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Chicago to Dubuque by 2014? The Black Hawk return update?


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#1 dlagrua

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:38 AM

Things have been in the works for a restoration of the Black Hawk service since 2010 when the state of Illinois refunded the train. I have been reading about the progress of the return of this once active 182 mile route and there is some info here:

http://members.train...dr04/BlackHawk/

Preliminary schedule here;

http://members.train...wk/schedule.htm

 

This route (originally an Illinois Central train called the Land O Corn) ) has not run from CUS since 1983. It originally ran from Chicago to Waterloo, IA ( 247 miles)  but was shortened when Amtrak assumed the train route (but shot=rtened to Dubuque). At that time of its discontinuance, I believe that Amtrak may have been running three coaches, and a dining car.  The trip took 6.6 hours so there were no sleepers.

Apparently new demand for Iowa service surfaced in the past few years and the state of Illinois has committed towards its funding again. Last I read the CN tracks are being upgraded and service may start by 2014. Nippon Sharyo is building the cars for this route and I cannot find info on what the consist will look like or what the cars will be like.. Will there be a business class, or first class?

 

This is positive news for the Amtrak system and a new route for us to look forward to riding. Just goes to show what can happen when a state wants rail service again and doesn't mind chipping in. Since my info is sketchy; please feel free everyone, to fill in the blanks.


Edited by dlagrua, 12 August 2013 - 11:49 AM.


#2 Railroad Bill

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 12:19 PM

Looks like an interesting new Amtrak ride. Hope they can change the times from the old schedule. Those people traveling from Dubuque to Chicago at 5am will need to be as dedicated as we who ride from Cleveland in the early hours of the morning. :P


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#3 rrdude

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 12:35 PM

Black Hawk was the only route I ever bid on for a job, and won, for all of one week! It was a God-Awful early report time in Dubuque, especially if the Westbound was late. (rare)

 

Seems as though with the length of trip thou, they would schedule at least two trips per day, but hey, something is better than what we have now, just a shame though, as frequency (not speed) is typically the single largest factor in establishing the train as an alternate, viable transportation alternative.



#4 railiner

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 02:49 PM

I don't believe Amtrak ever ran a diner on its Blackhawk....IIRC, they used the former C&NW intercity gallery cars mostly, occasionally an Amfleet set.....


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#5 afigg

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:33 PM

Apparently new demand for Iowa service surfaced in the past few years and the state of Illinois has committed towards its funding again. Last I read the CN tracks are being upgraded and service may start by 2014. Nippon Sharyo is building the cars for this route and I cannot find info on what the consist will look like or what the cars will be like.. Will there be a business class, or first class?
 
This is positive news for the Amtrak system and a new route for us to look forward to riding. Just goes to show what can happen when a state wants rail service again and doesn't mind chipping in. Since my info is sketchy; please feel free everyone, to fill in the blanks.

The last I recall reading, the start date both of the new Illinois corridor routes has slipped into at least later 2015. Keep in mind, there are 2 new funded corridor routes in IL:
1. Chicago-Dubuque (funded mostly with state money)
2. Chicago-Moline/Quad Cities. The HSIPR grant for CHI-Iowa City with IL's portion stripped out and work started while Iowa's Governor stalls on the extension to Iowa City.

Both of these corridor services will be getting the new corridor bi-levels from the Nippon-Sharyo contract. But those cars won't start shipping in quantity until 2016. Unless Amtrak can scrounge up enough coach cars to start the new services, IL may have to postpone starting service on the new routes. Or perhaps start with once a day service, then go to the planed twice a day service when the equipment is available?

The corridor bi-levels from Nippon-Sharyo will be similar to the California cars with 2 passenger doors on either side. Yes, there will be business class as the 130 car order includes 21 café/business class cars.



#6 MattW

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:54 PM

Could Illinois do what California did and lease (or buy? I can't remember) some more single-level commuter cars for the interim? Or probably the better question, are there even any more commuter cars available to be leased or sold?


