• Amtrak Borealis: fka Empire Builder 2nd Daily Frequency Chicago - St Paul

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Tadman
 
I would make good sense to keep a protect engine and two coaches in MSP in case the Builder is 3+ hours late. Run the protect set to Chicago, and then either run the Builder when it runs or hold it for the afternoon Borealis and run them together.
  by Tadman
 
I'm not sure I understand your question.

My assertions stems from the fact that an eastbound 3-day train can be very late- 8 hours sometimes. I've had problems in Saint Louis and MSP both where I was scheduled on a morning Builder or Eagle to Chicago and due to problems halfway to Japan, it's an entire working day late.

You simply cannot run a corridor like that, where the key 8am day train has the potential to be 3-8+ hours late. If the train leaves Saint Louis or MSP after it was scheduled to arrive in Chicago, nobody will take the train seriously as a transportation tool. The solution I've suggested is to keep a protect motor and 2-3 coaches in STL or MSP, and if the west coast train is known to be grossly late, run the protect train on time and provide reliable transportation. Then either let the west coast train make it to Chicago on its own, or hold it in STL or MSP until the schedule slot for the next corridor run is and combine the two.

Something like this happened in 2007 when the LSL and Cap were 9+ hours late. They were combined somewhere like Toledo or Cleveland and sent to Chicago over the Detroit line. It was caught on video flying through New Buffalo.

  by ryanwc
 
If Amtrak had 9 seats left on the Borealis and ten people booked on an extremely late Empire Builder, would they let the tenth on and tell them to sit in the cafe car, or strand them till the Builder showed up?
  by electricron
 
ryanwc wrote: Fri May 24, 2024 8:38 am If Amtrak had 9 seats left on the Borealis and ten people booked on an extremely late Empire Builder, would they let the tenth on and tell them to sit in the cafe car, or strand them till the Builder showed up?
Amtrak rarely over book trains. Not going to state it never happens, but over booking is not their normal procedure.
  by superbad
 
To the person asking how many people will still use the eastbound Builder... I was curious too so I walked up to the Winona Station today to watch both eastbound trains.. now this is a Friday before a long weekend, but the new train has not reduced the eastbound boardings on the Builder at all from observation.
  by F40CFan
 
I rode 1333(21) and 1340(22). The outbound trip was packed until Milwaukee. There was still a good size crowd the rest of the way to SPUD.

The consist was P42 82 in fresh phase VII, followed by Horizon coaches 54530, 54582, 54556, 54580, then Amcafe 48177, followed by P42 75 also in fresh phase VII. Its a shame they couldn't have come up with a Venture set for the inaugural run. 48177 was kind of rough inside.

I didn't keep detailed notes, just enjoyed the ride and listened to my scanner.

After we left Sturtevant outbound, the dispatcher called the engineer and informed him that there were dignitaries at the Milwaukee airport stop and that he should "keep that in mind when making his approach". There were camera crews and photographers and news reporters among those milling about on the platform.

The operating crews changed in Milwaukee with the new crew going all the way to St. Paul.

Between Winona and Red Wing the dispatcher warned the engineer of a high wind alert and a tornado warning. We were allowed to maintain speed but to keep a look out for funnel clouds. It was raining pretty hard at the time. Shortly after that the dispatcher said that the National Weather Service had cancelled the tornado warning.

There were some speed restrictions along the way and we had to go in the hole for 1340 and a very late 8. We arrived in St. Paul about 30 minutes late. Not bad.

The trip back was uneventful, with the same speed restrictions. We had the same train set with 75 leading. We did hit a tree around mile post 292, but there were no issues. We got held by a restricting signal at Bridge Switch until the bridge could be closed and secured after a tug with a barge went through. We went into the hole for 1333 and 7 after that. We also had to stop to flag a crossing at 3rd street in Watertown. Otherwise we did well.

We arrived at CUS 37 minutes late which was just enough to make me miss my scoot home.
  by jp1822
 
The Empire Builder runs many days nearly sold out or nearly so between Twin Cities and Chicago. I'm on this train a LOT. Coach gets filled and then some passengers will take a "day room" in the form of a roomette between Chicago and intermediate points to Twin Cities. Yes, that popular. And when the train hits sold out conditions, there's no way to quantify how many passengers Amtrak has turned away. All in all, I think some passengers will be diverted to the Borealis, who travel exclusively between Twin Cities and Chicago, but not sure it's going to be that dramatic of a diversion. Moreover, it will open up previously "sold out" space on the Empire Builder for passengers travelling west of Twin Cities, that may have been previously bumped out of a reservation in a sleeper or coach seat because it was occupied by a "short traveler" (e.g. Chicago to/from Twin Cities traveler). In brief - the dynamics are going to be VERY interesting. And the Empire Builder just got back its second Seattle coach since being cut shortly after the train went back to daily and then 5x a week service in 2021. The Borealis will provide a good back-up to when the Empire Builder is running late (eastbound). But there's no spare coaches in the system to spare. I am sure everyone knows that Amtrak used to tack on a coach behind the Portland Sleeper from Twin Cities to/from Chicago pre-2010.

