Sunset Limited and Phoenix

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west point

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The main point remains that the Gila line is 43 miles shorter than the route through Phoenix.
So that makes running thru PHX 1 - -1/2 hours longer depending on MAX speeds. Since line west of PHX mainly in boonies maybe 90 - 100 MAS 90 miles from Wellton - Arlington in an hour. 120 miles from Arlington - Picacho 40 mph + 10 minute station top 3:10 ! That does compare somewhat slower than present route that averages about 62 including MRC stop averages 65 MPH taking out MRC stop.
 

neroden

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So that makes running thru PHX 1 - -1/2 hours longer depending on MAX speeds.
32 minutes longer at 79 mph, assuming station stop takes the same amount of time. This is nothing compared to real sources of delay on the route. The main issue is that it isn't worth maintaining that many miles of line to passenger standards for three-a-week, possibly not even for one-a-day. Several-a-day from Phoenix to LA would make it worthwhile.
 

fredmcain

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So that makes running thru PHX 1 - -1/2 hours longer depending on MAX speeds. Since line west of PHX mainly in boonies maybe 90 - 100 MAS 90 miles from Wellton - Arlington in an hour. 120 miles from Arlington - Picacho 40 mph + 10 minute station top 3:10 ! That does compare somewhat slower than present route that averages about 62 including MRC stop averages 65 MPH taking out MRC stop.
One thing to remember, though, is that if the Sunset were to run daily again, running through Phoenix would very likely encounter less freight train interference between Wellton and Picacho as it did back in the old SP days.

If the line were fully revived, the UP would probably only run one daily road freight from Phoenix to Yuma perhaps as many as two at the very most. During peak periods, the Gila line can sometimes sport up to 40 trains a day.

I guess my pet peeve is that as a winter “snowbird” wanting to take the train to Phoenix, I have to detrain at Maricopa which is way, way out of town and try to find a ride or, the next option is to take the S.W. Chief and get off at Flagg. It would be somewhat easier to find ground transportation from there although that’s even further away from Phoenix than Maricopa is.

Surely, I am not the only potential passenger that has this dilemma. Restoration of a daily Sunset Limited with stops in Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix would probably also be good for the Salt River Valley community. How much benefit they would get out of that is questionable but I’m sure they’d derive some benefit.
 

fredmcain

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32 minutes longer at 79 mph, assuming station stop takes the same amount of time. This is nothing compared to real sources of delay on the route. The main issue is that it isn't worth maintaining that many miles of line to passenger standards for three-a-week, possibly not even for one-a-day. Several-a-day from Phoenix to LA would make it worthwhile.
Neroden,

Well, the powers that be at Amtrak and in state and federal governments, have decided that they want to keep and maintain the line through Raton, Lamy & Albuquerque, NM. Or, at least for the foreseeable future. You might be able to argue that keeping that line is even more difficult to make a case for since it's so much longer, runs through difficult mountain terrain and has almost zero freight potential.

I believe but cannot prove that if the Phoenix sub were to be completely revived, the UP would benefit and make use of it. The BNSF, on the other hand, seems to have no interest in running through freights on the Raton line. If the Raton line were fully equipped with CTC and PTC throughout and much longer sidings, I think they might change their mind but a lot of rail enthusiasts have told me that they wouldn't.

So, there is at least some precedent there for the Phoenix line. The rebuilding of the Devils Lake Line in North Dakota was a similar situation. So, there is some precedent. I think the main obstacle is finding the political will and determination.
 

alanh

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The main problem on the Raton line is steep grades. This requires more power and more fuel. This is obviously not a problem on the Phoenix subdivision, which has hardly any grades at all.

I do think UP wants to reactivate it, but is hoping the feds and/or Arizona will pay for it. The westernmost section of the Sunset line in Arizona is still single track.
 

me_little_me

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The main problem on the Raton line is steep grades. This requires more power and more fuel. This is obviously not a problem on the Phoenix subdivision, which has hardly any grades at all.

I do think UP wants to reactivate it, but is hoping the feds and/or Arizona will pay for it. The westernmost section of the Sunset line in Arizona is still single track.
Perfect reason for the government to take it using eminent domain. The selling price would be its value now rather than after it were fixed up and then any fixes by Arizona or the feds would benefit themselves, not UP which means they could then charge UP more for its use.
 

