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Amtrak Safety


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#1 Guest_Doug_*

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 03:55 PM

I am thinking of taking the Amtrak from Ann arbor Michigan to Seattle washington. Ann Arbor to Chicago then Chicago to Seattle via the Empire builder 7.

This would be November 28 so I would be on the train for a little over 2 days.

I am concerned because of the fact it is winter and there have been very hazardous conditions and blizzards in that area recently.

How risky is this trip in the winter months?

How often does Amtrak inspect this whole route to insure it is safe?

#2 jebr

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 04:18 PM

While I don't know anything about specific routes, most of the lines are actually owned by other companies, and they check continuously to make sure the lines are clear/safe. They have freight on the lines and want to make sure that it isn't damaged, either. Amtrak may not continuously check the lines, but they will make sure things are safe and monitor as need be.

I wouldn't worry about it. Trains are generally safer than buses/airplanes in this kind of weather, because rails are harder to slip off of than a flat surface like asphalt.

However, if there is a blizzard or bad weather, you may be delayed. They won't go through unsafe conditions, and they may have to slow down to stay safe. (Plus, often the Empire Builder runs late anyways.)

#3 tomfuller

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 05:20 PM

Today's EB #7 arrived in Spokane on time and arrived in Seattle 45 minutes early. Prior performance is no guarantee of future performance- just like the stock market.
Now that the really cold weather has come, means that the delays due to tie replacement on the BNSF "Hi Line" should be over until Spring.
Any time you want to check on a trains status, click on the status tab and fill in the train # or two cities for current status.

#4 MattW

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 06:13 PM

In terms of physical safety, you'll be fine, I can't even remember any weather-related incidents with Amtrak trains. However, what could be more at-stake is your itinerary. During major blizzards, Amtrak performance has...suffered as a result. Though typically the rail systems are some of the first transportation systems moving after a storm. However, other than just not moving, I don't think passengers have suffered too much. Sit-back, enjoy your trip and be glad that you're not trying to drive or fly in the mess IF one occurs! :)
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#5 NW cannonball

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 02:50 AM

I am thinking of taking the Amtrak from Ann arbor Michigan to Seattle washington. Ann Arbor to Chicago then Chicago to Seattle via the Empire builder 7.

This would be November 28 so I would be on the train for a little over 2 days.

I am concerned because of the fact it is winter and there have been very hazardous conditions and blizzards in that area recently.

How risky is this trip in the winter months?

How often does Amtrak inspect this whole route to insure it is safe?


I have done the MSP - SEA in November -
Don't sweat it -- your trip may be delayed but the odds are about 29 in 40 that there will be no delay at all.
As for risks of the train being stuck in blizzard in Montana? Amtrak nor BNSF will never dispatch a train into a significant storm -- with better weather forecasts this last decade it Just Wont Happen.

Don't worry

If you see  something say something.

If you smell something -- yell something.


#6 Guest_Doug_*

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:17 AM

It was mentioned to me that this route as a significant chance for an avalanche after these snows. Is this true?

#7 tomfuller

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:28 AM

Avalanche areas have had snow sheds for many years. http://www.flickr.co...N06/5643855896/
I did travel on the EB in November a few years ago with no concerns for my safety.

#8 JayPea

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:37 AM

I wouldn't be concerned about avalanches, as snowsheds, at least in Western Montana, protect the most avalanche - prone areas. There's a slight risk in the Washington Cascades but I certainly wouldn't call it "significant". Relax and enjoy your trip! :)

Amtrak Routes Traveled: City of New Orleans, State House/Lincoln Service, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled: Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle (Union Pacific)
Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB)
Amtrak Miles: 52,566

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8,482
Bustitution Miles: 362

Excursion trains ridden: Chehalis and Centralia Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, and trains at the
Illinois Railway Museum, Monticello (IL)Railroad Museum, and the California Railway Museum.


#9 JayPea

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:41 AM

Looks like Tom beat me to the punch! That's what happens when you try to post on your phone and you're in a location with a lousy internet connection! :rolleyes:

Amtrak Routes Traveled: City of New Orleans, State House/Lincoln Service, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled: Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle (Union Pacific)
Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB)
Amtrak Miles: 52,566

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8,482
Bustitution Miles: 362

Excursion trains ridden: Chehalis and Centralia Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, and trains at the
Illinois Railway Museum, Monticello (IL)Railroad Museum, and the California Railway Museum.


#10 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 11:26 AM

I agree with those who suggest there's not much to worry about. Most routes that Amtrak travels have several freight trains running each and every day. Chances are that even if something bad happens it will involve one of several dozen freight trains that run in between the once-a-day Amtrak trains. At that point you're likely to have a long but generally safe delay as Amtrak tries to figure out how to get folks around the blockage or take them back home again.

