West Coast Routes

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JoshP

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Are the trains in the west has same speed limit, 79mph? or they have higher limits due to flat land.

Reason, I asked. I notice #3 Chief is going 91mph right now.

Thanks
 

Cal

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Are the trains in the west has same speed limit, 79mph? or they have higher limits due to flat land.

Reason, I asked. I notice #3 Chief is going 91mph right now.

Thanks
The geography really doesn't matter, well it does but the west has mountains, desserts, plains, and so much more.

In reality, every single western LD train can do 90, but the freight railroads must upgrade the tracks to class 5 standards to allow for those speeds, and they really have no need for it which is why most don't go past 79, which is the limit for class 4 track. However BNSF has upgraded a sizable portion of their track to class 5 standards allowing the Chief to get to 90. Recently some track between St Louis and Chicago on the Texas Eagle route has also been upgraded to class 5, allowing for the TE and Lincoln Service trains to reach 90.
 

JoshP

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The geography really doesn't matter, well it does but the west has mountains, desserts, plains, and so much more.

In reality, every single western LD train can do 90, but the freight railroads must upgrade the tracks to class 5 standards to allow for those speeds, and they really have no need for it which is why most don't go past 79, which is the limit for class 4 track. However BNSF has upgraded a sizable portion of their track to class 5 standards allowing the Chief to get to 90. Recently some track between St Louis and Chicago on the Texas Eagle route has also been upgraded to class 5, allowing for the TE and Lincoln Service trains to reach 90.

Interesting, I though it was due to flat land but thanks for the heads up.
 

HammerJack

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Also worth mentioning that class 5 track doesn’t necessarily mean 90mph running. Per the FRA, you need an automatic train stop or automatic cab signaling system to exceed 79. PTC does fulfill this requirement, but it’s still up to the host railroad to increase the passenger limit. They may choose not to for various reasons. Sometimes crossings need to be retimed for faster operations.
For example, much of the Sunset Limited’s route in New Mexico is class 5 track. The passenger speed is 79, and the freight speed is 70. Upgrading the passenger speed to 90 may require some crossing/signal timing modifications. It’s also worth pointing it out that on busy routes, less of a variation in traffic speed is better. UP is happy to run 79mph and 70mph trains together.
 
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Cal

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Also worth mentioning that class 5 track doesn’t necessarily mean 90mph running. Per the FRA, you need an automatic train stop or automatic cab signaling system to exceed 79. PTC does fulfill this requirement, but it’s still up to the host railroad to increase the passenger limit. They may choose not to for various reasons. Sometimes crossings need to be retimed for faster operations.
For example, much of the Sunset Limited’s route in New Mexico is class 5 track. The passenger speed is 79, and the freight speed is 70. Upgrading the passenger speed to 90 may require some crossing/signal timing modifications. It’s also worth pointing it out that on busy routes, less of a variation in traffic speed is better. UP is happy to run 79mph and 70mph trains together.
Thanks for the extra info. I wonder how fast the Sunset would be if the long layover in San Antonio was cut, some of the (pretty large amounts of) padding was cut, and most of the line where possible is upgraded to 90mph. A lot of it seems like it could handle 90mph running speeds just fine.
 

zephyr17

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Interesting, I though it was due to flat land but thanks for the heads up.
The FRA classes are based on signalling, track construction/rigidity and inspection frequency. They represent the maximum speed allowable for the track classification, through mountains much Class 4 track, max 79 passenger, is speed restricted to much less than that. Those classifications have nothing to do with geography and everything to do with track and signal characteristics.
 
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HammerJack

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However BNSF has upgraded a sizable portion of their track to class 5 standards allowing the Chief to get to 90.

Yes, but the ATSFs Automatic Train Stop system had an equal part in allowing the 90mph running. Remember, without an automatic train stop or cab signaling system, you can’t go faster than 79. That was the reason the Chief was allowed to go 90 (along with the class 5 track). Now, PTC covers the requirement, and the old ATS system is being taken offline.
 

HammerJack

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Thanks for the extra info. I wonder how fast the Sunset would be if the long layover in San Antonio was cut, some of the (pretty large amounts of) padding was cut, and most of the line where possible is upgraded to 90mph. A lot of it seems like it could handle 90mph running speeds just fine.

The Sunset is notorious for it’s schedule padding, and failure to still keep time. Awhile ago, UP and Amtrak struck a deal to rewrite the Sunset’s schedules, adding literal hours of padding in exchange for better time keeping. The result? UP just gobbled up the padding lol.
The layover in San Antonio is mildly justified because of the switch move. A lot of the track in America could handle faster speeds. Speeding to make up time was very common back in the day. Could the Sunset rip 100mph through New Mexico on the existing track? Probably. But as others have mentioned, the FRA sets track class rules based on a multitude of things, and it is what it is.
 

JWM

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A Civil Engineer told me years ago that "superelevation" is the correct term for what many of us call a "banked" turn. Seaboard had numbers of them in Florida as I remember. The track was so smooth that coffee barely moved in a cup. Once Amtrak arrived, the track got rougher and rougher, sadly.
 

jis

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A Civil Engineer told me years ago that "superelevation" is the correct term for what many of us call a "banked" turn. Seaboard had numbers of them in Florida as I remember. The track was so smooth that coffee barely moved in a cup. Once Amtrak arrived, the track got rougher and rougher, sadly.
Suffice it to say that Amtrak does not maintain tracks in Florida, except for a few short segments, and in the early days it was even less. It was the descendednts of the same Seaboard that maintains them to this day, except of course the parts maintained by TriRail and SunRail, and the short segment between Deland and Palatka which is Amtrak's bailiwick now.
 

Amtrak709

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jis: Your recent post caught my attention ref track maintenance "the short segment between Deland and Palatka which is Amtrak's bailiwick now". A railfan all of my 74-year life, I lived in Daytona Beach for most of my life but moved to Georgia in 1998. Spent a good part of 20 years of my life in the 1980's and 1990"s along side the tracks between DeLand and Palatka watching Amtrak ( I used to know every inch of that track). Are you saying that segment of track is now maintained by Amtrak and not CSX??? I did not know this. Thanks!
 
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Just another thought....... Why are we worried about speed?

Maybe we should slow down and enjoy the ride on the LD's

Need speed .... take a plane!

well, while this philosophy has a point, I think many now feel that we should have other reasonable options of transportation to flying and driving.

If rail is going to become a serious alternative, we need a few things from LD trains:
Slightly more speed, many more frequencies, and a higher on time percentage.
 

jis

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jis: Your recent post caught my attention ref track maintenance "the short segment between Deland and Palatka which is Amtrak's bailiwick now". A railfan all of my 74-year life, I lived in Daytona Beach for most of my life but moved to Georgia in 1998. Spent a good part of 20 years of my life in the 1980's and 1990"s along side the tracks between DeLand and Palatka watching Amtrak ( I used to know every inch of that track). Are you saying that segment of track is now maintained by Amtrak and not CSX??? I did not know this. Thanks!
It was funded in the FRA appropriation for transfer to Amtrak from CSX a couple of years back IIRC. I have not recently checked the exact situation. It is of course quite possible that Amtrak has contracterd the maintenance to SunRail or Herzog or someone else, since it is far from any established Amtrak track maintenance base.
 

Cal

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well, while this philosophy has a point, I think many now feel that we should have other reasonable options of transportation to flying and driving.

If rail is going to become a serious alternative, we need a few things from LD trains:
Slightly more speed, many more frequencies, and a higher on time percentage.
I think it needs to be at least not too much slower than driving, meaning 3 hours more at most, not 9.
 
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