Sunset Limited and Phoenix

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coventry801

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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. View attachment 25767
Yes agree. If UP have a problem with that, might just have to separate at Eloy.
 
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coventry801

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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.
There used to be a Maricopa - Phoenix railway. I remember seeing those tracks at Chandler. Was wondering if AZ never considered reviving/rebuilding it as a commuter line?
 

jis

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There used to be a Maricopa - Phoenix railway. I remember seeing those tracks at Chandler. Was wondering if AZ never considered reviving/rebuilding it as a commuter line?
Here is all the info I could find about the M&P:


Of course if most of its roadbed was used to build a highway, that would explain why the rails were never restored. As stated in the article, abandonment would appear to have been before 1948.
 

west point

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Is the west line welded or stick rail? The unused portion of the west line IMO should be upgraded to class 5 - 90 MPH. Class 6 would be better but requires all grade crossings signaled and other items. If an agreement with UP can be made that no freight trains on the line then maintenance will be much less? It will be important what an updated study will show needed as several FRA items changed and PTC would also be in play for anything over 79 MPH
 
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jis

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Is the west line welded or stick rail? The unused portion of the west line IMO should be upgraded to class 5 - 90 MPH. Class 6 would be better but requires all grade crossings signaled and other items. If an agreement with UP can be made that no freight trains on the line then maintenance will be much less? It will be important what an updated study will show needed as several FRA items changed and PTC would also be in play for anything over 79 MPH
PTC would be in play even below 79mph if one wants to run more than 5 (IIRC) trains per day.
 

Cal

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We have to keep in mind @ only 8K people used MCR(Maricopa) last year,
If I did my math right, that means about 25 people used it for each train that went through. Not amazing, but not terrible.
 

Cal

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Is the west line welded or stick rail? The unused portion of the west line IMO should be upgraded to class 5 - 90 MPH. Class 6 would be better but requires all grade crossings signaled and other items. If an agreement with UP can be made that no freight trains on the line then maintenance will be much less? It will be important what an updated study will show needed as several FRA items changed and PTC would also be in play for anything over 79 MPH
What speeds can passenger trains get to on class 6 tracks? What about beyond that?
 

Cal

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Here is all the info I could find about the M&P:


Of course if most of its roadbed was used to build a highway, that would explain why the rails were never restored. As stated in the article, abandonment would appear to have been before 1948.
Perhaps this could help locate it?
 

zephyr17

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Is the west line welded or stick rail? The unused portion of the west line IMO should be upgraded to class 5 - 90 MPH. Class 6 would be better but requires all grade crossings signaled and other items. If an agreement with UP can be made that no freight trains on the line then maintenance will be much less? It will be important what an updated study will show needed as several FRA items changed and PTC would also be in play for anything over 79 MPH
West line was stick rail. Now it is out of service, unmaintained stick rail. It is not operable, except perhaps as FRA excepted track with a 10 mph max with no passenger moves and even that is really iffy.

It was Class 4, with ABS signalling.

No matter what, if they want to put it back into service, they'll have to relay it and it would likely be CWR.

I seriously doubt UP is interested in doing it for themselves. The only way it is going back into service is if some public entity acquires it. They can rebuild it to whatever FRA standard they can afford once they own it.

I don't think through freights are an issue at all. UP does nicely with the Sunset Route mainline through Gila Bend. The lack of through traffic on the line is what led SP to embargo it in the first place.
 
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87YJ

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If you would like to look @ the track(on Google maps) from Picacho north to Coolidge to Mesa and on to the north side of Sky Harbor(airport).First zoom in to see the Y @ Picacho. Once you get north to Gilbert the housing is heavy. The tracks run on the north side of the airport. The NE corner of the airport has long term parking plus a light rail station in easy walking. And it has a siding(2) for storage of the train.
Never work! :)
 

west point

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The west line does not need to be updated to class 6 at once. Better to just meet the traffic needs. IMO the ownership of the line is the first item to be resolved. If UP will part with the line that is one thing otherwise just updating is another. An agreement about freight use of the line needs some Iron clad provisions. Since the roadbed and track will probably be rebuilt to future class 6 specification any freight traffic will need damage prevention clauses. That would include WILD and full equipment defect detectors at each end. As well one at a mid point siding. (needed if #1 running over 2 hours late)

Class 4 (79 MPH) and 1 train a day will only require the ABS system to be upgraded. Class 5 (90) will require some kind of cab signaling, ATC or as an alternate PTC. Class 6 would require every grade crossing with 4 quadrant gates. That means every crossing no exceptions gets very expensive, doesn't it? That becomes very expensive. Once more than 5 passenger trains a day will require PTC or if UP ships Haz Mat then automatic PTC.

