• North Carolina NCDOT-Amtrak Carolinian Service

  • 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 Bob Roberts
 
Bob Roberts wrote: Mon Oct 24, 2022 6:38 am This weekend was a perfect storm for ridership. In addition to the normal Friday-Sunday college kid traffic. There was a Panthers home game Sunday (and Hornets on Friday), the last weekend of the NC State Fair was running (there is a special fair stop in Raleigh) and the NC BBQ festival was on Saturday in Lexington (also a special stop). So there were events at both ends and the center of the route.
October was the record ridership month for NCDOT trains (Carolinian and Piedmonts). The trains carried 55,493 in October, this beat the previous record for ridership (from September 2022) by 14%.

https://www.ncdot.gov/news/press-releas ... Month.aspx
  by Station Aficionado
 
Turning to another aspect of North Carolina service, I'm just back from several days in Asheville. I understand the state is to release a report by the end of the year on the feasibility of 3x/day service between AVL and Salisbury. A few thoughts.

1. The highway situation in the AVL area seems to be a mess. I spent a significant amount of time on I-40 both east and west of the city, and I found that road frightening. I assume that things get better (at least flatter) as you head further east. (I-26 is currently a real problem due to construction; I can't speak to how it is in normal times.) I can see where there would be a market for those who can't/don't want to drive on I-40.

2. The rail situation has pluses and minuses. IIRC, NS is now running through freights only in the direction of Knoxville. It's just locals from AVL to Salisbury. FWIW, in four days, I didn't see a single NS or Blue Ridge Southern freight on the move anywhere close to AVL. It's hard to see NS wanting to put a lot of resources into a line that hosts only a few locals. The state would likely have to provide major capital funding if service starts. On the other hand, there shouldn't be any capacity constraints.

3. Relatedly, the Old Fort loops are certainly an engineering marvel, but also a major hindrance to time-competitive passenger service. For those who know the history, did Southern ever contemplate more extensive tunnels to bypass the loops?

4. I have read that the state is considering essentially shuttle service between AVL and Salisbury, where passengers could change for trains headed either north or south. That doesn't seem optimal. If the state were to support, say, 4x/day, they could run two trains through to Charlotte via Salisbury and two through to Greensboro or Raleigh via Winston-Salem (the route of the northern section of the Carolina Special (if that route is still viable between Statesville and Winston-Salem). NC already has terminal facilities in Charlotte and Raleigh.

5. Why hasn't Thruway service been established to AVL? They did that in eastern NC and I know that it's been talked about for AVL. That would seem like a no-brainer to put AVL on the Amtrak map in the short term. Does anyone know of any impediments?
  by Bob Roberts
 
Station Aficionado wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 2:57 pm
4. I have read that the state is considering essentially shuttle service between AVL and Salisbury, where passengers could change for trains headed either north or south. That doesn't seem optimal. If the state were to support, say, 4x/day, they could run two trains through to Charlotte via Salisbury and two through to Greensboro or Raleigh via Winston-Salem (the route of the northern section of the Carolina Special (if that route is still viable between Statesville and Winston-Salem). NC already has terminal facilities in Charlotte and Raleigh.
This is going to be a tough route for anyone other than railfans to like. The loops mean the train will never come close to competing with driving (I-40 to the east is in decent shape and mostly uncongested). Running to Charlotte create a double slowness whammy since it requires running nearly 50 miles east of Charlotte before turning back west again.

I agree that through trains to Raleigh would be ideal, but NCDOT has been struggling with NS to get the capacity they paid for with the ARRA grants on the Charlotte to Greensboro main. New Piedmont frequencies have been held up by NS, I am sure NCDOT does not want to give up a slot for a train that does not run through to both Charlotte and Raleigh.

The NS tracks between Barber Junction (near Statesville) and Winston no longer runs through (and using it would bypass Salisbury). There is a bridge in the Winston area that NS has let go and it has been closed to all traffic. I believe the track has been shut down between the Yadkin River and Winston.

