This post discusses discontinued Amtrak routes and asks do any of them have a possibility of being reintroduced?
I have discussed the Broadway Limited/Three Rivers in length in a previous article. Here are some of the others I found from timetables.org and Wikipedia that I thought were good routes (better than some that exist now):
1) Sunset Limited: New Orleans to Orlando via Pensacola and Jacksonville (Discontinued post Katrina)
2) Desert Wind: Chicago to Los Angeles via Denver, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles (Discontinued 1997)
3) Pioneer: Chicago to Seattle/Portland via Denver (Discontinued 1997)
4) National Limited: New York/Philadelphia to Kansas City via Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis, and St. Louis (Discontinued 1979)
5) Floridian: Chicago to Florida via Louisville, Nashville, and Birmingham (Discontinued 1979, Kentucky Cardinal ran to Louisville from 1999 to 2003)
The Sunset Limited cut at New Orleans cut train service to some cities in Florida and the Gulf Coast and broke the LA/Texas route to Florida. Amtrak no longer serves Tallahassee or Pensacola.
The National Limited cut train service to Columbus.
According to the January 1978 schedule,
NYP 4:55pm, (North Philadelphia) 6:20pm, PGH 1:54/2:09am, COL 6:40/6:50am, IND 10:10/10:25am, STL 3:30/3:50pm, KC 9:20pm.
Right now, PHL to IND is 8:15am/5:20am via the Cardinal (only three days a week), PHl to STL is 1:00pm/7:21pm next day via WAS and CHI, PHL to KCY is 12:02pm/10:11pm next day via WAS and CHI. All of these are now significantly longer than the National Limited took. If the old National Limited and current Texas Eagle schedules are used, you would arrive in STL 3:30pm and leave for Texas at 8:00pm. That would save about 5-6 hours from PHL to Texas. The transfer to the Southwest Chief at KCY would be almost impossible (9:20pm to 10:45pm).
The Floridian cut train service to Louisville and Nashville which still does not exist.
Floridian (1978): CHI 9:30pm, Louisville 7:49/8:04am, Nashville 11:05/11:15am, JAC 5:10/5:30am, ORL 8:55am.
Capitol/Silver Meteor: CHI 6;40pm, ORL 12:44pm two days later.
Right now there is a roughly 6 hour layover in WAS (1:05pm to 7:30pm) required (the Silver Star option did not show up when I tried the schedule). The Floridian would've required about 7 hours less but that's essentially the layover. The train running time would be roughly the same via WAS as it would have been via Nashville.
Columbus, Louisville, and Nashville seem to be three very big gaps that do not have Amtrak service. Ideally if the Floridian couldn't come back there would be at the very least a CHI-Louisville/Nashville train. Maybe the Pennsylvanian could be extended to Columbus or they could have a CHI-IND-Columbus train. You could reroute the Cardinal via Columbus and Pittsburgh and it would get to the East Coast WAY faster than it does now. However, you would lose the Cincinnati market (would Chicago/Indianapolis/Cincinnati/Columbus/Pittsburgh be possible?)
As for the Desert Wind and Pioneer, you can get to all of the major West Coast cities from Chicago now but you can only go directly from Denver and Salt Lake City to the Bay area when you could have gone from Denver to all of them and Salt Lake City to LA. Also, Las Vegas lost train service.
The 1997 changes streamlined services.
November 1996 schedule:
The Southwest Chief was daily. They show a direct connection from LAX to WAS which would've began in January 1997 along the Southwest Chief and Capitol Limited routes. There would be little problem with the connection west (8:45am to 5:10pm back then) but the eastern connection would've been tight (3:15pm to 7:45pm).
The California Zephyr only traveled four days a week between CHI and Oakland (now the train ends at Emeryville).The Desert Wind traveled the other three days a week between Chicago and Los Angeles via Denver and Salt Lake City. The two trains split at Salt Lake City. If you went on the Desert Wind from Chicago to Los Angeles, you would've taken about 7 hours longer so you'd probably rather take the Southwest Chief. But the Desert Wind was great for DEN-SLC-LAX and you could've gone to Las Vegas.
The Empire Builder provided daily service to Minneapolis but only four day service to Seattle. The Pioneer traveled from Chicago to Seattle/ Portland three days a week via Denver. The service was slower to Portland/Seattle (the train went into Portland first and then up to Seattle so it got into Seattle way later than the Empire Builder does now).
Then in 1997 they cut the Desert Wind and Pioneer and then made the California Zephyr and Empire Builder daily. The gain was daily service from Chicago to Northern California (instead of just 4 days) but the losses were that you could only travel from Denver/Salt Lake City to Northern CA (no LAX or Pacific Northwest) and no train service to either Las Vegas or Boise.
I would think that having the California Zephyr have two routes splitting in SLC (one the current route and one to LAX via Vegas) would solve the DEN/LAX problem. Even if they are two separate trains and you had to transfer in SLC, at least you could take trains the whole way and avoid Thruway buses. At the very least, LAX to Vegas should be brought back if going all the way up to SLC wasn't practical. Having another train from DEN to Portland/Seattle via Boise might be a good idea but I'd imagine it wouldn't be as popular as the Las Vegas train would be.
Of course my #1 priority is to re-establish the PHL/CHI direct route but these routes would reintroduce service to several cities that currently have no train service at all. Las Vegas, Columbus, Nashville, and Louisville rank 2 to 5, respectively (according to Wikipedia) in terms of markets that lack Amtrak service (Phoenix is #1 if you don't count Maricopa). CHI-Louisville-Nashville would take care of two of the cities even if you don't expand it to Florida. They can easily if nothing else add a LAX-Vegas train. Columbus would be the hardest to get train service but then again the Amtrak service to most of Ohio right now is late night service anyway.
Which routes would you like to see brought back (in whole or in part)? Do any of these have any future at all? Are there any new routes or old routes not listed here you see happening in the future?