You've been appointed President of Amtrak....with a catch

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jiml

OBS Chief
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Feb 27, 2019
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891
@Thirdrail7, I agree with most of your suggestions, and in fact you've mirrored what I was going for with the Capitol with its Florida extension replacing an existing Silver.

Next, I tie up WTC with retimed Capitol Limited, aka The Capitol Punishment. Equipped with Superliners, I would push back the departure time at CHI to 11pm, run it through Ohio (picking up stops at AKO, FOS, GAR before arriving PGH at 10:30p. Passengers at PGH can transfer to Train 44, the second Pennsylvanian that I would restore . Through passengers continuing to WAS would arrive, at 6ish, where the train would hold and receive new engines and a 1500 mile inspection. It would depart on the current Silver Meteor schedule and operate to MIA. Passengers from BOS/NYP would transfer from train 171 (or 2163) at WAS. The Capitol from MIA would depart WAS for CHI at the same time, connecting with pas at PGH with the later version of the Pennsylvanian.
I don't think anyone was suggesting running Superliners on the NEC, beyond a run-through of the Superliner-equipped Capitol. I know Superliners can run south from WAS, having ridden a Superliner Cardinal several years ago, but you raised a question that I long wondered about vis-a-vis the upper and lower levels of Union Station. IIRC the Capitol uses the upper level and southbound Superliners would use the lower. Are the logistics in place currently to allow a run-through as suggested?

Can I also ask you to check your Capitol times above. I presume one of the first two times is AM, presuming the PGH arrival?

My next controversial move would involve the California Zephyr. I'd run two sections of it. The advance section, which would leave at 10am would split at DEN and head to SEA as the Pioneer. The second section would leave on the current schedule, would split at SLC and continue as the Desert Wind. This arrival times at LVS, SEA and LAX wouldn't be too bad. You would also bring back Wyoming and Las Vegas into the mix.
Would the advance section also include one to Emeryville, or just Pioneer - Desert Wind splits, with the later train resembling the current one?

Thanks... great reply as usual.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
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May 13, 2014
Messages
321
I agree with the original concept about keeping the Lake Shore and running it through Michigan and adding the Broadway Limited (or possibly retaining the Capitol Limited) to serve cities south of Lake Erie. However I would run the LSL through Canada to shorten the overall schedule.

The other thing that is a no-brainer is to have some Florida train going down the FEC. This could be a Chicago - Miami Superliner and should be very successful. I suppose a JAX-ORL or JAX-TAMPA section could be a part of this.

BTW - Brighline has built freight bypasses at every passenger station so far and a low level platform could easily be built on those bypass tracks. Also there is talk about reviving the Jacksonville railroad terminal which is located south of the tracks Amtrak now uses.
 
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ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,301
Okay, here goes:

  1. Lake Shore Limited: Keep as is, including Boston section
  2. Silver Meteor: Keep as is; "experiential" treatment. Include section to Tampa. Second frequency daily. Edit To Add: New corridor train Tallahassee-JAX-TPA-MIA.
  3. Crescent: Extend to NYP-SAS as through train; include "Crescent Star" section from Meridian to Fort Worth connecting with Texas Eagle.
  4. Texas Eagle: Extend to CHI-LAX via FTW and SAS, connecting at FTW with Crescent Star and at SAS with Crescent. Run daily. Edit To Add: If I wasn't already up at my limit on sections I'd add a split section DAL-HOS, but if I can keep the existing bus service to/from Longview that'll do for now...however, see fourth bullet point below.
  5. Southwest Chief: Keep as is; "experiential" treatment.
  6. California Zephyr: Keep as is; "experiential" treatment. If the mileage restriction on the section can be relaxed I would operate a Pioneer section Green River to Seattle, but the Crescent Star is a higher priority for me.
  7. Empire Builder: Keep as is including Portland section.
  8. Coast Starlight: Keep as is; "experiential" treatment.
  9. City of New Orleans: Extend CHI-MIA.
  10. Broadway Limited/Capitol Limited CHI-NYP with section to Washington. "Experiential" treatment. Second frequency daily.
Additional items:
  • Reinstitute agent and checked baggage service at as many stations as possible. We NEED a face in our local communities!
  • Full dining service on every long distance train. I'd even include dining car service on longer corridor runs, such as BOS-WAS.
  • Speaking of that, sleeping car service on 66/67.
  • Place notices on every train and in every station asking patrons to write their representatives and petition them to relax the ridiculous number of trains and length of mileage segments limits. With reliable service coming from cooperative (well, maybe at gunpoint? ;)) freight railroad partners, this should be a no-brainer.
 
