#21 (8/9-10-11) absolute hellish mess

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Thirdrail7

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I was one of those stuck on a non-moving Silver for 24+ hours, several years ago. After finally getting the tracks clear the next day, we started moving, only stopping again a short time later because the crew timed out. We stopped in the middle of a swamp.

Sorry, IMHO, Amtrak needs to send a relief crew or have them staged at stations, ready and able, when extremely long delays happen to any LD train. No one could ever convince me that if Amtrak, for example, offered a $1M bonus to any qualified employee who could get to, say, the Atlanta station in 24 hours, that there would be no takers.

Stopping in the middle of a swamp is simply beyond gross incompetence. If the crew will time out before reaching the next station, then don't even try. Duh! Hold at the last station they can reach. At least the stranded passengers could make use of the station while waiting. What is Amtrak afraid of? After 24+ hours, the stranded passengers will take a taxis to the airport?
Yeah, we stopped JUST SOUTH OF Walnut Ridge. Like, couldn't they foresee the timing-out and just have sat at the station? Also maybe easier to get the relief crew there, better roads or something. (And for that matter - if the crew is approaching time out, just load the relief crew from the station they WOULD have got on at and start driving them towards the train! Chances are it won't pass the van with the crew in it).

.
I don't know where Walnut Ridge is but there are things that are left out as you two focus on a single train. What are the physical characteristics of the areas you intend to leave a train for multiple hours? What does the host have in mind since they ultimately will make the call as it is their territory.

Will leaving a train at a station (assuming it is staffed) result in fouling a grade crossing circuit? Is said station on a single track, which would not only delay your train, but cause other trains around it to time out as well as congestion results? Where is the relief coming from? Is it coming from the direction you're heading? Some stations are hours apart so is it better to make a run towards your relief as opposed to sitting in the same station as the clock ticks against the relief crew? How many crews are even available?

In the case "just load the relief crew from the station they WOULD have got on and start driving them towards the train," that is common but assumes there is someone or something to drive them to where they're going to. Quite often, the delay is finding a way to even deadhead them to the equipment. Not every crew change location has personnel on the scene. Not every location has transportation on the scene. You have to find a service to taxi the crew to the location..if that is even feasible. There are time when they've used freight trains and even airplanes to ferry relief crews to equipment.

However, this also takes time. Typically, the personnel that will ferry relief crews are also under hours of service laws.

Each scenario is different. There are plenty of times when I can see holding in station if you're not going to make it. I can see (and have seen) plenty of times when it was not really feasible, ill-advised or not even allowed.
 

Rasputin

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It would be kind of nice to hold the train in some civilized or reasonably accessible spot so that the train can be reached by medical personnel or law enforcement in an emergency. I would be kind of ticked to have a heart attack and die on a train in the middle of a swamp. I recall reading about that incident of the train held for hours in a swamp. I am surprised that anyone on that train is still considering travelling on Amtrak.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Are the hosts and regulators sabotaging Amtrak's locomotives and diners? Are they performing Amtrak's preventive maintenance and stocking Amtrak's parts warehouses? Are they insisting that long distance trains leave with one locomotive and pushing cans of Dinty Moore on passengers who paid more than first class airfare? I'm sure there may be some technical reasons why this or that solution was difficult or impossible, but at some point the host and regulator excuses start to fall flat and I'm left wondering why Amtrak feels the need to waste their limited political capital praising reduced amenities, promoting permanent bus bridges, antagonizing secondary revenue streams, and other detrimental nonsense instead of fighting for better host priority and a more practical regulatory environment.
 
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Thirdrail7

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Are the hosts and regulators sabotaging Amtrak's locomotives and diners?

Can you define sabotage? I think making equipment unnecessarily heavy to conform with a mystery, subjective standard which makes the equipment far more expensive to order, maintain and operate can amounts to sabotage.

Are they performing Amtrak's preventive maintenance and stocking Amtrak's parts warehouses?
There are various turnaround points and initial terminals that use host facilities, personnel and manpower. There are also facilities and turnaround locations where the equipment is repaired and maintained by contractors. They often have parts for the equipment on hand at these locations to allow them to move in service if necessary if full repairs aren't able to be made.


Are they insisting that long distance trains leave with one locomotive and pushing cans of Dinty Moore on passengers who paid more than first class airfare?
I would say that is more of a Congressional issue. After all, there hasn't been a ton of infusion to receive replacements for the old, battered equipment. How many damaged locomotives and cars have been lost since the TIGER grant rebuilds years ago? There are quite a few sidelined locomotives, with at least another three being damaged in the last two days. So, is anyone rushing to get the additional equipment in service, so the old equipment can be retired or receive a break in service?

