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Author Topic: Chicago - Florida
Geoff Mayo
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There has been a lot of talk on this forum about extending the City of New Orleans to Florida. I don't know whether the ideas originate from murmerings within Amtrak management, but my question is: is it really worth it in terms of time?

Very roughly, the way the crow flies, Chicago to New Orleans to Jacksonville is 1300 miles. Chicago to Jacksonville direct is 850 miles - two thirds of the distance.

Given that much of the former IC route has relatively good speeds, and I believe CSX does as well east of New Orleans, are there any feasible routings direct from Chicago to Jacksonville with reasonable track speeds, spare capacity, and passing through decent centres of population?

I'm ignoring "old" routings like the Floridian, or any other nostalgic trains, just simply whether it is worth Amtrak extending the CONO to Florida.

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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Steve O.
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I would assume the most direct route would be via Atlanta (former Dixie Flagler route), however ATL-JAX is a VERY congested freight line, and I am pretty sure I heard somewhere that CSX is opposed to passenger trains on that segment. In any case it would require a lot of $$$ at the least. CHI-NOL-JAX is probably the cheapest and easiest option.

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Good morning America, how are ya?

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

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by NativeSon5859:
I would assume the most direct route would be via Atlanta (former Dixie Flagler route), however ATL-JAX is a VERY congested freight line, and I am pretty sure I heard somewhere that CSX is opposed to passenger trains on that segment. In any case it would require a lot of $$$ at the least. CHI-NOL-JAX is probably the cheapest and easiest option.

The shortest route that would take in population centers would be, as mentioned the 'Dixie Flagler' route. CSX now via Evansville, IN, Nashville, TN, and Chattanooga to Atlanta.

Another possibility would be trace the route of the 'Cardinal' to Cincinnati and then the old 'Royal Palm' route on NS via Lexington, KY and Chattanooga to Atlanta.

Obstacles to both are freight congestion, opposition from the host railroads, and no real push from the en route state governments....notably Tennessee and Georgia.

If it happens, it likely happens via New Orleans.

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David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

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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Gilbert B Norman
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Gents, now I know that I'm coming from my usual "the only good LD is one that gives the Amtrak caucus its legislative majority (you know, Mr. Pullman's 218+51+1 stuff)", but I ask we be mindful how the landscape has changed for Chicago-Florida service since A-Day.

Do people still travel from Chi to Fl? of course ("moi" for one), would more ride the train if there was something resembling direct service? likely, but will there again be "market penetration' to the extent that say the "Chief' represents in its market? never.

The City of Miami through 1967 was an impressive train and since it dodged every on line population center save Birmingham, its business was largely "end to end'. "In season" there would be an NP Dome Sleeper (painted to match IC livery), a Twin-unit Diner, a Pullman lounge, as well as the year round Obs-Lounge. Fifteen car consists were not uncommon.

The South Wind with its PRR Red, L&N Blue, NP Green, and ACL stainless "Circus Train' consist was hardly as impressive, but it did serve more populous intermediate points.

The Dixie Flagler was gone even before my time - according to Dr. Bowen's site, it served Atlanta during "people" hours - well of sorts.

But lest we forget, there were considerable "gaps" in the Interstate Highway system on A-Day. Those gaps included Monteagle Pass near Chattanooga, a long and heavily trafficked gap from Dalton to Marietta, and in Florida the Fort Pierce-West Palm gap on I-95 that was not closed until the '90's. As such, the City, which "ran like the Devil", was drive time competitive save college students driving "straight through' kind of stuff.

But the landscape has changed; parts of the City's route have been outright abandoned and others sold to Short Lines that hardly maintain to ROW to acceptable passenger train levels.

But even to address service via New Orleans, which from Amtrak's perspective, could be added with only one additional set of equipment if JAX is end of the line, that would still be the most circuitous route ever operated - a gerrymander equalling that of the Texas Eagle. Save the excursionist market i.e. railfans and Ms. Sojourner, there would be no overhead business whatever.

Now all here who follow my material, know my "problems" with the LD's have nothing to do with the level of on-board service; "more positives than negatives" certainly represents a favorable endorsement from an individual not known for being "ecstatic' about much of anything in this life (just part of having been a CPA). But I will gladly acknowledge that Amtrak really DID put its "best foot forward" circa November 1977 when I did a "bumper to bumper' SB ride on the Floridian. The ten car consist was all Budd and included two Sleepers, two Domes, Diner and Lounge - on time all the way - and little kids in Southern Alabama waved and didn't throw rocks.

The Amtrak caucus is presently of strength to get Amtrak funded for what is needed, let's give this one a rest.

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Geoff Mayo
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Thanks, NativeSon and notelvis. But my question is more of a WHERE and not an if or how. Put it another way, which routes do the "hot" freights take to get to/from Florida from/to Chicago?

quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
The Amtrak caucus is presently of strength to get Amtrak funded for what is needed, let's give this one a rest.

I'm asking a question, Mr. Norman. Please do me the courtesy of allowing people to answer it without you declaring it "at rest".

