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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Take this for what it's worth (trains #1/2)

   
Author Topic: Take this for what it's worth (trains #1/2)
Steve O.
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According to a conductor on #20 today NOL-ATL, trains #1/2 will be discontinued permanently by the end of the year.

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Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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Mr. Toy
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Amtrak's internal rumor mill is at it again. It may be that the source of the rumor was an amendment to an appropriations bill introduced by congresscritter Pete Sessions which would have required Amtrak to eliminate any operating subsidies to the route with the highest "loss per passenger" which is the Sunset. That amendment was defeated.
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mr williams
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But it's not impossible that he meant that the NOL - Florida section will be ended permanently. Sadly, this looks more and more likely by the day given that from what I've read the track has been repaired post-Katrina yet Amtrak seem to have made no effort whatsoever to re-instate service.
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Steve O.
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Well see, I asked him initially if the Sunset East to ORL will be resumed to which he said "not a chance", and then he said "the train will be entirely discontinued by the end of the year". Then of course he said "write your congressman".

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Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Son, while I'm hardly suggesting your reportage falls to the same irresponsible level as did that of Mr. Marderosian (BNSF 1088), some people you X paths with in this life are simply jokesters. This Amtrak Conductor probably visits these railfan boards and gets a laugh when he sees some wild rumor in print - especially one he planted himself.

The most obvious fallacy is that pursuant to ARAA '97, Amtrak is required to give six months public notice of any intention to discontinue service over a route. Even if the Notice is served today, the earliest such discontinuance could occur would be February '08.

These crews can tell a railfan a mile away; even if not carrying an array of imaging gear and bedecked out in railfan apparel. Even though I am dispossessed of both, I still 'stick out' when riding. I know how to walk, i.e. walk on board, and I guess my admittedly 'Inspector Clouseau' bearing shows I have my eyes and ears open and have pretty good knowledge of "what is going on". It is not my intent, but my presence seems to make crew think "they put someone on here'. As a result, when riding nowadays, the only times I leave my room or seat, is to the Diner for meals, the "WC" for NVRMINWAT, and the vestibule to alight. I have no earthly reason to go near the Lounge as I have my own "private stock" to lawfully consume in my room.

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20th Century
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Very true Mr. Norman. The crew probably does sense when a railfan or "spy from above" is onboard. One time they were convinced I was planted on the train to observe/report them. They asked me right out before the train even departed Chicago. Don't carry equipment except my luggage, but I was like a kid in a candy store wandering about.
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smitty195
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I've heard several rumors about this train, but the one rumor that keeps coming back is that the Sunset Limited will be discontinued entirely. The rumor that goes hand-in-hand with that is that they are considering a daily Texas Eagle between Chicago and Los Angeles, thus providing daily service to the southwestern states. There was also something else about extending another train---maybe the City of New Orleans? Heck, I can't remember what the specifics were....it was rumor anyway. But I hope they do something, because in my opinion, right now the Sunset Limited is almost completely useless. The three-day-a-week schedule with arrivals/departures in the middle of the night a few days a week and old and disgusting stations in rotten areas of town is just awful. If I need to go to Tucson (or Phoenix, which passengers trains bypass ENTIRELY), I'll just drive. If I'm in a hurry, I'll fly. The Sunset Limited is not even remotely an option for me---and I'm a big Amtrak supporter and I travel frequently on their trains.
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20th Century
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Smitty, I think there was conversation on this forum about extending the City of New Orleans to Florida.
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smitty195
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That rings a bell.....I think that's the rumor I heard. Although the rumor mill was saying it would not extend all the way to Miami, but would connect with one of the Silver Service trains somewhere north of there. Thanks.....
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notelvis
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I find this rumor to be particularly disturbing in regards to the Sunset. I would hate to see it go away altogether though admittedly it is hardly a 'vital' cog due to it's gross unreliability.

Perhaps rather than outright discontinuance they are considering some restructuring such as....

The route west of San Antonio operating as an extension of the Texas Eagle.

A reroute through Phoenix to the Williams Junction area and thence westward via the old Santa Fe mainline might show some promise.

A connecting train from Dallas to Houston and New Orleans (and hopefully east from there) might work.

We'll see.

