Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Amtrak Exhibit Train to Visit Toledo on May 2

April 9, 2015

Amtrak’s exhibit train will visit Toledo during that city’s National Train Day event on May 2. The Toledo stop will be one of three Midwest visits by the exhibit train through late June. Other sites where the exhibit train will stop include:

  • Railroad Days 2015 in Fullerton, Calif., May 2-3.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Chicago Union Station, May 9.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Salem, Ore., Riverfront Park, May 16.
  • Amtrak Train Days at California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento, June 6 -7.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Dunsmuir, Calif., Railroad Days, June 13.
  • Amtrak Train Days at Galesburg, Ill., Railroad Festival, June 27-28.

For more information, go to www.amtraktraindays.com.

Events Announced for Chicago Amtrak Days

April 8, 2015

Amtrak is offering a series of events as part of its Amtrak Train Days in Chicago next month. The events, some of which require a ticket purchase include, self-guided tours of the Amtrak Exhibit Train, an excursion train, VIP train tour, “Hard Hat” Tour and a tour of the Joseph Szabo Control Center.

Joseph Szabo Control Center Tour

May 8, 9, and 10 at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Cost: $50. A 45 minute tour with each tour having a capacity of 20. Codes for the tour are CHI to CCT. The center controls 583 train movements a day. Participants will hear a short presentation on the history of train movements, the technologies used at the center, and visit the control office where trains are controlled. No photography will be permitted and a signed waiver of release will also be required.

Hard Hat Tour

May 9 at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Cost: $75 (must be 18 or older). A 90 minute walking tour with a capacity of 20 people per tour, Codes for the tour are CHI to HHT. Participants will receive souvenir hard hats and take a tour of Chicago Union Station. Doors to hidden stairways will be opened, secret unused underground tunnels seen, and special one-time only access to areas not seen by the public will be provided. The sights will include the top of the five-story Great Hall glass atrium, the kitchen space where meals were prepared and the three-story restaurant space where travelers enjoyed them, a steam tunnel that carried super-heated steam, and former mail platforms. The tour cannot accommodate those unable to walk or anyone who cannot climb stairs. A signed waiver of release will also be required.

VIP Train Tour

The Chicago to Three Oaks, Mich., trip will operate on May 8, departing at 5 p.m. and returning at 10 p.m. Cost is $100 and the capacity is 200.  Codes for the tour are CHI to THR and return THR to CHC. Passengers will visit the Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks and ride in Superliner coaches. Assorted adult beverages, snacks and entertainment will be provided. There will be a tour of the distillery while visitors sample beverages and enjoy appetizers. After the two hour tour, the train will depart for Chicago Union Station. Only adults 21 and older are allowed to purchase tickets and IDs will be checked before boarding.

Excursion Train May 9 with departures at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Tickets are  $10 for adults and $5 for children. Each train has a capacity of 210. Code is CHI to CTD. Booking for the Joseph Szabo Control Center Tour, Hard Hat Tour, VIP Train, and Excursion Train may be made online at Amtrak.com for the VIP Train and Excursion Train. All other tours have to be booked in the station that day or via 1-800-USA-RAIL. For more information, go to www.amtraktraindays.com.

Viewliner Baggage Cars on Lake Shore Limited

April 6, 2015

Amtrak has begun assigning some of its new Viewliner II baggage cars to the Lake Shore Limited. On Saturday, No. 48 passed through Cleveland en route to New York and Boston with two of the new cars.

No. 48 also had a Viewliner I dining car No. 8400 so that meant that the train operated without any heritage fleet equipment. Indeed, the train had five Viewliner fleet cars.

The Viewliner II cars are being built by CAF USA in Elmira, N.Y. The order includes sleepers and diners as well as baggage cars as Amtrak seeks to phase out the last of its heritage fleet equipment.

Few Major Changes Offered in in New Amtrak TT

April 3, 2015

Amtrak’s next timetable will take effect on Monday and although there are some changes to the Cardinal and two Michigan trains, the schedules in Northeast Ohio remained unchanged.

The Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington, D.C.) and Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston) will continue to depart and arrive at all stations on the same schedules as they do now.

The cover of the Spring-Fall 2015 Amtrak system timetable features an image of the Ethan Allen Express.

The cover of the Spring-Fall 2015 Amtrak system timetable features an image of the Ethan Allen Express.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal will see minor adjustments at many intermediate stations even as the departure and arrival times as its endpoints remain the same.

Westbound No. 51 will now arrive and depart from Cincinnati at 1:36 a.m. and 1:46 a.m. respectively. Those times had been 1:13 a.m. and 1:23 a.m.

