Posts Tagged ‘late Amtrak trains’

Mudslide Grounds the Cardinal

February 16, 2020

Saturday was a rough day for Amtrak trains serving Ohio.

The westbound Cardinal was halted on Friday at Thurmond, West Virginia, due to a mudslide.

The train was moved back east to Prince, West Virginia, and the passengers put aboard buses to continue their journey.

No. 51 did not operate to Cincinnati, Indianapolis or any intermediate points on Saturday.

As a result the eastbound Cardinal that was due to leave Chicago on Saturday night was canceled.

Amtrak Tweeted that alternative transportation was being provided only for passengers traveling between Chicago and Cincinnati.

The Cardinal is next scheduled to operate today westbound and it departed New York on time.

Mechanical issues on Saturday afternoon delayed the departure of the westbound Capitol Limited from Washington for nearly four hours.

No. 29 didn’t arrive in Cleveland on Sunday until 6:17 a.m., making it three hours, 24 minutes late.

It is projected to reach Chicago at 11:40 a.m, but actually arrived at 1:38 p.m., nearly five hours late.

Also on Saturday the westbound Lake Shore Limited was stopped west of Toledo due to mechanical problems.

When No. 49 resumed its journey it was an hour late, which became 3 hours, 28 minutes late by the time it reached Chicago Union Station at 1:18 p.m.

Great Day for Photographers, Not For Passengers

August 6, 2019

Not many who rode Amtrak’s Capitol Limited or Lake Shore Limited on June 7, 2019, can say they had a great experience.

A derailment on Norfolk Southern the day before that blocked both mainline tracks in Swanton, Ohio, led to a severe disruption in Amtrak service.

About the only good thing that could be said about that day from a passenger perspective was that at least passengers got to their destination even if it was several hours late.

Your trip also included a ride on a school bus between Toledo and Bryan, Ohio, where the eastbound and westbound Lake Shore and Capitol were halted and reversed direction.

The lateness of the train, though, was good news for photographers.

By the time No. 30 and No. 48 got to Olmsted Falls it was mid afternoon.

The schedules being what they are, it is not unusual to capture the eastbound Lake Shore Limited in Northeast Ohio in daylight in the summer months.

But catching the Capitol Limited in daylight, although not unheard of, is harder to do.

But on June 7 both came through about a half-hour apart.

Lucky Me That I Picked the Wrong Day to Travel

July 17, 2019

Passengers get into position to board Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited in Cleveland as it arrives more than three hours late on the morning of June 26, 2019. (Photograph by Edward Ribinskas)

On the evening of June 25, 2019, Amtrak Train No. 48 departed Chicago Union Station on time at 9:30.

It would be the only time that No. 48 would arrive or depart from a station on schedule during its 959 mile journey to New York City.

What Amtrak said would be a seven hour trip to Cleveland ballooned to 10-and-a-half hours.

That wasn’t all bad, I suppose. I got to see Sandusky Bay in daylight and got some “bonus” time at no extra fare aboard a train I had not ridden since May 2014.

Yet when the Lake Shore Limited finally halted at the Cleveland station I was more than ready to get off. I had things to do and places to go and had expected to be well underway in doing them already.

Officially, No. 48 arrived in Cleveland at 9:07 a.m., 3 hours, 29 minutes late.

How does a train lose 3.5 hours? Darn if I know because the crew never told us how or why, not that I expected them to do that.

A detailed accounting of that lost time exists somewhere. Amtrak conductors keep logs of time lost en route and report that information to a superior who forwards it to Amtrak headquarters.

Amtrak aggregates that information into report cards that the carrier periodically issues to show how its host railroads are doing in keeping Amtrak trains on time.

Those reports, though, are not necessarily a complete accounting. I’ve heard Amtrak crew members agree in radio conversations with each other to not report a particular cause of delay.

I also once heard an Amtrak engineer refuse to cooperate with the conductor in explaining why No. 30 had lost time in Indiana.

Amtrak operating personnel do not have access to the communication that goes on in the dispatching offices of the host railroads.

If a dispatcher for Norfolk Southern decides to hold Amtrak at a control point to wait for two westbound freight trains to clear before switching Amtrak from Track 2 to Track 1 in order to go around a slow freight train ahead on Track 2, the Amtrak crew doesn’t know why the decision was made to hold them rather than holding one or both of the westbound freights further east until Amtrak could go around the slow eastbound freight.

Further, they don’t know whether that decision was made by the dispatcher, by the dispatcher’s supervisor or by a computer program that NS uses to dispatch its railroad. Nor do they know with certainty the logic behind the decision even if they have some idea.

In fact, the scenario outlined above happened in the darkness of northern Indiana west of South Bend during my trip.

My train was moving slowly and I got my scanner out and listened to the NS road channel for a while.

As best I could tell, most of the time that No. 48 lost on the night and morning of June 25-26 could be attributed to the host railroad.

Amtrak might see it as freight train interference while NS might call it traffic congestion.

In the days preceding my trip, Amtrak had posted a passenger advisory warning that NS track work in the Chicago area would cause delays of up to an hour because two main tracks would be out of service.

