Amtrak Carolinian and Piedmont Trains.

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TheVig

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Charlotte is home for me. Getting a train stop, light rail or otherwise, at the airport, has been a cluster @*#+% of a discussion for a long time locally. Not to mention CSX or NS (can’t remember which one at the moment) not wanting to play nice around the airport has not helped either.

Every time I get off a plane at PHL, and walk right out the door to the SEPTA, reminds me of how nice things could be in CLT. Lol.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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You must love VIA Rail Canada then because it's what I jokingly call the North American Museum of the post war passenger train.

The Piedmonts are a really great train with an incredible formula for success that could easily be copied for elsewhere. You have two strong end points, with a really strong midpoint in Greensboro. Even though I would argue both Durham and High Point are also fairly strong intermediates in their own right. What makes them unique is the fact that the south was and still is not known for public transit. So that the fact these trains are such a success as they are is testament for how good they are.

However there is room to make small improvements even now.

1. A Charlotte Airport Station. The mainline is only 590 ft away from the end of the renovated E Concourse. There is no reason you couldn't attempt multimodal service right there. And it's only an additional 7 miles of track and there is a siding already in place for the train to clear the mainline. And if you wanted to put a station in for non airport passengers there is a large grassy lot available right across the tracks from E Concourse. It would actually make a lot of sense.

2. Extend the trains down to Greenville, SC, Atlanta, GA, Columbia, SC, Augusta, GA, or Charleston, SC. You have the foundation for a really good network of regional rail out of a Charlotte hub. And even better if you can codeshare those trains and run them frequently enough so we curtail some of the shortest AA flights out of Charlotte to ILM, RDU, GSP, CAE, GSO, AGS, and CHS. Three of those without much improvement would be time competitive to flying between them and CLT.
For extending the trains I am on the fence. In theory I am in favor. However, NC taxpayers pay a lot to fund the Piedmont and the Carolinian. If the base of operations moved to Colunbia as the endpoint I would be a bit upset the few jobs involved with cleaning and servicing the trains left NC for a location in SC. Even a bigger deal to me would be the increased chances of late arriving trains in NC from the train starting at Columbia. That is another 150 km to run late. Had SC helped with the Piedmont from day one than I would not feel so strongly about this but as it is SC needs to do more than "just their fair share" at this point. Maybe a Chareston-Columbia route that aligned with the Piedmont trains timetables in Charlotte for a quick transfer could work. Or maybe a Greenville-Charlotte run that came into Charlotte just before the Piedmonts left Charlotte could work, and again with a transfer for the SC passengers. With the understanding if the SC train is more than 5 minutes late they may be left.

I want to see the Amtrak network expand and am surprised with what is basically some spite towards SC in my feelings. But here I am. Maybe I would change my mind if SC actually was serious about this. Deep down I would hope I would be happy with expanded service happened.
 
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McLeansvilleAppFan

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Charlotte is home for me. Getting a train stop, light rail or otherwise, at the airport, has been a cluster @*#+% of a discussion for a long time locally. Not to mention CSX or NS (can’t remember which one at the moment) not wanting to play nice around the airport has not helped either.

Every time I get off a plane at PHL, and walk right out the door to the SEPTA, reminds me of how nice things could be in CLT. Lol.
At some point in the future the Amtrak station will be downtown and that is now in development or is it still in the "Talking about" phase. Is not one of the light rail lines going to run to the airport from the new Amtrak station as well? Do you know the timeline on this? I was thinking that was farther out but certainly in the plans to be done.
 

John Bobinyec

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The new Gateway station at Charlotte is not yet under construction. However, the bridges to get to the station location are under construction.

jb
 

TheVig

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At some point in the future the Amtrak station will be downtown and that is now in development or is it still in the "Talking about" phase. Is not one of the light rail lines going to run to the airport from the new Amtrak station as well? Do you know the timeline on this? I was thinking that was farther out but certainly in the plans to be done.
The Amtrak station will be downtown and is under construction now. Greyhound will also have a spot, along with the CATS street car. It’s called the Gateway Center. Great progress on the construction, but far from over.