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David Pressley

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Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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gp35
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The rumor was the Texas Eagle takeover the Sunset route between LA and San Antonio. The Crescent takeover between San Antonio and New Orleans. The City of New Orleans takeover between New Orleans and Jacksonville. This way Amtrak could eliminate a train without elminating service. However now you will have a late Texas Eagle, late Crescent, and late City of New Orleans.

Clever idea and it gives that route daily service, however bad for riders and Amtrak.

I don't know why Amtrak does not invest in the Sunset route. Florida, Texas, and California make of 3 of the 4 most populated states. California and Texas economies ranks among the top 10 in the world. The Sunset has the potential to out perform the Empire Builder in riders. Yet Amtrak does very little to improve this route. Amtrak recieved an extra $170 million this year, I wonder how they will spend it.

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Geoff Mayo
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Don't you just love those rumours, no matter how you spell it?! Until I hear something concrete from Amtrak HQ in a formal manner, then I'll just gently smile and nod sagely towards the rumourmongers.

One thing I do find interesting though: the 180-day notices - do they apply to the *train* or to service along the *route*? In other words, if the Sunset itself were discontinued and replaced by (for example) a San Antonio - New Orleans - Jacksonville train, could they do that tomorrow as technically the stations are still served, or do they have to wait out the 180 days first?

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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DeeCT
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If I had a nickle for every rumor about the demise of Amtrak routes (and Amtrak itself), I could use the money for one very fine "journey of a lifetime" on the trains.
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gp35
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff M:
Don't you just love those rumours, no matter how you spell it?! Until I hear something concrete from Amtrak HQ in a formal manner, then I'll just gently smile and nod sagely towards the rumourmongers.

One thing I do find interesting though: the 180-day notices - do they apply to the *train* or to service along the *route*? In other words, if the Sunset itself were discontinued and replaced by (for example) a San Antonio - New Orleans - Jacksonville train, could they do that tomorrow as technically the stations are still served, or do they have to wait out the 180 days first?

Geoff M.

I was thinking the samething. I think they could get away with it which is what scares me. Florida to California would require 3 train switches or a trip to Chicago. Bad idea. Florida to California daily Sunset is the only fix to the Sunset money problems. I still say Florida to California Sunset Auto train would sale out everyday.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Geoff M, the 180 day Notice under ARAA '97 applies to a route, not train frequency. For example, when the Three Rivers was discontinued, no notice was required for the NY-Pgh segment, but Notice was required Pgh-Chi as the 3R was the only train operating over its B&O routing.

In the case of any proposal to revise service along the Sunset Route, Notice would be required for any portion that would not have service after such change.

But I must wonder if Amtrak is 'figuring out" how to discontinue service without giving Notice. Such Notice has never been served with respect to NO-Jax, but it appears evident that the only way service will ever be restored to that route would be by court injunction, i.e. failure to give Notice. Possibly congested trackage will rise to the standard of "force majeure' (legalese for "we can't handle it for reasons beyond our control') thus enabling UP and Amtrak to be rid of the Sunset in its entirety without Notice.

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George Harris
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I would think that usomg increases in other traffic as a reason for being unable to handle contractually agreed existing traffic as something that would keep the lawyers and courts busy for a while. Using "force majeure" as the legal base seems shakey since the new business you take on is definitely under your control.
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Geoff Mayo
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GBN, thanks, but frequency wasn't what I meant. However, you do imply that the Sunset as a *through* service from California to Florida could be dropped tomorrow *as long as* other trains still serve all the stations along the same route - even if it meant changing trains along the way.

So, *if* any rumour were true that the Sunset was to be dropped before the 180-day period was up, then that would suggest either replacement by stub trains, say an SAS-NOL plus a NOL-JAX, or some devious political means to get away with it. The remainder of the route is, of course, already served by other trains.

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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4021North
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quote:
The three-day-a-week schedule with arrivals/departures in the middle of the night a few days a week and old and disgusting stations in rotten areas of town is just awful.
I agree, and I also find the rumor disturbing, and the complacency surrounding it. Perhaps because with what's happened to the Sunset already, the process could foreseeably continue (why wasn't service resumed after the track was repaired). There's no service east of NOL, and the rest is only three times a week anyway, would make an excuse to dismantle the rest. When the Sunset East was suspended, it broke a link in one of the major transcontinental routes.