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jiml

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
891
However I would run the LSL through Canada to shorten the overall schedule.
That was actually done for several years both pre and post Amtrak. It's a great idea, but some trackage has been removed and there is no way it's going to happen unless the train runs sealed with no Canadian stops.
 

ehbowen

Conductor
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Mar 22, 2011
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If I can play freely with corridor services, I'd extend some of the Michigan trains to Toledo as in the former Amtrak The Lake Cities.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
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May 13, 2014
Messages
321
That was actually done for several years both pre and post Amtrak. It's a great idea, but some trackage has been removed and there is no way it's going to happen unless the train runs sealed with no Canadian stops.
We have discussed this on other sites and threads. There is a possible routing and I have been told the tracks in Canada are in great shape. Add to that 110 mph running in Michigan and also eventual higher-speed trackage in New York State and you have a very speedy overnight CHI - NYP service.
 

ehbowen

Conductor
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Mar 22, 2011
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We have discussed this on other sites and threads. There is a possible routing and I have been told the tracks in Canada are in great shape. Add to that 110 mph running in Michigan and also eventual higher-speed trackage in New York State and you have a very speedy overnight CHI - NYP service.
The route may exist, but keep in mind it's in a whole 'nother country. Without the stick of RPSA1970 and related legislation hanging over their heads, we may not have a sweet enough carrot to secure the cooperation of the Canadian railroads. Particularly since, if we extend an especially sweet deal to them, the freight railroads in this country (with good reason) will expect the same treatment as well.
 
Joined
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Love your idea about the Luxury Train to Florida, especially the Sun Lounge!
Thanks, Jim. But I can’t take credit for coming up with that—I read a Passenger Train Journal article a while back on Florida’s earlier luxury trains, and they had a picture of a lovely sun lounge!🙂
 

jiml

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
891
We have discussed this on other sites and threads. There is a possible routing and I have been told the tracks in Canada are in great shape. Add to that 110 mph running in Michigan and also eventual higher-speed trackage in New York State and you have a very speedy overnight CHI - NYP service.
Without CSX's former mainline through Southern Ontario, which has been severed or short-lined, it will not be as fast as "back in the day". Of course it's still possible and would be faster than the current route, but probably not enough to justify.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
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May 31, 2009
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Without CSX's former mainline through Southern Ontario, which has been severed or short-lined, it will not be as fast as "back in the day". Of course it's still possible and would be faster than the current route, but probably not enough to justify.
Gonna require a different President and Democratic Senate before this could happen!
 

IndyLions

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
316
If I can play freely with corridor services, I'd extend some of the Michigan trains to Toledo as in the former Amtrak The Lake Cities.
If the LSL runs thru Michigan (and not thru Canada) this is pretty much a requirement. This is a track segment I’d like to see the State of Michigan acquire.
 

IndyLions

Lead Service Attendant
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Nov 6, 2016
Messages
316
The route may exist, but keep in mind it's in a whole 'nother country. Without the stick of RPSA1970 and related legislation hanging over their heads, we may not have a sweet enough carrot to secure the cooperation of the Canadian railroads. Particularly since, if we extend an especially sweet deal to them, the freight railroads in this country (with good reason) will expect the same treatment as well.
Lots of posts (including this one) about LSL service through Canada to shave time. But what about trains to Toronto?

Once the Michigan Central Terminal (e.g. Ford Autonomous HQ) is back up and running - I’d love to see a connection re-established between VIA & Amtrak between Detroit & Windsor. My understanding is there is a railroad tunnel to Canada . Even if through train service isn’t initially in the cards, wouldn’t it be great if you could get off a train in Detroit and in a few minutes (maybe thru a light rail connection) get on another one in Windsor? (and vice-versa). You can of course do that today but you are on your own with a taxi and/or bus ride.

