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Track Condition

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Hans627

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 15, 2019
Messages
27
Is it just me or are track conditions deteriorating?

I’m on the northbound Silver Star and it’s been a rough ride. I have a roomette so as if trying to get some sleep. A few times last I was almost thrown out of bed, the lower berth. And a few time it seems like the wheels hit hard against something. It was so bad that I actually thought I better look for the emergency exit Instruction.

i’ve done this trip before but don’t remember it being so rough. Any insight from anyone?
 

John Bobinyec

Conductor
Joined
Sep 18, 2009
Messages
1,775
Location
CYN
Track conditions are continuously degrading and hopefully are brought back up through maintenance programs.

It might help if you could pinpoint where you were when this happened.

It also might help if you could bring it to the conductor's attention. Perhaps there's something wrong with your car. If not, the conductor would know where it happened.

jb
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
211
Do you think anybody else on the train noticed? Did you travel through any storm fronts or violent weather?
Trains seem safer than most other types of transportation.
 

Steve4031

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Messages
5,863
Location
Chicago
I suspect it is a combination of track conditions and the condition of the wheels, trucks on the sleeping car.

On one trip I recall riding the silver star out of nyp and I could feel the car jiggling in an up and down motion with a squeaking noise. I suspect that car had a flat wheel. On one ride on the cardinal it felt like we bottomed out on every grade crossing between Dyer and Indianapolis. I suspect that might have been track conditions.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,396
Location
Palm Beach County
Flat wheels are easily detected by their characteristic “thumping” sound, proportional to train speed, regardless of how smooth or rough the rails are...
And the sound is absent in other cars, or less noticeable at the opposite end of the same car.
An unusual bouncing motion could be bad springs or shock absorbers exacerbated by rough trackage. In some cases, the train speed could cause a harmonic rocking motion, but that went away for the most part with continuous welded rail.
 

adamj023

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 1, 2015
Messages
117
Is it just me or are track conditions deteriorating?

I’m on the northbound Silver Star and it’s been a rough ride. I have a roomette so as if trying to get some sleep. A few times last I was almost thrown out of bed, the lower berth. And a few time it seems like the wheels hit hard against something. It was so bad that I actually thought I better look for the emergency exit Instruction.

i’ve done this trip before but don’t remember it being so rough. Any insight from anyone?
Amtrak runs on different trackage throughout the USA including some which they own themselves. There are known areas of rough rail in non upgraded sections. Some areas have seen upgrades to continuously welded rail especially on the NEC which will be increasing their speeds. I am not sure which trackage this problem was on with the Silver Star but it is not a dangerous condition and the train did not derail and multiple trains go on that route. The Silver Star is known for going over portions of rough rail as are other Silver service trains, the Palmetto and Auto train which share some of the same trackage. There doesn’t seem to be any major track upgrade projects in the works on these lines now so I expect the rough ride on these tracks will be around for awhile.
 

bratkinson

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 7, 2004
Messages
839
Location
QB 101
Is it just me or are track conditions deteriorating?
...
i’ve done this trip before but don’t remember it being so rough. Any insight from anyone?
In August last year, I rode to Florida on the Star and back on the Meteor. Maybe I slept through the rough spots that only the Star covers, I don't know. But on the Meteor, there were several very strong sideways jolts that I had to stop to consider if we were on the ground or not. Northbound on the Meteor, I recall them being mostly between 7 and 9 PM give or take.

Last September, a round trip Chicago to Denver reminded me that the former CB&Q STILL has it's rough riding. More of a choppiness than major jolts. But it HAS improved in the past 30-40 years. In the '70s, it was non-stop choppy enough to make drinking anything from a glass or cup in the diner difficult. But then, in the late '70s, all parts of Penn Central were so rough that even holding a 1/2 full glass was difficult without sloshing over. One of my friends commented back then that the only time his butt was in the seat is when it came up to meet him! I agreed wholeheartedly.

In April 2018, I took the City of New Orleans CHI-NOL. Between the incessant horn with no cars between the sleeper and the locomotive and the non-stop choppiness seemingly all the way until Memphis or so, I've put that train on my 'avoid' list for the next 10 years or so.

And there are stretches on the NEC, mostly between WAS and PHL, that are just plain rough. Rougher still at 125mph. Slowly, but surely, some areas seem to have gotten worse while others have gotten better.

It all comes down to money. As with very small exception, all Amtrak routes outside the NEC are railroad owned and the railroads have little need to give commodities, automobiles, or anything else a glass-smooth ride. So they only spend what's needed to maintain desired speed and safety levels. The NEC is a money pit for maintenance. At least it's much better than it was in 1971 or so when I first rode it aboard a Metroliner.
 

adamj023

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 1, 2015
Messages
117
When I was on Auto Train there were areas where train jolted as well a few years ago. I am assuming freight rails are not geared for higher speeds and as such have worse trackage overall and Amtrak needs to use this for long haul rail.
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
2,287
choppy enough to make drinking anything from a glass or cup in the diner difficult.
On a C&O train headed for Washington, D. C., shortly after leaving Cincinnati, I went to the diner for dinner. The first course was soup. The ride was sufficiently rough that when the Steward put the cup of soup on a saucer on the table, a good amount of the soup slopped out and into the saucer.
 

