Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian’

Maintenance Worker Shortage Seen as Root Cause of Amtrak Checked Baggage Suspensions

October 1, 2022

A recent Amtrak announcement that checked baggage service will be suspended on two routes raised a few eyebrows because of the reason given for it.

The announcement cited equipment shortages, yet Amtrak in recent years has received 70 new Viewliner baggage cars that were built by CAF USA as part of a 125-car order placed in 2014.

The checked baggage service suspension will begin Oct. 3 on the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian.

The Amtrak announcement said the suspension will run through Nov. 17. Also affected on the Pennsylvanian will be checked bicycle service.

Trains magazine reported on its website that just five Viewliner baggage cars are known to be out of service.

The magazine’s report said the root cause of the service suspension is a lack of mechanical workers to perform maintenance on cars and locomotives.

That also has led to temporary suspensions of some Midwest Corridor trains from Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac), St. Louis, and Carbondale, Illinois.

In the wake of the service advisory announcing the suspension of checked baggage service on the Pennsylvanian and Carolinian, a printed service advisory posted in some stations erroneously said checked baggage service was being suspended on the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

That posted advisory said Amtrak “may occasionally suspend checked baggage and bicycle service along the route, due to equipment shortages.”

Although the Capitol Limited has long had checked baggage service, until this summer that was provided in the baggage compartment of a Superliner coach.

Amtrak added a Viewliner baggage car to Nos. 29 and 30 to increase capacity for checked bicycle service. However, in recent days the Viewliner baggage car has been absent from the Capitol.

Checked Bag Service Suspended on 2 Trains

September 24, 2022

Amtrak is suspending checked baggage service on two medium-distance trains through mid-November.

In a service advisory, the carrier cited a lack of equipment for suspending checked baggage service on the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian. The move also affects checked bicycle service.

The suspension of checked baggage service will begin on the Pennsylvanian on Oct. 3. No date was given for when checked baggage service will be suspended for the Carolinian.

Amtrak said it expects to resume checked baggage service and trainside checked bike services on or about Nov. 17.

“We will continue to re-assess equipment plans and update the plan for the winter,” the notice said.

The Rail Passengers Association said Amtrak’s notice doesn’t answer some questions, including whether it was prompted by the need for major maintenance of Viewliner baggage cars, a shortage of mechanical department workers, or having to re-assign equipment to other routes where the host railroad has imposed minimum axle counts.

On some corridor routes that have minimum axle counts requirements imposed by Canadian National, Viewliner baggage cars have been used to meet the axle count requirements.

PennDOT, NS Reach Agreement on Route Improvements to Pittsburgh-Harrisburg Route

June 28, 2022

An agreement has been reached between the state of Pennsylvania and Norfolk Southern on infrastructure improvements that will be made as part of plans to launch a second daily Amtrak train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

The improvements will cost $200 million with final details on the projects to be worked out by late this year.

Officials said the second Amtrak train is still about three years away from being inaugurated.

Currently the Pittsburgh-Harrisburg segment is served by Amtrak’s New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, which operates via Philadelphia.

There are numerous Amtrak trains operating between Harrisburg and Philadelphia on the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation did not provide any details about planned infrastructure projects and a department spokeswoman said the agreement has yet to be signed by all parties involved.

It is at this point an agreement in principle. Earlier reports indicated that 12 new and upgraded interlocking plants on the NS Pittsburgh Line.

2nd NYC-Pittsburgh Amtrak Train Deal Reached

February 19, 2022

A deal to bring a second Amtrak train to the New York-Pittsburgh route was announced on Friday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has agreed to pay $170.8 million in infrastructure upgrades to Norfolk Southern’s route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

The work will involve creating additional capacity for NS freight trains at yards in Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Portage, Altoona and Harrisburg.

The state will also help underwrite the operating expenses of the new train as it does the existing Pennsylvanian between New York and Pittsburgh.

It is unclear when the second train will begin. State officials had said it could be within three years but during a Friday news conference that included Gov. Tom Wolfe and Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose, officials said it could be up to five years before the train begins service.

