MSP - CHI second daily train poised to receive MN funding

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jebr

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I think the Minnesota legislators know local priorities better than me, and they're the ones that funded the second MSP-CHI train and not the service to Duluth.
The issue is more that it's easier to get $10m through the state budget process than $150m (the last number I saw floated around as a figure for the state match for the proposed Duluth train.)

I think you’d be surprised how many Minnesotans are fond of going up north.
This is true, although there would need to be some major investments in connectivity in Duluth to make the train work as a true "gateway to the North Shore." Even the rental car facilities in Duluth/Superior aren't easily accessible from downtown Duluth, and transit access is basically unheard of. Some people will bring bikes on board and explore that way, but in order for it to work well as a "drive a car up to the cabin/to go camping/to explore the North Shore" solution you'd need easy car rental access and some sort of regular, multiple-times-a-day bus access along Highway 61 (so people could at least get to the major attractions without a car.)

It still has value as a link between the two cities and points in between - there's a lot of college students from the Twin Cities that go to colleges in Duluth (and some vice versa - or at intermediate points) and, at least pre-COVID, there likely would be some commuter traffic from intermediate points to Minneapolis. Hinckley also has a casino that'd likely drive train traffic for people wanting to visit the casino. But in order for that all to work, you'll need more than a single frequency a day - there's bus access currently, and I don't think a single train a day would be worth the investment in stations, track work, etc. that'd be needed to get a train up to Duluth.
 

WWW

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There are connections possible with the North Shore railroad to Two Harbors - that would be the limit of available passenger rail service.
Bike and pedestrian paths have been or are being made from Two Harbors to Grand Marias
Interior wise there is the Superior hiking trail
Recently Grandma's Marathon took place
One can start the 1300+ mile Lake Superior Circle trip anywhere here
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness area
2 National Parks - Isle Royale and Voyageurs
Hotels - Lodges - Cabins - B&B - Camping prime season sold out

What the hey "Build it and they with come" !

I believe historically that there were 3 passenger railroads to Duluth from the cities -
Great Northern (Pine City Hinckley route)
Northern Pacific (paralleled US Highway 61)
Soo line (Osceola Dresser (junction) Centuria Frederick Siren (paralleled Wis HY 35)
There was even a fourth on the CNW via New Richmond Spooner Superior

Before my teen years - early 50's the rails were being ripped up passenger cars
relegated to the bone scrap yard and the dawn of multi car freight trains

Grandparents were from Turtle Lake Wi - Soo Line rails abandoned 20 miles
east and west of that diamond intersection with the CNW which abandoned
a 60 mile stretch from Hudson to Spooner.

In some cases the abandoned track bed was turned into hiking biking snowmobile
trails and can be reclaimed if necessary (unlikely as it is)

We live in amazing times - don't forget the past (mistakes) !
 

saxman

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What type of schedule is being speculated for the new frequency? Early morning departure from Chicago and afternoon arrival to MSP?
 

WWW

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What type of schedule is being speculated for the new frequency? Early morning departure from Chicago and afternoon arrival to MSP?
That would be an excellent offsetting schedule to the EB (2:15pm-10:03pm) and continuing to Duluth in the early evening hours.
BUT the obvious solution will be the one ignored !
The return trip from Duluth to Chicago noon early afternoon - MSP 3pm Chicago arrival 11pm (all depending on stops required)

Tp make the timeliness of all this the Freight traffic would have to get the heck out of the way - run in wee twilight hours -
As is EB 7 & 8 are constantly getting the screws with minor hour or so delays this mostly out in Dakota and Montana but even then
delays in near Milwaukee Portage and Columbus.
 

WWW

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The 2015 feasibility study proposed a 9:25 AM departure from Chicago and a 2:25 PM departure from St. Paul.
So a Duluth tie in would work (depending on loads would not have to be run 7 days a week).
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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So a Duluth tie in would work (depending on loads would not have to be run 7 days a week).
Yes, although that possibility wasn't an alternative in the study. The study considered four alternatives, all with a stop in St. Paul:

1. Terminating at St. Paul
2. Terminating at Minneapolis
2. Terminating at St. Cloud and bypassing Minneapolis
4. Terminating at St. Cloud and stopping in Minneapolis

Although I don't know if it has been finalized or not, it seems like just terminating at St. Paul is the most likely option for the train from Chicago. Meanwhile, the Duluth train is planned to terminate in Minneapolis.

