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Could Only Some of the LD Trains Be Cut Instead of All of Them?


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#1 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 09:42 AM

The news of the latest Trump budget has brought fear on some people at this board and a "we've been here before" from others. At the post about the Trump budget the suggestions were to contact Congress because it's clear that no budget will be passed without Congressional approval. I'm going to discuss the "compromise" option that another round of Amtrak cuts will happen as opposed to no cuts or a complete shutdown of the LD system. Normally people start with an extreme option before compromise and negotiation begin. Back in 1979 Brock Adams suggested cutting many more cuts than they actually did. If his report were implemented fully, the Crescent, the Inter-American (now the Texas Eagle) would've been killed (in addition to the Lone Star,meaning no service from Texas northward) and the Southwest Limited (now Southwest Chief) and California Zephyr would've been combined into a single train which probably would've been much slower than the Southwest Limited/Chief. I am more likely to believe that the final result of the budget negotiations will be the compromise to cut some trains as opposed to cutting all of them.

 

I'm sure most if not all of you would prefer none of the LD trains to be canceled. NARP has suggested "National or Nothing". Sometimes when you demand all or nothing you wind up with nothing. It sounds like most of you on this group don't know the meaning of the word compromise. I certainly don't want to see all of the Amtrak NEC trains canceled (granted I'm right along the line). And to me if Amtrak cuts half of the LD routes then that's still better than none at all. It probably won't happen either. If Congress truly cuts off Amtrak funding, they do make enough in ticket revenue to cover 94% of their operating costs. So Amtrak certainly would be able to afford some of the LD routes and if Congress doesn't give them a dime they have no right to demand any of the routes be kept so Amtrak will choose the routes that benefit them the most financially (which is what I want). Money from the government comes with strings attached, that they call the shots. We've seen that in the past. To me there's nothing wrong with wanting to keep all of the routes. But I am not going to go with the "all or nothing" mentality.

 

Amtrak/Congress has done cuts or pruning of the LD system several times in its history. Back in the mid 90's, the internet was just in its infacy (remember Mozilla/Netscape?) And back then, I wasn't on this board. Back in 1979 I was a kid and during A-Day I wasn't born. So if they are considering another round of cuts I feel I should voice my opinion on which trains to cut and which to keep so they don't cancel the "wrong ones". IMO you can still have your "national" LD system with fewer than 15 routes. Certainly you should be able to go coast to coast and connecting north and south and east and west in some fashion. I feel New York/Washington DC, Florida, Texas, California, and Chicago need to be covered for sure. I am not a fan of the fact that there is no east-west connection between Florida and New Orleans but it almost sounds like any additions now would be a pipe dream. So imagine the LD system as a house of cards and you have to figure which cards you can remove without the whole house coming down (or Jenga if you're more familiar with that).

 

I think most of you other than the newbies can figure out the trains I want to cut and in this post I will not single out any specific trains. My philosophy is to serve the most number of people in this country as possible. It is not about who needs Amtrak more than others but who can contribute the most to Amtrak's financial well being. If you have only so many train miles, I'd rather those train miles serve 60% of America than 50%. The phrase "mass transit" has the word mass in it. Transportation systems often depend on population/ridership. If you have a larger population base you have a higher potential ridership/revenue. To me, it's about going from Point A to Point B, where do people live and where do people want to go to? Some people (including Wick Moorman himself) are more concerned about rural areas losing their train service. I don't feel rural areas deserve rail travel more than anyone else just because they don't have other transportation options. Amtrak should not be a charity. To me, it's also bad areas like Las Vegas, Nashville, and Columbus have no trains. What if in the next round of cuts Houston loses their service? What if there's no service at all to Florida? How would someone afraid of flying get there? Spend a day or two on a bus or take a really long drive? I would absolutely hate to never see my friends and family in California or even Chicago again. So yes, I do consider some routes more important than others. In most dream future HSR maps (America 2050 among others), the emphasis is on the largest cities and states and urban as opposed to rural.

 

If most of you had access to the internet back in 1979 or 1994 you'd be saying they shouldn't cut any trains. While some (especially me) complain about the LD system you'd have to admit that it's still better than none at all. I think if cuts have to be made (and if you can find a way for none of them to be cut, more power to you) then they need to cut the trains that will cause the least amount of collateral damage and not cut a route that would leave a giant hole in the Amtrak system or freeze out a major city like they did Vegas or Nashville or significantly downgrade service to a major city.  

