Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

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Tadman
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Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by Tadman »

Here's something I've never been able to figure out. Of all routes, why does the Eagle and Sunset interchange cars? It used to be very common in the heyday of long distance rail travel for cars to switch out and swap trains en route. But that's almost completely gone now. It's used on 49/449 basically to keep Mass congresspersons happy, and not really sure why there's a PDX builder section.

So what gives with the Eagle? Both routes are low density, often late, one of which is every, um, third/second day of the week. What is gained? Are that many people from Arkansas and east Texas looking to visit LA or New Mexico?
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hi55us
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by hi55us »

Well I can speak to the builder, the route from Portland and Seattle to Spokane is very popular, even with the lousy timings into Spokane. I take the train as far as Pasco, Washington and there are routinely more than 50 people waiting for the builder there every morning. Both routes are also on BNSF so it keeps things smooth running. Not like they need to switch off from BNSF to UP.

Backshophoss
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by Backshophoss »

The remains of the Transconn Sleeper routing,NYP to LAUS on the SR Crescent to NOL,then SP Sunset Ltd.
Corrupted to the current setup of NYP to CUS,change trains to the Eagle thru sleeper to LAUS,in car change to Sunset Ltd
at San Antonio.
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electricron
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by electricron »

Backshophoss wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:12 pm
The remains of the Transconn Sleeper routing,NYP to LAUS on the SR Crescent to NOL,then SP Sunset Ltd.
Corrupted to the current setup of NYP to CUS,change trains to the Eagle thru sleeper to LAUS,in car change to Sunset Ltd
at San Antonio.
I'm not sure if you are 100% correct, but I do believe you are pointing in the right direction. One could easily go NYP to LAUS using the SW Chief vs the TX Eagle - and do it quicker every day of the week. That's why I do not think you are 100% correct. So why do I think you are pointing in the right direction??

Take a look at these links.
https://www.railpassengers.org/site/ass ... 444/32.pdf
https://www.railpassengers.org/site/ass ... 438/33.pdf
Why in the first link is Longview listed so high is because of the bus shuttle to Houston - as far as the TX Eagle is concerned, Longview is Houston. Why in the second link is San Antonio listed so high when all the other city pairs listed are stations visited during the day while San Antonio is visited at night? Could the answer be the TX Eagle? Obviously many passengers take advantage of this service.

And to be honest with you, both the interlining sleeper and coach cars are close to being full every time I have rode this train from Fort Worth to locales west of San Antonio. If ridership was extremely poor, it would not exist. The Dallas - Fort Worth MSA is just as large as the Houston - Galveston MSA and I'm certain a bus shuttle link from DFW to the Sunset Limited would exist if the TX Eagle between DFW and SA was terminated just like the bus shuttle from Houston to Longview.

Another point to not leave on the table undiscussed is when Amtrak interchanges cars between trains - they do so in the middle of the night. San Antonio and Spokane are visited at night. I speculate that Amtrak does not wish to throw interchanging passengers out on the streets in the middle of the night. I would like to point out that the Chicago and Albany car interchanges take place during daylight hours. So it is a win-win scenario for Amtrak and these interchanging passengers.

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Tadman
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by Tadman »

electricron wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 8:55 am

And to be honest with you, both the interlining sleeper and coach cars are close to being full every time I have rode this train from Fort Worth to locales west of San Antonio. If ridership was extremely poor, it would not exist.
Assuming this is true, it would be interesting to see what city pairs are popular and where these people are going. To LA? El Paso? Arizona or New Mexico? And where are they coming from, Dallas-Fort Worth? Little ROck? Longview?

Ron I think you're a Texan, and if so, we both know that the Sunset passes through one decent size city and a few small hamlets on the way to TUcson and LA. That's not a lot of population base to serve, and I suspect the Marfa tourist crowd is not using the Sunset.
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electricron
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by electricron »

Tadman wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 9:02 am
electricron wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 8:55 am

And to be honest with you, both the interlining sleeper and coach cars are close to being full every time I have rode this train from Fort Worth to locales west of San Antonio. If ridership was extremely poor, it would not exist.
Assuming this is true, it would be interesting to see what city pairs are popular and where these people are going. To LA? El Paso? Arizona or New Mexico? And where are they coming from, Dallas-Fort Worth? Little ROck? Longview?

