• 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

  • 269 posts
  • 1
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  by Bob Roberts
 
Tadman wrote: Fri May 08, 2020 9:34 am 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.
This is basically the turn around model that Amtrak currently uses for the Carolinian at its Charlotte endpoint. The train set sits on a siding at the Charlotte yard, is cleaned by a contract crew (the same crew is used when the Piedmont train sets turn, they do a good job), a fuel truck delivers to the Carolinian and the Crescent, I believe all Piedmont fueling is done in Raleigh. There is a crew base in two modular units adjacent to the siding. I have not seen how they service toilets (and they may not?). The cafe is not restocked in Charlotte, the return trip uses food loaded before the Southbound trip leaves Sunnyside (and my experience is that cafe stock on the Northbound trip is generally fine). The cafe crew told me once that they occasionally restock a few items in Charlotte from the grocery store (it was implied that the cafe staff makes the trip to the store themselves) -- I didn't really believe any of that however. This system has generally worked fine since the dawn of the modern Carolinian (more than 20 years). No reason the same system could not work in the Twin Cities. [I imagine the process is basically the same in Savannah, the Vermont trains, Carbondale, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Grand Rapids, Port Huron and other outlying terminal points]

[off topic from the Twin Cities train] NCDOT did get ARRA money to build a new passenger equipment serving yard just to the West of town. Phase 1 of the yard and a crew building (which is pretty nice looking) has been finished for a while. Unfortunately it won't actually be connected to the NS main until Gateway station opens up which is 3-5 years away. Phase 2 of the yard will add washing and maintenance facilities. I don't recall the total cost of the yard, but it was not cheap, and it certainly would not have been built if the Carolinian was the only train using it.
  by njtmnrrbuff
 
(NC comments moved to: https://railroad.net/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=79154)


Back to CHI-MSP-if this corridor train ever makes it to Minneapolis, then there would have to be a servicing station there. I don't know much about the railroad scene around MSP. I know that there was a proposal in the past to extend Northstar as well as the Amtrak state funded train to St. Cloud. I doubt that Minnesota will let Amtrak do that. It's probably better for the second Amtrak train to end at Minneapolis and then have MetroTransit decide whether to extend Northstar to St. Cloud which would be nice.
  by dgvrengineer
 
The train could layover and be serviced at the old Midway station. I believe, but not positive, that Amtrak owns the building and paid for a layover track there back when it was in service.
  by gokeefe
 
eolesen wrote: Fri May 08, 2020 2:56 am
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.
This was with regards to naming the new daytime service specifically Hiawatha v. Twin Cities Hiawatha. If you say "take the Hiawatha" you have to remember to specify the "Twin Cities" edition if you're headed home to places beyond MKE.

Notable when checking the history that this name has been used before by Amtrak. I remain opposed to naming this service the Twin Cities Hiawatha in a day and age where passenger rail service is often used by the elderly or others who might be easily confused both visually and aurally by the similar names.

It was understandable on the 70s 20 years before the ADA was passed when so many more passengers would have been very familiar with passenger train service. In 2020 (and beyond) there is no excuse for not taking the needs of these citizens into account when so much careful research and experience leads one to the inescapable conclusion that these similarities will cause problems.

How often do I think this confusion could occur? Probably one passenger per train for at least the first year and maybe one passenger per week (on average) indefinitely. It is totally unnecessary.

My vote for the "tip of the hat" to the MILW remains with Twin Cities Limited or the Minnesotan.
  by mtuandrew
 
dgvrengineer wrote: Fri May 08, 2020 6:16 pm The train could layover and be serviced at the old Midway station. I believe, but not positive, that Amtrak owns the building and paid for a layover track there back when it was in service.
I can confirm this. Amtrak wouldn’t lay over at Target Field or SPUD or Northtown, they would send the train back to Midway. Even today it’s where Amtrak sets out short-turn coaches. (They sometimes run an 807/808 section of the Builder when CHI-MSP demand is especially high but demand into the Dakotas and Montana is low, like in the holiday season.) As I said up-thread it’s still a crew base and still where they set out PVs.