However, it's likely that the Chicago train will start operations well before the Duluth train, so it's possible that a Duluth frequency could act as a future extension of the Chicago train. I don't think there are any formal plans for that to happen, but if Amtrak operates the Duluth service, which I don't think has been determined yet but seems likely, that could increase ridership and also make operational sense.
 

jebr

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However, it's likely that the Chicago train will start operations well before the Duluth train, so it's possible that a Duluth frequency could act as a future extension of the Chicago train. I don't think there are any formal plans for that to happen, but if Amtrak operates the Duluth service, which I don't think has been determined yet but seems likely, that could increase ridership and also make operational sense.
The biggest problem with running a through train is that Target Field Station in Minneapolis is a stub station, so a train would have to back in (or back out) in order to get into/out of the station. That said, I'm not sure where they're planning to service the train - if it's at the old Midway station like where the Chicago daily train goes to, it might be worth offering a cross-platform transfer there for connecting passengers.
 

jiml

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The biggest problem with running a through train is that Target Field Station in Minneapolis is a stub station, so a train would have to back in (or back out) in order to get into/out of the station.
Push-pull with an NPCU would solve that a la the Downeaster and other services.
 
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brianpmcdonnell17

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The biggest problem with running a through train is that Target Field Station in Minneapolis is a stub station, so a train would have to back in (or back out) in order to get into/out of the station. That said, I'm not sure where they're planning to service the train - if it's at the old Midway station like where the Chicago daily train goes to, it might be worth offering a cross-platform transfer there for connecting passengers.
Push-pull with an NPCU would solve that a la the Downeaster and other services.
Also, both the Chicago and Duluth trains would have to turn around anyway, so through service would not require any more backing up than terminating/originating in Minneapolis would.
 

MikefromCrete

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The proposed train is a second frequency on the Chicago-Twin Cities. Adding a train (or trains) from the Twin Cities to Duluth is also a good idea. But there's no need to make it a through train. Connections at St. Paul would probably be better in order to maintain on-time departures on the St. Paul - Duluth route. There's no sense inconveniencing several hundred commuters going to an from the two largest markets in Minnesota. If the Chicago train is late, simply have a bus (or van, depending on how many people are actually making the connection), take the connecting passengers on to Duluth. I am always amazed at how railfans love to complicate simple issues.
 

neroden

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Now if they'd only build the Twin Cities to Northfield train, I could visit the town I went to college in!
 

WWW

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Now if they'd only build the Twin Cities to Northfield train, I could visit the town I went to college in!
There were/are two options for this -

One is the obvious Mpls Northfield & Southern - trackage in place to the "Y" in south Bloomington
crossing on the Normandale swing bridge from there the tracks are covered with debris foliage and
weed growth to the industrial area in Lakeville just north of Northfield. Active tracks from this point.

Two was the (abandoned) tracks south of St. Paul along the south side of the Mississippi river thru Lilydale
climbing the bluff to Mendota Heights to an industrial area (Coca Cola plant) tracks active to Northfield
thru Rosemount.

Number one would be a great option for light rail into the city (Mpls) but the land homeowners in that
area would be up in arms - still yet the railroad right-away is still there - one should know better than
building a home right next to that right-away
 

neroden

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There were/are two options for this -

One is the obvious Mpls Northfield & Southern - trackage in place to the "Y" in south Bloomington
crossing on the Normandale swing bridge from there the tracks are covered with debris foliage and
weed growth to the industrial area in Lakeville just north of Northfield. Active tracks from this point.

Two was the (abandoned) tracks south of St. Paul along the south side of the Mississippi river thru Lilydale
climbing the bluff to Mendota Heights to an industrial area (Coca Cola plant) tracks active to Northfield
thru Rosemount.

