Quantcast

Question about truncation of Sunset Limited

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

rspenmoll

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 24, 2013
Messages
82
What was the reason that service on the Sunset Limited east of New Orleans was never restored? There seem to be be a ton of articles talking about proposal to restore train service between New Orleans and Jacksonville, but I haven't found anything that explains why service was never restored after the infrastructure damage from Hurricane Katrina was repaired.
 

ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,384
Location
Houston, Texas
Real reason: Lack of will.

Proffered reasons: Poor timekeeping (very true) resulting in numerous cancellations/bustitutions east of New Orleans; inconvenient schedule/timings east of New Orleans; poor ridership (although daily service and better timekeeping would have gone a long way to ameliorate that); and, I would argue, the opportunity to violate the law which required six months notice before discontinuing a route and see if they could get away with it (they did).
 

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
1,390
Location
Gator Country Florida
There was also talk about the costs involved since several of the stations were/are not ADA compliant and, due to the duration they were close, no longer qualified as being "grandfathered in" and would have needed to be updated.
 

Devil's Advocate

Sarcastic Misanthrope
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,717
Location
Texas
What was the reason that service on the Sunset Limited east of New Orleans was never restored?
As much as I wish it still existed the truth is that the Sunset East was a clumsy and inefficient use of limited resources with abysmal schedule keeping and some of the worst yields in the system. Katrina's severe destruction and our blundering response distracted stakeholders and granted Amtrak an opportunity to discontinue the route without going through the formal shutdown process. My suspicion is that Amtrak negotiated a gentleman's agreement to avoid a challenge by regulators and simply gambled that route supporters wouldn't make too much of a fuss. To this day it's marked as suspended so in theory with enough money and motivation it could potentially be brought back again.
 
Last edited:

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,906
Location
Ithaca, NY
Hostility by CSX was another factor -- perhaps obvious, but should be mentioned. Also one of the stations was actually demolished. And then the PTC requirement came in, and a bunch of the track is unsignalled. Yeeech.

The fact is that three-a-week sucks and the schedule unreliability was serious. Any restoration needs to be daily and probably should require a change of trains in New Orleans.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
26,129
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
Locally there is considerable support for development of the corridor NOL - JAX - ORL, though no state government level support from Florida yet. There is very little support however for an extension of the Sunset Limited. The lead outfit navigating all this is the Southern Rail Commission.
 

caravanman

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2004
Messages
3,823
Location
Nottingham, England.
I travelled from Lax to Orlando back in the day, we arrived about 24hrs late into Orlando!

Nevertheless, a shame the through service has finished... :(
 

RebelRider

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Messages
69
Location
America's Railroad
Real reason: Lack of will.

Proffered reasons: Poor timekeeping (very true) resulting in numerous cancellations/bustitutions east of New Orleans; inconvenient schedule/timings east of New Orleans; poor ridership (although daily service and better timekeeping would have gone a long way to ameliorate that); and, I would argue, the opportunity to violate the law which required six months notice before discontinuing a route and see if they could get away with it (they did).
Technically, the NOL-ORL portion of the route hasn't been discontinued. It's just temporarily suspended. In Arrow, train 1 still "originates" in ORL the day before it leaves NOL. So train 1 departing NOL on 10/21, for example, is actually 1(20). ;)
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,395
Location
Palm Beach County
Hostility by CSX was another factor -- perhaps obvious, but should be mentioned. Also one of the stations was actually demolished. And then the PTC requirement came in, and a bunch of the track is unsignalled. Yeeech.

The fact is that three-a-week sucks and the schedule unreliability was serious. Any restoration needs to be daily and probably should require a change of trains in New Orleans.
Didn’t CSX sell a portion of the route to some short line?
That could make it harder, or maybe easier to restore service?
 

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
1,390
Location
Gator Country Florida
Didn’t CSX sell a portion of the route to some short line?
Yes, I believe that is the case.