CCC1007

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Perfect reason for the government to take it using eminent domain. The selling price would be its value now rather than after it were fixed up and then any fixes by Arizona or the feds would benefit themselves, not UP which means they could then charge UP more for its use.
Before eminent domain should be started, can we ask UP what their price would be to purchase it without having to go through the courts? (Being nice usually gets better results than litigation in interpersonal relationships, so business transactions should be similar.)
 

me_little_me

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Before eminent domain should be started, can we ask UP what their price would be to purchase it without having to go through the courts? (Being nice usually gets better results than litigation in interpersonal relationships, so business transactions should be similar.)
Generally the way it works is that the government notifies the owner that they want the property and make an offer. If the owner refuses to sell, they notify the owner that they are taking it by eminent domain and negotiate a price. If they can't come to an agreement, it goes to court and the judge decides based on each side's evidence of value.
 
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west point

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The reason IMO that it will take las thru that area. I believe that the bridge that burned there was quoted as a 30 MPH. Longer than your time is the time Arlington - the east side of Mesa. It is going to be much slower than 79.
 

neroden

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Neroden,

Well, the powers that be at Amtrak and in state and federal governments, have decided that they want to keep and maintain the line through Raton, Lamy & Albuquerque, NM. Or, at least for the foreseeable future. You might be able to argue that keeping that line is even more difficult to make a case for since it's so much longer, runs through difficult mountain terrain and has almost zero freight potential.
True. You do have a point there!

I'm on record as saying that rerouting the Southwest Chief through the much larger cities of Amarillo and Clovis would be an improvement! So you know my opinion. (And take the same amount of time, even accounting for going "up to Albuquerque and back". Though I do think if this happened it would be necessary to keep service to Garden City, Dodge City, etc. -- possibly on a Denver-Wichita route.)

I don't know why New Mexico was willing to go to bat for the absolutely miniscule number of passengers along the Raton Pass route, while Arizona wasn't willing to go to bat for PHOENIX, one of the biggest cities in the country. All I can come up with is that New Mexico had Democrats in government at the relevant time and Arizona had Republicans. No further ideas.

So maybe with a pro-rail government in Arizona, it would be possible to reactivate the Phoenix line for the Sunset Limited. I guess it all comes down to the attitude of the Arizona government and who gets into the governor's office and the state legislature.
 

Willbridge

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True. You do have a point there!

I'm on record as saying that rerouting the Southwest Chief through the much larger cities of Amarillo and Clovis would be an improvement! So you know my opinion. (And take the same amount of time, even accounting for going "up to Albuquerque and back". Though I do think if this happened it would be necessary to keep service to Garden City, Dodge City, etc. -- possibly on a Denver-Wichita route.)

I don't know why New Mexico was willing to go to bat for the absolutely miniscule number of passengers along the Raton Pass route, while Arizona wasn't willing to go to bat for PHOENIX, one of the biggest cities in the country. All I can come up with is that New Mexico had Democrats in government at the relevant time and Arizona had Republicans. No further ideas.

So maybe with a pro-rail government in Arizona, it would be possible to reactivate the Phoenix line for the Sunset Limited. I guess it all comes down to the attitude of the Arizona government and who gets into the governor's office and the state legislature.
The Raton Pass line is part of a studied north-south route between Denver and El Paso of interest in both states in addition to being part of a transcontinental route. So keeping service on it has longer range implications. From Amtrak's standpoint it also turned out that the cost of switching to the Texas route was greater than they had anticipated. From the BNSF's standpoint it keeps passenger trains out of the way.
 

George Harris

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finally! Back in Mississippi
Raton Line: Even in its day as the premium Chicago to LA train the Super Chief ran on the Raton Line. It bypassed Topeka KS, but otherwise followed the present day passenger route. Given that the ATSF at that time had 6 through trains and the Super was marketed primarily to high end through passengers, (It was an extra fare train) if there were advantages to the Amarillo Route for passenger trains, it would have gone that way. Kansas and Colorado both want the train on its present route. When New Mexico bought the piece of the line being used by their Santa Fe to Albuquerque commuter service the ATSF, or was it BNSF by that time?, was willing to sell all the remaining line north out of Albuquerque up to the Colorado state line for next to nothing, but that did not happen. I do not recall why.

