Illinois Amtrak Service

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

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gokeefe
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by gokeefe » Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:15 pm

Tadman wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:42 am
Interesting point, I'm curious what kind of power facility is needed. Can you contract this out to UP or Respondek or TRRA? Or just rotate the power out every week or two? There are plenty of outlying points where power spends a night or two but nothing is there - Pontiac and Grand Rapids. I think they keep power in Denver as well (or did at one time) and nothing there for it.
Just rotate out periodically. 480V hookup is probably enough to keep the fuel costs down.

Very difficult to contract as whatever power you get really has to have HEP. I know others will say you can "make do" but it's really pointless. You have to have a unit that can provide power to the coaches and also move.
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Tadman
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Tadman » Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:35 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 5:20 pm
One good reason to keep equipment with Amtrak: their equipment is getting more and more specialized. No one at UP knows much about Siemens anything, from prime mover to electronics to SCR emissions to the cab arrangement.
That's a good point. I've consistently asked myself why rocketships were needed when plenty of roads (GN, SP, ATSF, GTW, SCL, et al) ran fine passenger trains with geeps and SDP40s. The only answer I can come up with is conceptual job security, as in: "well we can't drop Amtrak now, we just bought them $1b of new engines that can't be used elsewhere".

The recent Charger purchase strikes me as another such procurement when Metra will be running 79mph SD70's pretty soon.
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eolesen
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by eolesen » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:04 pm

From the comments here, you'd think that engineers were only capable of learning how to operate one or two types of locomotives... Hint: they're not idiots.

If Amtrak were to contract out their engineers/conductors to the host roads, you'd probably see dispatch reliability improve.

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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by gokeefe » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:23 pm

Tadman wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:35 pm
I've consistently asked myself why rocketships were needed when plenty of roads (GN, SP, ATSF, GTW, SCL, et al) ran fine passenger trains with geeps and SDP40s. The only answer I can come up with is conceptual job security, as in: "well we can't drop Amtrak now, we just bought them $1b of new engines that can't be used elsewhere".

The recent Charger purchase strikes me as another such procurement when Metra will be running 79mph SD70's pretty soon.
It's well worth recalling that the historical examples are from the pre-HEP era. Those trains were run with a power/steam car in cases where HEP wasn't provided by the engine or axle generators.

Amtrak made a fundamental decision early on to embrace nationwide equipment standards and uniformity across their fleet. This was something the railroads had never embraced on their own and was in part a contributing factor to the failure of the passenger rail system. Too many operators with too many separate fleets.

With regards to "rockets" I can only assume you mean "Why buy something that can do 125 MPH?", especially when your local route is Class 4 or Class 5 track at best.

Top speed is not what makes the Chargers special. That is merely a capability that allows Amtrak go move their engines around fluidly. What the Chargers do best is accelerate. They do so with using highly advanced power distribution and traction management that also provides integrated HEP over a unified electrical bus. The fuel savings and improved train performance are critical advances for Amtrak.

This technology is also far beyond the needs of the rail freight carriers.
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Arborwayfan » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:55 pm

Amtrak did get its crews from the host railroads for a few years. I have the impression that the railroads didn't dispatch Amtrak trains any better back then. Why did they change? Did if fix a problem?

It seems like having Amtrak hire crews from the host railroad might mean a bigger pool of possible crews to call (I am picturing the BNSF at Omaha, or some place like that, with lots of freights and one daily Amtrak train. Or Chicago, with lots of freights and lots of Metra and just some Amtrak.) Would it cost much to arrange for some of the crews who mostly worked freight over a given route to qualify on Amtrak equipment and the occasionally operate Amtrak trains over a route they were already qualified on for freight? I guess the conductors would also have to keep qualified on all the passenger-specific stuff -- recordkeeping and dealing with unruly passengers and so on. Would that be ridiculous? And could Amtrak, a host railroad, and the unions work out some way to have host railroad employees qualify only as backups, if Amtrak kept employing most of its own crews?)

