Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Freq)

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Amtrak Service Chicago - St Paul (Empire Builder 2nd Freq)

Postby JoeG » Thu Mar 25, 2004 9:40 am

Can anyone tell me which route Amtrak uses between Chicago and St Paul? Do they use a route that runs along the Mississippi? When I last took this train in 1976, it didn't run along the river, but I don't know if the routing has changed in the last 28 years.
Last edited by Jeff Smith on Sat Dec 24, 2016 6:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: Admin: Repurposing; this topic was originally about the routing over heritage roads
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The Milwaukee

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Mar 25, 2004 9:52 am

The Milwaukee Road is used from Chi to Midway Station, StPaul.

River viewing is available for 115 some miles La Crescent to Mississippi Jct.

I guess I note that today, the Milwaukee is part of the Canadian Pacific, but allow me to note that during my years (1970-81) with the MILW, "WE" were often recognized as the best Amtrak contractor out there!!!
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Postby Rhinecliff » Thu Mar 25, 2004 12:15 pm

Indeed you were.

The Milwaukee Road was one of the finest railroad operations out there, right up to the very end -- one of the few fallen flags that went down with dignity (routes west excluded).

The Empire Builder's route from CHI to St. Paul is wonderful. In the summer time, dinner is served watching the sun set over the Mississippi. Great trip on a great road.
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Postby Guest » Wed Mar 31, 2004 2:11 am

Mr. Norman stated:

"The Milwaukee Road is used from Chi to Midway Station, StPaul."
**Actually, the Milwaukee Road was used from Chicago to Merriam Park, just west of downtown St. Paul. The Amtrak station was on the Minnesota Transfer Railroad, now Minnesota Commercial Railroad.

"River viewing is available for 115 some miles La Crescent to Mississippi Jct. "
**Well, I have a Milwaukee Road timetable covering this area, and can't find "Mississippi Jct.", so Mr. Norman will have to educate me. In any event, his statement is not entirely correct. It's 131 miles from La Crosse to St. Paul and the river is visible most of the way. There are places, like Winona and Lake City where the track is not by the river, but this is the general area where the river is visible. As information, Chicago-St. Paul passenger trains via La Crosse do not (nor have they ever) regularly operated via La Crescent. Westbound trains, upon departure from La Crosse, immediately have a river view as the train crosses the Black and Mississippi Rivers. Once they're crossed, the first station on the Minnesota side is Bridge Switch, which is the junction with a freight-only line to La Crescent. The next station is River Jct., and then so on up the river. La Crescent is on the ex-MILW (now ICE) line from River Jct. to Marquette, IA.

"I guess I note that today, the Milwaukee is part of the Canadian Pacific, but allow me to note that during my years (1970-81) with the MILW, "WE" were often recognized as the best Amtrak contractor out there!!!"
**As Paul Harvey would say: "Now for the REST of the story." I don't know what "best Amtrak contractor out there" entails because Mr. Norman chooses not to elaborate. Assuming he is speaking of OnTime performance, I would say this could be true in the 1970s, but by 1981, the Milwaukee Road was having dire financial problems (and its line west of Miles City, Montana had been abandoned). Track conditions systemwide suffered, and by this time the Empire Builder was not punctual. By the end of the 1980s (when it was then operated by the Soo Line), the Chicago-St. Paul track, especially west of Portage, Wisconsin, was definitely the Empire Builder's "weakest link"....so much so that during this time Amtrak actually threatened to operate the train via a faster, more stable Burlington Northern (ex-CB&Q) route via Aurora and East Dubuque, Illinois. While the first Amtrak Empire Builder in 1971 was allowed 7 hours 55 minutes for the 421 miles between Chicago and the ex-GN station in Minneapolis, by 1989, the schedule for the 417 miles between Chicago and St. Paul Midway Station was nearly 9 hours, and still this schedule was rarely met (the eastbound train at St. Paul was much more likely to be on time than the westbound even though it traveled over four times the distance). Because of this, patronage suffered along the whole route. For instance, arrival times for train 8 at the two busiest intermediate stations on the train's route, Whitefish and St. Paul, were prior to 600 AM in order that the train still arrive in Chicago in time for important connections to eastern trains. In the past decade or so, timekeeping has stabilized to the point where Canadian Pacific (which now operates most of the Chicago-St. Paul route) has excellent on time performance, though the westbound Empire Builder's 8 hour, 15 minute schedule between Chicago and St. Paul/Midway is hardly anything to brag about given the timing of the first Amtrak run on this route and that of Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha's which ran from Chicago to St. Paul in 6 hours 30 minutes to 7 hours, depending on the year.

