Is The Eclipse A Missed Opportunity For Amtrak?

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Deni

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May 11, 2008
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I was looking at the eclipse path for later this year, and as many people know Carbondale, IL is listed as one of the best places to see it. Since I live in Chicago I looked up the schedule for the Saluki/Illini to see if I could get to Carbondale before the eclipse then come home later in the day. But the first train gets to Carbondale about 25 minutes after the eclipse and no sense that they will run an earlier train. Hotels in the area are either sold out or being bid on eBay (seriously). An earlier morning train to be able to go and see it then go home in the evening would seem to me to be a no-brainer but it doesn't look like Amtrak has any intention of doing such a thing. I imagine there are other places in the country where this is true.

Doesn't it seem that Amtrak is missing out on an opportunity here? I can imagine them running an "Eclipse Special" from CUS to Carbondale and back. Seems like you could charge a premium price for such a thing and give people an opportunity to see a couple-times-in-a lifetime event and investing less than going down and finding a hotel or renting a car, etc.
 

PRR 60

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I think it's a great idea. They could time the train to arrive well before the eclipse starts (first contact), and return after it ends. They could have a location for watching, maybe a printed guide, and perhaps include eclipse glasses are part of the deal. Maybe a Chicago-area astronomy club could push the issue.

A little Carbondale eclipse trivia: there will be another total solar passing through the lower 48 in 2024. Carbondale has the distinction of being in the path of totality of both the 2017 and 2024 eclipses.

http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/overlap.htm
 
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KmH

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There is no guarantee clouds won't blanket that or any other portion of the path of totality.

It might require several hours of driving to get out from under.

I will be watching the weather closely starting a few days before August 21.

I have a Plan A site to see the eclipse from and Plans B, C, & D sites.
 
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chakk

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It won't be detectable in my area, so my plan E is to watch it on TV.
 
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Lonestar648

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Seems a joint plan with the c of c would be good. That way there is a plan once passengers arrive. If not an extra train, extra cars before and after with hotel options.
 

TiBike

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The last thing I'd do is count on Amtrak to deliver me to an eclipse on time. I'm taking the Coast Starlight up to Oregon on the 19th, with a bailout plan to rent a car along the way if things go pear shaped.
 

RSG

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Feb 13, 2012
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Though I suppose that they could still pull something together for this year's festivities in certain areas, in many respects the train has already long left the station to get in on the ground floor of opportunities. In my neck of the woods (a non-Amtrak service area), preparations have been underway for almost two years, with a major astronomy convention happening up the road and NPR's Ira Flato scheduled to do that week's edition of Science Friday from the same locale.

To answer the OP's original question, NRPC's marketing & promotions department indeed missed an opportunity to cash in on such an event. They could have partnered with existing government-affiliated organizations such as NASA & the Smithsonian Institution to do a "National Eclipse Days" type of event, similar to National Train Day, with special excursions to areas served by the path of totality along with various rail/astronomy promotions. I would imagine there are a large number of people who are attending eclipse-related events who have no idea that such a thing as a passenger train can take them to an area where they can see it. They could have also capitalized on the shock of potential tourists outraged by moon-high hotel rates by offering a daytrip alternative.

Of course there's no guarantee that viewers will be able to see the event in a given locale and many naysayers in my area are expecting it to be cloudy, as August is what regional meteorologists have been calling the 'monsoon season' in recent years. But of course AMTK would be like any other transport provider---once tickets are paid for and people have boarded, the money is theirs to keep.
 

DennisInGeorgia

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If you're willing to get off the Zephyr and drive 4 hours to the Riverton WY area, astronomy buffs are writing that since it's in a basin flanked by mountain ranges, this area offers the best guarantee of clear skies "in Wyoming and perhaps anywhere along the path of totality".

We could drive 2 hours from home to the shadow's center line in NC but since this will likely be my only chance to see an eclipse, we opted for the Crescent-Cap-Zephyr trip to make dead sure. And yes, we have an alternate spot if it's cloudy and rainy (ha!) out there in the desert. Bring sunscreen and water bottles.
 
