Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Amtrak station’

Getting Off in Cleveland

September 24, 2021

That’s my suitcase on the platform at the Cleveland Amtrak station. I have just disembarked from the eastbound Lake Shore Limited after a trip to Illinois to visit my Dad.

When this image was made on May 24, 2013, the cost of booking a sleeper room on either the Lake Shore or Capitol Limited was more reasonable than it has been in recent years. It was not something I did often, but I did it on occasion to have the sleeping car experience even if only for a few hours.

It also was the era when passengers boarding sleepers in Chicago on No. 48 received a welcome aboard reception in the dining car of wine and cheese.

However, I was in the Boston sleeper on this trip and thus several cars away from the diner, so the car attendant brought the wine and cheese to our rooms. It wasn’t quite the same as consuming it in the dining car with other passengers.

The welcome aboard reception for sleeper class passengers fell by the wayside years ago, presumably a cost-cutting move.

I have not been aboard a Viewliner sleeper as a traveling passenger since the day I disembarked in Cleveland when this photograph was made.

Cleveland Amtrak Station Parking Lot to be Closed for Resurfacing

August 20, 2021

A parking resurfacing project will result in the parking lot of the Cleveland Amtrak station being close between Aug. 23 and 27.

All vehicles in the lot must be moved by Aug. 22. Those are aren’t will be towed or relocated.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers are being encouraged to arrange to be picked up or dropped off just before their train is to arrive or shortly after they have disembarked.

Amtrak said access to the station during the resurfacing project will be available through the Marginal Road entrance for all trains for pick up and drop off only.

An Amtrak Birthday Treat

November 2, 2020

It is Nov. 13, 1998. The eastbound Pennsylvanian is stopped in the Cleveland Amtrak station, having begun service a week earlier.

Photographer Ed Ribinskas is standing in a parking garage overlooking Conrail’s Lakefront Line.

In the background the stadium that will host the expansion Cleveland Browns franchise is under construction.

Ed said getting this photo of Amtrak train No. 44 was a birthday present that he gave himself.

Photograph by Edward Ribinskas

The Day the Pennsylvanian Came to Cleveland

October 25, 2020
The first eastbound Pennsylvanian has arrived in Cleveland in November 1998.

It was one of those quintessential November days in Cleveland with gray skies overhead.

But if you were a rail passenger advocate then, metaphorically speaking, the skies could not have been any bluer.

After years of pushing for it, Amtrak was extending its New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian west of the Steel City.

Finally, Northeast Ohio would see an Amtrak train in daylight hours in circumstances other than an existing scheduled train running several hours late.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s Amtrak would put on show to celebrate the inauguration of new service.

On Nov. 7, 1998, it was Cleveland’s turn for that with the Pennsylvanian coming to town.

It was not, though, the first time in the 1990s that an Amtrak publicity train had come to Northeast Ohio.

In fall 1990 Amtrak ran a publicity special through Akron and Cleveland in advance of the rerouting of the Broadway Limited via Akron and the Capitol Limited via Cleveland.

Those publicity trains were greeted by marching bands, speakers and a festive welcoming ceremony.

By contrast, when the Pennsylvanian came to Cleveland the celebration was more subdued.

There was a speaker inside the station and a specially decorated cake. But there were no marching bands and Amtrak did not assign the publicity train an open platform car or a dome car as it had in 1990.

There was a respectable crowd to greet the first No. 44, which arrived on a Saturday from Chicago.

My photographs from that day show people clustered around the vestibules of the Horizon coaches and I’m not sure if they were allowed onboard to tour the train or if some of them were boarding as ticketed passengers.

I struck up a brief conversation with Amtrak conductor George
Sanders, noting we shared a last name in common but were otherwise unrelated.

He posed for a photograph and I got his address and later sent him a copy.

The train rolled into the station with two P42DC locomotives, two material handling cars, a Superliner Sightseer lounge, a Superliner transition sleeper, two Horizon fleet coaches, an Amfleet coach, an Amfleet café car and a string of RoadRailers on the rear.

