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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Southwest Chief "In The X-Hair" (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Southwest Chief "In The X-Hair"
sojourner
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Palmland, you're right; I for one am not wedded to Amtrak and am happy to have trains, private or public. But when are they coming? I thought there was to be a train Orlando to Tampa ages ago, but there isn't. That one little Sun line, whatever it is, that got put in in Winter Park is very local, commuters only. PS I think a train ought to go all the way to St Augustine. One of my favorite towns.
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Ocala Mike
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sojourner, you're conflating SunRail and Brightline, I think. As for me, I'm more concerned with the downgrading of Florida LD service.
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Gilbert B Norman
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There is an authoritative report at another site that the Boy Scouts' Philmont Ranch will not open this Summer. This is account the risk of fire damage in Northern New Mexico.

If there was ever an opportunity for Amtrak to "Tomahawk Chop the Chief", this has got to be it. They could maybe avoid the 180 Day Notice citing the possibility of fires.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by sojourner:
I thought there was to be a train Orlando to Tampa ages ago, but there isn't.

Ms. Sojourner, is not 91-92, Silver Star, a train?
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Ocala Mike
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It's a train in a sense - I think Margaret is thinking about HSR between the two points, a la I-4.
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Gilbert B Norman
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A staff reported article appears in the Albuquerque Journal that summarizes more objectively then some material generated by the advocacy groups regarding the Chief.
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Vincent206
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My last trip on the Southwest Chief was in January 2016. I enjoyed that trip but it was easy to notice that the Chief's infrastructure was worn out. Most of my rail trips are between Seattle and Portland, which might be the most up-to-date and well maintained 79mph rail infrastructure in America. The Southwest Chief, by comparison, runs on tracks that are from another era. I can understand Amtrak's dilemma: finding money to fix an old rail plant that only serves 2 trains a day is difficult and Congress isn't going to drop hundreds of millions of dollars into Amtrak's lap. But Amtrak's solution to this problem, as spelled out in the Anderson Presentation, is a terrible way to fix the problem.

For decades Amtrak has been calling for states to pitch in and help with the long distance trains. Since 2016, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico have collaborated on finding money to get the rails fixed with federal and local dollars. Much of the trackage has already been fixed in KS and CO. Another grant has been earned to improve most of the remaining bolted tracks in NM and fix other bits of ancient infrastructure. But now Amtrak is balking and threatening to annul parts of the Chief because there isn't a total solution to fix all the problems.

Amtrak has always operated on an incremental improvement basis. There never is enough money to make all the problems go away. And in this case, the states have stepped up. In the future, I can't imagine any state would be willing to put money on the table and shovels in the ground if Amtrak decides to replace train service with buses on the KS to NM corridor.

On the last page of the Anderson Presentation, the slide reads "Amtrak wants to partner with the states to expand corridor services to and from this corridor". If Amtrak is serious about partnering with the states to expand corridor service, they had better come up with a better solution than 7 hour bus rides.

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sojourner
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Mr Norman, I was talking about that Sun Line, or whatever that private rail service is. I thought it was initially supposed to go all the way to Tampa but then it didn't. In fact, I thought there was supposed to be more service, but then the (Republican) governor shot it down.

Unrealiable LD trains is not something commuters and other more local travelers really want between Orlando and Tampa. Last time I took the Silver Star, 4 years ago, it was over 3 hours let getting to Lakeland, and that was NORTHBOUND from Miami!!!

Vincent, I so agree with your last paragraph. And, in general, when the government negotiates something, it should not reneg except in extreme circumstances.

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palmland
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One of the towns that will lose their train on the SWC route is Las Vegas, NM. Alan Affeldt, the owner of the Plaza hotel there (and La Posada in Winslow) is restoring the former Harvey House, La Castaneda, in Las Vegas.

This really is a great small town that apparently has their hopes for a renaissance pinned on the restoration of it as indicated by the Mayor in
this article.:

“The renovation of this historic hotel helps make this a more attractive rail destination,” she said in an email. “It is our hope that La Castañeda will serve as an anchor business for the renovation of Las Vegas’ railroad business district, and that the railroad district will in turn be a portal into Las Vegas for railroad tourists visiting this historic city.”

While some may think this is wishful thinking, they should go to Winslow. That far less attractive town really has had a rebirth thanks to the tourist dollars La Posada brings as well as from the art work of his wife, Tina Mion.

With this is mind I have written Mr. Affeldt and provided various articles and commentary on the subject, including Anderson's presentation. Knowing him, I suspect he is already working with his congressional delegation to make their voice heard.