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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Steve O.
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Here's a link to the CSX system map. My office is right near the mainline running between ATL and Nashville. Nonstop freights all day. I'd venture a guess that the JAX-ATL-NAS line, and then on up from there, gets a huge share of the traffic.

http://www.naikipc.com/popups/csx_systemmap.jpg

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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. Mayo, I'm not the Moderator here, so it is hardly my prerogative to control what topics are discussed at this Forum.

I am of course mindful that PRIIA '08 has directed a feasibility study of restoration of service NO-Jax i.e. the Sunset East. Somewhere this train has a friend, and I guess I must accept the possibility that Amtrak and CSX again will be required to operate such. Although it appears to date either party has shown little in the way of enthusiasm about doing so, Amtrak appropriations have been unimpaired since the service was killed (whoops, "temporarily annulled).

But I should note that if "it is decreed" the service is restored, and especially if that decree calls for Daily service, then the extension of the "City' (CONO in forumese) would represent an efficient assignment of equipment. Only one additional set would be required, and projecting previous schedule times forward to/from NO shows connections at JAX could be made with existing services. Possibly, but not for certain, economies would result if the train would continue to Sanford for servicing at the Auto Train facility.

However, I can't see how beyond the excursionist market, there would be any for trips through NO; even markets such as Jackson-Mobile would represent traversing two legs of a triangle. It is my understanding that passengers making the 1-NOL-58 connection when Sunset East was doing its part to reduce the hourly cost of train travel (i.e. way late), passengers would be bussed/taxied Mobile to Jackson.

Finally Steve O, fka Native Son, your profile Location apparently need be updated.

Posts: 8961 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Steve O.
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Mr. Norman, noted about the profile. Thank you. I alternate between the two cities pretty regulary now.

The "one" time I took train #1 between ORL and NOL, there were a fair number of passengers on it connecting to 58 for destinations beyond CHI. Also, on several trips on 58 heading to CHI while the "Sunset East" was running, the train was held up in NOL waiting for the arrival of the late #1 due to the number of connecting passengers.

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Good morning America, how are ya?

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

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delvyrails
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Personally, I think Amtrak should participate in most of the major travel markets rather than to ressurect traditional operations. There are a bunch of major markets between the Midwest, the Southeast, and Florida for it to exploit. The combination of largest metropolitan areas lie on the Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati-Chattanooga-Atlanta-Jacksonville routing.

With that established, the question becomes one of "Which line between each city pair?".

Granted that the Cardinal already runs over CSX as far as Cincinnati (Amtrak's choice), it's a choice of CSX and NS routes from there to Chattanooga, then to Atlanta, and similarly to Jacksonville. From what I've read on various forums, NS has the greater track capacity in each segment; and so it would be my preference.

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John Pawson

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Gilbert B Norman
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I'll add to the flock Steve O; as I have ridden ORL-1-NOL-58-CHI during both Feb 02 and Feb 04.

During the '02 layove,r I visited the WWII Museum; indeed worth it. During '04, I never left the Magnolia Room at NOUPT.

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George Harris
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The problems I see with a lot of the talking about potential passenger train routings is that people go at it with an "I would not ride this thing, therefore no one else will, either" mindset. News Flash: Not everyone thinks alike. I know in-laws of relatives that will unhesitatingly take 24 hour plus rids on Greyhound, which it appears that most people would consider a form of torture. There are people that will ride 3 days in coaches. We may never again see a 20 car plus City of Miami, and I saw it with over 20 cars regularly in the winter of 62-63, but that does not mean that there is no market for a train between Chicago and Florida. For those who were not around for it, the Floridian suffered more from highly unreliable timekeeping, bad track over much of its route making for a very rough ride, and multiple schedule changes and routing changes on the north end due to the long term collapse of the Penn Central and bad maintenance decisions of L&N leading to track deterioration.

As to the major routing of freight, I think the following is more or less the way it is:

CSX: Chicago-Evansville-Nashville-Birmingham-via Lineville Sub to Manchester GA then down the ex AB&C to Waycross GA, then Jacksonville.
CSX has appaently spent quite a bit, but probably not near as much as is needed to deal with capacity problems on this route. This route would be that of the Dixie Flagler north of Nashville, then the South Wind between Nashville and Birmingham. Between Birmingham, actually Parkwood a few miles south thereof, and Manchester GA the route has long been a heavily used freight route, but never had more than minimal passenger service. South of Manchester GA, we are back on the Dixie Flagler route, but this part has always been crooked and slow. South of Jacksonville, I think the ex-SAL route is the preferred freight route.

NS: I am not sure what they do north of Cincinatti. South of Cincinatti, it is the traditional route of the Royal Palm through Chattanooga, Atlanta, Macon, Valdosta and on to Jacksonville. North of Atlanta they appear to be totally unenthused about hosting any passenger trains. The ex-CofG via Griffin an then south of Macon on the ex Southern line to Jesup GA, they seem to be willing to entertain the possibility, but these lines need major work to run decent speeds. The portion south of Macon does not and has never had signals.

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Geoff Mayo
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Thanks George, that's answered my question in detail and I can trace that route on my SPV maps.

Interesting comment about the Cardinal, John.

Cheers

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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