Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Another Penn Central Throwback Look

March 23, 2018

Here are a couple more photos from my trip last weekend. I caught Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian and then the 20W led by Penn Central heritage unit 1073 at Lily Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Railroad era signal bridge still stands for now but probably not for much longer.

Photographs by Todd Dillon


Rochester Amtrak Station to be Named after Louise Slaughter

March 23, 2018

The new Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, will be named after the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, who recently died from injuries suffered during a fall in her Washington home.

Amtrak said in a news release that Slaughter, 88, will be honored for her career in public service and commitment to leading several projects in northern New York, including the station’s development.

“To celebrate her legacy and impact on the station, city of Rochester, and state of New York, we are pleased to announce that we will be naming Rochester Station in her honor through a commemorative plaque at the station or other appropriate means,” said Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia.

Slaughter was instrumental in securing $15 million in TIGER funding to build the station, which opened in October 2017.

She was serving her 16th term in Congress when she died.The Rochester station served more than 127,000 last year.

It is served by Amtrak’s Empire Service, Lake Shore Limited and Maple Leaf trains.

NPS Curtails Trails and Rails Program

March 22, 2018

The Trails and Rails volunteer program of the National Park Service has been canceled on five Amtrak trains and will operate on a reduced schedule on three others.

The cutbacks followed an Amtrak decision to cease offering complimentary food and overnight lodging expense payments for the volunteers.

Trains losing the programs include City of New Orleans, New Orleans-Greenwood, Mississippi; Sunset Limited, New Orleans-Beaumont, Texas; California Zephyr, Denver-Grand Junction, Colorado; Texas Eagle, Fort Worth-San Antonio, Texas; Maple Leaf , Albany/Rensselaer-Utica, New York.

An abbreviated version of the program will be offered on the Empire Builder: Seattle-Wenatchee, Washington; Crescent, Atlanta-Birmingham, Alabama; and the Southwest Chief: La Junta, Colorado-Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Unaffected by the cutbacks are Trails and Rails programs aboard the following trains: New York-Washington; (Northeast Regional); New York-Albany/Rensselaer, New York (Adirondack, Empire Service); Saratoga Springs-Westport, New York (Adirondack); Chicago-St. Louis (Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle); Chicago-Niles, Michigan. (Wolverine Service and Blue Water); Seattle-Portland, Oregon (Coast Starlight); Santa Barbara-San Jose, California. (Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner); Washington-Cumberland, Maryland (Capitol Limited); Los Angeles-San Diego (Pacific Surfliner); Oklahoma City-Fort Worth, Texas. (Heartland Flyer).

Some programs operate daily between May and Labor Day, although most have specific days of operation and café car lecturers won’t be on every departure or every segment.

A listing of the dates that the programs are offered can be found at

Amtrak Touts Sustainability Progress

March 22, 2018

Amtrak said in its 2016-2017 sustainability report that it has exceeded its diesel fuel conservation goal by more than 2.4 gallons and saved about 3 billion kWh of energy by using its latest-generation ACS-64 locomotives.

The report, which focuses on the railroad’s environmental, financial and social sustainability efforts, including modernizing the customer experience, reducing fuel and energy use, and growing revenue through increased ridership, shows Amtrak’s performance between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2017.

Amtrak said in a news release that the report was produced in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines, which are considered the international standard for sustainability reporting.

“Our stakeholders are counting on us to be good stewards of the environment while also creating economic and social value for our communities,” said Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson in a statement. “We also understand that keeping our customers and employees safe is integral to sustainability.”

Amtrak, BRS Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

March 21, 2018

Amtrak and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen have reached a tentative contract covering wages and fringe benefits.

BRS said in a news release that the pact calls for a wage increase through 2021, with an 18.8 percent compounded increase over the life of the agreement.

Also, the new contract calls for freezing the monthly health care contribution, with new benefits provided. It also establishes a new-hire alternative health care plan.

BRS members must vote to ratify the agreement before it goes into effect.

Amtrak Acknowledges Changes Coming for Cardinal, Empire Service Due to Penn Station Construction

March 13, 2018

An Amtrak official has confirmed that the carrier plans to divert Empire Service trains this year to New York Grand Central Terminal during a construction project at New York Penn Station.

In a related development, Amtrak has also acknowledged it plans to temporarily cease operating the Cardinal between New York and Washington starting March 29.

The Empire Service diversion was discussed by Amtrak’s Empire District general superintendent, Kevin Chittenden, during a meeting of the Empire State Passengers Association.

Although he didn’t say when the diversion would take place, Chittenden said it would last for three months during the summer. During that time, the connecting track that Amtrak uses to move between Penn Station and Metro North tracks will be closed for maintenance.

Chittenden also indicated that Amtrak is considering used FL-9 locomotives as cab cars for trains going to and from Grand Central. However, Amtrak may also use cab cars in push-pull mode.

Amtrak diverted several Empire Service trains into Grand Central last summer, but continued to operate the Lake Shore Limited into Penn Station.

News reports have surfaced that Amtrak plans to temporarily drop the New York section of the Lake Shore while work is being done on the connection track to Penn Station.