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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Tue Sep 17, 2019 7:43 am

Arborwayfan wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:55 pm
Amtrak did get its crews from the host railroads for a few years. I have the impression that the railroads didn't dispatch Amtrak trains any better back then. Why did they change? Did if fix a problem?
The assumption of railroad Train and Engine positions by Amtrak occurred starting during 1978. The largest assumption was of course during 1980 when that from Conrail occurred.

New labor agreements were negotiated with each craft, which I can only describe as "groundbreaking". Engineer only on runs scheduled less than six hours, and Conductor and Assistant the normal (Conductor only on certain runs such as "Springfield Shuttles") with additional Assistants assigned at carrier's prerogative, is certainly groundbreaking.

I don't doubt that greater operational efficiency would result if there were railroad T&E employees qualified on Amtrak locomotives to handle trains with "dead" Amtrak crews, but again, it is unreasonable to expect Class I operations to be arranged for the convenience of Amtrak.

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Tadman
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Tadman » Tue Sep 17, 2019 2:18 pm

Arborwayfan wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:55 pm
Amtrak did get its crews from the host railroads for a few years. I have the impression that the railroads didn't dispatch Amtrak trains any better back then. Why did they change? Did if fix a problem?

It seems like having Amtrak hire crews from the host railroad might mean a bigger pool of possible crews to call (I am picturing the BNSF at Omaha, or some place like that, with lots of freights and one daily Amtrak train. Or Chicago, with lots of freights and lots of Metra and just some Amtrak.)
What changed is the new contracts described by Mr. Norman, but that's a 40 years ago fix.

Your above statements are my exact point. Why is Amtrak fighting crew availability in Omaha or even Portland when someone like BN or UP has 1000 people? Heck if I were BN, I'd want to supply the crews. Do you really want a stalled Builder blocking a main somewhere for want of crews, when you have 1000 people within an hour that are trained on the route and ready go?
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by mtuandrew » Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:43 pm

I swear Tad, for every post you make about privatizing portions of Amtrak I’m gonna have to make a post about how the government should purchase (or seize) more major passenger rail routes :P especially the Alton Railroad in this case.

Anyway. Pros for Class 1 crews for Amtrak:
-existing crew and maintenance bases
-T&E personnel are already qualified on the route
-always crew available at short notice (there’s a deep extra board usually)
-if using Amtrak locomotives, there’s always spare freight power for emergencies. If using freight power, locomotive availability becomes a non-issue.

Cons:
-equipment ranges from somewhat to very different in handling (for instance, blended vs direct braking) from freight equipment
-imagine the average freight conductor trying to resolve a customer service issue :wink:
-Amtrak crew are also already qualified and have existing bases
-would Class 1 roads even want to provide T&E crews?
-if using freight locomotives, there is no chance of ever having service above 70 mph on shared corridors intended for higher-speed service, short of a special power pool geared for 110

I think the scale still weighs toward Amtrak on all regionals, though it might be worth investigating on some LD routes that never reach over 79 mph anyway. (Specifically the Empire Builder and the Texas Eagle.)

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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by David Benton » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:13 pm

Tadman wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 2:18 pm
Arborwayfan wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:55 pm
Amtrak did get its crews from the host railroads for a few years. I have the impression that the railroads didn't dispatch Amtrak trains any better back then. Why did they change? Did if fix a problem?

It seems like having Amtrak hire crews from the host railroad might mean a bigger pool of possible crews to call (I am picturing the BNSF at Omaha, or some place like that, with lots of freights and one daily Amtrak train. Or Chicago, with lots of freights and lots of Metra and just some Amtrak.)
What changed is the new contracts described by Mr. Norman, but that's a 40 years ago fix.

