Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Ex-Amtrak Station Frozen in Time in Akron

December 2, 2016
That tree growing behind the former Amtrak station in Akron wasn't originally part of the station, but it does add a touch of color in autumn.

That tree growing behind the former Amtrak station in Akron wasn’t originally part of the station complex, but it adds a touch of color in autumn.

Akron was left off Amtrak’s initial route map in 1971. The city saw an occasional Amtrak detour move over the years, most notably during the 1970s, but it didn’t become an Amtrak city until November 1990 when the Broadway Limited was removed from Conrail’s Fort Wayne Line and routed onto the Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline of CSX (former Baltimore & Ohio).

Although Akron Union Depot still stood, it had been taken over by the University of Akron. Amtrak built a modular station and used part of the platform area of the former union depot.

The Broadway Limited was discontinued in September 1995 in a massive route restructuring. That might have been the end of the story of Amtrak in Akron, but the New York-Pittsburgh Three Rivers was extended west to Chicago in November 1996.

That train, though, blew through Akron without stopping until August 1998. The Three Rivers used the same station and platform as the Broadway Limited, but the hang up had been who would pay for whatever repairs were needed to the facilities — such as they were — before Amtrak would agree to stop the Three Rivers in Akron.

During the Broadway Limited days, the Akron station had a ticket agent. But during the Three Rivers days, the station had a caretaker, which for a while was the Akron Railroad Club’s Steve McMullen.

The Three Rivers made its last trips through Akron in March 2005, a victim of low patronage, and the end of the great mail and express gambit. Carriage of the latter was the primary reason why the Three Rivers had been extended west of Pittsburgh.

More than a decade after Nos. 40 and 41 halted in Akron for the final time, the Amtrak station in the Rubber City is frozen in time.

I paid a visit to the station in early November to see what remained. It has changed little from my last visit there in March 2012 and, for that matter, it had not changed much since service ended in 2005.

There is a tree growing behind the building that didn’t used to be there and the exterior appearance of the station is the same save for the plywood placed behind the front windows that wasn’t there in 2005. Remarkably, the building is largely free of vandalism and graffiti.

Taped to a front window is a November 2004 schedule for the Three Rivers, various notifications about Amtrak policies, a sign that says this is an unstaffed station, and a sign that says the Three Rivers no longer stops at this station. In fact there is no Three Rivers anymore anywhere.

What is missing is the platform,which CSX ripped out in 2012 when it was conducting a clearance project as part of the development of its National Gateway.

Otherwise, Amtrak’s Akron station remains frozen in time more than a decade after the trains left for good.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The front of the former Amtrak station in Akron.

The front of the former Amtrak station in Akron as seen in March 2012. It still looks like this four years later.

Unless you looked carefully and found this sign you might think that Amtrak still served Akron.

Unless you looked carefully. you might miss this sign and think that Amtrak still served Akron.

In this March 2012 view work has begun to remove the Amtrak platform. The walkway from the station to the platform had already been removed.

In this March 2012 view, work has begun to remove the Amtrak platform. The walkway from the station to the platform had already been removed.

The Amtrak platform has since been removed by CSX. The view is looking west toward the site of the former Akron Union Depot.

The Amtrak boarding platform was removed by CSX i 2012. The view is looking west toward the site of the former Akron Union Depot.

Quaker Square looms over the former Amtrak station in Akron, but even it has changed. It is now owned by the University of Akron and used for student housing and special events.

Although Quaker Square still looms over the former Amtrak station in Akron, even it has changed. It is now owned by the University of Akron and used for student housing and special events.

A schedule from 2004 remains taped to the front window of the Akron Amtrak station despite the fact the train was discontinued more than a decade ago.

A schedule dated Nov. 1, 2004, remains taped to the front window of the Akron Amtrak station even though the train was discontinued more than a decade ago.

Some Pets Will Ride Amtrak for Free

December 1, 2016

Amtrak is allowing pets to travel with their owners for free between Dec. 9 and March 31, 2017, on select routes.