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Vincent206
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The 2017 TIGER grant, awarded to Colfax County NM, is available online. The document shows how much work the states have put into preserving the Southwest Chief and what the latest grant will repair. If Amtrak pulls out at this point, no state should ever trust the Anderson/Amtrak regime again.
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yukon11
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Mr. Palmland, if the SW Chief is still around in a few years, I might be able get in a visit Las Vegas, NM. Also, possibly a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec if I have the time.

Does anyone know why the SW Chief doesn't stop in Santa Fe? I think it would be a much more popular stop than, say, Albuquerque. Santa Fe has a great opera house and a fine symphony, playhouse, the Santa Fe RR arts district, fine restaurants, and other attractions.

Richard

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palmland
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Vincent, thanks for that impressive write up. I’ll forward it to Mr. Affeldt.

Richard, the Cumbres and Toltec is my favorite Narrow gauge operation. Be sure to ride eastbound from Chama up the ruling grade. There are no deluxe accommodations there but the place just reeks of a real railroad operation rather than the tourist excursion that it is. Unlike the Durango and Silverton you can wander the property at will.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:
Does anyone know why the SW Chief doesn't stop in Santa Fe?

Because Santa Fe is at the end of a short branch line. The "Rail Runner" commuter service goes there, partly on the AT&SF passenger main, part on a new line, and part on the Lamy to Santa Fe branch. No main line train has ever gone to Santa Fe.

By the way, would the AT&SF be some sort of unique case in that it serves or did serve all the points in its corporate name, (does it still serve Atchison KS? ) but none of them were on their main line, and Topeka was the only one that was served by any of their through main line passenger trains, and not all those that went west out of Kansas City.

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PullmanCo
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The good news is Kansas ended FY18 with $300M in operating surplus.

The bad news is the State Supreme Court said the amount of money the legislature pumped into the K-12 was about $500M under the target.

I don't think Kansas will actually fund the Hutchinson-CO state line track improvement job for the BNSF anytime soon.

As for those who think 3-4 could be re routed onto the Transcon, If I were one of Mr Buffett's managers, I'd be saying "cash up front, please". Amtrak walked away from the San Francisco Chief and ATSFs Transcon 47 years ago.

--------------------
The City of Saint Louis (UP, 1967) is still my standard for passenger operations

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PullmanCo
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The ATSF merged into the BN over 20 years ago. BNSF was bought by Warren Buffett a few years back. It's a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.

--------------------
The City of Saint Louis (UP, 1967) is still my standard for passenger operations

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yukon11
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https://is.gd/CxODuu

It looks the song lyric will not have to be changed to "on the Atchison, Topeka, and the Greyhound Bus".

From the article:

"On Wednesday, the US Senate passed a transportation appropriations bill with an amendment that includes $50 million in funds for track maintenance and safety improvements on the Southwest Chief’s route and compels Amtrak to stick to its commitment of providing matching funds for a federal grant to improve tracks along the passenger train’s route in Colorado."

Richard

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palmland
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Richard, that is good news for citizens of western KS and eastern NM. Let’s hope the House and President feel the same.
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Vincent206
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That's an interesting photo accompanying the article about funding for the SW Chief.
quote:
An Amtrak passenger train arrives in downtown Wichita just before noon on Friday. The company was making a test run between Dallas and Kansas City to see about the viability of starting passenger train service on the I-35 corridor.

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Gilbert B Norman
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I think most interesting from the development Richard reports here, is that Anderson has now learned he is not the "Rail Baron" he might have thought himself to be. I'll place my bets that, as often in the past, the Board gave him the hollow promise "you have free hand...reducing deficits are first and foremost". Well, now he starts and look what happens.

Secondly, who could have ever thought differently about Congress? Well, they fooled me as I did.

When it appears commendation is order of the day having provided record funding, it also comes down to "fine, build a modern and efficient passenger transportation system concentrated in regions where rail travel can be competitive....but oh, don't touch MY train".

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Vincent206
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If Anderson had killed the Chief, I think it would have had a devastating effect on the relationship between Amtrak and many of the state DOTs. Compared to some other states, CO, KS and NM don't contribute much to passenger rail service, but they were willing to back the Chief with political clout, a little bit of money and some local level resourcefulness in applying for grants. If Anderson had taken all that effort and run it over with a Greyhound bus, every other local community and jurisdiction would forever be reluctant to contribute any time or money to improving their Amtrak service. "Remember what happened to the Southwest Chief?" would be the chant every time Amtrak asks for help in the future.
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sojourner
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I am delighted that there are still some Republican politicians willing to support Amtrak, as those senators who supported this KS-CO-NM effort have done. And things are sounding better for the Chief--though as Palmland points out, the House has to weight in as well. What's the forecast on that?

