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Improving the EB through North Dakota/Montana


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#1 norfolkwesternhenry

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Posted 24 December 2016 - 03:18 PM

I was wondering about improving speeds on the EB route through North Dakota, since it's relatively straight and with an easy grade. Perhaps starting with a target of 90 mph, and improving to 100, 110, and then 125, depending if what engines and rolling stock gets used, and the speeds they can handle. Also the route between MSP and CHI used to host 120 mph Hiawathas, so I see no reason why it couldn't be upgraded to 110 mph, apart from cost

Empire Builder MSP-CHI (2) CHI-MSP (2) MSP-PDX (1) MSP-CBS (5.5 H late) (1) MKE-MSP (1) MSP-SEA (1) Coast Starlate PDX-EMY (1.5H late) (1) California Zephyr DEN-SLC (1H late) (1) Hiawatha CHI-MKE (1) NE Regional WAS-BAL (1) WAS-NYP (1) Acela Express BAL-WAS (1) BOS-WAS (1) Late Shore (Limited service) CHI-BOS (On Time) (1) Capitol Limited WAS-CHI (1) Texas Eagle SAS-CHI (1.5 HR late, 1 HR late) (2) CHI-SAS (1) (55 min early) Wolverine DET-DER-ARB-CHI (35 Min late) (1) Cascades SEA-VAC (1)
Non-Amtrak: VIA: Corridor Service Q.C.-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor (1) Canadian: VAC-Winnipeg 4.5 H late (1) D. C. metro, Montreal Metro, Toronto subway, Portland streetcars, BART, Metra, NYC subway, Boston subway, Twin cities Blue/Green line
train cars travelled in: Superliner: Coach, Sleeper, Diner, CCC, SSL. Amfleet: LD Café, Café/Business, coach. Viewliner: Sleeper, Diner. Acela: Café, Business, quiet car. Horizon: Coach. Talgo: coach, diner, café; non Amtrak: ex CP Via Canadian Manor cars, Park car, diner,sleeper, Skyline lounge. LRC trainset: coach (tilt de-activated)

No trees were killed to make this, but a number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

My apologies if I offend you, or seem stubborn, it's simply my nature. I am 14 after all, and my English isn't exactly perfect.


#2 KmH

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Posted 24 December 2016 - 05:32 PM

It's my understanding that to go faster than 79 mph the route has to have PTC or Positive Train Control.

https://en.wikipedia...rol#Controversy

https://en.wikipedia..._control#Amtrak


Edited by KmH, 24 December 2016 - 05:37 PM.

1963U. S. Congress - underground trolley system • Disneyland train (1968/various other dates) • Old Tucson steam train (1969)

Amtrak: California Zephyr Coast Starlight •  Southwest ChiefSunset LimitedTexas Eagle • Illinois Zephyr

. . . . . . . Amtrak miles - 16,383, so far.

 

 

 

 

 


#3 bmjhagen9426

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 01:08 PM

The Southwest Chief can run up to 90mph, even without PTC, because ATS (Automatic Train Stop) is used along most of its route.


Just a 23 year old college student who likes to travel by train.
Trains taken (US): Coast Starlight, San Joaquins, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Hoosier State, SP4449 excursion 2015
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Trains/Transit taken (Outside US and Canada): KNR, SMSC, SMRT, IRTC, DJET, DX LINE, EVERLINE, HUMETRO, METRO9
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Current Amtrak mileage: 17251 miles plus 130 Ambus miles

#4 KmH

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 04:18 PM

West of Chicago the Southwest Chief looks to be an exception.

https://en.wikipedia...e_United_States


1963U. S. Congress - underground trolley system • Disneyland train (1968/various other dates) • Old Tucson steam train (1969)

Amtrak: California Zephyr Coast Starlight •  Southwest ChiefSunset LimitedTexas Eagle • Illinois Zephyr

. . . . . . . Amtrak miles - 16,383, so far.

 

 

 

 

 


#5 norfolkwesternhenry

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 05:50 PM

I think the track is straight enough and PTC would probably need to be implemeted. Premium rail and cement ties would also be a nice addition, but unnecessary

Edited by norfolkwesternhenry, 26 December 2016 - 05:51 PM.

