• 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

  by jbvb
A side note: When I rode it in September 1976, the EB used the NP west of Spokane, running via Yakima, and then the GN between Spokane and MSP. The NCH used the GN west of Spokane, and the NP to MSP.
  by GWoodle
For the Chicago to MN portion, there may not be enough ridership to support a Morning Hiawatha Zephyr? Something to leave Chicago 8AM then return much later PM without any connections with the Eastern LD trains. Amtrak does use the old CB&Q route when detours are required but you would have to open/staff some new stations.
  by EricL
Along the Burlington route, MAJOR operational/cultural changes would need to take effect in order to be able to properly host a regular passenger train again. The line hasn't seen one for, oh, what, thirty-ish years?

Capital upgrades would be required, too, although certain projects are already underway (e.g., restoring the double track through the La Crosse metro area).

The current BNSF already simply runs too many trains along this route, and the whole thing just operates like a conveyor belt. One train pretty much just follows another, no matter what, and whatever kind of time it makes, it makes. Not really conducive to passenger train operation.

A recent Builder BNSF detour took almost 16 hours to go from MSP to CHI - *double* the current schedule (which, by itself, is full of slop and not particularly fast). The circumstances for that particular trip were unusual, but the fact is just that the typical same passenger trip along that route runs between nine to twelve hours. Way too slow.
  by jstolberg
Its a LOT looser than the schedule I proposed, but, Amtrak Makes More Montana Connections
http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/429/227/Amt ... 14-076.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
An expanded partnership between Amtrak and Jefferson Lines now takes passengers to and from the Amtrak Empire Builder
trains in Williston, N.D., by bus to eight communities in Montana.

Montana passengers at Sydney, Glendive, Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte and Missoula will meet trains at Williston and access the Amtrak network.
  by gokeefe
Interesting to see an issue that I think we all regard as fundamentally dead continuing to resurface, especially in this case coming from the "grassroots" as it were.
  by Jeff Smith
  by gokeefe
A fairly thorough check of Google reveals no further updates since 2014. Multiple search combinations focused around Montana produced no results at all. Somewhat surprising. I would expect that once the election is over we may see further political rumblings about Amtrak service in Montana.
  by vermontanan
This is a possibility, and the results will be he same: Nothing will happen.

The reason of course is cost, and that the people of Southern Montana don't want to chip in any money of their own. It's been that way for 37 years now, so the likelihood of a different outcome is zero.

An additional reason that it will not happen is Positive Train Control. Montana Rail Link (which would handle the train from Huntley, Montana to Sandpoint, Idaho) is not required to install PTC and they're not. PTC will be necessary for a passenger train, and would just amplify the already huge costs of track upgrades, stations, and new equipment.
  by gokeefe
I disagree with regard to PTC. Pan Am Railways a Class II railroad for STB purposes hosts the Downeaster and is not required to have PTC up through 12 trains per day. They have an approved FRA waiver for PTC and I would imagine Montana Rail Line could easily be granted the same.
  by vermontanan
But Montana Rail Link operates about 25 freight trains per day, while Pan Am freight traffic is minimal. I'm sure the additional freight traffic would be considered rather than just the class of the railroad with regard to the waiver.
  by gokeefe
The waiver is considered based on Pan Am's freight tonnage as a whole railway. I completely agree that Montana Rail Link may be above the threshold for a waiver but wanted to point out that it is not as hard to receive as one might imagine. I believe the threshold for a PTC waiver is 15 million gross tons per year but its been a long time since I looked at that section of the CFR.
  by Jeff Smith
Year of the train? Advocates look to restore passenger rail along Montana’s southern route: MissoulaCurrent.com
While it’s been more than four decades since passenger rail service stopped running on Montana’s southern route, Missoula County commissioners and a growing list of advocates believe it’s time to revisit the issue.

In the wake of climate change, struggling small towns and a general shift in how people move from point to point, proponents of passenger rail service see an economic opportunity in restoring the North Coast Hiawatha Route.

“I can’t think of an issue that has generated as much positive feedback as this particular one,” Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier told the Missoula Current. “There seems to be a fair amount of populist energy surrounding this. It’s partially attributable to folks recognizing that our transportation options are somewhat limited in Montana, but also people really value a vision that’s larger than what we’re accustomed to.”

The route would run from Chicago to Fargo and continue west through a number of Montana cities, including Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula and Paradise. It would then arrive in Spokane, where passengers could choose between Portland and Seattle.
  by Westernstar1
With regard to Mr. Smith's link, above, to the "Missoula Current" article; a quote:

"In Cut Bank alone, population 2,800, the service brings nearly $400,000 in value to the community."

I can't help wondering the method, they choose, to come up with the $400,000 figure. I'm not skeptical, but it seems like a considerable figure for a small town of 2800. I wonder if they could use the same method for projecting value figures for central Montana cities, such as Billings, Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula. I would have to think the figures would be impressive.

If the North Coast Hiawatha returns, how would it be received by the Montana Rail Link?

I can't see it starting in Chicago with the parallel to the Empire Builder until the the Dakotas.

How about just Miles City to Spokane? I figure about 12 hrs from Miles City to Spokane, maybe as much as 14 hours. If it would depart Miles City early in the morning, it could arrive into Spokane in the early evening. A much better than the arrival time compared to the westbound Empire Builder.

  by dgvrengineer
I would hope if the North Coast Hiawatha is reinstated it would run on a schedule that compliments the existing Empire Builder and provides an additional service between St. Paul and Chicago. The North Coast Limited departed Miles City at 7:32am and arrived in Spokane at 10:45pm. Not sure the speed necessary for that schedule would be achievable today.
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