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Author Topic: This is NOT Going to Happen
notelvis
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At another forum I spotted this recent article in the Pueblo, CO newspaper..... Local politicians would like to see the Southwest Chief remain on it's current route but add a dogleg up to serve Pueblo!

Chief to Pueblo?

--------------------
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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Oh well, what else do municipal governments do with regularity? They pass resolutions - always good for headlines in the local rag, never mind not much else.

Now to 'date' the undated photo; in view of the Phase III equipment livery and four P-42's on the head, this photo was probably taken during the 'Mixto Diario' era; lets just say 2003.

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RRRICH
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How would the SWC get to Pueblo? Would it leave the current route at Trinidad and go to Pueblo, then to La Junta? Or would it have some kind of backup move from La Junta to Pueblo?
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notelvis
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The former Santa Fe has a line from LaJunta to Pueblo (about 65 miles) and the former CB&Q (now all BNSF) has a line south from Pueblo to Trinidad..... something more than 65 miles.

All told, we're talking adding about 100 miles distance to a train which is already operating over a deteriorating railroad.

--------------------
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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George Harris
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There have been cities along the Sunset East that have passeed resolutions asking for its return. As could be expected, none have brought their checkbook to the table, and nothing has happened.
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Vincent206
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Maybe someone should suggest to the New Mexico and Colorado DOTs a state-supported train between Denver and Albuquerque. It's about 450 miles between Denver and Albuquerque. If corridor trains could be scheduled to make good connections to the re-routed Chief in ABQ and the Zephyr in Denver, I'm sure there'd be good ridership. ("Need a couple of trainsets?" wondered Scott Walker.)
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TwinStarRocket
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Seattle-Denver-Pueblo-Trinidad-Amarillo-Dallas-Houston-Jacksonville-Miami with one train. I want it all. Name it "The Scott Walker".
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palmland
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Good idea Vincent, but why not keep it going to El Paso (something Gov. Richardson was contemplating). Then you'd connect to three of the transcons, although you gotta like TSR proposal.

But, more realistically, why doesn't Amtrak just stop the studies and put on a thruway bus from LaJunta. Driving times from there to Pueblo-1'10", Colorado Sprgs.-1'45", Amtrak-Denver-2'50". That would be the best way to gauge demand and make a case to add a train.

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Vincent206
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If the Chief does get rerouted to the BNSF transcon, won't the connection to the old route be at Belen and not ABQ? Will the Chief make a diversion up to ABQ or will the passengers be bused the last miles or will there be a RailRunner connection provided? I could see some benefit to providing a guaranteed train connection to ABQ and Santa Fe via RailRunner.
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RRCHINA
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The trackage lines on a map seem to make several Amtrak scenarios viable. And memories of former passenger trains- 1945 1950 - appear to be doable once more; but much has changed.

The Denver to Alb. proposal finds good track conditions for freight but would need modification for passenger service. The density and length of freight trains between Pueblo and Denver also is a factor substantially different than 1950.

The running time would not come close to being competitive with I-25. And that factor increases from Alb. to El Paso because the track south of Belen is DARK territory with track conditions for freight only, 49 MPH max.

It would take too many $$$ to implement these ideas and I suspect the politicos know it.

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George Harris
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A train between Dener and Albuquerque would be painfully S-L-O-W. Look at any 1960 or earlier schedule of trains between the dots along this line and add time, partiularly between denver and Pueblo, then consider driving time on I-25. You would have to be an absolute train or nothing traveler to be on this thing. Unless the states are willing to spend megabucks on essentially a new railroad, a reasonable run time between these points is simply a hallucination.
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Vincent206
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I looked at historical timetables and saw run times between Denver and Trinidad of over 5 hours and then another 5 hours between Trinidad and ABQ. That's not competitive. I'm most surprised at the slow running between Denver and Colorado Springs/Pueblo. I would think that corridor could be as busy as Portland to Eugene or Seattle to Bellingham if the trains could beat or equal highway drive times.
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George Harris
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If you were to look at the terrain and track alignment between Denver and Pueblo, the slow times would be understandable.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Denver elevation 5280'; Colorado Springs 6035'. Highway distance 68 miles.

Nuff said regarding the terrain?

Finally, there is as much traffic on the paired tracks, UP (D&RGW) and BNSF (ATSF), as there is on I-25.

