Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

August eBulletin Features an In-depth Look at the Battle to Restore 3C Intercity Passenger Service

August 21, 2016

August 2016

Scheduled passengers trains last linked Ohio’s three largest cities in 1969, although service remained over the length of the corridor until the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Those trains were poorly patronized and Amtrak didn’t want them. Aside from the New York-Kansas City National Limited using a portion of the 3C corridor between 1971 and 1979, the route has been without intercity passenger service since the coming of Amtrak.

Over the past four decade, various proposals have been put forth to resume 3C service, the most recent in 2010. But none of them came close to fruition and the 3C corridor remains among a number of routes that passenger train advocates argue has a good chance to succeed if the service could get out of the station.

But it hasn’t and the cover story of the August 2016 Akron Railroad Club eBulletin will examine the history of passenger service in the corridor, showing how decisions made when the New York Central was the dominant railroad in the market continue to hold importance today and explain why efforts to revive 3C have failed.

The August issue also takes a look back at the July ARRC picnic at Warwick Park.

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Moorman to be Next Amtrak President

August 19, 2016

Former Norfolk Southern head Charles W. “Wick” Moorman has agreed to become president of Amtrak effective Sept. 1.

Moorman, who retired as president and CEO of NS in 2015, will replace Joseph Boardman.

Amtrak logoIn announcing Moorman’s appointment, Amtrak said he had agreed to take a $1 yearly salary but will be eligible for a $500,000 annual bonus if meets specified performance goals.

Moorman would be the third Amtrak head to take over after serving as president of a Class I railroad.

Graham Claytor Jr. served as Amtrak president from 1982 to 1993 after having previously been president of the Southern Railway.

Alan Boyd was president of Amtrak between 1978 and 1982 and had been president of the Illinois Central Railroad.

“I view this as public service,” Moorman told Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono. “Amtrak is important to the freight rail carriers, and to the country. This is something I really want to do, and I believe I can contribute to making Amtrak a better railroad. I’m sure the work will be interesting, and I hope it will be fun as well.”

Moorman said he did not take the job for the money or because he had been unhappy in retirement.

In a news release, Moorman said he agreed to take the position because, “it is an honor and privilege to take on the role of CEO at Amtrak, and I look forward to working with its dedicated employees to find ways to provide even better service to our passengers and the nation. At Norfolk Southern, our team fostered change by placing a solid emphasis on performance across all aspects of our business, which helped develop a stronger safety and service culture throughout the company. I look forward to advancing those same goals at Amtrak and helping to build a plan for future growth.”

Moorman has more than 40 years in the railroad industry with NS and the Southern.

He began his railroad career working on a track gang during college and became a management trainee after graduation.

Moorman is a graduate of Georgia Tech University and the Harvard Business School.

He serves on the boards of Duke Energy Corporation, Chevron Corporation, the Virginia chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the Georgia Tech Foundation.

He had held the post of NS executive chairman until late 2015.

“Wick Moorman is a proven railroader whose track record of success demonstrates his commitment and adherence to rail safety, efficiency and service to customers,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger in a statement. “His contributions and leadership in the freight rail industry, I believe, will advance the working partnership the freight railroads have with Amtrak. The AAR and its freight rail members recognize the importance of Amtrak as a reliable U.S. passenger rail service and look forward to working with Wick in his new capacity.”

Amtrak Board Chairman Anthony Coscia said in a statement, “We are very pleased that someone with Wick’s experience and vision will lead Amtrak during this critical period as the company charts a course for future growth and improvement.”

Coscia expressed optimism that Moorman would improve Amtrak’s relationship with its host freight railroads.

“He clearly understands both worlds, and he’s going to be in a position to try to get us all to a much better place,” Coscia said.

Inside the Durand Station

August 18, 2016

Amtrak at Durand 00-x

Durand, Michigan, is like many small towns served by Amtrak in that twice or more a day, people start gathering to wait for the train.

In the case of Durand, a caretaker opens the waiting room of the former Durand Union Station. In many places, the Amtrak “station” is a glorified bus shelter.

But Durand Union Station has been saved and preserved with part of the structure serving as the Michigan Railroad Museum.

The “union” in the station’s name derives from the fact that it was served passenger trains of the Grand Trunk Western and Ann Arbor railroads.

