American Railroads

News each weekday of American railroads. Our focus is on freight rail, but Amtrak and commuter rail are also essential ingredients. Nothing published on holidays.

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Location: Middleburg (Jacksonville), Florida, United States

Published in Trains magazine, Railfan & Railroad, Passenger Train Journal

Friday, October 20, 2006

Moynihan project falls by wayside

A proposal to turn Manhattan’s main post office into a new rail gateway for commuters died in an Albany boardroom Wednesday.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to support the proposal and his amendment to expand the project near Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden drew no support from representatives of Gov. George Pataki and the Senate’s Republican majority, The AP reported Wednesday.

Whether another proposal will be made is uncertain.

Silver said the existing $900 million Moynihan Station proposal “does not come close” to meeting the needs of the area including Madison Square Garden and Pennsylvania Station and a more expansive plan is required.

The current plan “fails to renovate any space at the existing Penn Station,” Silver wrote in a letter to Pataki on Wednesday. “It does not build any new facilities for the MTA subways, Long Island Railroad, Metro North (commuter trains) or Amtrak.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had urged Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, to vote for the project.

“It would be a mistake to wait to do something as big as what’s being called ‘Plan B,’ which would involve negotiations with Amtrak, the MTA. The city would have to come up with a billion dollars, which we don’t have,” Bloomberg said. He said, however, that Silver’s alternative “is a very ambitious - and a very desirable plan,” but starting with the current proposal would make it easier to include development proposed by Silver.

In a letter to Silver on Tuesday, Pataki had warned that the approval was needed Wednesday and that while he sympathized with Silver’s desire for a larger project, the existing proposal was the necessary first step.

“As a long suffering Knicks fan, I share your enthusiasm for a new Madison Square Garden,” Pataki wrote Silver, who, like Pataki, was once a noted high school basketball player. “And as you suggest, Moynihan Station can be the ‘first phase of the comprehensive development plan.’ Phase (One) can start now, must start now and by doing so will take the critical step to allow the pursuit of the larger plan on a dual track.”

Pataki quoted the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Tuesday letter: “If we get into the mind-set where the good becomes the enemy of the best, we will get nothing.”

Silver said Pataki’s proposal would only serve New Jersey commuters, but the Assembly majority’s plan would serve 500,000 riders of the subway, Amtrak, Metro North and Long Island Railroad each day.

Silver said his proposal would include private developers’ funding to help pay for the project that would include office towers and a relocation of Madison Square Garden.

He said he hoped a compromise could be struck, and said he’s unsure why Pataki rejected his proposal.

“Maybe because the governor has only 10 weeks left and they don’t do photo opportunities for deed transfers,” Silver said.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Pataki said, “Speaker Silver has single-handedly prevented the most important civic and transportation project in the nation today from proceeding.”

The statement added, “It is truly infuriating to now have to consider those efforts to be fruitless.”

The plan would spend $230 million to buy the Farley post office from the U.S. Postal Service. The New York-New Jersey Port Authority would provide about $140 million of that and another $90 million would come from the private developer, but the Pataki administration said changing the project would result in the developer withdrawing its share because the residential and retail benefit to the developer could be threatened.

The renovation of the Farley post office, which sits just across from Madison Square Garden and covers two city blocks in the areas of 33rd and 34th streets and 8th Avenue, had been projected to be completed by 2010.

The expanded landmark would include 300,000 square feet of space for the train station, 850,000 square feet of retail space and 250,000 square feet for the post office.

Californians meet Kummant

This is a report by Rail Passenger Assn. of California (RailPAC) President Paul Dyson on his recent meeting with new Amtrak President Alex Kummant. Also present were Cliff Black, Amtrak’s Director of Media Relations, and Marcus Mason, Senior Director of Government Affairs for Amtrak. The meeting took place Wednesday, October 18 at the Amtrak Executive office in Washington, D.C.

“The 45-minute meeting was very cordial and covered a wide range of topics,” Dyson wrote, “from the lessons of British Railways privatization through relations with Union Pacific, and of course specific issues such as Northeast Corridor infrastructure costs, the long distance trains, and California Corridors.”

He continued, “Obviously, Mr. Kummant is very new to the position and to passenger railroading, and he is the first to acknowledge that he has a lot to absorb.