Trains 1/2 in their present condition may not be acceptable, but I don't think discontinuing service is the way to go. Considering the population of the regions it serves, it has the potential to surpass the ridership of the Empire Builder. Stopping the Sunset Limited now will only make it harder to resume that train in the future.

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SunsetLtd
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Very true, it has the potential to become Amtrak's flagship. But no attention is being paid to it. People just label in unreliable and move on. For some people the Sunset is a vital link in the southwest. For example we have lots of college kids returning to school on it from El Paso to Alpine heading to Sul Ross. If UP would treat Amtrak a little better and made SOME effort to getting trains over the road in a timely manner things would be different. They could put it back on it's old schedule and major cities could be served in daylight and on-time. The ridership WILL slowly return.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Agree with both Messrs. 4021 and Sunset.

If I, as "Amtrak's Lord High Imperator", had to run an LD train, I would sooner run it along the Sunset Route than anywhere else. This of course is the fastest growing region in the US. By contrast, the Empire Builder runs through a region with a declining population base; no matter how the train has been "gussied up', what does that hold for the future?

But then as "Lord...', I would wave my diadem and instantly there would be a passenger only NEC along the Sunset Route.

Failing that.....well, we are where we are today.

Oh and for history, I dug out my October 1962 SP timetable; even with two 'streamliners" running Pass to Angels, plus a Mail, service to both Phoenix and Tucson were not completely during people hours. However, the Golden State had set out Pullmans for both cities.

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palmland
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Mr. Norman, I agree that the southwest is a fast growing population and needs to be better served. However, it seems to me a better alternative might be to beef up service on the SWC route (twice a day Chi to KC with connection off SWC at Flagstaff for overnight to Phoenix (ATSF line) then on the now rail banked line back to SP mainline and on to LAX during daylight. For marketing purposes we might call this train the Grand Canyon.

Tucson would be better served by Thruway from Phoenix with stops at the many fast growing intermediate communities (or, if you prefer, urban sprawl). Chicago/KC seems to offer more potential to the southwest than New Orleans or using the current circuitous route of the Texas Eagle/Sunset combination that appeals primarily to railfans.

An enhanced Texas Eagle could continue on to El Paso with a Houston connection. In the not too distant future, I believe New Mexico has plans to connect Albuquerque to El Paso. This would also minimize freight interference.

I suspect UP would interested in putting the Phoenix connection back in service to avoid passenger El Paso to Yuma. Might be more difficult to get BNSF interested. But then we're assuming we have that magic wand.

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gp35
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California 36,457,549
Texas 23,507,783
Florida 18,089,888
Arizona 6,166,318
Alabama 4,599,030
Louisiana 4,287,768
Mississippi 2,910,540
New Mexico 1,954,599
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97,973,475

I don't think the NEC corridor has this many people. Yet Amtrak gives this route 1 train running tri-weekly.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. GP, even if your population figures cited have little bearing on the density when compared with the Corridor, I think it has been adequately acknowledged, even by anti-LD me, that the region served by the Sunset is the fastest growing region in the country.

But UP is having enough difficulty handling the freight traffic proffered to them for shipment along the route; do you sincerely expect that they are to allocate any further track capacity to increased passenger train frequency?

I believe I once learned that during the '50's, or when the Budd SP Sunset was inaugurated over the T&NO, the daily "lineup" was the Sunset, The Argonaut, one "hot freight" named the Blue Streak, one other freight, and locals as needed.

Then as now, the line was single tracked, however the signalling was Automatic Block, but with plenty of Agent-Operators at practically every station.

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George Harris
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In 1950 Phoenix had a population of 106,000
In 2006, estimated population was 1,513,000 in the city limits and 4,039,000 in the SMSA.

Palmland: To restore service on the Phoenix line to the west would require a really heavy duty magic wand. When it went out of service 12 years ago, it was decrepit ABS and decrepit track, mostly 113 lb jointed rail. It could probably be restored as a 25 mph line for a few to several million dollars, but to restore it to anything line a fast passenger line, and by fast, I simply mean over 60 mph, could easily require about $400 million. (There is really almost no difference in cost for new track whether you designate it as 60 mph or 110 mph.) This is new track on existing roadbed, not new track on a new alignment.

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