Dispatching, restocking and refueling discussion

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mackinaw chief

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Just curious does Amtrak conductors and engineers on the Zephyr ever think about making it past the Moffat Tunnel before Sundown so we can get pictures of it going East bound. It seems that the 10 times I taken the Zephyr in the past 9 months we get the colfax freight bulldoze delay for 2 hours. Then we get the dispatch person in Nebraska well should I say don't travel east bound on Sunday you will miss the lake shore limited in Chicago guaranteed. Note to cafe car staff order what you need to get restocked in Oakland. Especially in the summer. Martin you are unique for sure.
 
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Just curious does Amtrak conductors and engineers on the Zephyr ever think about making it past the Moffat Tunnel before Sundown so we can get pictures of it going East bound.
The crew wouldn't have much control of that, they are at the mercy of the dispatchers.
 

zephyr17

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Just curious does Amtrak conductors and engineers on the Zephyr ever think about making it past the Moffat Tunnel before Sundown so we can get pictures of it going East bound
It is not up to them.

It is up to the UP dispatchers in Harriman Center in Omaha.

. Note to cafe car staff order what you need to get restocked in Oakland. Especially in the summer.
Most, if not all cafe car attendants, put in for restock at the "away" terminal.

To a significant degree it is limited by the standing orders that Amtrak management has set up with Aramark, the commissary contractor.
 

mackinaw chief

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It is not up to them.

It is up to the UP dispatchers in Harriman Center in Omaha.


Most, if not all cafe car attendants, put in for restock at the "away" terminal.

To a significant degree it is limited by the standing orders that Amtrak management has set up with Aramark, the commissary contractor.
One would think that once Amtrak 6 has been given clearance to depart EMY for CHI that the tracks ahead of it would be cleared all the way to CHI just like in ATC. So that there are no freight delays. Wonder when. DOT and Congress is going to look at the hotel bills for Amtrak passengers in Chicago and finally. Fix the train dispatch system. Look at the long distance trains elsewhere in the world once dispatch clears you it's your track until destination. See mighty trains show for example.
Especially the Australian episodes.
 

jis

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One would think that once Amtrak 6 has been given clearance to depart EMY for CHI that the tracks ahead of it would be cleared all the way to CHI just like in ATC.
One could think so, and one would be in an alternate reality far removed from how dispatching is actually done in this reality. Dispatchers would typically clear tracks at most a couple of sections ahead of the train at any moment. No one would clear the track for two and a half days all the way to Chicago.

Nowhere in the world that I am aware of where there is significant long distance service beyond boutique service, is dispatching done the way you imagine.
 
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mackinaw chief

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It is not up to them.

It is up to the UP dispatchers in Harriman Center in Omaha.


Most, if not all cafe car attendants, put in for restock at the "away" terminal.

To a significant degree it is limited by the standing orders that Amtrak management has set up with Aramark, the commissary contractor.
If Amtrak has a contract with aramark then the east bound should get a replenishment in DEN. Westbound in SLC. To top off supplies as not to run out of food in cafe car. Strange that the dining car has plenty of food for sleeping car passengers . one example in May my Zephyr 6 limped into CHI around 10 pm yet cafe car had plum ran out of food yet the dining car was announcing dinner seating. Or sunset limited NOL LAX. Same thing cafe car shuts down (some contract lingo) just before the California border with Arizona again they announced breakfast seating for sleeping car passengers hmm. Hello Amtrak let's fix this.
 

zephyr17

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If Amtrak has a contract with aramark then the east bound should get a replenishment in DEN. Westbound in SLC. To top off supplies as not to run out of food in cafe car. Strange that the dining car has plenty of food for sleeping car passengers . one example in May my Zephyr 6 limped into CHI around 10 pm yet cafe car had plum ran out of food yet the dining car was announcing dinner seating. Or sunset limited NOL LAX. Same thing cafe car shuts down (some contract lingo) just before the California border with Arizona again they announced breakfast seating for sleeping car passengers hmm. Hello Amtrak let's fix this.
I do not disagree with you, but no long distance train has mid- route top offs and have not for decades, even back when they ran commissary services themselves. Despite the fact that Aramark has a nationwide presence, Amtrak only contracts for commissary services at terminals.

I am not sure what to make of your comments about the Sunset.

The California-Arizona border is in the middle of the night in both directions. Yuma, right on the border, is at 12:49 am eastbound, 3:47 westbound MST year round (11:49 pm, 2:47 am PT during the winter when California is on Standard Time). The cafe will have been closed for almost two hours westbound if on time and the attendant actually adheres to policy (open 6am - 11 pm. Many LSAs, not all, close up around 10) and closed for hours eastbound.

There is no dining car breakfast service for sleeper passengers at all coming into LA due to very early arrival (5:35 am), so a breakfast announcement is unlikely. If the train is significantly late, they might offer breakfast service if they've stocked supplies for an additional meal.

All onboard service times are based on time, not location.
 
