• Amtrak 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

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  by Philly Amtrak Fan
 
gokeefe wrote: Wed May 06, 2020 8:30 pm I think it is absurd to propose an overnight service that leaves out the markets between MSP and CHI. Amtrak has suceeded to the extent that it has in recent decades by mastering the art of regional daylight service.

With regard to naming (which I think is very important for passenger wayfinding) I would suggest the Twin Cities Limited which gives a respectful nod to the MILW's Pioneer Limited and also helps avoid passenger confusion.

"You're on the wrong Hiawatha" really isn't something the public will tolerate at all. It leads to hundreds of "never again" however wrong headed such sentiment might be.
Most of the relevant markets are well served by Chicago-Milwaukee service, an overnight service would allow passengers to travel between the two without having to give up eight "day" hours in between and instead "sleep it off". If I could travel overnight between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh I'd do it in a second. No one's saying it should be their only service, they're saying it should be in addition to the current service.
  by jcepler1
 
Target field is the terminal for the Northstar trains. It couldn't be a terminal for a new Amtrak train without new infrastructure and agreements. But that area is very constrained.

St Paul Union Depot has two platform tracks. At the very least you could have the train layover in one track, and have the other track be open for the Empire Builder. If not, there is plenty of space to build new tracks and platforms.
  by Rockingham Racer
 
If Google Maps is correct, one of the station tracks at Target Field continues westward on the BNSF Wayzata Sub for some distance, ending under the Royalston Ave. overpass. [Apparently, the subdivision was, at one time, double track.] The train could layover there, without any track improvements. I do not know the entity that Amtrak would need to negotiate with in order to terminate at the station. BNSF would be one obvious one.
  by Tadman
 
I don't know that the middle markets have to be sacrificed on a night train. Currently the Builder sees a 7:45 ride between MSP and Chicago with plenty of 79mph running and nine intermediate stops. We know a few things about that 79/stops model, one is that it's not freight-friendly. Freights like to go 40 and keep going.

If a night train to MSP is the goal, perhaps the following schedule is good:

Chicago - 9p
Glenview - 930
MKE airport - 1030
MKE - 1045
La Crosse - 3a
Redwing - 5a
Saint Paul - 7a

It slows down the 7:45 schedule to 10 hours, which saves fuel and fits the freight slot a bit better. It also makes two stops in all the major cities, one downtown and one suburban/exurban.

No food car, no lounge car, no baggage car. Certainly no free meals. No attendants to lower/make beds, theyre down. No short-rides in sleeper, alleviating need to make beds en-route. Sleeper passengers must be ticketed through at least LaCrosse (and the price is the same anyway). Use superliners so consist is coach-coach-coach-sleeper-sleeper. Maybe the lower level of one coach has a refreshment stand, coffee, donuts, etc... Plenty of room for bags in the downstairs racks.

Total crew could be engine/conductor/AC/attendant.
  by Arborwayfan
 
Several posts here focus on Target being unsuitable for a major terminal: cramped for passengers, no place to store the train overnight, etc. I understand that, but I'm still wondering whether it could be used as a garden variety station. Clearly that station can handle pax getting on and off crowded commuter trains, so I would think 50 people getting on or off an Amtrak train would also be OK, even with some luggage. If the train departed on time, was available for boarding 20 mins or half an hour before departure, and had suitable boarding procedures, pax should be able to basically walk up and board. The train could be its own waiting room.

Is there any particular reason that the train couldn't use Target Field as its last stop, and run back to St. Paul for the night if storage is available there, and then reverse the process in the morning? Sure, that's time and expense, but it would probably take a lot of years for that to cost more than building a whole new station in Mpls, and it would test or build the market for the train in Mpls.

I guess it matters, too, how fast the train could get from St. Paul to Target. If it weren't faster than the light rail, it would be almost pointless.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Tadman wrote: Thu May 07, 2020 11:05 am I don't know that the middle markets have to be sacrificed on a night train.
Honestly Mr. Mr. Dunville, even though you have reported on good experiences overseas with both the Riviera and the Caledonian, it will take much, much re-education of the road warrior community over here to accept using an Amtrak "Night Train".