 

Then the question comes if cuts are made which ones are cut and who decides it? I think we all know what the answer to that is, Congress. Honestly, I don't believe many Congressmen/women really care about Amtrak nationally, they're looking out for their areas. So it's going to come down to who fights more and if too many people fight it could come down to who has more power than others (and we've seen it before). The sad thing is chances are representatives/senators in rural states will fight for Amtrak more than states with large populations and we'll have a mostly rural system with no access to Florida or Texas or interstate service to California and Amtrak ridership will plummet. I've said many times this pipe dream of Amtrak "serving everyone" will never happen. As much as you tell me not to cannibalize/pit one area/train over another, inevitably Amtrak will have to choose (unless you'd prefer them to just shut down Amtrak altogether). I want the routes that are saved to be the ones that serve the most number of people/passengers and contribute the most to Amtrak as opposed to who has the most power in Congress.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
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Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 
 


#2 fair28

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 11:20 AM

Great analysis philly....costs need to be cut somewhere and sadly Amtrak is a favorite as well as NPR and nea. I don't want train service cut either but it's going to happen unless ridership outside of the nec picks up.


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#3 CCC1007

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 12:44 PM

Great analysis philly....costs need to be cut somewhere and sadly Amtrak is a favorite as well as NPR and nea. I don't want train service cut either but it's going to happen unless ridership outside of the nec picks up.


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I disagree with your analysis of the situation, I don't think any service will be lost because there haven't been any cuts during the republican presidencies.

#4 Eric S

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 12:47 PM

At this point, even if we assume the administration's budget in regards to Amtrak were to be enacted by Congress without change, we don't know how the cut to Amtrak long distance funding would be worded. It was phrased, not as a X% cut to Amtrak, but as an elimination of federal funds for long distance service - to me, that sort of suggests there would be some sort of prohibition on spending any federal funds to support long distance trains, which means cutting one or more LD train to try to save the other LD trains wouldn't really be an option.

 

Again though, we don't yet know exactly how the cut to Amtrak funding would be structured, nor do we even know whether there will be any cut to begin with. And until we know more about what specifically is proposed it is hard to figure out an alternate approach to propose as a sort of compromise.



#5 Eric S

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 12:48 PM

 

Great analysis philly....costs need to be cut somewhere and sadly Amtrak is a favorite as well as NPR and nea. I don't want train service cut either but it's going to happen unless ridership outside of the nec picks up.


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I disagree with your analysis of the situation, I don't think any service will be lost because there haven't been any cuts during the republican presidencies.

 

I would disagree with both. I don't think it's an accurate reading of the situation to say that non-NEC trains may see cutbacks because they lack ridership. Nor do I think that it's reasonable to believe that somehow Amtrak is safe from cuts because of the political party of the president.



#6 A Voice

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 01:51 PM

Once you have already cut the national network to the very bone, leaving only core trunk routes and - arguably - even some of those currently suspended or missing, you really cannot cut anything else without compromising the viability (financial and practical) of those services which remain - and that includes the state and Northeast Corridors.  

 

It might possibly be argued some of the previous cuts removed 'weak links' from the system, such as the end of service to St. Petersburg and termination of The River Cities, but those options are long exhausted.  Amtrak's network must stand or fall together: "if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark 3:24); As said here many times, you cannot pit one train or route against another; Such is a recipe for failure. 



#7 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 04:26 PM

One suggestion: Cut 100% of all Long Distance trains.

 

Compromise: Cut 50% of the Long Distance trains.

 

A better suggestion: Add 14 new LD trains, for a 100% increase.

 

A better compromise: Add 7 new LD trains, for a 50% increase.

 

 

I'm not going to bargain away Amtrak's future by sitting down with the haters and saying, "O.K., let's cut some LD trains. Here's two that only run 3 days a week; nobody will miss them. Now, how many more routes do you want to chop?"

 

No, the cure for what ails Amtrak is more Amtrak -- not less.

 

More trains, more places served, more network effects, more riders, more revenue -- and almost the same fixed overhead.

 

Granted, the LD routes as a group will probably never make an operating 'profit', tho 94% farebox recovery already is a fine performance. But it's easy to foresee continuing ridership growth, rising revenue, better service, and diminishing losses.

 

The fixed overhead -- the reservations system and IT department, Beech Grove and Bear Creek, many administrative expenses, etc. -- remains about the same with 14 LD trains or 28 or 21. So it's better if these core costs could be divided over a larger number of train miles/passengers/whatever measure. This change would reduce overhead costs for every existing LD train and allow more of them to show an operating surplus.

 

The cure for what ails Amtrak is more Amtrak.


Edited by WoodyinNYC, 19 March 2017 - 10:57 PM.


#8 jis

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 04:29 PM

I agree.

#9 JayPea

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 04:37 PM

I agree too, but apparently it's better to have 60leven dozen routes between Philadelphia and Chicago and let the citizens of Montana and North Dakota go pound sand while eating cake.
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, Pacific Surfliner, Cardinal.
 
