager Eli Cooper said a final draft analysis of alternative locations for the station has been sent to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

However, he declined to disclose the preferred location, saying only that the draft report includes a comprehensive review of options for a new train station on Fuller Road or Depot Street. Another option is to not build a new station.

“The report also discusses a recommendation to preferred location,” Cooper said. “Recognizing this is a draft document and subject to agency review, comments and amendments, it is best to wait until the final version is available.”

The Ann Arbor News has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the draft report and is awaiting a response from the city.

Although city officials have discussed a new Amtrak station for years, a formal study wasn’t begun until 2014.

City officials say the current station on Depot Street, which was built by Amtrak in 1983, is inadequate.

Cooper said the station site report must be reviewed by MDOT and then sent to the Federal Railroad Administration for final review

“I’m thinking we’re into early- to mid-September [for public release of the report] if all goes well,” he said. Public hearings to discuss the recommendations will be scheduled after that.

Ann Arbor planners have considered demolishing the existing Amtrak station and building a new station at that location.

Other options include a new station at a city-owned parking lot along Fuller Road in Fuller Park in front of the University of Michigan Hospital.

There has also been a proposal to return the former Michigan Central Railroad depot, which was converted into a restaurant in 1970, into a train station.

If the city stays with the existing Amtrak location on Depot Street, it would need to acquire a portion of the DTE-owned MichCon site north of the station to build a new station and parking lot. DTE has agreed to collaborate with the city to make that work if that option is chosen.

A new station could either be at ground level or elevated.

Ann Arbor officials expect ridership on the Chicago-Detroit corridor to increase significantly in the coming decades.

Amtrak’s current Wolverine Service is projected to expand from the current three roundtrips a day to 10. Also ahead is a proposed Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter service.

City voters will have the final say before a new station can be built.

Ann Arbor is paying URS Corporation $824,875 to lead the train station study, much of which is being funded by a $2.8 million federal rail planning grant.

Final design of a new Amtrak station is identified as a $2.6 million expense in 2016-17 in the city’s capital improvement plan.

The station itself is expected to cost $44.5 million and be built in 2017-18 with 80 percent of its cost funded by the federal government and possible local partners.

Browns Return to Cleveland Via Amtrak

August 20, 2015

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Having finished two days of organized scrimmages with the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns returned home today the way they left — on a train.

The Browns came back with the same equipment they had used this past Sunday to travel to Rochester, New York, to reach the Bills’ training camp.

The train was reported through Mentor at 1:25 p.m. and then spotted making a deadhead move west through Berea at 2:40 p.m.

The train is shown in Mentor early Wednesday afternoon.

The Browns and Bills are to play a pre-season game on Thursday at 8 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Amtrak Nos. 29/30 Won’t Operate East of Pittsburgh for 2 Days in Early September

August 19, 2015

Amtrak’s Capitol Limited will not operate between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., for two days in early September due to CSX track work.

Eastbound No. 30 originating in Chicago on Sept. 5 and 6 will terminate in Pittsburgh. Passengers bound for Washington will detrain in Pittsburgh and ride a chartered bus to Washington.

Westbound Capitol Limited passengers originating in Washington on Sept. 6 and 7 will ride a bus to Pittsburgh and then transfer to train No. 29.

On both days the buses operating between Pittsburgh and Washington will bypass the intermediate stops at Rockville, Maryland; Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, West Virginia; Cumberland, Maryland; and Connellsville, Pennsylvania.

Alternative transportation will not be provided to the intermediate stations in either direction.

Cincinnati Interests View FRA Midwest Rail Study as Step Toward Daily Chicago Amtrak Service

August 19, 2015

Cincinnati area rail advocates are hailing a pending Federal Railroad Administration study as a potential step toward daily Amtrak service to Chicago.

The FRA recently said it would conduct a $3 million study of rail passenger service in the Midwest and Southeast. The study will cover Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and 10 others states.

At present, the only Amtrak service in southwestern Ohio is the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

No. 50 to New York passes through Cincinnati on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. No. 51 to Chicago operates in the Queen City on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

In both instances, the trains are scheduled to arrive at Cincinnati Union Terminal between midnight and 4 a.m.

Derek Bauman is the southwest regional director for All Aboard Ohio, a statewide rail passenger advocacy group.

He and other Cincinnati area residents have spent the past 15 months lobbying for daily rail service to Chicago.