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#7 Paul CHI

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 04:14 PM

I don't understand where IL will get the money to do this.  The state is worse than flat broke financially.



#8 rrdude

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 04:39 PM

I don't believe Amtrak ever ran a diner on its Blackhawk....IIRC, they used the former C&NW intercity gallery cars mostly, occasionally an Amfleet set.....

I worked it up to 81, and never ran on anything other than AmCans and AmCafe



#9 afigg

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 05:20 PM

Could Illinois do what California did and lease (or buy? I can't remember) some more single-level commuter cars for the interim? Or probably the better question, are there even any more commuter cars available to be leased or sold?

What Caltrans is doing is an expensive stopgap solution. They paid $75K each for the Comet I-Bs, bur are paying Amtrak around $1.4 million (IIRC) each to completely overhaul and refurb the cars. There is almost certainly commuter coach cars available, but those cars will have commuter type seating and may not be the best way to launch a restored service for 4+ hour trips.



#10 dlagrua

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 06:19 PM

I believe that the current Illinois Central (CN) trackage still extends across the entire state of IA to Omaha, NB. The original IC route ran to Waterloo which is about 90 miles farther West than Dubuque. When Amtrak stepped in they shortened the route by about 90 miles. Its likely that the IA department of transportation sees no market West of Dubuque. I was reading that the state is currently building a new transportation center for train and bus service. This seems like a terrible waste of money as the old Dubuque train station is still there and in great condition.

#11 Anderson

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 07:56 PM

I believe that the current Illinois Central (CN) trackage still extends across the entire state of IA to Omaha, NB. The original IC route ran to Waterloo which is about 90 miles farther West than Dubuque. When Amtrak stepped in they shortened the route by about 90 miles. Its likely that the IA department of transportation sees no market West of Dubuque. I was reading that the state is currently building a new transportation center for train and bus service. This seems like a terrible waste of money as the old Dubuque train station is still there and in great condition.

IA looked at this in the context of the Omaha train study.  Basically, Waterloo might work if there weren't some plans for a Des Moines train.  As it stands, an extension probably wouldn't make that much sense...Waterloo isn't very big, Cedar Rapids is served by Iowa City, and Fort Dodge has only 25,000 people in it...there's nothing else out that way of note save perhaps Sioux City...and Sioux City-Chicago does not strike me as a major city pair at this point.

 

Moreover, once the train runs into IA, IA's DOT gets stuck in the mix...and we all know how fun that sort of complication can be.


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#12 jebr

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 09:22 PM

I believe that the current Illinois Central (CN) trackage still extends across the entire state of IA to Omaha, NB. The original IC route ran to Waterloo which is about 90 miles farther West than Dubuque. When Amtrak stepped in they shortened the route by about 90 miles. Its likely that the IA department of transportation sees no market West of Dubuque. I was reading that the state is currently building a new transportation center for train and bus service. This seems like a terrible waste of money as the old Dubuque train station is still there and in great condition.

and Sioux City-Chicago does not strike me as a major city pair at this point.

Though, to be fair, the subsidized airline service from Sioux City was given to American Airlines in part because a Chicago connection was more desirable than an MSP connection with Delta. This was despite the fact that the Delta contract was around $230,000 less expensive per year.

 

http://siouxcityjour...6c542fa2d5.html

 

That won't pay for a train all the way out there, but it's an interesting aside...there is some demand for Sioux City-Chicago service.



#13 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:11 PM

Looks like an interesting new Amtrak ride. Hope they can change the times from the old schedule. Those people traveling from Dubuque to Chicago at 5am will need to be as dedicated as we who ride from Cleveland in the early hours of the morning. :P

 

That is a terrible schedule. Amtrak really need to rework a lot of the middle-of-night stops, even more when the station donsen't have mauch passengers or population.

