Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chiacago (TCMC) second daily service

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Do not fret, all! Seriously, there's a ton of work going on in the background. I attended the early September Great River Rail Commission meeting, where a MnDOT representative provided an update on the status of the TCMC! It is happening and there's just a ton of various details to be worked out. The MnDOT employee said, for example, that they hadn't yet signed the service agreement between the three state DOTs. Good news is that Amtrak has apparently already pre-qualified crews for the route, so that's not going to be an issue. The MnDOT rep said that there will be an OFFICIAL announcement about the service starting once all the Ts are crossed and Is dotted, and that service will begin about one month after THAT date.

It's looking like the service won't begin until late 2023/early 2024 at this time, but let's hope they wrap up all the prep work and can make the official announcement in October or early November, in time for service to begin before the bitter end of the year!
 
Do not fret, all! Seriously, there's a ton of work going on in the background. I attended the early September Great River Rail Commission meeting, where a MnDOT representative provided an update on the status of the TCMC! It is happening and there's just a ton of various details to be worked out. The MnDOT employee said, for example, that they hadn't yet signed the service agreement between the three state DOTs. Good news is that Amtrak has apparently already pre-qualified crews for the route, so that's not going to be an issue. The MnDOT rep said that there will be an OFFICIAL announcement about the service starting once all the Ts are crossed and Is dotted, and that service will begin about one month after THAT date.

It's looking like the service won't begin until late 2023/early 2024 at this time, but let's hope they wrap up all the prep work and can make the official announcement in October or early November, in time for service to begin before the bitter end of the year!
I’ve heard a similar sentiment. Crew change will take place in Milwaukee but one detail that needs ironing out is where the train will be refueled in St Paul.
 
I’ve heard a similar sentiment. Crew change will take place in Milwaukee but one detail that needs ironing out is where the train will be refueled in St Paul.
Glad you've heard similar things! This isn't directed at anyone on this forum (cough, social media, cough), but I get worried sometimes when people who haven't yet heard the most recent details on TCMC start speculating and cause undue fears that things "aren't happening" or there's some sort of problem--when the reality is that behind the scenes, things are slowly humming along.

Anyway! Interesting to know about the crew change in Milwaukee. I'd heard the same re: St. Paul refueling and general storage/light maintenance as needed; I know there's talk about the old Midway station area being used in some way for those purposes.
 
I am going to risk everyone's wrath and say it - SPUD was a mistake and an exercise in vanity.

- Most people are headed to Minneapolis, long ride on the LRT system to get there,
- Lost the services of Minnesota Commerical to switch cars, be it PV's or a Chicago cut coach,
- Requires engagement of UP dispatcher in Omaha to get in and out (unless things have changed).
- They could have replaced the Midway station house with something like they built in Albany or Rochester, NY.
- Evidently, it is a PIA to refuel.
 
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Why did they need a special inspection when the Empire Builder runs the route daily? Is it something to do with the shorter consist?

I am going to risk everyone's wrath and say it - SPUD was a mistake and an exercise in vanity.

- Most people are headed to Minneapolis, long ride on the LRT system to get there,
- Lost the services of Minnesota Commerical to switch cars, be it PV's or a Chicago cut coach,
- Requires engagement of UP dispatcher in Omaha to get in and out (unless things have changed).
- They could have replaced the Midway station house with something like they built in Albany or Rochester, NY.
- Evidently, it is a PIA to refuel.
I don't know enough about railroad operations to have an opinion on the rest of your points, but as a Minneapolis resident, I prefer a 40-minute LRT ride that drops me off right at Union Depot to a 20-minute ride followed by a mile-long walk dragging my bag to Midway.
 
Why did they need a special inspection when the Empire Builder runs the route daily? Is it something to do with the shorter consist?


I don't know enough about railroad operations to have an opinion on the rest of your points, but as a Minneapolis resident, I prefer a 40-minute LRT ride that drops me off right at Union Depot to a 20-minute ride followed by a mile-long walk dragging my bag to Midway.
It is odd, but I bet you're right--that it has something to do with the shorter consist! Good to hear that Amtrak is slowly progressing and ran the inspection train.