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Is the eclipse really a big enough tourist draw that Amtrak can rearrange it's schedule for it (and assuming it had the cars and freight cooperation)? I'm not being snarky, but am actually wondering.
 

Deni

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May 11, 2008
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Is the eclipse really a big enough tourist draw that Amtrak can rearrange it's schedule for it (and assuming it had the cars and freight cooperation)? I'm not being snarky, but am actually wondering.
I guess I'm not saying that they should "rearrange" their schedule but maybe augment their schedule like they do for something like Thanksgiving.
 

RSG

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And yes, we have an alternate spot if it's cloudy and rainy (ha!) out there in the desert. Bring sunscreen and water bottles.
If the area of rain skepticism is Central Wyoming, it may prove wise to rethink that, also as a backup plan. It can be cooler than September during parts of August, and with the cooler temperatures brings an increase in the probability of precipitation. While we're not talking several days of rainy periods, afternoon thundershowers are a possibility with potentially heavy periods of rain and/or hail. (To that end, ensure that any rented/borrowed vehicles are fully insured for comprehensive damage from weather-related events---or from that via other eclipse enthusiasts who may take their enthusiasm to the extreme.)
 

DennisInGeorgia

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Afternoon showers we can handle since we get the 2nd diamond ring at 11:25 from our spot, a butte behind Jim Moss Arena in Riverton. Just in case, we found a spot an hour west, and another one at a park along I-25 to the east about 1.5 hours. Crazy to think all the bases are covered but we tried our best. By the next one, we may be in "the home" so sure hope we've covered all the bases we know. Given the distance, it won't break our hearts if the eastbound CZ runs late that day.
 

neroden

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Feb 23, 2014
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I was looking at the eclipse path for later this year, and as many people know Carbondale, IL is listed as one of the best places to see it. Since I live in Chicago I looked up the schedule for the Saluki/Illini to see if I could get to Carbondale before the eclipse then come home later in the day. But the first train gets to Carbondale about 25 minutes after the eclipse and no sense that they will run an earlier train. Hotels in the area are either sold out or being bid on eBay (seriously). An earlier morning train to be able to go and see it then go home in the evening would seem to me to be a no-brainer but it doesn't look like Amtrak has any intention of doing such a thing. I imagine there are other places in the country where this is true.

Doesn't it seem that Amtrak is missing out on an opportunity here? I can imagine them running an "Eclipse Special" from CUS to Carbondale and back. Seems like you could charge a premium price for such a thing and give people an opportunity to see a couple-times-in-a lifetime event and investing less than going down and finding a hotel or renting a car, etc.
This route is on the most notoriously passenger-hostile of all the railroads in the US. I won't give you the full list of the deliberate sabotage CN has committed to Amtrak's scheduling on this route, but asking for a temporary schedule change is probably impossible.

If this were on a route owned by another railroad, I'd say it was worth trying.
 
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niemi24s

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Feb 11, 2015
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Is Amtrak missing an opportunity here? IMHO, Amtrak is missing nothing more than the opportunity to lose a bunch of money. [this from a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist]
 

StanJazz

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Sep 4, 2009
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I like how Amtrak uses a picture of a lunar eclipse, not a solar eclipse.
 

chakk

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If they had used a solar eclipse, they would have had to issue welder's glasses so you could safely view it on their website.
 

calwatch

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Nov 28, 2010
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It will be interesting to see how filled the southbound early morning Cascades out of Portland will be. I have hotel reservations in Portland, Boise, and Kansas City and flights to the first and the third planned out, although my preference is Oregon just because of preexisting familiarity.
 

ParanoidAndroid

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Feb 20, 2015
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Hopefully there won't be fog in the Willamette Valley that morning... I'm thinking of driving to Wyoming & seeing it there.
 

StanJazz

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I just noticed that Amtrak changed the picture to a picture of a solar eclipse.
 

Phil S

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Aug 20, 2011
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We, in Oregon, are expecting upwards of 1 million visitors. All of our Emergency Management/First Responder groups are working full time to plan for the expected gridlock on highways, Biggest fear is that many people will camp illegally in forested areas and even build campfires, at the height of our fire season. All hotel and reservable camping space has been sold out for months. Should be interesting.
 
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