Number one would be a great option for light rail into the city (Mpls) but the land homeowners in that
area would be up in arms - still yet the railroad right-away is still there - one should know better than
building a home right next to that right-away
Given the bad attitude from Edina and Bloomington, I'd be fine with the St. Paul / Lilydale route. Would connect better with the train from Chicago anyway.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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The proposed train is a second frequency on the Chicago-Twin Cities. Adding a train (or trains) from the Twin Cities to Duluth is also a good idea. But there's no need to make it a through train. Connections at St. Paul would probably be better in order to maintain on-time departures on the St. Paul - Duluth route. There's no sense inconveniencing several hundred commuters going to an from the two largest markets in Minnesota. If the Chicago train is late, simply have a bus (or van, depending on how many people are actually making the connection), take the connecting passengers on to Duluth. I am always amazed at how railfans love to complicate simple issues.
I don't see what makes this a simple issue that isn't worth discussing. There could be reasons specific to this scenario that I'm not aware of which make two separate trains more practical, but in general through running can improve efficiency. I don't see anyone arguing that the Virginia Regionals should terminate at DC for example, even though that case is more complex as it requires an engine change and is funded differently on either side of DC. Obviously freight delays are an issue, but that may improve in the next few years and Chicago to MSP isn't such a long route that mechanical issues or other random problems are a major concern for timekeeping. If it continues to be an issue, there's also the option of scheduling a long dwell time at MSP. Benefits of through running could include:

-Increased ridership due to increased convenience and reduced travel time. Although MSP would likely be the primary destination for those from Duluth, Chicago and Milwaukee could also likely attract significant ridership in addition to ridership from intermediate stops. Through service would likely also allow for direct service to both Minneapolis and St. Paul from both Chicago and Duluth.

-Reduced need for yard space at MSP. Improvements in that area are one of the items being funded for the Chicago train, so that is an issue that would likely require additional funding for a Duluth train terminating at MSP. In the case of through running, the yard space and facilities needed for the Chicago train could then be utilized by the Duluth trains that terminate at MSP once they begin operation.

-Improved equipment utilization. The Chicago train as currently planned would only make one daily one way trip for each equipment set, so continuing onto Duluth would make better use of equipment. It would also still allow plenty of time for a turn without worrying about OTP concerns. Employee efficiency may also improve depending on the crew change points and crew schedules.

-Specific to this route, there isn't necessarily an easy way to organize a direct connection. A passenger could use the light rail system to connect from St. Paul to Minneapolis, but I doubt there's a significant market for people willing to do that. Assuming the Duluth train would use the existing Amtrak Midway facility as a yard, a connection would either require reopening that as a passenger station or operating one of the routes well past the yard to either St. Paul Union Depot or Target Field respectively. Either option would have additional costs.
 

IndyLions

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Some people will bring bikes on board and explore that way, but in order for it to work well as a "drive a car up to the cabin/to go camping/to explore the North Shore" solution you'd need easy car rental access and some sort of regular, multiple-times-a-day bus access along Highway 61 (so people could at least get to the major attractions without a car.)
All accurate points for the tourist travelers, but probably not for Up North regulars.

If you had a cabin up north and wished to be able to skip the long drive by taking the train, you’d keep a second, older car at/near the train station closest to your cabin.

My parents retired to Beaver Island Michigan and there were only two ways to get there, ferry or small airplane service. They kept a car on the island and a second car at the airport on the mainland so they would always have a vehicle. My parents weren’t rich, they were retired teachers. This is how regular folks did it.

If they cater to the up north crowd there could be relatively inexpensive “pay by the month” parking available at stations along the route.
 

toddinde

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I don't see what makes this a simple issue that isn't worth discussing. There could be reasons specific to this scenario that I'm not aware of which make two separate trains more practical, but in general through running can improve efficiency. I don't see anyone arguing that the Virginia Regionals should terminate at DC for example, even though that case is more complex as it requires an engine change and is funded differently on either side of DC. Obviously freight delays are an issue, but that may improve in the next few years and Chicago to MSP isn't such a long route that mechanical issues or other random problems are a major concern for timekeeping. If it continues to be an issue, there's also the option of scheduling a long dwell time at MSP. Benefits of through running could include:

-Increased ridership due to increased convenience and reduced travel time. Although MSP would likely be the primary destination for those from Duluth, Chicago and Milwaukee could also likely attract significant ridership in addition to ridership from intermediate stops. Through service would likely also allow for direct service to both Minneapolis and St. Paul from both Chicago and Duluth.

