Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Baseball Fans Flock to Chicago-Cleveland Flights

October 25, 2016

Chicago Cubs fans are flocking to Cleveland by air, by rail and by bus.

Amtrak logoA study by found that the number of airline passengers between Chicago and Cleveland this week is up by 50 percent.

The Cubs will open World Series play on Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

Games one and two in the series are in Cleveland on Tuesday and Wednesday with games three and four set for Friday and Saturday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Orbitz said it has been tracking travel purchases between the two cities for several days and concluded that Chicago fans are taking to public transportation in larger numbers than Cleveland fans. Of course it may be that Cleveland fans are more likely to drive than fly to Chicago.

Airline passengers flying between the two cities should be prepared for sticker shock.

The average roundtrip air fare is $495 originating in Chicago and $478 roundtrip for flights originating in Northeast Ohio.

Game tickets are officially sold out so scalpers are commanding top dollar in resale market.

Tickets to the games at Wrigley Field may be among the most expensive in sports history, starting at about $2,400, according to ticket resale site SeatGeek. By contrast, tickets to the games in Cleveland are starting at about $900 on the resale market.

The Indians last appeared in a World Series in 1997 and last won a Series in 1948. The Cubs last played in a World Series in 1945 and haven’t won the fall classic since 1908.

A check of the Amtrak website late Monday afternoon found that seats were still available on both the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited for travel from Chicago to Cleveland on Oct. 24 and 25. Coach fares started at $56 one way.

Amtrak Bans Galaxy Note 7 Smart Phones

October 25, 2016

Count Amtrak as among the nation’s common carriers that are banning the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smart phone.

Amtrak logoPassengers will be prohibited from not just traveling aboard trains with the phones, but the phones are being prohibited from station platforms and waiting areas.

Amtrak said those found onboard with a Galaxy Note 7 in their possession will be asked to leave the train at the next station.

“Because there is nothing more important than the safety of our customers and employees, we have decided to prohibit Samsung Galaxy Note 7 cell phones on Amtrak property due to potential serious safety risks,” an Amtrak spokesperson said. “This ban includes Amtrak trains, Thruway buses, facilities, stations, platforms, Amtrak vehicles, and as an item carried within a vehicle on Auto Train.”

Other carriers, including airlines, have banned the Galaxy Note 7 because of problems of faulty batteries catching fire and, in some cases, exploding.

The Federal Aviation Administration has prohibited passengers from flying with the phone.

Air travelers found with a Galaxy Note 7 could have their phone confiscated and “may face fines.”

Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Big Sky Country

October 23, 2016
Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak’s eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder passes through Montana during daylight hours in both directions. That makes it an attractive target for photographers.

Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee went chasing after the Builder during his trip to the Treasure State last September.

He tracked down No. 8 in various locations including against a backdrop of mountains, open range and grain elevators, making images near Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Malta and Havre.

This is the territory of the former Great Northern Railway, which was built by “empire builder” James Hill. For decades the Empire Builder was the premier passenger train on the GN.

Today these tracks are owned by BNSF and Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the only passenger train to use these rails.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.


Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Making a station stop in Malta.

Making a station stop in Malta.

In the barren countryside between Cut Bank and Shelby.

I like how I could do a broadside of the whole train out there.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Getting fuel in Havre.

Getting fuel in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre. The stained glass shows “Rocky,” the GN mascot.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

LSL Getting Business Class Service

October 22, 2016

Business class will be offered aboard Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited starting on Oct. 24.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedThe service will be available between Chicago and Albany-Rensselaer and Boston. Amtrak said passengers in business class will have reserved seating in a car dedicated to business class.

Other amenities for business class passengers will include complimentary coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages; access to digital newspapers on AmtrakConnect; Amtrak Guest Rewards® Business Class bonus points; access to Chicago Union Station’s Metropolitan Lounge; and a fully refundable ticket if canceled prior to departure.

The service will begin with Train 48/448 originating in Chicago on Oct. 24 and on Train 49/449 originating at Boston and Albany-Rensselaer on Oct. 26.

The service is not available between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

Track Works Disrupts Maple Leaf Route

October 22, 2016

Scheduled track work will disrupt Amtrak’s New York-Toronto Maple Leaf on Oct. 24, 25 and 26.

Amtrak logoTrain No. 63 will terminate on all three days at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Bus service will be provided to Toronto and at all intermediate stations.

Train No. 64 will originate at Buffalo Exchange Street station on Oct. 25 and 26 with bus service provided from Toronto to Buffalo, stopping at all intermediate stations.

Amtrak Set 2016 Ridership, Revenue Records

October 22, 2016

Low gasoline prices did not prevent Amtrak from breaking revenue and ridership records fiscal year 2016.

Amtrak logoThe passenger carrier hosted about 31.2 million passengers, up 1.3 percent from 2015, and generated $2.2 billion in ticket revenue, up 0.03 percent.

Former Amtrak President Joseph Boardman had earlier this year imposed various cost-cutting measures, saying that Amtrak faced a $167.3-million ticket revenue shortfall compared with the amount originally budgeted.

However, the carrier’s actual performance exceeded the revised downward forecast by 3.3 percent even as it was 4.3 percent off the original FY 2016 projection.

The California Zephyr posted an 11.2 percent increase in ridership and 6.2 percent in revenue.

The removal of full-service dining cars and meals included in sleeping car fares on the Silver Star led to a 5 percent decline in passengers and 11.6 percent in ticket revenue.

The Auto Train lost more than 12 percent of its riders and almost 8 percent of its revenue.