It has been several decades since the Ann Arbor last ran a passenger train and the former AA tracks on the east side of the depot have been removed.

Shown are a handful of passengers in the waiting room in July 2016 as they awaited the arrival of Amtrak No. 365, the westbound Blue Water for Chicago.

It is a ritual as timeless as the feel of this old passenger station, which has seen several generations waiting here before embarking on a journey.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

CSX to Change Indiana, Kentucky Traffic Pattern

August 18, 2016

CSX operated its executive train in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio this week as part of an inspection of a new route for eastbound freight traffic moving between Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati.

The special operated north from Louisville on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad to Seymour, Indiana, where it then turned east to travel to Cincinnati on the CSX Indiana Subdivision.

CSX logo 3An L&I news release said that on or shortly after Sept. 1 CSX will move eastbound traffic off its current route between Louisville and Cincinnati from a former Louisville & Nashville route to follow the path taken by the inspection train.

Westbound traffic from Cincinnati to Louisville will continue to use the ex-L&N.

The new routing is former Pennsylvania Railroad between Louisville and Seymour, and former Baltimore & Ohio between Seymour and Cincinnati with the latter having been part of the Cincinnati-St. Louis mainline.

At one time, the B&O had its own route between Louisville and North Vernon, Indiana, on the St. Louis line, but that route has since been abandoned.

CSX and the L&I have recently rebuilt the ex-Pennsy route between Louisville and Seymour, which hosted Amtrak’s Kentucky Cardinal between 1999 and 2003.

In PRR days, the route hosted Chicago-Louisville trains and through service for Florida, including the South Wind.

CSX spent $100 million for track and signal improvements to the L&I line that will raise the top speed from 25 mph to 49 mph.

An online report said that by adopting directional running CSX will be able to operate longer trains that are not limited by siding length on the ex-L&N route.

CSX has been publicizing the increase in traffic on the Indiana Sub in recent weeks, with the L&I news release saying that CSX train frequency will increase from three to four trains per day to as many as 10 with additional traffic possible.

Three of the CSX trains  on the L&I operate north of Seymour to Indianapolis. Those trains do not operate daily.

The Indiana Sub sees little traffic west of Seymour across Indiana and CSX has taken much of the line out of service within Illinois. Until the middle 1960s, this was the route used by the B&O premier St. Louis-Washington train the National Limited.

The former L&N mainline in Kentucky will continue to see a local operating in both directions and perhaps an eastbound intermodal train, the Q134.

The Indiana Sub still has numerous B&O color position light signals in use between Seymour and Cincinnati.

Boston LSL Passengers Riding the Bus

August 17, 2016

Amtrak is substituting a bus for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited on Aug. 21-24 due to CSX track work.

Buses also are replacing the Boston section this week through Wednesday.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedPassengers bound for Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston (South Station) will board a bus at the Albany-Rensselaer station to continue their journey or board at their intermediate station if originating east of Albany.

The bus will not stop at Boston Back Bay station.

Westbound passengers will also board a bus at their boarding station except at Boston Back Bay, which is not being served during the time when Nos. 448 and 449 are not operating.

Back Bay passengers are advised to contact MBTA for travel information to or from that station.

Passengers boarding at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Those boarding at Framingham will board their bus at the drop-off/pick-up area for the Track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

Worcester passengers should go downstairs to the intercity bus area and board the bus marked Premier Bus.

New York Trains to Allow Pets Onboard

August 17, 2016

Amtrak is expanding its pets aboard program to four state-supported routes in New York and Vermont.

Amtrak logoTrains that will now allow passengers to carry pets aboard include the New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains, the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf, the New York-Montreal Adirondack and the New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express.

Pet reservations are now being accepted for all trains for travel beginning Aug. 22. Dogs and cats travel requirements include:

  • Pet reservations are available for coach accommodations for trips up to seven hours.
  • The maximum weight of a pet including the carrier is 20 pounds.
  • Owners can reserve a space for their pet for $25 with one pet allowed per passenger per trip.
  • Pets must remain in a carrier at all times and carriers should remain under a passenger seat.
  • Five pet spots are allotted per train and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Pets are not allowed on trips to/from Canada.

Amtrak continues to allow service animals on board at no charge.

