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East / West through train

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Ollie12

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A thought - is there any reason Amtrak couldn't run the consists that form the Southwest Chief, the California Zephyr and the Empire Builder further east than Chicago?

By combining a western train with an eastern train Amtrak would create a true transcontinental experience, a one-seat ride with guaranteed connections and no service degradation.

A long layover in Chicago would be fine (it's done in San Antonio) and staying in one room with no luggage to accompany one sightseeing is a huge plus! Crews could change en-route (as happens in Adelaide on Australia's Indian Pacific). A Chicago base can easily be maintained. The Indian Pacific is serviced in Adelaide despite it running from Sydney to Perth. It just stops long enough to service the train (which is shunted off the platform and returned). Cars that need to be switched out could be allocated to single sectors so they can be swapped out in Chicago, likewise, additional capacity could be added for the eastern or western sectors.

To give some hypothetical examples:
  • The Southwest Chief and the Capitol Limited could be combined offering a one-seat ride from LA to DC.
  • If Superliners can run to Boston South Station, the California Zephyr could be combined with the CHI - BOS section of the Lake Shore (with connections in Albany for NYC) offering a one-seat ride from the Bay Area to Boston
  • The Empire Builder could be combined with a shortened Chicago - DC Cardinal bringing a Sightseer lounge back to the Cardinal and offering a one-seat ride from Seattle / Portland to DC
  • The City of New Orleans could be combined with a re-timed Sunset Limited providing more connections from the South to Texas and beyond
  • The Cardinal or the Capitol Limited could be combined with a Silver Service train in Washington DC offering a one-seat ride from the Midwest to Florida (albeit this creates problems for NYC - potentially introducing one or two additional frequencies?
Likewise through Viewliner sleepers could operate on the Lake Shore and the Silver Meteor (if it's 9:30 pm departure could be brought forward)



Just an idea!
 
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Palmetto

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The idea has come up before, and it gets all sorts of negative reactions. One problem is that Superliners cannot go into Boston nor New York, so there goes some ideas that have been put forth. Although not an insurmountable situation, the SW Chief and Zephyr would require a back up move out of Chicago Union Station to continue east of Chicago. They have backed into CUS in the past when arriving from the east, but not sure if they still do. Run through would be an easy matter, though, for the Empire Builder. The best chance for coast-to-coast service was the National Limited to St. Louis, and continuing on the Texas Eagle/Sunset route to L.A. IIRC, some of the rail has been pulled up between Pittsburg and Indianapolis, so that is no longer a possibility..
 
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Eric S

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I believe, maybe in the late 1990s, that it was proposed that the Capitol Limited and Southwest Chief be run as a through train with an extended layover in Chicago. It may have happened for a relatively brief period of time. I seem to recall some discussion about whether through passengers had access to the train during the layover, although perhaps that was just speculation about potential problems if such through service occurred.
 

jiml

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I believe, maybe in the late 1990s, that it was proposed that the Capitol Limited and Southwest Chief be run as a through train with an extended layover in Chicago. It may have happened for a relatively brief period of time. I seem to recall some discussion about whether through passengers had access to the train during the layover, although perhaps that was just speculation about potential problems if such through service occurred.
1997-98. The original intent was that passengers could remain on-board during the Chicago layover, however this became impractical since the train had to be turned. (IIRC the original concept proposed was the Capitol and the Empire Builder, making this unnecessary, however the schedule was too tight.) Without the benefit of being a "through" train I suspect interest diminished, although IIRC eastbound timekeeping is what eventually killed it.
 

Trogdor

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I believe, maybe in the late 1990s, that it was proposed that the Capitol Limited and Southwest Chief be run as a through train with an extended layover in Chicago. It may have happened for a relatively brief period of time. I seem to recall some discussion about whether through passengers had access to the train during the layover, although perhaps that was just speculation about potential problems if such through service occurred.
IIRC, it was actually sold as a through train very briefly. Then, for a while afterwards, they continued running the equipment through even though they were separate trains. Part of that, though, was Amtrak being so desperately short of equipment that they needed to in order to maintain service (the run-through saved one set of equipment). I think the equipment run-through stopped some time in the David Gunn era. (Tangential side note: there was also a run-through of equipment between the Empire Builder and City of New Orleans during that time, though maybe not the whole consist.)
 

bms

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I don't know about all the way to the West Coast, but I think extending the Capitol Limited to Denver might work well. Right now there is a long wait in Chicago, and then a long wait in Denver the next morning before hotel check-in.
Omaha and Lincoln already have a lot of passengers who would benefit from better departure and arrival times.
 

railiner

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You also have the problem of compounding lateness.
That is the biggest obstacle to this proposal. Then there is the matter of maintenance and servicing. The longer the run, the more complications from any problems.
I don't think there are enough potential through passenger's to make this really worth the effort...it would be more like a "vanity" thing...having a transcontinental train.

