Restoration of New Orleans - Mobile - Jacksonville Gulf Coast Service

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alpha3

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There is no plan to restore the Sunset East. There is a plan to run a daily service between New Orleans and Florida. It could either be a self standing service or an extension of the CONO.
OK- forgive me if I'm being obtuse, but why not??? The Sunset once ran all the way down to ORL, and doubtless Amtrak has lots of data on how that ridership was. If they had good loads, why not resurrect it as one of the frequencies? And I think it could certainly work as far as Jacksonville, which is a big city and large Amtrak facility.

The second frequency would be a stand-alone.
 
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OK- forgive me if I'm being obtuse, but why not??? The Sunset once ran all the way down to ORL, and doubtless Amtrak has lots of data on how that ridership was. If they had good loads, why not resurrect it as one of the frequencies? And I think it could certainly work as far as Jacksonville, which is a big city and large Amtrak facility.

The second frequency would be a stand-alone.

For one - The Sunset Limited is a 3 times a week train. A stand-alone day running train or an extension to the CONO would provide more meaningful daily service. Secondly the Sunset NOL - LAX is a two night train and it’s OTP isn’t the greatest. Extending the sunset back to Florida really is just too long. The other options would both allow for connections west for those who want to go cross country.
 

jis

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I disagree. I think a one-seat (or one-room) ride to CHI would garner more FL passengers.
It really is a tradeoff. CONO extension provides for a somewhat better cross New Orleans through passenger possibilities. OTOH it also introduces some amount of schedule unreliability which is to be avoided as far as possible for a regional service.

An independent train also gives more flexibility for adjusting the schedule for maximum local convenience.

Ideally we would want this train to provide daytime service between New Orleans and JAX to the best extent possible. Unfortunately that would make it difficult to provide good connections at NOL and JAX, so there are some tradeoff to be considered, and usually connections seem to take precedence so the enroute stations, at least several of them get oh-dark-thirty stops.
 

jis

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OK- forgive me if I'm being obtuse, but why not??? The Sunset once ran all the way down to ORL, and doubtless Amtrak has lots of data on how that ridership was. If they had good loads, why not resurrect it as one of the frequencies?
Apparently all the data that Amtrak has caused them to decide not to continue running it the first opportunity they got, and they have never relented on that. Additionally it was a bit of a headache preparing a train that had been on the road already for over two days to do another day while some passengers were on board in addition to never knowing when it will actually show up. It had a loooong layover at NOL eastbound, hoping to absorb most of the schedule uncertainty, so much so that it might as well have been another train. And then of course there is the issue of a three times a week train. No one in their right mind wants that either, and no one will fund such a thing.
And I think it could certainly work as far as Jacksonville, which is a big city and large Amtrak facility.
I would not call a single platform with two tracks facility large, but yes it is bigger than most Amtrak LD stations in the hinterland, though not uncommon on the Atlantic Coast Line.
 

alpha3

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It had a loooong layover at NOL eastbound, hoping to absorb most of the schedule uncertainty, so much so that it might as well have been another train. And then of course there is the issue of a three times a week train. No one in their right mind wants that either, and no one will fund such a thing.
Huh. thanks, had no idea it sat in NOL a long time, what was the layover? And I knew it could run late but didn't think it was any worse than the other LD trains.
I would not call a single platform with two tracks facility large, but yes it is bigger than most Amtrak LD stations in the hinterland, though not uncommon on the Atlantic Coast Line.
I did think Amtrak JAX was much bigger- a friend in MIA who worked for Amtrak gave me the impression it was quite large. But I see from QAPLA's photos above it's not quite what he said.
 

jis

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Huh. thanks, had no idea it sat in NOL a long time, what was the layover? And I knew it could run late but didn't think it was any worse than the other LD trains.
Its layover was close to 5 hours eastbound and a couple of hours westbound.
I did think Amtrak JAX was much bigger- a friend in MIA who worked for Amtrak gave me the impression it was quite large. But I see from QAPLA's photos above it's not quite what he said.
See below for what tracks it has. The station building does not have enough space to hold a trainfull as we found out one time when the Silver Star was evacuated at JAX due to a bomb scare after 9/11. We got to spend the night looking at the Stars and the Moon from the JAX parking lot instead of in our Sleeper beds. Finally the train was released by the VIPER Squad at around 6am to proceed North.
But don't they have storage track and the ability to turn trains there?
There are two platform tracks and one track leading to a MHC platform which is currently not used. The second platform track is used only on those rare occasion when two Silvers show up there at the same time. In the past it was used for overnight turning of the Palmetto when it ran to JAX. Now it turns on the second platform track at Savannah. The facilities at Savannah and JAX are similar, except IIRC JAX has one more platform track that is currently unused. SAV appears to store a few PVs on their third track.

