Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Plans Set for Annual New River Train

August 10, 2017

Plans have been announced for the annual New River Train, which will roll on Oct. 21, 22, 28, and 29 between Huntington, West Virginia, and Hinton, West Virginia, through the New River Gorge.

New this year will be a consist of all heritage cars from private owners.

Gone are the Amtrak Amfleet and Horizon  coaches that have characterized the makeup of past trains.

All of the 30 cars on the New River Train will come from private owners. Three Amtrak P42DC locomotives will pull the train.

Some of the passenger cars expected to be in the consist include California Zephyr vista-dome car Silver Solarium, Pullman-built Milwaukee Road Super Dome, Budd-built full-length dome car Summit View, the Overland Trail, a former Southern Pacific barber shop car, and Great Northern full-length dome car Prairie View.

Other cars will include lounge and passenger cars built for the New York Central, Pennsylvania Railroad, Baltimore & Ohio and Central of Georgia Railway

Sponsored by the the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, the 51st running of the New River Train will travel CSX’s Kanawha and New River subdivisions, both of which are former Chesapeake & Ohio.

The train has a capacity of 1,200 passengers per day and usually sells out by early September. Some heritage coach tickets remain at $179 per person.

2 Hours of Nothing, Then 3 Trains Showed Up

August 5, 2017

I got lucky that the CSX train showed up in Harpers Ferry as Amtrak was leaving, not as it was arriving.

As any railfan knows, traffic lulls are a part of the hobby. You set up someplace to wait for a train and minutes and even hours go by with nothing moving.

Such was the case for me during a recent visit to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

I arrived at the former Baltimore & Ohio passenger station, which is now owned by the National Park Service, just before 4 p.m.

I sat down on a bench, got my scanner out and waited. And waited and waited.

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is scheduled into Harpers Ferry at 5:16 p.m. A MARC commuter train from Washington to Martinsburg, West Virginia, is scheduled to arrive just after 6 p.m.

Presumably, CSX, which owns the tracks here, would put something through before or immediately after those trains. Instead, I heard nothing more than radio silence.

A call to Amtrak Julie confirmed that No. 29 had departed Washington at 4:48 p.m., which was 43 minutes late. Yet she insisted that the Capitol would arrive on time, but depart two minutes late.

Yeah, right. No way that was going to happen. Later, Julie amended her estimate to arriving at 6:01 p.m. which would put No. 29 just ahead of the MARC train.

A sign at the station said the MARC train was on time. Amtrak No. 29 would have to pass the MARC train somewhere or else it would be lagging behind it.

Around 5:30 p.m., the signal for eastbound track No. 2 turned from stop to clear. CSX had an eastbound coming.

The question was whether it would arrive at the wrong time. I wanted to use my telephoto lens to get Amtrak and MARC coming out of the iconic tunnel on the Maryland side of the Potomac River and then crossing the river on a bridge.

That shot would work best when made from the eastbound platform. There is a tunnel beneath the tracks so I could get to the westbound platform if need be.

Just before 6, a headlight appeared in the tunnel. A scratchy radio transmission indicated that the CSX train was in the vicinity.

The MARC train was running a bit early, which is allowed by the timetable. Amtrak was a few minutes behind it.

As it turned out, the CSX eastbound manifest freight didn’t arrive until Amtrak was leaving.

I had waited two hours and then gotten three trains in a 15-minute span. Or, you could say, it was just another day by the tracks.

After two hours of waiting, here comes the MARC train.

Approaching the platform and not getting blocked by a CSX eastbound freight.

The commuters have been dropped off and the MARC train leaves for Martinsburg.

A few minutes behind MARC here comes Amtrak’s Capitol Limited minus a baggage car today.

Approaching the platform.

FRA Publishes Rules For Passenger Rail Test Program

August 5, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration has established its rules for seeking competitor bids to replace Amtrak on up to three long-distance routes.

The agency published the rules in the Federal Register and they take effect on Sept. 5.

The pilot program is mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The rules establish a petition, notification and bid process as well as establish deadlines for filing petitions and bids and the execution of contracts with winning bidders.

The FAST Act described an “eligible petitioner” for the pilot program as one that owns the relevant rail infrastructure on the route or has a “written agreement” with the rail infrastructure owner.

A winning bidder who doesn’t own the infrastructure must obtain from the owner a written agreement that governs access issues.

No Timeline Set for Return to Hyndman

August 4, 2017

CSX officials said Thursday night it was uncertain how long it would be before residents of Hyndman, Pennsylvania, would be able to return to their homes.

Some 1,000 people were evacuated on Wednesday after an eastbound CSX manifest freight derailed and cars carrying propane and molten sulfur caught fire.

The fires were still blazing on Thursday night and railroad officials have said they were letting them burn out.

A CSX spokesman said that the railroad has started to remove some cars from the site, transporting them to rail yards to the north and south of where 32 cars derailed around 5 a.m. on Wednesday.

CSX has established community outreach centers at Tri-State Ministries Center and Bedford United Methodist Church. It has also made motel reservations for those displaced by the derailment.

One private home and a garage were damaged during the derailment and CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle the carrier will pay for the repair of both.