Service from Raleigh to Wilmington on the other hand....
  by STrRedWolf
 
Station Aficionado wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 2:57 pm 4. I have read that the state is considering essentially shuttle service between AVL and Salisbury, where passengers could change for trains headed either north or south. That doesn't seem optimal. If the state were to support, say, 4x/day, they could run two trains through to Charlotte via Salisbury and two through to Greensboro or Raleigh via Winston-Salem (the route of the northern section of the Carolina Special (if that route is still viable between Statesville and Winston-Salem). NC already has terminal facilities in Charlotte and Raleigh.
*looks at Charlotte via Google Maps Satellite View*

*Rechecks Raleigh the same way*

Okay, if they want to do that, they need five tracks per station: 2 local, 2 Amtrak, 1 freight bypass. Raleigh has 3 (2 Amtrak, 1 freight bypass). Charolette has 1 Amtrak and a freight yard. They need to rebuild the stations.
  by RandallW
 
STrRedWolf wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 9:15 pm
Station Aficionado wrote: Sat Nov 19, 2022 2:57 pm 4. I have read that the state is considering essentially shuttle service between AVL and Salisbury, where passengers could change for trains headed either north or south. That doesn't seem optimal. If the state were to support, say, 4x/day, they could run two trains through to Charlotte via Salisbury and two through to Greensboro or Raleigh via Winston-Salem (the route of the northern section of the Carolina Special (if that route is still viable between Statesville and Winston-Salem). NC already has terminal facilities in Charlotte and Raleigh.
*looks at Charlotte via Google Maps Satellite View*

*Rechecks Raleigh the same way*

Okay, if they want to do that, they need five tracks per station: 2 local, 2 Amtrak, 1 freight bypass. Raleigh has 3 (2 Amtrak, 1 freight bypass). Charolette has 1 Amtrak and a freight yard. They need to rebuild the stations.
What are the local tracks you are counting for? The NCDOT services are Amtrak services.

The Raleigh station was recently built (the former station was across the tracks to the south of the current station and was one platform track on the NCRR freight main). A new Charlotte station is under construction.
  by west point
 
Have spent a lot of time driving around Ashville just after got driver's license. Have continued to drive that area. The roads can be terrible including all interstates. Part of the problem is the land under the surface is made up ofshale rock. Unfortunately it is not level but runs on all sorts of tilts from level to 90 degrees. Rain water and compression and it becomes slip - slide.

Years ago I-26 parallel to Saluda grade but east of the SOU rr was complete except for paving. A hurricane passed thru and the road"s everything completely washed away. Contractor went bust. No one wold make a bid to replace . Finally US had to give dispensation for a cost plus contract to be used. Was somewhere around 5 - 10 years before that segment was again under constructionon . IMO there is always the possibility one or more of the roads could be washed away again . If east of AVL then major problems.

I=40 had a tunnel cave in that closed it west of AVL for over 7 months due to high rain fall.
  by Alex M
 
It seems that the real value of the line from Asheville to Salisbury would be a scenic line for the tourist trade, something for a Rocky Mountaineer type of operator. It would operate in the fall when the leaves change and in the summer for vacationers and those going to the many conference centers, both religious and secular, as well as other charters.
  by Station Aficionado
 
I found the 1997(!) study that the state did on service to WNC. (There was another study in the early 2000’s.). The preferred alternative even then was through service to Raleigh via Salisbury (although they would have to do a short backup to actually serve Salisbury). The only other option recommended was connecting service to Salisbury, but only as a temporary measure until through service to Raleigh could be initiated. That study confirms Bob’s point about through service to Charlotte not being feasible—the route would be an inverted check mark.

25 years and no progress. Almost makes you wonder if the state’s heart is really in this.
  by RandallW
 
The State of NC owns the NCRR Charlotte-Raleigh-Morehead City line, but not the Salisbury-Asheville line, which kind of meant the Carolinian and Piedmont services could be started on the cheap--where they did not share rails with other Amtrak services, they run on NCRR. I suspect the state is not willing to pay whatever price NS demands to introduce passenger rail to Asheville absent federal funding.
  by Bob Roberts
 
RandallW wrote: Mon Nov 21, 2022 5:45 am The State of NC owns the NCRR Charlotte-Raleigh-Morehead City line, but not the Salisbury-Asheville line, which kind of meant the Carolinian and Piedmont services could be started on the cheap--where they did not share rails with other Amtrak services, they run on NCRR. I suspect the state is not willing to pay whatever price NS demands to introduce passenger rail to Asheville absent federal funding.
As we have said here already, this would be a very slow and somewhat geographically challenged route (e.g. no viable access to Charlotte). It does appear that NS has little or no interest in this line. Its been designaled and rumors are that NS is entertaining all shortline offers for these tracks. So, I am not sure NS would charge a fortune for passenger rail access, but the state would still need to pay out to increase speeds to the point where any useful passenger service could be operated. Even after paying for Class 4 track, the route is still going to be an hour+ longer than driving on I-40.