The CATS light rail silver line when built will, will go near the airport, but it won’t be a true front door stop. Most likely will have to take some sort of shuttle bus to actually get to the airport. Hopefully something can get worked so a bus connector is not needed.
 

jis

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I noticed that the Tier 1 EIS for the Charlotte - Atlanta HSR has a Charlotte Airport station in all of the three alternatives it considers, and various permutations and combinations of them. But the realization is probably many decades away at the rate things move in this country.
 
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McLeansvilleAppFan

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The Amtrak station will be downtown and is under construction now. Greyhound will also have a spot, along with the CATS street car. It’s called the Gateway Center. Great progress on the construction, but far from over.

The CATS light rail silver line when built will, will go near the airport, but it won’t be a true front door stop. Most likely will have to take some sort of shuttle bus to actually get to the airport. Hopefully something can get worked so a bus connector is not needed.
That is a shame about the silver not going directly to the airport. I was under the impression that would be the case. I was in Charlotte a few years ago and rode the line from UNCC to the end of the line south and back up. At the time I was disappointed to know the light rail was on the wrong side of the rail yard for Amtrak, but knowing the new downtown station will be done at some point will make this a moot point in the future.
 

west point

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CLT Gateway station. Have to wonder if Greyhound will even be operating by time station is complete ? Do not spend much money on any Greyhound specific items.
 

TheVig

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CLT Gateway station. Have to wonder if Greyhound will even be operating by time station is complete ? Do not spend much money on any Greyhound specific items.
Greyhound station in CLT seems to do a decent amount of business. I follow Greyhound on FB and sometimes read the comments for a good laugh. One complaint after another. Driver shortages, buses never showing, constant cancellations and so on. Don’t hold me to this, but I think the current owner has been trying sell it for sometime now. If Greyhound were to go belly up, Im certain we won’t have to worry about a government takeover.

Certainly a few regional bus companies could fill in the void if the route is profitable.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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Greyhound station in CLT seems to do a decent amount of business. I follow Greyhound on FB and sometimes read the comments for a good laugh. One complaint after another. Driver shortages, buses never showing, constant cancellations and so on. Don’t hold me to this, but I think the current owner has been trying sell it for sometime now. If Greyhound were to go belly up, Im certain we won’t have to worry about a government takeover.

Certainly a few regional bus companies could fill in the void if the route is profitable.
I imagine in an ideal world we would not need the bus lines as much as Amtrak would be doing the heavy lifting for routes under 4 or 5 hours and the bus lines could be used to fill in gaps to small towns. I don't use Greyhound but I would hate to see a national network not be there. Plenty of people need it, though not enough to make it profitable.
 

Seaboard92

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For extending the trains I am on the fence. In theory I am in favor. However, NC taxpayers pay a lot to fund the Piedmont and the Carolinian. If the base of operations moved to Colunbia as the endpoint I would be a bit upset the few jobs involved with cleaning and servicing the trains left NC for a location in SC. Even a bigger deal to me would be the increased chances of late arriving trains in NC from the train starting at Columbia. That is another 150 km to run late. Had SC helped with the Piedmont from day one than I would not feel so strongly about this but as it is SC needs to do more than "just their fair share" at this point. Maybe a Chareston-Columbia route that aligned with the Piedmont trains timetables in Charlotte for a quick transfer could work. Or maybe a Greenville-Charlotte run that came into Charlotte just before the Piedmonts left Charlotte could work, and again with a transfer for the SC passengers. With the understanding if the SC train is more than 5 minutes late they may be left.

I want to see the Amtrak network expand and am surprised with what is basically some spite towards SC in my feelings. But here I am. Maybe I would change my mind if SC actually was serious about this. Deep down I would hope I would be happy with expanded service happened.
Well I do think my state needs to support more. I know at one time in 2012 the state of NC actually had a proposed extension down to CHS with a schedule. It was basically the morning Piedmont from Raleigh, and the Evening Piedmont from Charlotte being extended down.

I strongly doubt running from Columbia would cause the trains to be late. NS only has the following traffic on the R Line North.

12R (Columbia-Enola) departs Columbia around 0300 stops and works Rock Hill, Charlotte, and Linwood (Salisbury).
13R (Enola-Columbia) usually arrives around 2100 into Columbia.