First responders are collecting donations for Hyndman firefighters, who have been on duty since the derailment occurred.

On Thursday evening, railroad officials said that its hazardous materials specialists assessed the damage from a safe distance Wednesday afternoon.

No Hyndman residents or railroad crew members were injured in the derailment.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have arrived at the scene about 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, but have been unable to examine the derailment site because of the fires.

At least one car containing liquefied petroleum gas and one containing molten sulfur were burning.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said that a handful of people have refused to evacuate from near the derailment scene, but emergency responders know where they’re located.

Wolf said Thursday afternoon that the potential for a propane explosion has diminished, but it’s still possible.

Bedford County 911 coordinator Harry Corley said that everyone within a mile radius of the scene was ordered to leave.

Wolf said health officials are conducting air and ground studies to determine possible health effects.

The train, Q388, was traveling from Chicago to Selkirk, New York.

Amtrak has suspended operations of the Capitol Limited between Pittsburgh and Washington. Passengers for points between those two cities are being transported by bus. Nos. 29 and 30 are continuing to operate between Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Hyndman is a town of just over 800 residents near the Maryland border.

Amtrak Offering $5 Tickets to Detroit

August 4, 2017

Amtrak is offering $5 tickets for travel to Detroit through Sept. 4. The fares are good for travel originating on the Wolverine Service route at Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Pontiac, Royal Oak and Troy.

Once in Detroit, passengers can ride the new QLine, a streetcar route that is offering free rides through Labor Day.

The 3.3-mile route on Woodward Avenue features 12 stops, including Comerica Park, the Fox Theatre and Midtown.

QLine streetcars operate Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Hoosier State Struggled to Run on Time in June

August 4, 2017

Amtrak trains are struggling to operate on time in the Chicago to Indianapolis corridor and the passenger carrier says its contract railroads are to blame.

Just one in three trains bound for Indianapolis arrived on time during June. On the other hand, the on-time performance of trains running from Indy to Chicago was nearly 90 percent during the month.

Combined, that represents an on-time rate of 62 percent, which is down from the 80 percent rates that the route had been posting.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said almost all the delays have been caused by freight-train interference and dispatchers giving priority to freight trains over Amtrak trains.

“We made it clear to them that we’d like June to be an outlier performance,” Magliari said.

Since taking over the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State from Iowa Pacific Holdings earlier this year, Amtrak has launched business class, food and beverage services, free Wi-Fi and the ability to make reservations for carry-on items in an effort to match the level of service that IP provided.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is working with an engineering firm to study the ways to shorten the travel time, including the possibility of using a different route.

The Hoosier State operates on days that the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.  Both trains serve intermediate stations in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

Some Amtrak Michigan Trains Subject to Delay

August 4, 2017

Amtrak has warned that some Michigan corridor trains are subject to delay due to the performance of system maintenance.

Affected are Wolverine Service trains 350 and 355, and Blue Water trains 364 and 365. The service advisory said the trains may experience delays of 15 to 30 minutes.

Amtrak did not say how long the maintenance program would last.

Amtrak, Lyft Announce Partnership

August 4, 2017

Amtrak and ride-sharing service Lyft have announced a partnership by which users of the Amtrak mobile app can gain access to the Lyft app to request a ride after arriving at a station.

New users of the Lyft app will get $5 off each of their first four Lyft rides by using Amtrak promo code “AMTRAKLYFT.”

Lyft now operates in more than 360 cities, covering about 80 percent of the U.S. population and reaching about 97 percent of Amtrak riders, Amtrak said in a news release.

Cleanup of CSX Derailment Continues in Pennsylvania

August 3, 2017

The cleanup continued Thursday following a derailment of a CSX freight train in Hyndman, Pennsylvania, that resulted in a fire and evacuation of the community.

Residents within a mile-radius of the derailment were ordered to leave. CSX opened two community outreach centers to help the displaced residents.

About 1,000 residents of Hyndman were put up on motels in nearby Cumberland, Maryland, and safety crews helped residents retrieve pets and prescription medicines.

The derailment of the eastbound 178-car freight train occurred early Wednesday morning and involved hazardous materials.

Railroad officials said 32 cars derailed, including a tank car carrying liquefied petroleum gas and another tanker carrying molten sulphur. Both leaked and caught fire. The train was en route to Selkirk, New York, from Chicago.

On Thursday afternoon, official said the fires will have to burn themselves out, because that was safer than trying to extinguish them. They were unable to say when residents would be able to return to their homes or when the tracks would be reopened.

Amtrak’s Capitol Limited will be limited to operating between Chicago and Pittsburgh for the next four days.

Warwick Moment Not Likely to be Repeated on Sunday

July 29, 2017

Here is a Warwick memory that won’t be repeated for Sunday’s picnic. A late-running eastbound Amtrak train lit by the early morning sun approaches Warwick Tower on July 1, 2004. The train is the Chicago-New York Three Rivers, which was discontinued in March 2005. Under ordinary circumstances, Nos. 40 and 41 were scheduled to pass through Warwick during darkness hours.

Photograph by Robert Farkas