Empire Builder MSP-CHI (2) CHI-MSP (2) MSP-PDX (1) MSP-CBS (5.5 H late) (1) MKE-MSP (1) MSP-SEA (1) Coast Starlate PDX-EMY (1.5H late) (1) California Zephyr DEN-SLC (1H late) (1) Hiawatha CHI-MKE (1) NE Regional WAS-BAL (1) WAS-NYP (1) Acela Express BAL-WAS (1) BOS-WAS (1) Late Shore (Limited service) CHI-BOS (On Time) (1) Capitol Limited WAS-CHI (1) Texas Eagle SAS-CHI (1.5 HR late, 1 HR late) (2) CHI-SAS (1) (55 min early) Wolverine DET-DER-ARB-CHI (35 Min late) (1) Cascades SEA-VAC (1)
Non-Amtrak: VIA: Corridor Service Q.C.-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor (1) Canadian: VAC-Winnipeg 4.5 H late (1) D. C. metro, Montreal Metro, Toronto subway, Portland streetcars, BART, Metra, NYC subway, Boston subway, Twin cities Blue/Green line
train cars travelled in: Superliner: Coach, Sleeper, Diner, CCC, SSL. Amfleet: LD Café, Café/Business, coach. Viewliner: Sleeper, Diner. Acela: Café, Business, quiet car. Horizon: Coach. Talgo: coach, diner, café; non Amtrak: ex CP Via Canadian Manor cars, Park car, diner,sleeper, Skyline lounge. LRC trainset: coach (tilt de-activated)

No trees were killed to make this, but a number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

My apologies if I offend you, or seem stubborn, it's simply my nature. I am 14 after all, and my English isn't exactly perfect.


#6 CCC1007

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 05:56 PM

I think the track is straight enough and PTC would probably need to be implemeted. Premium rail and cement ties would also be a nice addition, but unnecessary

BNSF will be the company that will determine what improvements they will do to increase the speed of the trains across the northern transcon, as they own the track and have the most to gain from faster container trains and possibly faster manifest trains.



#7 neroden

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 09:15 AM

PTC is going to be implemented on the Northern Transcon in any case; it's mandated by federal law.

However, other factors come into play. Most freight lines are maintained to FRA Class 4 standards.
To go above 80 mph they need to maintain the track to FRA Class 5 standards, and BNSF typically doesn't want to spend the money, and I don't think Amtrak can afford to.

I actually don't know whether any part of the Northern Transcon is already maintained to Class 5 standards. Perhaps someone has that information?
(After research, I found someone claiming that Minot-Havre was Class 5. I don't know if there are any other parts. I found a claim from 2001 that the mainlines in the west were uniformly class 5, but that's probably not true.)

Also, BNSF doesn't want a large differential between passenger train speeds and fast freight (intermodal) speeds. Makes the railroad more fluid if they're running at similar speeds.

Expect passenger trains to go up in speed from 79 mph to 80 mph when PTC is implemented. A small gain, I realize, but every little bit helps...

If BNSF decides that they have enough traffic that it's worth upgrading to class 5 track -- perhaps to increase freight speed limits from 60 mph to 80 mph, or perhaps just due to heavy loadings -- then Amtrak can go at 90 mph on that segment. Well, BNSF still has to approve, but if BNSF is running trains at 80 they'll be OK with Amtrak running at 90..

Edited by neroden, 27 December 2016 - 10:11 AM.

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#8 fairviewroad

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 04:33 PM

I'm no expert, but when I've ridden the EB quite a few times from ND westward, and the chief factor contributing to its slowness hasn't been going 79 mph instead of going 110 mph ...it's been going ZERO mph versus going 79 mph.



#9 Palmetto

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 07:57 AM

The max authorized speed on the Empire Builder route is 79 MPH.



#10 norfolkwesternhenry

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Posted 21 January 2017 - 11:48 PM

Double tracking and implementation of PTC, to increase speeds and capacity, yes it's very very expensive, but it'll pay back in the long run

