Quantcast

AutoTrain East/West

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Crossover

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 5, 2014
Messages
58
Location
Houston, Texas
What would it be if Amtrak had a east to west or west to east autotrain service ? Would it be considered a viable revenue for Amtrak's funding or not viable? Do you think that Amtrak needs to expand in this area of train travel ? Some probably would say it is too expensive because it would be too much to travel with , others probably would say it is a good idea to take your vehicle with you . It would cut the cost to renting a vehicle where ever the destination of choice maybe . It may boost revenue in other areas of the country other than Sanford, Fl to Washington, DC . What do you think ?
 

Texan Eagle

Conductor
Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
1,705
The question to ask yourself is, which are the viable routes east-west where significant number of people want to travel with their cars all year round? I can't think of any of the top of my head. The Auto Train works a profit because it serves a very niche market- of winter birds migrating en masse to Florida from NE states and back.
 

Blackwolf

Conductor
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
1,507
Location
CIC
Chicago/Great Lakes region to-from Arizona.

Been discussed before, and generally accepted as a viable route similar to the current AutoTrain. Basically, one night and one day each way. But, it has to overcome the formidable costs involved with infrastructure without a 100% guarantee of success. Also known as, huge risk and potentially no gain.

Not to mention, if it were a true AutoTrain, it would need to run non-stop along the whole route. So, either you replace the SouthWest Chief with this new venture, or create a second brand-new train long the same route but ending in, say, Phoenix.

I think it would be a huge success. But, I think we have better chance of True-HSR in the US getting to the running stage before this does.
 

the_traveler

Conductor
Joined
Nov 14, 2007
Messages
26,008
Location
Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
The thing about getting a line to Phoenix (or anywhere in central AZ) is that there is no rail line from NM, except the Sunset route via TX. If you take the SWC, you must go past FLG to Williams and beyond before turning southeast to get to the Phoenix area.
 

henryj

Conductor
Joined
Dec 19, 2008
Messages
1,589
Location
Houston, Texas
The thing about getting a line to Phoenix (or anywhere in central AZ) is that there is no rail line from NM, except the Sunset route via TX. If you take the SWC, you must go past FLG to Williams and beyond before turning southeast to get to the Phoenix area.
I believe the old Golden State route is still there and very active. You know, KC Dalhart, Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Alamogordo, El Paso, etc. The other viable route would be Chicago to Denver. You could do Denver in the summer and Phoenix in the winter.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,504
I disagree about the non-stop reasoning. I think it would be possible to have regular trains pulling a couple of auto-carriers between select cities. Just as an example, what if Amtrak had a single auto-carrier car on the Crescent between Atlanta (using Gainesville as the stop?) and somewhere in the NE. Possible a second carrier could be added/dropped off in Charlotte. That would be it - not a huge line of cars until demand were there. Alternatively, it could be tested with one of the Piedmonts between Charlotte and Raleigh. Similarly, other city pairs could be used going between Chicago and the east coast using stops outside of metro areas.

The negatives:

Nobody's going to add more to a money-losing Amtrak because even if ultimately successful and profitable, it is going to take losses while the infrastructure is created and the ridership built up. Possibly the whole auto-carrying operation of supplying the carriers, loading/unloading, etc. would be enticing to a private company similar to that operation that pays for using the CONO for upscale riding.

Host RRs will never go along unless they are paid big bucks. It might take state funding to put in infrastructure $$.
 

OlympianHiawatha

Conductor
Joined
Feb 7, 2008
Messages
4,298
Location
Norman, OK
A couple years ago while heading east on the Sunset our SCA explained Sonny Bono (of Cher fame) was a big rail fan and even proposed an Auto Train type service to Palm Springs when he was mayor. When we stopped at PSP he pointed out where Sonny's big yard could have been built. Of course Palm Springs was a much more popular destination then and the line was still owned by the Southern Pacific.
 

henryj

Conductor
Joined
Dec 19, 2008
Messages
1,589
Location
Houston, Texas
The Europeans run Auto carrying trains all over the continent. They call them Car Carrying Trains. They have domestic, that is within the host country, and international. I count almost 50. Over a dozen in France alone and another eight in Germany. Many are summer only and many only run on weekends.

http://www.seat61.com/Motorail.htm#DB AutoZug
 
Last edited by a moderator:

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
26,582
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
The Europeans run Auto carrying trains all over the continent. They call them Car Carrying Trains. They have domestic, that is within the host country, and international. I count almost 50. Over a dozen in France alone and another eight in Germany. Many are summer only and many only run on weekends.

http://www.seat61.com/Motorail.htm#DB AutoZug
Indeed! Paris Montparnasse has a separate terminal (Vaugirard) for handling auto carriers.
See for example http://autotrain.uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/

And then of course in addition to autos carried essentially like checked baggage, there are the tunnel ferries, e.g. Gotthard and Loetschberg in Switzerland, and the grand daddy of them all Eurotunnel. But those are different sort of service than tag on auto carrier service provided with many passenger trains in Europe.

