Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Amtrak Releases 2nd Veterans Tribute Unit

May 19, 2015

Amtrak has rolled out a second locomotive to honor the nation’s military veterans,

The same livery applied to P42DC No. 42 has been given to ACS-64 No. 642.

Although the locomotive has not been officially unveiled by Amtrak, it was ferried eastward on Sunday and Monday, passing through Northeast Ohio in the motive power consist of the eastbound Capitol Limited on Monday morning.

On Sunday morning, it had left Indianapolis on the northbound Hoosier State after being painted at the Beech Grove shops.

The ACS-64 locomotives are being built in California by Siemens and ferried across the country, usually by the California Zephyr and Capitol Limited.

Marketing Seen as Key to Hoosier State Succcess

May 13, 2015

Ed Ellis has a simple idea how to boost ridership on the Hoosier State. It begins with a marketing effort that is rooted in giving people a reason to ride the train.

He expects to offer highly-marketed travel packages that will take passengers to sporting events and cultural attractions.

Ellis, who heads Iowa Pacific Holdings, told the Journal & Courier of Lafayette, Indiana, that travelers can be sorted into three groups: Those who need to get somewhere in a hurry, those who just need to get somewhere and those who are looking for a reason to go. The latter are much on Ellis’ mind these days.

“The way they ran trains back in the day, they spent a lot of time thinking about events and reasons people need to ride the train,” he said. “Substantial costs of running trains were paid for by people who didn’t have to go but wanted to go.”

Iowa Pacific is in the process of hiring employees to support the Hoosier State, including a marketing manager who will plan trips.

It won’t be just Hoosiers traveling to Chicago for the day. “You can be sure we’ll be selling Purdue football packages,” Ellis said.

Iowa Pacific will provide and maintain the passenger cars for the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train that will continue to be operated by Amtrak and funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation and the online communities that it serves.

The same route and communities are also served by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal, which operates on the three days a week that the Hoosier State does not run.

Iowa Pacific also will provide food and beverage service, something that has had scant availability in recent years. Amtrak will provide engineers and conductors, and sell tickets.

Ellis said that he saw an opportunity throughout months of sometimes contentious negotiations among INDOT, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration over operating the Hoosier State.

He is optimistic that the Chicago-Indianapolis route can become a self-supporting enterprise.

That vision is rooted in a railroad career that included a five-year tenure as a vice president at Amtrak between 996 to 2000.

As an example of what he meant by creating demand, Ellis said his company, which is also in the business of hauling freight, built an outdoor concert venue on top of a mountain near Alamosa, Colorado. The only way to get there was to ride an excursion train that Iowa Pacific operates.

“We created that (concert venue) to give people a reason to ride the train,” he said.

Ellis understand what he is up against marketing a train that doesn’t get anywhere in a hurry.

“What has to happen when you have a train that doesn’t provide fast frequent on-time service is you have to figure out how to get more people on the train,” he said.

Increasing service on the route is going to take about $500 million to be used for rebuilding the tracks. Finding that money will be tough going.

Yet such work is necessary if Ellis is going to reach his goal of 12 passenger trains a day.

Brian Farkas is a locomotive engineer and chairman of the Indiana legislative board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

“Some of his ideas are good, but I’m curious to see how he’s going to get $500 million when our legislators are reluctant to fund $3 million for the train,” Farkas said.

Some have pointed toward federal grants, including the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

“There is a renewed willingness on the part of Amtrak, CSX and INDOT to pursue economic development funding, including TIGER grants, to improve the rail infrastructure,” said Greater Lafayette Commerce member Arvid Olson.

“We do have a history of cooperation with railroads in this community,” added Liz Solberg, who oversaw Lafayette’s relocation of Norfolk Southern and CSX tracks to create a rail corridor adjacent to the Wabash River.

Douglas Yerkeson, a rail supporter and partner at Faegre Baker Daniels law firm in Indianapolis, is impressed with Ellis’ approach.

“Having a balanced transportation system is critical to economic development for the state,” he said. “And given the government of Indiana’s interest in partnering with a private company, this may be the impetus for culture change.”

Dana Smith, retired head of Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, agreed. “If Iowa Pacific can pull this off, it’s going to be an absolute positive for this community,” he said.

Last year, Vicki Burch, a West Lafayette city councilwoman, criticized the prospect of state-subsidized rail transit.

But now she wants to give Ellis and his ideas a chance. “We won’t know until we try,” she said.

Sharp-Trap Containers on Select Amtrak Trains

May 12, 2015

Amtrak is now offering complimentary Sharp-Trap® containers aboard select long-distance trains for passengers to safely dispose of small sharp items including, insulin syringes and needles, lancets and razor blades.