Empire Builder MSP-CHI (2) CHI-MSP (2) MSP-PDX (1) MSP-CBS (5.5 H late) (1) MKE-MSP (1) MSP-SEA (1) Coast Starlate PDX-EMY (1.5H late) (1) California Zephyr DEN-SLC (1H late) (1) Hiawatha CHI-MKE (1) NE Regional WAS-BAL (1) WAS-NYP (1) Acela Express BAL-WAS (1) BOS-WAS (1) Late Shore (Limited service) CHI-BOS (On Time) (1) Capitol Limited WAS-CHI (1) Texas Eagle SAS-CHI (1.5 HR late, 1 HR late) (2) CHI-SAS (1) (55 min early) Wolverine DET-DER-ARB-CHI (35 Min late) (1) Cascades SEA-VAC (1)
Non-Amtrak: VIA: Corridor Service Q.C.-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor (1) Canadian: VAC-Winnipeg 4.5 H late (1) D. C. metro, Montreal Metro, Toronto subway, Portland streetcars, BART, Metra, NYC subway, Boston subway, Twin cities Blue/Green line
train cars travelled in: Superliner: Coach, Sleeper, Diner, CCC, SSL. Amfleet: LD Café, Café/Business, coach. Viewliner: Sleeper, Diner. Acela: Café, Business, quiet car. Horizon: Coach. Talgo: coach, diner, café; non Amtrak: ex CP Via Canadian Manor cars, Park car, diner,sleeper, Skyline lounge. LRC trainset: coach (tilt de-activated)

No trees were killed to make this, but a number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

My apologies if I offend you, or seem stubborn, it's simply my nature. I am 14 after all, and my English isn't exactly perfect.


#11 Thirdrail7

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 12:16 AM

Double tracking and implementation of PTC, to increase speeds and capacity, yes it's very very expensive, but it'll pay back in the long run

 

You'd also have to change the entire signalling system so whom will it pay for? Amtrak, with its one train a day in each direction? The freight companies that aren't going to travel anywhere near that speed? Who is benefiting for this huge expense?


They say laughter is the best medicine. Obviously they never posted on AU.


#12 CCC1007

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 01:30 AM

Double tracking and implementation of PTC, to increase speeds and capacity, yes it's very very expensive, but it'll pay back in the long run

The line is double tracked between Glasgow, MT and MSP. PTC is already being used on double stack trains in test mode on that line, so these investments have already been paid for by BNSF.

#13 Palmetto

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 07:34 AM

"The line is double tracked between Glasgow, MT and MSP"

 

No, it's not.  The double track starts well east of Glasgow, at West Williston, ND.  The train then uses the Devil's Lake and Hillsboro Subs between Minot and Fargo, and they are both single track with sidings.  At E. Dilworth, the railroad is double track as far as Staples, where another stretch of single track is still in place.  Then, it's double track to MSP.



#14 CCC1007

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 12:05 PM

"The line is double tracked between Glasgow, MT and MSP"
 
No, it's not.  The double track starts well east of Glasgow, at West Williston, ND.  The train then uses the Devil's Lake and Hillsboro Subs between Minot and Fargo, and they are both single track with sidings.  At E. Dilworth, the railroad is double track as far as Staples, where another stretch of single track is still in place.  Then, it's double track to MSP.

I guess my information was wrong, but I thought BNSF said they were double tracking to Glasgow. I can see that over the devil's lake and Hillsboro subdivisions it wouldn't be as there aren't as many freight trains on that line.

#15 Palmetto

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Posted 22 January 2017 - 04:04 PM

The last I heard was they doubling as far west as Snowden, MT, where the Sidney Line Sub diverges and heads south to Glendive.

Waaaaaaaaaaay on the other side of that gigantic state of yours! :) 



#16 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 09:49 PM

Let's first improve the Empire Builder by reviving the Sacajawea (formerly known as the North Coast Hiawatha).

 

Srsly. The Sacajawea would serve very underserved markets in southern North Dakota, Montana, and Washington state. Meanwhile it would add another frequency to the Builder's route thru Wisconsin and Minnesota.

 

Oh, that's a big project. So plan it incrementally, step by step.

 

#1 Expand capacity Chicago-Milwaukee to allow three more Hiawatha corridor trains, as is being studied right now, and be sure to build in capacity for several more corridor trains (at least two more CHI-St Paul-St Cloud, CHI-St Paul-Duluth, and/or CHI-Milwaukee-Green Bay) and one regional distance corridor train (like the Carolinian). That one could grow into our desired LD train as funding might permit.

 

#2 Build out the remainder of 70-mile St Paul-St Cloud commuter line as designed. (It was truncated half way, lacking a full federal grant. Should qualify next time by adding in Step #3.)

 

#3 Begin corridor service CHI-Milwaukee-St Paul-St Cloud (currently being studied again). Double-tracking, more sidings, and other investment will make this a faster and popular route.

 

#4 Extend one train to the edge of North Dakota to create a regional corridor service CHI-Milwaukee-St Paul-St Cloud-Fargo. on the order of the Palmetto or the Pennsylvanian.

