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Rerouting the Lake Shore Limited/Capitol Limited over the NICTD/South Shore Line

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CTANut

Train Attendant
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Oct 29, 2019
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Ohio
I think that Amtrak could reroute both of its trains onto the NICTD starting in South Bend, in order to avoid congestion on Norfolk Southern's Chicago Line. It would be much less susceptible to delays, as the NICTD has an on time percent of 80% compared to 30-40% for the LSL/CL. The NICTD connects to NS in South Bend, and it could be routed over the St. Charles Air Line the rest of the way.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

Conductor
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Mar 5, 2016
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Chicago, Illinois
It may experience fewer delays, but the travel time would be much longer with current infrastructure. Including the backup move that would be required to reach Union Station, it would probably take close to two and a half hours, relative to the hour and a half via the Norfolk Southern Line. The delay risk would probably also be higher than it initially appears, as there are single track segments and commuter trains would be prioritized over a late Amtrak. If the connection is built at 75th Street to eliminate the backup move and the entire line is double tracked and brought to higher speeds then it might be beneficial to shift trains over to the South Shore Line. In such a case, the Michigan trains could also be rerouted if the necessary connections are built.
 

Palmetto

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Miami
By way of info, the amount of single track is about to be reduced by about 26 miles. They're doubling the line between Gary and Michigan City. Traditionally, east of Michigan City, train traffic dropped off significantly. I've taken the train a couple of times, but I cannot remember how many passing sidings there are between South Bend and Michigan City. For this to work, the connection between NS and the South Shore would also need to be restored.
 

Steve4031

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I’m not sure that Amtrak equipment can operate by some of the high level platforms on this route. Iirc there are a separate set of tracks that offset the passenger tracks at these stations to allow freight cars to pass without hitting the edge of the platform. There is a more technical name for this track configuration but I don’t remember it.
 

jiml

Conductor
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Feb 27, 2019
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Somewhere in Southern Ontario
I’m not sure that Amtrak equipment can operate by some of the high level platforms on this route. Iirc there are a separate set of tracks that offset the passenger tracks at these stations to allow freight cars to pass without hitting the edge of the platform. There is a more technical name for this track configuration but I don’t remember it.
Gantlet track, sometimes spelled gauntlet.
 

SubwayNut

Conductor
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Nov 17, 2011
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I live in South Bend, and this would definately be much slower than the existing line, right now the South Shore Line's weekday once-a-day express trains between Mellenium Station takes 1 hour and 55 minutes, making just 2 intermediate stops in Indiana (plus two more in Chicago). About 9 of these minutes is along the long slow ride in and out of the Airport terminus, so a train could probably make it from the Amtrak Bendix Station in maybe an hour 45 to Mellenium, the St. Charles Airline is also a long back-up move. As an example the City of New Orleans is blocked at 49 minutes from Union Station to Homewood, IL via the St. Charles Airline, while it takes the fastest Metra Electric Express train (making 3 intermediate stops) 36 minutes from Mellenium Station to Homewood.

Even after the double-tracking project is completed from Michigan City westward, the line between Michigan City and South Bend only has a couple of passing sidings, that are only used a few times per day for trains to pass. The South Shore used to run nearly every weekend train (every 2 hours, 8 to 9 trains per day) to and from South Bend in 2009 but service here was reduced to todays 5 round-trips per day because of delays at few passing sidings east of Michigan City, cascading and creating delays along the entire route.

Pre-pademic I would rountinely end trips by taking Amtrak home from Chicago (its generally much cheaper to fly into O'Hare or Midway) getting home in 89 minutes of comfort on the Lake Shore (9:30pm CT to 11:59pm ET) or Capitol Limiteds, instead of the extra hour it takes on an off-peak local South Shore Line train (the comparable Sunday night trip is 9:15pm CT to 12:46am ET).

I think that re-running Amtrak onto the South Shore Line is way too complicated and something that could really mess-up the South Shore Line's generally quite reliable operations, if the line between Chicago and South Bend was entirely double-tracked I would think differently.
 

Steve4031

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Gantlet track, sometimes spelled gauntlet.
yes, that’s it. I thought that was the term. But it also applies to a place on that route where a double tracks combine to follow a narrower alignment over a bridge.
 

IndyLions

Lead Service Attendant
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Nov 6, 2016
Messages
461
Location
Brownsburg IN
First they need to get the Grand Crossing Connection built.
They desperately need to improve the Chicago to Porter, Indiana bottlenecks for sure.

Amtrak and the state of Michigan have made the investment to purchase all the tracks between Detroit and Porter. But the NS segment between Porter and Chicago just destroys the on time performance of Michigan trains.
 

IndyLions

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461
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Brownsburg IN
If the connection is built at 75th Street to eliminate the backup move and the entire line is double tracked and brought to higher speeds then it might be beneficial to shift trains over to the South Shore Line. In such a case, the Michigan trains could also be rerouted if the necessary connections are built.
Maybe by re-routing the Michigan trains over the South Shore between Chicago and Michigan City, increased investment would be justified to add capacity to the South Shore and the connectivity to Union Station.

In my opinion, this is a potential case where there would be justification for the feds to improve a route which is less than 750 miles long.
 

bms

Lead Service Attendant
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Jan 29, 2018
Messages
263
Location
Cleveland
In my experience, the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore Limited are either delayed or not once they reach Indiana. I haven't seen a huge delay in Indiana, and they often make up time in Indiana.
 

IndyLions

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Nov 6, 2016
Messages
461
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Brownsburg IN
Ahhhh, but leaving Chicago is another story - at least in my experience. I pick up the LSL/CL eastbound from South Bend from time to time. There have been plenty of occasions when it was an hour or more late arriving in South Bend.
 
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