Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Charger Locomotives Finish Testing in Illinois

April 25, 2017

The new Charger SC-44 locomotives were tested last weekend on three routes in the Midwest and are expected to enter revenue service this spring.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the locomotives built by Siemens ran with empty trains of Amtrak passenger cars on routes linking Chicago with Milwaukee; Carbondale, Illinois; and Quincy, Illinois.

The locomotives will be tested on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor later this year.

“The delivery and testing of these attractive new locomotives will certainly get attention now and in years to come as they serve riders in our great Illinois communities,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.

“Their arrival will be a welcome sight and put us one step closer to providing more efficient and reliable passenger rail service throughout our state and our neighboring states.”

During the test runs, engineering staff from Amtrak and Siemens rode the locomotives and performed required tests while monitoring each engine’s performance.

The Chargers are compliant with EPA Tier IV emissions standards and can operate at speeds up to 125 mph.

IDOT along with state transportation departments in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Maryland, California and Washington collaborated on ordering the locomotives.

Midwest state agencies acquired 33 of the 4,400-horsepower locomotives, which were purchased through $216.5 million in federal funding and built in Sacramento, California. All of the Midwest-based locomotives are to be delivered by late 2017.

Revenue testing is to begin for 30 days on April 30 in California on the Capitol Corridor route. Six Chargers are expected to operate in Northern California on the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin routes.

In a news release, Siemens said the Chargers are equipped with electronically controlled regenerative braking systems that use energy from traction motors during braking to feed the auxiliary and head-end power systems. The feature is expected to minimize fuel consumption.

The diesel-electric operation is designed to enable better acceleration, cleaner emissions and low noise levels. The locomotives feature a 4,400 horsepower Cummins QSK95 diesel engine.

Montana, Steam Focus of April ARRC Program

April 24, 2017

The program at the Akron Railroad Club meeting on April 28 will be a digital presentation by Edward Ribinskas that will feature railroading in Montana and steam locomotives in Pennsylvania.

In July 2016, Ed and his wife, Ursula, celebrated their 25th anniversary by taking Amtrak’s Empire Builder to Glacier National Park, where they stayed at the Izaak Walton Inn.

While there Ed captured BNSF freight operations as well as Amtrak trains against the backdrop of mountains and glaciers.

He and Ursula had made virtually the same trip in 1991 shortly after their wedding.

This segment of the program will also feature a few views made from the train en route.

Rounding out the program will be views of steam locomotives in action on the Everett Railroad and Reading Blue Mountain & Northern. Ed photographed those locomotive during a September 2016 journey to Pennsylvania.

The meeting will begin at 8 p.m. with a half-hour business meeting followed by the program at approximately 8:45 p.m. The club meets at the New Horizons Christian Church, 290 Darrow Road, in Akron.

Following the meeting, some members gather at the Eat ‘n Park restaurant at Howe and Main streets in Cuyahoga Falls for a late dinner, dessert or an early breakfast.

Visitors are always welcome at Akron Railroad Club meetings.

Expedited FRA Review Sought of Ann Arbor Station Site Environmental Assessment

April 24, 2017

A  Michigan congresswoman is trying to turn up the heat on the Federal Railroad Administration to act sooner rather than later on reviewing an environmental assessment for a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell has written to the FRA to urge it to expedite that review.

Ann Arbor faces a Sept. 30 deadline to spend a $2.8 million federal grant that it received to develop a station. The FRA had indicated earlier that it would not finish its review until summer, leaving the city little time to spend the grant money on station design work.

In her letter to the FRA, Dingell said it was important that the FRA move in an “urgent and expeditious manner so the city can move forward with improving mass transit in the state of Michigan.”

Once the FRA finishes reviewing the environmental assessment, there will be a 30-day public comment period.

Thus far the city has not revealed the site it prefers for the new station.

Dingell also pointed out in her letter that Amtrak and the State of Michigan have been working to upgrade service between Chicago and Detroit for higher speed service.

Currently, Ann Arbor is served by three Wolverine Service roundtrips although transportation officials have spoken about increasing that level of service at some future time as well as launching commuter rail service to Detroit.

FRA spokesman Marc Willis said the FRA received the environmental assessment from the city.

“We reviewed it and sent it back to them for revisions,” he said, adding there’s no time frame from the city when it will be sent back for FRA review.