As for the Cardinal, Amtrak said it is being terminated in Washington to relieve congestion at Penn Station.

The first eastbound train to terminate in Washington rather than run through to New York will leave Chicago on March 29. The first train to originate in Washington will depart on April 1.

Amtrak did not say how long Nos. 50 and 51 will continue to operate only between Chicago and Washington.

The Rail Passenger Association said that the advocacy group Friends of the Cardinal is preparing to enter into talks with the West Virginia Tourism Commission on support for making the Cardinal a daily service.

It currently operates tri-weekly, originating in New York on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and originating in Chicago on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Amtrak Wants Right to Sue Host Railroads Over on-Time Performance

March 13, 2018

Tucked away in Amtrak’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 is a plea to Congress to give the passenger carrier the legal right to sue its host railroads for delaying its trains.

Amtrak wants to be able to seek legal remedies to protect its statutory right of preference by bringing “an action for equitable or other relief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, or in any jurisdiction where Amtrak resides or is found, to enforce preference rights granted under this subsection.”

The request follows setbacks in the courts stemming from lawsuits challenging certain provisions of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

The Association of American Railroads challenged the process whereby on-time metrics were to be developed by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Specifically the AAR objected to allowing Amtrak to play a role in establishing the standards.

AAR won that battle when the courts ruled that the law had unlawfully granted Amtrak regulatory power over the industry in which it participates.

When Amtrak brought three cases against its host railroads using a Surface Transportation Board metric of 80 percent on-time performance in deciding pending cases, an appeals court ruled that the 80 percent standard had been tainted by the previous rulings.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee recently, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said, “We’ve never been able to get the preference right that Amtrak has, enforced . . . and we’d like a private right of action.”

Amtrak also is seeking legislative action to overturn a law that prohibits it from hiring lobbyists. It noted that its host railroads and labor unions are able to hire lobbyists.

The passenger carrier also wants changes to streamline its compliance with at-odds reporting requirements from multiple federal agencies, an exemption from Freedom of Information Act requests, and a law that will make it a federal crime to assault an Amtrak crew member.

BMWE Reaches Contract with Railroads

March 8, 2018

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees has reached a tentative agreement with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents the nation’s railroads.

The agreement must now be ratified by the union members. The BMWE has 27,500 members.

The contract establishes wages and work rules that are similar to those reached last year by two other unions, but on health care the BMWE and carriers agreed to binding arbitration.

More than 70 percent of the almost 145,000 unionized freight rail employees have now ratified agreements with the 30 freight railroads represented by the Conference Committee.

This includes the American Train Dispatchers Association (1,600 members); Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (27,200); Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (8,500); Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (11,100); the Transportation and Yardmaster divisions of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (44,000); National Conference of Firemen and Oilers (2,800); and Transportation Communications International Union (6,300).

Unions that continue to negotiate with the Conference Committee include the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (7,600 members); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (6,400); and International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Blacksmiths, Iron Ship Builders, Forgers and Helpers.

Bargaining for new contracts began in January 2015. The federal Railway Labor Act requires that existing agreement provisions on wages, benefits and work rules remain in force until revised through collective bargaining, binding arbitration or congressional legislation.

The most recent contracts ratified by the unions will not be subject to renegotiation before Jan. 1, 2020.

A Railway Age analysis is that the new contracts will put almost $33,000 more into the pockets of the highest-paid workers by mid-2019, and more than $16,000 into the paychecks of those in the lower wage rungs. There are no work rules changes.

Employee monthly premiums for health care insurance are capped at $288 a month through mid-2020. The railroads will continue to pay about 90 percent of all employee healthcare costs.

Amtrak negotiates separately with about a dozen unions and it has reached new contracts with conductors and engineers that are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015.

Those agreements increase wages by almost 19 percent through July 2021 and cap employee healthcare contributions.

Amtrak continues to negotiate with the BMWE and other labor organizations.

Yes, Watch Out for the Trains

March 2, 2018

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak have been working to boost train speeds on the Chicago-Detroit corridor, particularly on track in Michigan, that both entities own.

MDOT owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Dearborn and over the past couple of summers has sponsored track work designed to enable faster running.

One small indicator of that work is this sign in Chelsea, Michigan, located next to the former Michigan Central station, which is now owned by a local historical society.

Getting Amtrak here at 80 mph or any speed remains on my “to do” list for 2018. There is double track because there is a passing siding here.

Chelsea, located between Ann Arbor and Jackson, is not a stop for Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains, but it was a stop for the Michigan Executive commuter train that Amtrak operated through Jan. 13, 1984, when the state ended its funding of the service.

Michigan transportation officials and rail passenger advocates have been trying to resume commuter rail service ever since.

BLET, Amtrak Reach Tentative Pact

March 2, 2018

A union representing locomotive engineers has reached a tentative contract agreement with Amtrak.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said the pact governs pay rates, benefits and work rules for about 1,400 engineers.

BLET has mailed its members ratification ballots and a synopsis of the agreement with voting to be completed by April 1.

The union represents more than 1,400 locomotive engineers who operate Amtrak passenger and commuter trains.