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basketmaker

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I do not disagree with you, but no long distance train has mid- route top offs and have not for decades, even back when they ran commissary services themselves. Despite the fact that Aramark has a nationwide presence, Amtrak only contracts for commissary services at terminals.

I am not sure what to make of your comments about the Sunset.

The California-Arizona border is in the middle of the night in both directions. Yuma, right on the border, is at 12:49 am eastbound, 3:47 westbound MST year round (11:49 pm, 2:47 am PT during the winter when California is on Standard Time). The cafe will have been closed for almost two hours westbound if on time and the attendant actually adheres to policy (open 6am - 11 pm. Many LSAs, not all, close up around 10) and closed for hours eastbound.

There is no dining car breakfast service for sleeper passengers at all coming into LA due to very early arrival (5:35 am), so a breakfast announcement is unlikely. If the train is significantly late, they might offer breakfast service if they've stocked supplies for an additional meal.

All onboard service times are based on time, not location.
Not sure why but I have watched #6 leave DUS and then stop around 38th Avenue and Wazee Street for 15-30 minutes many times. This is on the Brush Sub. Now there is a large complex with multiple food suppliers in it also access to the small multi-track yard. I have looked around but I haven't seen Aramark in there. This happens quite often and not sure if they are adding food stock or what.
 

UserNameRequired

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One would think that once Amtrak 6 has been given clearance to depart EMY for CHI that the tracks ahead of it would be cleared all the way to CHI just like in ATC. So that there are no freight delays. Wonder when. DOT and Congress is going to look at the hotel bills for Amtrak passengers in Chicago and finally. Fix the train dispatch system. Look at the long distance trains elsewhere in the world once dispatch clears you it's your track until destination. See mighty trains show for example.
Especially the Australian episodes.
Just because ATC clears you as filed is no guarantee that is what you will be flying. Clearances in busy airspace (Northeast, CA, Dallas, Florida etc.) will likely be amended as you are going along. In the midwest it can be common to file direct and get cleared as filed and actually be able to fly it. With almost unlimited Area Navigation (GPS, DME-DME etc.) and altitude choices it should be easier to optimize air traffic than say a single rail line? I agree it seems like there should be some opportunity for much greater optimization of rail traffic so passenger service is less affected by conflicts.
 

zephyr17

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One would think that once Amtrak 6 has been given clearance to depart EMY for CHI that the tracks ahead of it would be cleared all the way to CHI just like in ATC.
🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣😅🤣

A railroad is not the sky.

There are tracks. They do not have multiple levels. Much of it is single track.

The train will have a "slot" when it is expected. Good dispatching will have lined and cleared the route when it is expected, assuming it is on time when approaching a given dispatcher's district. The track will not be cleared a day in advance a thousand miles away. On two different railroads.

I won't even go into the difficulties introduced by railroad management's embrace of PSR, operating non-clearing trains, and being overly lean on crews.

Comparing managing air traffic and rail traffic is apples and, I don't know, gorillas. Orange and apples are at least both fruit.
 

mackinaw chief

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🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣😅🤣

A railroad is not the sky.

There are tracks. They do not have multiple levels. Much of it is single track.

The train will have a "slot" when it is expected. Good dispatching will have lined and cleared the route when it is expected, assuming it is on time when approaching a given dispatcher's district. The track will not be cleared a day in advance a thousand miles away. On two different railroads.

I won't even go into the difficulties introduced by railroad management's embrace of PSR, operating non-clearing trains, and being overly lean on crews.

Comparing managing air traffic and rail traffic is apples and, I don't know, gorillas. Orange and apples are at least both fruit.
If dispatchers know Amtrak is a faster train then it would be prudent to have freight step aside for Amtrak. I was given the article on here about the builder having setbacks due to the new locos not working so they had to put a freight loco on the builder which slowed the train from 79 mph to 60 so yes. Freight operators do not make your trainset longer than a siding or face getting a Amtrak train up the caboose. Omaha knows that the Zephyr 6 leaves sharp at 910 AM PST so they better have freight ahead getting the path cleared for Amtrak 6. 5 going west. Since most delays are freight then if Amtrak is late leaving EMY you make way for Amtrak. You caused Amtrak to be late yesterday. Why be so combative?? You caused the problem fix the problem.

