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Extentsion NER to LYH?

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Philzy

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Philthadelphia
First off, this is my first post here and I'd like to say thanks to everyone on here/ I've been lurking on this site for a little over a month and you all have answered so many questions I've had for so long...

I grew up in Charlottesville, VA (CVS) and was an avid railfan as a child and still am as an adult. Even though I've been living far away from cville I still keep tabs on my not-so-sleepy little hometown. Recently, (fall 2008) I came across an article stating that there might actually be some new rail service through my home town. An extension of a NER (Northeast Regional) to Lynchburg from Washington stopping in cville. Apparently it was realized that a railcar set was sitting unused over night in WAS after a southbound trip on the NEC. A study was done and they found the two best possible uses was an additional trip onto Richmond and Newport News, or a round trip south to LYH where facilities exist to turn the cars around to return Northbound. The final study I read looked to point more in favor of a trip to LYH via CVS on the NS tracks.

The only problem I really see of this were to come to fruition is that while the southbound schedule is fine the northbound is not. The planned schedule compared to The Crescent 19/20 is something like this...

Crescent Southbound

Dep WAS 18:30

New service Southbound

Dep WAS 16:45

Crescent Northbound

Dep LYH 05:00

New service Northbound

Dep LYH 06:00

With the two trains passing LYH within an hour of each other it seems a little flawed if not backward. My only suggestion would be to switch the two times slots around. I know that the NEC north of WAS is full and basically operates on some sort of time slot system due to congestion. So, maybe it might be possible to let the Northbound Crescent depart an hour or an hour and a half later from New Orleans. The new NER service could then take the 5am departure from LYH picking up morning commuter traffic and functioning as a regional commuter train thus allowing the Crescent to continue to function as a long distance train picking up the slack of the remaining stragglers an hour later...

I'll done my homework and and yet it's still it seems “up in the air” whether this may even come to fruition. I looked around on this site but didn't find anything, perhaps I'm looking in the wrong spots. I figured if there was a place to ask if anyone knew if there was an update, it would be with you fine knowledgeable folk. Below are some links to what I'm talking about...Like I stated, I did a few searchs on here but came back with limited results, none of which seemed related...trust me it was a long read and search, and I'm long winded myself. :D

http://www.cvillerail.org/

http://www.realcentralva.com/2005/06/23/ne...r-rail-service/

http://www.drpt.virginia.gov/studies/files...t%201-25-08.pdf

I have a ton of questions, mostly relating to Charlottesville service but I'll try to post them all individually in reference to individual topics so as not to hijack or distract from other threads.

Again, thanks for all the questions you've all already answered keeping me from reposting the same questions! If you have any info on this please post!

Thanks!
 

wayman

Conductor
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Northampton MA
The only problem I really see of this were to come to fruition is that while the southbound schedule is fine the northbound is not. The planned schedule compared to The Crescent 19/20 is something like this...
Crescent Southbound

Dep WAS 18:30

New service Southbound

Dep WAS 16:45

Crescent Northbound

Dep LYH 05:00

New service Northbound

Dep LYH 06:00

With the two trains passing LYH within an hour of each other it seems a little flawed if not backward. My only suggestion would be to switch the two times slots around.
The Crescent's current northbound time at LYH is ~06:00. I wasn't aware that they planned to shift the Crescent's entire schedule as a part of this plan, so maybe you have these reversed?

As a LYH native (now in PHL) I'm eager to see this new service. Given the choice, I'll always prefer the Crescent between PHL-LYH because of the diner. But with the Crescent selling out more often now, having a second daily train means I'll be more likely to be able to visit my parents on shorter notice :)
 
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George Harris

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I never have understood the proposed scheduling on this train. It would be better served by making the new train morning soutbound, evening northbound and adding a couple of coaches to the Crescent between NY or Washington and Lynchburg.

As to moving the Crescent to a later schedule northbound, that is counterproductive to its long haul market as an Atlanta to Washington overnight train.
 