The passenger carrier said that more than 10,000 pets have traveled on its trains since the program began in the Northeast Corridor in October 2015.

This past July more than 2,000 pets rode on Amtrak and the program generated more than $1 million in revenue since its inception. Pet service is available on most Amtrak routes.

BO Tower Still Standing in Kalamazoo

August 13, 2016
Amtrak No. 351 passes BO Tower in Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning.

Amtrak No. 351 passes BO Tower in Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning.

I was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, last month and had a chance to visit BO (Botsford) Tower to catch some Amtrak action.

My first glimpse of the tower occurred in early evening on a Thursday as we were walking to Bell’s Eccentric Café.

Several years ago a friend had told me about the café, saying you could see from there the tracks used by Amtrak as well as BO tower.

The combination of good craft beer, good food and railroads was too much to pass up.

I saw two eastbound Amtrak trains pass BO as we were eating dinner at Bell’s, but I didn’t bring my camera or the Amtrak schedules so seeing them was a surprise.

That’s unfortunate because there was good late day light and I could have gotten some good images had I done some planning. But I was more focused on eating dinner and drinking beer than photography.

By the way, I highly recommend eating at Bell’s due to its good food and great beer.

The next morning we had breakfast at Food Dance, another Kalamazoo eatery that I highly recommend.

As we sat in the dining room, I had a good view of the former Grand Rapids & Indiana passenger station across the street.

The GR&I was absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the depot has been nicely restored. The tracks are now owned by the Grand Elk Railroad.

Three times the gates for the Grand Elk crossing of Michigan Avenue came down, but no trains went past.

Perhaps a train was switching nearby, there was a maintainer at work, or the circuit was malfunctioning.

After breakfast, I journeyed over to get photographs of BO Tower. The first westbound Amtrak train of the day had already passed and we didn’t have time to wait for the next one.

The next day, a Saturday, we checked out of our motel and stopped by BO a third time.

Amtrak No. 351 was due into Kalamazoo at 9:17 a.m. and I made sure I got there in plenty of time.

The Wolverine Service train was reported seven minutes late out of Ann Arbor and it lost six more minutes en route to Kalamazoo.

The lighting conditions were brutal for a westbound train in mid morning. Earlier, the skies had been cloudy to overcast, but by now the clouds were breaking up and the sun was out.

It was my only opportunity to photograph Amtrak at BO on this trip. After the passage of No. 351, we had to begin heading home.

No. 351 had five Horizon fleet cars. What was unusual, though, is that it had just one locomotive.

For several years now every Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) train that I’ve seen has had a locomotive on each end and/or a cab car on the west end.

Someone on a railfan chat list said most Wolverine Service trains have been operating with one unit for several weeks.

The trains are apparently is being turned on Canadian National in Pontiac or Detroit.

Someone speculated that the lack of two locomotives on Wolverine Service trains could be due to a shortage of working P42 locomotives.

I’m not sure if BO is in use. I thought I had read something within the past year saying that it had closed.

During one of my three visits I had seen a vehicle parked by the tower, but there were no vehicles there for my other two visits. I didn’t see anyone inspect the train when No. 351 came past.

Someone on said that the conductor on a Wolverine Service train had told him during a June 24 trip that BO still had an operator.

Yet another poster said that BO can be operated remotely, but I’m not sure if that is by a Norfolk Southern dispatcher or an Amtrak dispatcher.

Amtrak owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana. A sign west of BO instructs Amtrak crews what radio frequency to use and welcomes them to the Amtrak Michigan Division.

NS sold the track between Kalamazoo and Dearborn to the state of Michigan more than a year ago and I heard the Amtrak crew calling signals on an NS radio frequency.

Whatever the case, BO is mostly boarded up and appears to have received little external maintenance in recent years. It remains a throwback to an era that has all but ended on American railroads.

At one time, BO controlled crossings of the Michigan Central – which Amtrak uses – with three railroads, two of which were New York Central properties.

These included the PRR’s GR&I, the NYC Kalamazoo branch and NYC’s now abandoned Chicago, Kalamazoo & Southern.

I’ve put it on my “to do” list to get back to Kalamazoo and photograph Amtrak passing BO Tower in the evening in better light.

