Sunset Limited and Phoenix

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

coventry801

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
86
In the case of Phoenix, apparently the West Line issue came up during Fife Symington’s administration as Governor of Arizona. At that time, America West Airlines went bankrupt and it’s hub at Sky Harbor was at risk. The state came up with millions to save the hub which American took over. At the time, it was believed to be one or the other. The issue of I-10 congestion and a lot of other issues make getting service back to Phoenix a real possibility now.

Can we have a separate daily train, or a section of 4-5 cars seperating from SL at Maricopa, operating between LAX and PHX via Maricopa, Picachu, and Tempe? I'm sure people would not mind that small detour, especially for a sleeper train.
 

Cal

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
4,016
Location
Socal
Can we have a separate daily train, or a section of 4-5 cars seperating from SL at Maricopa, operating between LAX and PHX via Maricopa, Picachu, and Tempe? I'm sure people would not mind that small detour, especially for a sleeper train.
I feel like it'd run too close to the current SL to make it work.
 

87YJ

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
84
Location
Casa Grande AZ
What fun to wait..... But a run down from PHX to Picacho would be a mini TE thing I guess, sort of, maybe??

Picacho was the Florence stagecoach stop for the trains back in time. Guess it would be reliving the past in a way...
 

coventry801

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
86
I am confused on this routing, what tracks are you talking about?

I might be wrong but with my limited knowledge I think this is doable with minimum efforts. Can even have additional 4 or 5 cars attached to SL and separate from Maricopa and run through this route to Phoenix
 

Attachments

  • Screen Shot 2021-12-02 at 6.54.45 PM.png
    Screen Shot 2021-12-02 at 6.54.45 PM.png
    305 KB · Views: 11

Cal

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
4,016
Location
Socal
I might be wrong but with my limited knowledge I think this is doable with minimum efforts. Can even have additional 4 or 5 cars attached to SL and separate from Maricopa and run through this route to Phoenix
Thanks.
 

John Santos

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2018
Messages
304
I used to go to Phoenix regularly on business, and have been in the area a few times on vacation (most recently in the summer of 2019, LSL->TE->SL->Tucson, drove over a very circuitous route spending several days in Phoenix, to Las Vegas, NV, Thruway->Kingman->SWC->CL->NEC->home. ) So I'm vaguely familiar with the area, but am confused by the plan.

Is the idea of for the Phoenix train to split off from the east bound SL at Maricopa and continue north to Phoenix, and in the other direction, join the west bound SL in Maricopa and continue on to LA, or is the idea to split off the west bound SL/TE at Maricopa, continuing to Phoenix, and the other way, to join the east bound SL/TE in Maricopa? Or two have the SL split/join in both directions, so effectively TWO Phoenix<->Maricopa round trips every day, one connecting with the east bound SL and the other with the west bound SL?

I know there is commuter rail in Phoenix, but I'm completely unfamiliar with the routes or schedules. Does it reach as far as Maricopa? Would a commuter rail connection work, at least initially to boost local interest and ridership enough to justify a separate section of the SL, or even a completely separate LA or Chicago or New Orleans train specifically destined for Phoenix?

As I understand it, the tracks west of Phoenix don't exist any more, but the ROW is still there. Is this correct? Would the local Phoenix area commuter rail be interested in resurrecting the ROW, which Amtrak could then share, either for re-routing the SL or for a direct LA<->Phoenix train? (From the prior discussion, I understand the route via Phoenix formerly used by the SL was much slower than the current route, but I don't know if this is because it was longer or because the tracks were limited to very low speeds. Generally, if the later, that could be fixed and would have to be fixed if the track no longer exists. I believe it is MUCH cheaper to upgrade an existing track with new roadbed, ties and welded, heavier rail than to construct a brand new ROW, even through an uninhabited desert where land is dirt cheap.
 

coventry801

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
86
I used to go to Phoenix regularly on business, and have been in the area a few times on vacation (most recently in the summer of 2019, LSL->TE->SL->Tucson, drove over a very circuitous route spending several days in Phoenix, to Las Vegas, NV, Thruway->Kingman->SWC->CL->NEC->home. ) So I'm vaguely familiar with the area, but am confused by the plan.

Is the idea of for the Phoenix train to split off from the east bound SL at Maricopa and continue north to Phoenix, and in the other direction, join the west bound SL in Maricopa and continue on to LA, or is the idea to split off the west bound SL/TE at Maricopa, continuing to Phoenix, and the other way, to join the east bound SL/TE in Maricopa? Or two have the SL split/join in both directions, so effectively TWO Phoenix<->Maricopa round trips every day, one connecting with the east bound SL and the other with the west bound SL?

