• North Coast Hiawatha Study

  • 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 gokeefe
 

Tadman wrote:Why why why does it have to be the same exact train that was bankrupt in 1971? These people are like children. I WANT I WANT IWANT!!!!

Why not build a train that works? At least pick some nearby major cities! Perhaps Boise, Spokane, Denver, Calgary.. Where are business people going from Montana?

I need to get into the million dollar plans business, just crap on a plate, throw some numbers on a spreadsheet done by a college intern... there we go!
Agreed. Montana is arguably the most absurd case for passenger service restoration in the U.S. I don't mention Wyoming because that's pre-Amtrak.

The problem with the answer to your question about "Where are business people going from Montana?" is that the answer is probably a two day train ride away (Chicago, New York or Houston). Even Denver is a ridiculous proposition (although maybe not as bad as Chicago).

With regards to the "million dollar plans" business you are not far off the mark. Hold yourself out as a consultant and see what happens. Flat rate contract attend maybe 10-15 meetings with the client. Answer a few hundred emails and Blammo! instant millionaire. Obviously you have to produce a report but it's not the end of the world as long as you know how to produce a polished document and pay for Adobe Acrobat so you can publish the PDF organically (as opposed to scanning a printed version).





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  by Westernstar1
 
I believe that it makes a lot of sense to establish a passenger train route through central Montana. Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, and Missoula represent high population densities. Only Great Falls and Kalispell are in the same ballpark. A passenger train along the old NP route would be appreciated for central Montana commuters,, especially during the winter. Also, you can't overlook the tourist attraction in central Montana. A great deal of outdoor activities and a possible gateway to Yellowstone park.

I know this is a bit whimsical and the idea has been alluded to in other posts in this thread. If the old NP route becomes available, why not have the Empire Builder, eastbound out of Seattle, not merge in Spokane with the Portland to Spokane train, but continue on to Northern Montana? Likewise, have the Portland to Spokane train not merge with the EB in Spokane but continue on to Sandpoint then down through central Montana along the NP route. The two trains could merge somewhere in the Dakotas. Westbound the EB could split up in the Dakotas for the Northern and Central Montana routes. The problem with this idea might be Seattle eastbound passengers would have to travel to Portland if they wanted Central Montana. Likewise, Portland passengers would need to travel to Seattle if Northern Montana was their route. If the passengers could somehow be sectioned off in Spokane, maybe such could be avoided and the 2 eastbound trains could still merge in Spokane.

WS
  by mtuandrew
 
That’s an interesting idea, WS. Meaning, you’d have a section from Fargo to Seattle?

I have an alternate idea, though related. You mentioned Montana commuters, which, do they even exist? :P But if so, it seems like the majority of traffic would be in-state. Also, the lion’s share of the route improvements were due to BNSF’s needs/wants; MRL had a much shorter wish list. Why not just start with a Billings to Spokane day route? One host carrier (including rights over BNSF Sandpoint-Spokane) serving the large majority of Montana residents.
  by Westernstar1
 
Yes, Mtuandrew, there may not be a lot of commuters between those central Montana cities. But, I think a central route would still pick up a lot of passengers. Especially during the winter and help alleviate the need for traveling on icy highways. Also, if flights are preferred over a passenger train, it isn't all that easy to travel from city to city. For example, If you wish to travel from Missoula to Billings, unless there are puddle hopper flights which I'm not aware of, it would mean Missoula to Salt Lake City to Billings, about 4.5 hrs. Similarly, if you want to go from Bozeman to Missoula by plane, it would be Bozeman to Seattle to Missoula, about 6.5 hrs.

I think your alternative idea makes sense. Here is a schedule for the old Olympian Hiawatha from the 50's:

https://is.gd/khNB4O

It looks like about 15-16 hrs from Miles City, east of Billings, to Spokane. Departing around 9 AM and getting into Spokane around 11:00 PM in time for a Empire Builder hookup? It would be a long trip by coach. However, eastbound, it would leave Spokane around 11 PM, overnight, and would get into MIles City around 5 PM. I am assuming the train would have sleepers. If nothing else, it could show just how popular a central Montana passenger train might be.

WS
  by Alphaboi
 
I don't commuters is the right word, but there is need in Montana for intercity travel for business, personal reasons, education, etc. Think people traveling for work, specialist medical treatment, college students, etc. Flying intrastate isn't practical unless you rely on sit taxis and driving can be dangerous in the winter (same problem with busses). Bus travel can be hard for elderly or disabled people. That being said a 2nd long distance route from Chicago to the PNW is a terrible way to serve that needs. A regional corridor more like the Empire Service or Downeaster would be a much better way to serve these communities. It'd be much easier to time the schedules for useful service and maybe provide service more than once a day in each direction. The route could also provide connections to long distance train and/or a major airport for people to fly to Chicago/Denver/etc.

