Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Amtrak’s Venture Fleet is Coming Back

October 6, 2022

The last I knew, the new Venture passengers cars built by Siemens for corridor services in the Midwest and on the West Coast had been sidelined due to various mechanical issues.

The cars had begun revenue service in February in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, but that assignment proved to be brief.

It didn’t take long to discover that some tray table magnets were too strong, that trap-door handles were falling off, that bathroom doors were malfunctioning, and that sliding step extenders were getting jammed with snow.

But last Sunday in Porter, Indiana, I saw evidence that these issues apparently have been resolved and the Venture coaches are back in service.

Shown is above is a three-car Chicago-bound Pere Marquette, which originated in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The consist includes two Venture coaches and an Amfleet food service car. Eventually Venture cafe cars with a business class section are expected to join the fleet.

The train shown above is entering the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern from the CSX Grands Rapids Subdivision. On the point is an SC-44 Charger locomotive, also built by Siemens.

The Chargers are now the standard motive power for Midwest corridor trains. Note how the Venture coaches have a higher profile than Amfleet equipment.

Maintenance Worker Shortage Seen as Root Cause of Amtrak Checked Baggage Suspensions

October 1, 2022

A recent Amtrak announcement that checked baggage service will be suspended on two routes raised a few eyebrows because of the reason given for it.

The announcement cited equipment shortages, yet Amtrak in recent years has received 70 new Viewliner baggage cars that were built by CAF USA as part of a 125-car order placed in 2014.

The checked baggage service suspension will begin Oct. 3 on the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian.

The Amtrak announcement said the suspension will run through Nov. 17. Also affected on the Pennsylvanian will be checked bicycle service.

Trains magazine reported on its website that just five Viewliner baggage cars are known to be out of service.

The magazine’s report said the root cause of the service suspension is a lack of mechanical workers to perform maintenance on cars and locomotives.

That also has led to temporary suspensions of some Midwest Corridor trains from Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac), St. Louis, and Carbondale, Illinois.

In the wake of the service advisory announcing the suspension of checked baggage service on the Pennsylvanian and Carolinian, a printed service advisory posted in some stations erroneously said checked baggage service was being suspended on the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

That posted advisory said Amtrak “may occasionally suspend checked baggage and bicycle service along the route, due to equipment shortages.”

Although the Capitol Limited has long had checked baggage service, until this summer that was provided in the baggage compartment of a Superliner coach.

Amtrak added a Viewliner baggage car to Nos. 29 and 30 to increase capacity for checked bicycle service. However, in recent days the Viewliner baggage car has been absent from the Capitol.

Checked Bag Service Suspended on 2 Trains

September 24, 2022

Amtrak is suspending checked baggage service on two medium-distance trains through mid-November.

In a service advisory, the carrier cited a lack of equipment for suspending checked baggage service on the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian. The move also affects checked bicycle service.

The suspension of checked baggage service will begin on the Pennsylvanian on Oct. 3. No date was given for when checked baggage service will be suspended for the Carolinian.

Amtrak said it expects to resume checked baggage service and trainside checked bike services on or about Nov. 17.

“We will continue to re-assess equipment plans and update the plan for the winter,” the notice said.

The Rail Passengers Association said Amtrak’s notice doesn’t answer some questions, including whether it was prompted by the need for major maintenance of Viewliner baggage cars, a shortage of mechanical department workers, or having to re-assign equipment to other routes where the host railroad has imposed minimum axle counts.

On some corridor routes that have minimum axle counts requirements imposed by Canadian National, Viewliner baggage cars have been used to meet the axle count requirements.

Amtrak Overhauling Interiors of Passenger Cars

September 24, 2022

Amtrak has launched a media campaign to tout a $28 million project to overhaul the interiors of Superliner and Viewliner cars used by long-distance trains.

Some of the renovated cars are being placed in service this month.

The first overhauls are being made to Superliner cars with Viewliner sleeping cars expected to be overhauled next.