“I was impressed that he referred to a railroad atlas when I made a specific reference to a route; I’ve worked with too many railroaders who pretend they know everything. However, he certainly doesn’t seemed daunted by the challenges, and has the attitude of any good executive taking the helm of a corporation; that it’s his job to grow the business and improve the bottom line.”

Dyson continued, writing that regarding the political climate and the demands for more private involvement with passenger rail, Mr. Kummant asked me to prepare some notes on the results of privatization of British Railways.

While there have been some improvements in services in the United Kingdom, the overall public subsidy has increased four-fold, a fact often overlooked this side of the pond. We both agreed that passenger rail is on the public agenda as it has not been for many years and that there is a great opportunity for growth. We also agreed that Amtrak and its supporters should do more to tout the progress of rail, particularly to quote passenger miles rather than just ridership.

I explained that RailPAC is, in effect, a coalition of many interests, including high-speed rail, long distance trains and corridors, but our overriding concern has been to present proposals that are realistic and that represent value for money for the taxpayer.

I also told him that the Western states feel strongly that the long-distance network and western services are under invested compared to the NEC.

California, in particular, has spent state tax dollars for our own rail program – while at the same time we send federal tax dollars that are spent on the Acela program, so we pay twice.

Mr. Kummant took the point and stated that he wanted to come to California and to work with our officials on some initiatives to “redress the balance”. He believes in incremental improvement and that 100 mph corridors are marketable. We spoke of the San Joaquin Valley cities as being in need of more service and having great potential.

Mr. Kummant believes that his experience with Union Pacific will be a valuable asset, as he “understands how they think.” He believes that the organization is changing under new CEO Jim Young, although the fear of open access remains. There are major investments in infrastructure in the pipeline for UP, although in the short term that could cause disruption to the long-distance trains.

We spoke of the need for investment in rolling stock and the difficulty in putting together a large enough order to interest a car builder. I mentioned my experience in the railcar leasing business and our interest some years ago in finding the rail equivalent of the 737. Mr. Kummant is very interested in private financing of rolling stock, with perhaps a “Fannie Mae” type of structure whereby the government is a guarantor of last resort.

The discussion turned on the long distance trains. I believe Mr. Kummant views these as having potential for improvement and development, possibly with participation from tour operators, cruise lines and others with their own vehicles as part of the consist. I mentioned that our group and many others would fight to keep the long-distance trains, and that reducing the network would only add costs to the remaining trains. We agreed that the easiest part of a service to get rid of is the revenue; the costs have a habit of sticking around.

It’s obviously very early days for Kummant and only time will tell how effective he will be. The CEO of Amtrak is subject to more political pressure than just about any equivalent position in the business world. At the same time, there is a large constituency of people like ourselves who have strong opinions on how things should be done and are very ready to criticize when policies are adopted with which we don’t agree. I believe we at least owe the man a chance. I’m sure he wants to succeed and he told me that he values our input and opinions.

Let’s wish him the best and support him in his endeavors.

About Amtrak:

Why is the passenger carrier

so lothe to take on new business?

High-speed railroad advocate Fritz Plous of Chicago sent the following message around the web on Thursday.

The “large, untapped market for passenger-train service” is not a railfan wet dream.

Its existence was demonstrated historically 35 years ago. Unfortunately, Amtrak’s effort to make growth go away also was demonstrated shortly thereafter.

The evidence is on pages 130-133 of Rush Loving Jr.’s excellent new book, The Men Who Loved Trains: The Story of the Men Who Battled Greed to Save an Ailing Industry (Indiana Univ. Press, 2006, $27.95, 345 pp.). I was in the audience Monday at the Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads (sponsored by Railway Age magazine) conference where Loving was the luncheon speaker, and this gracious Virginian autographed my copy of the book for me and spent a few minutes talking privately with me about the dramatic events from the Penn Central bankruptcy of 1969 to the Conrail CSX-NS takeover struggle of 1998-99 and the sale/carve-up of Conrail in 1999.

Don Phillips, Frank Wilner, Marshall Loeb and other luminaries have found the book just as exciting and informative as I did, but none of them in their reviews mentioned what Loving documented on those three pages: Amtrak initially was very popular, with ridership growing 15 percent a year, but federal policy deliberately limited its growth and attractiveness.