Among state-supported corridor trains, a push to complete infrastructure improvements to create higher speed service depressed ridership and revenue of Wolverine Service and Lincoln Service trains due to service cancellations.

The quad-weekly Hoosier State carried about as many passengers in 2016 as it did the previous year, but revenue increased by about $250,000 or 36 percent.

The offering of premium business class service by operator Iowa Pacific was credited with the increase in revenue.

Although Amtrak’s ridership and revenue data do not show passenger mile or revenue per-train mile comparisons, the 15 long-distance trains generated slightly more ticket revenue carrying less than 32 percent of the passengers of the state-supported trains.

This is partly  because the long-distance trains offer such higher-price services as sleeping car accommodations.

New River Train Marks 50th Anniversary

October 22, 2016

Chartered trains through West Virginia’s New River Gorge marked their 50th anniversary this month.

West VirginiaThe trains are sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society and operated this year between Huntington and Hinton on the third and fourth weekends of the month.

Past years have seen such steam locomotives as the Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Milwaukee Road No. 261 and Pere Marquette No. 1225 pull the trains, but these days the motive power is Amtrak P40DC and P42DC locomotives.

The trains travel over the Kanawha and New River subdivisions of CSX.

For the 2016 trips, Amtrak assigned heritage units  822 and 156 to the 30-car trains, which included 24 private cars.

Among the private varnish in the consist this year was: Passaic River, Powhatan Arrow, St. Augustine, Wenonah, Nokomis, Lake Pepin, Alexander Hamilton, Wisconsin Valley, Super, Dome, Dover Harbor, Prairie View, Scenic View, Braddock Inn, New York Central 38, New York Central 43, Morris County, Birken Diner, New York Central 448 Diner, Kitchi Gammi Club, J. Pickney Henderson, Berlin, Moonlight Dome, Silver Lariat, and Dearing.

Amtrak OIG Urges Budgeting for PTC

October 22, 2016

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General is urging the passenger carriers to budget for the installation of positive train control.

Amtrak logoIn a report, the OIG, said that although Amtrak has has made strides in implementing automated braking technology, it still has several tasks to complete before it reaches full implementation before the end of the federally-mandated deadline of 2018

The report said Amtrak still needs to complete 33 percent of its planned trackside installations, submit a safety plan to the Federal Railroad Administration, resolve potential radio frequency spectrum issues and install onboard systems in its locomotives.

The OIG report said Amtrak has not properly accounted for the full cost of PTC technology. Those costs may be “millions more than is currently budgeted.”

Amtrak had spent about $183 million on PTC implementation through June 30 and plans to spend about another $35 million through 2018.

But those estimates are “incomplete” and don’t include other potential contingency costs, the OIG report concluded.

The OIG encouraged Amtrak to update its costs estimates in order to ensure that sufficient funds are available for the project and to enhance project schedules to better track the completion of key events and remaining tasks and clarify the roles of managers who are responsible for PTC implementation.

The report said that Amtrak management agreed with all three recommendations.

Challenges of Establishing New Amtrak Station in Buffalo Addressed During Public Hearing

October 22, 2016

Building a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, will take some time and it won’t come cheap.

But those pushing for a new station are optimistic that it will be built.

Amtrak 4That was the consensus at a recent public meeting to discuss what needs to be done to get a depot to replace the current Exchange Street station.

That facility closed last month after its ceiling caved in following heavy rains.

Amtrak’s Empire Service and Maple Leaf continue to stop at Exchange Street.

For now, the only open station building in Buffalo is in suburban Depew, which is also served by the Lake Shore Limited.

Among the options for a new station are building in Canalside or restoring Buffalo Central Terminal, which has not hosted scheduled passenger trains since 1979.

Speakers at the hearing said that before a station can be built, the region needs to undertake a study, obtain funding and gain the support of political officials.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said it remains to be seen if if the city or the state should guide the process.

“The key is finding the right agency or government organization to take the lead,” Becker said. “The City of Buffalo would be a natural to do that because it’s in the City of Buffalo, and would benefit the City of Buffalo. But somebody has to say, ‘I’m going to step up because this is important.’ ”

An advantage of using Central Terminal is that it would be able to serve all Amtrak trains passing through Buffalo.

Niagara Falls Senior Planner Tom DeSantis said his city spent nearly two decades planning and constructing a new station that Amtrak still has not agreed to use.

“You’re in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “It won’t probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we’ve gone over all of the options. We’ve weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want.”

The Niagara Falls station cost $43 million.

Becker said rehabilitating Central Terminal would be a more complex project than was constructing the station in Niagara Falls.

“We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark,” Becker said. “A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that’s a huge undertaking.”

The challenge of renovating the existing Exchange Street Station is that it is in a less than ideal location and is not handicapped accessible. The station, the platform and the tracks have different ownership.

Capitol Limited Stowaway Charged With Using Vouchers Bought With Stolen Credit Card

October 21, 2016

Police arrested a man in Pittsburgh who authorities said stowed away aboard Amtrak’s Capitol Limited using travel vouchers acquired with a stolen credit card.

amtrak-capitol-limitedAmtrak police arrested Javon Damian Jones who appeared before a judge in Pittsburgh on Oct. 19.

Police are unsure of Jones’ hometown, but said the last place they were able to determine that he lived was in a community shelter in Cleveland.

Although police have yet to disclose details about why Jones was detained, authorities said they had been watching him as part of a continuing criminal investigation.

Jones is alleged to have used nearly $7,000 in vouchers that he acquired with a stolen credit card.

Police said Jones traveled alone Chicago and Washington without luggage in a sleeping car room.

Jones was charged with receiving stolen property and being a stowaway. Police said additional charges are pending.