Brightline takes over XPress West!

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VentureForth

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Budget cuts indirectly. The reason these trains offs happened was primarily because inadequate number of Superliners were ordered to run everything after the Hi-Levels were taken off line. It was lack of equipment that did these trains in. These were never mandated trains as part of the original system. They were added by Amtrak as experimental service and lived as long as they could. Just before their discontinuance the entire CZ/DW/Pioneer mix was a mess, with each train running some set number of days a week, and none daily west of Salt Lake City. Discontinuance made it possible to restore all remaining services to daily AFAIR.
That makes perfect sense. It did seem like a wacky mix of combined trains that just couldn't possibly be efficient. So with that in context, it would seem that a dedicated, specific train from LA to Las Vegas could be done efficiently and could retain a huge demand. Well, until the passengers lose all their money on the slots...

Honestly, most major cities in the West that were abandoned when the Desert Wind/Pioneer were discontinued are still serviced by SOME service, except Las Vegas and Boise, ID. The LV link is important, albiet not looking like it would be a part of the Amtrak network. Boise would be the largest city in the West previously served that would remain without rail service.
 

crescent-zephyr

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ahhhhh yes that does make sense. And honestly... probably a good move. Having daily service on core trains is probably better than having 3 day a week service scattered around the country.
 

Siegmund

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Nov 19, 2018
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The overnight traffic SLC-Vegas wasn't that bad either, at least in the years that the time in SLC was palatable. The CZ's schedule east of Denver got slower and slower, and pushed the SLC times into the middle of the night. (In the 70s and 80s, SLC was ~6am eastbound and ~11pm westbound; by the end of the Desert Wind it was more like 3am and 1am.)

That, ironically, meant that southern Idaho had better times the last few years of the Pioneer than it previously had - at the expense of Ogden.

I have my doubts about the equipment claims. The "old" CZ/Wind/Zephyr of the 80s ran daily, with no Hi-Level equipment except the second dining car. The 3- and 4-day-a-week operation is spectacularly inefficient for trainset utilization. Now, perhaps they didn't buy enough equipment for the Capitol and City and cannibalized western trains when they were converted.
 

Siegmund

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Boise would be the largest city in the West previously served that would remain without rail service.
Phoenix might disagree.

Though by a funny coincidence, a restored Pioneer would miss Boise for the same reason the Sunset misses Phoenix - one of the two ends of a former loop off the main line having been severed.
 

jis

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I have my doubts about the equipment claims. The "old" CZ/Wind/Zephyr of the 80s ran daily, with no Hi-Level equipment except the second dining car. The 3- and 4-day-a-week operation is spectacularly inefficient for trainset utilization. Now, perhaps they didn't buy enough equipment for the Capitol and City and cannibalized western trains when they were converted.
You have to look at the total bilevel equipment available system wide. There was a big discussion about whether the EB should remain at thrice a week to have enough equipment to continue running the DW and Pioneer at least a few days a week or not. It was not just what exact equipment was used for the CZ/DW/Pioneer pool. The Capitol and CONO were converted because not enough single level LD equipment was ordered to cover everything as the second tranche of the once considered Amfleet II and Viewliner I orders never came about. If they had enough single level equipment left after the toilet conversion they could have run the DW and Pioneer in their original form, but somehow by then the mantra of overnight trains must have Sleepers had caught on anyway, and that was not given any serious thought either. Not that there was enough equipment left to do that either. And remember, a significant portion of the Superliner II order got siphoned off to the Auto Train too. You have to look at the entire system and what was available or not, to run which trains or not. Those were tough times. Some of us lived through those arguments back then too.

Unfortunately at Amtrak it has always been living hand to mouth and making tough choices about robbing Peter to pay Paul. That is the way it has been and is. Hopefully it might change some day.
 
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Anderson

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I believe the line still runs through Phoenix. The main issue there is that Amtrak agreed to move to its current line before the UP/SP merger (when the line was set to be abandoned) and then the merger threw those plans out the window.
 

jiml

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Feb 27, 2019
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The overnight traffic SLC-Vegas wasn't that bad either, at least in the years that the time in SLC was palatable. The CZ's schedule east of Denver got slower and slower, and pushed the SLC times into the middle of the night. (In the 70s and 80s, SLC was ~6am eastbound and ~11pm westbound; by the end of the Desert Wind it was more like 3am and 1am.)

That, ironically, meant that southern Idaho had better times the last few years of the Pioneer than it previously had - at the expense of Ogden.

I have my doubts about the equipment claims. The "old" CZ/Wind/Zephyr of the 80s ran daily, with no Hi-Level equipment except the second dining car. The 3- and 4-day-a-week operation is spectacularly inefficient for trainset utilization. Now, perhaps they didn't buy enough equipment for the Capitol and City and cannibalized western trains when they were converted.
I think you'd have to look at how the hi-levels were distributed system-wide. For example, during the period we rode a Texas Eagle that had only two Superliners in the consist - our sleeper and the diner. All the coaches and the lounge were ex-Santa Fe hi-levels.

Edit to add: I just caught the post which was below this one and says much the same thing.
 

jiml

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I believe the line still runs through Phoenix. The main issue there is that Amtrak agreed to move to its current line before the UP/SP merger (when the line was set to be abandoned) and then the merger threw those plans out the window.
I believe the one side is severed.
 

jis

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I believe the one side is severed.
Correct. West of Phoenix at present it is not in an usable form, and part of that segment is used for storage of out of use freight cars. It will take some significant amount of money to get it back into main line shape again.
 

jiml

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A lot of money! In the documentary about the 1995 incident on those tracks (and the many subsequent YouTube explorations) I think it was shown to be mostly jointed rail. Between that and lack of use, meeting current passenger trains standards would be a stretch likely not met by even the most optimistic ridership projection.
 