The containers are designed to reduce and/or eliminate passengers’ and employees’ risk of cuts or other injuries caused by sharp personal items. Trains offering the containers include the following:

  • Capitol Limited, Trains 29 and 30
  • Cardinal, Trains 50 and 51
  • City of New Orleans, Trains 58 and 59
  • Crescent, Trains 19 and 20
  • Lake Shore Limited, Trains 48/448 and 49/449
  • Silver Meteor, Trains 97 and 98
  • Silver Star, Trains 91 and 92

The Sharp-Trap containers are available upon request from any Amtrak employee on board the train. Employees can also demonstrate how to use the container, if necessary. Sharp-Trap containers are not available at stations.

Amtrak employees cannot dispose of Sharp-Trap containers and for safety reasons passengers must keep their used containers in their possession until exiting the train.

Passengers who see a Sharp-Trap container in any area of the train or station should notify an Amtrak employee.

Amtrak said the availability of Sharp-Trap containers is expected to be added to additional trains.

Amtrak Patrons Offered Free eBooks, eMagazines

May 11, 2015

Barnes and Noble and publisher HarperCollins are offering free eBooks and eMagazines to Amtrak customers during Amtrak Trains Days through November.

Amtrak passengers will be able to access the free eBook and eMagazine content by downloading the Free NOOK Reading App on a smartphone or tablet.

Once a selection is made, the customer will be provided an access code, redeemable at

Customers can also learn more about NOOK’s participation in Amtrak Train Days by liking NOOK on Facebook and following NOOK on Twitter and Instagram.

The offerings will include bestselling eBooks from HarperCollins, in addition to other classics and popular self-published titles from NOOK Press.®

This will include romance, mystery, thrillers, children’s and business titles. The selections will change  throughout Amtrak Train Days.

The initial offerings will include such titles as Spy Catcher by Matthew Dunn and This Will Change Everything by Jared Diamond, as well as NOOK Press favorites including On a Night Like This by Barbara Freethy and The Wedding Gift by Lucy Kevin.

Available single issue eMagazines will include CosmopolitanVanity FairWired and Seventeen.

Customers can install the Free NOOK Reading App on their Android or iOS device by visiting

Amtrak Train Days kicked off at Chicago Union Station on May 9 and will include events being held in various communities nationwide. For more information,

Hoosier State Funding Plan Worked Out

May 7, 2015

A funding plan for the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State will provide state support, but also required local communities along the route to pony up some money.

The Indiana General Assembly is considered a plan to provide a $6 million operating grant for the quad-weekly train for two years with money from a tax amnesty program that is expected to generate at least $90 million. The first $84 million would be deposited in a regional cities development fund.

“On-line communities will (also) be asked to support a small portion of long-term service costs,” Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said. “INDOT met with city representatives last week to discuss this.”

The Hoosier State will continue to operate with Amtrak equipment through June 30 or  “until long-term agreements can be finalized with Amtrak and Iowa Pacific Holdings.”

Iowa Pacific continues to modify equipment that it owns and it is expected to be inspected by Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, and Food and Drug Administration personnel in late May.

“July 1 is our target date for Iowa Pacific to begin work as INDOT’s contractor, but there are many aspects outside of (our) control,” Wingfield said.

The Tribute Units Were Nice, But it was an F40 That Stole My Heart at Toledo National Train Day

May 5, 2015
It can't pull a train anymore, but F40PH No. 406 still looks the part.

It can’t pull a train anymore, but F40PH No. 406 still looks the part.

Sure, seeing the Norfolk Southern GoRail locomotive motivated me to drive to Toledo last Saturday for the National Train Day event.

But what I really wanted to see was Amtrak P42 No. 42. It is dressed in a striking livery that honor’s America’s veterans. It was every bit as classy looking as I expected it be and it was my first time seeing it in person.

And then there was Amtrak No. 406. Built in July 1988 by EMD, this F40PH has since had its traction motors removed and been converted to a NPCU, meaning that it can provide head-end power and be used to control a locomotive, but it can’t pull a train.

Yet for appearances, it looks just like it did when it came out of the EMD factory, complete with a Phase III livery.

Last Saturday it provided HEP for the Amtrak exhibit train and I found myself being transported back a decade or two when the F40 was the king of the Amtrak diesel fleet.

During their heyday, the F40 was the Rodney Dangerfield of locomotives.

A lot of railfans didn’t care for them. They made a lot of noise when standing in the station and they were diminutive in stature compared with their big six-axle freight cousins.

Not too many people are going to say they prefer the look of an F40 over the sleek streamlining of an EMD E or F unit.

I’ve always been partial to the short-lived SDP40Fs that Amtrak purchased in 1973 and 1974, but the F40 proved to be the locomotive that enjoyed the longer life even if it had been designed with corridor service in mind.

So I spent some time looking over the 406 and remembering all of the trips I made behind the F40 fleet until it began to be replaced in the middle 1990s.

It’s funny how something that was so common two decades can seemingly vanish overnight.

In time the same will likely happen with the P42. Will I someday have pangs of nostalgia upon seeing one of those? Probably, yes I will. But that day hasn’t come yet.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

What I came to see.

