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California Zephry Train Speed

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S Unger

Train Attendant
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Jul 31, 2009
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Mt Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Perhaps someone could explain to me why while I was traveling on I80 in Nevada where the railroad tracks run somewhat parallel to the highway I can go 80 MPH and pass the California Zephyr. I took the California Zephyr last year and liked the ride, especially the ride from Salt Lake to Denver however I cannot understand why a train that is on a private right of way cannot run at 100+ MPH.

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savoirfaire

Train Attendant
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Jan 30, 2009
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68
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Bowie, MD
The reason is that the Max speed for passenger trains outside the Northeast Corridor is 79mph. It could also be going slower due to the condition of the track in that area.
 

the_traveler

Conductor
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Nov 14, 2007
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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
Trains (like cars) have speed limits. In many open areas, the maximum allowed speed for Amtrak trains is 79 MPH. But it also depends on the condition of the track. The speed limit may be 50 or 30 MPH. (You wouldn't want to drive down a dirt road at 70 MPH - even though you could drive that on I-80!)

Another factor is if work crews are in the area. (You may not like it if you were working on a track and a train passed on the other track - only a foot away - at 70 MPH!)

There are many reasons why they do not do 100+ MPH in all areas.
 

mikerd5522

Train Attendant
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Feb 20, 2008
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27
Location
Connecticut
I was recently on the Zephyr from Emeryville to Chicago. I had my GPS on for most of the trip (all but 2 or 3 hours) and our total average was around 38 mph and our moving average was around 42 mph, which I thought was very disappointing. Our top speed was recorded around 81 mph.
 

alanh

OBS Chief
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Aug 5, 2009
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PHX
I believe only sections of the Southwest Chief go over 79 (outside the NEC). I'm not sure, but I believe the maximum speed on that line is 90.
 

AlanB

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Aug 22, 2002
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Queens, New York
I believe only sections of the Southwest Chief go over 79 (outside the NEC). I'm not sure, but I believe the maximum speed on that line is 90.
Correct, there are sections of the Chief's run where it can go 90. Otherwise, the only other places in the US where you'll find a passenger train going faster than 79 MPH is on the NEC where top speed for Acela is 150 in places, the Empire Corridor, and Michigan where the Wolverines can go 95 right now. Should be bumping up to 105 soon.
 

MikefromCrete

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Mar 24, 2009
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Crete, IL
Federal regulations limit passenger trains without cab signals to 79 mph. With the exception of the NEC, the Philly-Harrisburg line, part of Amtrak's Michigan line and part of the Southwest Chief's route, there are no other lines signaled to allow higher speeds. With the federal government finally positive about high speed rail, there will be more lines engineered and signalled for 110 mph, and hopefully at some time in the future, this country will actually get true high speed rail at 220 mph and above.

So what's the speed limit on Nevada's Interstates? Higher than 75 mph?
 

DET63

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May 6, 2009
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I believe the speed limit on Nevada's rural Interstates is 75 mph, though it may be lower (65 or 70) in some areas. However, i don't know how strictly that it's enforced. I would guess that, at least in remote areas with long straight stretches and few exits or entrances, Smokey Bear may rarely be seen.
 

jackal

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SGF
I believe the speed limit on Nevada's rural Interstates is 75 mph, though it may be lower (65 or 70) in some areas. However, i don't know how strictly that it's enforced. I would guess that, at least in remote areas with long straight stretches and few exits or entrances, Smokey Bear may rarely be seen.
Nevada is also home to an interesting oddity I've never seen anywhere else: a two-lane highway with a speed limit of 70. (All other two-lane roads I've ever been on in this country were either 55 or 65.)

I drove US 93 from Wendover (on I-80 right on the border between NV and UT) to Ely one late evening last year. Talk about rural! Not even so much as a gas pump or roadside diner for the entire stretch, much less a timer, so I averaged well over 70. ;) Good road--shallow curves and lots of passing lanes.

The same highway south of Ely (to Las Vegas) is closed to public traffic and turned into the raceway for the Silver State Classic Open Road Race. I was actually in Ely the day before the race, but I had a limited amount of time allocated to get all the way across UT via the various and sundry national parks and to catch my flight in Denver. I'll definitely have to make it back one of these days!
 
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PRR 60

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I believe the speed limit on Nevada's rural Interstates is 75 mph, though it may be lower (65 or 70) in some areas. However, i don't know how strictly that it's enforced. I would guess that, at least in remote areas with long straight stretches and few exits or entrances, Smokey Bear may rarely be seen.
Back in the good old days, Nevada was renowned for not having a rural speed limit at all. The official term was "reasonable and proper". In other words, as fast as you want. The infamous 55mph national speed limit imposed in the 1970's, along with the threat of the loss of federal highway grants for non-compliance, put an end to that. Can you imagine a 55mph speed limit on I-80 in Nevada? What a joke. The repeal of the 55mph law ended that nonsense, but the feds still require a speed limit. I believe there are some roads with 80mph.
 
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rile42

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Jan 20, 2005
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Does the section of track west of Albany count as the NE corridor? I know the LSL travels over 100 mph for a short section around there.
 

S Unger

Train Attendant
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Jul 31, 2009
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Mt Lebanon, Pennsylvania
I believe I80 is posted at 75MPH, I was just riding along as I passed the train. I guess I'm just perplexed that our country's rail system is not designed to handle 100+ mph. Thanks for all the replies. Next time I'll try to spell Zephyr correctly too.
 

jis

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Does the section of track west of Albany count as the NE corridor? I know the LSL travels over 100 mph for a short section around there.
No. That is the Empire Corridor. The 100mph section is between Albany and Schenectady. There is another segment between Poughkeepsie and Albany, but that is south (railroad direction east) of Albany.
 

railiner

Conductor
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The old San Francisco Zephyr used to really "clock" along the Union Pacific mainline at 90 plus in cab signal territory across Wyoming. Many times the UP would receive the train late from the SP or the BN at Ogden or Denver respectively, than effortlessly recover an hour and a half or more and deliver the train on time.

Another former speedway for Amtrak was the Illinois Central "Mainline of Mid-America". I remember them running trains in its cab signal territory between Champaign and Effingham at 100 per.
 

zephyr17

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Jul 22, 2009
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Washington State
The former AT&SF Surf line through southern Orange County and large parts of San Diego County is ATS equipped and allows 90 mph, too. Used by the Pacific Surfliner (former San Diegan) service.
 
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