Perhaps NS freight traffic was heavier than usual on the night I was aboard No. 48 as the freight carrier was getting caught up from delays to its own trains stemming from the track work.

We can’t blame NS for two other delays due to bridges being open in Toledo and Cleveland for marine traffic.

I’ve made dozens of trips on Amtrak through Toledo over the past 25 years and it was the first time I’d ever been aboard a train delayed by the Maumee River Bridge being open.

Otherwise, nothing happened during that trip of June 25-26 that I had not experienced before between Cleveland and Chicago. Many times.

Much of the lost time was racked up between Elkhart, Indiana, and Toledo where Amtrak trains have been losing time for decades, going back into the Conrail era.

What had been 1 hour, 11 minutes late at Elkhart skyrocketed to 2 hours, 51 minutes by the time we stopped at the Bryan station.

By then it was daylight and I got my radio out again and listened to the engineer on No. 48 call a steady drum beat procession of approach signal indications from Bryan to the west side of Toledo.

We finally got around a long manifest freight in Toledo and I’m not sure if it was a case of that train having mechanical problems, being underpowered or some other reason.

Of course there was a steady stream of westbounds on Track 1, including Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.

Shortly after we moved around that manifest freight the dispatcher said we would have to wait for Amtrak 49 to depart the Toledo station, where there is just one track that Amtrak can use.

Once we got across the Maumee River we moved at a steady pace but we were even later at Sandusky than we had been at Toledo.

NS has been particularly outspoken about its disdain for Amtrak’s report cards and at one point threatened legal action if Amtrak didn’t stop issuing them.

Of course NS is upset because those report cards suggest it does a poor job of dispatching Amtrak trains.

NS management would argue that dispatching decision making takes into account a myriad of factors and seeks to strike a balance in serving the interest of freight trains and passenger trains.

NS managers would say dispatchers seek to give Amtrak preference when they can but that is not always possible because things happen.

It isn’t the railroad’s fault that someone parked a car on the tracks that was struck by a container train that subsequently derailed and blocked both main tracks as happened in early June in Swanton, Ohio.

Nor can railroads predict when equipment failures will occur or acts of nature will strike.

These things also delay the transport of the freight of NS customers.

All of this is true as far as it goes, but overlooks that managers are people who make decisions based on their beliefs, biases and prejudices as to what is most important when conflicts occur in moving trains.

It also overlooks that these beliefs, biases and prejudices are built into the overall operating plan and tend to be viewed as sacrosanct.

It starts with the reality that we the host railroad own this railroad and not Amtrak. In our view the needs of the owner are just as important if not more so than those of the tenant.

I’ve ridden enough Amtrak trains to know that there is an element of luck involved in whether you will get to your destination on time or close to on time.

Had I departed Chicago on No. 48 on June 23 I would have arrived in Cleveland the next morning 27 minutes early. Had I left Chicago the day before I actually traveled I would have arrived in Cleveland 19 minutes late.

Had I traveled the day after I actually traveled I would have arrived in Cleveland 19 minutes late.

Had I left Chicago on June 27 I would have arrived in Cleveland one hour and 13 minutes late. That’s not good, but far better than 3.5 hours late.

So of five trains that operated the week I traveled I had the good fortune – yes, I’m being sarcastic – of choosing the travel day with the really late train.

But that was the date that worked best for me that week. It just didn’t work well for keeping the train even reasonably within range of being on time.

As for my fellow passengers who remained aboard No. 48 on June 26 after I disembarked, No. 48 would lose additional time on CSX, reaching its nadir of 4 hours, 19 minutes late at Schenectady, New York.

By the time it reached the end of the line at New York’s Penn Station, the lateness had been trimmed to 3 hours, 42 minutes, about what it had been in Toledo.

Whether it’s a plane, a train, or a bus, when you take public transportation you are rolling the dice that the carrier will get you to your destination when it says it will.

You know no carrier has a 100 percent on-time record, but always hope the aberration will occur on another day and affect someone else. Some people are naive enough to think it will not happen to them.

As you are loping along at restricted speed, waiting at a control point for opposing traffic or stopped because a heavy Great Lakes freighter has priority at a water crossing, there is a feeling of injustice that someone else’s priorities are more important than yours and there is nothing you can do about it.

If you are a writer you might dash off an indignant piece saying this ought to be done or that ought to have been done.

But if you know anything at all about transportation you should know better. Lengthy delays while traveling do occur and sooner or later they will occur to you.

It’s just that they can mess up your plans and, at times, spoil or dampen an experience you had long looked forward to having.

Rounding the Bend in Berea

May 10, 2019

Amtrak Train No. 48 was late, two and a half hours late. That might not have been good news for the passengers, but it was great news for me.

It meant an uncommon opportunity to photograph Amtrak in daylight in Cleveland.

The Lake Shore Limited lost its time departing Chicago, where it didn’t get out of Union Station until 12:26 a.m., which is 2 hours and 56 minutes off schedule.

I don’t know why there was such a late departure, but there was.

By the time No. 48 got to Berea it had made up some of the last time, but not much. It would arrive in New York City at 9:21 p.m., 2 hours and 46 minutes down.