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  by mtuandrew
 
WS: probably best to have that eastbound hold at Spokane until at least 5am. No reason it has to leave immediately after the Builder arrives.

Also, the Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha was carded for 12 hours between Billings and Spokane via Butte. MRL may insist on a longer schedule and it may take longer via Helena, but 15 hours would still allow for a daylight train with comfortable connections with the east- and westbound Empire Builder. (dep Butte 5a, arr Spokane 8p; dep Spokane 5a arr Billings 8p.)
  by Pensyfan19
 
Another step closer to victory!!! :-D

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... l-contract
Montana county advances resolution for passenger rail agencies, seeks partners
A draft resolution to establish an agency to return Amtrak service to Southern Montana has been approved by Missoula County and now will be distributed to other counties along the former route of the North Coast Hiawatha, seeking others willing to join. The Missoula Current reports state law requires at least one other county to express interest to join the proposed Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority. The interested counties would then vote to approve creation of the authority, which would seek funding to restore the Amtrak service which ended in 1979. While the state is currently served by the Empire Builder, the North Coast Hiawatha route includes Montana’s two largest cities, Billings and Missoula.
further info: https://missoulacurrent.com/business/20 ... authority/
A draft resolution proposing to establish the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority won the preliminary backing of Missoula County commissioners on Thursday, moving it one step closer to adoption.

With Missoula County signaling its intent to adopt the resolution, the document will be distributed to the nearly two-dozen other counties poised along the old Amtrak route across southern Montana in hopes one or more of them will climb aboard.

“My plan would be to send out our cover letter and draft resolution to all of the potentially participating counties across the southern tier of Montana, and give those counties until the end of June to weigh in on whether they’re interested in participating or not,” Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Pennsy, 456 (I-90)+248 (I-94)= 704 miles; and that is via ("Die Totenstadt") Butte.

Also looks like fifteen Counties, but I'll bet I missed one or two (counting them looking at my Atlas).

Hardly time for a victory lap.

But I agree that driving during January, as I have along US12 (roundly following the MILW), can be "hazardous to your health".
  by Pensyfan19
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:30 pm Mr. Pennsy, 456 (I-90)+248 (I-94)= 704 miles; and that is via ("Die Totenstadt") Butte.

Also looks like fifteen Counties, but I'll bet I missed one or two (counting them looking at my Atlas).

Hardly time for a victory lap.

But I agree that driving during January, as I have along US12 (roundly following the MILW), can be "hazardous to your health".
What I'm trying to say is that it's another major step towards approval. Hopefully this can move forward soon and continue to get support! :)
  by rohr turbo
 
Tadman wrote: Thu Jun 04, 2020 5:12 pm Where are people traveling to from Bozeman and Missoula?
Actually you just named two large college towns -- usually a good draw for Amtrak.

I don't think the proposal is absurd...as others have said the NCH route hits larger population centers and vacation spots.

Maybe it has been suggested before, but couldn't Amtrak run the EB 4 days a week and NCH 3 days? Hopefully a scheduled can be developed where the endpoint departure times are the same. Washington state, Minn., Wisc. would still see their daily service.

It seems to me you'd pick up lots of new communities with the same equipment requirements and approximately the same train operating costs.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
While I'm at a loss to locate the document, the Incorporators did provide analysis regarding why they picked "this route over that route" for the Basic System.

While they, or their consultants "The Boozers", recognized there were larger on line communities along the NP, they noted greater "end point" business over the GN. Hey, it was all "flyover" to them.

It is likely that this was the argument that the North Coast Hi became the second "political train" after "Harley's Hornet" (Wash-Parkersburg). Also interesting how after its "patron saint", Sen. Mike Mansfield, retired, it was a quick casualty of the Carter Cuts.

Finally, while again I note January driving in Montana is "hazardous to your health" ( I admit to a closer than I wanted shave with Black Ice), it is more so along US2 (or US12) than I-90.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by mtuandrew
 
rohr: not only has a split rotation been suggested, that’s how Amtrak ran these two trains for at least part of their history.

It wasn’t incredibly popular for those traveling to/from destinations between Sandpoint and Fargo.
  by vermontanan
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:07 pm While I'm at a loss to locate the document, the Incorporators did provide analysis regarding why they picked "this route over that route" for the Basic System.

While they, or their consultants "The Boozers", recognized there were larger on line communities along the NP, they noted greater "end point" business over the GN. Hey, it was all "flyover" to them.

It is likely that this was the argument that the North Coast Hi became the second "political train" after "Harley's Hornet" (Wash-Parkersburg). Also interesting how after its "patron saint", Sen. Mike Mansfield, retired, it was a quick casualty of the Carter Cuts.
Like he has numerous occasions previously, Mr. Norman continues to state the "endpoint" reason that Amtrak chose the Chicago-Seattle train. Not the case.