I think I will forget my hasty trip planned for December on the Chief--it would be much more convenient if I could wait a bit. What say you all?

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yukon11
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quote:
Originally posted by Vincent206:
That's an interesting photo accompanying the article about funding for the SW Chief.
quote:
An Amtrak passenger train arrives in downtown Wichita just before noon on Friday. The company was making a test run between Dallas and Kansas City to see about the viability of starting passenger train service on the I-35 corridor.

*******************

I think, Vincent, that the photo and caption, beneath, are referring to the suggestion or possible plan for a new Amtrak route between Oklahoma City, Newton, and Kansas City, which would extend the Heartland Flyer northward. An article from last year:

https://is.gd/kA4vPG

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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There is an "internal" memo to Amtrak employees regarding the Chief that has gone "external" at several sites. Look around at the "usual suspects" and you will see it.

Other than touting "costs of $100M" to operate the Chief, it breaks no new ground.

Unless it was some kind of "honey trap" sprung by Congress upon the Board and their hired hand Mr. Anderson, I'd like to think that a sincere "get rid of the LD's and we will still fund you" signal was sent. However, given the resistance from Congress, the LD's remain that Sacred Cow with a $400M price tag.

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yukon11
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Mr. Norman:

I think that if the only reason for retaining the existing LD trains is because Congress demands such, it's a losing proposition for everyone.

The corridor people won't like it as they would like the 400 million be redirected to Amtrak corridor train needs.

I don't think the LD train people like their trains, in their present state, to continue to limp along on a shoestring. The lack of minimally acceptable or unacceptable services, food, and other amenities is going to turn off everyone. Even as a "experiential" or train "hobbyist", it's getting to the point where I won't ride any LD until I can see substantial improvements.

What's the answer? I don't know. Possibly the 15 LD trains could be consolidated into just a few, with an upgrade in services with the ones that remain. If not, the only thing I can think of would be for BNSF and UP to receive large federal subsidies to allow BNSF & UP to run a passenger train(s), under their label, along some of the LD routes.

Richard

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George Harris
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Generally in the rest of the country people that think at all about Amtrak think about the widely scattered long distance trains. If those go away, all people in the majority of the country will see is another high priced pork barrel serving the northeast, which is generally regarded as the wealthiest most arrogant part of the country anyway, and not due any special favors. If the people in DC cannot figure that out, they will, as Amtrak will simply be regarded as another commuter service to be treated accordingly.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Harris, reading "between your lines", there appears to be ready public acceptance that regional/commuter train systems exist "coast to coast" and all are deserving of public funding. Just think. on A-Day, there were seven metropolitan areas having "heavy" commuter rail - and five of those were in the Northeast. Today, there are seventeen.

So I'd like to think that "We the People" would continue to fund the five distinct regions in which there is intercity service independent of whether the existing LD system remains.

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Gilbert B Norman
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A Bob Johnston report posted today on TRAINS Newswire states that effective December 31, Amtrak will not operate trains over any route not equipped with Positive Train Control.

More routes than The Chief could potentially be affected; here's a Fair Use quotation:

  • The policy means the Amtrak Board would insist the following trains on FRA-exempted routes be discontinued:

    Southwest Chief: between La Junta, Colo., and Dailies, N.M., and through Topeka, Kan.
    Cardinal: over the Buckingham Branch Railroad between Orange and Clifton Forge, Va.
    California Zephyr: 152 miles of UP’s Green River subdivision west of Grand Junction, Colo.
    Texas Eagle: 110 miles of UP’s Desoto subdivision south of St. Louis, Mo.
    Downeaster: north of Haverhill, Mass., to Brunswick, Maine., on Pan Am Railways
    Vermonter: north of Springfield, Mass., on the New England Central
    Ethan Allen: on Vermont Railway east of Whitehall, N.Y.
    City of New Orleans: a total of 18 miles on Canadian National around Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans
In all likelihood, some kind of accommodation will be made so that the well-accepted Downeaster will continue service, but this is one more nail in the coffin for the future of several LD's.

Lest we forget, there is no assurance that UP is agreeable to a permanent reroute of the Zephyr. This is an Amtrak dictum, not theirs owing to track maintenance.