P36 (Rock Hill-Chester Turn) runs now about Triweekly alternating with P32 (Rock Hill-Bowater) runs midday.
P53 (Pineville-Charlotte Turn) runs out of the Arrowood Industrial Park usually a mid morning train.
P65 (Columbia-Blythewood) usually midday and only about twice a week.

Couple that with decent sidings in Fort Mill, Henley (Chester), Simpson (Ridgeway), and a handful of shorter smaller ones at Blythewood, Rockton, Winnsboro, Rock Hill, and Chelsea you shouldn't really have a large problem with running a decent volume of trains and fairly reliably.
At one point a few years ago the R line north had a much larger amount of trains but that has all since disappeared with PSR, and shippers getting tired of NS's anti small customer attitudes.

As far as the other lines I mentioned.

Columbia-Charleston (SC Line)
-237/238 (Charleston-Atlanta) usually overnight across SC.
-BMW Autorack Trains (Two Pairs each way Daily Greer-Charleston)
-P66 (Columbia-Wateree) I've never seen this symbol in its current form. It used to be the symbol for the Columbia-Silverstreet (with trackage rights on CSX train)
-P28 (Columbia-Branchville) Mid Day Turn local
-P27 (Charleston-Pregnall) Mid Day Turn Local
-Rock Extras as needed.

Now that line is significantly more active but for the most part Amtrak could easily navigate it because it is not nearly as active as the Charlotte Junction-Greensboro line that the Piedmont currently runs on.

Columbia-Augusta
191/192 (Columbia-Macon) an overnight freight
P75 (Columbia-Monetta) Turn Local midday
P70 (Augusta-Johnson) Turn Local midday

Not a lot of traffic on this section of the line. Now it's been downgraded to 25 MPH but before that it was 50 MPH which by FRA classification is good for 60 for passenger service with the signals retimed. They were trying to save money when they did that.

We need more regional rail and the southeast especially the Carolinas have a lot of potential.

Yes my state has been lackluster in the past decades but that doesn't mean we have to stay that way. There is definitely room for it to grow and develop. I can speak from working some of the Carolina Shuttle routes (GSP-CLT, CAE-CLT) we have a lot of potential because there is a surprisingly a large amount of traffic going to GSO and RDU on their connection. Granted 40 percent of the connections are going to the NEC cities, and 40 percent going to the west coast. But the point is that 20 percent staying in the SE means we have some potential to make a really good network.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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Well I do think my state needs to support more. I know at one time in 2012 the state of NC actually had a proposed extension down to CHS with a schedule. It was basically the morning Piedmont from Raleigh, and the Evening Piedmont from Charlotte being extended down.

I strongly doubt running from Columbia would cause the trains to be late. NS only has the following traffic on the R Line North.


Yes my state has been lackluster in the past decades but that doesn't mean we have to stay that way. There is definitely room for it to grow and develop. I can speak from working some of the Carolina Shuttle routes (GSP-CLT, CAE-CLT) we have a lot of potential because there is a surprisingly a large amount of traffic going to GSO and RDU on their connection. Granted 40 percent of the connections are going to the NEC cities, and 40 percent going to the west coast. But the point is that 20 percent staying in the SE means we have some potential to make a really good network.
Thanks for the detailed analysis. Running the Piedmonts would sit better with me than starting the Carolinian in Columbia.

I am sure if this happens I would be happy and getting a ticket as soon as I could to a day trip to Columbia.
 

Seaboard92

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Thanks for the detailed analysis. Running the Piedmonts would sit better with me than starting the Carolinian in Columbia.

I am sure if this happens I would be happy and getting a ticket as soon as I could to a day trip to Columbia.
I would argue you could extended the Carolinian down to Columbia relatively easily. I don't think North Carolina would lose any jobs for the servicing of the one train because from Charlotte you could easily have a set of multiple corridors that would require even more staff than the one train has right now.

Between Charlotte-Atlanta, Charlotte-Charleston, Charlotte-Wilmington (low hanging fruit for replacing regional flying), Charlotte-Washington via Charlottesville, and in addition more Piedmonts on the current route you wouldn't lose any staff in Charlotte. Charlotte has incredible growth potential.