I do see a few political (but not operational) merits to a Wilmington to Asheville train (via Raleigh and Greensboro). Its geography would allow the train to be better transportation service (as opposed to merely a tourist train) as it would connect both ends of a stretched (and kinda culturally separated) state. This cultural connection was the original intent of the NCRR, but they never dreamed of building up and over the Blue Ridge back in 1854. The route would connect nearly every significant metro area in the state (except for the largest, Charlotte). There also might be little enough freight interference the route that OTP might be OK. This service could even run through Winston if the state were Virginia-level ambitious. Best case this might be a 10 hour trip.

In a perfect world, the fastest Asheville passenger service would be via the rebuilt Saluda grade from Spartanburg. This could even be a spur off of the still mythical Atlanta-Charlotte HSR route. Unfortunately we all understand how SC feels about passenger rail. The corridor between Hendersonville and Asheville would genuinely benefit from local S-bahn like service as well.
  by west point
 
SOU RR did run service from Ashville through Winston Salem to Greensboro then Raleigh onto Goldsboro. Do not know if it ever went to Morehead City as Goldsboro - Morehead City was another subsiditary called Atlantic and east Carolina RR.. Correction Atlantic and north Carolina RR.

Actually it becomes very complicated with the original Norfolk Southern RR involved.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_ ... a_Railroad
  by Station Aficionado
 
On another NC note, how much freight is CSX running now on the S-Line between Raleigh and Columbia? I thought I remembered hearing that it was pretty sparse north of Hamlet. Is CSX committed to maintaining the line? If not, It's hard to see that route surviving as a passenger line. There's no anchor in NC south of Raleigh and SC won't lift a finger to preserve service to Columbia. I think the state put money into the stations at Hamlet and Southern Pines and they built the second platform at Cary, but it's hard to see them putting big bucks in to maintain an acceptable MAS.
  by Bob Roberts
 
Station Aficionado wrote: Tue Nov 29, 2022 11:50 pm On another NC note, how much freight is CSX running now on the S-Line between Raleigh and Columbia? I thought I remembered hearing that it was pretty sparse north of Hamlet. Is CSX committed to maintaining the line? If not, It's hard to see that route surviving as a passenger line. There's no anchor in NC south of Raleigh and SC won't lift a finger to preserve service to Columbia. I think the state put money into the stations at Hamlet and Southern Pines and they built the second platform at Cary, but it's hard to see them putting big bucks in to maintain an acceptable MAS.
I am not sure the sale has closed yet but I heard from a very reliable source (in 2020) that NCDOT had an agreement in place to purchase the S-Line section from Raleigh to Sanford along with (at the same time as) the northern leg to Norlina (for the S-Line shortcut to Petersburg). The agreement on both sections allows CSX to continue to move locals, but NCDOT has planned commuter service to Raleigh Union Station on both ends of the S-Line.

Part of the rationale for this purchase was that CSX controls the dispatching on the double track section between Cary and Raleigh, so the NCDOT purchase would given them some control over NS’ intransigence on the NCRR.

Having said all of the above, all of that discussion was pre-covid. The Triangle has been struggling to create commuter rail along the NCRR and costs have come in much higher than expected. The S-Line runs along a less attractive route so it is possible that NCDOT has stepped back from this plan over the past couple of years.

IMO service to Columbia make more sense from Charlotte (and the Star could be routed that way), but there are station problems in Columbia when using this route. It would make a tone of sense to run 12 Piedmont trains per day to Charlotte and run 6 of them on to Columbia and the rest to KCLT-Gastonia (and possibly Greenville). But South Carolina gotta be South Carolina…
  by Alex M
 
In using the R line of NS from Charlotte to Columbia you must keep in mind that this line is rather curvy and hill and dale type. It will cost money to build stations along this route, as well as connect it with the S line to access the Columbia station. As far as SC goes regarding rail passenger service, I have said on other forums that as far as South Carolina is concerned, any mention of rail is freight. Period. Palmetto Railways is the switching and terminal part of the SC Department of Commerce. It is often used to facilitate acquiring land for industry and promoting industrial growth. it is also involved in projects such as expanding rail capacity at the Charleston ports, currently building an intermodal container transfer facility at the Letherman terminal.
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