Between Charlottesville, Va., and Indianapolis, No. 51 will be running slightly later at all stations. The dwell time in Indianapolis has been cut by 23 minutes so times west of there remain unchanged.

Eastbound No. 50 will have some changes between Indianapolis and Newark, N.J., but not all stations will be affected.

The Cardinal will continue to leave Indy at 11:59 p.m. and its arrival and departure times in Cincinnati remain unchanged.

But some intermediate times will be earlier, e.g. Connersvlle, Ind., 1:21 a.m. versus 1:26 a.m. now at Connersville, Ind., while others are later. For example, No. 50 will arrive and depart at Huntington, W.Va., at 7:09 a.m. and 7:16 a.m.  versus the current 7:03 a.m. and 7:10 a.m.

There are no changes in the operation of the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service or the Chicago-Port Huron, Mich. Blue Water

However, Amtrak has added a Chicago-Detroit Thruway bus (No. 8356) that will depart Chicago at 10:55 p.m. and arrive in Detroit at 5:55 a.m. with an intermediate stop at Kalamazoo, Mich., at 3:05 a.m. that will only receive passengers. There is no corresponding westbound Thruway bus service.

Amtrak also plans major changes to the schedule of the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Mich., Pere Marquette.

Effective May 4, the train will begin departing Chicago at 6:30 p.m. and arriving in Grand Rapids at 11:39 p.m. The westbound train will leave Grand Rapids at 6 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 9:11 a.m.

Currently, No. 370 departs Chicago at 4:55 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Grand Rapids at 9:55 p.m. No. 371 departs Grand Rapids at 7:40 a.m. and arrives at 10:38.

The changes will mean that the Pere Marquette will become the earliest arriving Midwest corridor train in Chicago outside of the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service route.

The cover of the timetable, which will be effective through the end of the year, features a photograph of the Ethan Allen Express crossing the Hudson River just after departing from the station at Fort Edward-Glens Falls, N.Y. The photograph was made by Steven K. Ostrowski.

Amtrak Inspects Proposed Hoosier State Cars

March 31, 2015

The three passenger cars and two locomotives that might be used on the Hoosier State got an inspection by Amtrak officials recently.

The equipment is owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings and stored in Bensenville, Ill.

Under a proposal being discussed by Amtrak and the Indiana Department of Transportation, Iowa Pacific would provide equipment and onboard services while Amtrak would continue to provide the operating crews.

Also joining in the inspection were officials of the Federal Railroad Administration.

The quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train is underwritten by INDOT and many of the communities that it serves.

The Iowa Pacific equipment, which includes two coaches and a dome car, would provide enhanced business class and food service.

Currently, the Hoosier State typically operates with two Horizon fleet coaches and does not have food service.

About a dozen FRA and Amtrak inspectors were joined by a similar number of Iowa Pacific operations and mechanical personnel in making the inspection of the IP equipment.

The locomotives are GP40FH-2 Nos. 4135 and 4144, which formerly served New Jersey Transit. They are geared for a top speed of 102 mph, although no segment of the Hoosier State route has track maintained to that standard.

One of the two 44-seat coaches was built by Budd in the 1950s for Southern Pacific’s Sunset Limited. The other was built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1964 for Union Pacific.

Both are of former Amtrak heritage and during that time they were converted to head-end power and received accessible bathrooms

Iowa Pacific has used the cars on its Saratoga & North Creek subsidiary and reupholstered the Amtrak seats. The cars will have 110-volt at-seat outlets installed and be equipped for Wi-Fi.

The full-with dome car was built for the Santa Fe and later ran on the original Auto-Train and Holland America Westours.

The car would provide upper level business class with hot meals prepared in a lower level galley and serve as a café car for coach passengers on the lower level.

A Banner Amtrak Day in Northwest Indiana

March 27, 2015
First train of the day. Its the Detroit (Pontiac) bound Wolverine No. 350 crossing Trail Creek on a swing bridge in Michigan City, Ind.

First train of the day. It’s the Detroit (Pontiac) bound Wolverine No. 350 crossing Trail Creek on a swing bridge in Michigan City, Ind.

Not since last October have I seen, let alone photographed, an Amtrak train. Considering that the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited had numerous days this past winter when they were running hours behind schedule, to say that I’ve been shut out might seem odd.

But the opportunity never came about for me to get trackside to photograph those late running trains.

So recently when a friend asked me to accompany him on a trip to Michigan City, Ind., to deliver some backyard model railroad equipment to a guy from Wisconsin who bought it, I eagerly said yes.