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled:
Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle  (Union Pacific) Panama Limited (Illinois Central)

Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB),Galesburg-Bloomington (CZ/Lincoln Service )
 

Amtrak Miles: 80276

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8478

Bustitution Miles: 450

Excursion trains ridden:  Centralia and Chehalis Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, Alaska Railroad, 1880 Train (Black Hills Central RR) and trains at the Illinois Railway Museum, California Railway Museum, and the Monticello (IL) Railroad Museum.

#10 west point

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 05:50 PM

A better suggestion: Add 14 new LD trains, for a 100% increase.
 
A better compromise: Add 7 new LD trains, for a 50% increase.
 
 
No, the cure for ails Amtrak is more Amtrak -- not less.
 
More trains, more places served, more network effects, more riders, more revenue -- and almost the same fixed overhead.
 

The same fixed overhead -- the reservations system and IT department, Beech Grove and Bear Creek, many administrative expenses, etc. -- remains about the same with 14 LD trains or 20. So it's better if these core costs could be divided over a larger number of train miles/passengers/or whatever measure. This change would reduce costs for every existing LD train and allow more of them to show an operating surplus.
 
The cure for ails Amtrak is more Amtrak.


How many business have shrunk to be profitable ? Most shrunk them selves into bankruptcy. This poster believes as many others do that if all LD trains never had to be sold out the LD routes would show an operating profit. If enough equipment for longer train lengths then the diners might show at least break even. With enough equipment then present routes could run extra sections during high seasons.

Edited by west point, 19 March 2017 - 05:55 PM.


#11 daybeers

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 07:48 PM

I feel like like trains should add more capacity before adding more frequencies. The freight railroads probably won't be too enthused to further disrupt their schedules for more Amtrak service. Freight schedules are already disrupted a few hours on each side of an Amtrak train (I don't remember the exact number).

Amtrak travel so far:

Springfield Shuttle: HFD-WND, HFD-NHV

Lake Shore Limited: SPG-CHI, CHI-SPG Roomette

Northeast Regional round-trip lots of times: NHV-NYP, NHV-WIL, NHV-WAS, HFD-WAS (some in Business)

Acela: PHL-NHV, Business Class

Pennsylvanian: NYP-PGH, PGH-NYP, Business Class

Capitol Limited: WAS-CHI Bedroom

 

Foreign travel:

Eurostar: London-Paris

EuroNight: Paris-Milano Centrale, 6 person couchette (by far the worst train I have ever been on.)

Frecciarossa: Milano Centrale-Roma Termini

 


#12 west point

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 09:22 PM

I feel like like trains should add more capacity before adding more frequencies. The freight railroads probably won't be too enthused to further disrupt their schedules for more Amtrak service. Freight schedules are already disrupted a few hours on each side of an Amtrak train (I don't remember the exact number).


Yes that is considered the way to go. Certainly trains south of WASH can be as long as 18 cars which certainly would help make any train closer or exceed break even. An occasional extra section would also help to break even. But will certain haters ever allow funds to get sufficient rolling stock ? You answer the question ?

#13 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 09:33 PM

Q

 

Sorry for the pocket post.


Edited by WoodyinNYC, 19 March 2017 - 09:49 PM.


#14 Anderson

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 01:06 AM

 

Great analysis philly....costs need to be cut somewhere and sadly Amtrak is a favorite as well as NPR and nea. I don't want train service cut either but it's going to happen unless ridership outside of the nec picks up.


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I disagree with your analysis of the situation, I don't think any service will be lost because there haven't been any cuts during the republican presidencies.

 

Not quite true: The Three Rivers was cut in 2004, and the Silver Palm/Palmetto and Sunset East were each cut back in the same broad timeframe as well (though in both cases the culprit was arguably an equipment shortage and not budget-cutting...the Three Rivers ran the last Heritage sleeper, while the Palmetto wound up without a sleeping car despite running overnight and so got cut back from MIA to JAX and then SAV).  Both of these seem to be cases of "don't run an overnight train without sleepers".  There's also the Sunset East...but again, that not only wasn't a policy decision, it seems to have been done pretty close to unilaterally on the part of Amtrak's management in some respects (insofar as the train wasn't restored in a timely manner, not insofar as it was cut).


Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#15 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 01:16 AM

I agree too, but apparently it's better to have 60leven dozen routes between Philadelphia and Chicago and let the citizens of Montana and North Dakota go pound sand while eating cake.

My list of 14, or 7, new LD trains certainly would include a restored Broadway Ltd/Three Rivers route NYC-Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-Chicago.