Amtrak logoThe promotion is part of a celebration of the release of a movie titled The Secret Life of Pets. The film is being released on Dec. 6 by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Amtrak has expanded in the past year the number of trains on which a limited number of pets may travel in carriers.

During the first year of the program, Amtrak has hosted more than 15,000 dogs and cats.

Further information about the pets ride free offer is available at select ticket counters and stations, and on trains, including AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi portals.

Amtrak will be awarding The Secret Life of Pets prizes to customers at some stations, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, Dallas, Baltimore, Cleveland, Portland, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville.

STB Finalizes Passenger Dispute Rules

December 1, 2016

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has issued its final rule implementing standards for resolving dispute between passenger carriers and their host railroads.

STBThe standards were mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015.

The STB said that “the FAST Act clarified and augmented the Board’s existing adjudicatory responsibilities related to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak).”

“Specific FAST Act provisions address STB adjudication of disputes regarding Amtrak cost recovery for its operation of state-supported routes, and costs allocated to states in their use of rail facilities for commuter rail operations within the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston Northeast Corridor.”

The FAST Act requires the Board to establish procedures for resolving such disputes, which may include the provision of professional mediation services. The Board said its final rule implements those provisions.

New N.F. Station to Open Next Tuesday

December 1, 2016

Amtrak will begin halting at the new Niagara Falls, New York, station next Tuesday.

Amtrak 4The station will be served daily by the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and two Empire Service trains from New York City.

Service is being phased in over a 24-hour period on the first day. The two Empire Service trains to New York will depart on Tuesday from the current station at 2701 Willard Ave.

The Maple Leaf and the two inbound Empire Service trains from New York will use the new station, located at 825 Depot Ave.

The new $43 million facility has been in the planning and construction stages for more than two decades and attracted attention after it took longer than expected for the city and Amtrak to agree on a lease.

Amtrak said it will notify passengers where to board and depart, as well as update its website.

Support for Daily Cardinal Builds in W.Va.

November 29, 2016

Support for daily service by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal is building in West Virginia, but supporters know that it remains long way off.

Amtrak CardinalAmong those recently supporting increasing the frequency of service of the tri-weekly train is the mayor of Charleston, Danny Jones.

Jones describes himself as train travel enthusiast who travels via Amtrak several times a year.

“It would bring more people through or more visitors if it were seven days a week,” Jones said. “However, “It would still lose money.”

Shortly after a conference was held in Cincinnati this past September to discuss a daily Cardinal, the West Virginia Governor’s Conference on Tourism unanimously passed a motion in favor of daily Cardinal service.

The Cincinnati conference was sponsored by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In the meantime, Mayor Jones is fighting to retain the Amtrak agent at the Charleston depot, which is wedged between MacCorkle Avenue and the CSX railroad tracks.

Jones said some improvements have been made to the stop, including the installation of benches outside and some signs and landscaping around the station.

Buffalo Station Committee to hold 1st Meeting

November 29, 2016

A committee to study sites for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, expects to hold its first meeting in December.

Amtrak 4The 17-member committee will review such locations as the former Buffalo Central Terminal, Larkinville, Canalside and the current Exchange Street Amtrak station.

The State of New York has allocated $20 for construction of the station and the committee will look to see if it can obtain some federal funding.

“We’ll be able to fast track these initiatives that unfortunately have taken the back burner because of a lack of funding,” said committee member Tim Kennedy, a state senator from Buffalo. “Now we can drive forward with those. And I think it fits right into the timetable that we’re looking at with the new train station in Buffalo.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said he will accept a challenge from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to decide on a station location within the next six months.

Viewliner Diner Training May Start Soon

November 26, 2016

Amtrak’s first Viewliner II diner will be ready for crew training once it completes a testing program in Florida.

Amtrak logoThe dining car is at the Hialeah Maintenance Facility near Miami.

Amtrak has ordered 25 Viewliner II diners for assignment to single-level long-distance trains, including the Lake Shore Limited and the Cardinal.