Here is the passage from the book, told largely through the eyes of Jim McClellan, who was working at Amtrak at the time and ultimately went on to an illustrious career as VP-Planning and Development at Norfolk Southern. The period under discussion is right after Amtrak’s startup in 1971:

“Amtrak’s marketing vice president was a rotund, highly personable man with a big white walrus mustache who had come from Pan American World Airways, and he started promoting trains to the masses like he had pushed flights to Paris and Puerto Rico [this would have been Harold Graham, who ultimately was fired for taking kickbacks from hotels to which he steered passengers who failed to connect with their outbound train because their inbound train was late into a hub--FKP]. The American public responded and started sampling the trains again. Ridership was growing at about 15 per cent a year. McClellan had foreseen this, projecting a growth rate in this range for Amtrak’s first year or so, a rate the operations department could easily handle, but he grew concerned that traffic would surge beyond expectations if such an aggressive marketing program continued. Noting that a similar promotion had suddenly doubled business at the Canadian National Railway and it had not been able to handle the volume, McClellan warned his superiors in a memo that they were headed for trouble. “The results could be disastrous,” he warned. “It’s hard to get on a growth curve and then ‘turn it off.’“ His memo did not endear him to the marketing vice president or to Roger Lewis, Amtrak’s chairman.

He also ran afoul of the vice president for operations, an unreconstructed Red Hat who had run the Pennsylvania Railroad’s commuter operations. Seeing that most of the cars from the northeastern railroads were dilapidated, McClellan proposed that excess cars from more prosperous roads like the Union Pacific be brought east and used until the other equipment could be fixed.

The operations vice president exploded at the idea that McClellan would dare make decisions involving his department. To him that was something only an operating man could do. So he stormed into Roger Lewis’s office, declaring, “I want him off the property.”

“Who?” asked Lewis, surprised, “Who do you want off the property?”

“McClellan!” he rumbled. “I want McClellan off the property.”

McClellan eventually was moved from marketing to the operations department, where he continued to annoy people. At one critical moment Amtrak wanted the Southern Pacific to switch its cars in a particular way in the SP’s Oakland, California, yard. The SP, which made no secret of its hatred of passenger trains, claimed the maneuver could not be done. Apparently, they believed no one at Amtrak had even seen the yard. McClellan had, and he took them on, telling them they were wrong and they could make the switching operation. Someone at the SP then called Amtrak in Washington, complaining that McClellan was difficult to work with. That was the opening Roger Lewis wanted.

Lewis had his own reasons for getting rid of McClellan. He had been showing open disdain for Lewis, who he and others saw as a failed executive who had not made it in the private sector and was a stranger to railroads.

“He didn’t know much and did not really care,” McClellan declared. Lewis had been chief executive officer of General Dynamics, where he had pointedly ignored Col. Henry Crown, one of the company’s larger shareholders. Crown had retaliated by quietly buying up enough shares to control the company, and once he had the shares in hand he had called Lewis at home one evening and informed him he was out. Seeing a fellow Republican jobless, the Nixon administration had put him in charge of Amtrak.

Day after day McClellan’s whole demeanor displayed contempt for Lewis... McClellan lasted only a year, a month and a few days after Amtrak’s start-up. Lewis and many of the other top managers survived only another two years. McClellan’s warning could have been their epitaphs, because the marketing campaign went on at a furious clip and by 1974 his worst fears had come true. Traffic surged, and Amtrak was not able to handle it.

The cars that McClellan had brought east had encountered problems of their own. Passenger cars require parts and repairs constantly.

The cars were made for different climates than that of the East, and they required different types of components, but the operations department failed to get the parts from the western railroads, ordering its maintenance supervisors to buy them locally instead.

This sometimes meant they had to be custom-built, an expense Amtrak could little afford, and many breakdowns went unfixed.

Making life yet more unpleasant for passengers, the marketing department decided to take away the frills and lush interiors that had survived on some of the trains. They also cut back on the quality of the dining cars’ much heralded meals.

Passengers were complaining bitterly to their congressmen because their trains were overcrowded and late and they often broke down.