All of Amtrak’s 10 Michigan service trains pass through Michigan City and as I studied the schedules I saw that we would have a shot at getting five of them.

Not since the last time I was in Chicago have I see that many Amtrak trains in a single day.

We wound up photographing three of the trains in Michigan City and two more at Porter, where the line from Detroit joins the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. Here is a gallery of what I was able to capture on that day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Wolverine Service No. 351 for Chicago approaches the old Michigan Central coaling tower that still stands astride the tracks in Michigan City.

Wolverine Service No. 351 for Chicago approaches the old Michigan Central coaling tower that still stands astride the tracks in Michigan City.

Amtrak MC 05e

P42 No. 29 brings up the rear of Wolverine No. 351. Think of the thousands of New York Central passenger trains and steam locomotives that have passed beneath this massive coaling tower over the years.

P42 No. 29 brings up the rear of Wolverine No. 351. Think of the thousands of New York Central passenger trains and steam locomotives that have passed beneath this massive coaling tower over the years.

The Blue Water from Port Huron, Mich., has a typical Michigan service consist of a mixture of Horizon and Amfleet equipment with a P42 locomotive on each end. All five of the trains that we say had a P42 on each end.

The Blue Water from Port Huron, Mich., has a typical Michigan service consist of a mixture of Horizon and Amfleet equipment with a P42 locomotive on each end. All five of the trains that we say had a P42 on each end.

The Chicago-bound Blue Water has a clear signal at Drawbridge in Michigan City. The view was made by the Center Street grade crossing.

The Chicago-bound Blue Water has a clear signal at Drawbridge in Michigan City. The view was made by the Center Street grade crossing.

Crossing the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City. I was later told that the bridge is now operated by the Amtrak control center in Chicago and that operators are no longer stationed in the tower next to the bridge. In the background is a Northern Indiana Public Service Company power generating plant that receives shipments o coal by rail.

Crossing the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City. I was later told that the bridge is now operated by the Amtrak control center in Chicago and that operators are no longer stationed in the tower next to the bridge. In the background is a Northern Indiana Public Service Company power generating plant that receives shipments o coal by rail.

A Wolverine Service train twists its way off the NS Chicago Line at Porter and enters the longest stretch of Amtrak-owned rails outside of the Northeast Corridor.

A Wolverine Service train twists its way off the NS Chicago Line at Porter and enters the longest stretch of Amtrak-owned rails outside of the Northeast Corridor.

Think there are enough signs greeting train crews going from NS to Amtrak ownership in Porter? Shown is the rear of the mid-day Wolverine Service train to Detroit (Pontiac).

Think there are enough signs greeting train crews going from NS to Amtrak ownership in Porter? Shown is the rear of the mid-day Wolverine Service train to Detroit (Pontiac).

The last train of the day was the Chicago-bound Wolverine Service mid-day train. The consist had but one Amfleet car amid a sea of Horizon equipment.

The last train of the day was the Chicago-bound Wolverine Service mid-day train. The consist had but one Amfleet car amid a sea of Horizon equipment.

Amtrak Viewliner II Baggage Cars Enter Service

March 26, 2015

Amtrak’s new Viewliner II baggage cars entered revenue service this week on the East Coast.

The first trains to carry the cars were the northbound Silver Meteor (New York-Miami) and northbound Carolinian (New York-Charlotte, N.C.).

Altogether, Amtrak ordered 55 of the cars and plans to assign them to all of its 15 long-distance routes.

The cars were built at the CAF USA plant near Elmira, N.Y. Earlier, they were ferried to Amtrak’s Hialeah maintenance facility in Miami for inspection.

Amtrak has ordered 130 single-level, long-distance passenger cars, including diners, sleepers and baggage-dorm cars.

INDOT, FRA Reportedly Reach Agreement

March 16, 2015

Trains magazine columnist Fred Frailey reported that the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration have reached an agreement that will end the standoff over whether the state should be treated as a “railroad” that must ensure adherence to federal passenger safety standards.

Frailey wrote that the two sides have agreed to create a memorandum of understanding that will spell out each party’s role in safely operating the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

The FRA wants an impermeable chain of responsibility for its rail-safety regulations — someone to ultimately answer for all the bits and pieces of a train’s operation. INDOT doesn’t want to be ruled to be a railroad.

The dispute has threatened to derail the quad-weekly Hoosier State, which INDOT and several communities served by the train have been funding since Oct. 1, 2013.

The Hoosier State operates on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate and has intermediate stops in Indiana at Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

News reports have indicated that Amtrak will continue to provide operating personnel for the Hoosier State, but Iowa Pacific Holdings will provide equipment and marketing support.