The project involves giving the cars new seat cushions and upholstery; carpeting; curtains; LED lighting; tables; bedding, linens, and pillows; towels; and updated toiletry dispensers with eco-friendly body wash, conditioner, shampoo and soap.

Amtrak Seeks Net Zero Emissions by 2045

September 23, 2022

Amtrak said this week it will seek to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

The passenger carrier said key components of this plan include reducing the amount of diesel fuel it consumes in its locomotives and making more use of such technologies as fuel cells and hydrogen batteries. 

By 2030 Amtrak said it plans to use only 100 percent carbon-free electricity that was not created through the use of coal and similar fuels.

The Amtrak pledge is similar to those made by various other railroads to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Amtrak Delays Return of Michigan Trains

September 20, 2022

Amtrak has extended the suspension of two Wolverine Service trains until Oct. 24.

In announcing the suspensions earlier this month, the passenger carrier had said that Nos. 350 and 355 were being suspended due to lack of crews and equipment.

At the time, the trains were to have been reinstated on Sept. 17.

No. 350 is the early morning departure from Chicago while No. 355 departs Pontiac, Michigan, in suburban Detroit in late afternoon.

Two other Wolverine Service roundtrips are unaffected by the service suspensions.

Service suspensions also remain in effect on two other Midwest corridor routes.

Lincoln Service Trains 300 and 305 remain suspended through at least Oct. 23.

No. 300 is scheduled to depart St. Louis at 4:35 a.m. while No. 304 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 5:20 p.m.

The Chicago-St. Louis route continues to field three other Lincoln Service roundtrips plus the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Suspended until at least Dec. 5 is the Saluki from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, and the Illini from Carbondale to Chicago.

The former departs Chicago in the morning while the latter leaves Carbondale in late afternoon.

The trains were suspended last January due to shortages of operating crews and equipment.

One factor keeping the trains sidelined is the insistence of host railroad Canadian National that all trains on the Chicago-Carbondale route use Superliner equipment.

Until about two years ago, the State of Illinois-sponsored Chicago-Carbondale trains used Horizon and Amfleet equipment.

Other trains in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor include the northbound Saluki, which departs Carbondale in the morning, and the southbound Illini, which departs Chicago in late afternoon.

The City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans also covers the corridor but is operating just five days a week. Nos. 58 and 59 are slated to resume daily operation on Oct. 8.

Amtrak Reinstates Suspended Trains

September 19, 2022

Amtrak had reinstated by Saturday all trains that had been suspended in advance of a potential national railroad stoppage. Some suspended trains resumed running on Friday.

The suspensions primarily affected long-distance trains with some being suspended on the Tuesday before the potential Friday strike and/or lockout.

A work stoppage was averted when a tentative new labor agreement was reached early Thursday morning.

Among the trains affected was the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, which did not depart on Thursday or Friday. The Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited had not yet been suspended at the time the tentative labor contract was reached.

Amtrak to Begin Restoring Service

September 15, 2022

With a national railroad strike and/or lockout now averted, Amtrak said on its website this morning that it is working to restore cancelled trains.

However, no details had yet to be posted by mid-morning. The notice said passengers whose trains had been cancelled would be accommodated on “first available departures.”

The passenger carrier had begun suspending some long distance trains on Tuesday, including the Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr and the Los Angeles-San Antonio segment of the Texas Eagle.

On Wednesday Amtrak said all remaining long-distance trains would be suspended on Thursday as well as late day corridor services.

Some trains still departed their terminals on Wednesday, including the Capitol Limited, but others, including the Lake Shore Limited, were suspended.

The Capitol and Lake Shore use the same Norfolk Southern route between Chicago and Cleveland.

Various commuter railroads around the country also had announced plans to suspend service if a work stoppage occurred as early as Friday morning.

Some commuter railroads own their own tracks and would not have been affected.

Amtrak had indicated that in the event of a work stoppage, it would having continued to operate corridor services on routes where it, a short line carrier not part of the contract talks, or a public agency owns the tracks.