I won't respond in detail to Amtrak 25's point both to keep this thread on-topic ('second train') and secondly because it has been litigated to death for over a decade now. What I will say is: 1. I agree with Silophant generally 2. Many people indeed may be headed to the western suburbs or Minneapolis, but the other side of the coin is that SPUD is more convenient for the eastern/northeastern suburbs and some Dakota County suburbs like WSP, Eagan, etc.
 
That's the rub--the old Midway station is located in-between two LRT stations, Raymond and Fairview, so it's a ~16-17 minute walk (20 or more if you're not as fast as Google says, older/lower mobility, or if it's icy/bad weather) to both the stations. And not a particularly pleasant walk, either, and would just suck in the winter. I know I said I wouldn't engage on this topic more, but it's a personal pet peeve of mine. Having just used Charlotte, NC's Amtrak station, which is many ways isn't dissimilar from Midway (Amshack, located in commercial/industrial area not downtown--but with worse transit access yet also closer to downtown), I just have no desire to go back to anything like that.

And what is Charlotte doing? They're moving the Amtrak stop to Uptown (downtown) Charlotte, in a still-to-be-constructed station! Is that easier to do in a metro area with one central city Yes? But while I agree SPUD isn't ideal in every way, I do not think it's worth further litigating. Also, there are discussions around the second train either terminating in Minneapolis (Target Field) at some point, or stopping at a proposed station in Coon Rapids (slated to serve the Northstar commuter rail line + the NLX to Duluth) if the second train is extended to Fargo in the future. That would help serve those who don't want to use SPUD.
I don't know where the LRT stations are, but it is 0.2 miles from 730 Transfer Road to University Avenue. I have done the 10 minute walk further to the Quality Inn
 
I am going to risk everyone's wrath and say it - SPUD was a mistake and an exercise in vanity.

- Most people are headed to Minneapolis, long ride on the LRT system to get there,
- Lost the services of Minnesota Commerical to switch cars, be it PV's or a Chicago cut coach,
- Requires engagement of UP dispatcher in Omaha to get in and out (unless things have changed).
- They could have replaced the Midway station house with something like they built in Albany or Rochester, NY.
- Evidently, it is a PIA to refuel.

Private varnish cars still are able to be added/removed somewhere in the MSP area - there's some local PV operators that use MSP as a pick-up/drop-off point. Not sure if it's done at SPUD or in a yard somewhere near the old Midway station, but it's doable. Not sure on the operational details, but the refueling issues are likely teething pains that they'll be able to work out.

As for connectivity to Minneapolis, SPUD has the major advantage of being directly connected to a few bus routes as well, along with many more just a couple blocks away. At the old Midway station, you'd have a longer walk than to the Quality Inn to get on the light rail, offsetting most of the time saved by having a shorter light rail ride. It's also a busier area at night, which for me is better than walking through empty industrial parks at 11:30 PM.

This seems a bit like arguing that Chicago's Union Station was a mistake because trains can't be serviced there, so the Chicago station should be down in the Amtrak yards. As long as Amtrak can figure out a good layover yard with refueling options in MSP, I don't see a major issue with those services not being able to be rendered directly at SPUD.
 
As someone who used to work in downtown St. Paul, and hope to visit the Twinn Cities soon, I'd much rather Amtrak stop at SPUD than Midway. Stay at one of several hotels close to SPUD and take convenient transit to MPLS for the day. Midway was nowhere.
Why can’t Amtrak stop in both cities, like they used to do? Even if they do have to find a new location in Minneapolis?

Imagine if they gave up either Fort Worth or Dallas (although they still have their stations, and are further apart, so maybe not a fair comparison)…
 
Why can’t Amtrak stop in both cities, like they used to do? Even if they do have to find a new location in Minneapolis?

Imagine if they gave up either Fort Worth or Dallas (although they still have their stations, and are further apart, so maybe not a fair comparison)…
While I think it might make sense for the TC to CHI train to stop at both, or possibly the train to Duluth, I don't think it's critical that any of them do both, even though I knew people from one twin who swore they never went to the other they are essentially one city with two downtowns less than 12 miles apart, Dallas to Fort Worth is over 30 miles. Connections could be made on local transit or Amtrak could run shuttles. But I have no doubt all the options will be studied, if they haven't been already.
 