I do think that it is GREAT to see the Borealis train running. This is definitely needed and long over due. Now to just get something similar between Kansas City and Chicago (not sure what states would join in on that funding if at all), and then Chicago to Denver (even more complicated). But all these are busy "corridors" within the long distance train network. And all used to have extra coaches or sleepers added at Kansas City or Denver respectively.
  by ryanwc
 
Just today I was looking at KC-Chicago for a business trip. But I booked a flight instead. The times didn't work out. So I agree it would be great.

But I also looked at where it runs in Missouri. It only stops in La Plata, population 1,400 (probably to serve the college in Kirksville, but still...) There's really no population in north-central Missouri. Kirksville at 17,500 is the metropolis. It's basically Galesburg, IL and then KC. Not sure where you'd get political support for that train. Not from MO, not from KS, and IL would have a dozen priorities before that.

I think Memphis is a sooner thing.
  by jp1822
 
Kansas City to Chicago is highly underrated even as end point to end point. It offers a competitive travel time to driving. It’s also a MAJOR turnover point for Southwest Chief. Fort Madison and La Plata also draw descent ridership. Anything with colleges around are prime patrons. It’s long been on the drawing boards as a corridor.
  by Tadman
 
ryanwc wrote: Fri May 24, 2024 7:52 pm Just today I was looking at KC-Chicago for a business trip. But I booked a flight instead. The times didn't work out. So I agree it would be great.

But I also looked at where it runs in Missouri. It only stops in La Plata, population 1,400 (probably to serve the college in Kirksville, but still...) There's really no population in north-central Missouri. Kirksville at 17,500 is the metropolis. It's basically Galesburg, IL and then KC. Not sure where you'd get political support for that train. Not from MO, not from KS, and IL would have a dozen priorities before that.

I think Memphis is a sooner thing.
I used to make this ride a lot on 3/4. It's a tough sell when Missouri is already funding the STL-KC trains which, last I heard, are not filling up yet post-covid. It is indeed a great point-to-point route with little in between, and 90mph ride west of Galesburg, too. I would suggest it might be easier to attract Kansas support if the train was Chicago-Topeka, which would service University of Kansas. Lots of Chicago suburb kids are at KU.
  by Bob Roberts
 
On board today. Not even to Milwaukee yet but I have a couple of observations:
  • Everyone is leaning into the 'new service' aspect of the route and it seems clear there is still a bit of uncertainty on how to do things with the OBS folks. The AC just announced that Mitchel Airport is the 'next to last stop' and after a pause said, 'for this crew'. The first AC announcement said the train was 'headed to Milwaukee', after a pause, 'and St. Paul', after another pause 'and all stations in between' There has been some confusion amongst the non rail-nerd passengers
  • Related to the above, the station staff at CUS (at least the Metropolitan Lounge Attendant have not yet developed a rhythm with the service either. The Metro lounge attendant never made a boarding announcement and I was left to find my way to gate 17 on my own (which is tricky). I had to board with 'the people' (oh the horror I said sarcastically)
  • The OBS staff seems to be a bit uptight about train crowding. Multiple announcements that the train is full[ (keep stuff off seats etc.) and there were five minutes worth of cafe car rules to follow (single file, its not an observation car, eat and leave, etc) which were attributed to the crowding. I am regularly on sold out Carolinian's,, this is a level of uptightness that is far above those days. /list]

    While it is Memorial Day weekend, and we have less than a week of data, I am getting a vibe that ridership has surprised Amtrak (at least the crew) here.

    Regardless my nit-picks, it is a beautiful day, its bee a nice ride, and I am excited to see the new (to me) St. Paul station.
  by F40CFan
 
Bob Roberts wrote: Sat May 25, 2024 12:29 pm The AC just announced that Mitchel Airport is the 'next to last stop' and after a pause said, 'for this crew'. The first AC announcement said the train was 'headed to Milwaukee', after a pause, 'and St. Paul', after another pause 'and all stations in between' There has been some confusion amongst the non rail-nerd passengers[/list]
I noticed that on my trip also. They would slip like "this is train 333, er. 1333" or "Hiawatha, er. Borealis Service". It was the first run so its understandable.
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