One strength of the Chicago-St. Paul routing used today is patronage. The ex-Milwaukee route was chosen over the ex-Burlington Northern (CB&Q) route to serve Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but ridership is also strong at Columbus, Wisconsin Dells, La Crosse, and Winona. Interestingly, on the day before Amtrak Day (May 1, 1971), the former BN route actually enjoyed superior service as well as faster running times. While the Milwaukee Road line had but only one full-service passenger train in each direction daily, plus a coach-only mail train eastbound, BN offered two full-service passenger trains daily in both directions, plus an extra full-service westbound train on Fridays and Sundays.
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WE Were the Best

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Mar 31, 2004 8:26 am

The Milwaukee was often noted as being one of the most compliant contractors regarding accounting matters under both the Basic and Amended Agreements.

I will acknowledge at the end, OTP was not quite what it should have been, but for most of my years with the MILW, it was quite stellar.

Lastly, Mr Meyer, please forgive me for not getting out a MILW Timetable and precisely measuring the mileage La Crescent-St Paul. I'm sure Mr. Grossman will. Mississippt Jct,, as I recall, is near Fordson between St Paul and Mpls on the MILW.
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Postby Guest » Thu Apr 01, 2004 12:18 am

Mr. Norman stated:
"Lastly, Mr Meyer, please forgive me for not getting out a MILW Timetable and precisely measuring the mileage La Crescent-St Paul. I'm sure Mr. Grossman will. Mississippt Jct,, as I recall, is near Fordson between St Paul and Mpls on the MILW."

Didn't mean to offend you Mr. Norman. Actually your estimate of 115 miles of river viewing is probably closer to accurate than the mileage from La Crosse to St. Paul. Now that I think about it, there are a lot of places in this distance that the Mississippi River isn't visible from Amtrak, which probably explains the first post in this thread. My posting of the mileage was to simply clarify the area as La Crosse and St. Paul are both Amtrak stops and are easy to indentify with; La Crescent isn't even on the route and Mississippi Jct is vague enough not to be readily known by someone that is just asking about the general features of the route.

With regard to the original post, I'd like to add that when one thinks (or thought) of running along the Mississippi River, the BNSF (ex-BN, ex-CB&Q) route is/was the one that usually came to mind. Between Chicago and St. Paul, the route is right along the river just about the whole way between Savanna, IL and St. Paul. CB&Q advertised this route as "Where Nature Smiles 300 Miles." While not quite 300 miles in duration, the route followed the Mississippi much more closely than the current Amtrak route. Overall the ex-CB&Q route was 17 miles longer than the ex-MILW route used by Amtrak today, though when there was service on both, the CB&Q trains were usually faster.
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Postby AmtrakFan » Mon Aug 09, 2004 12:39 am

I wish that they had more CHI-MSP Service especially High Speed Rail then I would ride it also is today's route faster than the old CB&Q?

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100mph

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Aug 09, 2004 7:31 am

Actually, Mr. Fan, both the Q and MILW had 100mph authorized speeds on their routes between Chi and St Paul. Timings on both lines for a trip roundly the same distance as the Corridor BOS-WAS were better than the Acela Express.

At times, driving along US30 between Sugar Grove and Waterman, IL where the Q and highway parallel one another, I cannot believe that 100mph was ever allowed (55 is quite fast enough on US30, thank you). Of course, the line is impecably maintained, but just too many places where Farmer Alfalfa could be X-ing the ROW with a load of hay.

I'll defer to Mr. Meyer or others with access to an ETT for authorized freight and passenger speeds today.
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Etc

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Aug 09, 2004 9:37 am

I do not claim to be really knowledgeable in this area but I did ride the
C.B. & Q from Chicago to Saint Paul in the fall of 1962 and remember it
was fast, scenic and very smooth.
One year later in the fall of 1963, I rode the Milwaukee Road and I
remember it was fast, scenic and very rough. I walked through the train
at the time and the whole train was rough riding.
It never really made sense to me why Amtrak picked the Milwaukee over
the Burlington on this run. Big cities do not necessarily mean big patronage on a passenger train.
According to my stuff, most of the BN in this area is 60 MPH whether it is a
passenger train or a freight train.
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Postby AmtrakFan » Mon Aug 09, 2004 10:26 am

I think they should bring back Passenger Service on the Q I would ride it because I'm closer to the Q than the MILW also I'd like Amtrak to add 3 to 4 Chicago to MSP Trains. Anyone Agree?