What I came to see.

It's almost highball time for the next Amtrak train to New York at Toledo's Central Union Terminal. If only it were true.

It’s almost highball time for the next Amtrak train to New York at Toledo’s Central Union Terminal. If only it were true.

A father and his daughter spend some quality time in the Sightseer lounge, imagining they are taking a train trip.

A father and his daughter spend some quality time in the Sightseer lounge, imagining they are taking a train trip.

Built in 1950 for Union Pacific, sleeper Pacific Bend has racked up thousands of miles and seen a lot of places in its lifetime. No longer carrying revenue passengers, it is now assigned to the Amtrak exhibit train.

Built in 1950 for Union Pacific, sleeper Pacific Bend has racked up thousands of miles and seen a lot of places in its lifetime. No longer carrying revenue passengers, it is now assigned to the Amtrak exhibit train.

Amtrak's latest slogan on the side of former baggage cars turned exhibit cars.

Amtrak’s latest slogan on the side of former baggage cars turned exhibit cars.

The gray of P42 No. 42 is a throwback of sorts to the days of New York Central vanish sitting on these very same tracks.

The gray of P42 No. 42 is a throwback of sorts to the days of New York Central vanish sitting on these very same tracks.


LSL Boston Section Operating as Shuttle Train

April 28, 2015

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited (Nos. 448/449) is running as a connecting train or bus through late May. This has resulted in shorter equipment consists for the Lake Shore Limited (Nos. 48/49) west of Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

Amtrak said CSX track work on the former Boston & Albany line used by Nos. 448/449 is the cause of the service changes.

On Sundays through Wednesdays until April 29, Nos. 448/449 have been replaced by a bus in both directions east of Albany.

The bus serves the intermediate stations in Massachusetts of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, and Framingham.

The bus does not stop at Back Bay station in Boston. Amtrak has advised Bay Bay passengers to use MBTA for travel between there and Boston’s South Station.

Amtrak has been running a connecting train between Albany and Boston on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays. Effective April 30 that connecting train will operate daily.

Field reports indicate that the 448/449 shuttle has featured a single P42 locomotive, Viewliner baggage car and three or four Amfleet coaches.

Nos. 48/49 have been operating between Chicago and New York with four or five Amfleet coaches, an Amcafe, full-service diner, three Viewliner sleepers and a Viewliner baggage car.

Amtrak said the Boston-Albany shuttle train will operate through May 22, serving all stations.

N.Y. Track Work May Delay Trains 20 Minutes

April 28, 2015

Amtrak is warning that trains operating in New York State are subject to delay through December due to track work being undertaken between Hudson and Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

This include the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and all Empire Service trains. Trains may experience delays of up to 20 minutes in the work zones.

The $163 million project is part of a partnership between the New York State Department of Transportation and Amtrak that includes installation of a fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer station — the ninth busiest terminal in the Amtrak system.

Amtrak said the additional track will alleviate congestion that results in trains having to wait just outside the station for a track to open during busy times.

A second main line track between Albany-Rensselaer and Schenectady will also be constructed that will eliminate train delays caused by bottlenecks over the 17-mile single-track route.

Also being installed is a new signal system that Amtrak expects will reduce the likelihood of signal outages due to weather.

Feds Give $7M to Chicago Union Station Project

April 22, 2015

The efforts to improve rail service at Chicago Union Station got a boost last week in the form of $7 million in federal funds that will be used to conduct a terminal planning study and create a service development plan to increase capacity at the 90-year-old station.

The funding will supplement $12 million pledged by Amtrak earlier this year toward renovating the terminal.

Chicago Union Station is the third-busiest rail terminal in the nation, serving more than 300 trains each weekday.

The station, which is owned by Amtrak, operates at or near capacity during peak periods.

In 2014, 32.5 million Metra passengers arrived or departed on trains at Union Station. Nearly 2.3 million passenger trips on Amtrak were made between Union Station and various Midwest destinations.

Amtrak Trial Includes No Meals With Sleeper Fare

April 22, 2015

In what may be a precursor of things to come, Amtrak said it will conduct a trial period of selling sleeping car accommodations that do not include meals.

Between July 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, the New York-Miami Silver Star will carry a café-lounge rather than a full-service diner.

Amtrak said sleeping class fares on Nos. 91 and 92 will be 25 and 28 percent lower for Viewliner bedrooms and roomettes, respectively.

“Customers have been clear they want more options,” said Mark Murphy, Amtrak’s senior vice president and general manager responsible for the long-distance trains. “From this summer through early next year, passengers will be able to opt for different service levels between our two daily trains to Orlando and Miami.”

Murphy was referring to how those who travel between New York and Miami aboard the Silver Meteor will still have full-service dining and meals included in the price of sleeping class fares.

For several years Amtrak has included meals in the price of a sleeping car ticket on all long-distance trains.


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