 

And I would definitely nominate the Sacajawea (nee North Shore Hiawatha) CHI-St Paul-St Cloud-Fargo-Bismark-Billings-Livingston-Missoula-Spokane-Pasco-Seattle. The PRIAA study predicted it would be second only to the Empire Builder in farebox recovery!

 

That's enuff for now. We have plenty fantasy threads to day dream about new routes. This is the cut/anti-cut thread.  :( 



#16 Anderson

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:24 AM

 

I feel like like trains should add more capacity before adding more frequencies. The freight railroads probably won't be too enthused to further disrupt their schedules for more Amtrak service. Freight schedules are already disrupted a few hours on each side of an Amtrak train (I don't remember the exact number).


Yes that is considered the way to go. Certainly trains south of WASH can be as long as 18 cars which certainly would help make any train closer or exceed break even. An occasional extra section would also help to break even. But will certain haters ever allow funds to get sufficient rolling stock ? You answer the question ?

 

On the disruptions, it sort-of depends on a few things (particularly if the railroad in question is even bothering with a schedule).

 

As to extra equipment, it depends on what equipment you're looking at: Sleepers?  Coaches?  Intermediate accommodations?  As a few examples, should the N-S equipment be delivered, that'll free up some Horizons and Amfleets.  Nothing says that some Amfleet Is couldn't be re-fitted with LD seating (call them Amfleet 1.5s?) or, on the basis of the legendary "Ampad" cars, refitted with Superliner room modules (roomettes being easier to work in than bedrooms, of course).  There's also buying a system similar to what Queensland has for its lie-flat seating.  Doing so would not be free, but it would likely cost less than all-new cars.

 

Additionally, it is not implausible for Amtrak to look at a new Northeast Regional car order and then "cascade" equipment outwards.  Such an order would probably be able to be made in a manner not unlike the Acela IIs.


Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#17 cirdan

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 05:24 AM

Amtrak is not Solomon's baby. Throughout its history there have been cuts and there have also been new services. Not everything that is must eternally remain so.

However, the present Amtrak system outside of the NEC and california is already very minimalistic. I think we need to fight to keep all of it and even add some. Further retrenchment is not the solution.

#18 jphjaxfl

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 06:36 AM

Amtrak is not Solomon's baby. Throughout its history there have been cuts and there have also been new services. Not everything that is must eternally remain so.

However, the present Amtrak system outside of the NEC and california is already very minimalistic. I think we need to fight to keep all of it and even add some. Further retrenchment is not the solution.

You are very correct.  But anytime that passenger train service is totally eliminated from a route, the infrastructure dies with the train and it is almost impossible to restore it.  The private railroads are pleased to get rid of any passenger train infrastructure due to added expense including taxes. Look at the Gulf Coast where Amtrak just suspended service. The cost of rebuilding the passenger infrastructure is holding back restoration of service. Any Long Distance train that is discontinued will never come back!



#19 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 06:36 AM

Amtrak is not Solomon's baby. Throughout its history there have been cuts and there have also been new services. 

 

To my knowledge,the only post 1979 national trains that still exist today are the Auto Train and the Capitol Limited which for practical purposes replaced the Broadway and to me that was a downgrade in service (OK I'm biased).

 

Let's be honest, if there are a significant # of Congressmen who agree with the "Trump"/Heritage budget the chances of an actual significant increase in funding and the ability to expand service are slim and none. While Amtrak has survived since 1971 there have been many cuts. If the budget cutters get their way there has to be at least some cuts upcoming.

 

When did I become Mr. Cold Water?


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 
 


#20 Seaboard92

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 08:27 AM

No amount of cutting is going to bring back the Broadway Limited. And even if we cut the trains you desire the equipment shortages everywhere I could see several places for the cars to find a new home.

The thing about train offs if you negotiate which ones get cut you are setting a very bad precedent. Which will allow the entire network to die a slow and agonizing death.

And the trains in other places serve as an essential form of public transit to places that have no intercity Bus or airports. Philly is lucky it has a great airport, multiple bus carriers and a plethora of Amtrak connections.

And I hate to say it to you the next two new services you will see will be in the Deep South. Both of which were listed in the 2000/2001 trip plan. Only one never started.

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Amtrak Routes I've riden: Silver Star(NYP-ORL), Silver Meteor(KIS-NYP),Carolinian(CLT-NWK), Palmetto (FLO-NYP), Acela(WAS-NYP), NE Regional(WBG-RVR), Pacific Surfliner(SAN-OSD), Piedmont(CLT-SAL), Crescent(NYP-CLT), Cardinal (WAS-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Cascade (PDX-SEA)

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Norfolk & Western No. 611

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