Possible order of implementation; get the west line; rebuild it subgrade up; solve the PHX station problem; reroute present Sunset; make Sunset daily: maybe start out filling in days with a Tucson <> LAX train. Then get service daily with either Eagle or Sunset depending on how Amtrak decides to run it. SAS - NOL separate if Eagle used.

Then start adding the TUS - lax additional trains. Somewheren
 

Siegmund

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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.
It does seem startlingly low.

But one good thing about desert climate is that there's a lot less trouble with ties rotting, ballast washing away, and trees growing on the ROW than in a wet climate. I have walked quite a few roadbeds in southern Idaho and eastern Montana, 40 years after abandonment, that looked like they could have tracks laid tomorrow and trains running the day after.

I would be happy with Class 4. Class 5/6 are a lot of extra infrastructure cost when going 90mph instead of 80 only shaves a few seconds off each mile. Better to fix one short 30mph speed restriction than to upgrade 10 miles of track from class 4 to class 5.
 

zephyr17

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The west line does not need to be updated to class 6 at once. Better to just meet the traffic needs. IMO the ownership of the line is the first item to be resolved. If UP will part with the line that is one thing otherwise just updating is another. An agreement about freight use of the line needs some Iron clad provisions. Since the roadbed and track will probably be rebuilt to future class 6 specification any freight traffic will need damage prevention clauses. That would include WILD and full equipment defect detectors at each end. As well one at a mid point siding. (needed if #1 running over 2 hours late)

Class 4 (79 MPH) and 1 train a day will only require the ABS system to be upgraded. Class 5 (90) will require some kind of cab signaling, ATC or as an alternate PTC. Class 6 would require every grade crossing with 4 quadrant gates. That means every crossing no exceptions gets very expensive, doesn't it? That becomes very expensive. Once more than 5 passenger trains a day will require PTC or if UP ships Haz Mat then automatic PTC.

Possible order of implementation; get the west line; rebuild it subgrade up; solve the PHX station problem; reroute present Sunset; make Sunset daily: maybe start out filling in days with a Tucson <> LAX train. Then get service daily with either Eagle or Sunset depending on how Amtrak decides to run it. SAS - NOL separate if Eagle used.

Then start adding the TUS - lax additional trains. Somewheren
The big issue is getting an agency willing to acquire it and funds for it. UP can easily be persuaded to let it go, easy money for two streaks of rust that have gone unused for decades. That first step is a doozy, everything else is trivial by comparison (btw, the signal infrastructure will have to be entirely rebuilt. It was old and code line based, and is effectively gone). Getting the political buy in to do it is the actual hard part, especially in Arizona. There are no on line communities and no service to the non existent communities to build support on.

Doing Tucson-Phoenix corridor service on existing, serviceable track is the logical place to start to build ridership and awareness in southern Arizona. At least it goes through existing communities such as Mesa and Tempe. Maybe after such service is established and popular, a case for Corridor service to Yuma, the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles can be built. That is case, once built for Corridor service the Sunset can use it. Building a case based on the Sunset is the tail wagging the dog.

Starting with Phoenix West is simply a recipe for political failure.
 
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zephyr17

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Logically, the route for an Arizona Corridor would actually be Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, hitting the communities north of Phoenix and proving access to places like Sedona. That is where the population is. Unfortunately, the geography is much more challenging for a rail line capable of competing with highway speeds. It would need to surmount the Mogollon Rim, instead running through the largely flat and easy desert of Phoenix West. There's a reason the existing BNSF Flagstaff-Phoenix line is called the "Peavine".
 