Your above statements are my exact point. Why is Amtrak fighting crew availability in Omaha or even Portland when someone like BN or UP has 1000 people? Heck if I were BN, I'd want to supply the crews. Do you really want a stalled Builder blocking a main somewhere for want of crews, when you have 1000 people within an hour that are trained on the route and ready go?
In reality , they would send a freight loco to pull the builder in event of any breakdown . And they would ensure the builder was in a siding before the crew outlawed , or possibly they are allowed to drive the train to the nearest siding if their time is up.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:32 pm

Mr. Benton, the slang of "dead" for a crew whose time has expired under the Hours of Service Law means just that. They cannot handle anything, such as allowing a Rules Qualified host road "pilot" the train. It does not mean operate the train to the next siding, as they are DEAD.

Fortunately, in the airline industry, an "expired" pilot will fly the aircraft to is next scheduled landing, then "die".

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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Arborwayfan » Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:55 am

Thanks for an interesting discussion.

What would it cost (in money, time, goodwill, effort, whatever) for Amtrak to have a small pool of host railroad crews qualify on Amtrak equipment so that they could serve as a kind of emergency extra board for Amtrak trains, while still having all regular crews be Amtrak employees and all equipment including locomotives belong to Amtrak? I think that was my original question, whether I actually said it clearly or not ( :-D ), and I have no idea if it's smart or crazy, easy or impossible.

I have nothing to do with any part of the industry (I'm a historian, of other stuff, in other countries), so I don't really even know what I'm asking, BUT I think the question must include:

What would a host railroad need/want in return for letting some of its employees sometimes work for Amtrak? Would that mess up their crew scheduling? Would it have to be only people who were also on the host railroads' extra boards, because otherwise it would interfere with people's regular jobs? Do people on extra boards tend to stay in the same geographic region for a while, or do they move around a lot? Would Amtrak have to pay the crews some kind of monthly retainer to keep them interested? Is it expensive to get someone qualified on different equipment? Is being qualified for passenger operation over a given route different from being qualified for freight over the same route, apart from the equipment?

Would this be easier in Chicago, where there are a lot of Metra crews working for UP, BNSF, and directly for Metra (but where the Amtrak crew pool is also larger)?

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Tadman
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Tadman » Fri Sep 20, 2019 1:51 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:43 pm

Cons:
-imagine the average freight conductor trying to resolve a customer service issue :wink:
-Amtrak crew are also already qualified and have existing bases
-would Class 1 roads even want to provide T&E crews?
-if using freight locomotives, there is no chance of ever having service above 70 mph on shared corridors intended for higher-speed service, short of a special power pool geared for 110
Agree on most of these, there would have to be some sort of “black belt” accreditation that might result in better pay for customer service (conductor) and train handling (engineer).

The job functions are core activities of a railroad, why not do it if it adds revenue without increasing car count or ton miles? Also keep in mind the incentive thing. If the crew is Class 1, they are more likely to act in the interest of the carrier to efficiently move the train over the road. No more asinine policies of “let’s only open a few doors on a commuter train”. Amtrak doesn’t care about dwell time, CP does.

As for 79+, I give up, it’s a bad joke. We will probably not see it in my life time. I’d much rather have competent and predictable 79mph trains to saint Louis than erratic crusty trains making low-rent errors with bad service but 20 miles of 110 mph that is typically out of service.
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by eolesen » Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:16 pm

Conductors don't necessarily have to be customer facing. There's no reason you can't have the onboard service aspects remain to be crewed by Amtrak, and the mandated operating aspects (conductor, engineer) staffed with the host road.

From a union workrule standpoint, it's all or nothing. You can't just borrow from the host road on an as-needed basis.

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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by gokeefe » Sun Sep 22, 2019 9:19 pm

The suggestion appears to imply that splitting duties between two positions instead of keeping them combined in one could still cost the same or less. Frankly that's impossible.
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Tadman
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Re: Illinois Amtrak Service

Post by Tadman » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:30 am

Not if you already have the same headcount. If today, we have a conductor, LSA, and assistant, and they're all customer facing; then tomorrow, LSA and AC are customer facing and Conductor rides up front, there is not a difference in head count.

Conductors are already somewhat not-facing. They scan tickets and open doors, but also spend a lot of time with orders, radio, signal calling response, etc...
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