Posts Tagged ‘Lake Shore Limited’

Double Shot of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited

January 8, 2018

Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited is running seven hours late as it rushes through Painesville, Ohio, on Sunday morning.

Amtrak train No. 48 has some heritage on the point as it passes through Northeast Ohio.

After church on Sunday morning I saw on the Amtrak website that Lake Shore Limited No. 49 left Erie at 8:57 a.m. Under normal running time that would put it at the Painesville station at 9:57 a.m.  Also, No. 48 departed Cleveland at 9:33 a.m., which would put it under normal running through Painesville at 10:03 a.m. It had Phase IV heritage unit No. 184 on the lead. Luck was on my side. No. 49 arrived at 9:50 a.m. and No. 48 showed up 11 minutes later at 10:01 a.m.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas


Late 48 at 12:35 p.m. on Consecutive Fridays

January 6, 2018

I photographed Amtrak No. 48 at the Painesville station of the former New York Central  running more than six hours late at the same time – 12:35 p.m. – on consecutive Fridays. The top image shows the eastbound Lake Shore Limited on Friday, Dec. 29. The bottom photo shows the train on Friday, Jan. 5 when the air temperature was 7 degrees.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Railfan Incompetence 101

June 7, 2017

The phrase that serves as the headline for this article was uttered by fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler.

Shown is Amtrak train No. 48 crossing Erie Street in Willoughby, Ohio. This isn’t the photo angle that I would have preferred, only the one that was available.

I didn’t know that the Lake Shore Limited was coming and that is where the incompetence comes into play. I could have known that fact had I sought out that information.

And yet three days after I made this image I recognized that while it is not a great image, it tells three stories, two of which are not obvious by looking at it. The third will be apparent only to those who like to look beyond the obvious.

It took an unexpected piece of wisdom from a man I’ve met just once for me to see more than one story and one meaning of this image.

* * * * *

Story 1 is a familiar one to many photographers. Peter and I had plans to railfan in Lake County with a list of objectives we wanted to achieve. At the top of the list was photographing an eastbound Norfolk Southern train passing the Willoughby Coal & Supply Company building.

I had heard a train call a signal on the NS radio frequency and we were standing on the sidewalk of the Erie Street crossing of the NS tracks waiting for that train to arrive.

I didn’t hear enough of the radio transmission to get the train’s location or symbol. I didn’t know if it was an eastbound or westbound.

Peter thought he heard a locomotive horn to the west, but after several minutes of waiting and no train showing up, he concluded he had heard traffic noise.

We waited several more minutes and he heard another sound that he was sure was a locomotive horn.

It was. It belonged to an Amtrak P42DC that Peter spotted shortly before it reached Erie Street.

“It’s Amtrak,” he proclaimed. He later said that as soon as he said that his heart sank. My morale plummeted. We had blown an opportunity and we knew it. All we could do was watch it from three blocks away.

I had thought about Amtrak earlier in the day, but didn’t give it a second thought.

Our outing was to begin 6:45 a.m. at the Golden Gate shopping plaza in Mayfield Heights, a place where Peter and I often rendezvous for photograph outings. I knew that before we even met up that Amtrak train 48 would be out of Cleveland already.

It is scheduled to depart at 5:50 a.m. Of the four Amtrak trains that serve Cleveland, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited is the one most likely to be running on time or almost on time.

It never occurred to either of us to call Amtrak Julie or check the Amtrak website to verify that No. 48 had already departed. That was incompetence on our part.

Had we checked the status of Amtrak 48, we could have been in position to photograph the train coming around a slight curve in really good morning light.

Had we contacted Amtrak we would have learned that No. 48 had left Cleveland an hour and 28 minutes late.

Opportunities to get that Willoughby curve image don’t come along every day for either of us. We had fumbled away a good opportunity and that hurt.

I had been so focused on getting an NS train that I had locked out the CSX radio frequency on  my scanner. Had I not done that I might have heard No. 48 calling signals and we could have gotten into position in time.

As for that NS train I had heard on the radio, it turned out to be westbound train No. 149. But we stayed with the location and got an eastbound around 9:30 a.m.

Although Peter and I achieved our objective of catching an eastbound train at the Willoughby Coal & Supply building, we struck out on all of our other objectives for the day, although that was a matter of fate and lack of knowledge rather than incompetence.

As we drove home that afternoon, we agreed that it had been, overall, a disappointing photography outing with the missed Amtrak photo op casting a pall over the day.

There is a saying that chance favors the prepared mind. We had not done as much preparation as we could have.

