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How Amtrak Could Have Saved Columbus, OH Train Service


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#21 dogbert617

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 07:57 AM

 

I seem to dwell in the past and I'm sure most of you ask why. We've often as a group discussed both old routes (Amtrak and pre-Amtrak) and routes for expanding the Amtrak route map. In the old days many of the most populous cities that do not have Amtrak service did in the past (either before and/or during Amtrak's history). It seems ironic that Louisville and Nashville have no train service between the cities when they were the origin of the L&N.
 
Any ability to go back to the old routes is in many cases hampered by the absence/abandonment or poor conditions of the railroads or re-negotiating with the host railroads for those that do exist. In reality many of these routes should have never been canceled in the first place and Amtrak would be running on some of them today if they never canceled them. Decisions that were made in the past hurt us (or some of us at least) today. It was a lot easier to keep old trains than re-start them (or introduce new ones) over 40 years later.
 
Some of you are saying no trains should have been canceled but financially that would have been very expensive. In my opinion if trains don't carry many passengers and cost too much they should be canceled. I don't think every train should make money or break even but if a train has low ridership/revenue it contributes almost nothing to Amtrak as opposed to a LSL or SM which still loses money (at least that's what Amtrak tells us) it should be canceled so the money/equipment can be freed up to more "successful" routes. The question is "choosing" (I know, dirty word) which routes should have been kept and which shouldn't have based on the limited budget assumption. If "we" don't learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it.
 
I don't know about other routes but my plan would've kept Columbus, OH as an Amtrak city and assuming we could run the trains on this plan daily than daily service in CIN rather than 3x/week.
 
Let's go way back before A-Day (before I was born). Before then, there was a Cincinnati Limited: http://www.american-...m/cinn-ltd.html. In the end, it was simply an old Northeast-St. Louis train split at Columbus: http://www.thejoekor...e/prr677-11.jpg . The schedule said it was 124.9 miles (I'll round to 125 for the purposes of this plan) and took around 3 hours.
 
After A-Day, according to the first ever timetable posted, the Spirit of St. Louis (eventually NL) was kept along with the James Whitcomb Riley between Chicago and Cincinnati.
 
 
So what if Amtrak had kept the Columbus-CIN portion of the SoSL? 
 
You would have:
BL: NYP-PHL or WAS-BAL to HAR-PGH-CHI
SoSL/Cincinnati Limited: NYP-PHL or WAS-BAL to HAR-PGH-Columbus to IND-STL-KCY or CIN
James Whitcomb Riley: CIN-IND-CHI 
 
Then Cincinnati would have a train to Chicago (JWR) and one to PGH-PHL-NYP (Cincinnati Limited/SoSL). If the westbound SoSL arrived in Columbus at 6:25am with a split in Columbus it arrives in CIN around 10am. If the eastbound SoSL left Columbus at 8:45pm you'd have to leave CIN around 5pm. That would give you roughly 4:55pm (North Phila 6:21pm)-10am next day from NYP to CIN (roughly 17 hours) and 5pm-(North Phila 8:21am) 9:50am next day from CIN to NYP, roughly 17 hours in both directions. 
 
You only add would be the 125 train miles between Columbus and CIN to the currently running BL and SoSL. Not only would Cincinnati have a train to Columbus but to PGH (neither route exists today). Ideally there would be CIN-CLE but I believe there was no CIN-CLE train at A-Day, the Ohio State Limited was discontinued by then: https://csanders429....-long-distance/
 
Then in 1979 if Amtrak had canceled the SoSL/NL (which they did) then the Cincinnati Limited could have been hooked up to the JWR to make a new Cincinnati Limited (CincyL) CHI-CIN-Columbus-PGH to (eventually) PHL to NYP or PHL-BAL-WAS. By then the JWR/Cardinal no longer served IND and later the split between the NYP and WAS legs was at 30th St. Station). You would lose service from Columbus-IND to STL-KCY and Columbus-IND (STL-KCY was later handled by Missouri) and IND would essentially lose all service (they did anyway after the NL got discontinued and they did get it back later on).
 
