Priorities for expanding the national network

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
27,858
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
Are you saying the NYSDOT is supporting the former Lackawanna route? Not disputing that, but I would think that they would more likely support upgrading the former Erie route through Port Jervis to Binghamton, since it is mostly within NY...
I actually participated in some of the early discussions when ESPA was working with NYDOT on this subject, so have a small amount of first hand knowledge about this matter.

They specifically rejected the Erie route because it is way slower than the Lackawanna route, which is barely competitive with Rt 17 as it is, after a lot of work is put into it. The Erie route is inherently impossible to speed up much since it basically follows the profile of a Cow path along the Delaware River. OK for slow freight. Horrible for competitive passenger service.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,459
Location
Oregon Coast
That's actually an idea that's gained some traction of late. There are a number of articles and YouTube videos on the subject. It makes perfect sense and cutting off that corner through Albany should theoretically be a boon for long-distance trains, e.g. to Chicago. With adequate service between NYC and Albany, why not run the NY leg of the LSL via the diagonal route and join it with the Boston section at Buffalo instead of Albany? (or don't join the two at all and offset them as separate trains - doubling service between Buffalo and points west?) Of course another completely new train is an even better idea.
Actually I am OK with running additional Regional trains either to Syracuse or even to Buffalo via Elmira and all that. Just leave the LSL out of it and let it run the Water Level Route.

Similarly you could run a train from Washington DC on the route Philadelphia - Harrisburg - Wilkes-Barre - Scranton, and then on to Bingo and to Syracuse or Buffalo.

Of course, getting those Southern Tier trains into Depew (necessary for connecting to the LSL) or Exchange Street may take some doing too. At Syracuse they would get in facing towards New York, but that is OK since it terminates there.
Are you saying the NYSDOT is supporting the former Lackawanna route? Not disputing that, but I would think that they would more likely support upgrading the former Erie route through Port Jervis to Binghamton, since it is mostly within NY...
Oh Well! I paused and took a step back agazing at all this discussion and broke out in laughter!

We all sound like a bunch of RR Barons of historic fame planning and conniving on how to organize our rail lines with our loaded wallets. 😁 😄😀

im-278968.jpg

The_Pacific_tourist_-_Williams'_illustrated_trans-continental_guide_of_travel,_from_the_Atlant...jpg
 

Willbridge

OBS Chief
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
879
Location
Denver
That's actually an idea that's gained some traction of late. There are a number of articles and YouTube videos on the subject. It makes perfect sense and cutting off that corner through Albany should theoretically be a boon for long-distance trains, e.g. to Chicago. With adequate service between NYC and Albany, why not run the NY leg of the LSL via the diagonal route and join it with the Boston section at Buffalo instead of Albany? (or don't join the two at all and offset them as separate trains - doubling service between Buffalo and points west?) Of course another completely new train is an even better idea.
The last US pre-Amtrak long-distance train that I rode was the E-L Lake Cities in 1969 on my way to report at Fort Dix. It was the nicest Eastern Region train that I found and the scenery was beautiful. Lots of long-distance commuters in stations that we passed through. A good combination of scenery and practical travel needs.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
27,858
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
The last US pre-Amtrak long-distance train that I rode was the E-L Lake Cities in 1969 on my way to report at Fort Dix. It was the nicest Eastern Region train that I found and the scenery was beautiful. Lots of long-distance commuters in stations that we passed through. A good combination of scenery and practical travel needs.
That was post E-L merger so it had already been rerouted via the Poconos route away from its original Erie route, right?

Yes the Poconos route is quite spectacular in places, including the Nicholson, Delaware and Paulin's Kill viaducts, the first concrete arch structures of such magnitude. But of course one does miss the Moodna and Starucca on the Erie route.

Today one can travel across the Moodna on the MNRR/NJT Port Jervis Service.
 

fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
255
I actually participated in some of the early discussions when ESPA was working with NYDOT on this subject, so have a small amount of first hand knowledge about this matter.

They specifically rejected the Erie route because it is way slower than the Lackawanna route, which is barely competitive with Rt 17 as it is, after a lot of work is put into it. The Erie route is inherently impossible to speed up much since it basically follows the profile of a Cow path along the Delaware River. OK for slow freight. Horrible for competitive passenger service.
The ex-Lackawanna route through Scranton is much faster and better engineered than the ex-Erie route, and it has vastly more online population. Also, as someone who grew up in Scranton and still has connections there, I can attest that, although the Scranton area was still pretty insular when the last train ran in 1970, when I go there today, I am amazed at how diverse Northeast PA has become -- and how many people I meet who migrated out there from metro New York in search of more affordable land and housing and a lower cost of living. Lots of these people still have connections to the big metropolis, so there is way more demand now for a multi-frequency rail corridor between NYC and Scranton/Binghamton. The Downeaster offers a good model for the kind of service that's needed.

The big challenge is that 28 miles of track need to be relaid in western NJ. And New Jersey, which owns the rail bed, doesn't see this as a high priority. NJT's plan to reopen the first 7 miles, which has already been discussed for a decade or more, might not be completed for another 5-10 years at the rate they're progressing. If there is a federal infrastructure bill, this is the type of project I would like to see it address.
 