The RoadRailers were a sign of why Amtrak had extended the Pennsylvanian to Chicago.

The Three Rivers, which had replaced the Broadway Limited in 1995 between New York and Pittsburgh and been extended to Chicago in November 1996, had reached its limit of 30 cars, most of which carried mail and express.

To expand its burgeoning head-end business, Amtrak needed another train to Chicago. That would be the Pennsylvanian.

Amtrak had wanted to extend the Pennsylvanian westward before Christmas 1997 but lacked sufficient crews.

Although new operating personnel were hired in spring 1998, Conrail refused to allow the expansion during the summer track work season.

Because the postal service usually dispatched mail around dawn, No. 44 was scheduled to depart Chicago at 6 a.m. while No. 43 left Philadelphia at 6:30 a.m.

The Pennsylvanian reached Cleveland eastbound in early afternoon and westbound in late afternoon.

It was scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 11:59 p.m. and in Philadelphia at 12:25 a.m. That meant no convenient same-day connections in Chicago and few in Philly.

But passenger traffic was less the objective of the Pennsylvanian extension than head-end revenue.

Then Amtrak president George Warrington said at the time that this would put Amtrak on a glide path to profitability.

Those who understood the realities of passenger train scheduling would have understood that this made the Pennsylvanian’s future in Cleveland rather tenuous.

Nonetheless, there was optimism in the air as Nos. 43 and 44 began serving Cleveland, Elyria and Alliance.

I don’t remember anything the speaker said during the welcome ceremony or even who he was.

I was there primarily to make photographs of Amtrak in Cleveland in daylight.

Except during holiday travel periods, ridership of the Pennsylvanian would prove to be light.

On many days it had only about a dozen passengers aboard in Ohio and Indiana.

Ridership was stunted by chronic delays that occurred in 1999 following the breakup of Conrail by Norfolk Southern and CSX.

The typical consist for the Pennsylvanian was three coaches and a food service car.

A schedule change on April 29, 2002, moved the Chicago departure back six hours to 11:55 p.m., which made No. 44 the “clean up” train to accommodate those who had missed connections in Chicago from inbound western long distance trains to the eastern long-distance trains.

At the same time, the westbound Pennsylvanian began departing Philadelphia two hours later in order to provide additional connections.

No. 43 now was scheduled to reach Chicago Union Station at 1:44 a.m.

A change of administrations at Amtrak led to the carrier announcing in fall 2002 that it would cease carrying mail and express.

As a result the Pennsylvanian would revert to New York-Pittsburgh operation.

On Feb. 8, 2003, I went down to the Cleveland Amtrak station with my camera to make photographs of the Pennsylvanian, the first time I’d done that since the November 1998 inaugural train had arrived.

This time, though, I boarded as a paying passenger, getting off in Pittsburgh and returning on the last westbound No. 43 to run west of Pittsburgh.

There were no crowds, cake or speakers to greet the Pennsylvanian in the Cleveland station on this day.

And that sense of optimism that had hung in the air more than four years earlier had long since dissipated.

Rail passenger advocates in Ohio are still trying to get back that sense of optimism.

Amtrak conductor George Sanders agreed to pose by a Horizon coach vestibule.
Who was that guy who gave the welcome to Cleveland speech? Not only do I not remember his name I also don’t remember anything he said.
What’s a celebration without a cake?
A respectable crowd was on hand to greet the first Pennsylvanian to stop in Cleveland.
Dad is ready to make some photographs but his son is not sure being this close to the tracks is a good idea.
Those RoadRailers on the rear give a hint as to the primary reason why the Pennsylvanian began serving Cleveland. Amtrak expected to make money on mail and express business.

Forgotten Conrail Memory

June 4, 2020

I was going through some color negatives this week looking for images to scan when I came across this forgotten photograph.

I’m standing on the platform of the Cleveland Amtrak station on Nov. 7 1998.

