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Passenger Trains > Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study


Date: 02/21/24 12:18
Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: Railvt

Because I have fairly extensive observations on this matter, I am going to submit a series of comments. I have already sent you an earlier message expressing my overall support for this effort and praise for your forward looking ideas. This comment will focus on what I feel are omissions from your work.

Several of the 15 proposed new routes have the effect of reinstating portions of lines formerly served by Amtrak--for example New Orleans-Mobile-Jacksonville as part of the new Dallas-Florida route and St Louis to New York as part of the new Dallas-Tulsa-St. Louis route. These and other examples within your 15 possible new routes are sensible, but there should be another level of route enhancement.

Existing Amtrak long haul routes cry out for more service--at least over heavily used segments. Such services should not be subject to the existing requirements for (multi)-state subsidies.

For example, true overnight (dusk one day to dawn the next) trains should be added to segments such as Denver to Chicago on the CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR line, (this would be a reborn "Denver Zephyr"--a train that never lost its pre-Amtrak popularity) and Chicago-New York on the LAKESHORE route (a revived "Century") and the Chicago-New York service should also include a second added overnight frequency via Pittsburgh (the return of the "Broadway Limited"). There are countless other added frequency opportunities on the existing routes. Think Washington to Atlanta, a service Amtrak actually provided on the CRESCENT in both directions until shortly before the COVID crisis. Existing Amtrak trains over such segments generally do not fit into the dusk to dawn model, as they must also make connections at such "hubs" as Chicago. 

Recent experience in Europe has shown conclusively that "sleeper trains" aimed at business travelers have regained their historic popularity. The "Night Jet" sleeper service that the Austrian State Railway (OBB) operates in multiple countries across Europe has literally dozens of new entire trains under construction to supplement its existing (and already growing) fleet. And multiple private operators are also entering the revived overnight market. Unlike in this country, these trains adhere faithfully to the true overnight running model, which assures riders of the ability to do a day's work or to sight-see promptly upon arrival and avoids (often costly) hotel expense.

Obviously shorter segments of existing routes will also profit from added frequencies, but until the 750 mile rule for defining long haul routes is rescinded those must come with legislation (long needed) to set the Regional/Long Haul boundary at a far more sensible 300-350 miles. Then interstate and regional night trains as well as added daylight services, would become practical for routes like Chicago to St. Paul and New York to Buffalo/Toronto and/or Montreal and San Francisco to Los Angeles (which cries out for both a direct--not via Oakland--daylight and an overnight train). Think also of Chicago to Kansas City on the SOUTHWEST CHIEF route, or New York to Pittsburgh, or one Amtrak train still runs but without sleepers overnight between Boston to Washington (and thru to Richmond and Newport News).

None of these additions will require the sort of infrastructure investment needed for entirely new routes.These trains would build demand and help make the case for truly visionary new long haul trains. The basic station-track infrastructure will already be in place as a result of the already existing trains over current long-haul lines. As new cars are delivered they could be used on such services prior to the completion of new routes--indeed if properly refurbished many of Amtrak's existing National Network cars could be deployed there as well.

A huge fleet expansion will be required to grow the Amtrak network. These new car orders must be placed now and not merely to replace existing capacity (which seems to be Amtrak's current intention. 

Obviously the Superliner, Amfleet II and Viewliner cars will not run forever, but if properly maintained and given in the relatively near-term heavy overhauls they will certainly be usable for another decade or more. It is also worth noting that nothing precludes Amtrak ordering more of the Viewliner cars--a design that would be useful for potentially several decades on intermediate distance added frequencies. Indeed these cars could still serve even when new cars finally arrive for the truly long distance services. 

Amtrak has many virtually new Viewliner diners (and some sleepers) in storage. Further it would be quite possible to renovate some of the soon to be retired Amfleet I coaches with long haul leg-rest seats (this was done by Amtrak in the past). It would even be practical to renovate some Amfleet cars as "lie-flat bed" economy sleepers of the sort in service already in Norway and Australia/Queensland.