I do wonder why only 75 new locomotives were ordered for LD service. Is that all the money they had to allocate for the purchase or are they just being stingy until they find out what the plan is for corridor service. At any rate, 75 doesn't provide a ton of cushion when your locomotive fleet is jousting with trees , trucks and cars on a daily basis.

Additional, it was a Congressional mandate that Amtrak reduce its food losses in 5 years. After that point, federal money can not be used to cover food and beverage losses. That's next year. So after next year, every can of Dinty Moore will need to be offset by something else.

I hope it isn't fuel.

I'm sure there may be some technical reasons why this or that solution was unwelcome or impossible, but at some point the host and regulator excuses start to fall flat and I'm left wondering why Amtrak feels the need to spend their limited political capital praising reduced amenities, promoting permanent bus bridges, antagonizing secondary revenue streams, and other detrimental nonsense.
The Congressional mandate states they must attempt to cover their expenses and eliminate food costs. While it is my opinion, the law is being cherry picked in its application, this is what the board seems to be excited about and the only hope is a severe loss of revenue.

Until it drops significantly, what can you point to and say "this is a bad idea?" since people seem to adapt to most things that have occurred. They are running out of things to take and revenue hasn't plummeted....yet.
 
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OlympianHiawatha

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Whenever I travel long distance Amtrak, I allow at least a day "slop margin" for cases like this. And on a couple occasions it paid off as I was able to relax (along with several other pax who knew how to go with the flow) and enjoy extra train time (and in one case miles), extra diner meals and even a relaxing overnight in Chicago. I also know how to pick up the phone and call Amtrak res the moment something starts heading South and get my bases covered long before dozens of other pax are fighting for whatever.
 
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Willbridge

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Just a small correction, while the CAB did grant regional carriers more lucrative routes with the idea of weening them off federal support, much of the local service routes received direct federal subsidies as shown here in Frontier Airlines 1977 annual report. http://www.departedflights.com/FL77reportp16.html
That's a good point. However, the CAB's mandate to encourage air travel was reflected in cross-subsidization of shorter flights that competed with surface modes. When that burden was lifted routes like UAL's Portland - Medford or Denver - Lincoln/Omaha were priced higher. Overnight Denver - Lincoln/Omaha is strong enough that when Amtrak has had spurts of interest, a DEN-CHI sleeper or coach does well. In talking with customers at Denver Union Station it has been common to find that they considered air travel over-priced on those close city pairs.
 

jiml

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Whenever I travel long distance Amtrak, I allow at least a day "slop margin" for cases like this. And on a couple occasions it paid off as I was able to relax (along with several other pax who knew how to go with the flow) and enjoy extra train time (and in one case miles), extra diner meals and even a relaxing overnight in Chicago. I also know how to pick up the phone and call Amtrak res the moment something starts heading South and get my bases covered long before dozens of other pax are fighting for whatever.
This is no different than a smart air traveller. Plan ahead, allow proper time for connections, have a back-up plan and don't expect everything to run perfectly. You can be pleasantly surprised when everything works out, but if you have status with your airline you already have the elite number on speed-dial for when it doesn't.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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Can you define sabotage? I think making equipment unnecessarily heavy to conform with a mystery, subjective standard which makes the equipment far more expensive to order, maintain and operate can amounts to sabotage. There are various turnaround points and initial terminals that use host facilities, personnel and manpower. There are also facilities and turnaround locations where the equipment is repaired and maintained by contractors. They often have parts for the equipment on hand at these locations to allow them to move in service if necessary if full repairs aren't able to be made. I would say that is more of a Congressional issue. After all, there hasn't been a ton of infusion to receive replacements for the old, battered equipment. How many damaged locomotives and cars have been lost since the TIGER grant rebuilds years ago? There are quite a few sidelined locomotives, with at least another three being damaged in the last two days. So, is anyone rushing to get the additional equipment in service, so the old equipment can be retired or receive a break in service? I do wonder why only 75 new locomotives were ordered for LD service. Is that all the money they had to allocate for the purchase or are they just being stingy until they find out what the plan is for corridor service. At any rate, 75 doesn't provide a ton of cushion when your locomotive fleet is jousting with trees , trucks and cars on a daily basis. Additional, it was a Congressional mandate that Amtrak reduce its food losses in 5 years. After that point, federal money can not be used to cover food and beverage losses. That's next year. So after next year, every can of Dinty Moore will need to be offset by something else. I hope it isn't fuel. The Congressional mandate states they must attempt to cover their expenses and eliminate food costs. While it is my opinion, the law is being cherry picked in its application, this is what the board seems to be excited about and the only hope is a severe loss of revenue. Until it drops significantly, what can you point to and say "this is a bad idea?" since people seem to adapt to most things that have occurred. They are running out of things to take and revenue hasn't plummeted....yet.
You should print that out and leave a copy at every seat. I'm sure it will make everyone feel much better about all the various reasons Amtrak doesn't try harder. Or make them wonder why Amtrak ever bothered taking their money in the first place.