That estimate takes into account how long it will be before the capital improvement work is completed.

State officials said the infrastructure work will be funded in part with money the state had been saving to buy new passenger equipment.

However, Pennsylvania plans to use federal funding that it expects to receive from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help pay for new equipment that will be used by Amtrak.

The work on NS property is expected to begin after an operating agreement with NS is completed. Officials expect that process to be finished by June.

Amtrak Service Returning to Normal

January 18, 2022

Amtrak service to Ohio was expected to return to normal today following several cancellations due to a winter storm that dumped heavy snow in some parts of the nation, including Northeast Ohio.

The Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington) was expected to depart both endpoints for the first time since last Friday.

No. 29 did not depart Washington on Sunday and Monday, and No. 30 did not depart Chicago on Saturday and Sunday.

The tri-weekly Cardinal is also expected to resume normal operations with its late Tuesday afternoon departure from Chicago and early Wednesday morning departure from New York.

Also returning to normal will be the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian. The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited was not affected by the storm and continuing operating throughout the weekend.

Next week, though, service cancellations lasting through late March will be implemented.

The Capitol Limited will not operate through Northeast Ohio on Saturday or Sunday while the Lake Shore Limited will not operate to Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday.

The service cancellations will begin on Jan. 25 for Nos. 48/49 and on Jan. 28 for Nos. 29 and 30.

Amtrak Cancels More Trains Today

January 17, 2022

Amtrak on Sunday posted more service cancellations for Monday (Jan. 17) due to a winter storm in the eastern United States.

Canceled in both directions is the Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington), making for the third consecutive day that No. 30 has not departed from Chicago. No. 29 last left Washington on Saturday.

The Pennsylvanian from Pittsburgh to New York was canceled as were Keystone Service Nos. 660, 661, 662 and 615 between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and New York. Keystone Service No. 667 will originate in Philadelphia rather than New York.

Also canceled in both directions are the Vermonter (Washington-St. Albans, Vermont) and Piedmont Service Nos. 73 and 74 (Raleigh, North Carolina-Charlotte, North Carolina).

Ethan Allen Express No. 291 (New York-Rutland, Vermont) will terminate at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Train 290 will originate in Albany-Rensselaer.

On the Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional train 99 (Boston-Newport News, Virginia) will terminate in Washington. Northeast Regionals 152 and 189 (Washington-New York) are canceled.

Northeast Regional 156 (Roanoke, Virginia-New York) is canceled as is Train 164 (Richmond, Virginia- Boston. Thus far one cancellation has been posted for Tuesday (Jan. 18). Ethan Allen Express No. 290 will originate at Albany-Rensselaer.

Johnstown Amtrak Station to be Renovated

November 23, 2021

Amtrak has agreed to contribute $16 million to a project to renovate its station in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

The work will include making the facility comply with standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act and otherwise bringing it up to a state of good repair.

The project include plans to replace the boarding platform, with an 8-inch above-top-of-rail island platform with a platform snow-melt system.

Other work included a new heating and air conditioning system for the station, and a new interior elevator, stairway, and storage area.

The existing baggage tunnel will be filled in and new concrete will be poured in the existing passenger tunnel, which also will see its lighting system repaired.

The tracks at the platform will be re-profiled on both sides of the boarding platform.

Work is expected to begin in October 2022. Once completed, the Johnstown station will also serve local public transit bus service.

Other funding for the project included a $24.45 million U.S. Department of Transportation RAISE grant which is being used to fund improvements to the CamTran Downtown Bus Intermodal Transportation Center and restore the historic Johnstown Inclined Plane system.

Johnstown is served by Amtrak’s New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Amtrak Pitches New Service in Pennsylvania

September 17, 2021

Amtrak brought its road show to Pennsylvania last week during a virtual round table event designed to drum up political support for federal funding that would enable Amtrak to expand service.

The passenger carrier has proposed expansions in the Keystone state that would bring new service to Scranton, Allentown and Reading, and increased service to Pittsburgh.