The cars were unheated in winter and lacking air conditioning in the summer. As the flow of complaints turned into a flood, Lewis had more difficulty getting money, and his meetings on Capitol Hill became increasingly tense. “You think the Lord Jesus Christ had troubles?” he lamented. “You should see us going up Capitol Hill with our crosses on our backs.”

Tired of the heat, top officials at DOT and congressional leaders determined that Lewis must go, but some felt they needed more public support before they took such severe action. Just then, in May 1974, Fortune magazine published a story that castigated Amtrak’s management, describing the mistakes it had made and calling for the removal of Amtrak’s top officers, starting with Roger Lewis himself. The magazine’s founder, Henry Luce, had carefully built Fortune’s influence over the decades until it had become an unbelievably powerful institution in Washington, and the story was all Lewis’s opponents felt they needed. They quickly rounded up enough votes from Amtrak directors and fired him. It was almost two years to the day after McClellan’s removal from the Amtrak property. Painful as it might have been when he was fired, in the end McClellan had been vindicated.

Commentary resuming:

That is the end of Loving’s chapter. Amtrak never resumed Harold Graham’s naïve but successful campaign to build ridership. Roger Lewis may have been evicted, but his philosophy of controlling Amtrak’s size by limiting its attractiveness prevailed and endured.

Nevertheless, these three passages confirm what many of us remember from that period: The American public did not “desert” its passenger trains. While many were lured away by the new Interstates and the government’s airport and air traffic control system, there was a solid and growing constituency ready to ride trains, and more were waiting to ride if the service and equipment were made more attractive and reliable. The government’s takeover of Amtrak was all the signal these people needed, and they flocked to Amtrak believing federal investment would now provide the system with the reliability, comfort and utility it had been lacking. They didn’t wait for the trains to get better; they started riding the trains out of a belief they were going to get better.

Alarmed at this unanticipated display of loyalty toward passenger trains, Amtrak and its railroad sponsors responded by quietly subverting the growth of a form of travel they had convinced themselves was unneeded and would soon be abolished. Everything we have lived with in the ensuing 30 years dates from that moment--the Big Uh-Oh when the railroads realized that Americans’ desire for passenger trains was not dead and that they were looking to Amtrak to revive passenger service instead of killing it.

So who was more naïve--the American people for believing Harold Graham’s marketing campaign, or the railroad industry for believing Richard Nixon’s promises that he would use Amtrak to kill off passenger trains for good?

Frederick K. Plous is Director of Communications, Corridor Capital LLC

UP gains 56 percent in 3rd quarter

Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE: UNP) on Thursday reported its third quarter 2006 commodity revenue was an all-time quarterly record of $3.8 billion, up 15 percent. Elsewhere, operating income increased 56 percent to an all-time quarterly record of $752 million, and third quarter 2006 operating ratio improved by 5.0 points versus third quarter 2005 to 81.1 percent.

The railroad reported its third quarter net income was $420 million, or $1.54 per diluted share. Last year’s third quarter net income was $369 million, or $1.38 per diluted share, which included a non-cash income tax expense reduction of $118 million after-tax, or 44 cents per diluted share. Excluding the tax item, third quarter 2005 net income would have been $251 million or 94 cents per diluted share.

Comparing 2006 to 2005 results without the tax item, net income increased 67 percent and diluted earnings per share grew 64 percent. Operating income during the third quarter of 2006 was $752 million, up from $481 million reported in the third quarter of 2005.

“Quarterly operating revenue and income were the best ever in the history of the Railroad,” said Jim Young, President and CEO.

“This quarter marks the sixth consecutive quarter of operating income growth. Unlike last year’s results, which were affected by hurricanes, this quarter we converted the demand for our services and greater operational efficiency into strong performance.”

Bad BNSF track, says NTSB

Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday that the probable cause of an Amtrak passenger train derailment was the BNSF Ry. Co.’s inadequate response to multiple reports of rough track conditions that were subsequently attributed to excessive concrete crosstie abrasion. Contributing to the accident was the Federal Railroad Administration’s failure to provide adequate track safety standards for concrete crossties. The abrasion allowed the outer rail to rotate outward and create a wide gauge track condition.

“This is a case where the railroad failed to respond appropriately to warnings of a track problem and where federal requirements could have provided strong guidance to prevent this accident,” said NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker.

“The Safety Board will continue to push regulators to take responsibility to make sure all safety measures are in place and acted upon.”