The goal ultimately should be thru service of course.
 

jiml

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
891
Lots of posts (including this one) about LSL service through Canada to shave time. But what about trains to Toronto?

Once the Michigan Central Terminal (e.g. Ford Autonomous HQ) is back up and running - I’d love to see a connection re-established between VIA & Amtrak between Detroit & Windsor. My understanding is there is a railroad tunnel to Canada . Even if through train service isn’t initially in the cards, wouldn’t it be great if you could get off a train in Detroit and in a few minutes (maybe thru a light rail connection) get on another one in Windsor? (and vice-versa). You can of course do that today but you are on your own with a taxi and/or bus ride.

The goal ultimately should be thru service of course.
There is definitely a tunnel at Windsor. It belongs to CP. Like the more northerly one at Port Huron, MI (Sarnia) it can accommodate double-stacks and therefore Superliners. It does lack connecting tracks between the line currently used by VIA (CN) and at the Detroit side (freight-only).

A couple of years ago our provincial government made a bit of noise about taking over VIA's corridor from Toronto to Windsor (the poor stepchild of the rest of the corridor) and having GO Transit run trains through to Detroit. Lots of talk, no action, then fast-forward to today's situation.

The Tunnel Bus has to be the most informal way to cross the border in either direction that I've ever used. It's gotten worse in the last few years - like every crossing, but still is the lifeline for people who work in one country and live in the other so delays are minimal. Recent events have highlighted the fact that almost 1/3 of Detroit's health care professionals are from Windsor. This includes not only Canadians, but Americans benefiting from Windsor's lower housing costs.
 

Thirdrail7

Conductor
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I know Superliners can run south from WAS, having ridden a Superliner Cardinal several years ago, but you raised a question that I long wondered about vis-a-vis the upper and lower levels of Union Station. IIRC the Capitol uses the upper level and southbound Superliners would use the lower. Are the logistics in place currently to allow a run-through as suggested?
Yes. Most of WTC have the clearance to handle the Superliners. The key is the lower level, which will allow the run-through service. Track 27 is the only, through track that can not handle the Superliners.

Can I also ask you to check your Capitol times above. I presume one of the first two times is AM, presuming the PGH arrival?
Sorry. The arrival time in PGH is around 1030 AM. Despite the qualifying terms of "appropriate priority to passenger trains," there still needs to be a cushion for delays, track work, etc at PGH.

Would the advance section also include one to Emeryville, or just Pioneer - Desert Wind splits, with the later train resembling the current one?
Both trains would go to EMY but the first section would split to the Pioneer while the later train would operate to EMY and split to the Desert Wind.
 
Joined
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I believe that if you think of Amtrak's main purpose as providing transportation, any route list would have to start by deciding which markets need to be served. Just for fun a few years ago, I took a look at what it would take to connect the 25 biggest U.S. metro areas either though direct trains or same-day connections along reasonably direct routes, and to further provide some kind of daily service to markets 25 through 50. When I worked it out, it took 15 long or medium-distance routes (plus some corridor connections) to accomplish that. but presumably, if you wanted to whittle that list down to 10 routes, you could limit the number of metro areas that would have to be served.
 
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A big hole today is the lack of Chicago to Florida service - and I don’t really have a great answer to that one. One approach would be keeping the Capitol and adding a Miami section - which was done in the past. Another option would be to bring back the Floridian, but there aren’t any tracks left. I’m going to compromise and hang on to the City of New Orleans - but add a Jacksonville, FL section (ala the Gulf Wind). Yes - I know there are issues New Orleans to Jacksonville - but those can be overcome. The schedule is still going to suck - but it's the best I can do on short notice.


[/QUOTE
While it's true that many parts of the Floridian route have been scrapped or downgraded, the CSX route between Chicago, Atlanta and Florida could be an option.
 

TWA904

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 9, 2011
Messages
31
3rd rail. We still have the problem of the Crescent south of ATL. Northbound out of ATL would have multiple trains late.