* * * * *

Story No. 2  unfolded on the morning of the next day. During breakfast I was reading a column published in the food section of The Plain Dealer by the former restaurant critic of the newspaper, Joe Crea.

I had started reading the column the night before, but didn’t finish it because I was tired.

I have met Crea once, but I doubt he remembers me. Ironically, I met him in a restaurant. My wife knew him because she works as a copy editor for the Plain Dealer.

The column I was reading focused primarily on Crea’s experience of the past year fighting cancer.

He had been diagnosed with cancer more than a year earlier and wrote about how his life had become a series of hospital stays, treatments, consultations with doctors, successes and setbacks.

His doctor is cautiously optimistic that he has been “cured” but that is not a certainty.

There was something about Crea’s column that resonated with me even though I’ve read similar thoughts expressed by other authors.

I’m old enough to know that my being in the same position that Crea is in is not as hypothetical as it seemed even a few years ago.

Like so many people diagnosed with cancer, Crea said he has learned to appreciate that every day is a gift, even a bad day.

As I thought about that, my thoughts immediately went to the “bad day” I had just had and the missed Amtrak photo op.

Maybe it hadn’t been so bad. Sure, it had been filled with disappointments, but it had been another day of living, another day of photography, another day of watching trains go by. Our passion for railroads had prompted Peter and I to get out trackside.

Some day there won’t be any more opportunities to go trackside. Some day my ability to get out and watch a train, even if from a distance of three blocks, may be greatly hindered and I’ll long for the days when I had easy mobility.

I had seen an Amtrak train, even if I hadn’t made the best photograph of it. I can’t remember the last time that I saw Amtrak live. It probably was last year, maybe last September.

* * * * *

I’m a big fan of the concept of framing. It is a practice that all of us do, even if we are not aware of it as we do it or even know the name of the behavior.

I’ve taught the concept in my public relations classes yet many students seem to have a hard time grasping it even though they’ve done it often.

A frame is a way of calling attention to a particular aspect of something, a way of drawing attention to one thing and away from something else. It is the essence of composition in photography.

On what do you focus and what meaning do you seek to make of it?

Joe Crea was framing when he wrote in his column that when you have a condition that could take your life away sooner rather than later even a bad day is a gift

I had been framing the meaning of my Amtrak down-the-street-image from a technical perspective. The meaning I had given to it was “missed opportunity due to incompetence.”

Framed in that manner, it is an average to mediocre image. It has a lot of clutter. The train is enveloped in shadows. There is nothing dramatic that will grab the viewer’s attention and lead him/her to conclude that he/she has seen something special.

It is another hum-drum image that many serious photographers would either have never made or would have deleted from their memory card.

That is one way to frame what this image means, but it is not the only way.

I am, at heart, a story teller. Even an average or mediocre photograph can have a story to tell and sometimes those stories are more compelling than the image might appear to be at a casual glance.

The fact that this photograph is so average is the story it has to tell.

Serious photographers think of trains and locomotives in much the same way that portrait photographers think of people.

They want the object of their desire to be posed in the most ideal manner. For a photographer that means good light and composition.

The ideal way to have photographed this train would have been a wedge view that took advantage of the morning sunlight and the train coming around a curve, thus exposing more of the train.

That is how a photographer sees Amtrak, but it is not the manner in which most people experience Amtrak.

Most people see Amtrak in the manner that I did in this photograph. It is a happenstance occurrence most likely to occur at a grade crossing or while approaching a grade crossing.

It will be a spontaneous moment surrounded by the clutter of the street that we see and hardly pay attention to during our everyday lives.

Even as a down-the-street-shot it would have been better had I stepped out into the street and been able to compose the image to avoid that street sign on the left side. But I didn’t do that because it might not have been safe.

I also didn’t have time to evaluate the setting. All I could do was react.

As it is, this image has already been cropped to eliminate a utility pole on the far left edge of the original image.

We can’t plan every moment of our days. So much of life is about spontaneity and living in and enjoying the unexpected small moments. Life is not always portrait quality and big moments.

The point of this photograph is to show one of those moments. In his column, Crea urged his readers not just to enjoy those moments but to understand that what might seem like a disappointment or setback might be something else.

It might be one of those moments that makes like worth living.

LSL Unaffected by Penn Station Changes

May 31, 2017

The Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited will not be affected by schedule changes that Amtrak is imposing this summer at New York Penn Station during a track renewal project.