I know there is commuter rail in Phoenix, but I'm completely unfamiliar with the routes or schedules. Does it reach as far as Maricopa? Would a commuter rail connection work, at least initially to boost local interest and ridership enough to justify a separate section of the SL, or even a completely separate LA or Chicago or New Orleans train specifically destined for Phoenix?

As I understand it, the tracks west of Phoenix don't exist any more, but the ROW is still there. Is this correct? Would the local Phoenix area commuter rail be interested in resurrecting the ROW, which Amtrak could then share, either for re-routing the SL or for a direct LA<->Phoenix train? (From the prior discussion, I understand the route via Phoenix formerly used by the SL was much slower than the current route, but I don't know if this is because it was longer or because the tracks were limited to very low speeds. Generally, if the later, that could be fixed and would have to be fixed if the track no longer exists. I believe it is MUCH cheaper to upgrade an existing track with new roadbed, ties and welded, heavier rail than to construct a brand new ROW, even through an uninhabited desert where land is dirt cheap.


As far as I understand, although ROW is there for tracks west of Phoenix, there is no population, which means no commuter rail support, Now without both freight support and commuter demand, I doubt it would ever be back at all unless Amtrak own it. But again, without commuter demand, just one SL train daily on entire track seems to be a black hole for burning cash on maintaining expenses. I doubt Amtrak is able to afford that.

The idea from above post was to have a direct connection between LA and Phoenix, so just need to split off from the east bound SL at Maricopa and continue north to Phoenix, and in the other direction, join the west bound SL in Maricopa and continue on to LA. This way we have 1) Phoenix Union Station connected in the system, 2) For short to medium travel distance, direct connections without any transferring encourages passengers to take the train.


Splitting off from western bound SL than continue north to Phoenix and vise versa is less reasonable. 1) Less passengers travel or willing to travel long distance eastbound from Phoenix to New Orleans/Chicago comparing with demand between LA and Phoenix. 2) For long distance travel, in this case between Phoenix and New Orleans/Chicago, transferring to a local commuter train at one end hardly discourages travelers who plan to take rail. Assuming commuter train soon operates between Tucson and Phoenix, transferring commuter train to Phoenix at Tucson would be most likely sufficient.
 

Eric S

Engineer
Joined
Dec 19, 2009
Messages
2,637
Location
Milwaukee
There is light rail in Phoenix but, as of yet, no commuter rail, although there have been and may continue to be ongoing studies looking into adding commuter rail.
 

87YJ

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
84
Location
Casa Grande AZ
Light rail to Maricopa would relive the traffic going north each AM/PM. Second thing is the line going to the casino in Maricopa as it runs busses north to PHX now. Lastly getting people to the SL. Yes we are not going to lead this thing, but tagging on to a project works just as well. With the Casino getting it across the Gila River Res. is much easier. the time frame to run a light rail as follows, SL in @ 5:30AM, heading to work folks 6:30AM and Casino people come down around 10:30 for lunch & play. Casino folks leave north anytime, Work people are headed home @ 3;30 to 6:00 & the train arrives @ 9:00PM ish. This is years off but??
:)
I kind of like the idea of a few cars(coach & sleeper) being moved down to Picacho Junction from PHX to tag on to the SL. There is no sidings in Picacho so one would need to be built, but that is cheap in the big picture.
Noted that the rail line goes on the north side of Sky Harbor right next to the private parking & light rail. Wonder if that would make a better station than trying to be downtown with no parking to speak of. Just thinking. :)
 

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,126
Not a lot of commuters in the roadless desert that the Phoenix West line goes through once it gets west of Buckeye.

Even finding somebody who could foot the bill for a small part of the route might be better than nothing maybe?
 

NES28

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
130
As I noted in this thread a few weeks ago the SW Regional Rail Plan published by the the FRA several years ago, (and available on their website) recommended that true high-speed rail service between the LA and San Diego areas and Phoenix would be viable. Since it is not possible for frequent HSR and conventional freight trains to share track this would require building a new alignment, probably predominantly paralleling I-10. Operation is projected to be profitable. While construction would be much more expensive than the filling the gap west of Phoenix or operating the Sunset Ltd daily, it would carry significant numbers of passengers who now drive or fly. Endless negotiations with UP could be avoided. This is the option that we should promote.
 

John Santos

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2018
Messages
304
[...]
The idea from above post was to have a direct connection between LA and Phoenix, so just need to split off from the east bound SL at Maricopa and continue north to Phoenix, and in the other direction, join the west bound SL in Maricopa and continue on to LA. This way we have 1) Phoenix Union Station connected in the system, 2) For short to medium travel distance, direct connections without any transferring encourages passengers to take the train.
[...]
If I wasn't clear in my comment, this was what I thought was the most likely proposal, but I wasn't sure.