Also, this solution is in the existing MnDOT planning documents. Let’s not reinvent the wheel.
  by gokeefe
 
First I've ever heard of the practice of running an MSP-CHI section on the Empire Builder. Nice to see, yet again, that Amtrak still has the flexibility necessary to adapt to travel conditions.
  by knope2001
 
The press release on the funding (link is in the thread a few pages ago) references the new train offering "service approximately four to six hours apart from the existing Empire Builder schedule". I suspect that means an early morning westbound (about 6 hours earlier than the Empire Builder) and a mid-day eastbound (about four 4 later than the Empire Builder,)

This is approximately what the CHI-MSP schedule would look like.

Westbound -- new frequency in bold
8:15 …... 14:15 ….. Chicago
8:39 …... 14:39 ….. Glenview
9:15 …... 15:15 ….. Sturtevant
9:33 …... 15:33 ….. MKE Airport
9:48 …... 15:48 ….. Milwaukee
11:08 ….. 17:08 ….. Columbus
11:35 ….. 17:35 ….. Portage
11:55 ….. 17:55 ….. Wisconsin Dells
12:31 ….. 18:31 ….. Tomah
13:17 ….. 19:17 ….. La Crosse
13:47 ….. 19:47 ….. Winona
14:55 ….. 20:55 ….. Redwing
16:09 ….. 22:09 ….. St Paul

Eastbound - new frequency in bold
8:00 ...... 12:15 ….. St Paul
8:54 ...... 13:09 ….. Redwing
10:11 ….. 14:26 ….. Winona
10:47 ….. 15:02 ….. La Crosse
11:26 ….. 15:41 ….. Tomah
12:08 ….. 16:23 ….. Wisconsin Dells
12:27 ….. 16:42 ….. Portage
12:57 ….. 17:12 ….. Columbus
14:15 ….. 18:30 ….. Milwaukee
14:24 ….. 18:39 ….. MKE Airport
14:40 ….. 18:55 ….. Sturtevant
15:18 ….. 19:33 ….. Glenview
16:01 ….. 20:16 ….. Chicago

This sort of schedule would have a trainset in the MSP area from about 4pm until noon the next day. Might this be a reasonable opportunity to restore Duluth/Superior if the Northern Lights Express project stalls? Or perhaps on to St. Cloud, where crews currently swap out for the Empire Builder? St Cloud is not exactly a big station -- only a couple dozen passengers total per day on the existing Empire Builder. However the 5:19am eastbound / 12:24am return is not exactly ideal, especially when you have to get up early to hit the train station by 5am but fairly often the train is running hours late. Adding St Cloud to the end of this would give far more useful (and reliable) times (including for travelers to/from MSP). Heck, the train could add daytime-ish stops both directions through Minnesota and on to Fargo. It could leave Fargo around 6:45am and return back at around 9:30pm, assuming Minnesota and North Dakota could be convinced to fund it.

Obviously wherever the trainset spends the night...someplace in the Twin Cities, Duluth, St Cloud or even Fargo...there are considerations for parking, servicing and crews. But if indeed the second frequency is daylight both ways as suggested by the stated 4 and 6 hour difference from the existing Empire Builder then it's two trainsets. And with two it could do more in Minnesota than sit for 20 hours.
  by gokeefe
 
knope2001 wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 6:06 pmAnd with two it could do more in Minnesota than sit for 20 hours.
In order to minimize associated overtime crew costs this is the best approach by far. Anything less than that amount of buffer and there is a significant risk that crews will not get enough rest and a relief extra will have to be called.