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George Harris

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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.
There is something basically wrong with this number. Think 100% new rail for the main track, plus 100% new ties, plus approximately 12 inches new ballast, plus who knows what bridge work and other miscellaneous work. Probably need some ditch cleaning, and other odds and ends of earthwork, plus, is there any vegetation growth in this area, then think some brush clearing. I don't have the current info at hand, but I am certain that rail material alone would be far above four million.
 

87YJ

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The west route will be a normal political rat hole with every politician needing something that costs millions more for their election.

Can only wait for someone to propose a highspeed bus. The hot pavement in AZ vs rubber tires. Sorry the mind just went there!

East side of PHX is the start. It's already built, a UP line to PHX. Tagging on to a PHX to TUC link that has been talked about. Might work!
 
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My proposal would be a split similar to the Silver Services, where Sunset Limited stays on its usual route but a "Sunrise Limited" of sorts would head up to Phoenix. And the revival of the abandoned corridor that traveled westward after Coolidge and followed AZ-87. That could be used to separate freight and passenger temporarily and help passenger trains run more efficiently without freight in the way in those segments.

The western line is slow but Union Pacific may be issuing a remodel for better tracks. So who knows if it becomes even remotely usable for passenger rail. As of now, it's used to get freight to and from LA as it always has so they don't need to go around east of Maricopa.

Tempe has also begun its development near the station area with a proposed underground station in the works to serve both Amtrak and future commuter lines. Above the ground will be mixed-use grounds which are already being built with space for an underground station in mind.

I'm unsure about Phoenix Union as it hasn't released any plans but it'd have to be underground as well considering the low space it has.

For the commuter rail, it simply has no funding, and considering the money given to us, it isn't enough to make it soon. The only transit-related projects being built currently are the 2 new light rail lines (South Central (Green Line) and I-10 Capitol (Blue Line)) and an extension of the current Valley Line (Gold). The start of the commuter lines and an eventual acceleration of the lines are being looked into, efforts are still being made it's just very iffy.

The Maricopa Railroad got removed to create a carriageway for AZ-347 as it has become more crowded between Phoenix and Maricopa in recent years, so the corridors to the east and west of it are the only ones we can use.
 

Willbridge

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It does seem startlingly low.

But one good thing about desert climate is that there's a lot less trouble with ties rotting, ballast washing away, and trees growing on the ROW than in a wet climate. I have walked quite a few roadbeds in southern Idaho and eastern Montana, 40 years after abandonment, that looked like they could have tracks laid tomorrow and trains running the day after.

I would be happy with Class 4. Class 5/6 are a lot of extra infrastructure cost when going 90mph instead of 80 only shaves a few seconds off each mile. Better to fix one short 30mph speed restriction than to upgrade 10 miles of track from class 4 to class 5.
Reminds of when I was working on getting the Pioneer established. One of the "reasons" in 1975 that it wasn't feasible was the unused Boise<>Orchard segment. I went out there and brought back photos. I was told that someone at Amtrak looked at them and commented that the line looked better than what they were running some trains on in the Midwest.

Of course, more time has passed with these lines shut down (PHX west and BOI east) but unless there's a flash flood area not much will have happened in the interval.
 

neroden

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One of the things that's not entirely obvious to everyone is that the cost of laying track (ties, rail, etc) is almost immaterial to the cost of reconstructing an out-of-use line. It's practically a rounding error. Same with signalling, once you have a standard signalling system to use. The vast bulk of the cost is typically in civil engineering: earthworks, cuts, fills, subgrade and grade, drainage, bridges, tunnels, grade crossings, etc.

Now, one of the problems with the Phoenix West line is that, outside UP (who keep their information secret) nobody has done a proper evaluation of the state of the civil engineering along the line in many years. We could be lucky and it could be in great shape. Or all the bridges could need complete replacement and the roadbed could be undermined by waterflow. This makes it totally impossible to estimate the cost: someone would need to actually go and do a structural evaluation along the entire line to get a real cost estimate it. But I expect that the lowball cost numbers assumed everything was great, and the high-end cost numbers assumed everything was wrecked. Only actual inspections will tell you the real cost.
 

neroden

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The big issue is getting an agency willing to acquire it and funds for it. UP can easily be persuaded to let it go, easy money for two streaks of rust that have gone unused for decades. That first step is a doozy, everything else is trivial by comparison (btw, the signal infrastructure will have to be entirely rebuilt. It was old and code line based, and is effectively gone). Getting the political buy in to do it is the actual hard part, especially in Arizona. There are no on line communities and no service to the non existent communities to build support on.

