Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

At Last, I ‘Landed’ Amtrak P42DC No. 156

May 23, 2016
Amtrak No. 156, the Phase I heritage locomotive, led a train of a Viewliner baggage car, an Amfleet II coach, an Amfleet cafe car and a Viewliner sleeper.

Amtrak No. 156, the Phase I heritage locomotive, led a train of a Viewliner baggage car, an Amfleet II coach, an Amfleet cafe car and a Viewliner sleeper.

Until early this month, I had seen Amtrak P42DC just once. That occurred as I was leaving Chicago Union Station aboard the eastbound Capitol Limited and I got a glimpse of the 156 sitting in the coach yard south of the depot.

My memory is that it went out later that night on the point of the eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

I’m one to think that Amtrak’s Phase I livery was its best. In particular, I liked how it looked on the SDP40F locomotives, but the E and F units looked nice in the “pointless arrow” scheme, too.

The Phase I livery did not look so good on GG1 electric motors, but I never saw any of those other than in photographs.

No. 156 has been all over the country, but our paths have never crossed. I’ve seen scores of photographs of it, including some made in Cleveland.

Some guys I know in the Akron Railroad Club have caught No. 156 more than once. I, though, never even had as much as a near miss with the 156.

I didn’t know that it would be in Toledo for this year’s National Train Day event until Friday afternoon before the event when I saw a posting about it on Facebook. Needless to say, that had me quite excited.

My friend Adam and I arrived in Toledo just after 8 a.m. and there was, at long last, the 156.

Yes, I took a lot of photographs of it. To be sure, it was just sitting there, providing hotel power for an Amtrak display train.

But that didn’t matter. It’s nose was open and it looked like it was pulling a train.

Now that I finally have it, the next challenge is to catch it actually leading a train on the road. That might take some time and a little bit of luck as well.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Of course I made a roster shot of Amtrak 156.

Of course I made a roster shot of Amtrak 156.

The nose needs a little touch-up painting to cover some scratches and dings from life on the road.

The nose needs a little touch-up painting to cover some scratches and dings from life on the road.

The passenger side of the platform with the display train.

The passenger side of the platform with the display train.

If the fuel outlet is where the edge of the "pointless arrow" is supposed to go, no problem. Just paint over it.

If the fuel outlet is where the edge of the “pointless arrow” is supposed to go, no problem. Just paint over it.

Pittsburgh Group Pushing Added Amtrak Service

May 23, 2016

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is supporting efforts to increase the level of Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation for the group, plans to meet with Gov. Tom Wolf to push the service expansion, which she said would cost $10 million to $13 million a year.

“This is a very affordable transportation project,” Beattie said. “This is not an extravagant project. It’s very doable.”

Amtrak logoPittsburgh officials are seeking to increase service from one roundtrip a day to three roundtrips.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation underwrites most of the costs of the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency has asked Amtrak how much it would cost to add one train a day and whether it has the needed equipment and track access.

Under a law approved in 2013, the state has about $8 million a year earmarked for rail service but Kirkpatrick said those funds are already allocated.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the passenger carrier is working on a comprehensive study for the state but he wouldn’t discuss any specifics.

“We are working as fast as we can to put together the information,” Tolbert said. “At this point, I do not have a time frame for when that will be done.”

Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, said additional Amtrak service would also benefit such communities as Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewistown because they have few public transportation options.

Beattie said that the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg route has the second highest percentage of filled seats among Amtrak’s top 17 routes with patronage having increased every year since 2005 when the service fell from two roundstrips to one with the discontinuance of the Three Rivers.

“We think there’s an unmet demand for more service,” she said. “It can only grow so far with one train.”

Beattie also noted that Pennsylvania helps to fund 14 daily trips on the Harrisburg-to-Philadelphia segment of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia route.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing what the governor has to say about rail, especially service to the western part of the state. [Additional service] would connect parts of the state that aren’t connected now,” she said.

Amtrak Excursion to Allentown Won’t Run

May 21, 2016

A planned Amtrak excursion train between New York and Allentown, Pennsylvania, won’t be operating due to lack of action by Norfolk Southern.

The train also was to inspect the route for the prospect of possible regular service between the two cities, although officials said that service is years away from happening.

Amtrak logoNS owns the portion of the route not used by New Jersey Transit and the freight hauler apparently had not made any plans to host the passenger special.

NS spokesman Rudy Husband said NS hasn’t ruled out hosting an excursion, but it would require “a lot more planning.” Husband indicated that for now the train won’t be operating.

Amtrak Vice President for Government Affairs and Corporate Communications Joseph McHugh said the passenger carrier will continue to work with officials in the Lehigh Valley toward instituting the service, but indicated it is at least a decade away.

Allentown has been without passenger service since the late 1960s. A route via the Reading and Central Railroad of New Jersey that connected Jersey City, New Jersey, ended in 1966.