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Vincent206
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Looking at an on-line BNSF employee timetable for the Colorado Division shows that the Denver to Pueblo/Pikes Peak Subdivision is a very complicated piece of railroad. Obviously it's a main route for Powder River coal trains and the rules and special instructions for the subdivision are quite detailed. No room for Amtrak until demand for coal declines significantly.
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RRCHINA
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There has been an alternative put forth to route the loaded coal trains via a railroad to be constructed upon the grassy plains about 90+- miles east of the current line. This would connect with Las Animas Jct.(85 Miles east from Pueblo) where the loaded trains now turn south toward Amarillo. This would cost big $$$ but would aleviate the congestion created by the urban developement between Colorado Springs and Denver that does not mix well with long, 125 car, coal trains.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by RRCHINA:
There has been an alternative put forth to route the loaded coal trains via a railroad to be constructed upon the grassy plains about 90+- miles east of the current line. This would connect with Las Animas Jct.(85 Miles east from Pueblo) where the loaded trains now turn south toward Amarillo. This would cost big $$$ but would aleviate the congestion created by the urban developement between Colorado Springs and Denver that does not mix well with long, 125 car, coal trains.

This thought has been kicked around for quite a few years. Even if this wonderful hallucination were to occur, it would still not straighten out the multitudinous curves in the current route. The reliability of the passenger trains would probably increase, but the speed, not much.
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PullmanCo
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Recently, in the Kansas City Star, there were articles that place the very existence of 3-4 at some risk...

http://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/28/4576752/without-federal-aid-amtrak-could.html

http://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/28/4581230/amtrak-routes-through-western.html

I can't tell you if Amtrak will cut its losses from Congress or not. I can tell you, given the state of the Federal discretionary budget, that any savings which can be harvested...

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yukon11
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Here is an article on the (abbreviated) concept for the Front Range Project, Ft. Collins to Denver to Pueblo. I had hoped for Albuquerque to Denver to Casper:

http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/earth_to_power/2013/10/cdot-offers-3-routes-for-multi-billion.html?page=all

11.5 to 14 billion for the project.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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As both the McClatchey wire service and the Kansas City Star staff reported articles note, the BNSF 'Transcon' line is getting filled up with traffic. I highly doubt that Warren Buffett had that line essentially double tracked was with the intent of handling passenger trains. As such, an informed source, a BNSF management employee has reported at another site that the Transcon welcome mat could well not be there without substantial Amtrak funded track improvements.

Do nothing about the existing route, and it will be on its way to FRA Class 2; 40mph any class of service - possibly even an outright embargo. As such, 3-4, the Chief, could be the most jeopardized LD train out there. This time, Chico will really call it quits.

Simply because the Chief is scalped (haven't those who have followed 'Hell on Wheels' seen enough of them?) does not obligate the UP to either restore the Desert Wind or allow Daily Texas Eagle frequency. In short, there is a real possibility that CHI-LAX service will be three nights out over an 'uh, rather gerrymandered route'.

I guess such is going the way of 'The Canadian' so far as a means of useful transportation.

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gibg
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Running times between Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo when passenger trains were operated (1950s) were as follows:

Denver and Colorado Springs (68 road miles): lightweight Budd-equipped streamliners (C&S Texas Zephyr, D&RGW Colorado Eagle) 100 minutes.

Conventional trains 120 minutes.

Colorado Springs and Pueblo (32 road miles):
lightweight Budd-equipped streamliners 47 minutes.

Conventional trains 55 minutes.

Denver-Colorado Springs is mostly Joint Line directional running, but there are areas either side of Colorado Springs that are combined single track. Colorado Springs-Pueblo is fairly straight and level.

I know 'cause I used to ride it often.

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palmland
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If the end appears near for the SWC on both route options (Raton/Amarillo), Amtrak should make a deal:

1) With the UP-run a Desert Wind to LA off the CZ at SLC. In return Amtrak discontinues the Texas Eagle except from Ft. Worth to San Antonio. If Arkansas wants to fund a train Little Rock to St.Louis train, great. (UP mileage change +40)

2) With the BNSF - discontinue the SWC east of Albuquerque, in return revive the Texas Chief to Ft. Worth and Houston (with the UP connection to San Antonio) -BNSF mileage change +20

3) Add thruway buses between Tucson or Maricopa-Phoenix and KC to Omaha. Change the present Denver-Raton thruway bus to Ft. Collins-Boulder-Denver-Pueblo. Retain the present bus service Flagstaff-Phoenix and Kingman-Las Vegas (but perhaps on a better schedule).