Phoenix Line: Aside from being longer than the Clovis line through Maricopa, it is slower with numerous speed constraints in the portion east of Phoenix. I have a 2007 UPRR employee timetable for that area and calculated minimum run times therefrom. Emphasis on minimum. The real world times will be longer because there is no allowances for meets or any slack in these times. For the Phoenix line, I assumed that the entire length west of Phoenix itself would be brought up to Class 4 (80p/60f) standards and be given a 79 mph speed limit. For the line east of Phoenix, which is shown with a maximum speed limit of 60 mph for all trains, but a note that UP passenger trains are allowed 70 mph if there is no lesser (that 60 mph) limit in place, I assumed that 60 mph lengths could be 79 mph, 40 mph lengths could be 50 mph and all lesser limits could be at least 5 mph more than current limits. The Phoenix line times could be significantly understated, as in addition to the lack of any allowances for meets or slack in time, it is highly unlikely there would be zero less than 79 mph restrictions in the line west of Phoenix, plus some of the lower speed limits east of Phoenix could have to remain as-is and not all the 60 mph could be raised to 79 mph. These times do not include standing time at stops. Having said all this, I came up with Wellton to Picacho times of:

via Maricopa: 2 hours 15 minutes, averaging 73.8 mph over 165.9 miles
via Phoenix: 3 hours 8 minutes, averaging 66.8 mph over 208.9 miles

Thus, the time penalty would be 53 minutes, probably more.
 

neroden

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The state of New Mexico agreed to purchase the line from Lamy to the Colorado state line under a Democratic governor (Bill Richardson), and the subsequent Republican governor (Susana Martinez) reneged on the deal. So that is what happened there. (The agreed purchase price was $5 million. I was furious when Martinez reneged on the deal.)

The advantage to going through Amarillo is... being able to go to Amarillo, which is a large city. Obviously in the days of the ATSF railroad, you had both local and express trains, and the Raton route is arguably better for express trains, but they had trains to Amarillo. We don't today. I have to think that being able to go to Amarillo is of great value.

Regarding the Phoenix line: for passengers *going to Phoenix*. since it easily takes an hour to get from Maricopa to Phoenix, it would clearly be faster to go via the Phoenix line. For through passengers expressing past Phoenix, yes, the Maricopa line is faster.

This is one of the odd consequences of the disorderly way in which the rail system in the US was dismantled starting in the 1960s. Whether the faster express route which bypassed intermediate population was kept, or the slower route with more on-line population was kept, was somewhat arbitrary; sometimes both were lost, but it was rare that both were retained.

Obviously having both is desirable, but if I were to prioritize one, I always prioritize the one which serves more people.
 
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AmtrakMaineiac

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The advantage to going through Amarillo is... being able to go to Amarillo, which is a large city. Obviously in the days of the ATSF railroad, you had both local and express trains, and the Raton route is arguably better for express trains, but they had trains to Amarillo. We don't today. I have to think that being able to go to Amarillo is of great value
Interesting. Seems like Amarillo has grown since I was stationed at nearby Clovis in the early 70s. Back them we usually drove to Lubbock to shop as it had a mall which Amarillo did not.

Of course with Phoenix we are talking an order of magnitude greater. Cities of that size should have direct service, no question.
 

neroden

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Interesting. Seems like Amarillo has grown since I was stationed at nearby Clovis in the early 70s. Back them we usually drove to Lubbock to shop as it had a mall which Amarillo did not.
It did grow -- it was a lot smaller in the 1970s. The city was 127K in 1970, 199K now. The metro area is 266K now (I can't find the 1970 metro-area population). Lubbock County is still somewhat larger at 311K.

Of course with Phoenix we are talking an order of magnitude greater. Cities of that size should have direct service, no question.
 

fredmcain

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I now have somewhat of an update on this. Late Friday, I received a newsletter from the “All Aboard Arizona” rail advocacy group. Not sure why since I have paid no dues for about two years.

Anyhow, the newsletter was almost entirely on the subject of the Sunset Limited. The plans to move the Sunset Limited back to Phoenix AND to make it daily are BOTH on track. They believe they will now get the funding to do this. However, no timeline was given.

They stated that plans to do this have been “upgraded from pie-in-the-sky to an uphill battle”. They are hoping that people of interest will contact their state reps and urge them to support this.

This puts me at somewhat of a disadvantage since I am no longer a resident of Arizona after having relocated to the Upper Midwest.