If there wasn't patronage at a price point to support assigning two Sleepers, as part of a CHI-BOS-WAS and return line, then how could there be anywhere else, which would require an additional train?

Before I scrubbed the entire trip (and hopefully can burn up my $2200 United Travel Certificate before Jan '22), I was thinking about a Salzburg-Rome OBB Night Jet "joyride" (somewhere I haven't been since the '60 "fsmily trip"). But I decided against it as it would simply be "too disruptive" for a 79yo to handle.

Amtrak has clearly decided they want nothing of the "Econosnooze" sleeper market. Apparently, there is enough of such overseas to have the OBB rush in with Night Jet when the others were running away. But I think that market - 2nd Class Couchette - is what they will end up with. Hope they can make a € from it.
  by Tadman
 
Arborwayfan wrote: Thu May 07, 2020 12:19 pm

I guess it matters, too, how fast the train could get from St. Paul to Target. If it weren't faster than the light rail, it would be almost pointless.
That's an important question. I don't know much about MSP terminal trackage. But it's a maze of CP, UP, BNSF, and MTRR.

https://mnnr.net/empire_map_x2.html
  by mtuandrew
 
Tadman wrote: Thu May 07, 2020 3:31 pm
Arborwayfan wrote: Thu May 07, 2020 12:19 pm

I guess it matters, too, how fast the train could get from St. Paul to Target. If it weren't faster than the light rail, it would be almost pointless.
That's an important question. I don't know much about MSP terminal trackage. But it's a maze of CP, UP, BNSF, and MTRR.

https://mnnr.net/empire_map_x2.html
I’m not sure either, but between downtown St. Paul and the old Midway Station it’s about 10 minutes if CP gives them the railroad. (And they usually do, there’s next to no traffic on the ex-MILW line up Short Line Hill.) The handoff between CP and Minnesota Commercial Railway (MNRR) at Merriam Park Junction sometimes holds them up, but that’s also unlikely if Amtrak is on time. MNRR to BNSF might take longer, especially since BNSF’s dispatchers would have to thread the Twin Cities Hiawatha across the river at East Minneapolis Junction. The Builder goes with the flow of traffic on the Northern Transcon and sometimes still gets caught for a bit.

Worth noting that all of the MnDOT studies thus far have recommended Target Field Station as an endpoint. Also, I expect that any Amtrak service would change ends and lay over at the old Midway station, rather than hanging out on the Northstar Commuter layover track past Target Field.
  by gokeefe
 
Arborwayfan wrote: Thu May 07, 2020 12:19 pmI understand that, but I'm still wondering whether it could be used as a garden variety station. Clearly that station can handle pax getting on and off crowded commuter trains, so I would think 50 people getting on or off an Amtrak train would also be OK, even with some luggage. If the train departed on time, was available for boarding 20 mins or half an hour before departure, and had suitable boarding procedures, pax should be able to basically walk up and board. The train could be its own waiting room.

Is there any particular reason that the train couldn't use Target Field as its last stop, and run back to St. Paul for the night if storage is available there, and then reverse the process in the morning? Sure, that's time and expense, but it would probably take a lot of years for that to cost more than building a whole new station in Mpls, and it would test or build the market for the train in Mpls.
I think the point is well made. With regards to timing what you described is essentially standard procedure already in most cases especially at terminal stations outside the NEC. The Downeaster almost exactly follows the boarding practice you describe and they do that even at BON.
  by RRspatch
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Thu May 07, 2020 5:51 am
dgvrengineer wrote: Wed May 06, 2020 7:45 pm...I rode the Amtrak version(seems like it was still called the Pioneer Ltd, but not sure) in the 70's...
Mr. DGV, the only overnight Amtrak-era CHI-MSP was circa '77-'78 when #7 and #8, Empire Builder or North Coast Hi (depending on date of origin), was placed on a schedule emulating that of GN #7, Western Star or NP#1 Mainstreeter. That connected nicely with the MSP-Duluth Arrowhead.
The 1980 April system timetable shows The North Star running over night between Chicago and MSP -