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DonNadeau
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@ Palmland

What an interesting proposal! You have crafted a number of win-wins.

One question: Will a truncated SWC LAX - ABQ attract enough passengers? Am having a hard time believing so. Albuquerque Metro has just some 900,000 people, with the rest of the route in AZ and NM nearly unpopulated.

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@DonNadeau

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palmland
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Probably not, Don. If this were to occur we'll see how much political clout NM has. But they may not care.

If you add in Santa Fe, and bus connection to El as well as seasonal service to Taos you might increase ridership a bit. Certainly this would be a good spot to use one of those much maligned CCC cars - with the lounge side staffed.

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DonNadeau
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@ Palmland

Thank you.

With through LAX - CHI SWC service gone & a Sunset/Texas Chief combo just 3 times a week, those LAX - ABQ cars of any type are probably needed for the new "City of Angeles" CHI - LAX via DEN & SLC, which would probably have to run as an extra to CZ during peak periods considering Amtrak's car maximum.

I love your proposals. So very much service saved & even enhanced such as Texas - CHI, LAX - Colorado (a huge airline market), etc., etc.

--------------------
@DonNadeau

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yukon11
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I also like your idea, Palmland.

If the SWC goes down, I like the new Desert Wind from LA to SLC. Then, how about if the train continued on to Portland for LA to SLC to PDX, of course with UP approval (if that is possible). Keep the CZ as is.

Richard

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
I also like your idea, Palmland.

If the SWC goes down, I like the new Desert Wind from LA to SLC. Then, how about if the train continued on to Portland for LA to SLC to PDX, of course with UP approval (if that is possible). Keep the CZ as is.

Richard

An interesting idea! The "Inland Starlight"! Was there ever a train that did this, ie LA to PDX/SEA via SLC?

--------------------
Geoff M.

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Railroad Bob
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Geoff--> You could have done it in the days of the "three trains" meeting in SLC in the earlier Amtrak era.

Just take the Desert Wind #36 LAX to SLC, then hop on the Pioneer #25 from SLC to PDX/SEA. Of course, you would have had to wait about 18 hours in SLC for the connection, but it was possible to do it. And have time to be a tourist around SLC for a day in the bargain...

Pre-Amtrak, others here would have to fill in the info about any other UP trains that may have plied this route; but I'm guessing there was a way!

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Gilbert B Norman
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Gents, even though I enjoy an LD ride 'in moderation' every so often, I know I'm the 'nabob of negativism' as to any need for such beyond garnering Federal support to fund a regional operation in the Northeast. But the facts of life are that if Chico calls it quits, the UP is not going to step up and provide more routes and frequencies unless Amtrak funds specific track improvement projects. The Capital Costs of any such improvements would be quite chargeable in their entirety against whichever LD train is benefited - and that will make that train quite expensive - and easily get in Mica's and/or the Teepees X-hair.

It could well be time to accept that the only CHI-LAX service will be 421-422, Eagle/Sunset with its three night out, tri-weekly, frequency, unless one would relish a 5-SAC-704-BFD-5818-LAX itinerary that arrives LA at 220A.

I believe it is simply time to accept regarding LD trains 'there is what there is" and that there will be less of such in the future. Any new or restored routes/frequencies are coming with a high price tag of track improvements that, so far as I'm concerned, the Class I industry has every right to expect.

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RRCHINA
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Mr. Norman, with his RR experience and CPA credentials, is being realistic.
I see only one way for the SWC to continue and that is for the three states, KS-CO-NM,to step up and participate with Amtrak in the costs to continue its present route.

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George Harris
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Recently as in the last couple of years, the route of the Vermonter got a near complete rail relay at government expense, all or mostly Fed, with almost no notice and very little squaking from anywhere.

On a cost per passenger mile this far exceeds the cost of getting Kansas City to Albuquerque back up to condition for 79 mph or even 90 mph operation. It just seems that because the dollar amount is larger and it is outside an area that will predicably vote for the those in political power there is much arm waving about this track project which would benefit far more people.

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by Railroad Bob:
Geoff--> You could have done it in the days of the "three trains" meeting in SLC in the earlier Amtrak era.