This is no different than a smart air traveller. Plan ahead, allow proper time for connections, have a back-up plan and don't expect everything to run perfectly. You can be pleasantly surprised when everything works out, but if you have status with your airline you already have the elite number on speed-dial for when it doesn't.
Some of us don't have an extra two days of slack to throw away on every round trip.
 

Rasputin

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In these meltdowns, I feel sorry for those passengers, especially elderly passengers and families or single parents with small children, who are not sophisticated or knowledgeable about the Amtrak system (or lack of system) and don't have Amtrak customer service on their speed dial.
 

fillyjonk

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Whenever I travel long distance Amtrak, I allow at least a day "slop margin" for cases like this. And on a couple occasions it paid off as I was able to relax (along with several other pax who knew how to go with the flow) and enjoy extra train time (and in one case miles), extra diner meals and even a relaxing overnight in Chicago. I also know how to pick up the phone and call Amtrak res the moment something starts heading South and get my bases covered long before dozens of other pax are fighting for whatever.
Yeah, I am already planning on leaving a day EARLY (so: Thursday the 21st or whatever it is) for Thanksgiving to allow a full three days (plus Thursday night) to get to Illinois for my dad's memorial service in November. This will be a hassle as I will have to take a personal day at work and maybe arrange for someone to cover my classes, but I guess that's our lives now.

A "normal" thanksgiving break I wouldn't care about getting there late, but I will never forgive myself (and whoever prevents me from getting there) if I am not there on November 25th for the service.
 
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jis

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You should print that out and leave a copy at every seat. I'm sure it will make everyone feel much better about all the various reasons Amtrak doesn't try harder. Or make them wonder why Amtrak ever bothered taking their money in the first place.
I can understand that there is reason to be frustrated, but I do not understand taking out ones frustration on Thirdrail who is merely trying to inform on what the state of Amtrak is. I guess whatever floats ones boat.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I'm curious what Thirdrail might say if he was a repeat long haul customer never employed by Amtrak. Would a treatise on hypothetical propositions involving operational mishaps and regulatory minutia placate his wits-end concerns over value and relevance?
 
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jis

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&

I'm curious what Thirdrail might say if he was a repeat long haul customer never employed by Amtrak. Would a treatise on hypothetical propositions involving operational mishaps and regulatory minutia placate his wits-end concerns over value and relevance?
I am curious why you are so worked up about him. He, like the rest of us is sharing information and perspective. I enjoy the details he shares. You don’t. So just don’t read his stuff.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I am curious why you are so worked up about him. He, like the rest of us is sharing information and perspective. I enjoy the details he shares. You don’t. So just don’t read his stuff.
Imagine seeing a steam-releasing rant thread entitled "absolute hellish mess" and thinking that what this discussion really needs is a long-winded list of possible explanations involving entrenched technical problems that haven't been tackled in ages. Is it really so hard to just say you're sorry it went so wrong and not feel the need to muddy the water with a series of potential hypotheticals? Something about the response really rubbed me the wrong way. I don't think TR's explanations are incorrect or valueless so much as tone deaf, at least in this particular instance.
 
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tricia

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Some of us don't have an extra two days of slack to throw away on every round trip.
This! Adding days of padding to the difficulties of working around Amtrak's skeletal schedule (three-day-a-week trains as well as daily trains with calling times that require an overnight near the station), unreliable OTP, AND the loss of checked baggage at so many stations: altogether this makes Amtrak impractical for too many of us way too often.
 
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fillyjonk

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I'd also add about my steam-releasing rant that I was VERY recently bereaved; my father died in late July (why I was traveling in the first place) and I will say, being on a train trip that went that completely wrong was just all the more agonizing with me thinking about some of the paper work I still had to complete, and being concerned about my mother, and also worrying about the frame of mind I'd be in to start classes. But whatever, yes, of course, it wasn't Amtrak's fault and I should have just smiled and sucked it up.
 

Bob Dylan

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I'd also add about my steam-releasing rant that I was VERY recently bereaved; my father died in late July (why I was traveling in the first place) and I will say, being on a train trip that went that completely wrong was just all the more agonizing with me thinking about some of the paper work I still had to complete, and being concerned about my mother, and also worrying about the frame of mind I'd be in to start classes. But whatever, yes, of course, it wasn't Amtrak's fault and I should have just smiled and sucked it up.
Sorry for your Loss.No apology needed, we understand!
 