City Council Member Zachary Ackerman believes the city is running out of time to build a new Amtrak station

Ackerman said that a new station seems to be less of a reality given the current climate in Washington and he won’t support a new station without significant federal funding.

Michigan Rail Passengers Advocates Pushing for Detroit-Windsor Bus Connection for Amtrak-VIA

April 24, 2017

Michigan rail passenger advocates are working with Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada to revive connecting service between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, although that might not necessarily be rail service.

In a campaign that has been dubbed “mind the gap,” the advocates are talking with both railroads about establishing a direct bus connection.

Passengers who now want to connect between Amtrak and VIA must either take a cab or ride three local transit buses.

The advocates noted that the border crossing at Detroit is the busiest between the two countries.

Until 2003, Amtrak and VIA hosted a Chicago-Toronto train known as the International that operated via Flint and Port Huron, Michigan.

A Detroit-New York train, the Niagara Rainbow, operated via Windsor between October 1974 and January 1979, ending when the states of New York and Michigan ended their funding of the train.

An article posted on the website of the National Association of Railroad Passengers said that VIA is in active discussions with bus companies to provide a “bus bridge” between the VIA station in Windsor and the Detroit Amtrak station.

The service may begin by late 2017. The Michigan advocates hope that if the bus connection proves successful that it might provide an impetus for resuming rail service between Detroit and Windsor.

Amtrak Tests Charger Locomotive in Midwest

April 20, 2017

One of the new SC-44 Charger locomotives that will be assigned to Midwest Corridor trains was tested between Chicago and Milwaukee on Wednesday.

No. 4611 was on the point for test train 941 from Chicago to Milwaukee, running ahead of regularly scheduled Hiawatha Service No. 329.

It was the first test of a Charger locomotive in the Midwest. Testing has been conducted previously on the east and west coasts.

Two Chargers, Nos. 4611 and 4604 arrived in Chicago late last month.

Siemens built the Chargers at a factory in California as part of an order placed by the departments of transportation of Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and Maryland. The order was for 69 locomotives of which Illinois purchased 33.

Most of the Chargers in the Midwest are expected to operate on corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Further tests of the Chargers are expected to be performed on other Midwest routes.

Turboliner Photo Brought Back Memories

April 14, 2017

A photograph that Bob Farkas sent this week of an Amtrak RTG Turboliner at Joliet, Illinois, brought back a lot of fond memories.

I rode the Turboliner when I lived in Springfield, Illinois, in the mid-1970s, but many of my memories involve watching the French-built train.

Sometimes on a late Friday afternoon I would go to the Amtrak station to see the Turboliner from St. Louis arrive en route to Chicago.

During my first semester at the then-named Sangamon State University, I had a class that met in the early evening.

It got out shortly before the evening Turboliner was to leave Springfield for St. Louis. Parking for the downtown SSU campus was in a lot next to the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio tracks, which were Illinois Central Gulf by then.

If it a searchlight signal next to the tracks was green, the Amtrak train was in the station out of sight a few blocks to the north. I’d sit in my car until the train came past and then go home.

My first ride on a Turboliner came in February 1975 when I made a trip to St. Louis to visit my grandparents.

I liked the Turboliner. It was modern, had nice large windows and lived up to its billing in a an Amtrak radio advertisement of the time with a tagline of “hitch a ride on the future.:

But not everyone did felt the way that I did. Many passengers disliked the narrow seats that barely reclined, the narrow aisles and the sometimes hard to open doors. Another drawback was limited seating in the café car.

The Turboliner had a fixed capacity of 296, so some passengers were left standing during peak travel periods.

Those who regularly rode Amtrak in the Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis corridor preferred conventional equipment over the Turboliner.

Some locomotive engineers wouldn’t work on the Turboliner because they didn’t feel they would be protected enough during a grade crossing collision with a large truck.

When they began service on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor on Oct. 1, 1973, Amtrak touted the Turboliner as the greatest advancement in transportation since the 747.

Although much was made of the capability of the Turboliner to run more than 100 mph, the fastest it could sprint between Chicago and St. Louis was 79 p.m.

But the Turboliner schedule was a half-hour faster than trains using conventional equipment and 11 minutes faster than GM&O trains of the late 1940s.

