Sunset Limited discussion

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Sidney

OBS Chief
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Jul 12, 2020
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937
Why does the Sunset Limited #1 have a 2 hr 45 minute stop in San Antonio? Seems a bit long for fueling or crew change.

A sleeper and Coach car from 21,traveling from Chicago is attatched to the rear of 1 in San Antonio to contunue on to LA. The train usually arrives at 10PM,but it is often late. 1 arrives usually just past Midnight. The train leaves at 2:45AM.
 

marcoloco

Train Attendant
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Jul 8, 2022
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Houston, TX
Why does the Sunset Limited #1 have a 2 hr 45 minute stop in San Antonio? Seems a bit long for fueling or crew change.
They inspect the train and that takes about 45 minutes. Also the 2 cars off the Texas Eagle are attached to train #1 and detached from train #2 as they are the Texas Eagle portion. The Sunset Limited, in reality runs as 2 trains between LAX and San Antonio. It is in reality the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle. Also keep in mind the as with other Amtrak trains, some "padding" is built in the schedule, that is to say that, if a train is running late, they may not actually be at a particular stop "that long". They will just get in and out as soon as they can to make up time.
 

frequentflyer

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They inspect the train and that takes about 45 minutes. Also the 2 cars off the Texas Eagle are attached to train #1 and detached from train #2 as they are the Texas Eagle portion. The Sunset Limited, in reality runs as 2 trains between LAX and San Antonio. It is in reality the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle. Also keep in mind the as with other Amtrak trains, some "padding" is built in the schedule, that is to say that, if a train is running late, they may not actually be at a particular stop "that long". They will just get in and out as soon as they can to make up time.
Who is actually doing the 45 minute inspection? The same thing happens at Tucson, the train can be 3 hours late but it sit at at TUC for the whole hour. Refueling is done at most 20 minutes. But it sits. I do not see mech personnel doing the inspection at TUC, so I ask, who are doing these "inspections"?
And what are they inspecting that has not been done at NOL or LAX?
 

jis

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Who is actually doing the 45 minute inspection? The same thing happens at Tucson, the train can be 3 hours late but it sit at at TUC for the whole hour. Refueling is done at most 20 minutes. But it sits. I do not see mech personnel doing the inspection at TUC, so I ask, who are doing these "inspections"?
And what are they inspecting that has not been done at NOL or LAX?
It has nothing to do with what has been inspected at NOL or LAX. There are certain items that must be inspected every 1000 miles or less per FRA regulations. Feel free to read all about it from the proverbial horse's mouth if interested.

Federal Railroad Administration, Office or Railroad Safety, Motive Power and Equipment Compliance Manual
 
Joined
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Brownsburg IN
Well, this isn’t exactly a trip report and it’s not exactly a Sunset Limited question. But it’s a fairly recent thread on this train so I’ll post here.

I am riding the Sunset Limited today for the first time post-Katrina. That previous trip was NOL-Disney with my wife & girls in the Family bedroom. This one is just a little short trip in Roomette #13 from New Orleans to Houston. First time in a long time in a lower level sleeper - and I’m liking the change-up.

Very impressive crew so far. Excellent SCA, and a very professional diner staff. Just finished lunch, and can’t wait for dinner.

Everything is very neat, and frankly – things are setup the way I’d do it if I were doing it myself. Fresh coffee when we boarded - and the coffee station in the sleeper and the table settings in the diner are much more carefully arranged than is typical on Amtrak. Details matter.

I’m definitely putting this at the top of my list of trains to ride end-to-end in 2023!
 

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Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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Well, this isn’t exactly a trip report and it’s not exactly a Sunset Limited question. But it’s a fairly recent thread on this train so I’ll post here.

I am riding the Sunset Limited today for the first time post-Katrina. That previous trip was NOL-Disney with my wife & girls in the Family bedroom. This one is just a little short trip in Roomette #13 from New Orleans to Houston. First time in a long time in a lower level sleeper - and I’m liking the change-up.

Very impressive crew so far. Excellent SCA, and a very professional diner staff. Just finished lunch, and can’t wait for dinner.