Europe is way ahead of us when it comes to handling autos on trains rather seamlessly.
 

the_traveler

Conductor
Joined
Nov 14, 2007
Messages
26,008
Location
Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
The thing about having multiple stops is that you can't just stop, drop off a train car (or pick one up) and depart in 5 minutes. Especially picking up a car takes at least 20-30 minutes.

I doubt many passengers on the Crescent would like a stop at some yard in Gainesville (or the SL in Maricopa) for a 1/2 hour when the passenger station is a few minutes before or after. At least in Lorton or Sanford, they can load the passengers before they hook up the cars and at the other end unload the passengers and then unload the cars. And there is at least 30-60 minutes between each one.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
26,582
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
The way the French do it is they promise delivery of the car at the other end at a fixed time. The car and the erpson do not necessarily travel in the same train. For heavy routes there are overnight car specials that do the enroute drop offs (and pickups if necessary).

So it is not exactly like the Autotrain. But your car is available to you reasonably soon after your arrival. The logistics of operating such a service is way more complex than just a single train running between two endpoints. But the Europeans are able to pull it off. Whether we could or would is a different matter altogether.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,597
Location
Virginia
You might be able to do a service that has a pair of stops (for example, Phoenix and SoCal). Beyond two stops, the yard process becomes more complicated at the intermediate stops, but a second stop only requires making sure you put the cars for the intermediate stop on the back of the train.
 
N

Nathanael

Guest
The auto-loading infrastructure is large and expensive and slow. This caused Amtrak to reject any attempt to run autoracks on the back of an existing train; it didn't pencil out. (It was considered in one of the PIPs.)

If there were auto-train stations sitting around unused, it might pencil out to start a new dedicated auto-train service between them. But there aren't. The construction of new auto-train stations does not pencil out; Amtrak has much better uses for its capital funding at the moment. If someone else funded it, of course, that would be different.

The French system would probably involve the freight railroads complaining about "competition" and attempting to take the car-handling business themselves. (Why the Class Is don't already offer an overnight car-transport business, I don't know -- I think it would succeed on its own. "Fly to Florida, we deliver your car the next morning". But they don't offer it.)
 

VentureForth

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2007
Messages
5,867
Location
West Melbourne, FL
The Europeans run Auto carrying trains all over the continent. They call them Car Carrying Trains. They have domestic, that is within the host country, and international. I count almost 50. Over a dozen in France alone and another eight in Germany. Many are summer only and many only run on weekends.

http://www.seat61.com/Motorail.htm#DB AutoZug
Indeed! Paris Montparnasse has a separate terminal (Vaugirard) for handling auto carriers.
See for example http://autotrain.uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/

And then of course in addition to autos carried essentially like checked baggage, there are the tunnel ferries, e.g. Gotthard and Loetschberg in Switzerland, and the grand daddy of them all Eurotunnel. But those are different sort of service than tag on auto carrier service provided with many passenger trains in Europe.

Europe is way ahead of us when it comes to handling autos on trains rather seamlessly.
It's actually looking like Autotrains are on the decline in Europe. All UK service ended nearly 2 decades ago, and the Chunnel no longer offers vehicle carriage.

I don't know what you're counting from that website, but I only saw 12 distinct routes - 5 in France, including one to Germany, and a handful more from Germany across the Alps.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
26,582
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
It's actually looking like Autotrains are on the decline in Europe. All UK service ended nearly 2 decades ago, and the Chunnel no longer offers vehicle carriage.

I don't know what you're counting from that website, but I only saw 12 distinct routes - 5 in France, including one to Germany, and a handful more from Germany across the Alps.
The car ferries that I mentioned are not like auto train at all. They are simply to ferry cars across a body of water or a tunnel. Channel tunnel of course has the car ferry service from Dover to Calais. That is its primary use. Eurostar is secondary. I have no idea what you mean when you say that the Chunnel no longer offers vehicle carriage. The tunnel ferries in Switzerland are between the two ends of the tunnels in question. They are all alive and well.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,582
Location
Here
This issue comes up every few months or so, and the main answer is the same.

The reason the current Auto Train works is because there is a massive market for NE to Florida travel, and they all travel along the same corridor (I-95). If you are driving from New York to Florida, you're pretty much driving right past both auto train terminals. The route is short enough that it can be done with a quick overnight, allowing people to sleep half the time the train is moving, and wake up, eat, and get off the train. You can start out pretty much anywhere in the Northeast in the morning, and make it to Lorton in time to catch the train (while not driving out of the way), and upon arrival at the other end, get to wherever in Florida you were driving by the end of the day. Same thing on the reverse trip.

There really isn't any other corridor that meets the same conditions.

People mention midwest-southwest as a possibility, but where would you put the terminal that would be on the way/in the right direction for people heading there? It can't be Chicago because Chicago alone won't support a route like that (the population is too low vs. the population of the DC-NY-BOS corridor, which is the main catchment area for the Auto Train). Chicago is too far north for folks in southern Illinois, southern Indiana and Central Ohio, and too far east for folks in western Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, etc.

It could be a place like St. Louis or Kansas City, but then you're stretching the range of how far people have to drive to get to the train from places east of Chicago or in northern Wisconsin.

The NEC-Florida market is also more massive because Florida is more than just a place retired folks go in the winter. It also has year-round attractions for families, which make up a decent portion of Auto Train's ridership. Arizona really doesn't have any attractions. It is true that Southern California does, but now you're turning it into a much longer trip (a minimum two-night trip), which causes the market for land-based transportation to drop off quite a bit vs. a quick overnight.

Long story short, IMO the population of the Midwest is too spread out and the distances too long to make an Auto Train really successful out that way.
 

henryj

Conductor
Joined
Dec 19, 2008
Messages
1,589
Location
Houston, Texas
Indeed! Paris Montparnasse has a separate terminal (Vaugirard) for handling auto carriers.
See for example http://autotrain.uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/

And then of course in addition to autos carried essentially like checked baggage, there are the tunnel ferries, e.g. Gotthard and Loetschberg in Switzerland, and the grand daddy of them all Eurotunnel. But those are different sort of service than tag on auto carrier service provided with many passenger trains in Europe.

Europe is way ahead of us when it comes to handling autos on trains rather seamlessly.

It's actually looking like Autotrains are on the decline in Europe. All UK service ended nearly 2 decades ago, and the Chunnel no longer offers vehicle carriage.
I don't know what you're counting from that website, but I only saw 12 distinct routes - 5 in France, including one to Germany, and a handful more from Germany across the Alps.
I like the Auto Slaap from Holland or the DB Autozug from Dusseldorf. On Slaap you can even take your dog along. Apparently you didn't read that link very well. The service changes periodically to adjust to the times. Currently Slaap is privately run. Chunnel is of course not an auto train per se. But it does carry cars and trucks from Dover to Calais. That's it's primary service. Would any of this work in the US. If you can find a private operator and the freight railroads would cooperate and run it on time it probably would. Many of the European trains are not daily, they operate on weekends. Some operate year round, but at reduced schedules in the winter. For the Midwest, Chicago area to Denver would be a good market. Texas to Colorado would also work. In California, a north south run to compete with I5 would work. I think a winter service from the Midwest to the Phoenix area would also work. Amtrak is seemingly fixated on running daily service in the current Auto Train mode.
 

Ryan

Conductor
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,033
Location
OTN
There's the Houston Ship Channel. Probably a cruise ship or two. (I dunno, the ship I sailed from there in was painted grey)

They've also got lots of roads & stuff.
 

Crossover

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 5, 2014
Messages
58
Location
Houston, Texas
1. Houston to Dallas

2. Houston to San Antonio

3. Houston to El Paso

4. Houston to Corpus Christi (Possible Route)

5. Houston to New Orleans

6. Houston to Austin

7. Houston to Texarkana

8. Houston to Ft. Worth

9. Houston to Amarillo

10. Houston to Lubbock

11. Houston to Waco

12. Houston to San Diego

13. Houston to Denver

14. Houston to Shreveport

15. Houston to Chicago

16. Houston to OKC

17. Houston to Tulsa

18. Houston to Omaha

19. Houston to St. Louis

20. Houston to Santa Fe, NM

21. Houston to Wichita Falls

22. Houston to Lawton

23. Houston to Lake Jackson

24. Houston to Jackson MS

25. Houston to Kansas City
 

Crossover

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 5, 2014
Messages
58
Location
Houston, Texas
We do have a cruise ship terminal which is located in the port east of the city but most cruises take place out of Galveston .Mainly Carnival .
 

LWBaxter

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 29, 2011
Messages
67
Location
Eastern Washington
A Galesburg hub would gather traffic from a wider area than just Chicago, and it could serve Denver, Texas, and Flagstaff (Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Las Vegas, LA) markets. The first two destinations probably could be reached at the 50 mph average speed of Auto train. Flagstaff could be served with a two nights and one day schedule averaging around 45 mph. The Flagstaff train would save two hotels and two days of driving, but I'm not sure it would sell well enough. The Overland version of the same service is Ames/Cheyenne/Ogden/Reno&Las Vegas with a two night-one day schedule and the train splitting at Ogden.

LWB
 

Latest posts

Top