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BobWeaver

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I never have understood the proposed scheduling on this train. It would be better served by making the new train morning soutbound, evening northbound and adding a couple of coaches to the Crescent between NY or Washington and Lynchburg.
My thoughts too. I never really grasped why Amtrak would extend a Regional to LYH within an hour of the Crescent's call times. Coaches are needed between ATL-WAS/NYP more than they are from LYH. Plus, there's really no easy spot to just drop off some coaches at the Lynchburg station - it sits on a double track main.
 

Philzy

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Philthadelphia
I never have understood the proposed scheduling on this train. It would be better served by making the new train morning soutbound, evening northbound and adding a couple of coaches to the Crescent between NY or Washington and Lynchburg.
As to moving the Crescent to a later schedule northbound, that is counterproductive to its long haul market as an Atlanta to Washington overnight train.
Apparently, from doing more reading after I posted this, it seems the orginal plan was to end the extension in Charlottesville however there is now longer a turntable or a Y to turn the cars around again. While I love charlottesville, if extending it to LYH helps ridership then I think they should do it, maybe even on down to Danville if that would work. Obviously if the station in LYH is on a DT main then they won't leave the cars there but rather hide them somewhere...

I think that having a second daily train to Atlanta is a no brianer... sadly I wonder how long it will take before that happens. The only reason that this extension is possible is that there was a rail car set that was apparently going to sit idle in WAS for close to 12 hours... If nothing else I'm happy to see that Amtrak is at least making the effort to maximize the utlization of their fleet...
 

Joel N. Weber II

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I never have understood the proposed scheduling on this train. It would be better served by making the new train morning soutbound, evening northbound and adding a couple of coaches to the Crescent between NY or Washington and Lynchburg.
The whole point of this proposal seems to be to assume that refurbishing the mothballed Amfleet Is is infinitely more expensive than paying for fuel, a crew to run some cars from DC to Lynchburg, and the costs of using the track, in that there apparently is a trainset that spends the night in DC that could instead continue south of DC.

While I'm not sure exactly what those costs are (and I'd be particularly curious whether there really is spare capacity available on this track if nothing is done to upgrade it), it does seem to me that having two daily trains in each direction and running them within two hours of each other is dumb. The authors of this study may be demonstrating that whatever ``idiot'' decided to ``waste'' a trainset by parking it overnight at WAS starting in the late afternoon rather than keeping that trainset running well into the evening might not have been such an idiot after all.
 

wayman

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Northampton MA
The whole point of this proposal seems to be to assume that refurbishing the mothballed Amfleet Is is infinitely more expensive than paying for fuel, a crew to run some cars from DC to Lynchburg, and the costs of using the track, in that there apparently is a trainset that spends the night in DC that could instead continue south of DC.
The Crescent is regularly booked solid between WAS and Charlottesville, and fairly full to Lynchburg, in both directions. It's entirely possible that scheduling it so close to the Crescent will actually allow travelers who couldn't take the Crescent to take this instead, and that there are enough additional CVS and LYH travelers to make this worthwhile. Also, having this train might allow Amtrak to raise the prices of "short trips" on the Crescent, encouraging passengers only going to CVS or LYH to take the cheaper Regional, and thus freeing up more seats on the Crescent for travelers going to ATL--it could be a clever way to get the extra capacity to Atlanta without adding a second train going all the way.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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The whole point of this proposal seems to be to assume that refurbishing the mothballed Amfleet Is is infinitely more expensive than paying for fuel, a crew to run some cars from DC to Lynchburg, and the costs of using the track, in that there apparently is a trainset that spends the night in DC that could instead continue south of DC.
The Crescent is regularly booked solid between WAS and Charlottesville, and fairly full to Lynchburg, in both directions. It's entirely possible that scheduling it so close to the Crescent will actually allow travelers who couldn't take the Crescent to take this instead, and that there are enough additional CVS and LYH travelers to make this worthwhile. Also, having this train might allow Amtrak to raise the prices of "short trips" on the Crescent, encouraging passengers only going to CVS or LYH to take the cheaper Regional, and thus freeing up more seats on the Crescent for travelers going to ATL--it could be a clever way to get the extra capacity to Atlanta without adding a second train going all the way.
But if Amtrak had to take out a loan on which it would have to pay $50,000/yr in principal and interest in order to refurbish enough Amfleet Is to add another coach to each Crescent trainset (which I think is probably a bit of an overestimate), they'd need to collect less than $200/day in extra ticket revenues to cover the costs of the refurbishment. Granted, they'd also need to collect enough in additional ticket revenues to pay for the extra fuel and crew costs, but I have to think that lengthening the Crescent would be a lot easier than negotiating with the track owner to run another train.