Your welcome I'm from the Columbia area so I know the various lines that come in and out really well and what runs. I don't know what the EX Seaboard between Charlotte and Wilmington has traffic wise though.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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I would argue you could extended the Carolinian down to Columbia relatively easily. I don't think North Carolina would lose any jobs for the servicing of the one train because from Charlotte you could easily have a set of multiple corridors that would require even more staff than the one train has right now.

Between Charlotte-Atlanta, Charlotte-Charleston, Charlotte-Wilmington (low hanging fruit for replacing regional flying), Charlotte-Washington via Charlottesville, and in addition more Piedmonts on the current route you wouldn't lose any staff in Charlotte. Charlotte has incredible growth potential.

Your welcome I'm from the Columbia area so I know the various lines that come in and out really well and what runs. I don't know what the EX Seaboard between Charlotte and Wilmington has traffic wise though.
I wrote my original post after the Carolinian was delayed 45 minutes from Charlotte to Greesnboro and that is with double track. I was tracking what I think was the Amtrak and some freight with TrainMon5 and it looked, without knowing specifics, that NS let a freight in front of the Amtrak between Charlotte and Kannapolis. After being late in Greensboro we NEVER got caught up and just kept slipping a this threw everything off and I think CSX was like, "They are already 90 min late into Richmond so what does it matter now." That is my worry though given what you said it seems more doable.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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I work at the Greensboro Science Center and operate the planetarium on some weekends. One of the visitors leaving my show mentioned she was from Raleigh and her and her son tookAmtrak to Greensboro. Next thing you know we are talking trains and Amtrak and I almost am late starting the next show.

Highlight of the day.
 

Seaboard92

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I wrote my original post after the Carolinian was delayed 45 minutes from Charlotte to Greesnboro and that is with double track. I was tracking what I think was the Amtrak and some freight with TrainMon5 and it looked, without knowing specifics, that NS let a freight in front of the Amtrak between Charlotte and Kannapolis. After being late in Greensboro we NEVER got caught up and just kept slipping a this threw everything off and I think CSX was like, "They are already 90 min late into Richmond so what does it matter now." That is my worry though given what you said it seems more doable.
Hopefully that should be getting mitigated now with more double track and curve realignment being done by the state. The H Line which is the Greensboro-Selma segment really is not that busy. I want to say it only has one or two pairs of freights a day plus a few locals. It's mostly Amtrak at this point I believe.

The mainline is not what it used to be either. I almost never see a freight when I'm in Charlotte on the mainline. The best day not to have freight interference actually is Monday on the Carolinian/Piedmont because none of the intermodal trains usually originate on Monday if my memory serves me right from a few years ago. Hopefully the state will get full double tracking in.

Of course Linwood yard is closed now which should further speed things up.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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Hopefully that should be getting mitigated now with more double track and curve realignment being done by the state. The H Line which is the Greensboro-Selma segment really is not that busy. I want to say it only has one or two pairs of freights a day plus a few locals. It's mostly Amtrak at this point I believe.

The mainline is not what it used to be either. I almost never see a freight when I'm in Charlotte on the mainline. The best day not to have freight interference actually is Monday on the Carolinian/Piedmont because none of the intermodal trains usually originate on Monday if my memory serves me right from a few years ago. Hopefully the state will get full double tracking in.

Of course Linwood yard is closed now which should further speed things up.
I live a few blocks from the NC/H-Line. I am close enough to grab the McLeansville and Superior control points for a bit longer until ATCS goes away. I started that about 4 months ago. Most is indeed Amtrak but I know a freight comes through around 4 AM and then 4 PM. There is a freight around 9 am as it can get in the way of the Carolinian. I think in an ideal world this freight would be behind the Carolinian or a bit more in front but it does get in the way at times. I think there is a freight a bit later in the evening like 7 pm or so. One would think I would be more on top of this but I am not I have to admit.