That was the day that Amtrak extended operations of the Pennsylvanian west of Pittsburgh to Chicago, giving Northeast Ohio a daylight train.

Back then there were two tracks adjacent to the Amtrak platform and they were heavily used by Conrail traffic going to or coming from the traditional Water Level route.

All of that changed after CSX acquired the Water Level Route and began routing its trains through Cleveland on the Short Line rather than through downtown on the Lakefront Line.

Conrail 6748 is an SD50 that was built in May 1984 and was the second locomotive on the roster to have that number, the first having been an Alco C628 built for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1965.

SD50 No. 6748 would later join the Norfolk Southern roster and eventually be rebuilt into an SD40E carrying roster number 6330.

This was not the only Conrail train I photographed at the Cleveland Amtrak station, but it’s one of the few I have. I rarely went down there to photograph, much to my regret now.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Amtrak’s On-Time Performance in Cleveland Has Been Pretty Superb Over the Previous Month

April 20, 2020

Seeing Amtrak in daylight in Northeast Ohio has been happening much in the past month because the trains have arrived mostly on time during the darkness hours. Shown is a very late eastbound Lake Shore Limited at the Cleveland Amtrak station on June 23, 2010.

The past month would have been a good time to travel on Amtrak from Northeast Ohio.

Due to social distancing orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public has been discouraged from traveling except when necessary.

That has led to lightly patronized Amtrak trains. Want a window seat in the middle of your coach? No problem; you can sit anywhere you’d like.

But perhaps a side benefit of traveling by train during a pandemic would have been a good chance your train would have arrived in Cleveland on time or better.

Despite its reputation for being the “Late Shore,” the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited has posted some outstanding on-time performances.

A check of arrival times for the four Amtrak trains serving Northeast Ohio between April 19 and March 23 found that No. 48 has arrived late in Cleveland just three times.

During the 28-day period sampled, No. 48 arrived early 25 times. It didn’t just arrive early it arrived well before its scheduled 5:38 a.m. arrival time.

In fact, No. 48 arrived in Cleveland 10 minutes or more ahead of schedule 22 times and 12 of those times it was 20 minutes or more early.

The earliest that the eastbound Lake Shore has arrived was 28 minutes, which it has done three times while checking in 27 minutes early six times.

Westbound counterpart No. 49 arrived early into Cleveland 20 times over the 28-day period and in all of those instances it was five minutes or more ahead of schedule.

No. 49 has been 10 minutes or more ahead of schedule seven times.

The performance of the Capitol Limited has been a tale of two trains.

The westbound Capitol has been early into Cleveland 16 times with seven of those being five or fewer minutes ahead of schedule and nine being more than five minutes early.

No. 29 has halted at the station more than 10 minutes early eight times.

Eastbound No. 30, though, has easily been Amtrak’s latest train into Cleveland over the past month, arriving early just nine times.

No. 30 has arrived late on 18 of the 28 days reviewed and on 12 of those occasions it was more than 10 minutes late.

It is noteworthy that over the course of 112 train arrivals, only twice has a train been reported as arriving in Cleveland at the exact time shown in the timetable. The Capitol Limited did it once in each direction.

Only seven times out of 112 arrivals have Amtrak trains arrived in Cleveland an hour or more behind schedule.

All but once the lateness was less than two hours. The exception was the westbound Capitol pulling in 4 hours and 42 minutes late on April 3.

That delay was largely due to a grade crossing collision near Columbiana, Ohio.

These figures may or may not be aberrations that are related in some manner to the fallout of the pandemic.

A valid comparison with on-time arrival and departure times reported for the same dates in past years would be needed to begin addressing that question.

Given that Amtrak has complained loudly and often in recent years about poor on-time performance of its trains that it has blamed on dispatching practices of it host railroads there is some reason to wonder if the pandemic has resulted in better Amtrak performances.

It could be that falling freight traffic combined with fewer freight trains being operated as part of the precision scheduled railroading model that Amtrak has to contend with less freight train interference.