Maybe there's a Bush era argument that getting Virginia to pay to extend a Northeast Regional would be easier than getting Virginia to pay for another coach on the Crescent, but the Bush era is pretty much over on the scale of how long these things take.
 

Philzy

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Philthadelphia
I was thinking about this again this afternoon after talking with a friend of mine who is still living in Charlottesville, will this be a basic trainset of a few coaches and a lounge or will this train also have a premimum cabin car like business class? The central VA area is populated with a number of upper class people who might actually take advantage of this if it was available. Anyone know if this might be an option?
 

wayman

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I was thinking about this again this afternoon after talking with a friend of mine who is still living in Charlottesville, will this be a basic trainset of a few coaches and a lounge or will this train also have a premimum cabin car like business class? The central VA area is populated with a number of upper class people who might actually take advantage of this if it was available. Anyone know if this might be an option?
I believe the idea is that they'll use a specific NEC Regional trainset that by the current timetable sits idle at WAS every day for a long enough time that it could run to LYH and back. So someone with more knowledge of the situation could go through the timetable and figure out which train numbers that trainset currently has on its NEC runs, and thus know exactly what its consist is; but that someone isn't me :) Since most NEC Regionals have very similar consists, though, I would guess it would include a BC car, somewhere between 4-6 coaches, and a lounge.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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Given that I think both the Newport News and Lynchburg options are within an hour or two of other Amtrak trains, why not instead send the ``spare'' trainset to Norfolk, which currently has no Amtrak service at all?
 

wayman

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Given that I think both the Newport News and Lynchburg options are within an hour or two of other Amtrak trains, why not instead send the ``spare'' trainset to Norfolk, which currently has no Amtrak service at all?
Because given ridership demands they'll have no problem filling a train to Charlottesville and Lynchburg, and they've already got the route established, cordial relations with the freight railroad, the stations are already staffed at the times the train would be coming through, etc.

Is there even a station in Norfolk? Are there even acceptable passenger-caliber rails and a freight railroad who would allow their use? They could be running a well-patronized train to Lynchburg at almost no additional expense to Amtrak years before the first train to Norfolk might ever leave WAS.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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Because given ridership demands they'll have no problem filling a train to Charlottesville and Lynchburg, and they've already got the route established, cordial relations with the freight railroad, the stations are already staffed at the times the train would be coming through, etc.
Is there even a station in Norfolk? Are there even acceptable passenger-caliber rails and a freight railroad who would allow their use? They could be running a well-patronized train to Lynchburg at almost no additional expense to Amtrak years before the first train to Norfolk might ever leave WAS.
There's a double tracked ROW from Petersburg (the city, not the station; actually stopping in Petersburg at the existing Petersburg station would probably require track construction or backing up) to Norfolk, much of which is along US 460, which looks pretty straight. It wouldn't surprise me if it belongs to the very same freight railroad that owns the tracks to Lynchburg (then again, if there's a mix of CSX and Norfolk Southern in Virginia, maybe not), and I'd be a little surprised if there was a ROW where having double track was worthwhile but it wasn't being maintained to standards that would support decent passenger speeds. Then again, all I know about this I've learned from looking at Google Maps and speculating.