This is particularly true because the service at present is an isolated "one a day each way". Obviously the Empire Builder makes it "two a day" but their crew change point is almost certainly not at MSP.
  by knope2001
 
gokeefe wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 8:34 pm
knope2001 wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 6:06 pmAnd with two it could do more in Minnesota than sit for 20 hours.
In order to minimize associated overtime crew costs this is the best approach by far. Anything less than that amount of buffer and there is a significant risk that crews will not get enough rest and a relief extra will have to be called.

This is particularly true because the service at present is an isolated "one a day each way". Obviously the Empire Builder makes it "two a day" but their crew change point is almost certainly not at MSP.
Do you know what the crew rest minimums are? Obviously you don't want to push it where a small-ish delay makes trouble, but 20 hours seems a great deal more than minimums.

St Cloud is a crew change point for the Empire Builder, which is one of the reasons I wonder if extending to St Cloud would have benefit.
  by eolesen
 
Seems like an opportunity to turn this up to Duluth and back is entirely possible.

Leave STP around 1700, arrive in DLH by 2000, return trip leaving DLH by 0600 and in STP by 0900. You could almost commute on that schedule.
  by Tadman
 
eolesen wrote: Sun May 10, 2020 10:46 pm Seems like an opportunity to turn this up to Duluth and back is entirely possible.

Leave STP around 1700, arrive in DLH by 2000, return trip leaving DLH by 0600 and in STP by 0900. You could almost commute on that schedule.
Was thinking this or Fargo. Great Northern had a pretty robust little mini-corridor to Fargo.

That said I'm not a fan of the Duluth train having anything to do with Amtrak. The Duluth market is tourists, mining, and shipping going north, and Duluthians going south to "the big cities" for work or pleasure. Because the mining and shipping business mostly comes in from Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and the southbound originating traffic is mostly headed for the Cities, internline makes little sense. At that point, why jeopardise the operation with timing issues from a long ride in from Chicago? Why saddle the Duluth train with paying for Amtrak's bloated overhead or SPUD? If I were writing the business plan for the new Duluth train, I would make 2x/day with five trainsets. The trainsets would either be as similar as possible to the MSP commuter train, with 710 power, BBD bilevels, a small cafe or bar cart. Or do it on the cheap and buy some used passenger power and perhaps those MARC Sumitomo cars for sale.
  by gokeefe
 
I acknowledge the temptation to try to "short turn" the trainset but without protect equipment available (along with additional funds to pay for it) there's just too much risk. 20 hours gives you plenty of leeway if something has gone wrong and there's either a delay or bad ordered equipment.

Crew rest as I recall is 12 hours but "those who know" will certainly have a better feel for this than I do.

I think if you're going to try to "stretch" the train SCD is definitely the way to go. Nice city, 68K population, shares the route with the Empire Builder and the station area almost certainly has enough room for a small layover track like RNK. Correct me if I'm wrong but this might also allow through running via Target Field station.

It's so obvious that I strongly suspect MnDOT has already thought of this.
  by njtmnrrbuff
 
20 hours is plenty of time to turn a train and that's probably more than enough time for this proposed second train to MSP. I'm one for extending this second train to Target Field Station in Minneapolis. I forgot whether the present Empire Builder passes within sight of Target Field? Either way, the proposed second roundtrip should end at Target Field Station. By having it just terminate in St. Paul, that is cutting off a lot of the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities, especially the western suburbs. As for having this train serviced at the old Midway depot-not a bad idea. The proposed schedule times for the train look pretty good although you would still have to get up pretty early when starting your trip in the Greater Chicago area. One plus of the proposed schedule when riding this regional train is that, as I predicted, you could travel from the greater Chicago and Milwaukee area to the Dells and back in one day. You would probably only have time to explore the downtown area, and grab lunch.
  by dgvrengineer
 
Target Field Station is not on the present route. It is on the old GN route to St. Cloud and Fargo which is severed south of St. Cloud(at Monticello). The current EB route is the old NP route. Stopping at Target Field and continuing on to St Cloud would require a fairly long back-up move and considerable amount of time. I think going to St Cloud is a great idea if it doesn't involve additional crew expense.
  • 1
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18