As a passenger, I used to welcome the change of equipment in Chicago. Back in the days of Heritage trains to Vista-Dome trains, and now from Viewliner/Amfleet to Superliner. A change of scenery in the train itself was welcome variety on a long trip...
 

Bob Dylan

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The Texas Eagle and City of New Orleans shared Equipment for several years, till the poor OTP of the Eagle and Mechanical Problems started causing Major delays in Chicago.

No Lunch was usually served in the Diner between St. Louis and Chicago, but when the OTP became chronically Late, Sleeper passengers were allowed to get Lunch in the Cafe Car.

I also remember having to vacate the Sightseer Lounge around Joliet on the way into Chicago so it could be cleaned and prepped for departure that evening on the City, and the SCAs asking that everyone in the Sleepers have their stuff ready to de-train quickly upon arrival into Union Station.
 

Dakota 400

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Back in the days of Heritage trains to Vista-Dome trains, and now from Viewliner/Amfleet to Superliner. A change of scenery in the train itself was welcome variety on a long trip...
I have such a change of "train scenery" a few times with the most recent being from the Crescent to the Sunset Limited. The difference between the two trains as to their equipment was part of the enjoyable part of my journey.

When the Sunset Limited arrived in Los Angeles, I connected to the Southwest Chief the same day. But, even with that layover of a few hours, going from "Superliner" to "Superliner" was a "ho-hum" experience by the time I got to Chicago. It was, however, interesting to note the differences in the service provided by the crew on the two trains as well as to who the Chef in the Dining Car is as to how well prepared the meals were. (This was before the current messing with the dining service.)
 

jiml

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And it was even better in the days when each railroad had their own decor...some better than others...😉
This was never more evident than when the CN and CP sections of the Canadian were merged at Winnipeg in the early days of VIA. The CN diner from Toronto had all the ambiance of a school cafeteria, contrasted with the spectacular decor of the CP car from Montreal.
 

Willbridge

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IIRC, it was actually sold as a through train very briefly. Then, for a while afterwards, they continued running the equipment through even though they were separate trains. Part of that, though, was Amtrak being so desperately short of equipment that they needed to in order to maintain service (the run-through saved one set of equipment). I think the equipment run-through stopped some time in the David Gunn era. (Tangential side note: there was also a run-through of equipment between the Empire Builder and City of New Orleans during that time, though maybe not the whole consist.)
There was a Los Angeles<>Washington, DC through sleeper via New Orleans for a while. I think it was done in by equipment incompatibility when Superliners were introduced.

When I was working on ideas for the Portland section of the Empire Builder we found that running an LAX<>PDX<>CHI sleeper would save a car. Sleeper occupancy PDX<>SEA is low. Turning it in Twin Cities would save another. Turning it in Oakland or Emeryville would save another. However, Amtrak has so much difficulty with switching cars mid-route and with reliability problems on Train 14 those ideas never were followed up.
 

Willbridge

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This was never more evident than when the CN and CP sections of the Canadian were merged at Winnipeg in the early days of VIA. The CN diner from Toronto had all the ambiance of a school cafeteria, contrasted with the spectacular decor of the CP car from Montreal.
When we rode Ottawa>Edmonton in 1977 the CN changed diners in Winnipeg. The dining crew east of there was fully bilingual and Quiche Lorraine was the special. West of there it was Perogies. Changing out the diners made cleaning easier.
 

railiner

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There was a Los Angeles<>Washington, DC through sleeper via New Orleans for a while. I think it was done in by equipment incompatibility when Superliners were introduced.
It was a thru tri-weekly New York to Los Angeles heritage 10 Roomette, 6 Double Bedroom sleeper. This operation started before the Southern was even an Amtrak member...
And it continued well into the Superliner era, (mid '80's).
It had to be attached to a transition car when the Sunset went Hi-Level and Superliner.
The other coast to coast sleeper went on the National Limited and the SW Limited until the National was discontinued, but it went daily....
 

