Category Archives: AMTRAK

Amtrak to Chicago: Advocates hope train service can grow from limited options Cincinnati has now

CINCINNATI — It’s the last remaining portion of Union Terminal’s original use, but many today don’t even know it’s there.

Tucked behind the now under-construction Cincinnati Museum Center is the city’s access point to Amtrak, the country’s primary regional and long-distance passenger railroad service.

The station is a modestly sized version of the terminal in its heyday, which originally was designed to accommodate more than 200 trains and some 17,000 passengers each day. Today — secondary to housing the museum center — the station serves only a fraction of the railroads and passengers it once did, with just three arrivals and departures scheduled each week.

But there is a growing conversation in the region to change that.

New AMTRAK “Charger”Locomotives Testing on Cascades Route in Washington

National certification testing of Amtrak’s new Charger locomotive is being conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The WSDOT said that the Siemens SC-44 Charger units are testing on the Amtrak Cascades corridor throughout February. If all goes well they are scheduled to enter regular service later this year.

The WSDOT has ordered eight of the 4,400-horsepower locomotives, which are being assembled by Siemens in Sacramento.

Siemens is headquartered in Germany and builds locomotives also for Florida East Coast Railway’s BRIGHTLINE

‘Put the Junction Back in the Junction’

Every seat was occupied in the waiting room at the Essex Junction Amtrak station on the first Wednesday in January. Passengers going south to New York City and Washington, D.C., spilled onto the platform next to the tracks. The drab station was the center of activity as the shops and restaurants in the old commercial buildings along Railroad Avenue began to open.

With a blast of its horn, the Vermonter arrived promptly at 9:54 a.m. from St. Albans, and 110 people climbed aboard the train. Such large crowds delight Essex Junction leaders, who want to boost train ridership in the historic railroad town.

The goal is “to put the junction back in the Junction,” said George Tyler, president of the Essex Junction Board of Trustees.

To that end, he and his colleagues are doing everything they can to accelerate the proposed extension of passenger rail to Montréal, which they figure could bring throngs of Canadians to Essex Junction, the train’s sole stop in Chittenden County. It would restore the old Montréaler service that for decades brought tourists and skiers through Vermont, linking Quebéc and Washington, D.C. The trains ran until 1995, when Amtrak discontinued the run because of financial problems. St. Albans became the northern terminus, and the line was renamed the Vermonter.

Citing renewed interest in rail and a national increase in Amtrak ridership, state officials predict the new service to Montréal will start in 2019. “Everything that needs to be done is in Canada,” said Dan Delabruere, rail director at the Vermont Agency of Transportation. “We’re ready on the Vermont side.”

Village leaders are touting other rail projects, too, as part of a broader village revitalization that encourages better pedestrian access, more street life and taller buildings in the core of the commuter burg.

For years, the area around the Junction sprouted strip development, parking lots and outlet stores while commercial spaces in the historic center sat empty. No more. New planning and zoning goals promote downtown-style redevelopment and seek to inject more life into the village.

“This community came into existence because of rail, and one of the best things we can do is take advantage of this fact and redevelop our rail assets,” said Tyler.

Originally named Painesville after Vermont governor and railroad owner Charles Paine, the village in the town of Essex earned a different moniker in the 1850s. It became known as “the Junction” because at least six rail lines chugged through it.

Read more on this story

AMTRAK Builds Momentum Behind Critical Upgrades

THE appointment of Mr Wick Moorman as president and CEO of Amtrak last September was greeted with enthusiasm from across the North American railway industry, bringing more than 40 years of railway experience and an intimate understanding of the freight carriers to the top job in US passenger rail.

Moorman began his railway career with NS’ predecessor Southern, initially working in track maintenance during his college days, before rising from management trainee to become president and CEO of the Class 1 railway. At a time of considerable political and economic uncertainty for the United States, Moorman’s understanding of how the railway operates, how it makes money, and how to influence policymakers in Washington DC should help to give Amtrak stability and build a future based on growth.

Indeed, growth has been a defining feature of Amtrak’s recent history, and ridership has now exceeded 30 million passengers for six consecutive years. Unaudited ticket sales for the 2016 fiscal year, which ended on September 30 2016, reached a record $US 2.14bn, a $US 12m increase compared with 2015. This was driven by a 400,000 increase in passenger journeys, which rose to a record 31.3 million.

Amtrak covered 94% of its operating costs from ticket sales and other revenues, up from 92% in 2015. Unaudited total revenue in 2016 reached $US 3.2bn and as a result, Amtrak reduced its operating loss by $US 78m to $US 227m, its lowest since 1973.

As he begins his first full year at the helm, Moorman is seeking to build on these results by driving efficiency and making Amtrak more responsive to the needs of customers. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in January 2016 recommended that Amtrak should extend the use of its strategic management system company-wide and improve its financial reporting, and Moorman is keen to follow this path in 2017.