I am optimistic that it will happen but at my age (69) it will probably not happen soon enough for me to derive any real benefit from it.
 

alanh

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Looking at a 1995 timetable, Tucson to Yuma via Phoenix was 6:53. From the 2020 timetable, it was 4:14, a 2:39 difference.

It's pretty much a given that the west line will need a full rehab. They're not going to run it at 30mph (class 2) or less.
 

toddinde

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Great comments! If you are interested in rail passenger service in Arizona and getting the Sunset Limited back to Phoenix, please consider attending in person or via Zoom All Aboard Arizona’s Passenger Rail Summit in Tucson on December 4th. We will be discussing this issue along with an excellent presentation on the West Line/Welton Cutoff. It’s going to be a great program with lots of speakers. You can register on Eventbrite or on the All Aboard Arizona website. Rehabbing the West Line is not a huge expense. Ten years ago, it was evaluated to cost about $4 million for 60 mph. That’s not acceptable for today, and higher speeds would be desirable. It is correct that moving the Sunset off the Sunset Route for those miles would be advantageous to the UP. The corridor plan for the Sun Corridor has a third main from Tucson to Picacho Junction. All of this is very doable. Again, if you want to get the latest on this come to the Summit on 4 December.
 

fredmcain

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Great comments! If you are interested in rail passenger service in Arizona and getting the Sunset Limited back to Phoenix, please consider attending in person or via Zoom All Aboard Arizona’s Passenger Rail Summit in Tucson on December 4th. We will be discussing this issue along with an excellent presentation on the West Line/Welton Cutoff. It’s going to be a great program with lots of speakers. You can register on Eventbrite or on the All Aboard Arizona website. Rehabbing the West Line is not a huge expense. Ten years ago, it was evaluated to cost about $4 million for 60 mph. That’s not acceptable for today, and higher speeds would be desirable. It is correct that moving the Sunset off the Sunset Route for those miles would be advantageous to the UP. The corridor plan for the Sun Corridor has a third main from Tucson to Picacho Junction. All of this is very doable. Again, if you want to get the latest on this come to the Summit on 4 December.
Todd,

I sure hope you see this e-mail, 'cause I have an issue with "All Aboard Arizona". I have sent a couple of e-mails looking for the status of the Wellton Branch and Sunset Limited - no response.

But what's worse, a couple of months ago I renewed my dues and the letter was returned by the post office as undeliverable. Huh? This is not, in my opinion, a way to look organized. It is my sincere hope that AAA can become more sensitive of the concerns of their dues paying members.

The Rail Passengers Association is as bad or worse. When Ross Capon was there, if I sent an e-mail, I ALWAYS got a response. He even talked to me on the telephone one time!

No more.

Regards,
Fred M. Cain
 
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fredmcain

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Looking at a 1995 timetable, Tucson to Yuma via Phoenix was 6:53. From the 2020 timetable, it was 4:14, a 2:39 difference.

It's pretty much a given that the west line will need a full rehab. They're not going to run it at 30mph (class 2) or less.
The last time I rode over the line was in the summer of 1989. I was aboard a late-running eastbound Sunset Limited and it was already starting to get daylight as we clattered through the junction switch at Wellton. I took up residence in the last car looking out the back so I could observe the condition of the roadbed. I noted that the speed limit had largely been cut to 40-30 with some short sections of 60MPH running.

I was amazed to see that there were still a few active semaphore signals on the line!

One really curious development, Amtrak was changing crews and servicing the train at Tempe. Does anybody remember this? This made the stop at Tucson very brief. They told us that no one traveling on east should step off the train. (I did anyway to get one nice look at the Santa Catalina Mountains!)

So, this probably made the running time slower in 1995. I think that that if most of the line were upgraded to 79MPH standards with a stop in Phoenix and hopefully a second stop somewhere in the East Valley, that this would only be a few minutes longer than the running times on the Gila line. Especially with the lack of freight train interference in taken into account.
 

toddinde

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Todd,

I sure hope you see this e-mail, 'cause I have an issue with "All Aboard Arizona". I have sent a couple of e-mails looking for the status of the Wellton Branch and Sunset Limited - no response.

But what's worse, a couple of months ago I renewed my dues and the letter was returned by the post office as undeliverable. Huh? This is not, in my opinion, a way to look organized. It is my sincere hope that AAA can become more sensitive of the concerns of their dues paying members.