Just checked with Amtrak's "Track Your Train" map and it appears the EB 2 arrives at Maricopa at about 7AM and the WB 1 arrives at around 10PM, so serving both with a single connecting train to Phoenix would only require a 9 to 15 hour wait! One set of equipment (departing Maricopa at about 8AM, and returning at 9PM, would work but it sounds like a large investment with little use, unless the same train could be used for commuter rail during the day. On the other hand, it could easily depart Phoenix at maybe 6 AM, meet the East bound 2 at 7, and return to Phoenix carrying LA->Phoenix passengers. Then turn around, depart Phoenix at 8:30 PM (carrying Phoenix->LA passengers, meet the WB 1, and then return to Phoenix with passengers from the East. This train would sit idle in Phoenix from about 10:30 PM to 6 AM and from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM, unless it served double duty as a local train during the day. (The 7AM arrival of the 2 would play havoc with the morning commute, though, unless it WAS the morning commuter train, but having to wait for a delayed 2 would break that!)

Much as I hate to say it, maybe a Thruway Bus would make more sense?

P.S. later NES28 mentioned a better alternative as HSR from SoCal to Phoenix. If service were frequent, maybe the HSR ROW could be extended past Phoenix to Tuscon and some or all the service could turn there, and connect with the SL at Maricopa, Tuscon or both?
 

87YJ

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
84
Location
Casa Grande AZ
Think you would want to connect in Picacho @ the junction to PHX, no need to run the train another 30 miles west to Maricopa. Or just go on to Tucson, that would start something..:)
 

Cal

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
4,016
Location
Socal
Can I just note that if the trains were to split at Maricopa the trains would have to follow each other very close for a considerable ways longer as the tracks north to Phoenix aren't till after Eloy. 1638582026655.png
 

87YJ

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
84
Location
Casa Grande AZ
Maricopa would close. Trains would join and split @ Eloy(Picacho). With a siding, the SL would just back in drop off and pick up. The PHX set @ the back. Have no idea if it would work. ;)
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,910
Location
Washington State
I used to go to Phoenix regularly on business, and have been in the area a few times on vacation (most recently in the summer of 2019, LSL->TE->SL->Tucson, drove over a very circuitous route spending several days in Phoenix, to Las Vegas, NV, Thruway->Kingman->SWC->CL->NEC->home. ) So I'm vaguely familiar with the area, but am confused by the plan.

Is the idea of for the Phoenix train to split off from the east bound SL at Maricopa and continue north to Phoenix, and in the other direction, join the west bound SL in Maricopa and continue on to LA, or is the idea to split off the west bound SL/TE at Maricopa, continuing to Phoenix, and the other way, to join the east bound SL/TE in Maricopa? Or two have the SL split/join in both directions, so effectively TWO Phoenix<->Maricopa round trips every day, one connecting with the east bound SL and the other with the west bound SL?

I know there is commuter rail in Phoenix, but I'm completely unfamiliar with the routes or schedules. Does it reach as far as Maricopa? Would a commuter rail connection work, at least initially to boost local interest and ridership enough to justify a separate section of the SL, or even a completely separate LA or Chicago or New Orleans train specifically destined for Phoenix?

As I understand it, the tracks west of Phoenix don't exist any more, but the ROW is still there. Is this correct? Would the local Phoenix area commuter rail be interested in resurrecting the ROW, which Amtrak could then share, either for re-routing the SL or for a direct LA<->Phoenix train? (From the prior discussion, I understand the route via Phoenix formerly used by the SL was much slower than the current route, but I don't know if this is because it was longer or because the tracks were limited to very low speeds. Generally, if the later, that could be fixed and would have to be fixed if the track no longer exists. I believe it is MUCH cheaper to upgrade an existing track with new roadbed, ties and welded, heavier rail than to construct a brand new ROW, even through an uninhabited desert where land is dirt cheap.
Well, there is no line north out of Maricopa to Phoenix. That would be a brand new line. The Phoenix line splits from the mainline at Wellton, only 25 miles or so east of Yuma, and rejoins the mainline at Picacho Jct, 15 miles or so southwest of Casa Grande.

The line is active and in service between Picacho Jct and somewhere to the west of Phoenix, around Goodyear somewhere, IIRC. It is worked from the east end.

The Sunset ran fast over the Phoenix West line, it was 70 mph track, although it was a bone rattler, jointed rail not really well maintained. The Phoenix West line took a more direct route than any highway between Phoenix and Yuma. It took longer because it had a longer distance to cover than the mainline through Gila Bend and Maricopa.
 