Ron I think you're a Texan, and if so, we both know that the Sunset passes through one decent size city and a few small hamlets on the way to TUcson and LA. That's not a lot of population base to serve, and I suspect the Marfa tourist crowd is not using the Sunset.
I’ll agree Marfa is not their likely destination. It has been my experence on the Texas Eagle and other western long distance trains for Amtrak to centralize destinations on trains per the day/night the train visits. For example, west of Chicago the passengers from Chicago to Denver, San Antonio, Omaha, and Minot in a car, and west of the later cities to the west coast into a second car - at the least. As the cars free up along the way west the earlier cars become available for those boarding even further west. Few if any passengers on the interlacing sleeper and coach Texas Eagle cars are used by those getting off the train before San Antonio, and all of them board it east of San Antonio, some from as far away as New York City. I guess even New Yorkers wish to see different areas of the country as they look out their windows on the train - or get bored watching the same scenery pass by.

eolesen
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by eolesen »

Remember that Chicago is one of the larger Mexican populations in the US. I'd be curious to see ridership demographics, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to find there are large numbers traveling to/from Mexico by train out of Chicago, with transfers to buses at SAT, ELP or even TUS.

electricron
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by electricron »

Tadman wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 9:02 am
Assuming this is true, it would be interesting to see what city pairs are popular and where these people are going. To LA? El Paso? Arizona or New Mexico? And where are they coming from, Dallas-Fort Worth? Little ROck? Longview?
I'm sorry the pdfs I listed earlier did not list any city pairs for the Texas Eagle with any cities west of San Antonio.
Let's compare the largest cities ridership between the two trains between LA and SA the pdfs provided.
Note first data listed is for Sunset Limited, second data listed is for Texas Eagle.
San Antonio 18,834 33,885
El Paso 11,112 3,002
Tucson 24,536 3,304
Los Angeles 46,659 9,206

The last three cities show a higher ridership for the Sunset Limited train - which is more than just interlacing cars single sleeper and coach cars, The first city reflects comparing full sized trains, and the fact the Sunset Limited visits San Antonio in the middle of the night. For the interlacing Texas Eagle cars the vast majority of the passengers originate or terminate their trip in Los Angeles, about 1/6 of the passengers visiting Los Angeles are riding on the Texas Eagle interlacing cars.

Another point of differences between these two trains is their trip length breakdowns.
The vast majority (64.8%) on the Texas Eagle ride the train for less than 300 miles - the vast majority (60.9%) ride on the Sunset Limited over 500 miles with the highest data point at 500-599 miles (21.8%). I think this data reflects the majority of the Sunset Limited passengers are riding between California and Texas at least, while the majority of Texas Eagle passengers are riding within Texas or Illinois (including St. Louis just across the Mississippi river).

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Tadman
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by Tadman »

Interesting analysis.

I've never been end-to-end, but have covered the whole route. I ride TUS-LAX, CHI-STL, and CHI-DFW frequently. I once rode DFW-TUS at Christmas because work was slowing down for holidays and I wanted to complete the route. It was really the best part of the ride.

A few anecdotal observations I've made over the years:

1. The TUS-LAX overnight is really convenient in both directions if you catch it on the right day. My parents are in Tucson and plenty of customers in LA, so it works great to be in either a business or family trip, and be able to option the other.
2. Perhaps the strong STL-CHI showing is reflective of the fact the Eagle is the best mid-day schedule on that route northbound. I've taken that gamble a few times and sometimes it pays off, sometimes it bites me in the butt and I have to grab a last minute flight from Lambert.
3. I have little perspective as to the other riders or city pairs as I always go into my cabin and fall asleep, especially on the TUS-LAX ride.
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by wigwagfan »

hi55us wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 1:52 pm
Well I can speak to the builder, the route from Portland and Seattle to Spokane is very popular, even with the lousy timings into Spokane. I take the train as far as Pasco, Washington and there are routinely more than 50 people waiting for the builder there every morning.
Not sure I'd count a train that has two coaches and 50 boardings at a metro area with a population of over 180,000 "popular", other than that it's about the only way to get to Portland.

Horizon only serves Seattle from Pasco (which Amtrak doesn't) so using Horizon to get to Portland would be quite an adventure. And Greyhound seems to also be a once-a-day service albeit in the afternoon; arguably Amtrak's early morning run to Portland and late evening return is quite a convenient schedule, if you're going from Tri-Cities to Portland.

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Tadman
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by Tadman »

This might be one of those "it's just not a pair" pairs of cities. Where does greater Spokane go? Olympia is the capital, Seattle is the in-state metropolis, the metro area extends into Idaho. It could be that Portland and Spokane folks just don't visit each other.
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Re: Why the Sunset-Eagle tie-up?

Post by mtuandrew »

It’s again worth a look at whether the Texas Eagle should be a through train and the Sunset Limited should be a shuttle NOL-SAN or even MOB-NOL-SAN. Might even be able to convince UP to allow daily Texas Eagle service to El Paso if the other two line segments (NOL-SAN, LAX-ELP) remain 3x/weekly shuttles.

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