On the Crescent, why is south of Atlanta a problem. BHM-NO and ATL-NO are both in the top five cities pairs in ridership and NYC-NO is eight according to the 2018 Amtrak fact sheets. I realize ATL-NYC and ATL-WAS are 2 and 3 in terms of ridership, but why does ATL need additional north bound service. Over the last few years ridership for ATL and lost nearly over 30,000 passengers a year. Ridership is declining about 3000 to 5000 a year. I would like to see the Crescent rerouted thru Raleigh.
 

AGM.12

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 3, 2018
Messages
72
So if I read this right, the two trains that come the closest to breaking even of all the LD trains, Auto Train and the Palmetto, would be ended or spun off somehow. Does this sound like something that makes sense? As a starting point I would look at the farebox recovery percentages. Any of these trains under 50% recovery I would look at as possible candidates for dropping. This assumes an honest accounting system.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
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319
Whoops - I screwed up. I looked up the Spokane <> Portland distance and got it wrong - as that was the basis for my limit. We’ll bump it up to 400 miles.

The 750 mile limit was to allow the Desert Wind section - which I think is 625 or something. 750 seems like a “round” number around here.
You were close. The OWRR&N (UP) line from Portland to Spokane via Umatilla was 368 miles. When the main line was relocated through Hinkle Yard the UP was 371 miles. The SP&S was 379½. In 1976 I did a study of a PDX/California section of the Empire Builder for my employer, OreDOT. We proposed using the original route (OSN-NP) via Villard Junction (near Wallula, Washington) which would have brought it through Pasco, Hinkle, The Dalles and Hood River. By skipping the stop at desolate Hinkle, it would have created a Spokane/Whitefish connecting schedule at The Dalles with the schedule we had recommended for the initial Pioneer. I don't have it handy, but it would have been around 380 miles. Instead, people made unrecommended transfers by taxi between The Dalles and Wishram.

750 miles came with the PRIIA. I mentioned above a couple of reasons that were kicked around during the legislative process, but the other theory is that it is arbitrarily ten times the previously set 75 mile floor adopted early in Amtrak legislation. (The 75-mile limit was intended to prevent Amtrak from taking over commuter operations, but to allow it to run Clockers on the NEC. That inadvertently (?) ended with them picking up Chicago-Milwaukee, which was not part of the USDOT plan.)

You'll be shocked to learn that there were politics involved.
 

Thirdrail7

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3rd rail. We still have the problem of the Crescent south of ATL. Northbound out of ATL would have multiple trains late. BHM - MOB like it much but will have the problem of leaving late most days due to late arriving Crescent.
You have forgotten some of the ground rules:

New legislation has been passed that dictates that freight railroads that don't give appropriate priority to passenger trains will be swiftly and severely punished.
As such, OTP isn't as much of an issue.

A second train north out of ATL should go by Raleigh which has much more ridership potential than DAN and LYH.
No, it shouldn't as I have corridor trains already taking care of that and I'm also trying to give places like GRO,CLT better departure times. They will have better times going to the south, will have better connections to CVS, which will also see an increase in service. Albermerle county is still an emerging territory.

Additionally, feel free to make your own schedule and make your own route. with your own frequencies.
 

Thirdrail7

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On the Crescent, why is south of Atlanta a problem. BHM-NO and ATL-NO are both in the top five cities pairs in ridership and NYC-NO is eight according to the 2018 Amtrak fact sheets..
He's talking about congestion delays and congestion issues. However, we have priority on this mythical railroad.

So if I read this right, the two trains that come the closest to breaking even of all the LD trains, Auto Train and the Palmetto, would be ended or spun off somehow. Does this sound like something that makes sense? As a starting point I would look at the farebox recovery percentages. Any of these trains under 50% recovery I would look at as possible candidates for dropping. This assumes an honest accounting system.
Well, let's read your thoughts. The Auto Train was spun off as a condition, probably because it does come close to covering its cost. AS such, a private enterprise has taken it.

The Palmetto has always performed reasonably well since it is a day tripper, without dining or sleeping cars. It also runs on a route with multiple frequencies and operates live over the NEC.

That being said, that is the reason in my mind that it becomes expendable.
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
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This is a great 'what if' game for all us house bound railfans. Thanks IndyLiions.