Last edited:

neroden

I have left, see profile
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,548
Location
Ithaca, NY
As I noted in this thread a few weeks ago the SW Regional Rail Plan published by the the FRA several years ago, (and available on their website) recommended that true high-speed rail service between the LA and San Diego areas and Phoenix would be viable. Since it is not possible for frequent HSR and conventional freight trains to share track this would require building a new alignment, probably predominantly paralleling I-10. Operation is projected to be profitable. While construction would be much more expensive than the filling the gap west of Phoenix or operating the Sunset Ltd daily, it would carry significant numbers of passengers who now drive or fly. Endless negotiations with UP could be avoided. This is the option that we should promote.
While I agree entirely, I suspect Phoenix would have to buy property from UP just to get the high speed line in and out of downtown (even if they were building elevated tracks over the existing ROW). I-10's route becomes unsuitable for adding passenger rail in downtown Phoenix. I wish the city had bothered to buy Phoenix Union Station; it will come in handy.
 

toddinde

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
507
Location
Sierra Vista, AZ
Just a long shot here. But is there any potential for a commuter line that Amtrak could piggyback onto?
The cost is wildly off the mark. Ten years ago, the State of Arizona did a study. The cost to rehab the West Line to Class 4 track was $4 million. Obviously, the cost today will be higher, but nowhere near in the hundreds of millions. As for piggybacking off commuters, it’s probably more likely commuter rail development in Phoenix will piggyback off Amtrak expansion, but it’s certainly possible. They might both benefit from a logical first step which is a daily Sunset routed through Phoenix. There are really two things needed for the corridor; a third main from Tucson to Picacho Junction, and a rehab of the Phoenix line from Picacho Junction to Buckeye. The West Line situation may solve itself. That should be enough, with some improvements to the Sunset Route from Welton to Coachella, to realize the vision of a daily Sunset, three round trips between Tucson and Buckeye with on that continues to LA which, with the Sunset, would be twice daily service between Arizona and LA. California’s work on Coachella Valley service is critical to the plan, but that’s moving along nicely. The Tucson-Phoenix-West Line corridor has as much potential as any corridor in the US, and would be one of the more reasonable ones in cost to develop.
 

toddinde

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
507
Location
Sierra Vista, AZ
Well, there is no line north out of Maricopa to Phoenix. That would be a brand new line. The Phoenix line splits from the mainline at Wellton, only 25 miles or so east of Yuma, and rejoins the mainline at Picacho Jct, 15 miles or so southwest of Casa Grande.

The line is active and in service between Picacho Jct and somewhere to the west of Phoenix, around Goodyear somewhere, IIRC. It is worked from the east end.

The Sunset ran fast over the Phoenix West line, it was 70 mph track, although it was a bone rattler, jointed rail not really well maintained. The Phoenix West line took a more direct route than any highway between Phoenix and Yuma. It took longer because it had a longer distance to cover than the mainline through Gila Bend and Maricopa.
Just to add, there is no commuter rail in Phoenix. There is light rail. That is not entirely irrelevant because there is railway engineering and construction expertise in Arizona which would make contracting more competitive.
 

Eric S

Engineer
Joined
Dec 19, 2009
Messages
2,637
Location
Milwaukee
The cost is wildly off the mark. Ten years ago, the State of Arizona did a study. The cost to rehab the West Line to Class 4 track was $4 million. Obviously, the cost today will be higher, but nowhere near in the hundreds of millions. As for piggybacking off commuters, it’s probably more likely commuter rail development in Phoenix will piggyback off Amtrak expansion, but it’s certainly possible. They might both benefit from a logical first step which is a daily Sunset routed through Phoenix. There are really two things needed for the corridor; a third main from Tucson to Picacho Junction, and a rehab of the Phoenix line from Picacho Junction to Buckeye. The West Line situation may solve itself. That should be enough, with some improvements to the Sunset Route from Welton to Coachella, to realize the vision of a daily Sunset, three round trips between Tucson and Buckeye with on that continues to LA which, with the Sunset, would be twice daily service between Arizona and LA. California’s work on Coachella Valley service is critical to the plan, but that’s moving along nicely. The Tucson-Phoenix-West Line corridor has as much potential as any corridor in the US, and would be one of the more reasonable ones in cost to develop.
Only $4 million?!? That just seems incredibly low. Unless, I suppose, UP has been maintaining the track to near-Class 4 levels. I would have guessed that costs would be at least one and more likely two orders of magnitude higher.
 

87YJ

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
84
Location
Casa Grande AZ
We have to keep in mind @ only 8K people used MCR(Maricopa) last year, 12k in 2017. Thats 3 stops each way a week. Phoenix area population is 4.5 million.

Tucson area population is 1 million. Last year they had 16k passengers, in 2017 they had near 30k passengers.

So you can guess that Phoenix would have 4+ times the passengers as Tucson if the rail line went there. The question is, would there, you may think, "BUT".

Got all the info and numbers online.
 

coventry801

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
86
Maricopa would close. Trains would join and split @ Eloy(Picacho). With a siding, the SL would just back in drop off and pick up. The PHX set @ the back. Have no idea if it would work. ;)

Could work. If someone from Amtrak pushes it
 
Top