 

For Steps 1-4 Minnesota does the heavy lifting, with whatever federal funding the law allows. (Wisconsin could help; term limits come into play in 2018.)

 

North Dakota just got a "free" train to Fargo, its largest city and the home of ND State U. (Note that Fargo is just across the river from U of Minn Moorhead campus). Then ND will have to carefully choose its next step. It could pay to extend that Fargo train north 75 miles to Grand Forks, home of the U. of North Dakota. NARP reported 12,000 on/offs at Grand Forks and 23,000 at Fargo in FY 2015. Good numbers for trains that all stop between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., too early even to milk the cow.

 

Or

 

#5 North Dakota could pay for a train across the state, stopping at Bismark, the capital, and Dickinson, another college town, as well as a few smaller towns along the way. This would be a weak segment, with low population. But it would be a good place to invest in faster sections -- so drivers would see it, slow or fast, where the trackage parallels I-95.

 

#6 The proposed route of the Sacajawea (NCH) passes thru a long string of big towns and small cities in southern Montana, including Billings, Bozeman, Helena the capital, and Missoula. About 10 years ago the state looked into a state-supported corridor train here, on a stretch of state-owned rail, the Montana Rail Line, that would overlap the Sacajawea Billings-Missoula. One big town of particular interest for long distance service is Livingston, near the north gate to Yellowstone National Park (which currently is inaccessible for rail passengers).

 

Near the state line, the Sacajawea would join the route used by the Builder thru Idaho and into Spokane.

 

#7 Begin service Seattle-Spokane. This seems a natural city pair for corridor service, supported by the state that brings us the Cascades. One problem has been that the main route is crowded at best, and choked at worst, where a tunnel must be cleared of fumes before another train can enter. Another old route Spokane-Pasco-Yakima-Ellensburg (an almost isolated state college town)-Seattle is highly scenic, and not heavily used. It would need considerable upgrades, but Washington knows how to do that from building the Cascades service.

 

There it is. A simple, less costly plan to add the Sacajawea as Amtrak's    16th LD train.

 

The PRIIA Study of this train was remarkably favorable. Nobody noticed the good news, because the capital cost estimates. They included $600 million the freights wanted for upgrades to the route, new stations, ADA station upgrades, 54 new Superliner cars, 18 new locomotives, and the kitchen sink, totaling more than a Billion. At that point we all quit reading the report.

 

Now follow on into the Exhibits. Projected 360,000 riders a year, and a farebox recovery rate of 58%, well above the average for LD trains. It would rank #4 behind only the Auto Train, the Empire Builder, and the [i]Palmetto, and ahead of every other LD train currently operating.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++

Overlooked above and I'm too tired to rewrite now, LOL, is my guess for significantly lower capital costs due to the improvements that the freights have made to their tracks. With the Bakken oil play, the freight lines have upgraded many miles in North Dakota and Minnesota, but probably to some extent in every state along the proposed route. Now with the slowing of that oil boom, there could easily be capacity for a passenger train.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++

 

Sorry about the italics. The system will not allow me to correct for that, um, quirk.


Edited by WoodyinNYC, 23 January 2017 - 09:57 PM.


#17 CCC1007

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 10:21 PM

Let's first improve the Empire Builder by reviving the Sacajawea (formerly known as the North Coast Hiawatha).
 
Srsly. The Sacajawea would serve very underserved markets in southern North Dakota, Montana, and Washington state. Meanwhile it would add another frequency to the Builder's route thru Wisconsin and Minnesota.
 
Oh, that's a big project. So plan it incrementally, step by step.
 
#1 Expand capacity Chicago-Milwaukee to allow three more Hiawatha corridor trains, as is being studied right now, and be sure to build in capacity for several more corridor trains (at least two more CHI-St Paul-St Cloud, CHI-St Paul-Duluth, and/or CHI-Milwaukee-Green Bay) and one regional distance corridor train (like the Carolinian). That one could grow into our desired LD train as funding might permit.
 
#2 Build out the remainder of 70-mile St Paul-St Cloud commuter line as designed. (It was truncated half way, lacking a full federal grant. Should qualify next time by adding in Step #3.)
 
#3 Begin corridor service CHI-Milwaukee-St Paul-St Cloud (currently being studied again). Double-tracking, more sidings, and other investment will make this a faster and popular route.
 
#4 Extend one train to the edge of North Dakota to create a regional corridor service CHI-Milwaukee-St Paul-St Cloud-Fargo. on the order of the Palmetto or the Pennsylvanian.
 