Thirdrail7

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Imagine seeing a steam-releasing rant thread entitled "absolute hellish mess" and thinking that what this discussion really needs is a long-winded list of possible explanations involving entrenched technical problems that haven't been tackled in ages..
Imagine seeing a steam releasing thread and the OP mentions that not feeling the communication received was appropriate. Imaging seeing the OP later stating again about lack of information.

Now, imagine that you can help out with a tidbit of information that deals with a basic philosophy. If you know the why, you know the how.

How do these things happen?

Well, the thing I do have knowledge about and has come up before, I addressed.

Far from long winded, it was a grand total of 6 sentences. The first sentence acknowledged how terrible the overall situation was and the second to last sentence acknowledged that the information would not be of any consolation.

When the OP responded to it, I didn't even address it. It was only when 3 other posters and the OP started discussing the HOS situation, I brought up the operational realities of why they may have decided to advance the train vs leaving there since it has come up before and will likely come up again.

If you put things on a discussion board, there may be people that might be interested in the information that is posted. I'm hopeful the information that was posted may help others or may clarify why certain things are done. It is the exact opposite of "muddying the water" which some people seem to appreciate.

The only thing that might be considered long winded (besides the greyhound asides, the rant about Anderson) is my responses to your posts about diners, funding, how I would handle being a passenger and if I bothered to respond to your equally incorrect statement about technical problems not being tackled in ages and your other potentially baiting questions...because the actual changes in the hours of service laws which occurred over the last 5 years have added stress to the situation....but I'm sure you don't want to discuss it...even though you brought it up.

If my post(s) "rub you the wrong way," there is a feature where you'll won't have to see it.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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If my post(s) "rub you the wrong way," there is a feature where you'll won't have to see it.
If you think the ignore function is the best answer to conflict then by all means practice what you preach and add me to your list. If you have anything else you want to say to me take it to PM or start another thread.
 

Thirdrail7

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Actually, I haven't used the ignore feature...but then again, I wouldn't since I tend to not complain about "long winded" posts or rubbing people the wrong way and don't have conflict.

My posts are general in nature and are usually designed to add information to the pool. This isn't for everyone and again, if anyone is offended, there is the ignore feature or feel free to not address my posts.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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I actually think there is a point to be made for legal reasons that trains should not get stuck for hours at a time in between stations / major city areas. It should be the responsibility of the conductor to make sure that doesn’t happen. If that means blocking a main track so be it.

Obviously a mechanical break down in the middle of nowhere can’t be avoided
 

jis

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In the airline world, a mechanical breakdown of the carrier's own equipment is the responsibility of the carrier and there are well defined penalty payment they have to make to the customers beyond certain amount of delay etc. OTOH a weather induced delay is considered Force Majeure, and the airline is not responsible for compensating. Mechanical failure of someone else's equipment, they will probably try to disown. I am not sure what exactly the rules are. It gets interesting when a chain of events originating in a specific delay has to be handled. In general the cause of the first delay governs how things will go unless a mechanical delay intervenes down the line. If a mechanical/airline responsibility delay comes into the chain then all delays beyond that (and hence effectively all delays in that chain) are dealt with as if it was a airline responsibility delay - or at least it is supposed to be. Airlines try to play fast and loose sometimes hoping that the customer will not notice.

I don't believe there are any federal rules in the US governing delays in train travel. Amtrak has its own rules, whatever they happen to be that year, though usually they are reasonably generous. There are rules in EU for such and the airline delay rules are also much more stringent and onerous in the EU.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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In the airline world, a mechanical breakdown is the responsibility of the carrier and there are well defined penalty payment they have to make to the customers beyond certain amount of delay etc.
One of the biggest complaints about third tier LCC's like Spirit and Allegiant is that they don't do much of anything for people who are stranded, apparently including situations where the failure appears to be under the control of the airline. The DOT created several rules and restrictions involving extended delays under the previous administration, including penalties and compensation that result from being broken, but unless the current DOT seeks to enforce those rules there is little for US airlines to fear. There was also a call to rescind those rules and replace them with unenforceable guidelines, which may or may not have been acted upon at this point.
 
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jis

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Yeah, I should have added that at present only the reputable airlines in the US try to follow the rules, such as they are. It is kind of interesting to see the special multi-paragraph notification that comes attached with any itinerary that is governed by EU rules, since EU imposes very stiff fines on the airlines for non-compliance.

But coming back to passenger rail, there ought to be a passengers bill of rights for passenger rail too, like they have in Europe. But I would not hold my breath in the US until it descends further into the toilet hole so as to irritate sufficient number of people to force changes to occur. Americans are surprisingly sheepish when it comes to asserting any of their rights other than tings like to bear automatic rifles and maybe even Howitzers and RPGs (who knows?) or have no traffic cameras to catch them breaking the law. LOL!
 
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