I would also strongly urge consideration of purchasing "off the shelf" equipment designs if decent special needs accessibility is met. Siemens "Night Jet" design overnight train design is based on the same underlying car "platform" as the Venture/Airo cars already being delivered for Amtrak regional/corridor trains. Siemens "Night Train" designs have accessible coach and sleeper cars that might be delivered in far less than 8-10 years--even if these cars were only intended ultimately for such trains as Chicago-Denver or San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Finally, consideration should be made to implement portions of proposed new routes before everything might be ready. This would eliminate the need to have all the equipment on hand for say Chicago to Seattle via Billings if enough cars were available to run Chicago-St. Paul. Or perhaps if the track-work upgrades were completed for Chicago-Indianapolis-Louisville on the proposed new Florida before the section from there to Florida, why not provide an "interim/starter" train(s)?

In my next Comments submission I will begin a review of specific suggested new routes. Again my thanks to you for this remarkable effort!--
Carl H. Fowler

President (Retired) Rail Travel Center/Rail Travel Adventures

Past Vice Chair: Rail Passengers Association

Past-President: Champlain Valley Chapter National Railway Historical Society

President: CHF Rail Consulting LLC

Member: Vermont Rail Advisory Council

(All opinions expressed are my own)



Date: 02/21/24 12:41
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: MEKoch

In going through the big lengthy power point about the FRA long haul study, I was pleased to see people studying long haul trains.  I think there is a significant market for these trains.  But when I read the implementation plan, i hugely disappointed and not surprised.  Their time line calls for 15 YEARS before anything would be operating!!  Yes, 15 years.  People in Nashville, Columbus and Rapid City will have long forgotten about this "study."  

Take Chicago - Miami as one of their recommended routes.  If they cannot have a train operating in four years, then they should get out of the railroad business.  Yes, I mean ordering equipment (Superliner I hope), negotiating with the operating railroads and preparing tracks, and building the necessary stations.  It will mean dragging Amtrak into the railroad transportation business, but four years is very achieveable.  Graham Claytor would have done it and his company would have performed well.  



Date: 02/21/24 13:12
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: UP951West

Would making the Cardinal daily provide enough service from Chicago to Wash., DC (along with the Capitol Limited) to make Chicago to Miami via Washington , DC a viable and less costly option ? 
I'm curious about the route proposed on the Dallas to Tulsa train. Would it be the former Frisco RR (BNSF) direct to Tulsa which would bypass OK City ? That was the route of the Black Gold . 



Date: 02/21/24 13:19
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: Railvt

Clearly the Frisco's former mainline is the only way to go Tulsa--Springfield--St Louis. OKC might fit if they take the Santa Fe via the HEARTLAND FLYER route. OKC-Tulsa is no longer BNSF, but it certainly could be restored to passenger standards. The former Santa Fe line Tulsa to KC is now mostly abandoned.

The seperate Regional Corridors plans include getting the HF from OKC to Newton to connect (in the middle of the night) to the SW CHIEF. Thru cars are essential there, or the service will spectacularly fail, and hopefully thru cars to both Chigao and LA on the SW CHIEF.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/21/24 13:21 by Railvt.



Date: 02/21/24 13:36
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: ts1457

UP951West Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Would making the Cardinal daily provide enough
> service from Chicago to Wash., DC (along with the
> Capitol Limited) to make Chicago to Miami via
> Washington , DC a viable and less costly option
> ? 

I don't know if the Cardinal route can be reliable enough for this and I have to look at connection possibilities with existing routes, but how about re-establishing the old Hilltopper split to Roanoke, then a new Roanoke - Charlotte - Columbia service, continuing on with the Silver Star route to Florida. It wouldn't be terribly circuitous and would add some new travel possibilities for a few decent size cities.



Date: 02/21/24 13:40
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: ronald321

UP951West

I share you view that the Dallas--New York via St. Louis route (#6) is  very interesting -
and could probably be reinstated if the freight railroads would let it happen.

Basically, it is the old Katy-Frisco "Texas Special" route to St. Louis, where through cars were transferred
to Pennsy's "Penn-Texas" to New York.