The train had its usual summer consist. The Boston section had a sleeper, cafe car and two coaches. The New York section had four coaches, Viewliner dining car Dover, two sleepers and a baggage car. Viewliner dining car Springfield was dead heading on the rear of the train.

Up front were the customary two P42DC locomotives.

Very Late Amtrak No. 49

May 18, 2018

On Wednesday Amtrak No. 49 was over 10 hours late due to severe storms in the New York area. I got it passing Berea tower around 2:30 in the afternoon. This train would later terminate at Toledo and passengers would be taken by bus to Chicago from there.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Amtrak Takes Host Railroads to School

March 26, 2018

Amtrak has launched a quarterly “report card” on its website that evaluates the delays that it incurs on the tracks of its host railroads.  In the first report card, Amtrak said most delays are due to freight trains interference.

The implication is that such delays violate a federal law that gives Amtrak passenger trains preference over freight trains. However, the law has some exceptions.

Amtrak assigned letter grades to six Class 1 railroads that were based on delays per 10,000 train miles.

Amtrak defines that as the number of minutes of host-responsible delay, divided by the number of Amtrak train miles operated over that host railroad, times 10,000.

Canadian Pacific received the only A on the report card. Other railroad grades included a B+ for BNSF, a B- for Union Pacific and a C for CSX. Norfolk Southern and Canadian National both “flunked” by receiving grades of F.

Following are some Amtrak comments regarding hosts railroad performances on specific routes:

• 97 percent of passengers on Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee arrived at their destinations on time. Ninety percent of trips experienced no freight train interference.

• 90 percent of passengers on Carl Sandberg/Illinois Zephyr service arrived on time with less than 4 minutes of delay by BNSF freight trains.

• More than 57 percent of passengers arrived late abroad the Coast Starlight. On an average trip on this route, passengers experienced four separate instances of delay caused by UP freight trains, accounting for 48 minutes of delay on average.

• 50 percent of passengers traveling on the Cardinal arrived late by an average of 1 hour and 27 minutes. On 85 percent of trips, the Cardinal’s 350 passengers are delayed by CSX freight trains.

• Over 67 percent of passengers arrived late at their destinations while traveling on the Crescent. The typical Amtrak train, carrying 350 passengers, is delayed over 1 hour and 40 minutes due to NS freight trains. Many Amtrak trains wait as long as 3 hours and 12 minutes for NS freight trains using this route.

• More than 200,000 passengers arrived late at their destinations on the Illini and Saluki, which operate between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. Amtrak trains were delayed by CN freight trains on nearly 90 percent of their trips.

Running in a Winter Wonderland

January 24, 2018

When the weather in the upper Midwest turns wintry, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited often runs late.

Earlier this month Nos. 48 and 49 were running six hours or more behind schedule due to the effects of winter conditions.

Delays in turning the equipment in Chicago were given some of the blame, but winter operating conditions can also lead to frozen switches, broken rails and freight train emergencies that are not Amtrak’s fault.

If No. 48 leaves Chicago late, it likely will get even later as it rolls eastward toward New York and Boston.

On a sunny but frigid day last week when the early morning temperatures were in the low teens and the wind chill was sub zero, I braved the elements to photograph No. 48 at Geneva, Ohio, where it came through more than two hours off schedule.

It was running a few minutes behind an eastbound CSX stack train. I can only speculate that the dispatcher put the intermodal train out ahead of Amtrak because it would not be stopping in Erie, Pennsylvania, but Amtrak would be.

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

The Other LSL Did Much Better

July 7, 2017

Sunday, July 2, was not a good day to be a passenger aboard Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited.

First, the train was delayed for five hours due to flooding and track inspections between Albany and Utica, New York.

Then it ran into a Norfolk Southern work window in Ohio by which it had to make a roundabout detour move that added four more hours of delay.

By the time it reached Chicago at 7:27 p.m. it was nine hours, 42 minutes late.

But those riding the eastbound Lake Shore Limited only had to deal with the “standard” delays.

It was a mere 30 minutes late reaching New York Penn Station although it was over an hour late at some stations in New York state.

It it shown above cruising through Painesville, Ohio, east of Cleveland after departing the latter station 40 minutes off the advertised.

A noteworthy point about this train is that the P42DC locomotives pulling it are consecutively numbered 15 and 14.

Late 48 in Mid Morning in Lake County

June 14, 2017

Akron Railroad Club member Jeff Troutman sent along this image of Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passing through Painesville just past 9:33 a.m. on Tuesday.

At the time, No. 48 had departed Cleveland 3 hours, 17 minutes behind schedule.

An online report indicated that the lateness could be attributed in part to the need to replace a bad-ordered car in Chicago.

No. 48 was 2 hours, 38 minutes late leaving Chicago Union Station on Tuesday night.

As often happens, things didn’t get better from there. When it departed Syracuse, New York, on Tuesday afternoon, No. 48 was nearly 6 hours late.

The train arrived in New York City at 11:42 p.m., five hours and 19 minutes late. The Boston section arrived at 1:47 a.m., five hours and 46 minutes late.