Anderson

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So, I get why the Heritage sleepers were pulled. Why were the Hi-Levels taken out of service?
 

Bob Dylan

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So, I get why the Heritage sleepers were pulled. Why were the Hi-Levels taken out of service?
Same reason, they were Old and Maintence Nightmares, with Parts having to be Custim made @ Great Expense!( plus the Heritage Cars had the Retention Toliet Issue as Cliff said))
 
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Anderson

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Actually, the Heritage sleepers were pulled because of the dump toilet issue IIRC (otherwise, I think Amtrak would have preferred to keep running them versus having to slash routes).
 

bretton88

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It is entirely possible that the equipment might be capable of 160 but they're only promising 150. Given what happened with the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm timetables (they promised 60 minutes and came in over 70 minutes), under-promising might not be a bad idea. Of course, if Virgin doesn't want to go with the Alstom equipment (perhaps going with a Siemens design?) that might also be at play.
150 is also a nice round number. I suspect that 150 number comes from taking the easy way out on the press releases. My guess is we'll see the trains go as fast as regulations and the route engineering allows. My only thought is, if they're building this for high speeds, why stop at 150? For the route they're building the incremental costs of building a route capable 186mph or even 200 shouldn't be much higher. With Victorville being the California end point, I'd think you'd want to make the journey as fast as possible to make it a viable alternative for people to not just keep driving onward.
 

Anderson

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150 is also a nice round number. I suspect that 150 number comes from taking the easy way out on the press releases. My guess is we'll see the trains go as fast as regulations and the route engineering allows. My only thought is, if they're building this for high speeds, why stop at 150? For the route they're building the incremental costs of building a route capable 186mph or even 200 shouldn't be much higher. With Victorville being the California end point, I'd think you'd want to make the journey as fast as possible to make it a viable alternative for people to not just keep driving onward.
This is true, but for various reasons you also run into several constraints:
(1) Regulatory limits requiring a lot more expense in terms of track conditions, approvals, etc.
(2) Having to buy substantially more expensive trainsets.
(3) Increasing operating costs as top speeds rise.

A realistic possibility would be that they can get sets that can do 186, but don't want to have to deal with any regulatory issues surrounding having Class 9 track instead of Class 8 track.
 

bretton88

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This is true, but for various reasons you also run into several constraints:
(1) Regulatory limits requiring a lot more expense in terms of track conditions, approvals, etc.
(2) Having to buy substantially more expensive trainsets.
(3) Increasing operating costs as top speeds rise.

A realistic possibility would be that they can get sets that can do 186, but don't want to have to deal with any regulatory issues surrounding having Class 9 track instead of Class 8 track.
Trainsets probably won't cause significantly more expense, even the new Acelas are capable of 186. You do make a good point about class 9 track, that might be the limiting point. My guess is the alignment will be capable of greater than 160, but they may have decided economic sweet spot might be 160 with energy costs and increased maintenance costs to go above 160.
 

Brian_tampa

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The new economic impact report is out. This was presented to the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee yesterday. They expect to begin building phase 2 across the High Desert Corridor to Palmdale by no sooner than 2029. The report has detailed plans for the Apple Valley station and VMF as well as the massive developments (Desert Gateway area) around the station location.
 

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neroden

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Feb 23, 2014
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I believe the line still runs through Phoenix.
The line west of Phoenix has right-of-way intact and has tracks on it but they are "embargoed" and would have to be rebuilt to operate passenger trains on them.
 

neroden

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A lot of money! In the documentary about the 1995 incident on those tracks (and the many subsequent YouTube explorations) I think it was shown to be mostly jointed rail. Between that and lack of use, meeting current passenger trains standards would be a stretch likely not met by even the most optimistic ridership projection.
Pffft, rebuilding track is easy if the political will is present. This isn't a complicated segment technically -- they probably could send one of those "rail renewal" trains right down it and replace the entire line in one go. And ridership projections for a daily Phoenix-LA service are sufficient to make it make sense. But there has been hostility from the state of Arizona government, and very little interest from the City of Phoenix, so nobody's been trying to raise the funding.
 

neroden

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So, I get why the Heritage sleepers were pulled. Why were the Hi-Levels taken out of service?
I believe they had the retention toilet issue too.

A small number were refitted and run on the Heartland Flyer. The Pacific Parlor Cars were dealt with by closing the restrooms (since there were restrooms on other cars, you didn't need them on lounge cars).

But the rest were slowly removed from service as the Superliners arrived, and then the last ones were removed around the same time as the Heritage sleepers were pulled, and they had the same retention toilet issue, so I suspect it was the same reason.
 

Devil's Advocate

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May 24, 2010
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Didn't see any mention of "one armed bandits" ...:) The Amtrak station had them in the passageway into the Plaza Hotel....
The slot machines at McCarran are some of the stingiest I've ever seen. I presume this is because it's an extremely captive audience with many layers of payments billed to each pull. Makes me wonder if an entity like Amtrak would be allowed to purchase retail rights in or near a station and then sublease them to a gambling concern in exchange for a commission on earnings. Could help offset the cost of serving a city like Vegas.
 

railiner

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Mar 20, 2009
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The slot machines at McCarran are some of the stingiest I've ever seen. I presume this is because it's an extremely captive audience with many layers of payments billed to each pull. Makes me wonder if an entity like Amtrak would be allowed to purchase retail rights in or near a station and then sublease them to a gambling concern in exchange for a commission on earnings. Could help offset the cost of serving a city like Vegas.
I don't see any reason why not...really no different than Amtrak developing any of their properties for retail, thru a contractor. In the case of the Plaza Hotel, Amtrak was just a tenant. The hotel was built on the site of the old Union Pacific station. UP either sold it or leased it to the hotel developer.
 
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