In numerous public statements, Amtrak had said it was not a party to the labor negotiations between the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, and the 12 labor unions representing 125,000 railroad workers.

Railroads Continue to Prepare for Work Stoppage, Senators Introduce Bill to Impose Contract Terms

September 13, 2022

As railroads begin to embargo traffic ahead of a possible national railroad strike and/or lockout that could begin as early as Friday, legislation has been introduced in the Senate to settle the dispute.

Amtrak said it would suspend service on four long-distance routes in advance of a possible railroad work stoppage.

The Senate resolution would force railroad labor unions and railroads to accept the recommendations made last month by a presidential emergency board.

It was introduced by Sens. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Negotiations for a new contract have been ongoing for more than two years with unions representing locomotive engineers and train conductors at loggerheads with management over wages, benefits and work rules.

To date, eight of the 12 railroad labor unions have reached tentative contract agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management in the negotiations.

Those agreements have been described in statements issued by the two sides as generally following the recommendations of the PEB.

The PEB issued its recommendations on Aug. 16 and under federal law strikes and/or lockouts are prohibited for 30 days following that. The 30-day cooling off period will expire at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

Amtrak said it will suspend service today on the routes of the Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr and portions of the route of the Texas Eagle.

The latter involves the Los Angeles to San Antonio segment of the Texas Eagle route, which overlaps with the route of the Sunset Limited.

The passenger carrier said suspensions could expand to all routes outside the Northeast Corridor by the end of the week.

The Amtrak statement said suspensions being imposed today will ensure that the affected trains can reach their endpoint terminals before a strike and/or lockout begins.

Although neither Amtrak or its workers are parties to the railroad labor negotiations, the passenger carrier uses track owned by freight railroads where a strike and/or lockout may occur.

In the event of a strike and/or lockout, Amtrak said it would continue operating trains that wholly use track that it owns or is owned by public agencies.

This includes the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington; the line between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts; the Empire Corridor between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York; and the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

An Amtrak statement said passengers affected by service suspensions due to the labor dispute will be contacted and offered the opportunity to change their travel dates or offered a full refund of their fare without any cancellation fees.

In a related developments, Class 1 railroads have begun embargoing certain types of shipments starting today.

Norfolk Southern told its shippers that it will stop accepting intermodal and automotive traffic.

The NS notice said it will close the gates for loaded or empty intermodal units at its terminals as of noon Tuesday and would also stop accepting traffic at on-dock port facilities and privately owned intermodal terminals.

The notice said the gates would remain open for intermodal pickup until further notice. Customers using railroad-operated EMP and TMX containers will be unable to make reservations after 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. They will be able to return empty containers to NS terminals as normal until further notice.

Automotive traffic gates will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, with an embargo on auto traffic beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

The railroad also said it is planning “for the orderly lay down of trains in the bulk network” and will contact customers moving bulk commodities in unit trains with specific details.

CSX has also began on Monday an embargo of “high hazardous, toxic by inhalation and poisonous by inhalation” cargo.

2 Wolverine Service Trains to be Suspended

August 28, 2022

Amtrak Train 350 swings onto the Michigan Line in Porter, Indiana, on Feb. 27, 2002.

Amtrak is citing equipment and personnel shortages for suspending two Wolverine Service trains until mid-September.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Nos. 350 and 355 between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) would be suspended starting Aug. 29 and continuing through Sept. 16.

No. 350 is the early morning departure from Chicago while No. 355 is the late afternoon departure from Pontiac.

No alternative service is being provided for the suspended trains. Amtrak said Nos. 350 and 355 will resume operating on Sept. 17.

The suspensions will not affect operations of Wolverine Service Trains 351, 352, 353 and 354.

Amtrak has attributed various Midwest corridor service suspensions this summer to a shortage of equipment and personnel.

Among the trains suspended for a few days to more than a week have been the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois; and two Lincoln Service trains between Chicago and St. Louis.

Since January the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor have been suspended and no date has been announced as to when those trains will be restored.