Not sure why but I have watched #6 leave DUS and then stop around 38th Avenue and Wazee Street for 15-30 minutes many times. This is on the Brush Sub. Now there is a large complex with multiple food suppliers in it also access to the small multi-track yard. I have looked around but I haven't seen Aramark in there. This happens quite often and not sure if they are adding food stock or what.
Could that be a fuel stop? For its 2000 gallon fill per trainset. At least that is what they said on the SWC. Each fill they said they fill up 3 times going one direction.
 

zephyr17

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If dispatchers know Amtrak is a faster train then it would be prudent to have freight step aside for Amtrak. I was given the article on here about the builder having setbacks due to the new locos not working so they had to put a freight loco on the builder which slowed the train from 79 mph to 60 so yes. Freight operators do not make your trainset longer than a siding or face getting a Amtrak train up the caboose. Omaha knows that the Zephyr 6 leaves sharp at 910 AM PST so they better have freight ahead getting the path cleared for Amtrak 6. 5 going west. Since most delays are freight then if Amtrak is late leaving EMY you make way for Amtrak. You caused Amtrak to be late yesterday. Why be so combative?? You caused the problem fix the problem.
1. Dispatchers by and large will put put clearing freights into sidings for Amtrak, especially for meets but also for passes in some cases. In fact, some railroads will fleet hot intermodals behind Amtrak's "slot". In that case, if Amtrak misses its slot, regardless of the reason, those intermodals are now in front of it.
2. Yes, UP knows when Amtrak is leaving and has a slot for it. However, UP isn't particularly invested in keeping it in its slot if various issues come up altering the day's intended operating plan, like a freight leaving a terminal late, pulling a knuckle, having one of the locos breaking down so it cannot go as fast as intended, slow orders, idiots trying to race a train to a grade crossing and losing among endless possibilities for problems. If an airplane has mechanical difficulty it doesn't block the sky, it either lands or crashes. The air also does not require MOW crews to maintain it in condition for airplanes to fly through it. There are no uncontrolled flying cars to run into.
3. I find your terminology interesting. They are not "freight operators". They are railroads that own, dispatch and maintain their privately owned tracks for their own trains to use. They make money from hauling freight. They don't make much money from Amtrak, which they have to host at low rates per Federal statute, the rate based on the incremental costs incurred by Amtrak's presence. It was the bargain they struck in 1971 for offloading their regulatorily required, money losing intercity passenger services to Amtrak. They probably regret it now, at its inception no one involved thought Amtrak would last much more than 5 years. It was intended to have been a decent burial for intercity rail passenger service ("well, we tried"). Not to still be gumming up the works 52 years later. If the railroad management had forseen that, they might well have elected to stay out of Amtrak, and been rid of their intercity passenger trains entirely by the early 1980s at the latest. While I think that Amtrak should be able to better enjoy its statutorily required dispatching priority, I also understand the railroads' motives.
4. I agree that non-clearing trains are a problem and deliberately running them seems like poor railroading to me, but PSR operating plans see gold in them thar trains and current rail management is under PSR's spell. The result, Amtrak entirely aside, is snarling their own networks, getting their customers, shippers, angry at the delays, and causing the STB to start to come down on them hard (like the "directed service" order the STB recently issued to UP for Foster Farms to ensure timely delivery of, yes, chicken feed). However, your proposal for Amtrak to ram slower, non-clearing freight trains would cause concern. Was the Tenerife crash an appropriate response to runway incursion? I think it will ultimately work itself out, but will take some years to do. One of the earliest adopters of PSR, CN in Canada, has now embarked on a capital investment program of lengthening sidings and adding sections of two main track, after having completely snarled up their railroad. In any case, Amtrak cannot move at will. Authority to occupy main track can only be given by the host railroads' dispatchers.
 
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fengshui

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The other big element that I see is the time-flexibility of coal and other bulk commodities deliveries in the freight system. Look at the chart of freight types here: https://www.aar.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/AAR-Coal-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Excluding food and farm products, you're still at at least 40% of total rail freight is non-perishable bulk commodities that store well. Some fraction of the intermodal traffic is probably also not time-sensitive. If you're running a power plant, or a refinery, you need regular deliveries of inputs by rail. However, you don't need those inputs delivered to a to-the-minute schedule. You can maintain a day or multi-day inventory of your resources on site. Thus, if your supply train runs 8 or 12 hours late, it's not a big deal, as long as it arrives before your on-site inventory runs out and it actually arrives. The Class 1 RRs know this, and have built the network to deliver as much as possible as cheaply as possible, with punctuality not a priority in almost any way.

On the flip side, punctuality and reliability is quite important to passenger service. It would be possible to build a network that emphasized punctuality, but it would be less good at delivering all expected freight eventually, as you'd have goods left behind when they weren't ready for a scheduled departure, and then no immediately available space to send them on a later train.
 

zephyr17

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Yeah, most rail shipments are not time sensitive these days. Pretty much anything time sensitive goes by truck, although there are exceptions. UPS Ground makes extensive use of intermodal rail for long hauls, for example.

With that said, even less time sensitive shippers are starting to yell and bring complaints to the STB. Being less time sensitive does not always equate to complete acceptance of the "it gets there when it gets there, next week, next month" current rail service. Even power plants and chicken farmers have to be able to plan.
 

Willbridge

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Could that be a fuel stop? For its 2000 gallon fill per trainset. At least that is what they said on the SWC. Each fill they said they fill up 3 times going one direction.

Refueling is done in the Denver station. It's one of the reasons that the train is spotted with the engines on the east end, where there is a driveway. (The other reason is to avoid smoking up the canopy over the tracks.)
 
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