That gives you:
BL: NYP-PHL or WAS-BAL to HAR-PGH-CHI (later NYP or WAS-BAL to PHL-HAR-PGH-CHI)
Cincinnati Limited: NYP-PHL or WAS-BAL to HAR-PGH-Columbus-CIN-IND-CHI
 
You could actually combine the BL and Cincinnati Limited at PGH with the BL going north to CHI and the CincyL going to Columbus-CIN-CHI (eventually IND). Nobody would take the CincyL from the NEC (or PGH) to CHI since the BL would get to CHI way faster. But this keeps the CIN route to the NEC and gives Columbus a train to both the NEC and to CHI (dipping south to CIN first and then back up but still better than what they have now). 
 
In terms of route miles using, you would have:
 
BL 1981: 909 miles from NYP-PHL-CHI plus 134 from WAS-BAL-PHL: http://www.timetable...10426&item=0036
 
CincyL: 
NL 1976: 190 miles PGH-Columbus: http://www.timetable...60615&item=0038
 
Cincinnati Limited 1967 Penn Central 125 miles Columbus-CIN: http://www.thejoekor...e/prr677-11.jpg
 
JWR 1976: 285 miles from CIN-CHI: http://www.timetable...60615&item=0040
 
That's a total of 1643 miles between the BL and CincyL. Compared to A-Day, you would have cut about 700 miles from Columbus-KCY but still have the 125 proposed from Columbus-CHI so a savings of 475 miles (assume BL and JWR mileages stay the same).
 
In terms of time, that would be 5 hrs PGH-Columbus, 3 hrs Columbus-CIN, and 8 hrs CIN-CHI (total of 16 hrs between PGH and CHI while the BL only took 10 hrs between the two (I will assume the BL would be going via TOL-CLE). So if the trains split at PGH the CincyL would arrive into CHI about 6 hrs after the BL. Assuming the 1981 BL schedule (a midnight westbound departure from PGH, and a 7am eastbound arrival into PGH), you are looking at westbound 5am in Columbus, 8am in Cincinnati, and 4pm to Chicago and eastbound 3pm from CHI, 11pm in Cincinnati, and 2am in Columbus. This would take out any transfers to western trains but would result in better times for sure in CIN (Columbus would be bad but bad is better than none). You would then arrive in the NEC earlier from Ohio and leave later from the NEC. Assuming the LSL stays as is, you would have three trains from CHI to/from the NEC with the LSL to BOS/NYP and the BL/CincyL to PHL and NYP and BAL-WAS. You would still have Amtrak in Columbus. Cincinnati would have daily service and outside the graveyard shift service in both directions. The cities between PGH and PHL would have a direct train to CHI and the cities between PHL and NYP would have a faster direct train to CHI. In addition, my plan keeps the CHI-BAL connection off the BL/CincyL. In fact, you could've extended the BAL-WAS leg of the BL south to CVS or RVR (who has no direct service to CHI either) and if you're really ambitious to Florida (this is not unprecedented as the CL and SS shared through cars at WAS). To me it sounds like a good plan.
 
So what went wrong? You all know the answer.
 
On A-Day instead of just adding the 125 miles between CIN and Columbus, Amtrak/Congress insisted on running a train from Norfolk/Newport News and WAS to CIN (two separate legs) and 655 miles from Newport News and CIN and 115 miles from WAS to CVS where the Newport News and WAS legs combined for a total of 780 miles. At the time WAS could take the BL to/from CHI so they really didn't need another train between the cities.
 