Everything is very neat, and frankly – things are setup the way I’d do it if I were doing it myself. Fresh coffee when we boarded - and the coffee station in the sleeper and the table settings in the diner are much more carefully arranged than is typical on Amtrak. Details matter.

I’m definitely putting this at the top of my list of trains to ride end-to-end in 2023!
I really enjoyed the Traditional Dining and Service in the Diner on my recent ( and First since 2019)LAX-SAS Trip on 2/422 returning home from the Gathering on Oct 9-11.

Unfortunately we were Several Hours late after hitting Debris on the Tracks near Pamona, causing damage to the 2 PVs on the Rear of the Consist which had to be dropped before we could continue,resulting in Bustitutions from SAS to Stations North for those on the 2 Cutout Cars attached to #2.
 

jis

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Amtrak has complained to the STB about UP's handling of the Sunset Limited. Let's see what comes of it....

 

zephyr17

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Amtrak has complained to the STB about UP's handling of the Sunset Limited. Let's see what comes of it....

I like the UP saying "It is essential that Union Pacific and Amtrak collaborate to design a schedule that is reasonable and achievable."

That is misleading at the very least. The regulation specifically says that the STB cannot take any enforcement action until Amtrak and the host railroad have negotiated an agreed upon schedule that took the then-newly defined FRA passenger delay metrics into account.

So that statement is pure spin for public consumption. As far as the STB is concerned, that is mere hand waving. The schedule that the action was brought under is prima facie "reasonable and achievable".

Maybe UP negotiated in bad faith thinking that Amtrak wouldn't have the guts to bring it before the STB. Amtrak has been pretty pusillanimous about schedule compliance in the past but also had no realistic avenue for relief, or the STB would not actually take enforcement action. Either that or they did not understand their own operations when they negotiated with Amtrak post December 2020 when the reg came into effect.

Personally, I think it was probably the former.

I am very happy to see Amtrak filing action under the new passenger delay rule, and hope the STB slaps UP silly.
 
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I like the UP saying "It is essential that Union Pacific and Amtrak collaborate to design a schedule that is reasonable and achievable."

That is misleading at the very least. The regulation specifically says that the STB cannot take any enforcement action until Amtrak and the host railroad have negotiated an agreed upon schedule that took the then-newly defined FRA passenger delay metrics into account.

So that statement is pure spin for public consumption. As far as the STB is concerned, that is mere hand waving. The schedule that the action was brought under is prima facie "reasonable and achievable".

Maybe UP negotiated in bad faith thinking that Amtrak wouldn't have the guts to bring it before the STB. Amtrak has been pretty pusillanimous about schedule compliance in the past but also had no realistic avenue for relief, or the STB would not actually take enforcement action. Either that or they did not understand their own operations when they negotiated with Amtrak post December 2020 when the reg came into effect.

Personally, I think it was probably the former.

I am very happy to see Amtrak filing action under the new passenger delay rule, and hope the STB slaps UP silly.
This was somewhat confusing, but the paragraph 46 of the filing, which was linked to in the RPA hotline, seemed to say that "disputed" schedules, i.e. not agreed to by both parties, were subject to the rules after a delay.

FRA deferred application of the Minimum Standard until July 1, 2021 to provide Amtrak and host railroads with time to negotiate any necessary
modifications to published train schedules. FRA further deferred application of the Minimum Standard until October 1, 2021 if Amtrak or a host railroad disputed a schedule before May 17, 2021.
 

marcoloco

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Houston, TX
I travel Amtrak's Sunset Limited about 10 round trips a year between Houston and LAX. I carry a scanner with me, and understand railroading. I've visited the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Believe it or not, UP DOES give the Sunset Limited priority and does their best. Most folks don't understand HOW MUCH freight UP handles and UP is constantly adding double track and extending sidings. They put $1 billion plus to double track the railroad from El Paso to LAX in the last 90's and 2000's. They are now double tracking in Texas and extending (lengthning) sidings. I see this happening with my own eyes. The Sunset Limited in doing much, much better than it was doing during the last of the SP days, beleive me. It will have a spell or 2 now and then in which it seems things are going backwards instead of forwards but beleive me, overall, it's getting better. I'm the most frequent traveler on Amtrak's Sunset Limited and have been for the past 20 years.
 

zephyr17

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Hmm, when I read the rule when it initially published, there were delays built into it to provide for schedule negotiations and then a six month period after the schedules were adopted where statistics would be gathered measuring passenger delay but no enforcement action could be taken. I don't recall the deadlines at the time, or what would happen if Amtrak and the host railroad were unable to come to agreement. That there were some deadlines that if the parties could not agree, then the previoualy existing schedule would be subject to the delay rules and enforcement action makes sense to me. I just don't recall it.