“It’s great news that the Midwest is being afforded these planning dollars,” he said.

Passenger advocates would like to see Cincinnati-Chicago service developed further, including making infrastructure improvements to reduce the current 7-hour running time.

“We haven’t seen anything like this come down the pike in some time — if ever,” Bauman said. “Being a part of this larger effort gives us here locally a great resource to lean on.”

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, a long-time advocate for bringing rail transit to the Cincinnati region, also views the the FRA’s plan a “real positive shot in the arm.”

“This funding makes the vision real,” Portune told WCPO-TV. “It tells us there is not only verbal support, but there is now financial support for doing the preliminary environmental work that’s needed for high-speed rail service between Cincinnati and Chicago.”

Portune said that the pending planning process “communicates to the region, ‘Now is the time to get your act together.'”

Beyond a daily connection to Chicago, Portune said daily rail service out of the city center of Cincinnati could lead to other local transit options connecting Downtown to Hamilton’s County’s west side communities.

Bauman said All Aboard Ohio is seeking to development partnerships with local chambers of commerce, educational institutions, and other organizations to draft model plans to supplement the FRA’s study on a local level.

“It’s important for us as a region to stay in tune with what’s going on,” he said.

Rail passenger proponents are also working the city of Oxford and Miami University in a campaign to establish a stop of the Cardinal in Oxford, Ohio.

Amtrak Looks to Boost Checked Baggage Revenue

August 19, 2015

Having seen how the airline industry annually rakes in $3.3 billion from checked baggage fees, Amtrak is trying to boost its own baggage revenue.

Effective Oct. 15, Amtrak will begin charging $20 per bag for items that exceed the carrier’s weight and size limitations.

Amtrak allows passengers to bring aboard without charge two personal items that each must weigh no more than 25 pounds or exceed the dimensions of 14-by-11-by 17 inches.

Passengers are also allowed two carry-on items, each of which must not exceed 50 pounds or the dimensions of 28-by-22-by-14 inches.

Under the new policy, bags over 50 pounds must be repacked in a box to be provided at a station if checked baggage is available or, if possible, on board the train.

If checked baggage service is available at the passenger’s origination and destination point, the passengers must check any baggage that exceeds the size and weight limitations.

A post on, contained internal Amtrak documents showing that airlines make an average of $8.75 per bag.

Amtrak, which handles 4 million checked bags annually, earns an average of 29 cents per bag

The documents cited U.S. Department of Transportation statistics that show that during the first nine months of 2015 Southwest Airlines, which markets itself with the slogan “Bags Fly Free,” earned $117 million in checked baggage fees.

Amtrak earns $693,000 a year in checked baggage revenue.

The Amtrak document says that 83 percent of airlines charge for all checked bags.

By its projections, Amtrak believes that if 10 percent of checked bags were charged, the potential revenue would be $8 million. If 25 percent of checked bags were charged, the potential revenue would be $20 million.

Currently, Amtrak charges for just 0.9 percent of the checked baggage that it carries.

November Trial Set for Man Charged With Assault Aboard Amtrak Train in Michigan Last December

August 19, 2015

A Michigan man charged with assaulting four people aboard an Amtrak train last December will go on trial in mid-November.

Michael Darnell Williams, 44, of Saginaw, Michigan, appeared in court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on 12 felony charges related to the Dec. 5, 2014, incident on the train as it stopped at the Niles, Michigan, station.

Williams pleaded not guilty to the 12 charges he faces and demanded a trial by jury. His next court dates are Sept. 16 for a case conference, Nov. 10 for a status conference and a jury trial starting Nov. 17 or 18.

Although Williams waived the preliminary hearing, the court heard testimony from the train’s conductor, who was stabbed during the incident.

Dontrel Bankhead, 40, was the conductor of the Chicago to Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water and the first person to be attacked.

Bankhead said he spoke with Williams after he came back to the cafe car, the last car on the train.

“The person caught my attention,” Bankhead said. “He asked how many people were on the train and how much money was on the train. I was under the impression he was going to rob the train. He also spoke about how much money a conductor made.”

Assistant Prosecutor Amy Byrd wanted Bankhead’s testimony to be put on the record because he had traveled from out of town to testify.

Bankhead said Williams also talked about knowing that people had been killed the week before.

When Bankhead asked Williams to return to his seat, he refused, instead spending five minutes between the café car and a coach.