It might also be that even fewer freight trains are operating during the pandemic because freight traffic has fallen even further as reported by the Association of American Railroads in its weekly freight traffic reports.

With fewer passengers, Amtrak has less opportunity for passenger-related delays. Trains can load and unload quicker and that might have enabled better timekeeping.

I noticed but did not record a few instances in which a train arrived in Cleveland a few minutes late but was able to leave on time.

All four Amtrak trains serving Cleveland have dwell time built into their schedules although it varies by train.

It is six minutes for No. 29, nine minutes for No. 30, and 12 minutes for both Nos. 48 and 49.

Some of the good timekeeping may also be simply good fortune, such as fewer freight train mechanical failures that can back up traffic as dispatchers try to route Amtrak and their freights around a stalled train.

It remains to be seen if Amtrak’s good fortune in Northeast Ohio on-time performance will last.

Looking for the Baggage Cart

April 15, 2020

An Amtrak crew member stands in the doorway of a baggage car in the consist of the eastbound Capitol Limited on April 4, 1996, in Cleveland.

The platform is crowded with passengers boarding and disembarking even though it is the middle of the night.

That was the way it was before the pandemic hit. These days No. 30 is only four cars, has few passengers and isn’t carrying a baggage car.

The heritage baggage cars have been retired from active service by Amtrak in favor of new Viewliner baggage cars.

One Night in Cleveland

March 6, 2020

Amtrak’s eastbound Capitol Limited is making its nocturnal station stop in Cleveland in late May 2013.

The Superliner car in the foreground is a sleeper and chances are most of its passengers are in their beds asleep and unaware that their train has stopped in Cleveland.

I was at the station waiting for the westbound Capitol, which was due in shortly before 3 a.m., and which I would be riding to Chicago.

It’s eastbound counterpart, No. 30, is scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. and on this night it must have been running late if I saw it.

The tall building behind the train is Key Tower, which at 57 stories (947 feet) is the tallest building in Cleveland and the 34th tallest in the United States.

One Night at the Cleveland Amtrak Station

January 16, 2020

On most days if you want to photograph Amtrak in Northeast Ohio you’ll need a good tripod because the four trains that cross the region do so between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Back in the late 1990s I dabbled with making night photographs of Amtrak trains at the Cleveland station.

The two images shown above were made on Aug. 22, 1998. You’ve probably forgotten but it was a notable day in railroad history because Norfolk Southern and CSX took administrative control of Conrail.

That had no effect on Conrail operations because the carrier continued to operate as normal until being formally divided on June 1, 1999.

Back in 1998, Amtrak’s P42DC locomotives still wore the Phase III livery in which they were delivered although some had the Phase IV look. The now ubiquitous Phase V livery would be introduced in the next year.

Shown at top is dome lounge No. 2511. Like most Heritage Fleet cars still operating in the late 1990s, this car had an interesting history.

It was built by Budd in April 1950 as Pacific Park for Union Pacific, a 10 roomette, 6 double bedroom sleeper. At UP it was No. 1430.

It initially carried Amtrak roster 2623 and became the 2923 when rebuilt in September 1977 for head end power capability.

It was transformed into a dorm lounge in April 1998. Amtrak’s thinking at the time was that it could double as a lounge, but that apparently didn’t happen because Amtrak onboard crew members objected to having revenue passengers in their dorm car.

Amtrak retired the 2511 in June 2006. It was stored at the Beech Grove shops for several years until being offered for sale in 2018.

The Cleveland Nighttime Shuffle

January 8, 2020

It’s 0 dark 30 at the Cleveland Amtrak station and passengers are coming and going from the eastbound Lake Shore Limited. I set my camera on a tripod and captured this seen with a telephoto lens.

The view is looking primarily at the Amfleet II coaches. No. 48 still carried a Heritage Fleet dining car and crew dorm in those days.

This image was made on Aug. 22, 1998, so the Heritage Fleet dining car that is partly visible is no longer assigned to Nos. 48 and 49.

But coach passengers are still riding in Amfleet II coaches as seen here.