Orlando is bigger than both in every way. Tampa also has two platform tracks, one high level and one low level, as does Winter Park (both low level) in Central Florida. Of course everything south of West Palm Beach inclusive have two platform tracks in South Florida. Tampa has a very spacious waiting hall, much larger than Orlando's.

There are a couple of Wyes by the JAX Yard where both the route to Baldwin and Palatka take off. But typically reversing a train at JAX station was done at Grand Jct just south of the station. The Sunset was turned there to carry on into Florida and vice versa and the Palmetto was turned there when it ran to JAX. There is nothing at the Amtrak station for doing so.
 
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Its layover was close to 5 hours eastbound and a couple of hours westbound.

See below for what tracks it has. The station building does not have enough space to hold a trainfull as we found out one time when the Silver Star was evacuated at JAX due to a bomb scare after 9/11. We got to spend the night looking at the Stars and the Moon from the JAX parking lot instead of in our Sleeper beds. Finally the train was released by the VIPER Squad at around 6am to proceed North.

There are two platform tracks and one track leading to a MHC platform which is currently not used. The second platform track is used only on those rare occasion when two Silvers show up there at the same time. In the past it was used for overnight turning of the Palmetto when it ran to JAX. Now it turns on the second platform track at Savannah. The facilities at Savannah and JAX are similar.

Orlando is bigger than both in every way. Tampa also has two platform tracks, one high level and one low level, as does Winter Park (both low level) in Central Florida. Of course everything south of West Palm Beach inclusive have two platform tracks in South Florida. Tampa has a very spacious waiting hall, much larger than Orlando's.

There are a couple of Wyes by the JAX Yard where both the route to Baldwin and Palatka take off. That is where trains are turned if needed. There is nothing at the Amtrak station for doing so.
So where could a CONO extended to FL be turned overnight?

Could it spend the night on the 3rd track next to the center platform in Orlando? I've never seen that platform used, but I noticed there's a wheelchair lift on it, so it must be active.
1669659263979.png

Could it terminate at JAX and then proceed to Sanford Auto Train terminal for overnight and servicing, or at ORL & back up to Sanford?

Or would it have to continue to TPA or MIA?
 

jis

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So where could a CONO extended to FL be turned overnight?

Could it spend the night on the 3rd track next to the center platform in Orlando? I've never seen that platform used, but I noticed there's a wheelchair lift on it, so it must be active.
View attachment 30512
I have seen it used when two of the Silvers turn up at Orlando at the same time. They cannot use the second track because that is used by SunRail to get by to their platform when a Silver is occupying the first track. I have actually boarded a Silver Meteor on the third track more than once.
Could it terminate at JAX and then proceed to Sanford Auto Train terminal for overnight and servicing, or at ORL & back up to Sanford?

Or would it have to continue to TPA or MIA?
I doubt that a service from NOL will terminate at JAX. ORL is just too tempting a terminus. When the Sunset turned at ORL it actually did the turning somewhere near Sanford. It was serviced at the Auto Train facility in Sanford.

The train has to be reversed at JAX anyway to proceed from NOL towards ORL and vice-versa and that used to be done at Grand Jct just south of the JAX station, I presume that will be done again.

1669660951214.png
 
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Amtrak709

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I have seen it used when two of the Silvers turn up at Orlando at the same time. They cannot use the second track because that is used by SunRail to get by to their platform when a Silver is occupying the first track. I have actually boarded a Silver Meteor on the third track more than once.

I doubt that a service from NOL will terminate at JAX. ORL is just too tempting a terminus. When the Sunset turned at ORL it actually did the turning somewhere near Sanford. It was serviced at the Auto Train facility in Sanford.