There is a small chemical plant that recieves and/or sends out tank cars that is about 3 miles east of the station on the NC-Line. After that the next freight car is delivered to a metal recycler west of Elon. From what I know Burlington and Elon is a local out of the Durham yard. Then there would be some locals out of Raleigh. I was really trying to take in the amount of freight that is active while on the Carolinian the other week. It is easy for Google Earth to show a spur but seeing tons of weeds and trees growing in the tracks tends to make me think the spur is not active. There were a lot of spurs that seemed inactive that was not the case the last time I rode this line about 5 years ago.

I doubt I would use it much, but I have a daughter living in Raleigh now and I suspect that may be her home for years and years. I would not mind a Piedmont out of Raleigh heading south around 10:30 or 11:00 at night. That is a early morning arrival in Charlotte but not so bad for me in Greensboro. I doubt it would get much traffic at those hours but one more late train would be nice. I can dream I guess.
 

Seaboard92

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I live a few blocks from the NC/H-Line. I am close enough to grab the McLeansville and Superior control points for a bit longer until ATCS goes away. I started that about 4 months ago. Most is indeed Amtrak but I know a freight comes through around 4 AM and then 4 PM. There is a freight around 9 am as it can get in the way of the Carolinian. I think in an ideal world this freight would be behind the Carolinian or a bit more in front but it does get in the way at times. I think there is a freight a bit later in the evening like 7 pm or so. One would think I would be more on top of this but I am not I have to admit.

There is a small chemical plant that recieves and/or sends out tank cars that is about 3 miles east of the station on the NC-Line. After that the next freight car is delivered to a metal recycler west of Elon. From what I know Burlington and Elon is a local out of the Durham yard. Then there would be some locals out of Raleigh. I was really trying to take in the amount of freight that is active while on the Carolinian the other week. It is easy for Google Earth to show a spur but seeing tons of weeds and trees growing in the tracks tends to make me think the spur is not active. There were a lot of spurs that seemed inactive that was not the case the last time I rode this line about 5 years ago.

I doubt I would use it much, but I have a daughter living in Raleigh now and I suspect that may be her home for years and years. I would not mind a Piedmont out of Raleigh heading south around 10:30 or 11:00 at night. That is a early morning arrival in Charlotte but not so bad for me in Greensboro. I doubt it would get much traffic at those hours but one more late train would be nice. I can dream I guess.
Well the thing is NS has done a really good job of running customers away from the railroad with shotty service that isn't reliable. I have a friend who receives unit trains from them twice a week and it isn't uncommon for them to take three days to get to Chester, SC from Roanoke, VA just because there are no crews available to run the train over the road. And the smaller customers are fairing much worse. The local to Chester, SC from Rock Hill used to run daily now it is running triweekly at best because Rock Hill is down to one crew. Even before that cars would go to Rock Hill and have to sit for 22 hours before moving onto Charlotte where they could catch a mainline train elsewhere. But they've killed that Charlotte-Rock Hill local forcing the mainline train to do a million setoffs and pick ups on it's route.

CSX isn't much better actually but they are better than NS at the current moment in time.

Honestly you could get a 10:30 PM Piedmont just run it thru to Atlanta as an overnight interregio train. There would be a market for a night train market between the two. I would definitely try and tweak the times some so Charlotte is before midnight however.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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Well the thing is NS has done a really good job of running customers away from the railroad with shotty service that isn't reliable. I have a friend who receives unit trains from them twice a week and it isn't uncommon for them to take three days to get to Chester, SC from Roanoke, VA just because there are no crews available to run the train over the road. And the smaller customers are fairing much worse. The local to Chester, SC from Rock Hill used to run daily now it is running triweekly at best because Rock Hill is down to one crew. Even before that cars would go to Rock Hill and have to sit for 22 hours before moving onto Charlotte where they could catch a mainline train elsewhere. But they've killed that Charlotte-Rock Hill local forcing the mainline train to do a million setoffs and pick ups on it's route.

CSX isn't much better actually but they are better than NS at the current moment in time.

Honestly you could get a 10:30 PM Piedmont just run it thru to Atlanta as an overnight interregio train. There would be a market for a night train market between the two. I would definitely try and tweak the times some so Charlotte is before midnight however.
Would that get into Atlanta around 7-8 am. That could work, though I have no idea what facilities are around for a convenient turn of the train but the Piedmonts do run with engines on both sides of the train.
 
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