2 stations make a lot of sense to this nonresident. I look at BOS, BBY, & route 128 as prime example. But SPUD should be only baggage station. Midway === very iffy but they did refuel EBs there. But if again used the need for better methods of passenger access but also including eliminating the manual turnouts a must.
 
The propsoed Duluth train, theoretically an Amtrak train, will go to the commuter train barn in Minneapolis. I dont know if it will stop at St Cloud.

The new Chi- St Paul train will not go to Minneapolis, unless it extends to Fargo some day and they build a new station there someplace.

So right there is a 12 mile disconnect on two new services, which they should connect with Thruway buses for both trains. Don't expect people to spend on an hour schleping on LRT trains to do so. This is not NYPS and Newark.
 
I think there's reason to be optimistic that TCMC will be extended to Target Field Station in Minneapolis once the NLX project turns it into an Amtrak station. I saw a rumor somewhere (Twitter?) that Amtrak was aiming to combine one of the NLX trips with the TCMC trips similar to the River Runner/Lincoln Service, which makes sense. NLX is just buying into the Midwest pool, and isn't building a heavy maintenance facility, so it's presumably preferable to have a revenue service to rotate equipment in and out of Chicago, rather than deadheading it.
 
The propsoed Duluth train, theoretically an Amtrak train, will go to the commuter train barn in Minneapolis. I dont know if it will stop at St Cloud.

The new Chi- St Paul train will not go to Minneapolis, unless it extends to Fargo some day and they build a new station there someplace.

So right there is a 12 mile disconnect on two new services, which they should connect with Thruway buses for both trains. Don't expect people to spend on an hour schleping on LRT trains to do so. This is not NYPS and Newark.
THe NLX (Duluth train) will NOT go to St. Cloud; it will be splitting off from the BNSF mainline that the Northstar uses to then head north to Duluth, starting on the Hinckely Subdivision (ex. Great Northern line, now BNSF as well). And there is a 99.9% chance it will be Amtrak...there's essentially no one else who could/would operate it. Also, I agree with Silophant that there is a lot of reason to be optimistic that the TCMC will be extended to TFS! Honestly, there will be political pressure if the TCMC--and later, the NLX--are successful.

I said this yesterday in the NLX thread, but I'll say here too: It's important to note that (unless something changed that I am unaware of) part of the passenger rail funding package approved by the MN State Legislature this past session included money to build the long-planned Foley Blvd. Station in Coon Rapids that would serve the Northstar commuter rail line, the NLX, and, along the lines of what you mentioned, Amtrak25, an extended TCMC to Fargo. Now, some people have bandied about the idea of terminating the TCMC in Coon Rapids, but that would never happen, logistically speaking.
 
I think there's reason to be optimistic that TCMC will be extended to Target Field Station in Minneapolis once the NLX project turns it into an Amtrak station. I saw a rumor somewhere (Twitter?) that Amtrak was aiming to combine one of the NLX trips with the TCMC trips similar to the River Runner/Lincoln Service, which makes sense. NLX is just buying into the Midwest pool, and isn't building a heavy maintenance facility, so it's presumably preferable to have a revenue service to rotate equipment in and out of Chicago, rather than deadheading it.
Interesting, I'd not seen that rumor! I will say that, having attended the most recent Great River Rail Commission meeting (virtually) and tracking the project very closely, I've not heard of any of that, so I think the combined idea remains in the realm of rumor.

That being said, it would make sense to me to eventually have at least one of the proposed 4 NLX trips be through-running to Chicago, especially as that trip could theoretically skip the very time-consuming train movement into and out of TFS, and stop directly at SPUD instead. And of course, it would provide the much-coveted "one-seat ride" for passengers. I'd bet that wouldn't happen though, as it would make the scheduling more confusing for passengers ("why does this train not stop at Minneapolis") and would make Mpls boosters unhappy to only have 3/4 trips stopping there. If nothing else, though it would add significant travel time, I guess a Duluth-Chicago train could stop at both TFS and SPUD on the way to CHI.