-Reduced need for yard space at MSP. Improvements in that area are one of the items being funded for the Chicago train, so that is an issue that would likely require additional funding for a Duluth train terminating at MSP. In the case of through running, the yard space and facilities needed for the Chicago train could then be utilized by the Duluth trains that terminate at MSP once they begin operation.

-Improved equipment utilization. The Chicago train as currently planned would only make one daily one way trip for each equipment set, so continuing onto Duluth would make better use of equipment. It would also still allow plenty of time for a turn without worrying about OTP concerns. Employee efficiency may also improve depending on the crew change points and crew schedules.

-Specific to this route, there isn't necessarily an easy way to organize a direct connection. A passenger could use the light rail system to connect from St. Paul to Minneapolis, but I doubt there's a significant market for people willing to do that. Assuming the Duluth train would use the existing Amtrak Midway facility as a yard, a connection would either require reopening that as a passenger station or operating one of the routes well past the yard to either St. Paul Union Depot or Target Field respectively. Either option would have additional costs.
Agreed. Through service from Chicago to Duluth makes sense. It would provide service to northern Wisconsin cities through connections at Superior. A through train will encourage more ridership, and not have a meaningful impact on regional passengers between Duluth and the Cities.
 

Deni

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The 2015 feasibility study proposed a 9:25 AM departure from Chicago and a 2:25 PM departure from St. Paul.
This is from the Trains.com News Wire article:

"According to Amtrak, schedule and equipment service development planning specifics are underway. The general concept is to have the second round-trip leave Chicago at about 11 a.m. (the Empire Builder departs at 2:15 p.m.) and the Twin Cities about 11:30 a.m., after the eastbound Builder’s scheduled 8 a.m. departure."
 

bms

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This is from the Trains.com News Wire article:

"According to Amtrak, schedule and equipment service development planning specifics are underway. The general concept is to have the second round-trip leave Chicago at about 11 a.m. (the Empire Builder departs at 2:15 p.m.) and the Twin Cities about 11:30 a.m., after the eastbound Builder’s scheduled 8 a.m. departure."
I like those times better, they match up with hotel check-out time and should be able to connect with trains 29 and 48 in Chicago.
 

WWW

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Newspaper article in todays 6-29-2021 Minneapolis Star & Tribune:

It's a go for second daily train to Chicago from St. Paul - StarTribune.com

Don't pack you bags and make reservations yet - from the article:
meaning additional service to the Windy City is expected to begin in 2024.

There will be plenty of opportunities to screw this before it even gets started - politics and all that sort of ilk and the NIMBY crowd !

Too bad Amtrak doesn't have the clout that the original founding railroads had at their inception !

Consolation until airlines can fly city center to city center and forgo TSA security the train is still the best way to travel - no air turbulence here.
 
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Anthony V

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Now that all funding for this route is in place. The next big issue is equipment. Where are the locomotives and rolling stock going to come from? I suppose there could be an add on to the Siemens Venture order for the Midwest corridors from Minnesota, but I haven't heard of any plans to do that. Given this, it will likely use some of the Horizons that will be displaced when the Venture trainsets for other Midwest corridors start going into service.
 

Bob Dylan

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Now that all funding for this route is in place. The next big issue is equipment. Where are the locomotives and rolling stock going to come from? I suppose there could be an add on to the Siemens Venture order for the Midwest corridors from Minnesota, but I haven't heard of any plans to do that. Given this, it will likely use some of the Horizons that will be displaced when the Venture trainsets for other Midwest corridors start going into service.
Horizons don't handle Cold Weather Well!😉
 
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