INDOT had earlier said the Hoosier State would makes its last trips on April 1, then extended that to April 30, saying that the FRA would review its regulations and how they affect the state.

Hoosier State to Continue Through April 30

March 14, 2015

The beleaguered Hoosier State, the quad-weekly Amtrak train between Chicago and Indianapolis, has survived yet another brush with the grim reaper for another 30 days.

The Indiana Department of Transportation said on Friday that the train will continue operating through April 30 while the Federal Railroad Administration reviews a policy that it had said it would impose on Indiana that would have made the state a “railroad.”

A week earlier, INDOT Commission Karl Browning had issued a news release saying the Hoosier State would make its last trips on April 1. He cited an FRA policy that an entity funding rail passenger service would be responsible for the FRA passenger safety standards.

INDOT said that acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg told Browning during a telephone call that her agency would reconsider that policy.

“It is not clear that the FRA will change its mind,” Browning says. “Because Ms. Feinberg committed to reviewing this, we want to give the FRA another opportunity to consider the problems Indiana has been airing.”

INDOT doesn’t own any tracks or railroad equipment and Browning said the FRA’s position would increase costs and paperwork for INDOT.

The department along with most of the communities served by the train have funded it during the past year. INDOT had been negotiating with Amtrak and Iowa Pacific Holdings on a long-term contract to operate the train.

In the meantime, Indiana U.S. Sen. Dan Coats has written to the FRA asking it to reconsider its position that if INDOT continues to fund the Hoosier State that that would make it a “railroad.”

Coats wrote that “INDOT does not fit any common-sense definition of a ‘railroad,’ so the communities along the HSL are rightly puzzled by the FRA’s decision.”

INDOT was close to a deal in which Amtrak would operate the trains and Iowa Pacific would supply the cars. But INDOT officials said if the state has to act as the railroad, it would have to carry expensive liability insurance and hire new staff.

“INDOT is not in a position to assume either the additional liability or the regulatory burdens that a designation of ‘railroad carrier’ would impose,” Coats wrote.

In 2008, Congress voted to end funding for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles. That left states to fund intercity rail on their own.

The FRA has said that states that oversee rail passenger service are required to act as rail carriers to ensure that safety standards are followed.

Another public official who has also assailed the FRA position is State Rep. Randy Truitt of West Lafayette, who represents several portions of Tippecanoe County.

“The Hoosier State Line provides a vital service for Hoosiers in the Greater Lafayette area and across Indiana. I was disheartened to learn about the new rules imposed by the Federal Railway Administration that could potentially end this service in April, which would be devastating to our local economy,” Truitt said in a statement.

Truitt has been an active supporter of the Hoosier State and has sponsored House Bill 1217, which would appropriate $3 million annually to fund the train.

Truitt hopes that INDOT, by working with the Federal Railway Administration, will eventually be able to find a solution that allows the Hoosier State to continue running.

“The preservation of Indiana’s transportation infrastructure is vital to economic growth, and I will continue to work with state and local leaders as well as INDOT to find ways to keep the Hoosier State Line functioning,” Truitt said.

The Hoosier State makes intermediate stops in Indiana in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. The route is served by the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal on days that the Hoosier State does not operate.

Amtrak Names Chicago Control Center for Szabo

March 13, 2015

Amtrak has named its Chicago Operations Center after former Federal Railroad Administration head Joseph C. Szabo. The renaming occurred at a ceremony held on March 10.

The Szabo Chicago Control Center oversees operations of switches and signals used by Amtrak intercity and Metra regional trains moving through Chicago Union Station along with Amtrak lines in Michigan, Indiana, and Louisiana,

The center was named for Szabo, “in recognition of Szabo’s contributions to the advancement of intercity passenger rail travel and railroad safety in the United States.”

Szabo served as head of the FRA for six years in the Obama administration. That position gave him a seat on the Amtrak Board of Directors. A resolution adopted by the Amtrak Board cited Szabo’s support for the national intercity passenger rail system.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman praised the “essential counsel, direction, and perspective” that Szabo provided to the Amtrak board and staff.

“In recognition of Joe’s contributions — past and those yet to come — to Amtrak, to the railroad industry, and to the Chicago metro area, we could think of no more appropriate place to honor him than our Chicago Control Center,” Boardman said at the dedication ceremony.

“I am deeply touched by the Amtrak Board’s recognition,” Szabo said. “Chicago is my home and where I began my railroad career. Having worked with and represented the railroad workforce in Illinois, it is very special to be associated with the facility that dispatches train operations in and out of Union Station — it’s where the work gets done.”


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