My overall opinion on the above discussions related to the TCMC's terminus issue (and related NLX conenction) is that travel time is a huge selling point and real concern, and it takes a long time for trains to get between SPUD and TFS. The level of deeply-baked anti-passenger rail skepticism in Minnesota is such that keepinng end-to-end travel times as short as possible while support for these new services builds is important, in my opinion. As much as I hate to say it, adding the at least ~40+ minutes (conservatively; maybe an hour) to trip times to either have the TCMC terminate at TFS, or the NLX at SPUD, would negatively affect perceptions of the services and make things more difficult.

I sympathize with and appreciate the frustation that many have about the disconnect between services at TFS and SPUD, as it is, honestly, annoying. Unfortunately, this is what happens when passenger rail planning and policy are done piecemeal, project-by-project, by separate entities, and over many years, and when intertia behind certain projects like NLX push them forward using the only plans there are, which is to say, imperfect plans. In the meantime, the honest truth is that Lyft/Uber/taxis exist, and takes about half the time (20 minutes driving, 30ish with traffic/wait for ride) of the Green Line. Though I will say, the Green Line takes 45 minutes, not an hour, between the stations, though I take the point that depending on wait time it could take one hour. (And you *can* take the 94 express bus from right by TFS, directly to Union Depot, in about ~35 minutes)
 
A second Twin Cities to Chicago train is sorely needed and long overdue. I quit using Amtrak long ago for traveling this route due to the increasingly unreliable timekeeping of the Empire Builder over the past decade. Because of this, passenger numbers have been on a downward trend at MSP for some time, starting well before the pandemic. St. Paul Union Depot is a beautiful structure but is nearly deserted most of the time. It's grand re-opening was eleven years ago after a restoration cost of $240 million in public funds. Considering how much it costs to maintain and heat/cool this building, it's easy to think of it as a white elephant. I've been there during some Empire Builder arrivals and you may see a few dozen passengers getting on or off into the vast empty spaces of the depot.
 
It is odd, but I bet you're right--that it has something to do with the shorter consist! Good to hear that Amtrak is slowly progressing and ran the inspection train.
I don't know of course, but such inspection trains are often also a way to entertain railroad executives, politicians and others, to gain their buy-in or strengthen support. As others have said, there is not really much to inspect on a route that has been running passenger trains for years.

That is, unless of course, it really was just a routine nitty-gritty technical inspection run having nothing to do with the proposed extra train.
 
Amtrak ran an inspection train over the route today consisting of a P42, three Superliners, and an inspection car.
An article on the Trains.com newswire indicates this was NOT an inspection train, but an excursion train for CPKC employees and their families, to celebrate CPKC's status as Amtrak's best performing Class 1 host railroad,
 
An article on the Trains.com newswire indicates this was NOT an inspection train, but an excursion train for CPKC employees and their families, to celebrate CPKC's status as Amtrak's best performing Class 1 host railroad,
Ah, thank you for the info. Good to know what it actually was! Hoping for some updates (or even the official announcement) from the Great River Rail Commission (GRRC), the DOTs and Amtrak on the TCMC in the coming month or so, but we'll see.

Another tidbit from the Sept. GRRC meeting is that there seems to be disagreement between the 3 DOTs and Amtrak on the TCMC service's final name. Take this with a grain of salt since I heard it on a virtual meeting and wasn't in a place to take notes, but thought I heard the MnDOT rep say that they "would not be moving forward" with the trademarked name (the Great River) that Amtrak came up with. He indicated they were working on another name--interesting if true.

If the potential Great River name is ultimately jettisoned, I could see it being a simple reason: the DOTs might want a more identifiable or classic name for the service in this corridor, either continuing the Hiawatha branding and connecting with the historic named train (so the TCMC becoming the Twin Cities Hiawatha, etc.), doing something totally new/different, or another historic name coming back (e.g. TC Zephyr, 400). I'll be keeping a close on on the GRRC website and DOT sources for updates in the next few months in case any info trickles out ahead of an official announcement.
 
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