Two years later the Reading ended service from Allentown to Philadelphia.

Inside an Amtrak Viewliner Baggage Car

May 16, 2016
The exterior of the Viewliner sleeper on display in Toledo at National Train Day.

The exterior of the Viewliner sleeper on display in Toledo at National Train Day.

Amtrak passengers seldom get an inside look of a baggage car. If you are riding in a coach or sleeper next to a baggage car you might be able to get a glimpse inside the baggage car through the door window of your car.

So it was a rare opportunity during the annual National Train Day festival in Toledo recently to be able to go inside one of the new Viewliner baggage car.

The car has racks to hold luggage but they were locked upright, probably to prevent children from climbing on them.

At one end of the car was a cabinet that can be locked. Someone on a railfan chat list suggested it is or could be used for storing firearms that have been checked as luggage.

The car has the familiar bowed sides of a Viewliner on the inside.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

Looking down the middle of the interior.

Looking down the middle of the interior.

Getting a closer look at the luggage racks that were in the up position.

Getting a closer look at the luggage racks that were in the up position.

A locked cabinet sat at one end of the car.

A locked cabinet sat at one end of the car.

The current Amtrak logo on the side of the car.

The current Amtrak logo on the side of the car.

Bikes May be Checked on Pere Marquette

May 12, 2016

Amtrak is now offering walk-up checked bike service aboard the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette.

The service began on May 6 and is available at all stations served by the train. Passengers must make a reservation and pay a $10 fee.

Amtrak 4Bike tickets must be presented to the conductor when boarding the train. To reserve a space for a bike, click on “add bike” when booking a reservation at Amtrak.com or by calling 800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

Bike reservations can also be made at Amtrak ticket offices and at Quik-Trak ticketing kiosks in Chicago, St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, Holland and Grand Rapids.

Bike reservations cannot be made through Amtrak mobile apps. Only one bike is permitted per person.

Passengers will be provided a bike tag by station employees in Chicago and by the train crew at St. Joseph-Benton, Harbor, Holland and Grand Rapids.

Passengers must present their bike tag at the baggage car to retrieve their bike from the train crew at their destination.

Amtrak said passengers checking bikes should arrive 30 minutes prior to train departure to allow sufficient time to obtain their ticket and baggage tag, and to get their bike to the baggage car.

Only standard size bikes will be permitted. Large seat/saddle bags must be removed from bikes. These items can be carried on the train and will count as a carry-on item.

Passengers must be physically capable of lifting their bike up to shoulder height to an employee standing in the baggage car. Passengers are not permitted in this car. Amtrak personnel will store and secure the bike to the bike racks.

Roger’s Take on Toledo National Train Day

May 11, 2016
Among the first responders who posed with Norfolk Southern 9-1-1 were a Toledo Fire Department Truck . . .

Among the first responders who posed with Norfolk Southern 9-1-1 were a Toledo Fire Department Truck . . .

 . . . an a Norfolk Southern police vehicle.

. . . an a Norfolk Southern police vehicle and officer.

The former BNSF speeder that I rode.

The former BNSF speeder that I rode.

The far east end of Toledo Central Union Terminal as seen from a speeder.

The far east end of Toledo Central Union Terminal as seen from a speeder.

NS 9-1-1 and Ann Arbor 3879 lined up for display.

NS 9-1-1 and Ann Arbor 3879 lined up for display.

An Amtrak Thruway bus features the Amtrak logo as well as the markings of its owner/operator.

An Amtrak Thruway bus features the Amtrak logo as well as the markings of its owner/operator.

Greyhound now serves Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Greyhound now serves Toledo Central Union Terminal.

I stayed overnight in Toledo on Friday and then spent Saturday at the annual National Train Day festival. Here is a selection of special photographs that I made.

BNSF No. 336 is the speeder I rode. The station photo showing the old platforms  at the east end was taken from the speeder.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Lake Shore Limited Locomotive Order Revoked

May 11, 2016

Although the Lake Shore Limited continues to operate with just one P42DC locomotive on many days, an earlier Amtrak order to isolate a second unit if it has one has been rescinded.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedThe order, which had been effective on April 14, had directed crews to isolate trailing units on Nos. 48 and 49 between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, unless operating conditions required it to provide traction.

The order was originally given in an effort to conserve fuel use.

Some Want to See Pere Marquette Rerouted

May 10, 2016

The Michigan Department of Transportation is looking into the prospect of routing Amtrak’s Pere Marquette via Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, train, currently operates via Holland along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Michigan DOT3The study is being made at the request of Grand Rapids leaders who hope that going via Kalamazoo might reduce the travel time to Chicago.

MDOT and Amtrak are working to rebuild the track between Chicago and Detroit to allow speeds of up to 110 mph.