The Amtrak Depot in Tallahassee currently has other uses

1603413723953.png

Passenger service was suspended in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage to tracks west of Mobile, Alabama. Although the tracks were repaired in 2006, since then managerial and political obstacles have thus far precluded restoration of passenger service to the depot. However, in 2016 Amtrak said the "Sunset Limited" has been proposed to return in the near future.

On December 30, 1997, the depot was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
passenger service was suspended in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage to tracks west of Mobile, Alabama. Although the tracks were repaired in 2006, since then managerial and political obstacles have thus far precluded restoration of passenger service to the depot. However, in 2016 Amtrak said the "Sunset Limited" has been proposed to return in the near future. It nevertheless remains actively signed as an Amtrak station.

On December 30, 1997, the depot was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

As can be seen, it is not exactly ready to receive passenger service with ADA compliance
1603414150427.png
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2018
Messages
1
Location
Australia (!)
Ignoring for the moment the "managerial and political obstacles" are there any real infrastructure problems remaining (east of NOL) ? Are there any big stretches with permanent speed restrictions or weight limits? Any stretches of the line that are at capacity and need more passing loops etc? Or is everything just slowly rusting away?
 

MikefromCrete

Conductor
Joined
Mar 24, 2009
Messages
2,629
Location
Crete, IL
Well, there are portions of the line that are "dark" -- no signaling -- and CSX has been trying to sell off the Florida portion of the line to a short line operator (which will probably change it to a 20 mph operation). Of course, the states along the route have pretty much shrugged off the loss of the train, so there doesn't seem to be a lot of local interest in bringing the train back. There's lots of other empty spots on the Amtrak map that need filling before the Sunset East.
 

NativeSon5859

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 5, 2003
Messages
984
Location
NOLA
New Orleans to Mobile is CSX mainline. It’s a busy route and is in good shape. This is the portion that’s going to see regional service in the next couple of years. The Achilles heel has always been the portion East of Mobile. It’s a slow meandering jog around Mobile Bay followed by unsignaled territory east of Pensacola. And now the segment from Pensacola east to near Jacksonville has been sold to a short line. Full Sunset East route is not coming back bearing a true miracle. Best we can hope for is a Thruway Bus connection between Mobile and Jacksonville, if that’s even worth the trouble.
 

west point

Conductor
Joined
Jun 9, 2015
Messages
2,243
mobile / actually Flomaton - Jacksoonville is just too slow . Amtrak lost almost an hour just getting thru Pensacola and north before finally going east over the bay.
 

Lonestar648

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
May 17, 2015
Messages
2,740
Without a major investment to upgrade the tracks from Mobile to Jacksonville, the best we will see will be regional service NOL-MOB. With money everywhere tight right now and with Amtrak doing 3x weekly, direct service NOL-JAX is only a distant dream.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,395
Location
Palm Beach County
Pensacola seems to be a “black hole”...
When the Burlington Northern acquired the Frisco, the latter’s access to Pensacola made BN the only railroad to extend from an “Atlantic state”, to the Pacific states, as well as from Canada to the Gulf. They have since abandoned their route into Florida, but still serve Mobile, I believe.
The CN goes coast to coast, since acquiring the Illinois Central, to the Gulf.

Just some morning trivia...
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
209
All this time I figured the reason they haven't reopened that stretch is because of all the alligators on that route.

Who are they going to get to work on it?
 

Devil's Advocate

Sarcastic Misanthrope
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,717
Location
Texas
I travelled from Lax to Orlando back in the day, we arrived about 24hrs late into Orlando! Nevertheless, a shame the through service has finished... :(
While impressive in terms of total distance covered I think the full route length was fundamentally impractical with so many opportunities for delays but no feasible method for schedule recovery. Breaking the Sunset into two or three segments with cross-platform connections may be less impressive but a lot more practical. At the time of suspension it's doubtful that Amtrak had enough hardware to make that work and simply truncated the line instead.
 
Last edited:
Top