Just take the Desert Wind #36 LAX to SLC, then hop on the Pioneer #25 from SLC to PDX/SEA. Of course, you would have had to wait about 18 hours in SLC for the connection, but it was possible to do it. And have time to be a tourist around SLC for a day in the bargain...

Now you've got me thinking. Did the CZ split three ways in SLC at one time? I know at some point the Desert Wind split off at SLC but the Pioneer at Denver, with the latter coming back close to SLC at Ogden.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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DonNadeau
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If you are asking pre-Amtrak, no.

The CZ was an entirely Burlington/DRG&W/Western Pacific operation and UP to LAX & to PDX/SEA was the opposition.

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Geoff Mayo
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Thanks, Don. I guess I should have thought of that!

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Geoff M.

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DonNadeau
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You are welcome. Always pleased when my age allows a few moments of semi-lucidity. [Smile]

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@DonNadeau

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RRRICH
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Geoff -- I seem to recall that, before the CZ switched to the UP (former DRGW) route through Moffatt Tunnel (1983?), while the CZ was still regularly scheduled to travel through Wyoming on the former SP, that in Salt Lake City at that time, the CZ did "split", with one section headed for Portland/Seattle (Pioneer), one section headed for LAX (Desert Wind), and the other section heading to Oakland/S.F. via the Lucin Cutoff (old SP route; the CZ now takes an old WP route from eastern Nevada into SLC, of course all UP now).

In those days, the CZ was a LONG train out of Chicago, and contained through sleepers for all 3 final destinations (Seattle, Oakland, and L.A.)

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yukon11
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by George Harris:
[QB] Recently as in the last couple of years, the route of the Vermonter got a near complete rail relay at government expense, all or mostly Fed, with almost no notice and very little squaking from anywhere.

**********************
George/ could it have something to do with a possible Vermonter extension to Montreal (as per the old "Montrealer")? I read, somewhere, that there could be an expansion, at Alburgh Spings and across the border, to Montreal by 2014. Don't know if anything has come of this.

Richard

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Geoff Mayo
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Thanks RRRICH.

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Geoff M.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by George Harris:
[QB] Recently as in the last couple of years, the route of the Vermonter got a near complete rail relay at government expense, all or mostly Fed, with almost no notice and very little squaking from anywhere.

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George/ could it have something to do with a possible Vermonter extension to Montreal (as per the old "Montrealer")? I read, somewhere, that there could be an expansion, at Alburgh Spings and across the border, to Montreal by 2014. Don't know if anything has come of this.

Richard

The work described is "From St. Albans south to the Massachusetts border", so I would say a restored Montrealer is not in the plan.

See: http://www.railworks.com/track-project/new-england-central-railroad-upgrades
1.495 million feet of rail equals 129.6 track-miles, which ammounts to 2/3 of the track in the quoted 191 miles between St. A and the Mass border. Also in that was 140,000 ties, which would amount to about 1/4 new ties, asuming an average of 3,000 ties per mile. This much work represents a major rehab operation. The stated objective is to increase the passenger speed limit from 55 mph ot 59 mph nort of White River Jct. (unsignalled territory) and to 79 mph south thereof. The real speed WRJ to south will be less than 79 due to curves. This work started in 2010 and is now finished. Somewhere else I saw that the rail section was 115RE. Have no idea what was the size of the rail being replaced. Likewise have no idea of the rail size and age of the 60 miles of rail that was not replaced in this contract.

On the Massachusetts side we have an award of $70 million to restore the Vermonter to the original direct line from the VT border to Springfield.
http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/knowledgecorridor/
It says January 28th without the year, but Copyright 2009 at the bottom of the sheet. However, the current Amtrak schedule does not show it being back on this line.

They may have more trains in mind, but right now all this is being done for the benefit of one train a day.

Meanwhile Connecticut is busy replacing the 2nd main between New Haven and Springfield.

Posts: 2693 | From: Olive Branch MS | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Vincent206
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Aren't those projects in New England funded by ARRA money? Those lines are considered state supported routes by Amtrak and therefore had the resources of the various state DOTs to apply for ARRA funds to upgrade the rail infrastructure. The SW Chief doesn't have any state DOT looking after its well-being and it seems to have missed out on the ARRA funds (like the rest of the LD trains). Most state DOTs have studied and cataloged the improvements that their state supported routes need to improve service. When the federal money appeared, they were ready to pounce.
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