An Amtrak official conceded to Trains magazine editor David P. Morgan that the purpose the flashy-looking Turboliners was to show that Amtrak was doing something to improve passenger service other than making cosmetic improvements to hand-me-down equipment.

Morgan said the Turboliner reminded him of the low center of gravity lightweight trains that railroads tried in the 1950s but which failed to catch on.

The last Turboliner in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor ran on Trains 301/304. It was withdrawn from the route after it struck an asphalt truck at Elwood, Illinois, on Nov. 18, 1975.

About a month later, Nos. 301/304 because the first Midwest corridor trains to receive the new Amfleet equipment.

My last trip aboard a Turboliner came in November 1980 when I rode the Lake Cities from  Chicago to Toledo via Detroit.

The next time I remember seeing a Turboliner was in the mid-1990s at the Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis. One of the Turboliner sets was sitting forlornly off to the side.

I’ve seen photographs of a Turboliner sitting in a junk yard near Dugger, Indiana. One of these days I’ve got to get out there to see if it is still there.

Some Railroad Sights From Joliet, Illinois

April 13, 2017

Amtrak 62 is a French Turboliner that Amtrak used out of Chicago in the mid-1970’s. Here she is in front of Joliet Union Station on June 15, 1974.

Rock Island 654 leads three other Rock Island E8s approaching the crossing with the AT&SF on August 18, 1973.

AT&SF 314C was in Joliet on April 14, 1973. By then some passenger units were on freights as well as on Amtrak.

Mike Ondecker had heard about how Joliet, Illinois, was an excellent location to railfan and wanted to railfan it.

Never did I realize it would become a favorite location and a mandatory stop on westward trips.

Here are three photos taken when Mike and I visited Joliet on different occasions.  By this time Mike had stopped taking photos, but thankfully his being employed by the Erie Lackawanna and his knowledge of railfan locations helped each trip be a great experience.

Of course the fact that Mike loved driving and drove all the time gave me more time to try and navigate to the next location as well as check out the scenery for things of interest. We truly got along well.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

Toledo National Train Day Set for May 6

April 12, 2017

Toledo still plans to hold a National Train Day this year, although it will not apparently have the headliner external exhibits that it has had in the past.

The event will be held on May 6 at the former Central Union Terminal – now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza – between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Thus far the only announced railroad exhibit will be Ann Arbor Railroad GP38 No. 3879.

Built in 1969, the locomotive has been painted in a commemorative livery to honor the history of the Ann Arbor, which is now a Watco Companies property.

This year’s event will be the 10th National Train Day celebration in Toledo.

Past events have featured heritage and special livery locomotives of Norfolk Southern as well as an Amtrak exhibit train.

It is not clear yet if either NS or Amtrak will be participating in the event.

The event’s sponsors say on their Facebook page that as in past years the festival will feature vendors, model railroad displays, children’s train rides, a safety workshop oriented to children, food and train watching of the nearby NS Chicago Line from the Amtrak station platforms.

Kan Nominated for Key U.S. DOT Post

April 11, 2017

Derek Kan has been nominated by President Donald Trump to become the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Kan has served on the Amtrak board of directors since 2015 and is general manager of Lyft in Southern California.

He previously served as director of strategy at a Silicon Valley startup and has been a management consultant at Bain & Company.

Kan has been a policy adviser for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and served as the chief economist for the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

W.Va. Senate OKs Daily Cardinal Legislation

April 7, 2017

A bill that seeks to promote daily operation of Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal is poised to pass the West Virginia legislature and be sent to Gov. Jim Justice.

The Senate approved the legislation on a 32-1 vote this week without discussion.

HB 2856 had been approved on March 22 on a 95-5 vote by the House of Delegates.

The House must concur in a title amendment to the bill before it reaches the governor’s desk.

The bill has the support of the Justice administration. “I couldn’t be more solidly behind it. It’s integral to tourism to have that train operating daily,” said Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said of the legislation, which does not appropriate any funding for operating expenses of the now tri-weekly train.

Instead, it authorizes the state Tourism commissioner to enter into compact agreements with other states served by the Cardinal, and with Amtrak to improve the quality and frequency of Cardinal service.

The commissioner will be allowed to establish a special revenue account in which funds could be deposited to promote daily Cardinal service.

The Cardinal passes through West Virginia in both directions on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, serving Huntington, Charleston, Hinton, White Sulphur Springs and Prince.