And, of course, I’ll be sure to make a return visit to Bell’s Eccentric Café.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Amtrak's westbound Wolverine Service train will be stopping in the Kalamazoo station momentarily.

Amtrak’s westbound Wolverine Service train will be stopping in the Kalamazoo station momentarily.

BO Tower could use some new paint. The BO sign was put on by Conrail.

BO Tower could use some new paint. The BO sign was put on by Conrail.

The double track former Michigan Central tracks at BO Tower are now owned by the state of Michigan. The crossing track is now owned by Grand Elk Railroad.

The double track former Michigan Central tracks at BO Tower are now owned by the state of Michigan. The crossing track is now owned by Grand Elk Railroad.

AAO Wants Added Track Capacity in Cleveland

August 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking the Farkas Challenge: Amtrak Comes to Akron in 1990 Amid Vestiges of the Old and New

August 9, 2016

Farkas Ribinskas

Amtrak didn’t want to serve Akron when it began service on May 1, 1971. For that matter, it didn’t want to serve Cleveland, either, so the only intercity passenger train in Northeast Ohio on Amtrak inauguration day was the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited, which stopped in Canton.

Some Akron Railroad Club members remember driving to Canton to catch Amtrak.

On occasion an Amtrak train detoured through Akron during the 1970s. Amtrak even showed up in Akron a couple of times when an inspection train came through.

Conrail was created with a mandate to abandon or sell surplus rail routes and it accomplished this, in part, by consolidating traffic on fewer lines.

This process affected two routes in Akron proper, including the former Erie Lackawanna and Penn Central routes, and would also lead to Amtrak coming to Akron.

That came about because Conrail downgraded the Fort Wayne Line of the former Pennsylvania Railroad in western Ohio and across Indiana.

An Indiana congressman brokered a deal that kept the Broadway Limited operating on the Fort Wayne Line during the 1980s, but by the end of that decade it was apparent that Amtrak would have to pay the route’s maintenance costs or move elsewhere.

Amtrak decided to use CSX between Chicago and Pittsburgh for Nos. 40 and 41.

It has long been Amtrak’s practice to operate a public relations special to introduce service on a new route.

On Nov. 7, 1990, a PR special came to Akron to promote the reroute of the Broadway Limited to Akron.

This publicity special ran to Pittsburgh and then operated back to Chicago via Cleveland to promote the new route of the Capitol Limited on Conrail from Pittsburgh to Cleveland via Cleveland and thence over the route used by the Lake Shore Limited.

This image of the publicity train arriving at Quaker Square in Akron on the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline is my nomination on behalf of Edward Ribinskas for the Farkas challenge.

Like so many railroad scenes in Akron, there are vestiges of the old and the new.

In this scene, the old is Akron Union Depot, a portion of which can be seen above the train toward the right edge of the image.

The concourse that over the tracks that connected with the Greyhound bus station can be seen, although it has been remodeled from the appearance it had during the station’s passenger train days.

The depot itself had by 1990 been taken over by the University of Akron and converted into a continuing education center.

Another vestige of the past is the signal bridge spanning the Amtrak station platform and CSX Track No. 2, which once held signals controlling movements through Union Depot that were controlled by operators in JO Tower.

The Amtrak station is out of view to the left and was a modular structure. But the platform is new as evidenced by the bright white concrete. In reality, the Amtrak platform was installed on the footprint of Akron Union Depot.

The PR special is pulled by two F40PH locomotives, which was the standard motive power used on Amtrak trains at the time.

The train is a mixture of Amfleet and Heritage Fleet equipment, which mirrored that assigned to the Broadway Limited.

A good-sized crowd has turned out to view the special and hear a few speeches. Considering that it was a Wednesday, this is a good turnout.

They must have felt a sense of enthusiasm, hope and optimism. It had been more than 19 years since you could board an intercity passenger train in Akron.

Of course, to ride Amtrak to or from Akron meant staying up late or getting up early because Nos. 40 and 41 were scheduled to pass through during darkness hours.

As it turned out, the Broadway Limited served Akron for not quite five years. It was discontinued on Sept. 10, 1995, during a budget shortfall that led to a route restructuring.

Amtrak came back to Akron a year later when the New York-Pittsburgh Three Rivers was extended to Chicago. But the train didn’t begin accepting passengers until August 1998.