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palmland
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Trains had a 3:45pm update that seems to take us back to ‘it’s all about the SWC.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells Trains News Wire, "where PTC is not implemented and operational, it is expected that nearly all carriers will qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule under law.

"For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an FRA-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network.

"For those very limited routes where a host may not achieve an alternative schedule by year’s end, Amtrak will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance."

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MargaretSPfan
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Yet ore hypocrisy from Amtrak -- claiming they care about safety, but forcing passengers to ride buses, whch are not anywhere nearly as safe as trains . Or discontinuing service and thus forcing thsoe who can drive to drive, and deal with the huge risks inherent in driving a motor vehicle. But, hey -- that would not longer be Amtrak's roblem! at least, that is what it seems to me to be the view of top Amtrak management.

PTC is NOT a mature technlogy, and of corse it still has a lot of problems. Just listen to the talk o any railroad radio feed on either railroadradio.net or Broadcastify.com, and you wil hear many instances where the engineer tells teh dispatcher hsi or her PTC system is not working, and even after the Help Desk has done all it can, all the Help Desk person can do is tell teh engineer to proceed without PTC.

PTC is just an excuse that Asnderson, followng the instructions of the Amtrak Board, is using to get rid of the long-distance trains. And I am sure teh major carriers -- the Class 1s -- whose tracks Amtrak opertes over, would be overjoyed if amtak stopped runnng all its long-distance trains.

The good news is tha the US Senate did recenth vite 92 to 6 in favor ofAmtrak. I was astounded that any issue was able to ge such incredible bipartisan support,and taht it was Amtrak taht got taht near-unanimouso support is incredible and very wonderful! And there was another voetin teh Senate that was 93 to 6 in favor of Amtrak!! wow....

I just hope the House of Representativs will voet as strongly ni favor of Amtrak s the Senate has!

In te mean time, please keep contacting your congressional representatives. Keep the prssure one, and we may -- just maY! -- save amtrak long-distance trains!

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yukon11
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Maybe my thinking is inept, but I was under the impression that routes with less than 6 passenger trains, per day, were exempt from PTC requirements.That should mean the Raton Pass would be exempt. The Rail Runner has received federal funding for implementing PTC, although I don't know how quickly PTC can be installed.

Anyway, Joe Boardman weighs in:

https://is.gd/e4k8go

"You can operate a safe railroad without PTC and you can have accidents with PTC,” Boardman adds. He references an unfortunate accident in 2016 in which the southbound Palmetto struck and killed two maintenance workers on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which is protected by Amtrak’s form of PTC".

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Richard, within your linked Newswire material is this comment from Mr. Boardman:
quote:
“If Amtrak requires PTC on any exempted portion,” he tells Trains News Wire, “the full cost of the PTC installation and maintenance becomes Amtrak’s

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Gilbert B Norman
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NARP/RPA reports on testimony of Amtrak's Chief Operating Officer made at a Congressional hearing. There are words within such to suggest that "no PTC, no ttain" is other than hard and fast, but rather will be reviewed "case by case".

quote:
While this risk analysis process and mitigation plan development is still underway, let me be clear that Amtrak’s goal is to continue to operate all of our services over all of our current routes come January 1, 2019. Exactly how we accomplish this will vary across our network, based on the specifics of each route, but I want to assure the Committee that, at this time, we believe we will have strategies in place that will permit us to continue operations until operational PTC or PTC-equivalency is achieved for all of our network
A careful read shows a "bus bridge" could still be implemented, but chopping up the City, 58-59, for lack of short non-PTC segments will not occur.

Read more at the RPA website.

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yukon11
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I did read the whole article at the RPA website. I find the statements by Amtrak Exec, VP Naparstek a little ambiguous. I guess we won't see any immediate shutdowns of train routes after Dec. 31.

Here is an article, from one day ago, suggesting bus substitutions for Amtrak routes without PTC after Dec 31:

https://is.gd/JsCSAc

Taken with a certain grain of salt.

Where does the truth lie? You've got me!

There was an editorial in the summer issue of Passenger Train Journal regarding the "real story of Positive Train Control". They point out that PTC is an overlay safety enhancement technology designed to counteract human error, and that it only augments existing signaling and traffic-control systems, not replace them. They went on to say PTC will not prevent accidents caused by track and equipment failure (eg broken rails), trespassing, grade-crossing collisions, and some types of train operator error.

Maybe after 2/2/19 the groundhog will give us a prediction.

Richard

Posts: 1624 | From: Santa Rosa | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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