Edited by Texas Sunset, 12 November 2012 - 11:27 AM.

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Long live The Coast Starlight, The California Zephyr, The Empire Builder, The Southwest Chief, and The Canadian.


#11 RRrich

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 11:50 AM

I rode te Empie Builder frpm Portland to Chicago during a snowy January a few years back. What fun :hi:

Edited by RRrich, 12 November 2012 - 11:52 AM.

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#12 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 08:20 PM

There will be no problem. Travelling by train is definately the safest way to go in snowy weather and my old friend the EB can definately handle it. I've done it before in winter, amazing scenery with all the snow!

MCI 102DL3WC Professonal Drivers Commited to Safety 1-800-SAFE-BUS
AMERICA'S BUS LINE FOR 100 YEARS
GO GREYHOUND - AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US!
OPERATOR: GREYHOUND LINES INC., DALLAS, TX, USDOT 044110
OPERATED BY: GREYHOUND CANADA TRANSPORTATION CORP., CALGARY, AB, NSC-000026177, FHA-MC-304126


#13 George Harris

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 09:03 PM

It was mentioned to me that this route as a significant chance for an avalanche after these snows. Is this true?


By who?

How often does Amtrak inspect this whole route to insure it is safe?



A point of explanation: As mentioned by others, except for most parts of Boston to Washington and parts of a line in Michigan, Amtrak owns virtually none of the track on which it operates.

When you run Chicago to Seattle, Chicago to Minneapolis is on Canadian Pacific and Minneapolis the rest of the way is on BNSF. The BNSF line is the former Great Northern Railroad main line. The people that own and operate this piece of railroad are well acquainted with how to safely and efficiently operate a railroad line in cold weather on both the high plains and in the Cascade mountains. Many of the railroad companies do or did have their own in-house weather forecasters, and I think BNSF is one that does.

As others have said, this railroad will be moving when nothing else in the area is.

On this route you will go through the two longest railroad tunnels in the United States, the Flathead and the Cascade. If you were to go south on the Starlight to Sacramento and come back east on the California Zephyr, that would be on BNSF to Portland, Oregon, Union Pacific there to Denver and BNSF the rest of the way back to Chicago, you would go through the Moffet which is the third longest tunnel in the US.

The Flathead tunnel is about half-way between Whitefish and Libby, Montana, so you will probably go through it in the dark in both directions given that it will be mid-winter, but maybe at dawn if the train is late eastbound.


The Cascade tunnel is between Leavenworth and Everett, Washington, again in the dark in both directions, except likely dawn or early morning westbound.

Edited by George Harris, 13 November 2012 - 09:06 PM.


#14 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 12:09 AM

Maybe this will assure you: http://www.railpictu...=265024&nseq=39.

MCI 102DL3WC Professonal Drivers Commited to Safety 1-800-SAFE-BUS
AMERICA'S BUS LINE FOR 100 YEARS
GO GREYHOUND - AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US!
OPERATOR: GREYHOUND LINES INC., DALLAS, TX, USDOT 044110
OPERATED BY: GREYHOUND CANADA TRANSPORTATION CORP., CALGARY, AB, NSC-000026177, FHA-MC-304126


#15 Guest_Wildcat_*

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 04:31 PM

Look at it this way: on a train, you can't fall from 40,000 feet!

#16 winterskigirl

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 09:33 PM

Also, aren't there rail dispatchers always monitoring for slides and/or other obstructions?

#17 zephyr17

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 10:41 PM

Also, aren't there rail dispatchers always monitoring for slides and/or other obstructions?

In areas prone to rock slides, there are "slide fences" that are a series of wires that when broken, cause the signals to drop to red. In CTC areas, it will also show up on the dispatcher's display. There are also snow sheds in areas with heavy snow and avalanche chutes.

The Empire Builder route has very heavy freight traffic and BNSF keeps it clear and in good shape. Not sure where this business about passenger trains being caught in blizzards/snowstorms/avalanches/asteroid strikes, etc., comes from. Trains keep moving when most other forms of transportation are stopped. It may be delayed, I was on a Builder that was 12 hours into Chicago because there was no rested crew in Minot, then an ice storm covered the code line in ice so that it broke and we had to flag all the signals on the Hillsboro Sub between Grand Forks and Fargo. The train was late, but we got there in perfect safety, although the did bring out the Dinty Moore.

Edited by zephyr17, 17 November 2012 - 10:43 PM.

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#18 NW cannonball

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:21 AM

Look back a hundred years. Mark Twain has the last word

http://www.online-li...com/donne/3261/

:unsure:

If you see  something say something.

If you smell something -- yell something.




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