“He stood between the two cars and then came into the car I was in but again refused to sit down,” Bankhead said. “He had his hands in his pockets since coming out of the cafe car.

“We decided to ask him to be escorted off the train at the next stop. We were 15 minutes past the New Buffalo stop and coming into Niles.”

When the train arrived in Niles, Bankhead said he continued to talk with Williams who at one point said he wanted to say a prayer.

Williams heard a radio transmission about him and saw police officers on the platform at the Niles station.

“I took one step forward and he did not move,” Bankhead said. “Then I saw his hands come out of his pockets and he was holding a knife. He struck me in the neck, in the back of my shoulder, in the rib cage, in my face and in my ear.”

Bankhead said his wounds required surgery and he was hospitalized for three weeks, including one week in South Bend, Indiana, and two weeks in Chicago.

He told the court that he is still recovering and being treated for physical and psychological injuries.

Williams faces five counts of assault with intent to murder, five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of carrying a concealed weapon and one count of resisting and obstructing police.

The assault with intent to murder charges carry maximum penalties of life in prison, while the assault with a dangerous weapon charges carry maximum penalties and four years in prison.

The carrying a concealed weapon charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the resisting police charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Williams was found competent to stand trial earlier this month after receiving medications and treatment for his psychological problems, including paranoia and schizophrenia.

The court has yet to rule whether he can be held criminally responsible for his actions. He remains in jail on $1 million cash or surety bond.

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 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 Browns Take Chartered Amtrak Train

August 16, 2015

Numerous reports on reported that the Cleveland Browns chartered an Amtrak train that took the team from Cleveland to Rochester, New York.

Equipment for the train was brought to Cleveland by the eastbound Lake Shore Limited and included two P42DC locomotives (Nos. 192 and 26) and seven Amfleet cars.

Team members were brought to the Amtrak station by bus after a morning practice session.

Although no one reported what time that the train departed, it was said to have arrived in Rochester at 5:15 p.m.

The Browns will be conducting scrimmages this week against the Buffalo Bills. They will host the Bills in a pre-season game on Thursday in Cleveland at First Energy Stadium, which is adjacent to the Amtrak station.

During his daily press conference on Saturday, Browns Coach Mike Pettine was asked why the team was traveling by train to Rochester.

“You need to talk to Simon (Gelan), my assistant, on that one. He handles all team travel. I just think from a – I’m not sure whether our plane was too big to go into Rochester and we’d have to fly into Buffalo then bus another hour and a half up to — I’ve taken the train before having been in Baltimore and been in New York, going down the I-95 quarter on the train. To me, it’s the best way to go. It’s an airplane minus being way above the ground (laughter) and having people search your bags.”

Pettine was asked if going by train was an exercise in team bonding. He dined that but said riding the rails was better than a bus [because] you can relax. Coaches can get a lot of work done. We’ll load tomorrows practice on to our tablets and be able to work on the train. It’s just much more relaxed way to travel.”

It is not known publicly yet if the team will return to Cleveland by rail or plane.

Ohio to be Part of Midwest Rail Planning Group

August 15, 2015

Ohio will take part in a multi-state planning initiative for the Midwest led by the Federal Railroad Administration .

Detrails of the planning work will be announced soon. Formation of the planning group is required by law before federal funding can be awarded to service expansions and capital improvements.

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, said that the news comes as Congress is finishing work on a reauthorization of a six-year surface transportation law that includes passenger rail provisions.

The legislation includes 100 percent percent federal operating funding for new or expanded routes of 750 miles or more.

All of Ohio’s existing Amtrak routes fall into that category.

A more detailed, formal announcement of the grant award will soon be made by the FRA, which recently notified Congress about the multi-state planning.

The funding, totaling $2.78 million, is being used for FRA-led planning in the Midwest and Southeast.

For the Midwest, the FRA approved an application submitted in November 2014. This planning will be similar to that which was recently conducted for the Southwest.

The multi-state plan also will include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Planning will be federally led rather than awarded to states. Therefore, the FRA will conduct passenger rail planning in Ohio and other states.

For Ohio’s short-distance corridor planning, regional planning agencies will no longer need to take the lead on sponsoring planning. The local agencies will instead take on a more traditional role of supporting the FRA planning work, notifying stakeholders of developments and being conduits of stakeholder input.


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