For Steps 1-4 Minnesota does the heavy lifting, with whatever federal funding the law allows. (Wisconsin could help; term limits come into play in 2018.)
 
North Dakota just got a "free" train to Fargo, its largest city and the home of ND State U. (Note that Fargo is just across the river from U of Minn Moorhead campus). Then ND will have to carefully choose its next step. It could pay to extend that Fargo train north 75 miles to Grand Forks, home of the U. of North Dakota. NARP reported 12,000 on/offs at Grand Forks and 23,000 at Fargo in FY 2015. Good numbers for trains that all stop between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., too early even to milk the cow.
 
Or
 
#5 North Dakota could pay for a train across the state, stopping at Bismark, the capital, and Dickinson, another college town, as well as a few smaller towns along the way. This would be a weak segment, with low population. But it would be a good place to invest in faster sections -- so drivers would see it, slow or fast, where the trackage parallels I-95.
 
#6 The proposed route of the Sacajawea (NCH) passes thru a long string of big towns and small cities in southern Montana, including Billings, Bozeman, Helena the capital, and Missoula. About 10 years ago the state looked into a state-supported corridor train here, on a stretch of state-owned rail, the Montana Rail Line, that would overlap the Sacajawea Billings-Missoula. One big town of particular interest for long distance service is Livingston, near the north gate to Yellowstone National Park (which currently is inaccessible for rail passengers).
 
Near the state line, the Sacajawea would join the route used by the Builder thru Idaho and into Spokane.
 
#7 Begin service Seattle-Spokane. This seems a natural city pair for corridor service, supported by the state that brings us the Cascades. One problem has been that the main route is crowded at best, and choked at worst, where a tunnel must be cleared of fumes before another train can enter. Another old route Spokane-Pasco-Yakima-Ellensburg (an almost isolated state college town)-Seattle is highly scenic, and not heavily used. It would need considerable upgrades, but Washington knows how to do that from building the Cascades service.
 
There it is. A simple, less costly plan to add the Sacajawea as Amtrak's    16th LD train.
 
The PRIIA Study of this train was remarkably favorable. Nobody noticed the good news, because the capital cost estimates. They included $600 million the freights wanted for upgrades to the route, new stations, ADA station upgrades, 54 new Superliner cars, 18 new locomotives, and the kitchen sink, totaling more than a Billion. At that point we all quit reading the report.
 
Now follow on into the Exhibits. Projected 360,000 riders a year, and a farebox recovery rate of 58%, well above the average for LD trains. It would rank #4 behind only the Auto Train, the Empire Builder, and the [i]Palmetto, and ahead of every other LD train currently operating.
 
+++++++++++++++++++++
Overlooked above and I'm too tired to rewrite now, LOL, is my guess for significantly lower capital costs due to the improvements that the freights have made to their tracks. With the Bakken oil play, the freight lines have upgraded many miles in North Dakota and Minnesota, but probably to some extent in every state along the proposed route. Now with the slowing of that oil boom, there could easily be capacity for a passenger train.
 
+++++++++++++++++++++
 
Sorry about the italics. The system will not allow me to correct for that, um, quirk.

I see a single error here, billings(Huntley) mt to Spokane, wa is operated by Montana Rail Link, which is a privately held regional railroad.

#18 Eric S

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 10:44 PM

Just a couple of nits to pick, Woody.

 

Little one - it's Interstate 94, not Interstate 95. Potentially bigger one - there are not term limits for Wisconsin's governor. (As an example, not that long ago, Tommy Thompson was elected to four consecutive four-year terms, although he did resign before finishing his fourth term to join Bush 43's Cabinet.)

 

Otherwise, yes, very nice example of how to grow from corridor-type improvements on both ends (Seattle-Spokane and Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-???) to potential long-distance service.



#19 Palmetto

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Posted 24 January 2017 - 07:53 AM

I think # 2 has been accomplished, hasn't it?  It's double track to and beyond St. Cloud.



#20 jebr

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Posted 24 January 2017 - 03:35 PM

I think # 2 has been accomplished, hasn't it?  It's double track to and beyond St. Cloud.

 

The trackage is there but the commuter rail has not been extended. The plans for an extension are pretty much in a file cabinet somewhere for now, and I don't see that changing until 2018; with Republicans controlling the Minnesota House and Senate it'll be hard enough to keep what we have maintained and funded.






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