Some upgrades would be made to Amtrak’s existing Keystone Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

Amtrak officials said the expanded service could begin in three years but a lot of things would need to fall in place.

Chief among those is Congress approving funding for transportation infrastructure and host railroads agreeing to allow the service.

Amtrak estimates its Pennsylvania expansion plan would attract 1.3 million passengers annually by 2035, with the services contributing $200 million in annual economic impact and $6 billion in incremental economic activity from capital investments in Pennsylvania, based on a projected capital investment needed of $2.7 billion.

Currently, there are two Amtrak services in Pennsylvania funded by the state. The Pennsylvanian between Pittsburgh and New York and the Keystone Service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia handled 1.8 million passengers in fiscal year 2019.

Amtrak has suggested in its Amtrak ConnectUS plan:
    •    New service between Reading – Philadelphia – New York (three daily round trips);
    •    New service between Scranton – New York (three daily round trips);
    •    New service between Allentown – New York (two daily round trips);
    •    Expand Keystone service between Harrisburg – Philadelphia – New York from 12 daily round trips to 17 daily round trips, and reduce trip times by increasing Harrisburg – Philadelphia speeds to 125 mph; and
    •    Expand Pennsylvanian service between Pittsburgh – Philadelphia – New York from one daily round trip to two daily round trips, with one round trip extended to Cleveland.

Participating in the round table event were Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Amtrak President Stephen Gardner, Amtrak CEO William Flynn, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, Allentown Deputy Mayor Leonard Lightner, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, and Greater Reading Chamber Alliance President and CEO Jim Gerlach.

Ida’s Aftermath Hinders Amtrak Service

September 3, 2021

Flooding and other complications left by the remnants of Hurricane Ida played havoc with the operations of some Amtrak trains this week.

The storm dumped more than seven inches of rain in New York, prompting Amtrak to cancel service between Boston and Washington, and between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Amtrak said its Moynihan Train Hall in New York remained operational, but some trains were terminated or held at intermediate stations due to safety concerns.

They included the eastbound Cardinal, which was held at Trenton, New Jersey, Tuesday night for nearly 12 hours.

The westbound Capitol Limited was held for two hours at Cumberland, Maryland. By the time it reached Pittsburgh it was almost five hours late.

No. 29 arrived in Cleveland at 8:01 a.m. Thursday, five hours and eight minutes late. It ultimately reached Chicago five hours, 43 minutes late.

The westbound Lake Shore Limited on Thursday was suspended between New York and Albany, but will operate from Albany to Chicago.

This same schedule modification will continue on Friday.

The New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and New York-Philadelphia Keystone Corridor trains are expected to resume operating on Friday.

Adventures at the 1985 NRHS Convention

August 14, 2021

An Amtrak Metroliner set passes through Lancaster station.

At the Strasburg Rail Road.


At Mt. Holly Springs


Steamers at the Gettysburg Railroad.

Two favorite destinations of mine over the past few years have been the Strasburg Rail Road with the visit of Norfolk & Western 611 and Horseshoe Curve near Altoona.

Way back in August 1985 when I visited these places they had a very different look.

The event was the 1985 NRHS Convention based out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Of the four 4 steamers in operation during our venture, only one will eventually be steaming again, hopefully. Two of the locomotives in operation at Strasburg from the collection of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania were Pennsylvania Railroad 4-4-2 No. 7002 and PRR 4-4-0 No. 1223. They were the stars of the convention.

A few years later they were returned to the collection across the street at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Another trip was an excursion on the Gettysburg Railroad. Steamers at the Gettysburg were Canadian National 2-8-2 No. 3254 and Huntingdon & Broad Top 2-8-0 No. 38.

The 3254 was traded to Steamtown National Historic Site for Canadian Pacific No. 1278.

H&BT No. 38 is now at the Everett Railroad. It is the locomotive to be restored, hopefully, in the near future.

The convention concluded with an Amtrak special from Lancaster to Horseshoe Curve/Gallitzin and return.  As you can see this was during the Conrail years.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas