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Best Chicago-Florida Route?

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What's the best Chicago-Florida route


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railiner

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Best to avoid "combining" of long distance trains, if at all possible. It's a prescription for reliability issues. Once upon a time, it was common practice everywhere, but schedules were more reliable back then, and multiple frequencies on many routes allowed fall-back options, if necessary...
 

west point

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Combining LD trains will of course require schedule flexibility. IMO require at least 3 hours for the "expermental" Florida train Otherwise run as an extra section if does not reach the combining points. within the departure of the regular present trains Much work with freight RRs .i
 

Qapla

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If there could actually be a good CHI-JAX route - that would be a good time to add/create an Auto Train stop in JAX so there could be an AT from Sanford to CHI

Of course, instead of splitting/combining trains in JAX - there could always be a 2nd AT that runs from Sanford to CHI

I mean - if we are going to dream .... why not dream big :)
 

crescent-zephyr

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It would make the most sense to run multiple trains rather than splitting off cars. There shouldn't be the need for 1 magical train route that links several non-served major amtrak cities AND fills in a Chicago to Florida gap, but yet here we are.

Ideally, there would be a Chicago to Florida train via Cincinnati and Atlanta (NS) and another via Louisville, Nashville, and Birmingham (CSX). Even better if there was also a Memphis to Atlanta train and a New Orleans to Florida train.
 
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Palmetto

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You're forgetting, though, that Amtrak hates, just hates, splitting and combining trains. It goes against their "take the easy way out" philosophy of operating.
 

Larry H.

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All the proposals are interesting to think about. But, I almost bet Amtrak is not interested in anything long distance since they are already trying to wreck as much of the overnight trains as they can. No doubt many of the listed cities would help generate revenues on the system, but is Amtrak really interested anymore in long distance. If they were they wouldn't have decided after spending lots of money on new wonderful diners to not even put them in to service for the purpose they were designed for.
 

toddinde

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Best to avoid "combining" of long distance trains, if at all possible. It's a prescription for reliability issues. Once upon a time, it was common practice everywhere, but schedules were more reliable back then, and multiple frequencies on many routes allowed fall-back options, if necessary...
We have to fix the reliability issue anyway. The Empire Builder and Texas Eagle do it. I think the US has two irrational phobias; the first is splitting trains; the second is backing trains into stub end stations. Both are common practices in Europe. Maybe we need lessons in how to operate railroads from the Europeans?
 

MisterUptempo

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So it looks like the FRA agrees with the majority of respondents to the poll.

The FRA is currently in the midst of Phase II of the Midwest Regional Rail Plan (more on that in a future post), and with the many permutations now proposed, connecting to Nashville via Indianapolis and Louisville, linking the Midwest with the Southeast, has emerged as having a higher priority than Midwest-exclusive routes, like the 3C or CHI-OMA.

A slide from a PowerPoint presented on September 22nd shows how and where Chicago-Florida might happen-
MW_Sept2020_Stakeholder+Workshop+Session+II_FINAL-11 copy2.jpg

As the image in the post won't resize properly, click on this link for a full-size version.
 
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jiml

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So it looks like the FRA agrees with the majority of respondents to the poll.

The FRA is currently in the midst of Phase II of the Midwest Regional Rail Plan (more on that in a future post), and with the many permutations now proposed, connecting to Nashville via Indianapolis and Louisville, linking the Midwest with the Southeast, has emerged as having a higher priority than Midwest-exclusive routes, like the 3C or CHI-OMA.

A slide from a PowerPoint presented on September 22nd shows how and where Chicago-Florida might happen-
View attachment 19166

As the image in the post won't resize properly, click on this link for a full-size version.
There's a lot of interesting observations to make from that diagram. Too bad it doesn't represent reality.
 

crescent-zephyr

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We have to fix the reliability issue anyway. The Empire Builder and Texas Eagle do it. I think the US has two irrational phobias; the first is splitting trains; the second is backing trains into stub end stations. Both are common practices in Europe. Maybe we need lessons in how to operate railroads from the Europeans?
It's not a phobia, both take extra time.
 

Qapla

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The back into Tampa Union Station every time - when the weather stops trains from Florida to NY but leaves the state running, they back into JAX
 

Qapla

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According to posts in another thread there is consideration of a [daily] in-state route of JAX-Miami via Orlando/Tampa ... this would require backing into JAX and TPA every time the train runs
 

Seaboard92

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I don't know about where the rails are, but it seems that Chicago - Indianapolis - Louisville - Nashville - Chattanooga - Atlanta would maximize the number of larger intermediate markets that the train would serve. Anything further east would have to go through a whole lot more of Appalachia, slowing down the train, and anything running further west is taking the train out of its way, increasing travel time. Plus, both alternatives bypass all those big intermediate markets.
The routes aren't really that bad. Here is a breakdown of the traffic levels and quality of line.

Chicago-Indianapolis: On the Cardinal the route doesn't have too much freight traffic between Indy and Chicago. But the approach to Chicago is a pain with four or five different host railroads. As far as historical railroads it is EX Monon, EX New York Central, and around Indy proper EX Pennsylvania Railroad panhandle.

Indianapolis-Louisville: This is now the Louisville & Indiana Railroad which is a shortline. However they maintain the track to 40-45 MPH. It is a relatively good shortline. CSX also has invested significant money to rebuild the line so they can route overflow trains from Seymour to Louisville. The line is signaled and relatively fluid. EX Pennsylvania Railroad.

Louisville-Nashville: This is a pretty busy mainline for CSX. It is part of the north south line. Track speed somewhere between 50-60 MPH. EX Louisville & Nashville.

Nashville-Atlanta: This is a very busy mainline for CSX with a decent track speed of 50-60 mph. It is the mainline from Florida to Chicago. Also Chattanooga is in the middle of this section which is a good population market. EX Nashville, Chattanooga & , St. Louis Railroad (controlled by the Louisville & Nashville).

Atlanta-Jacksonville: There are seven different routes that can be used. I will give a quick briefing on all of them.

Atlanta-Macon-Jacksonville: This is a Norfolk Southern routing that goes Atlanta-Macon-Cordelle-Valdosta-Jacksonville. It is a fairly busy route for intermodal between the midwest and Florida. Track Speed goes up to 60 MPH. EX Southern Railway and Central of Georgia.

Atlanta-Macon-Jacksonville via Americus, Albany: This is also another Norfolk Southern routing with trackspeed between 50-60 mph. This routing goes Atlanta-Macon-Americus-Albany-Valdosta-Florida. It isn't quite as busy between Macon and Valdosta as the routing via Cordelle. EX Central of Georgia and Southern Railway.

Atlanta-Macon-Jessup-Jacksonville: It is Norfolk Southern Atlanta-Jessup then CSX Jessup-Florida. This is not nearly as busy of a line as the Cordelle or Americus lines and has a lower speed 45-50 on the NS. But on CSX's ex Atlantic Coastline it can get up to 79 MPH. But there aren't a lot of decent towns for infill stops on this route.

Atlanta-Macon-Savannah-Jacksonville: This is Norfolk Southern's intermodal mainline in and out of Savannah. Track Speed is around 50 MPH if I recall. This would be a great state supported route but the added time to get to Savannah, then jet south on the former Atlantic Coastline just isn't worth it. The ACL route is 79 MPH however.

Atlanta-Cordelle-Waycross-Jacksonville: This is the CSX mainline between the midwest and Florida. Track speed in places gets up to 60 mph. However it is a very busy line. Trains pass our office in Cordelle about every fifteen minutes during the day mostly on CSX.

Atlanta-Montgomery-Waycross-Jacksonville: This is an out of the way routing but adds a large population center. EX Atlanta, & West Point, Western Railway of Alabama, and Atlantic Coastline. All CSX and a track speed of around 50 mph if I recall correctly. But it adds a significant amount of milage to the route.

Once in Florida it is best to follow the existing route to Orlando, Tampa, and Miami.

I'd say Chicago - Ft. Wayne - Cincinnati - Lexington - Knoxville - Chattanooga - Atlanta - Macon - Jacksonville all on the NS.

I know the Cincinnati line is great... how's the line Chicago - Ft. Wayne - Cincinnati?
There are two routes you can take between Chicago and Fort Wayne.

The EX Pennsylvania Railroad a bit more direct than the former Nickel Plate Road. The EX Pennsy is the Chicago, Fort Wayne, & Eastern Railroad which I believe has a track speed of 45 MPH. It is one of the least busy lines in and out of Chicago. NS and CSX both have trackage rights on it I believe.

The Ex Nickel Plate Road route which is owned by Norfolk Southern. I want to say its 45 or 50 MPH. But it is not nearly as direct because it detours Argos, IN. It has more traffic than the EX Pennsylvania line however.

Fort Wayne-Cincinnati: For starters you will need to install a connection track in Lima, OH because there isn't one in the right directon.

Fort Wayne-Lima: On the EX Pennsylvania Railroad mainline on the Chicago, Fort Wayne, & Eastern Railroad with a track speed of 45 MPH. Not a lot of freight on the line.

Lima-Dayton-Cincinnati: On the EX Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's Cincinnatian Route. It is a very busy CSX Mainline with a track speed of up to 60 mph. It is the main route south out of Detroit.

The existing CSX line isn't ideal... Nashville to Chattanooga is not an ideal route by rail or by car. I would love to ride that route though, some beautiful scenery.

I think a Chicago to Florida Train should try to hit the most population centers in the shortest amount of time... Chicago - Ft. Wayne - Cincinnati - Lexington - Knoxville - Chattanooga - Atlanta - Macon - Jacksonville sure seems like it would be a knockout to me.

A Chicago - Atlanta train could meet that route in Chattanooga or Atlanta... would be the best of both worlds.

I do agree Nashville is a VERY happening city that could use rail transportation. Music City Star was started for dirt cheap and yet they can't get any support to expand it, which is a real shame.
The line south of Cincinnati-Atlanta via Lexington, and Knoxville is a very good route. It is a very busy mainline but I believe the track speed is 60 MPH.

That’s a lot of backtracking from Cincy to Louisville, but how about this: A Chicago section through Louisville, and a Detroit section through Cincy combining in Nashville.
I think that would make a lot of sense. It would be a scenario similar to the Empire Builder. The Seattle section is crewed and maintained by Seattle as it's home terminal. While the Portland Sections home terminal is Portland.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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The best Chicago - Florida route is the current Cardinal route to CIN and then the former L&N Flamingo or SOU Ponce de Leon route to JAX. The former SOU is faster, but the former L&N has less freight traffic. Heck, I heard that the CSX might sell it, so if Amtrak was run like a business (which they're not, but for the sake of making a point) I'd buy out that line and charge fees from the freights running between Cincinnati and Cartersville.

Forget the Indianapolis and Louisville route! The tracks are in poor shape and you're going to end up passing through at least 1 of the big cities in the middle of the night anyway. With the route I proposed above, you can run Cincinnati - Knoxville overnight on the L&N via Paris and barely miss any population.

You're going to miss Lexington with the L&N but it's fairly easy to run a shuttle van between Lexington and Paris or Winchester. You could also run a shuttle van between Chattanooga and Ocoee or Etowah.

If you wanted to serve more population then you could run legs from Detroit and Cleveland to Cincinnati too.
 

railgeekteen

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The best Chicago - Florida route is the current Cardinal route to CIN and then the former L&N Flamingo or SOU Ponce de Leon route to JAX. The former SOU is faster, but the former L&N has less freight traffic. Heck, I heard that the CSX might sell it, so if Amtrak was run like a business (which they're not, but for the sake of making a point) I'd buy out that line and charge fees from the freights running between Cincinnati and Cartersville.

Forget the Indianapolis and Louisville route! The tracks are in poor shape and you're going to end up passing through at least 1 of the big cities in the middle of the night anyway. With the route I proposed above, you can run Cincinnati - Knoxville overnight on the L&N via Paris and barely miss any population.

You're going to miss Lexington with the L&N but it's fairly easy to run a shuttle van between Lexington and Paris or Winchester. You could also run a shuttle van between Chattanooga and Ocoee or Etowah.

If you wanted to serve more population then you could run legs from Detroit and Cleveland to Cincinnati too.
It might be slower, but it would be possible to serve Lexington as tracks there exist.
 

railiner

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You would think that 12-41 years would be enough time to have solved/corrected/fixed any problems/reasons a route between Chicago and Florida was/is not feasible
Yes, you would....but in reality, the choices available were probably better back in 1979, then they are today, with the 'rationalization' of routes, and double track thru the years, resulting in more congestion on what remains...
 

Swadian Hardcore

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Yes, but they contain several reasons why any route between Chicago and Florida hasn't been attempted since 1979.
The routes mentioned in 2008 don't include my suggestion for the L&N Flamingo. PSR has also reduced the freights between Cincinnati and Cartersville since 2008.

It might be slower, but it would be possible to serve Lexington as tracks there exist.
If you wanted to serve Lexington then you could use the CNO&TP (aka the former Ponce de Leon) route although you'd miss Knoxville. The CNO&TP also serves Chattanooga. Otherwise you could take a branch line from Lexington to join the L&N at Winchester and continue on the Flamingo route. Or you could serve all 3 (Lexington, Knoxville, and Chattanooga) but spent a bunch of extra time.

The most cost-effective solution would likely be to run the Flamingo and pay CSX a small amount of money for a route that's underused anyway, and run Connecting Buses from Lexington and Chattanooga. Knoxville is the largest city between Cincinnati and Atlanta.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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Atlanta-Jacksonville: There are seven different routes that can be used. I will give a quick briefing on all of them.
The "best" route would likely be the NS former Ponce de Leon route via Macon, Cordele, Tifton, and Valdosta. The most cost-effective route would likely be the Atlanta South District to Macon and Brunswick District to Jesup. It's slow but you could make up the speed between Jesup and Jacksonville. It's also straight so you could upgrade it to 79 mph in the future.

Finally, you could probably use the Brunswick District for next to nothing since it has so little freight traffic.

The NS via Albany doesn't seem to offer any advantage over the above 2 routes, the CSX bypasses Macon which is a major population center, and the Montgomery route is way too long. The Savannah route is also too long.
 
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