(And tracks that are physically present are not always maintained, as I am sometimes reminded when walking along a bridge over the MBTA Fitchburg Line where there is an abandonded track present, in addition to the two active tracks. I kind of suspect the freight railroads may be more agressive at removing unused tracks, though.)

I doubt there's any station building at Norfolk, as some googling earlier today indicates that their union station was demolished at some point in the past. On the other hand, Norfolk is in the middle of building a light rail system which it looks like is being constructed far faster than any other rail project I ever remember seeing. (They were working on the environmental stuides in 2007, they expect to start service in 2010.) That would suggest that they do have a culture of making rail projects happen.

Norfolk's population is a little bigger than Newport News' population. I doubt they'd have any trouble getting sufficient ridership on one Norfolk train a day. They could also collect passengers from Suffolk, Portsmouth,Virginia Beach, and possibly Chesapeake.
 

gdj

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The mainline east out of Petersburg is the old N&W mainline now owned by NS. Another option that gets kicked around is adding a rail section to the next road bridge/tunnel that is built between the Newport News/Hampton area and Norfolk. This would allow trains to cross the river and allow passenger service from VA Beach/Norfolk/Newport News/Williamsburg on to Richmond. This line would connect the most population centers.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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Another option that gets kicked around is adding a rail section to the next road bridge/tunnel that is built between the Newport News/Hampton area and Norfolk. This would allow trains to cross the river and allow passenger service from VA Beach/Norfolk/Newport News/Williamsburg on to Richmond. This line would connect the most population centers.
For a while, I was assuming that such a railroad bridge or tunnel would be the right option. But for Norfolk to Richmond travel, I don't think there's any economic justification for building a tunnel under Hampton Roads, and building a rail bridge next to the US 17 bridge would be a little awkwardly out of the way.

Local mass transit for people traveling between Norfolk and Newport News would certainly be nice, but I'm not entirely convinced that buses are a bad option there, much as I generally dislike buses.
 

jphjaxfl

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Amtrak ran a train between Norfolk and Chicago from 1974 to 1977 or 1978 known as the Mountaineer. It was combined with the Cardinal route at junction of the N&W and C&O lines at Catlettsburg, KY. The station in Norfolk was at Lamberts Point which the N&W used prior to Amtrak and it followed the line to Petersburg. I used the Mountaineer from Norfolk to Petersburg connecting with a train for New York. Unfortunately, the Mountaineer was not patronized very well. It was downgraded to the Hilltopper which ran as a NEC train to Washington, then via Richmond and Petersburg to Catlettsburg.
 

Crescent ATN & TCL

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I assumed they would make the Crescent a Discharge only NB from Lynchburg up and a receive only from NYP-Lynchburg and then the new train would serve the Lynchburg NYP market rather than the Crescent freeing up more seats for the Crescent
 

AlanB

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I assumed they would make the Crescent a Discharge only NB from Lynchburg up and a receive only from NYP-Lynchburg and then the new train would serve the Lynchburg NYP market rather than the Crescent freeing up more seats for the Crescent
Highly unlikely that they'd make the Crescent discharge/receive only. Amtrak wants to increase the service through that area, not leave it status quo.

If one day there are 4 or 5 local trains, then the Crescent might go D/R only.
 

BobWeaver

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I assumed they would make the Crescent a Discharge only NB from Lynchburg up and a receive only from NYP-Lynchburg and then the new train would serve the Lynchburg NYP market rather than the Crescent freeing up more seats for the Crescent
Highly unlikely that they'd make the Crescent discharge/receive only. Amtrak wants to increase the service through that area, not leave it status quo.

If one day there are 4 or 5 local trains, then the Crescent might go D/R only.
I think it would make sense to make 19/20 D/R when new service hits Lynchburg and Charlottesville, since the two trains would stop basically at the same time. A 6-8 car regional train is a lot of capacity to fill, and it would help Crescent's OTP, even though it seems to have been doing alright lately.
 