The track being upgraded is owned by Amtrak between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana, and by MDOT between Kalamazoo and Detroit.

MDOT Communications Manager Michael Frezell said his agency has discussed the idea of rerouting the Pere Marequette via Kalamazoo, but not in any sort of definitive way because “it isn’t a priority.”

The route via Kalamazoo is used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverines and the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water. Those trains, along with the Pere Marquette are funded by MDOT.

The Pere Marquette joins the Chicago-Detroit route at Porter with all of the Michigan trains using Norfolk Southern tracks between Porter and Chicago.

The current track work in Michigan is seeking to cut an hour off the travel time between Chicago and Detroit and to reduce the travel time between Chicago and Kalamazoo to less than two hours.

“As Chicago gets more expensive to park and more congested to get into, (rail service) provides a great option,” said Jill Bland, executive vice president with Southwest Michigan First, a Kalamazoo-based regional economic development firm. “And with wi-fi and cars being upgraded, it’s definitely something we use in our toolbox when talking with companies.”

Grand Rapids interests believe that connecting their city with the Chicago-Detroit corridor at Kalamazoo could stimulate greater greater mobility in the Grand Rapids area

However, MDOT’s Frezell said residents of such Southwest Michigan cities as Bangor, St. Joseph and Holland — all of which are served by the Pere Marquette  — need rail service, too, and that is why the discussion about rerouting the Pere Marquette via Kalamazoo has not gone very far.

Rick Chapla, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Right Place Inc., a Grand Rapids-based regional economic development firm, said that cutting the travel time and increasing service by rail between Grand Rapids and Chicago needs to be made a priority.

“Anything we can do to enhance connectivity between West Michigan, Chicago and the east side of the state is a positive,” Chapla said. “(A route from) Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo allows us the mobility to go east and west. It’s a critical link.”

That increased mobility also includes rail service linking Grand Rapids and Detroit.

This past February, a study of a cross-state rail passenger route estimated that it could serve 1.71 million travelers annually.

Although the upgrading of the Chicago-Detroit corridor has been linked with increased train frequencies, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has no plans to consider that until after the track rebuilding project is finished and work to alleviate rail congestion in Chicago is completed.

Increased rail service is also necessary because Southwestern Michigan has become an exurb for Chicago.

Bland of Southwest Michigan First said her organization has been hearing that an increasing number of people working in Chicago are living in areas such as Niles and Benton Harbor and ride Amtrak or the South Shore Line to and from work.

She said that enhancing rail passenger service will help solidify Southwest Michigan’s connection to Chicago.

“As the northern Indiana [rail] passage becomes more reliable and the Chicago project gets completed, it’s fair to say we can market that we are a suburb of Chicago,” Bland said.

CVSR Baggage Car Back in Service for Bikes

May 10, 2016

A former Northern Pacific baggage car has been overhauled by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and is being used to tote bicycles for the carrier’s Bike Aboard program.

The renovations began in early 2015 at the Fitzwater shops, funded in part from a Transit in the Parks grant.

CVSRThe car received new structural side and end sills along with new exterior and interior side sheets. Also installed were rebuilt couplers, new wheels, new 480-volt wiring and new bike racks.

The brake system was rebuilt and the car repainted.

Car No. 1129 was built in 1954 and later was part of the Amtrak fleet before it was acquired by the CVSR.

Mechanical issues sidelined it several years after the CVSR put it in service.

NS 9-1-1, Amtrak 156, Ann Arbor Heritage Unit Shine Under Friday Night Lights at Toledo C.U.T.

May 9, 2016
amt156ntd01

Amtrak’s Phase I heritage locomotive was on the point of a four car display train that mimicked the consist of the Lake Shore Limited.

Here is a selection of the night photos from Toledo’s National Train Day festival that were made on Friday night.

The engineer is Engineer Steve, one of the main driving forces behind the National Train Day in Toledo and the one who set up the equipment. Lighting was provided by David Patch, a transportation reporter with The Blade of Toledo.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Norfolk Southern's  first responders tribute unit looks spiffy. Behind it is Ann Arbor GP38 No. 3879.

Norfolk Southern’s
first responders tribute unit looks spiffy. Behind it is Ann Arbor GP38 No. 3879.

Watco brought out its Ann Arbor heritage locomotive, a GP38.

Watco brought out its Ann Arbor heritage locomotive, a GP38.

Engineer Steve poses at the controls of SD60E No. 9-1-1 on display at Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Engineer Steve poses at the controls of SD60E No. 9-1-1 on display at Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Engineer Steve climbs aboard Amtrak P42DC No. 156 as he "goes to work."

Engineer Steve climbs aboard Amtrak P42DC No. 156 as he “goes to work.”

NS 9-1-1 and the photographers that captured it under the lights.

NS 9-1-1 and the photographers that captured it under the lights.

 


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