On April 3, 2005, a westbound Amtrak train, consisting of a single locomotive unit and four passenger cars, derailed in BNSF’s Northwest Division.

The train was traveling through a cut section of the Columbia River Gorge near Home Valley, Wash. The train remained upright; however, the cars came to rest leaning against the outside curved embankment. Of the 115 persons aboard, 30 people sustained minor injuries.

The investigation determined that there were 19 consecutive concrete crossties that exhibited rail seat abrasions at the point of derailment. The abrasions created voids between the bottom of the rail base and the top of the concrete crossties, which allowed the rail to deflect downward and rotate outward under load. This rotation of the rail resulted in a gauge widening as trains passed over the area and allowed wheels on the Amtrak train to drop between the rails.

There are no federal standards specific to concrete crossties in the Track Safety Standards for track classes 1 through 5 that are similar to those standards for classes 6 and higher (used for higher speed operations).

The track where the accident occurred was designated as FRA Class 4, with maximum allowable operating speeds of 60 mph for freight trains and 80 mph for passenger trains, the Board’s report states. Because of geographical characteristics and track curvatures, the maximum allowable operating speeds through the derailment area were 55 mph for freight trains and 60 mph for passenger trains.

The Safety Board is concerned about the lack of Federal requirements to help inspectors identify when concrete crossties on certain classes of track have deteriorated to unsafe levels. The seriousness of this accident highlights the need for the FRA to ensure adequate safety standards exist for concrete crossties in all track structures.

The NTSB recommended that the FRA “extend to all classes of track safety standards for concrete crossties that address at a minimum the following: limits for rail seat abrasion, concrete crosstie pad wear limits, missing or broken rail fasteners, loss of appropriate toeload pressure, improper fastener configurations, and excessive lateral rail movement.”

To BNSF, the agency recommended “As part of your track inspector audit program, determine whether inspectors are provided adequate track time to perform their duties, and take corrective action if necessary.”

To the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Assn., and the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Assn., the feds stated, “Emphasize to your employees the need to establish inspection guidelines for track inspectors that address the problems and characteristics unique to concrete crossties for all classes of track.”

The board’s views are on its website, Its full report will be available website in several weeks.

Good sign for Amtrak: 'Sold out'

Amtrak’s newest trains in Illinois don’t begin service until October 30, but they are already proving popular with customers, reports WBBM Chicago.

Amtrak officials said Thursday, that two of the new trains linking Chicago and Carbondale are sold out, and said bookings are heavy on a number of other trains.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise,” said Jason Tai, director of public and intermodal transportation for the Illinois DOT.

“I think the increased ridership shows that there is a demand.” He added.

It’s also no surprise to State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Wilmette, who sponsored the measure appropriating the additional $12 million that made the service expansion possible.

“I believe we’re going to meet, if not exceed, the original projections,” Schoenberg said.

November is traditionally Amtrak’s busiest month of the year, with the heaviest patronage in the week surrounding Thanksgiving.

By offering more service on each of the three routes, Amtrak Vice-President Joe McHugh said it hopes to attract far more riders than have used the trains until now.

“If you increase the frequency and make the trains run reliably, people will take the train as opposed to driving the car, particularly when coming into the city, where gas prices are still quite high for a lot of people,” McHugh said.

McHugh is one of several top Amtrak, IDOT and state officials taking part in a three-day whistle-stop tour of Illinois promoting the expanded service.

It’s a big deal downstate, where bands and local officials have greeted the trains. At a stop on the new Chicago-Carbondale Saluki, the train was greeted by a pair of salukis, one of the oldest known breeds of dogs, dating back to ancient Egypt.

CF&E short line workers ratify first contract

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen members working on the Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern (CF&E) Railroad recently ratified their first union contract.

The four-year contract covers all 30 employees who work as locomotive engineers along the railroad’s 276 miles from Crestline, Ohio to Tolleston, Ind.

“This is a great first contract,” said John Mullen, the BLET’s Director of Short Lines.

“Our members now have the security of a collective bargaining agreement in place for the first time. There will be a 3 percent increase in wages for each year of the contract, plus our members will now have access to a 401k plan, profit sharing, personal leave days and other benefits.

“Our members at CF&E no longer are at-will employees,” he said. “They are starting to get the respect they deserve from the rail carrier.”