Read More on Wick Moorman

Old Pictures From An Early AMTRAK

In posters from the era, trains were pitched to passengers as the most modern and aspirational way to travel.

amtraktaglines

With taglines in the 1970s encouraging travellers to ‘get off your wheels and on to ours’ Amtrak showcased a series of vibrant adverts depicting the freedom of the network

amtrakpresidentford

President Ford on an Amtrak train in the 1970s surrounded by supporters and the press

amtrakredcaps

Staff members known as Red Caps at Santa Fe Depot in Fort Worth, Texas, move sacks and parcels between the baggage car and depot. Red Caps helped passengers with baggage navigate through the station; here they wear a jumpsuit introduced in early 1972 and their trademark red hats. The baggage car features the Phase II paint scheme introduced in 1975.

amtrakturbotrain

A color photograph showing the TurboTrain stopped at Petersburg, Virginia, during its 1971 national tour. This type of train was primarily used between New York and Boston until its retirement in 1976

amtrakcustomerservice

Passenger service representative Patty Saunders speaks with travellers in a first-class Metroliner club car – known as Metroclub. In her role, Saunders assisted customers on the train and served them food and beverages at their seat. The first class Metroclub had roomy, individually reclining swivel parlour chairs and there was also a phone booth available to passengers

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-4084712/Fascinating-photos-1970s-reveal-Amtrak-s-early-days.html#ixzz4WmS5pDKL

AMTRAK’S “CARDINAL” WANTS TO BE MORE POPULAR

WOW! The poor “Cardinal” wants to be more popular. It wants to be daily not 3 times a week. It wants to serve more communities. It wants to run on a different route.

cardinalroute

One of the major challenges to running effective train service to Chicago via the Cardinal includes the condition of track on the current route. All Aboard Ohio Chairperson Ken Prendergast told UrbanCincy, “It should be noted that about 50-60 miles of the Chicago-Fort Wayne/Lima nearest to Chicago could be used by Cincinnati to Chicago trains. It would provide a much faster routing into Chicago than the current route of the Cardinal and any other Cincinnati – Chicago trains that may be added in the near future.”

Elsewhere in Ohio, a passenger rail line linking rail-starved cities like Columbus and Lima to Chicago via Ft. Wayne and Gary, IN received a major boost on Tuesday. Federal officials gave permission for communities along the line to begin the Alternative Analysis and Public Input process, which will do preliminary engineering, service planning, and measure environmental impacts. Those officials met at Ft. Wayne’s Baker Street Station, which saw its last passenger service in 1990. This analysis will being in January of 2017 and finish by the Fall of that same year. The $350,000 needed for this initial studying was raised by cities all along the line.

“This is the first step in the Project Development Process, which all major transportation projects must go through. Right now there is enough funding from communities and businesses west of Lima to do the Chicago-Lima portion but not farther east to Columbus” Prendergast stated.

Prendergast sees these lines as a next step in further connecting Ohio via rail between Chicago and the east coast. If a Chicago to Columbus line is created it is not impossible to imagine future phases that could expand eastward beyond Columbus as well, Prendergast says, “there’s nothing that says the Eastern Terminus of this route has to be Columbus. In fact Amtrak services from Cleveland and Toledo could be routed over this Fort Wayne-Chicago segment. But we still believe Central Ohio will decide it’s in their economic interest to be a part of this project.”

Officials speaking at the news conference highlighted their big dreams and big plans for the new possible rail line. They called for initial service to run between 70-80mph, with eventual upgrades to 110mph. A 2013 study by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association estimated that 10 trains a day along this line could generate up to 2 million annual passengers by 2020.

While both of these proposals require the cooperation of the freight railroads who own the lines (CSX and Norfolk Southern, respectively), many have hope because of Amtrak’s new CEO, Wick Moorman. Moorman is a veteran of the freight rail industry, having served more than 4 decades with Norfolk Southern and its predecessor, Southern. He has signaled that improved relations with the Class I freight railroads will be a focus of his tenure as CEO.

cardinalproposed

Securing an Amtrak stop in Oxford has been more like a roller coaster ride than rail service for officials working on a proposal for more than two decades.

The city, various study groups and Miami University students have been studying the issue since 2009 with limited success — a full 15 years after an historic train station at South Elm Street was razed.

The issue of adding a stop again was raised in 2009 by a Miami University student group. Amtrak’s Cardinal line already passed through the city three times a week, but it did not stop in Oxford. With a student population of 16,000, some city leaders believed there might be a market to support a train stop.