 

I would always prefer a well-timed Greyhound into CLD than an Amtrak train. Pretty obvious why that is.


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#14 railiner

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:32 PM

I believe that the current Illinois Central (CN) trackage still extends across the entire state of IA to Omaha, NB. The original IC route ran to Waterloo which is about 90 miles farther West than Dubuque. When Amtrak stepped in they shortened the route by about 90 miles. Its likely that the IA department of transportation sees no market West of Dubuque. I was reading that the state is currently building a new transportation center for train and bus service. This seems like a terrible waste of money as the old Dubuque train station is still there and in great condition.

IA looked at this in the context of the Omaha train study.  Basically, Waterloo might work if there weren't some plans for a Des Moines train.  As it stands, an extension probably wouldn't make that much sense...Waterloo isn't very big, Cedar Rapids is served by Iowa City, and Fort Dodge has only 25,000 people in it...there's nothing else out that way of note save perhaps Sioux City...and Sioux City-Chicago does not strike me as a major city pair at this point.

 

Moreover, once the train runs into IA, IA's DOT gets stuck in the mix...and we all know how fun that sort of complication can be.

Besides the 'Land-O'-Corn' train Chicago to Waterloo, the IC also ran the overnite 'Hawkeye' from Chicago all the way to Sioux City, with part of it splitting off to Omaha at one time.


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#15 railiner

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:35 PM

I don't believe Amtrak ever ran a diner on its Blackhawk....IIRC, they used the former C&NW intercity gallery cars mostly, occasionally an Amfleet set.....

I worked it up to 81, and never ran on anything other than AmCans and AmCafe

They never ran those gallery cars on that train?   Perhaps my fuzzy memory forgot, and I remember them on the Illini?   Pretty sure they were used on some IC route, but not sure....


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#16 Anderson

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 12:04 AM

(1) Sioux City has one of the worst airport codes in the country: SUX.
(2) Snickering aside, Sioux City enplanements were only 27,168 for CY12.  This was off about 3% from CY11; though there was a hard fall between CY09 and CY10, the numbers have been flat-ish since then in the mid-20k range.  I'm willing to argue that there's more "municipal" demand than "market" demand for the service, and that it's more demand for "something going somewhere" than anything specific.  Put another way, the city desperately wants an airplane of some sort, they don't care who it is or where it goes.
(3) Looking at the other cities on the route, I think you'd probably find ridership west of Waterloo somewhere 50k/yr.  One part of it is the low population of the region.  The other is likely long running times (8 hours at a bare minimum, probably more like 9-10).  It might still not be the worst use of an operating subsidy, though...

With all that said, if you could proverbially drop a train in from Sioux Falls to Chicago and get a decent running speed, it probably wouldn't have the worst performance ever.  That trophy will likely always go to the Lake Country Limited.  However, it will be a mediocre-performing train at best, and you'd probably want to cut all but about two cars off the train past Waterloo (or three cars past Dubuque) so you didn't "waste" the cars.  The biggest issue, however, is that you'd probably have to sink a lot of money into track improvements to make the train worthwhile...if you can do the run in 8-10 hours that's one thing.  If it takes something like 14 hours, you have a problem...and if it costs $1bn to get travel times down to something sane, you have another problem.


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#17 jebr

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 12:28 AM

(1) Sioux City has one of the worst airport codes in the country: SUX.


Ha, yeah. I have some souvenirs with the SUX moniker on them. They've done their best to make lemonade out of the proverbial lemons.
 

With all that said, if you could proverbially drop a train in from Sioux Falls to Chicago and get a decent running speed, it probably wouldn't have the worst performance ever.  That trophy will likely always go to the Lake Country Limited.  However, it will be a mediocre-performing train at best, and you'd probably want to cut all but about two cars off the train past Waterloo (or three cars past Dubuque) so you didn't "waste" the cars.  The biggest issue, however, is that you'd probably have to sink a lot of money into track improvements to make the train worthwhile...if you can do the run in 8-10 hours that's one thing.  If it takes something like 14 hours, you have a problem...and if it costs $1bn to get travel times down to something sane, you have another problem.