RailAmerica acquired the CF&E short line railroad through a lease agreement with CSX and began operations on August 1, 2004. The BLET first organized the property on Sept. 28, 2005. The BLET is a division of the Teamsters Rail Conference.

AAR says it was a mixed week

Carload traffic on U.S. freight railroads rose 4.5 percent during the week ending October 14 compared with the corresponding week last year, while intermodal traffic rose 0.4 percent, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.

Carload freight totaled 340,114 cars, with loadings up 8.1 percent in the West and up 0.3 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume was 250,693 trailers or containers, the ninth highest total for any week in history. The corresponding week in 2005 was, at the time, the highest week in history. Container volume rose 5.1 percent for the week while trailer volume declined by 12.9 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 35.0 billion ton-miles, up 6.7 percent from 2005.

Among individual carload commodities, coal rose 12.2 percent to 141,835 carloads, up 15,424 carloads from last year, while grain gained 15.1 percent (3,309 carloads) to 25,274 carloads. Carloads of coke rose 1,399 carloads (26.7 percent) to 6,631 carloads, while carloads of chemicals rose 4.3 percent (1,193 carloads) to 28,846 carloads.

On the downside, carloads of metallic ores fell 1,885 carloads (23.2 percent) to 6,227 carloads, while carloads of motor vehicles and equipment fell 1,762 carloads (7.6 percent) to 21,541 carloads.

All told, 10 of 19 commodity groups tracked by the AAR saw higher carloadings this week in 2006 than in 2005.

Cumulative volume for the first 41 weeks of 2006 totaled 13,813,153 carloads, up 1.5 percent from 2005; 9,705,062 trailers or containers, up 6.0 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.37 trillion ton-miles, up 2.8 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads during the week ended October 14, carload traffic totaled 74,244 cars, down 2.2 percent from last year, while intermodal volume of 45,659 trailers or containers was up 3.4 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 41 weeks of 2006 on the Canadian railroads totaled 3,059,632 carloads, down 1.2 percent from last year, and 1,857,265 trailers and containers, up 5.7 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 41 weeks of 2006 on 13 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 16,872,785 carloads, up 1.0 percent from last year, and 11,562,327 trailers and containers, up 6.0 percent from last year.

The AAR also said that during the week ended October 14, Mexican railroad Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM) reported total carload volume of 12,947 cars, up 10.1 percent from last year. KCSM reported total intermodal volume of 4,229 trailers or containers, up 3.8 percent from the same week in 2005.

For the first 41 weeks of 2006, KCSM reported total cumulative volume of 466,580 cars, down 3.5 percent from last year, and 163,959 trailers or containers, down 3.2 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 87 percent of U.S. carload freight and 96 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 91 percent of Canadian rail traffic.

Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

The AAR is online at

Second thoughts:

Where are the sidings?

Has anyone with the state of Illinois or Amtrak addressed the fact that the increased service between Chicago and St. Louis will cause possible delays due to limited siding capability?

This is time-sensitive service, and the limitations to the line are going to be a challenge.

For example, there are no sidings between Joliet and Dwight, a distance of 37 miles because northbound traffic used to go north to the Santa Fe (Mazonia to Eileen) at Coal City, then use the joint trackage to Joliet.

Amtrak chose not to continue this capability several years ago due to cost of maintaining switches. The crossovers at Joliet and Coal City were taken out. This means that when one train is in route between Joliet and Dwight, any other movement must wait. One train can head in, or back in, at Mazonia where the line breaks off, then return to the main.

Delays of up to 30 minutes are common. This is going to be a delay prone area with additional frequencies.

Elsewhere, the siding at Godfrey, north of Alton, is a three-mile siding of former double-track main. This siding has only been good for 10 mph for years. It takes 20 minutes to get through this siding at 8 or 9 mph.

Another point is that UP and TRRA traffic often clogs passage in and out of St. Louis. The faster route via Venice on the east side of the river is often not available, forcing trains to use the slower route through the tunnels on the west side.

There have been cars stored on a couple of sidings, both north and south of Springfield.

I am thrilled with additional service, but I do not want new riders to be turned off by these antiquated limitations.

Tell me some good news!

A poster on All_Aboard wrote the letter.


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