Amtrak’s Berlin, CT. Station Burns Down

A historic train station in Berlin was closed on Wednesday following an early morning fire.
According to officials, the fire began shortly before 4 a.m. on Wednesday.
The train station, located at 51 Depot Rd., was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived. Roughly 50 firefighters responded. They said they had to deal with some significant flames and frigid temperatures during the fight.

The station, which was scheduled for renovation, has been closed since March and commuters who were using a platform outside to board trains.

berlin2

Old Station!

Amtrak said the station has been around since 1900. It appeared to have significant damage.
“I think the building might be a total loss,” Lewandowski said. “I think all that’s left now is the outside walls.”
A new station is being built across the tracks. It is unclear if the new station was damaged in any way.

Connecticut’s WALK BRIDGE: Save It, Replace It or Reuse Parts?

A lot of more than just local interest in the “WALK BRIDGE” in Norwalk, Connecticut. The Metro-North Railroad Walk Bridge in Norwalk, Conn. Some Norwalk officials are calling for the Connecticut Department of Transportation to replace the Walk Bridge with an ‘iconic’ structure and some residents will likely miss the existing 120-year-old bridge. The Norwalk Preservation Trust states that the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and if the state must replace the bridge it should fully fund a Norwalk Historical Society Museum exhibit on the bridge and railroad.

This bridge carries not only dozens of Metro-North commuter trains, but also vital to AMTRAKs NorthEast Corridor between Boston and Washington, DC.

As the state gears up to replace the Walk Bridge, sentimentality is growing among local people over the iconic structure that has marked Norwalk’s skyline for 120 years.
“The loss of the existing bridge, its catenaries and high towers, as well as its brownstone structural elements would forever change the character of the area,” wrote the Norwalk Preservation Trust in its response to the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s report on the project. “We respectfully request that the repair and retention of the existing bridge be given further study in the hopes that demolition can be avoided.”

If the railroad bridge and its “associated elements must be demolished,” the NPT wants the DOT take a number of mitigation measures such as leaving the historic granite or brownstone abutments in place, or reusing them as part of the new bridge.

When built in 1896, the bridge was both state-of-the-art and also the last of its breed.
“In its wide proportions and heavy steel construction, the Norwalk bridge exemplifies the railroad swing bridge at its height of development: after the mid- 1890s, nearly all movable bridges were bascules of one type or another,” reads a portion of the nomination report that landed the bridge on the register.

Dick Carpenter of East Norwalk, author of “A Railroad Atlas of the United States in 1946,” said the Walk Bridge is the only four-track swing bridge that he knows of on a major rail line in the nation. That and its age are its distinguishing characteristics, he said

DOT, after considering more than 70 design concepts, ruled out repairing the existing bridge or replacing it with a fixed-bridge. The state’s preferred replacement is a 240-foot vertical lift bridge that would cost $425 million to $460 million to build. Work is slated to start in mid-2018.

“We are aware of numerous other century old bridges across the country that have been repaired and maintained and are expected to last for another century and beyond, such as the Williamsburg Bridge in New York,”

Making the Case Buffalo’s Central Terminal is Right Choice for Amtrak Station

“Every Amtrak train that crosses the state, every single one, regardless of destination, goes right by Central Terminal,” said Mark Lewandowski, director of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation.

Lewandowski says it was built where it was to allow for direct travel to places like New York City, Toronto and Chicago, while no other spot in the city can, and he says Amtrak already owns passenger loading platforms next to the complex.

“The renaissance of Buffalo means nothing unless it can find its way into the forgotten neighborhoods. This is a neighborhood that has been forsaken, but those days are over,” said Rep Brian Higgins, D-26th District.

With $25 million in state funding for the new train station available in 2018, Higgins says he and Sen. Charles Schumer are dedicated to finding matching funds.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes says for her, it’s an easy decision.

“This should be the hub of transportation in the city of Buffalo. It should be for light rail, it should be for Amtrak and it should also be for bus transportation,” said Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo.

She says infrastructure funding is rarely spent in low-income communities, and being more inclusive with that money is how the new Buffalo should be created.

Ridership and revenue grow on Hoosier State Train

The Hoosier State welcomed 2,428 riders in September, a 46 percent increase from September 2015 and the fifth straight month that ridership exceeded the same period in 2015. Ticket revenue totaled $82,324 in September – a 64 percent increase from September 2015 – marking a full year of revenue exceeding the same months the prior year.

On-time arrivals between Indianapolis and Chicago averaged 86 percent in August and 82 percent in September. Yesterday CSX Transportation replaced the manual switch near the Crawfordsville station with a new switch that is expected to cut 8 to 15 minutes from a one-way trip.

INDOT and the on-line communities contract with Iowa Pacific Holdings to provide the train equipment, train maintenance and new on-board amenities. Under a separate contract, Amtrak serves as the train operator, works with host railroads, provides train and engine crews, and manages ticketing and reservations.