The passenger carrier said on Tuesday that it will change its schedules between July 10 and Sept. 1 to reflect the reduced station capacity as workers undertake track and switch work.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman said Amtrak would be affected the most by the schedule changes, which also will affect New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad trains.

One long-distance train, the New York-New Orleans Crescent, will terminate in Washington during the construction period. Passengers bound for points north of Washington will need to change trains in Washington.

Northeast Regional service will see three round trip trains New York and Washington canceled. New York-Boston service will operate at current levels.

Keystone Service will terminate in Philadelphia with one roundtrip terminating in Newark, New Jersey.  Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will be at current levels.

There will be no schedule changes for Acela Express service. Amtrak said it would announce changes to Empire Service later.

Amtrak said it decided to speed up previously planned projects to improve conditions and service reliability at the station following two derailments earlier this year.

“While we regret that this work requires some reduction in train service and disruption to passengers over the summer months, we believe it will ultimately be worth the investment in terms of increased reliability of passenger rail travel,” said Moorman in a news release.

Amtrak Might Use Grand Central Again

May 15, 2017

Amtrak is considering terminating at least some of its Empire Corridor trains at New York Grand Central Terminal this summer as one way to deal with limited track capacity as an emergency repair program is undertaken at Penn Station.

It is not clear if the move would affect all trains operating via Albany, New York, including such long-distance and medium-distance trains as the Lake Shore Limited, Adirondack, Maple Leaf and Ethan Allen Express.

Amtrak used Grand Central until 1991 when it opened an abandoned freight  line along the west side of New York City to feed trains using the former New York Central Water Level Route into Penn Station.

The Penn Station track and switch replacement project is expected to reduce that station’s train capacity by as much as 25 percent when it gets underway on July 7 and lasts for 44 days.

A news report in the Times-Union of Albany, New York, indicated that at least some Empire Corridor trains would use Grand Central, suggesting that some trains would continue to originate and terminate at Penn Station.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that Amtrak crews are being offered the opportunity to bid for job operating trains running to Grand Central.

Grand Central is used by Metro North Commuter Railroad trains.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman has noted that Penn Station serves 1,300-plus weekday train movements using an infrastructure network designed in 1910 to accommodate less than half of its current volume.

Also using Penn Station are New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad.

Grand Central serves about two-thirds the volume of Penn Station.

One advantage of using Grand Central for Amtrak is that the terminal has a loop track that can be used to turn inbound trains after they have unloaded their passengers.

Albany-Rensselaer Station Expansion Completed

December 8, 2016

Amtrak has completed its expansion at the Albany-Rensselaer, New York, station and the added fourth track is expected to reduce delays by adding additional track capacity.

Amtrak 4The station ranks as one of Amtrak’s 10 busiest in the nation.

A New York Department of Transportation spokeswoman said Amtrak is now using all four tracks at the station and that canopies are being built over the extended platforms.

Carol Breen said the agency and Amtrak are spending $300 million to improve the railroad infrastructure used by Amtrak in the Capital Region.

One beneficiary of the longer platforms will be the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited. On some days the Lake Shore has 14 or more cars.

The Albany-Rensselaer station opened in 2002 and was designed to have two platforms and four tracks. But the fourth track was eliminated as a cost-saving measure.

Other projects being undertaken to improve service include adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, installing  new signals, and improving some grade crossings.

“The additional capacity has made a big difference in terms of train movements, providing dispatchers with much more flexibility to move trains in and out of the station and minimizing delays to passengers,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz.

Some Cubs Fans Rode Amtrak to Cleveland

October 28, 2016

Game 2 of Major League Baseball’s World Series drug on for more than four hours on Wednesday night. For a couple dozen fans of the Chicago Cubs that was just fine.

Amtrak logoThey had Amtrak tickets to return to Chicago after watching the Cubs defeat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 at Progressive Field. They had time to kill between the game and boarding their train.

Salvador Cardenas, a 28-year-old dentist from Aurora, Illinois, was one of them.

He paid $746 for a standing room ticket in left field during Game 2 and was at the Cleveland Amtrak station giving high fives to other Cubs fans waiting to return home after the game.

“I had to call all my patients off. I said: ‘Hey, got to do this! I got to go to the World Series!’” Cardenas told a reporter for the Associated Press. “I’m a die-hard Cub fan, so I felt like that came first.”

The AP said about two dozen Cubs fans boarded the westbound Lake Shore Limited, which is scheduled to depart Cleveland at 3:45 a.m.

About an hour earlier, the Capitol Limited had left for Chicago with, presumably, a number of baseball fans on board.