Many good ideas suggested by all. As a resident of the southeast and frequent Palmetto rider I was surprised to see many eliminating or truncating it. From the days of the SCL the Carolinas have been a source of good ridership to the NEC and it is at or near the top of the best financial performers. Part of the reason for that is its daylight times in the south. To better retain that traffic, I would modify the Silver Star schedule and have it leave NY earlier and return later It would operate via the A line, like the Meteor. A section would split at Richmond for Raleigh and terminate in Columbia. The Meteor would continue.

I like the idea of having the Starlight being multiple corridor services (but they should all have a SSL and BC!) I would do the same for the LSL. That's a route that is trending that way now, at least in NY state but include corridor trains Buffalo-Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit. That of course enables a return of the Broadway and once again Amtrak will offer a one seat daily ride from Philadelphia to Chicago as well as a second train to NYP-PGH. Perhaps it would include a connecting sleeper from Boston. The eastbound departure would be later to protect connections. The Pennsylvanian would be rescheduled to provide separation with the Broadway. The Broadway would have a Washington section connecting via Harrisburg and Baltimore as was done in early Amtrak.

The Cardinal would continue but operate as a daily daylight train Chicago-Cinci and overnight to Washington. A section would split at Charlottesville and operate to Richmond (VA DOT is apparently buying that trackage Charlottesville-Doswell). It would have a through coach and sleeper for Miami connecting to the Star. In Indy, it would have a Thruway connection to St. Louis.

The Crescent would continue but would split at Birmingham. It would spin off a Montgomery-Mobile-New Orleans section (344 miles). The main train would continue to Meridian but then take the KCS to Shreveport and Dallas. That would make it a two night train.

The CONO would keep its present schedule but be timed to connect with the Crescent in Jackson.

In the west, no change on the EB, SWC, CZ.

I would reroute the Texas Eagle over BNSF via KC to Ft. Worth which provides a second daily service between KC and Chicago and finally connects Oklahoma City with Chicago. It would have a Dallas connection and the main train would continue to Austin and terminate in San Antonio.

NM would have a corridor train from El Paso-Las Cruces-Albuquerque to connect to the SWC. The SWC would split at Flagstaff (or Winslow for servicing) with a section going to Phoenix and Tucson. A through sleeper and/or coach would operate on the River Runner STL-KC.

Included: SWC, EB, CZ, Texas Eagle (Chief), CONO, Crescent (Star). Broadway, Cardinal, Meteor, Star,
Not included: Palmetto, LSL, Sunset, Starlight, Capitol

The experiential trains would be: SWC (renamed Super Chief), Broadway, CZ, Meteor, and EB.
 

Dakota 400

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Mar 5, 2014
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The Cardinal would continue but operate as a daily daylight train Chicago-Cinci and overnight to Washington. A section would split at Charlottesville and operate to Richmond (VA DOT is apparently buying that trackage Charlottesville-Doswell). It would have a through coach and sleeper for Miami connecting to the Star. In Indy, it would have a Thruway connection to St. Louis.
Many interesting ideas to consider. As for the Cardinal, may I suggest at Indianapolis a turn to the East into Ohio with a stop at Dayton and perhaps going as far as Columbus. Then, on to Cincinnati, etc.

Not sure whether the tracks for such a route still exist and I know that a station would have to be built for Dayton and Columbus stops.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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2,358
I would say.... let’s not waste money on experiential routes, let’s continue to serve as many routes as possible.

Taking money away from some routes and piling it on experiential trains is a terrible idea imho.
 

IndyLions

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
316
So if I read this right, the two trains that come the closest to breaking even of all the LD trains, Auto Train and the Palmetto, would be ended or spun off somehow. Does this sound like something that makes sense? As a starting point I would look at the farebox recovery percentages. Any of these trains under 50% recovery I would look at as possible candidates for dropping. This assumes an honest accounting system.
It’s a fantasy where politicians realize that the purpose of trains is transportation and not a for profit enterprise (that should be the first clue it’s a fantasy). In this fantasy billions and billions are being spent on corridor service all over the country - and its been decided to only operate 10 LD trains - but run them very well with an excellent level of service.

I sold the AutoTrain because it’s kind of a unique animal - and it was a great way to get a bunch of extra Superliner equipment - including some unique Deluxe sleepers. :)
 
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