But, Cincinnati is "out of route" -- and most of the Pennsy has been torn up east of Indianapolis (I think).
Anybody know what routes could  be used Cincinnati to Pittsburg?

 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/21/24 13:44 by ronald321.



Date: 02/21/24 17:04
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: CPMorris

ronald321 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> But, Cincinnati is "out of route" -- and most of
> the Pennsy has been torn up east of Indianapolis
> (I think).
> Anybody know what routes could  be used
> Cincinnati to Pittsburg?

The only possible route would be Cincinnati - Columbus via
Norfolk Southern(ex-NYC, PC), Columbus-Crestline via CSX
(ex-NYC,PC), Crestline-Pittsburgh via NS(ex-PRR Ft. Wayne Div.),
however, the Crestline-Alliance OH segment is questionable
and would require substantial restoration to passenger standards.

Yes, you are right - Pennsy was torn up between Indianapolis and Dayton
in the early 1980's.




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/21/24 17:07 by CPMorris.



Date: 02/21/24 19:10
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: BrynMawr

  • About the proposed Chicago Miami route. the endpoints are not the entire story.  The Floridian used to serve Nashville.   Not only do I wish to attend the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman, but a NC&StL 4-8-4 is being brought back to lie.   No, I don't expect Amtrak to cater solely to rail and country music fans, but when we put cash opn the counter...   We know the midwest Autotrain was not a winner, but much of that IINM was due to shoddy track in need of serious upgrading.  Are you listening CSX? 



Date: 02/21/24 19:31
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: goduckies

How about they run their existing routes with proper length trains before they think about expanding the network? Just a thought.

Posted from Android



Date: 02/21/24 20:10
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: lordsigma

goduckies Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> How about they run their existing routes with
> proper length trains before they think about
> expanding the network? Just a thought.
>
> Posted from Android

For the upteenth time - this is RPA studying this - not Amtrak. And it is not doing anything to “distract” from operational matters.



Date: 02/21/24 23:16
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: dan

remember the train that created amtrak, the CZ?

often the coach passengers can fit in one coach this time of year

often the sw chief total passenger load is less than 45 on raton pass

anderson and his cronies,  tri weekly service during covid , amtrak retiring cars instead of fixing them , have turned these great trains into footnotes

 



Date: 02/22/24 04:25
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: jp1822

MEKoch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> In going through the big lengthy power point about
> the FRA long haul study, I was pleased to see
> people studying long haul trains.  I think there
> is a significant market for these trains.  But
> when I read the implementation plan, i hugely
> disappointed and not surprised.  Their time line
> calls for 15 YEARS before anything would be
> operating!!  Yes, 15 years.  People in
> Nashville, Columbus and Rapid City will have long
> forgotten about this "study."  
>
> Take Chicago - Miami as one of their recommended
> routes.  If they cannot have a train operating in
> four years, then they should get out of the
> railroad business.  Yes, I mean ordering
> equipment (Superliner I hope), negotiating with
> the operating railroads and preparing tracks, and
> building the necessary stations.  It will mean
> dragging Amtrak into the railroad transportation
> business, but four years is very achieveable. 
> Graham Claytor would have done it and his company
> would have performed well.  

Well said. 



Date: 02/22/24 05:07
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: joemvcnj

CPMorris Wrote:

> The only possible route would be Cincinnati -
> Columbus via
> Norfolk Southern(ex-NYC, PC), Columbus-Crestline
> via CSX
> (ex-NYC,PC), Crestline-Pittsburgh via NS(ex-PRR
> Ft. Wayne Div.),
> however, the Crestline-Alliance OH segment is
> questionable
> and would require substantial restoration to
> passenger standards.
> Yes, you are right - Pennsy was torn up between
> Indianapolis and Dayton
> in the early 1980's.

Wasn;t the Pennsy "Panhandle" line out of Pittsburgh that the National Limted/Spirit of St Louis took also ripped out ? ROW is now PAT Transit light rail. I knew that during Congressional Carter Cut analysis in 1978, Conrail lobbied hard to kill the National Ltd so they would not encounter 25 year contract requirements, and rip all the track out. 