railiner

Conductor
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Palm Beach County
Back in the 70’s, prior to Conrail, the bankrupt northeastern railroads got so bad, that the solvent Grand Trunk Western exploited that notoriety, by advertising themselves as the “Good Track” road...🙂
 

jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,904
Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
Back in the 70’s, prior to Conrail, the bankrupt northeastern railroads got so bad, that the solvent Grand Trunk Western exploited that notoriety, by advertising themselves as the “Good Track” road...🙂
Later it too went downhill, despite maintaining the slogan. The chunk west of Port Huron, MI, used by the Amtrak International (now Blue Water) was especially bad. I recall a conductor even joking about "welcome to the Good Track portion of our route".
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Messages
14
Location
West Texas
Here we are complaining about this and for years trains would travel at much higher speeds on jointed much smaller tracks. Let alone many where wooden cars. I understand road beds might have been in better condition for passenger rail but still.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
20,728
Location
Austin Texas
In all my years of riding Amtrak ( since "A Day"in '71), the roughest track I've experienced was in Western Kansas on the Chiefs Route, with 2nd Place going to the Tracks South of Memphis on the CONO Route.

There were Plenty of rough tracks back in the Golden Days on some of the Rural Routes that the Freights, the Locals,Milk and Mail Trains used to reach the Small Towns and "Whistle Stops."
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
211
I like the welded rail between La Plata and Ft Madison. I think they said we were doing about 110mph.
 

Barb Stout

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
562
In all my years of riding Amtrak ( since "A Day"in '71), the roughest track I've experienced was in Western Kansas on the Chiefs Route, with 2nd Place going to the Tracks South of Memphis on the CONO Route.
I noticed that Kansas was the "roughest" part of the Southwest Chief, but it didn't seem too bad. It might have been bad had I been trying to eat or drink, but it was at night well past my bed time, so it just felt like getting a massage rather than being in danger of being thrown out of my bed.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
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Messages
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I noticed that Kansas was the "roughest" part of the Southwest Chief, but it didn't seem too bad. It might have been bad had I been trying to eat or drink, but it was at night well past my bed time, so it just felt like getting a massage rather than being in danger of being thrown out of my bed.
It's been fixed somewhat since then, its the only time I was ever thrown out of my bed in a Superliner Bedroom!
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,366
I noticed that Kansas was the "roughest" part of the Southwest Chief, but it didn't seem too bad. It might have been bad had I been trying to eat or drink, but it was at night well past my bed time, so it just felt like getting a massage rather than being in danger of being thrown out of my bed.
And to think that in the '70s, Amtrak would do 90mph along that route. And it was pretty smooth as I remember talking to the conductor in the middle of the night (I was too excited to be on the train to sleep) as we headed eastbound.
 

Barb Stout

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
562
And to think that in the '70s, Amtrak would do 90mph along that route. And it was pretty smooth as I remember talking to the conductor in the middle of the night (I was too excited to be on the train to sleep) as we headed eastbound.
In fact, I had assumed that the reason got bumpy in Kansas was because the train used the night time to speed up to catch up from being behind and also because it was now on flat stuff instead of climbing/descending mountains.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
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Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,302
Location
Baltimore. MD
The roughest ride I ever remember on Amtrak (aside from the short stretch from the north portal of the B&P tunnel to Baltimore Penn Station) was on the Empire Builder westbound between St. Paul and Rugby. I could barely sleep, the train was rocking around so much. Funny, though, the eastbound trip wasn't as bad. That was back in 2007.
 

Saddleshoes

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 12, 2015
Messages
46
In all my years of riding Amtrak ( since "A Day"in '71), the roughest track I've experienced was in Western Kansas on the Chiefs Route, with 2nd Place going to the Tracks South of Memphis on the CONO Route.

There were Plenty of rough tracks back in the Golden Days on some of the Rural Routes that the Freights, the Locals,Milk and Mail Trains used to reach the Small Towns and "Whistle Stops."
South of Memphis gets 1st place in our family.
We have a standing joke about Dad getting bounced awake going South and bounced off his feet going North on the CONO.
 

railiner

Conductor
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Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,396
Location
Palm Beach County
And to think that in the '70s, Amtrak would do 90mph along that route. And it was pretty smooth as I remember talking to the conductor in the middle of the night (I was too excited to be on the train to sleep) as we headed eastbound.
I found it that way too...
I rode it a few times between either La Junta or Lamar and Kansas City, and IIRC, it still had jointed rail. Yet those Budd Hi-Levels gave a very smooth and quiet ride, when compared with the BN across Nebraska back then...
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
211
I found it that way too...
I rode it a few times between either La Junta or Lamar and Kansas City, and IIRC, it still had jointed rail. Yet those Budd Hi-Levels gave a very smooth and quiet ride, when compared with the BN across Nebraska back then...
If the Budds are the same as Superliners, I agree. They are the Cadillacs of passenger trains!
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,764
Location
South Carolina
The roughest spot I remember was on the RF&P Subdivision at Meade Pyramid in Virginia (just south of Fredericksburg) we hit a crossover and it sent me flying when I was walking with drinks in the Viewliner hall.
 
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