As I recall, the Sunset's schedule has not changed since December 2020. That lends credence to Amtrak and UP not having come to agreement, although I guess I (wrongly) assumed by now that they just agreed on the existing schedule. The trains I know for certain got their schedules restrung because of the rule are the Crescent (big change), the Empire Builder (moderate change), the SW Chief (very small changes), and the Coast Starlight (very small changes).
 

marcoloco

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Houston, TX
Hmm, when I read the rule when it initially published, there were delays built into it to provide for schedule negotiations and then a six month period after the schedules were adopted where statistics would be gathered measuring passenger delay but no enforcement action could be taken. I don't recall the deadlines at the time, or what would happen if Amtrak and the host railroad were unable to come to agreement. That there were some deadlines that if the parties could not agree, then the previoualy existing schedule would be subject to the delay rules and enforcement action makes sense to me. I just don't recall it.

As I recall, the Sunset's schedule has not changed since December 2020. That lends credence to Amtrak and UP not having come to agreement, although I guess I (wrongly) assumed by now that they just agreed on the existing schedule. The trains I know for certain got their schedules restrung because of the rule are the Crescent (big change), the Empire Builder (moderate change), the SW Chief (very small changes), and the Coast Starlight (very small changes).
reading the rules are one thing, reality is another thing
 
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I travel Amtrak's Sunset Limited about 10 round trips a year between Houston and LAX. I carry a scanner with me, and understand railroading. I've visited the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Believe it or not, UP DOES give the Sunset Limited priority and does their best. Most folks don't understand HOW MUCH freight UP handles and UP is constantly adding double track and extending sidings. They put $1 billion plus to double track the railroad from El Paso to LAX in the last 90's and 2000's. They are now double tracking in Texas and extending (lengthning) sidings. I see this happening with my own eyes. The Sunset Limited in doing much, much better than it was doing during the last of the SP days, beleive me. It will have a spell or 2 now and then in which it seems things are going backwards instead of forwards but beleive me, overall, it's getting better. I'm the most frequent traveler on Amtrak's Sunset Limited and have been for the past 20 years.
But if you look at the tables in the filing, it's clear that delays have been increasing over the past few years, and that UP is the worst of the host railroads. So either UP is not doing enough, or Amtrak is misrepresenting the data.

You can't deny that UP has been making record profits and buying back stock, while at the same time angering it's shippers with inadequate service, as seen at the FRA hearings last spring. Whether PSR or something else is the root of the problem, they need to be directing more money into capital and/or operations.
 

Shanson

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Sunset Schedule update effective 1/23/23. In order to reduce congestion in the Tucson, AZ area the Sunset's schedule has been re-timed between Tucson and El Paso. Fueling and daily inspection will now take place at UP's Santa Teresa Fueling Facility for both Trains 1 and 2 just west of El Paso. The Tucson stop has been shortened to 20 minutes strictly for passengers and baggage. 45 mins have been added to the schedule between El Paso and Deming to account for this change. There are no changes to the schedule between Los Angeles and Tucson or from El Paso to New Orleans. Only the intermediate stops at Benson, Lordsburg, and Deming are affected.

This has been in the works for awhile and pre-dates the STB filing over on-time performance.
 
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Although it arrives Tuscon at the same time, the reduced time there is not quite enough to make up for the 10 minutes later arrival into El Paso. But, time at El Paso has also been reduced by 10 minutes, so no change beyond. I am sure fueling at Santa Teresa is a lot more efficient than the tank truck delivery at Tuscon, but that could be done concurrently with the station work.

The net effect of all this is to hurry up and get your burritos at El Paso!

This is a photo of the fueling location not long after it opened - from the railfan window on a 2014 Sunset trip. We slowed a bit but did not stop.


IMG_0563.jpg
 
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