The Three Rivers lasted until March 7, 2005, when it was annulled due to low patronage and Amtrak’s decision to exit the mail and express business.

Reportedly, the Akron Metro bus transfer station built on the site of the former Erie Railroad freight yard could be used as a train station if Amtrak were to reinstate service over the adjacent CSX line.

But given the current state of affairs with passenger rail in the United States, that seems unlikely to occur anytime soon if at all. The optimism felt by many on this November day more than 25 years ago has flamed out.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Edward Ribinskas

Amtrak’s Blue Water in Durand

August 7, 2016
The westbound Blue Water is running ahead of schedule as it makes its Durand, Michigan, station stop.

The westbound Blue Water is running ahead of schedule as it makes its Durand, Michigan, station stop.

People pulling suitcases were already headed toward the station as I pulled in. In about a half-hour Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water would be making its station stop in Durand, Michigan.

Durand is a small town yet quite a few people boarded No. 365 on this Wednesday morning.

The Blue Water is funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation and operates daily between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan.

Like many other Midwest corridor trains, No. 365 leaves early in the morning for a late morning arrival in Chicago. The return train departs Chicago in late afternoon.

There isn’t much time to spend in Chicago for a day trip, but if all goes well the schedule enables passengers to connect with western long distance trains and other Midwest corridor services.

The return schedule, though, is less favorable for connecting from the western trains, particularly if your train is late.

No. 365 arrived in Durand several minutes early and had to wait for time before departing.

I’ve seen and photographed Amtrak trains in Durand in the past, but this would be my first time to get the Blue Water in Durand.

I had photographed the Chicago-Toronto International, which was scheduled through Durand in both directions in mid-afternoon.

That schedule didn’t afford passengers the opportunity to make a Chicago day trip nor did it connect with many other Amtrak trains.

The tracks used by the Blue Water are today owned by Canadian National, but were originally part of the Grand Trunk Western.

The GTW was controlled by CN so many Grand Trunk passenger trains interchanged with CN at Sarnia, Ontario, to and from Toronto.

The Blue Water began in September 1974, using the GTW between Port Huron and Battle Creek, Michigan, but then using Penn Central into Chicago on the same route as Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit trains.

At the time, Nos. 364/365 operated as the Blue Water Limited. It became a Chicago-Toronto train in October 1982, initially operating as the International Limited.

The name was shorted to International in June 1983. Border crossing issues ultimately led Amtrak to suggest that the train be shorted to Chicago-Port Huron operation and put on a schedule similar to that of the Blue Water Limited.

Michigan agreed and in April 2004 the change was made and patronage greatly increased.

I don’t know if any of those who boarded the Blue Water on this day know any of this history or, for that matter, any history of GTW passenger service in Durand.

Most of those boarding were younger and probably know little if anything about the Grand Trunk or CN in general.

They probably were pleased that their train departed on time for its next station stop in East Lansing and, ultimately, to Chicago.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Passengers are lined up to board Amtrak train No. 365 in Durand. Most of them are probably headed for Chicago and some might be going via Amtrak beyond there.

Passengers are lined up to board Amtrak train No. 365 in Durand. Most of them are probably headed for Chicago and some might be going via Amtrak beyond there.

Right this way and to your left.

Right this way and to your left. The Blue Water consist is the standard Midwest corridor train offering of Horizon fleet coaches and an Amfleet cafe car offering business class service.

Two gentlemen sit on benches in the foreground and watch the last passengers board Amtrak's westbound Blue Water.

Two gentlemen sit on benches in the foreground and watch the last passengers board Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water.

The conductor chats with the Durand station caretaker and two railfans along the fence as No. 365 waits for time before it can depart from Durand.

The conductor chats with the Durand station caretaker and two railfans along the fence as No. 365 waits for time before it can depart from Durand.

A portrait in black and white of Amtrak train time in Durand.

A portrait in black and white of Amtrak train time in Durand.

Crossing the CN Holly Subdivision as Amtrak train No. 365 departs on time from Durand.

Crossing the CN Holly Subdivision as Amtrak train No. 365 departs on time from Durand.

The Blue Water operates with a locomotive on each end to avoid having to turn the train in Port Huron during the overnight layover.

The Blue Water operates with a locomotive on each end to avoid having to turn the train in Port Huron during the overnight layover.


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