The cars were originally scheduled to be delivered two years ago but that has been delayed by production issues.

The Viewliner diners will replace Heritage Fleet dining cars, some of which have in the past several months been replaced by Amfleet food service cars.

Only the New York-New Orleans Crescent and the New York-Miami Silver Meteor are operating with Heritage dining cars.

The testing is being done at Hialeah because it maintains all single-level long-distance equipment.

Amtrak Offering ‘Track Friday’ Fare Sale

November 23, 2016

Amtrak is joining the Black Friday madness with a Track Friday fare sale.

Amtrak 3Between Friday, Nov. 25 and Mon day Nov. 28 (Cyber Monday), the passenger carrier is offering 30 percent off for travel between Dec. 10, 2016, and April 9, 2017, throughout Amtrak’s national network.

The fares are only available at Amtrak.com.

Moorman Likens Amtrak to an Old House That Just Needs Improvement, Not Reconstruction

November 22, 2016

Although he has been in office less than three months, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman doesn’t expect to be around for a long time.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

“My wife has told me that,” Moorman said at the Rail Trends 2016 Conference last week.

In his speech, Moorman said he is attempting to make Amtrak highly efficient, develop a stronger safety culture, and find the right person to lead the passenger carrier over the long term.

He also is seeking to build relationships with Amtrak’s host railroads.

He cited as an example his desire for Norfolk Southern chief dispatchers to get to know Amtrak operating officials so that they can solve problems together.

Moorman said that developing better relationships with its contract railroads is critical to being able to expand regional services.

He sees growth opportunities for regional trains and state-supported services in shorter corridors because they are attractive transportation alternative when compared to the hassle of flying and dealing with airport security.

“Amtrak’s bag fees are very low,” Moorman said. “And, you’ll hear this in our marketing, ‘there’s no middle seat.’ ”

Moorman described the long-distance trains as the “political glue” that holds Amtrak together and which play an essential role in providing transportation to underserved regions of the United States.

The Amtrak president said that although replacing Amtrak’s tired fleet of P42DC locomotives could be done relatively quickly, there is no fast solution to replacing Amfleet I and II equipment

That will require a source of funding as well as a new design. “We want to nail down what the cars should look like first,” Moorman said.

In the meantime, Amtrak has announced the replacement equipment that will be built to replace the Acela Express train sets with Moorman calling that a game-changer for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.

“It’s going to be a better product in every way,” Moorman said about the equipment that will be delivered starting in 2021.

Moorman sees Amtrak as having similar characteristic as an old house. It needs some attention, but not radical reconstruction.

“Amtrak’s not broken. There are things to be fixed,” Moorman said. “Think of me as the plumber.”

Moorman retired as head of Norfolk Southern in 2015 and initially spurned Amtrak’s overtures to replace Joseph Boardman as president.

He changed his mind after the Amtrak board of directors persisted in seeking him.

“I am not doing this for the money,” Moorman said. “I am doing this because the future of Amtrak is important to this country.”

He has brought on board some fellow retired NS executives, including Chief Operating Officer Mark Manion

Moorman said it will be easier to get legislators and others to support Amtrak if they can see that is is efficient and well-managed.

He said increasing efficiency means reducing operating losses while providing better service.

Although he sees Amtrak as safe and getting safer, Moorman said there is still work to be done to create a stronger safety culture.

This Month in the ARRC eBulletin

November 19, 2016

november-2016

In November 1990, Amtrak operated a publicity special through Indiana and Ohio to promote the upcoming reroutes of its Broadway Limited and Capitol Limited.

The new route of the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited included a stop in Akron so the publicity special stopped at Quaker Square where a large and enthusiastic crowd turned out to greet the train.

The November 2016 Akron Railroad Club eBulletin takes a look back at that cold and dreary day when Amtrak came to Akron.

To receive a copy of this issue of the eBulletin or to subscribe, send an email message to csanders429@aol.com. A subscription or back issue is free.