True. If you're doing a Sioux Falls - Chicago train, you'd probably be better sacrificing a bit of time and just doing Sioux Falls - Sioux City - Omaha, and then connect with a train running parallel to I-80. It may not be as direct as cutting over to Waterloo, but you'd hit much better intermediate markets, and frankly I'd rather see the money spent doing that than running a train further north.

 

(Of course, you're looking at a bit odd BNSF routing out of Sioux Falls and into Omaha or you're looking at negotiating with BNSF, UP, and D & I, though between Sioux Falls and Sioux City both routes only have small intermediate markets, and frankly if I'm dipping into this much fantasy I'm seeing a Minneapolis to Sioux Falls train, and then I'd take the full-BNSF routing for a hope of a train stop in Sioux Center.)


Edited by jebr, 13 August 2013 - 01:03 AM.


#18 PerRock

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 12:52 AM

I personally would love to see train service ran all the way to Waterloo, as I have family there, and taking the train sure beat a 10hr drive. However being familiar with the area, I don't know where Amtrak could put a station in Waterloo. IANR might allow them to put something up in their yard, but I doubt it. That yard is really the closest the line comes to downtown. Now if they skipped Waterloo, and ended at Cedar Falls (Waterloo's neighbor, they're practically one city) there are two spots a station could be built almost in downtown (the old station is in downtown, but is now on an industrial spur to the power plant & is a bank). But then all this is years & years away...

 

I wouldn't mind Duboque, my family could pick me up fairly easily from there.

 

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#19 jphjaxfl

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 03:42 AM

I believe that the current Illinois Central (CN) trackage still extends across the entire state of IA to Omaha, NB. The original IC route ran to Waterloo which is about 90 miles farther West than Dubuque. When Amtrak stepped in they shortened the route by about 90 miles. Its likely that the IA department of transportation sees no market West of Dubuque. I was reading that the state is currently building a new transportation center for train and bus service. This seems like a terrible waste of money as the old Dubuque train station is still there and in great condition.

IA looked at this in the context of the Omaha train study.  Basically, Waterloo might work if there weren't some plans for a Des Moines train.  As it stands, an extension probably wouldn't make that much sense...Waterloo isn't very big, Cedar Rapids is served by Iowa City, and Fort Dodge has only 25,000 people in it...there's nothing else out that way of note save perhaps Sioux City...and Sioux City-Chicago does not strike me as a major city pair at this point.

 

Moreover, once the train runs into IA, IA's DOT gets stuck in the mix...and we all know how fun that sort of complication can be.

Besides the 'Land-O'-Corn' train Chicago to Waterloo, the IC also ran the overnite 'Hawkeye' from Chicago all the way to Sioux City, with part of it splitting off to Omaha at one time.

The Hawkeye from Chicacgo to Sioux City lasted until A-Day while the Land of Corn was discontinued several years prior.  The Omaha section of the Hawkeye was discontinued around WWII,



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Posted 13 August 2013 - 08:41 AM

I don't understand where IL will get the money to do this.  The state is worse than flat broke financially.

It's only money. A lot of people don't understand money at the "macro" level. It's different from the way money works for the "little people".

If you're as big as a bank or a state government, you can borrow arbitrary amounts of money at very low interest rates and you never really have to pay it back. You can effectively print money. If you're the federal government, you can actually print money, and that's actually a good idea under most circumstances (the exception being when there is a real resource constraint, such as a shortage of oil, or no unemployed workers to hire; neither of which is true now).

Remember the old saying: if you owe the bank a million dollars, the bank owns you. If you owe the bank a *billion* dollars, you own the bank.

Now, if Illinois were short of steel or concrete or workers, then there would be a real, serious issue with extending a train line. Short on "money"? Means nothing, just print some.



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