The train has to be reversed at JAX anyway to proceed from NOL towards ORL and vice-versa and that used to be done at Grand Jct just south of the JAX station, I presume that will be done again.

View attachment 30513
jis:
I'm the guy who lived in Daytona Beach for the 1970's 80's and 90's and passionately awaited the Sunset panhandle return in 1993 (I rode the first trip of the return NOL-DLD in April 1993). Of course, Katrina ended all that + I moved to Georgia in 1998--so I, perhaps, do not care as much as to what might happen now. As noted in previous posts you seem to have a good handle on the pulse of the current situation. There seems to be a lot of "don't hold your breath" speculation. What do YOU really think is the likely initial outcome of the Gulf Coast initiatives??
 

jis

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jis:
I'm the guy who lived in Daytona Beach for the 1970's 80's and 90's and passionately awaited the Sunset panhandle return in 1993 (I rode the first trip of the return NOL-DLD in April 1993). Of course, Katrina ended all that + I moved to Georgia in 1998--so I, perhaps, do not care as much as to what might happen now. As noted in previous posts you seem to have a good handle on the pulse of the current situation. There seems to be a lot of "don't hold your breath" speculation. What do YOU really think is the likely initial outcome of the Gulf Coast initiatives??
The service to Mobile will happen relatively soon. As for if/when service to Florida will happen, who knows? But the fact that it is on the radar of the Southern Rail Commission, I think, gives it a better than even chance of happening at some point in time.
 

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If it were still possible to go between Tallahassee and Gainesville, I think there may be more interest if connecting both Universities by train - but, since the tracks are no longer in place and Gainesville, unlike Tallahassee. doesn't even have a "closed" depot that could be "opened" - the aspect of pushing to get the train to JAX will be "back-burner" at best.

It really is a shame that the train can no longer run through Ocala and Gainesville with all the retirees in both areas.
 

zephyr17

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Could it terminate at JAX and then proceed to Sanford Auto Train terminal for overnight and servicing, or at ORL & back up to Sanford?
When the Sunset ran to Orlando, it was turned and serviced in Sanford The one time I rode it LAX-ORL the dining car crew got actually off in Sanford and didn't ride all the way into Orlando. After passengers were detrained in Orlando, the consist was backed up to Sanford for servicing.

So sure, running to Orlando and servicing in Sanford is possible. The issue is Amtrak very simply does not want to, and, in fact, does not to add any long distance services, anywhere. If you don't believe me, look at their ConnectUS proposals.
 
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When the Sunset ran to Orlando, it was turned and serviced in Sanford The one time I rode it LAX-ORL the dining car crew got actually off in Sanford and didn't ride all the way into Orlando. After passengers were detrained in Orlando, the consist was backed up to Sanford for servicing.

So sure, running to Orlando and servicing in Sanford is possible. The issue is Amtrak very simply does not want to, and, in fact, does not to add any long distance services, anywhere. If you don't believe me, look at their ConnectUS proposals.
Yeah, though I'm curious what will come out of the long distance service restoration study they are doing. If I'm not mistaken the Connects Us plan predates that being a part of the infrastructure act.
If it were still possible to go between Tallahassee and Gainesville, I think there may be more interest if connecting both Universities by train - but, since the tracks are no longer in place and Gainesville, unlike Tallahassee. doesn't even have a "closed" depot that could be "opened" - the aspect of pushing to get the train to JAX will be "back-burner" at best.

It really is a shame that the train can no longer run through Ocala and Gainesville with all the retirees in both areas.
Back when I went to the University of Florida, that would have been nice as my home was in the Tallahassee area. Fortunately there was at least Greyhound the couple times I needed to make the trip without a car.
 