Date: 02/22/24 06:45
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: ronald321

joemvcnj

This is my understanding also..

The former direct Pennsy line has been severed -- and dose not exist for St. Louis-Pittsburgh passenger trains.
Likewise - the X-B&O direct line from St. Louis to Washington, DC has been severed.

The only direct line left from St. Louis is the X-NYC  route via Cleveland.
Once the route of the All-Pullman "Knickerbocker" (what a great name).



Date: 02/22/24 06:46
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: Typhoon

BrynMawr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> >
   We know the midwest
> Autotrain was not a winner, but much of that IINM
> was due to shoddy track in need of serious
> upgrading. 

It was a horrible starting location, Louisville, and underfunded from the start.   At the end, they tried combining it with the Floridian, which made things even worse.


>Are you listening CSX? 

Do you think they care?


 



Date: 02/22/24 07:28
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: P

UP951West Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Would making the Cardinal daily provide enough
> service from Chicago to Wash., DC (along with the
> Capitol Limited) to make Chicago to Miami via
> Washington , DC a viable and less costly option
> ? 
> I'm curious about the route proposed on the Dallas
> to Tulsa train. Would it be the former Frisco RR
> (BNSF) direct to Tulsa which would bypass OK City
> ? That was the route of the Black Gold . 

I'm not sure you understand passenger trains. Yes, you can get from Chicago to Miami now and a daily Cardinal would help, but passenger trains are by definition not airplanes. The point of a direct chicago to Florida train is to also serve many other markets besides Chicago. A direct train has the possibility of connecting numerous other large cities to Florida and the national network in other locations. I.e. Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Lexington, Nashville, Chattanooga, Birmingham, Atlanta, and other smaller cities in between. A daily Cardinal only marginally improves service to Indianapolis and Cincinnati and does nothing for anyone else. A chicago to Atlanta segment would be huge by itself, and many other new routings. That is why a new train is important.

Once again, if Amtrak's mission is to transport people around our nation, the current national network is woefully inadequate.

Posted from Android



Date: 02/22/24 07:36
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: ts1457

P Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm not sure you understand passenger trains.
> Yes, you can get from Chicago to Miami now and a
> daily Cardinal would help, but passenger trains
> are by definition not airplanes. The point of a
> direct chicago to Florida train is to also serve
> many other markets besides Chicago. A direct
> train has the possibility of connecting numerous
> other large cities to Florida and the national
> network in other locations. I.e. Indianapolis,
> Louisville, Cincinnati, Lexington, Nashville,
> Chattanooga, Birmingham, Atlanta, and other
> smaller cities in between. A daily Cardinal only
> marginally improves service to Indianapolis and
> Cincinnati and does nothing for anyone else. A
> chicago to Atlanta segment would be huge by
> itself, and many other new routings. That is why a
> new train is important.

Chicago - Nashville - Atlanta service probably could be arranged, but as discussed many times on TO, an Atlanta - Florida route is problematic.



Date: 02/22/24 07:57
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: calumet

ronald321 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> joemvcnj
>
> This is my understanding also..
>
> The former direct Pennsy line has been severed --
> and dose not exist for St. Louis-Pittsburgh
> passenger trains.
> Likewise - the X-B&O direct line from St. Louis to
> Washington, DC has been severed.
>
> The only direct line left from St. Louis is the
> X-NYC  route via Cleveland.
> Once the route of the All-Pullman "Knickerbocker"
> (what a great name).

Yes, the Panhandle line is now gone beetween Indy and Dayton, OH.  It was taken up by Conrail.  You can bet that NS and/or CSX would dearly love to have it back these days.
 



Date: 02/22/24 15:30
Re: Further Submission to the FRA Long Haul new routes study
Author: rhburn3

Your comments are great.  In addition, more frequency on current routes will bring more business.  In addition, the station structures. platforms, and parking are all in place.



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