Last edited:

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
27,858
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
I don't think NJTransit or NJDOT will ever complete restoration of the Lackawanna Cutoff, unless significant pain is inflicted on them elsewhere that is more important to them as a quid pro quo. For example, make the funding of the Hudson Tubes or the Portal South Bridge or any other Gateway component in NJ contingent upon NJDOT completing the restoration of the Cutoff in a time limited plan. Of course the problem really is that the funding will still have to come substantially from outside NJ. But that would be the way to force a ROW lease agreement and such to an agency that has more at stake than NJ/NJDOT on that route. NJDOT is perfectly happy to stall and let funding to private bus lines to take care of what they view their problem is. They really have far greater fish to fry elsewhere compared to this relatively remote corner of NJ.
 

fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
255
Of course the problem really is that the funding will still have to come substantially from outside NJ. But that would be the way to force a ROW lease agreement and such to an agency that has more at stake than NJ/NJDOT on that route.
Well, this is exactly the problem. It's a bit like what Maine faced in the '90s when it wanted to get the Downeaster going and had to figure out how to upgrade the line through New Hampshire, whose state leaders weren't interested in contributing to the project. (In Maine, we used to joke that the NH slogan should be changed to "Freeload or die.") The result was the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which now runs the Downeaster. The project got accomplished by the state of Maine with a large share of federal funds.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
27,858
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
As in someone, like all the proposed stop cities on the new route, that haven't had regularly passenger trains in 50 years?
For example, Sterling, Julesburg, North Platte, Grand Island, Columbus, Fremont, Ames, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids ,Cllinton,, Dixon, Rochelle, and Dekalb between Denver and Chicago, or Winona, LaCrosse, (East) Dubuque, Savanna, Oregon, Rochelle, and Naperville between St. Paul and Chicago. The latter route would miss Milwaukee, so the river running would be scenic, but lose too much traffic potential.
I think many of the small cities starving for a passenger train might raise funds for at least a basic shelter type station...
Typically these little towns have been able to raise some money but more often than not, not enough to make anything happen, unless they are able to get their state or congressional delegation to find additional funds from the state or federal budget in a directed fashion. Also it tends to be a recurring thing even after the initial hump is crossed unless the route turns out to be operationally cash positive after paying off all debtors.

This was achieved sort of, for continuation of service on the SWC route. But that gives an indication of how hard it tends to be and how long it takes. The NOL - Mobile service is another example.

An example that is worth watching is the current organization attempts going on relative to the Southern Montana (erstwhile North Coast Hiawatha minus Butte plus Helena route). They as a group appear to be better placed than most others but still it will be touch and go at best.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ziv

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,449
The top priority for expanding Amtrak is = Acquire more rolling stock not just replacements. IMO an additional 500 cars with 50 - 70 more locos added to the active fleet.
 
Last edited:

John Santos

Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2018
Messages
157
The top priority for expanding Amtrak is = Acquire more rolling stock not just replacements. IMO an additional 500 cars with 50 - 70 more locos added to the active fleet.
Classic Chicken vs. Egg problem. They can't buy more rolling stock because they don't need it for the existing routes. They can't add new routes or frequencies because they don't have the rolling stock to support them.
 

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,342
Location
Socal
Instead of expanding the network, I'd rather make the current experience nicer.
 

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,449
IMO it is not so much a chicken and egg problem. Amtrak used to publish the city pair that had the highest load on each route. For instance the Crescent's one was Charlottesville - WASH. That segment was changed once the Lynchburg train started to run. Until Covid-19 there were many trains that came close to selling out. These were very close to full due to high bucket prices that kept them from selling out. Now we have the silvrer service trains with up to 5 coaches and 3 sleepers even with Covid-19 restrictions.
 

Willbridge

OBS Chief
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
879
Location
Denver
That was post E-L merger so it had already been rerouted via the Poconos route away from its original Erie route, right?

Yes the Poconos route is quite spectacular in places, including the Nicholson, Delaware and Paulin's Kill viaducts, the first concrete arch structures of such magnitude. But of course one does miss the Moodna and Starucca on the Erie route.

Today one can travel across the Moodna on the MNRR/NJT Port Jervis Service.
Right, it was the E-L combination. I would like to have done both routes!

Here's an all-Erie service...

TW27Jul29-02.jpg
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
8,177
Location
Ithaca, NY
I don't think NJTransit or NJDOT will ever complete restoration of the Lackawanna Cutoff, unless significant pain is inflicted on them elsewhere that is more important to them as a quid pro quo. For example, make the funding of the Hudson Tubes or the Portal South Bridge or any other Gateway component in NJ contingent upon NJDOT completing the restoration of the Cutoff in a time limited plan. Of course the problem really is that the funding will still have to come substantially from outside NJ. But that would be the way to force a ROW lease agreement and such to an agency that has more at stake than NJ/NJDOT on that route. NJDOT is perfectly happy to stall and let funding to private bus lines to take care of what they view their problem is. They really have far greater fish to fry elsewhere compared to this relatively remote corner of NJ.
The New Jersey portion of the line frankly needs to be transferred to the PNRRA; at least NJT prevented the ROW from being broken up into pieces. Politics in Pennsylvania at the state level have moved slowly but I think it's possible to get it funded from Pennsylvania, possibly with some help from NY. Have to de-gerrymander the PA state legislature first, most likely.
 
Top