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So sure, running to Orlando and servicing in Sanford is possible. The issue is Amtrak very simply does not want to, and, in fact, does not to add any long distance services, anywhere. If you don't believe me, look at their ConnectUS proposals.
Connect US was all about filling in missing local routes.
The FRA are studying LD routes, the report of which will be out near the end of 2023. Its looking at routes amtrak has canned over the years and routes amtrak didn't chose to run
 

zephyr17

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Connect US was all about filling in missing local routes.
The FRA are studying LD routes, the report of which will be out near the end of 2023. Its looking at routes amtrak has canned over the years and routes amtrak didn't chose to run
ConnectUS was Amtrak's management vision of the future, which is all corridors. Amtrak could have included LD if they wanted to, it is well within their mandate. They deliberately chose not to. The FRA is doing what Amtrak management refuses to do.
 

zephyr17

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Yeah, though I'm curious what will come out of the long distance service restoration study they are doing. If I'm not mistaken the Connects Us plan predates that being a part of the infrastructure act.
ConnectUS was not part of any legislative act. It is wholly a proposition by Amtrak management.

Amtrak isn't doing the long distance study. The FRA is.

That says something in and of itself.
 

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ConnectUS was Amtrak's management vision of the future, which is all corridors. Amtrak could have included LD if they wanted to, it is well within their mandate. They deliberately chose not to. The FRA is doing what Amtrak management refuses to do.
Amtrak has stated after 2008 they didn't belive they could add any more LD routes as congress had mandated what routes they could run. Without congress asking for it then why would they spend money and time studying routes they can not add?
That says something in and of itself.
No it doesn't.
the FRA has had some very strange influences on Amtrak, the 750m LD rule in place now was them. I believe the earlier 150m rule when Amtrak started came from McKinsey the feds favorite consultants at that time who created Amtrak and Conrail but I wouldn't be suprised if it came from the FRA
 
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Given a limited budget (even with the infrastructure bill, Amtrak has limited resources), why should Amtrak make any effort to expand the number of long-distance routes? Rail is an optimal transport mode for trips of 500 miles or less, so of course Amtrak is going to focus on routes of that length. The New Orleans - Jacksonville corridor has to stand on its own merits and should have trains that are scheduled for the convenience of passengers traveling between New Orleans, Jacksonville and intermediate stations. Relying on long-distance trains to make up the corridor service is not a good idea because they don't reliably run to schedule. Even on the NEC, northbound trains from Washington to New York and Boston are running delayed because so many of them come up from Virginia, where they are subject to the tender mercies of CSX and NS. Perhaps when the New Orleans - Jacksonville corridor is established and successfully running, it might be possible to extend a long-distance train over it. By then, at least, the long-distance train will be sharing the overhead costs with the corridor service, and thus the financial performance of the long-distance train might look better.
 

GDRRiley

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Given a limited budget (even with the infrastructure bill, Amtrak has limited resources), why should Amtrak make any effort to expand the number of long-distance routes?
Amtrak has money that is tied to LD equipment and upgrades only. Amtrak would expand because thats what congress wants.
most of what amtrak does is not because a smart group of people is planning out expansions, its all political.
 

zephyr17

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Amtrak has stated after 2008 they didn't belive they could add any more LD routes as congress had mandated what routes they could run.
Per PRIIA, they can't initiate corridor services themselves. So why study them since they cannot do that, either?

Because they wanted to drum up political support from the states for corridors.

I would have hoped that a blue sky document on Amtrak's future, which is what ConnectUS purported to be, would have included both. Especially since per currently in force legislation, they could initiate neither new corridors nor long distance services themselves. That LDs were entirely absent from it still says something about Amtrak management's attitude, since it was wholly hypothetical anyway.
 
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Qapla

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Actually, there is a depot in Gainesville FL, but it's restaurants and there's no track, just a bicycle trail.

Ah! But that is not now, nor has it ever been an Amtrak depot.

That depot was built around 1860 to serve the Florida Railroad, which reached Gainesville from Fernandina in 1859. Depot operations were moved to a new building where East University Avenue crossed the rail line in January, 1948. That depot ceased operation as a train depot and in 1988, the City of Gainesville (who owned the depot) deeded the building to the Santa Fe College Endowment Corporation. The Old Train Depot on N.W. 6th Street is presently part of the downtown campus of Santa Fe College

There are no longer any tracks running to that location. Likewise, the depot in the picture above also does not have any tracks. The tracks from Waldo to Gainesville were removed and the eastbound lanes of Hwy 24 now occupy that space.

So, when it comes to restoring service from NO to JAX and beyond, Gainesville is out of the picture unless new tracks are built - however, the Waldo station is still standing with double tracks and a ground level platform - just closed and disused.
 
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