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Keep Eyes Open for the Perennial Detour

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Aug 09, 2004 2:28 pm

The BNSF line has quite enough freight traffic at present. However, we should note that they are quite cooperative in taking the Empire Builder as a detour. With "father of the waters' being just that, I can't recall a year in which there has NOT been a detour of 7-8 over the Q.
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Postby Rhinecliff » Mon Aug 09, 2004 8:11 pm

Mr. Norman is absolutely correct about the BNSF's willingness to accept the Empire Builder on detours between MSP and CHI. I have never had the opportunity to ride on such trains, but my parents have. From their experience, the train has gotten along just fine -- usually covering the route with little or no delay over the existing schedule. I find it quite impressive. I'm guessing that the MSP to CHI route is one of the increasingly rare areas where detours are still possible.
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St Paul Union Depot

Postby Station Aficionado » Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:46 pm

We were in St. Paul for a family wedding over the past weekend, and I (naturally) took the occasion on Saturday morning to wander down to SPUD. The resurrection process is well and truly under way. From the outside, you can see the work being done for the Central Corridor light rail line (St. Paul to Minneapolis--I think they've given it a color name, but don't remember if its Blue or Green) in front of the headhouse, as well as the work of making the concourse back into a concourse (after 30+ years as a USPS facility).

A couple of questions that perhaps Mr. Stephens or others with knowledge might be able to answer:
I know that SPUD is to replace the current Midway Station for Amtrak. Has it been finally settled whether there will be a separate station for Minneapolis? I'm assuming there won't be on account of the EB's route not passing throught downtown Minneapolis. And, given that the EB is to begin stopping at SPUD next year, but the Central Corridor light rail won't start running until (I think 2014), will there be any provision to get folks to Minneapolis?
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Re: St Paul Union Depot

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:23 pm

Station Aficionado wrote:We were in St. Paul for a family wedding over the past weekend, and I (naturally) took the occasion on Saturday morning to wander down to SPUD. The resurrection process is well and truly under way. From the outside, you can see the work being done for the Central Corridor light rail line (St. Paul to Minneapolis--I think they've given it a color name, but don't remember if its Blue or Green) in front of the headhouse, as well as the work of making the concourse back into a concourse (after 30+ years as a USPS facility).

A couple of questions that perhaps Mr. Stephens or others with knowledge might be able to answer:
I know that SPUD is to replace the current Midway Station for Amtrak. Has it been finally settled whether there will be a separate station for Minneapolis? I'm assuming there won't be on account of the EB's route not passing throught downtown Minneapolis. And, given that the EB is to begin stopping at SPUD next year, but the Central Corridor light rail won't start running until (I think 2014), will there be any provision to get folks to Minneapolis?

I hope you enjoyed our fine city!

As far as I know, there won't be a separate stop for Minneapolis - not for Amtrak anyhow. For those not in the know, the Empire Builder travels on CP Rail, Minnesota Commercial, and BNSF tracks through the Twin Cities, and is slated to keep that routing after the station move. The Builder's current route on CP Rail goes right past St. Paul Union Depot, but there is no longer a site suitable for an on-line Amtrak depot in downtown Minneapolis. If the Red Rock Corridor ever gets approval, it will travel Hastings - St. Paul Union Depot - Minneapolis Target Field Station and provide a commuter rail link, though it would only mesh with the Builder's morning departure.

I'm not sure about how people will get to Minneapolis, I'll have to ask my Metro Transit contacts about that. I'd bet on a rerouted variant of the 94, 50 or 16 bus though.
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Re: St Paul Union Depot

Postby Station Aficionado » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:53 pm

mtuandrew wrote:I hope you enjoyed our fine city!

Indeed. I've been to St. Paul a number of times on account of my wife's family ties. This time, I particularly enjoyed the beer and burgers at the Blue Door Pub.

I'm sure they'll work out some sort of interim Minneapolis connection for the EB. Is there currently some sort of transit bus service between Midway Station and the two downtowns? I've never seen anything advertised.
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