The first reason is that "end point" by its very definition means going from the origin station of the train to the destination station of the train. Of all the long-distance routes chosen by Amtrak to go in effect May 1, 1971, only one - New York-to-Florida - had multiple frequencies and more than one route. Therefore, it is a fact that on all the other routes - including the Empire Builder - that the sole remaining train would attract "endpoint" patronage because because there was no other possibility (other than using multiple other Amtrak routes, which would be exceptionally unlikely).

The second reason is that - with regard to the Empire Builder specifically - if the "endpoint" mentality had any merit, then all the routes selected would logically use the most-direct, lowest-cost route. But that's not what happened. Instead of operating the Empire Builder via the shorter New Rockford route in North Dakota, Amtrak chose the longer Grand Forks route instead. In Washington State, it chose the ex-North Coast Limited route between Spokane and Seattle via Yakima even though the direct route via Wenatchee was 67 miles and 90 minutes faster. The reality is that each segment of the Empire Builder route chosen on May 1 corresponded to the route with the highest ridership. As Craig Sanders reported in his book "Amtrak in the Heartland," 60% of the patronage of the Chicago-Seattle route was between Minneapolis and Spokane, and on this segment, the ex-GN (Empire Builder) route carried 15% more patrons than the ex-NP (North Coast Limited) route.

Another example is the California Zephyr between Chicago and Oakland. The train didn't operate via Grand Junction, Colorado on May 1 because the D&RGW opted out of Amtrak at the last minute, but that was the plan. Had the goal really been to only focus on endpoint patronage, then that would not have been an issue, as the route chosen would have been UP's shorter and faster route through Southern Wyoming.

And Mike Mansfield was hardly retired when the North Coast Hiawatha was discontinued. Mansfield left the Senate (as majority leader no less) in late 1976, but within months was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan, a post he held until 1988.
  by vermontanan
 
mtuandrew wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:45 pm
Also, the lion’s share of the route improvements were due to BNSF’s needs/wants; MRL had a much shorter wish list. Why not just start with a Billings to Spokane day route? One host carrier (including rights over BNSF Sandpoint-Spokane) serving the large majority of Montana residents.
You're referencing the 2009 (done in the middle of the Great Recession) study. Actually, BNSF has done many upgrades on the route east of Billings due to traffic in the Bakken Boom. But with two major helper districts (including heavy coal trains up a serpentine 2.2 percent grade west of Helena which restricts the number of trains to about 25 per day), don't expect that the MRL's wish list price tag would be anywhere the same as it was in 2009, either.

--Mark Meyer
  by vermontanan
 
rohr turbo wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:50 pm
Maybe it has been suggested before, but couldn't Amtrak run the EB 4 days a week and NCH 3 days? Hopefully a scheduled can be developed where the endpoint departure times are the same. Washington state, Minn., Wisc. would still see their daily service.

It seems to me you'd pick up lots of new communities with the same equipment requirements and approximately the same train operating costs.
Uh, no. Not the same operating costs with a less-than-daily train versus daily because personnel and infrastructure costs remain constant. Also would be increased costs for things like crew deadheading, because inevitably with less-than-daily service you see long layovers awaiting the next train, or deadheading the crews back home because there is no train for a couple of days with the less-than-daily scenario.

Except for two years due to exceptional service interruptions, the Empire Builder has been the most-ridden Amtrak long distance train every year since 2004. Why fiddle with something that (relative to this being Amtrak) is successful? And, in my opinion, the lowest form of "passenger train advocate" is one who proposes service on another route by reducing service on another. This is a non-starter in Montana. Even people in Southern Montana understand the importance of the Empire Builder to Northern Montana.

It's also not true that by splitting the Empire Builder equipment to run through Southern Montana on alternate days that it could be done with the same equipment. Currently, at about 6.5 hours or less, turnaround times in Seattle and Portland for Empire Builder equipment is the shortest of any long-distance Amtrak train. Historically speaking, the route through Southern Montana has always been slower than the Empire Builder route through the Northern part of the state - more so now since the southern route has not seen service in 40 years. If the proposed Southern Montana train would continue on a different route - through Yakima as advocates in Washington State are seeking now - this route is a minimum of 90 minutes longer than the current Empire Builder route. So, the train through Southern Montana would take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours longer than the Empire Builder, which would make same-day turnaround of equipment in Seattle and Portland impossible (another set would be required), or the schedule would need to be changed dramatically severing connections in Portland, Chicago, or both cities.

As a bit of trivia to prove this: The only long-distance train operated by Amtrak that is actually faster than its pre-Amtrak predecessor in 1971 is the eastbound Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago. The reason for this is was before Amtrak, the BN Empire Builder and BN North Coast Limited (through Southern Montana) were combined between Portland and Pasco and between St. Paul and Chicago. The Empire Builder had about 3 hours of fat between Spokane and St. Paul just to accommodate its slowest common denominator, the North Coast Limited.

--Mark Meyer
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