Auto Train Expansion/Changes?

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,157
Any Midwest Autotrain has one big problem. It will take it over 24 hours to make Sanford. That requires at least 3 train sets probably 4. Fares would need to be twice as high as the present Autotrain to come close to break even. ?That kind of fare will not track !
 

ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,323
Well, if starry-eyed speculation and what-ifs are on topic here...you're talking to the right railfan!

Background for this post: The Santa Fe Railway was on-the-fence about joining Amtrak right up until almost literally the last minute. They had a formal plan under consideration with the ICC to consolidate the Texas Chief, San Francisco Chief, El Capitan, and Super Chief and to continue operating them privately, a la Union Pacific's "City of Everywhere". But this plan was contingent upon discontinuing their other passenger trains, especially the little-patronized Nos. 23 & 24, the ex-Grand Canyon. When this permission was denied, Santa Fe threw in the towel and joined Amtrak.

In my alternate reality, the Point Of Departure is May 1st, 1971. Santa Fe has looked at the up-front cost to join Amtrak (it was hefty) and said, "Screw it." They have chosen to continue to operate their passenger fleet on their own nickel, albeit out of La Salle Street Station in Chicago as they were only a tenant at Dearborn and Amtrak wanted confiscatory amounts of rent to allow them to use Union Station. The cash-strapped Rock Island, on the other hand, would likely have welcomed them with open arms as long as they carried their share of expenses plus a little bit. Now, faced with the necessity to keep operating the former Grand Canyon for the next five years, Santa Fe decides to turn it from a boat anchor into an asset.

In this what-if proposal, Nos. 23 and 24 continue to operate as regular passenger trains between Chicago and Los Angeles on their then-current route. Passengers can continue to book coach or sleeper (I'm assuming sleepers would be added back in) between any of the one-hundred plus (seriously!) stations these trains served. But Santa Fe also, as a matter of policy dating back to WWII and even beyond, routinely operated fast freight trains as second sections of their secondary passenger trains. In this case, the second section is auto carriers.

My eastern terminus for the auto carrier second section would be Coal City, Illinois, just south-southwest of Chicago (about an hour's drive) and convenient to Interstates 55 and 80 and with plenty of room to build an auto carrier terminal. Departure time would be just after 10 am; cutoff time for auto loading would be 9 am. The auto carriers would run with the passenger train as far as Henrietta, Missouri. There auto carriers with cars bound for Kansas City would be cut off and carriers with autos from the east with drivers who wanted to bypass the Kansas City congestion would be added. I'm presuming that the switching crews could be as prompt as back in the day when passenger cars were cut in and out; the train was seldom delayed more than 5-10 minutes. Departure time from Henrietta would be about 4:45 in the afternoon.

Station stop in Kansas City proper would be about 5:45-6 pm. Once out of Kansas City, auto carriers would again be picked up and dropped in Lawrence, Kansas not quite an hour later. Then the train would continue through the night, again as a regular passenger train, arriving Lamy, NM about 10 am or Albuquerque about 11. I'd put an auto carrier terminal in one of those two cities (or possibly Bernalillo) depending on where land for its construction was available and cheap. I'd also consider another auto terminal for the Grand Canyon at either Flagstaff or Williams Junction; arrival there would be about six in the evening.

The train would arrive in the Los Angeles area a bit early to shuffle passengers. Fortunately, this is a train; the coaches and sleepers carrying passengers with autos could be cut out in, say, San Bernardino and the autos unloaded while the passengers are sleeping in until 7 or so and find their cars ready to pick up after breakfast. The remainder of the passenger train would arrive Los Angeles about 6:30 in the morning.

For the eastbound trip, passengers would depart LAUPT at 9 pm; autos would be added in San Berdoo at 11 pm; Flagstaff would be reached at 11:15 the next morning and Albuquerque or Lamy about 5:30 in the evening; Lawrence at 11:15 on the second morning and Henrietta at 1:30 that afternoon, and the auto carriers would terminate in Coal City at 7:45 with the passenger cars arriving La Salle St. in Chicago at 9 pm.

So, if I can get the bugs worked out of the time machine, would anyone want to buy a ticket?
 

ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,323
Oh, keep in mind that during my proposed time frame Interstate 40 was still largely under construction and much of Old Route 66 was still in use as the main artery from the upper Midwest to southern California...
 

Rail Freak

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2008
Messages
4,968
An AT from Chicago to New Orleans might be feasible - especially if the route could be restored from NOL to JAX

I know it won't happen ... but if the route between NOL and Tallahassee were restored it would be nice if it could then turn south and go through Gainesville - linking UF and FSU by train would have some merit if they allowed passengers without cars as well as those with cars on such a dream train.
That would be sweet!!!
 
Top