Marvin Thomas, 51, was aboard No. 49 wearing a blue satin Cubs jacket.

“Ernie Banks lived down the street from us when I was a kid,” said Thomas, who paid $800 a ticket to attend Games 1 and 2. “This is the most unbelievable feeling I’ve had outside my children being born. There was no way I wasn’t going to be here.”

The AP story noted that the number of baseball fans on Amtrak fell far short of the number who rode in 2009 in what some dubbed the Acela Series between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

Nor was there the hoopla that occurred aboard a train in 1985 for the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals.

Of course, many Chicago baseball fans probably flew or drove to Cleveland.

A check of found that five chartered United Airlines jets departed Cleveland Hopkins International Airport between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. Thursday morning. They includes two 767 aircraft, two 737 aircraft and one 747.

Two of those were probably carrying the two teams to Chicago where they will play Game 3 on Friday night. But perhaps some of those flights also carried fans.

Traveling by train used to be the primary way that fans and teams once traveled.

When the Cubs won their last World Series in 1908 and last played in the Series in 1945, the train was the standard way to travel.

Using chartered flight didn’t take off until 1946 when the Yankees began to charter flights on a regular basis.

Cardenas said he arrived in Cleveland at 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday, walked to the nearby Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, found a bench in front and fell asleep with his Cubs blanket covering him.

An Indians fan gave him a second blanket and told him to leave it there when he was done napping.

Cardenas saw Cubs owner Tom Ricketts at the Rock Hall later in the day.

“I was like, ‘Hey, Tom!’ like I knew him,” Cardenas said. “He waved to me. He said hello. He smiled.”

LSL Trial Reroute Via Michigan Delayed

October 8, 2016

A proposed trial rerouting of the Lake Shore Limited via Michigan has been postponed.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedAmtrak had considered rerouting the Chicago-New York train between Oct. 1-31, but did not do so because track and signal work on the route has not been completed.

That $600 million work is being undertaken on the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) route used by Wolverine Service trains.

The work on tracks owned by the state of Michigan will eventually allow a maximum speed of 110 mph on state- and Amtrak-owned track.

The reroute was being promoted by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak was interested in seeing how well Michigan-East Coast ridership would perform.

If the Lake Shore Limited is rerouted via Michigan, it would serve most Wolverine Service stations between Dearborn and Niles, Michigan.

The reroute also would have tested how well a train would perform operationally between Toledo and Dearborn.

CSX Track Work to Affect Syracuse Station

September 7, 2016

Amtrak said the eastbound Lake Shore Limited (Chicago to New York), Maple Leaf (New York-Toronto) and Empire Service trains 281 and 284 (New York-Niagara Falls, New York) are subject to delay due to track work in Syracuse, New York.

The track work began on Aug. 28 and will continue through Sept. 14. CSX owns the tracks used by Amtrak in Syracuse.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedTrains may be delayed between 30 to 45 minutes and on some dates passengers will board at the New York State Fairgrounds three miles west of the station.

Passengers will be transported by a shuttle bus on those days.

The shuttles will operate on Sept. 11 and 12. Amtrak said that even if a train is delayed, the shuttle buses will leave the Syracuse station at the scheduled train departure time.

Those boarding in Syracuse are advised not to use the Amtrak train status information to determine what time to arrive at the station. Buses will depart at the time shown on the ticket.

Passengers traveling to Syracuse on Sept. 11 and 12 will detrain at the fairgrounds and ride a shuttle bus to the station.

If the shuttle bus is not trackside upon arrival of the train, passengers will be directed to remain onboard until the shuttle has arrived.

Checked baggage service to and from Syracuse will be suspended on Train 48 on both days.

Buses Replace LSL Boston Section in July, August

June 30, 2016

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited will not operate on certain days in July and August due to CSX track work.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedIn a service advisory, Amtrak said Nos. 448 and 449 will not run between Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and Boston (South Station) on the following dates:

  • July 10
  • July 17-20
  • July 31-Aug. 3
  • Aug. 7-10
  • Aug. 14-17

Passengers will ride a bus between Albany-Rensselaer and Boston that will stop at the intermediate Amtrak stations of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Framingham.

Bus service will not be provided to Boston’s Back Bay station. Amtrak said passengers should contact MBTA for travel information to Back Bay.

Passengers at South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

At Framingham, passengers will board buses at the drop-off/pick-up area track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

In Worcester, passengers should go downstairs to the intercity bus area and board the bus marked Premier Bus.