The Rail Passengers Association is as bad or worse. When Ross Capon was there, if I sent an e-mail, I ALWAYS got a response. He even talked to me on the telephone one time!

No more.

Regards,
Fred M. Cain
Fred, while I am sorry for the issues you encountered, please keep a couple of things in mind. All Aboard Arizona is a small, non-profit that survives entirely on unpaid, volunteers, who literally pour their time, personal funds, and efforts into the organization. Many are elderly, or have had personal life situations that caused them to leave positions, and leads to a loss of institutional knowledge. We were also impacted, like the rest of the world, by COVID. Last year, was a tough one for us with turnover and new people picking up positions. That said, All Aboard AZ was heavily involved in raising money for the Daily Sunset Campaign which helped fund RPA’s IMPLAN studies, continued to get resolutions of support from local elected bodies, did a lot of media outreach including interviews on TV, radio and newspapers. We also started a quarterly newsletter which has lots of great info in it. We’ve worked closely with rail advocates in California and Texas to move the daily Sunset initiative forward. I am very, very proud of the progress we’ve made and what we’re doing. If you need to renew your membership, go to the website. It’s easy. We welcome our members to get more involved. All Aboard AZ is a good organization that is definitely moving the ball down the field, has the respect of local elected officials, and is making great progress.
 

toddinde

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The last time I rode over the line was in the summer of 1989. I was aboard a late-running eastbound Sunset Limited and it was already starting to get daylight as we clattered through the junction switch at Wellton. I took up residence in the last car looking out the back so I could observe the condition of the roadbed. I noted that the speed limit had largely been cut to 40-30 with some short sections of 60MPH running.

I was amazed to see that there were still a few active semaphore signals on the line!

One really curious development, Amtrak was changing crews and servicing the train at Tempe. Does anybody remember this? This made the stop at Tucson very brief. They told us that no one traveling on east should step off the train. (I did anyway to get one nice look at the Santa Catalina Mountains!)

So, this probably made the running time slower in 1995. I think that that if most of the line were upgraded to 79MPH standards with a stop in Phoenix and hopefully a second stop somewhere in the East Valley, that this would only be a few minutes longer than the running times on the Gila line. Especially with the lack of freight train interference in taken into account.
I agree, and am hoping for 110-120 mph, and building the Tucson-Phoenix-LA corridor. I believe the Tucson - Phoenix has all the potential of the Chicago - Milwaukee corridor.
 

neroden

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The Rail Passengers Association is as bad or worse. When Ross Capon was there, if I sent an e-mail, I ALWAYS got a response. He even talked to me on the telephone one time!
I can say that RPA is doing an astounding amount of stuff with a *very* limited amount of staff, frankly less staff than is really desirable. Jim Mathews is busy responding to emails from *Congress* and the *state governments* all day long -- which is very good, it means we have a lot more influence than we did when Ross was running it! But it does mean it can take longer to get a response to a member email. I don't think we're quite organized well enough that it's clear which other person to write to for some queries which shouldn't really be going to Jim, which is also a problem.

A lot of time, money, and work went into making the NARP/RPA website fully functional (which it was not under Ross) which has also reaped huge benefits, though perhaps more among younger people than older. I'll be honest: to me NARP didn't look real or relevant when I first joined, due to the ineffective web presence. It does now.

I will say everyone's been having trouble with the Post Office. :-( It's generally blamed on Postmaster General DeJoy, who is documented to have illegal conflicts of interest (makes money from competing parcel delivery companies, etc.), who will probably be ousted in the next few months.
 

fredmcain

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Fred, while I am sorry for the issues you encountered, please keep a couple of things in mind. All Aboard Arizona is a small, non-profit that survives entirely on unpaid, volunteers, who literally pour their time, personal funds, and efforts into the organization. Many are elderly, or have had personal life situations that caused them to leave positions, and leads to a loss of institutional knowledge.
<SNIP>
Todd,

Well, O.K., I guess I can understand or take this into consideration. If you can, see if you can get me a working P.O. box to renew dues at. (I have no computer at home so I prefer "snail mail").

The letter with my dues that was returned went to Prescott. Is that no longer a working address?

Also, what happened to Roger Clark? Is he still with AAA?
 
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