http://www.timetables.org/full.php?grou ... &item=0040

Heck, I only had to go back one page to get this link which I posted two days ago.
  by eolesen
 
gokeefe wrote: Wed May 06, 2020 8:30 pm With regard to naming (which I think is very important for passenger wayfinding) I would suggest the Twin Cities Limited which gives a respectful nod to the MILW's Pioneer Limited and also helps avoid passenger confusion.

"You're on the wrong Hiawatha" really isn't something the public will tolerate at all. It leads to hundreds of "never again" however wrong headed such sentiment might be.
If you're boarding in CHI and the overnight train still stops in MKE, how would you be on the wrong Hiawatha?.. You're still getting to your intended destination.
  by Rockingham Racer
 
There is, though, the question of servicing the train while it's laying over. Right now, there is absolutely nothing that's Amtrak-related at MSP. So that would be an issue. Would deadheading back to SPUD for laying over solve the servicing issue? I am not so sure. I don't know what kind of personnel Amtrak has there, but even if it has some now, an increase in hours for service personnel would certainly be required. There would also be the need for new or increased comissary services .

As for Northstar, the schedule they had was to use three trainsets to run four trains into Minnie in the AM, and four back to Big Lake in the afternoon. [The first set did a quick reverse deadhead scoot to be the fourth and last train each each way on weekdays]. Given that Target Field station has, like St Paul, two station tracks, the train could theoritically pull into the stub end track and layover there, I believe. It seems [from Google Maps] that during the day, the three Northstar trainsets pull west after their morning arrival, and use that second track on the Wayzata Sub that I referenced yesterday to layover for the evening rush. Still doesn't solve the servicing question, and as jcepler pointed out, the area is very space constrained. It may well be possible to get a fuel truck into the area, and that in my mind, would rule out Target Field station as a layover location for this new train.

As for turning the train, there is a wye to do that just north of the station that could be used.

My musings at 6:30 AM.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
RRspatch wrote: Fri May 08, 2020 1:38 amThe 1980 April system timetable shows The North Star running over night between Chicago and MSP -

http://www.timetables.org/full.php?grou ... &item=0040

Heck, I only had to go back one page to get this link which I posted two days ago.
Ok Mr. Spatch, I'll stand corrected. I did not properly recall that a second train, named the North Star. remained after the North Coast got whacked as part of the '79 Carter Cuts.

Especially embarassing since we're talking about my own road. But almost 79yo minds have "recall issues". No longer can I hear four bars of a work from the Classical repetory and play "Name that tune" as I once could.

I rode the "Western Star" (Builder o'nite CHI-MSP) during Nov 77. I also thsnk you for the link to Amtrak timetables, as my research has been done from.my "traditional paper" collection.
  by Tadman
 
Where is the commuter train cleaned? Minneapolis or St. Cloud? Given that a Duluth train is starting soon, maybe it's wise to have a pool of cleaning and restocking resources in MSP somewhere for all three carriers.

But then again, there are plenty of cleaning outsourcing companies in the area. Maybe find a siding with road access, or MNTR shops, or 261 shops, where they can store the train during the day. A fuel truck pulls up and fills the engine, a semi pulls up and drops off bedding and amenities while carrying away laundry, and a honeywagon does the same for the toilets. A modular trailer or rented building could serve as crew base and rest area.
  by Rockingham Racer
 
I believe servicing is done at the Northstar facility in Big Lake. The service doesn't go to St. Cloud--at least not yet. As for Minneapolis, BNSF's Northtown Yard is just a few miles away, or less. Maybe there's a track there for storage and/or servicing.
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