Philzy

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I assumed they would make the Crescent a Discharge only NB from Lynchburg up and a receive only from NYP-Lynchburg and then the new train would serve the Lynchburg NYP market rather than the Crescent freeing up more seats for the Crescent
Highly unlikely that they'd make the Crescent discharge/receive only. Amtrak wants to increase the service through that area, not leave it status quo.

If one day there are 4 or 5 local trains, then the Crescent might go D/R only.
I think it would make sense to make 19/20 D/R when new service hits Lynchburg and Charlottesville, since the two trains would stop basically at the same time. A 6-8 car regional train is a lot of capacity to fill, and it would help Crescent's OTP, even though it seems to have been doing alright lately.
IMO I don't think it would make much sense to make it D/R only. Amtrak is adding this extension of the regional to help improve ridership becuase they believe there is a market there. AFAIK it would make the most sense as earlier mentioned to change the price structure by rasing the shorthauls on the Cresent and lowering the shorthaul prices to DC to boost the ridership (if needed).

Does anyone see maybe more stops being added for the extension of the NE regional? Maybe Calverton, Orange, Barboursville or Amherst/Sweet Briar? At what point is a station too small for Amtrak to offer a flagstop? I remember reading somewhere a long time ago the Amtrak had a regulation where in order for Amtrak to stop at a station then the city would have to generate a certain number of boardings a month. Anyone know that reg?
 

Joel N. Weber II

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At what point is a station too small for Amtrak to offer a flagstop? I remember reading somewhere a long time ago the Amtrak had a regulation where in order for Amtrak to stop at a station then the city would have to generate a certain number of boardings a month. Anyone know that reg?
I'm pretty sure the Constitution doesn't say anything limiting the ability of Congress to tell Amtrak in a funding bill or somethig to stop at some station in the middle of nowhere that will have one boarding every decade (if you could somehow manage to create such a stop and not have railfans notice who would feel compelled to all check out that stop, thus causing it to get more than one boarding). Amtrak might have some guidelines for new stops that they'd be willing to add without Congressional intervention, but a bigger issue there tends to be that someone has to pay for the construction of the station, and Amtrak has tended to not want to pay those bills, and state and local governments tend to not be swimming in excess dollars.

The practical answer to this also depends on the nature of the train in question. The number of passengers you need to justify a stop in Vermont is probably somewhat smaller than the number of passengers you need to justify an Acela Express stop. And the distance to other stops probably also becomes a factor.
 

GG-1

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Aloha

And at what point does the cost of fuel/brakes and whatever, equal the revenue generated by a flag stop?
 

Joel N. Weber II

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And at what point does the cost of fuel/brakes and whatever, equal the revenue generated by a flag stop?
I don't think that tends to factor into the equation much at all. If it did, you'd probably also see the freight railroads making a bigger effort to adjust the tracks so the sections with low maximum speeds had those maximum speeds raised, and/or you'd see the freight railroads deciding to simply operate with a lower max speed on the entire length of the railroad. But I believe the freight railroads have found that the labor savings from running the trains at 79 MPH instead of 59 MPH are more significant than the extra fuel costs.

The bigger issue is that if a stop adds something roughly around 5-9 minutes to the travel time (maybe it's a bit less for stops with few passengers, but I'm really not sure about that), you have to weigh the benefits to the users of that stop against the increased travel time for everyone else on the train. On the California Zephyr, which stops roughly once every two hours, I doubt subtracting stops would attract any new riders with the improvement in travel time that would provide, and it would almost certainly cause some riders to be lost who no longer could catch the train. On the other hand, on the MBTA Fitchburg Line, subtracting some stops as been discussed as a part of a plan to get the Fitchburg to North Station travel times down to about an hour.
 

George Harris

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Freight trains for the most part do not run at 79 mph. Generally the maximum freight train speed is at most 70 mph, and for many lines 60 mph or less. Practically, the power given to freight trains is such that even these speeds can be attained only on near level or downgrade tracks. NS for example appears to have settled on a systemwide freight train speed limit of 50 mph. On lines with no signals, the maximum allowed freight speed is 49 mph, not 59 mph.
 
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