Palmetto

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It was a thru tri-weekly New York to Los Angeles heritage 10 Roomette, 6 Double Bedroom sleeper. This operation started before the Southern was even an Amtrak member...
And it continued well into the Superliner era, (mid '80's).
It had to be attached to a transition car when the Sunset went Hi-Level and Superliner.
The other coast to coast sleeper went on the National Limited and the SW Limited until the National was discontinued, but it went daily....
A friend of mine and I traveled from San Antonio to New York in this sleeper. It was your hotel in New Orleans, and one could leave it upon arrival to go out to dinner, then return later to go to bed. The Southern Railroad had not yet joined Amtrak, so Southern employees staffed the train. I remember being rudely awoken the next morning by the Southern conductor who wanted us to produce our tickets.
 

railiner

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I wasn't quite sure how the OBS staffing was on that operation. Obviously the operating crews, were all SR between NOL and WAS, and the SR OBS were even on the Amtrak NEC end of the run....but not sure about that thru coast to coast sleeper...did they change attendants in NOL? If so, who staffed the car during its overnight stay in NOL? I'm pretty sure no attendant would go four nights in a car. Even the Sunset Limited, when it went to Miami, I believe changed attendants at NOL.
I suppose the sleeper that went via Kansas City, changed attendants there?
 

Thunder

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6 backs in daily even if it will cost a connection.

you could do 4 the same way.
it’s dumb , but 🤷‍♂️
 

Bob Dylan

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A friend of mine and I traveled from San Antonio to New York in this sleeper. It was your hotel in New Orleans, and one could leave it upon arrival to go out to dinner, then return later to go to bed. The Southern Railroad had not yet joined Amtrak, so Southern employees staffed the train. I remember being rudely awoken the next morning by the Southern conductor who wanted us to produce our tickets.
Ditto, I remember this well! Except for the Santa Fe, Southern was my favorite RR in the Old Days before Amtrak.:cool:
 

Charles785

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In the pre-Amtrak days, wasn't the Santa Fe Super Chief combined with either a Chicago to New York or Chicago to Washington, DC tran for those passengers who wanted a through transcontinental service?
 

bratkinson

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There was a Los Angeles<>Washington, DC through sleeper via New Orleans for a while. I think it was done in by equipment incompatibility when Superliners were introduced.
I was ON the very last through sleeper NYP-LAX. As Willbridge noted, equipping the Sunset Ltd with Superliners was the end of the still steam heated single-level through sleeper. Having the night in NOL between arrival on the Crescent and the next morning departure on the Sunset allowed a few hours taking in the nightlife in New Orleans with the car acting as a hotel for through passengers.

I'd have to dig around a while, but I recall a Classic Trains issue from 10-12 years ago that was devoted almost entirely to Pullman cars and service. A portion of one of the articles discussed 'through cars' passed between railroads in Chicago to create east-west connections. In some instances, it involved moving the car(s) between Chicago train stations. At least that isn't an issue today.

The BIG problem, however, was the amount of layover time between arrival on one train and departure on the next. To ensure connections, even back in the 50s when passenger trains usually ran close to schedule, there'd be maybe 4 hours or more 'insurance' time in Chicago. They soon discovered that rather than staying in their sleeper compartments during the daylight layover (AM arrival, PM departure), most passengers got off in Chicago and did whatever they wanted between trains. Also, by 1960 or so, some of the arriving trains couldn't be counted on arriving within the time frame needed to make the connection. The dawning of the 'jet age' and cross country travel in 6 hours or so was the death knell for all coast to coast sleepers by the early 1960s.

These days, unless someone and their family actually WANT to spend 3+ days on a train to travel NYP-LAX, for example, the odds of anyone opting for that is nearly zero. Yes, railfans will ride it, and even convince their suffering family to endure it...once. Even if the through car(s) were like the Orient Express and its expired USA attempts at duplicating it, the market simply doesn't exist for a business to last much longer than their initial funding (subscriptions, stocks, bonds, whatever) will permit.
 

railiner

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In the pre-Amtrak days, wasn't the Santa Fe Super Chief combined with either a Chicago to New York or Chicago to Washington, DC tran for those passengers who wanted a through transcontinental service?
Prior to Amtrak, as bratkinson mentioned above, there were thru sleepers on several routes, but no through trains...
 

railiner

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I was ON the very last through sleeper NYP-LAX. As Willbridge noted, equipping the Sunset Ltd with Superliners was the end of the still steam heated single-level through sleeper. Having the night in NOL between arrival on the Crescent and the next morning departure on the Sunset allowed a few hours taking in the nightlife in New Orleans with the car acting as a hotel for through passengers.
It ended...but it came back in 1984 and 1985...

This reference is from the 1985 timetable...
 

sttom

OBS Chief
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In the pre-Amtrak days, wasn't the Santa Fe Super Chief combined with either a Chicago to New York or Chicago to Washington, DC tran for those passengers who wanted a through transcontinental service?
If I'm remembering my research correctly, the Chief handled the through cars and the Super Chief was limited stop train. I know the Chief handled the through cars from The New York Central, the Central of New Jersey and maybe a train from DC (not 100% on a DC connection). It also handled the other through cars from around the Santa Fe system including cars from Denver, Phoenix and San Diego. Among other trains handling through cars at various points in the Santa Fe's history.
 
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