Doing Tucson-Phoenix corridor service on existing, serviceable track is the logical place to start to build ridership and awareness in southern Arizona. At least it goes through existing communities such as Mesa and Tempe. Maybe after such service is established and popular, a case for Corridor service to Yuma, the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles can be built. That is case, once built for Corridor service the Sunset can use it. Building a case based on the Sunset is the tail wagging the dog.

Starting with Phoenix West is simply a recipe for political failure.
Agreed 100% with this analysis -- the problem has always been political.
 
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toddinde

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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.
That was the State of Arizona’s study in 2010. It hasn’t been maintained. We’ll know soon how much it will cost now, but it’s pretty easy work.
 

toddinde

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Agreed 100% with this analysis -- the problem has always been political.
I don’t think UP will easily let it go. As I have been told, so take it with a grain of salt, the reason the line wasn’t pulled up is that the West Line is an easement for railroad purposes that would revert to the landowners if it were abandoned. SP laid communication cables along the right of way when they owned SPRINT. There may also be a pipeline? SP was big into pipelines. Remember “Trains, Trucks, Pipelines and Piggyback” was one of their slogans. Those communication lines are still there, and UP doesn’t want to lose them. Finally, there is a lot of talk about fast freights from LA to Phoenix. That’s not UP’s current business model, but it might be. If Amtrak/the infrastructure bill/other sources pay to rehab the line, the ROI to putting it back in service might make it worthwhile.
 

zephyr17

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I don’t think UP will easily let it go. As I have been told, so take it with a grain of salt, the reason the line wasn’t pulled up is that the West Line is an easement for railroad purposes that would revert to the landowners if it were abandoned. SP laid communication cables along the right of way when they owned SPRINT. There may also be a pipeline? SP was big into pipelines. Remember “Trains, Trucks, Pipelines and Piggyback” was one of their slogans. Those communication lines are still there, and UP doesn’t want to lose them. Finally, there is a lot of talk about fast freights from LA to Phoenix. That’s not UP’s current business model, but it might be. If Amtrak/the infrastructure bill/other sources pay to rehab the line, the ROI to putting it back in service might make it worthwhile.
A passenger line owned by Amtrak or the state is still railroad use so the line would not revert to adjacent landowners. UP's continued ownership and use of communications lines could simply be included in the sales agreement. UP could specify to have right if first refusal if the state or Amtrak needed to rid themselves of it. In any case, any abandoned rail line, whether owned ROW or easement is offered to other rail operators first by regulation. UP could get it back for a song in that case, but the that regulatory case would require them to actually operate it. Right of first refusal would be easier and more straightforward.

Short distance (500 miles is short distance to a railroad) fast freight is not in ANY North American railroad's business model. It isn't profitable and the "short distance fast freight" market was ceded to the more flexible trucks decades ago. It isn't coming back any more than LCL business is coming back.

I still contend UP would be willing to let it go. Their real interests could easily be protected by agreement and it would be easy money for them if a serious buyer were to appear. That is the rub, under current political conditions, there simply aren't any serious buyers, at least for passenger rail use.
 

GoAmtrak

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Amtrak should put Boise back on their routes.
I like this idea, but I'm afraid it won't happen for a long time. Boise is neither on a densely populated corridor nor is it part of Amtrak's expansion plans. New service to the beautiful Boise union station would be nice indeed.

For the Phoenix service, chances seem to be better for various reasons being mentioned. In addition to Phoenix, relatively large suburban communities like Tempe and Mesa could see passenger railway again. As mentioned by others, I think makes sense to start with a shorter distance, between Phoenix and Tucson, if possible.

Does somebody know who possesses Phoenix union station? I would use it again as a the major train station. It is centrally located, around a bustling downtown. A new station building wouldn't have to be built, this saves holy tax dollars :p. A station in the suburban nowhere should be avoided, it should be in proper downtown Phoenix.
 
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