Then like my plan Amtrak cut the NL. But unlike Amtrak, they took the BL (currently running CHI-PGH-PHL to NYP and BAL/WAS) and split it at PGH instead. So BAL (and WIL) lost their direct train to CHI although PA-NJ still kept theirs. I think you can guess why that change was made. Even if Amtrak wanted to use the PGH-WAS route (which I think was/is useless except to save a few hrs between the cities and a mistake as well) they could have still ran a train from CHI-IND-Columbus-PGH along the old NL route and then PGH-WAS. If they were really braver they could also dip that train into CIN and back up to Columbus (since that route would still exist), keeping the Columbus/CIN to NEC service as in my plan (although Columbus/CIN would only be able to go to WAS after PGH and would have to transfer at WAS to BAL-PHL-NYP). 
 
But Columbus was left out in the cold after the NL was cut. You could argue keeping the Cardinal kept CIN in the Amtrak system but my plan would have kept CIN and Columbus as Amtrak cities without the extra miles between CIN and WAS and a faster train to PHL/NYP (although possibly a bit slower to WAS though) and still would've been daily.
 
Then of course the BL was killed off. They could've kept the BL, rerouting it via TOL-CLE and kept the(assuming it still existed) the BAL-WAS leg of the BL but they didn't. 
 
So instead of a (roughly) 1643 mile map between CHI and NYP/WAS between the BL and CincyL you have a CL and a Cardinal which now combine for 1927 miles, does not include the one seat rides previously mentioned, leaves CIN in the dark (for the purposes of this discussion we will assume the Cardinal is daily), and really leaves Columbus in the dark. 300 saved miles don't seem like a lot but that is about 6 hours of extra labor and wear and tear on equipment each day. In addition, the BL and CincyL share all the train miles between PGH-PHL and NYP or WAS while the CL and Cardinal share no train miles at all. 
 
Do you see a pattern in all of these decisions? Without a shadow of a doubt we know why (and by whom) the decisions were made. Essentially the BL was done in by not one but two West Virginia trains. Is that a coincidence? And there are other "losers" including New Jersey, Baltimore, Cincinnati  and (especially) Columbus whose population increased a lot since 1980 (and has been significantly increasing before then),
 
There is no doubt that more people would have been served by my plan than the "West Virginia first" plan. Instead of a plan that serves more of America you have one that benefits a smaller state and cities at the expense of larger states and cities. You can argue West Virginia needs trains more than PA/OH because they have no other transportation options and this is true to many Amtrak states/cities in the west. But the Cardinal roughly parallels I-64 and both Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg are on the MARC Brunswick line. It isn't a matter of who "needs" it more in this case, it's who bullied Amtrak and got his way. If Congress just let Amtrak decide on route map decisions they would be much better off financially (more population = more riders as well as the economies of scale between PGH and the NEC via PHL). In the case of CHI to the West Coast, the trains have to go through some states (although I will argue there isn't a need for CHI-SEA/PDX but that's a whole other discussion). But only a drunk would drive from CHI or CIN to NYP or PHL through West Virginia as opposed to through PA. Sure, PGH-WAS is quicker via West Virginia but a transportation system shouldn't leave out a major market like Baltimore.
 
Amtrak probably shouldn't have cut any routes from the 70's but IMHO they cut the "wrong" ones.

 

 

Interesting post. I recall when I was at that Kankakee railroad museum(within that city's Amtrak station house),that I saw the timetable for the now defunct Kankakee-Lafayette-Indy-Cincy train. Some  of those other discontinued routes are interesting, such as the Fort Wayne-Canton-Pittsburgh route. Or the Indy-Richmond-Dayton-Columbus-Pittsburgh route. It is a shame that a city as populated as Columbus, OH, doesn't have a single Amtrak train. :(

 

On a similar note(about train discontinuations from decades ago), anyone know why the Floridian got discontinued? It's too bad there isn't a long distance train going southeast from Chicago, into the state of Florida that doesn't require going into DC(from Chicago), then south on either the Silver Meteor/Star. And I thought I heard there was a discontinued 2nd Auto Train route, between somewhere near Louisville, KY into Florida? Correct me if I'm wrong on that. Also, anyone know why that the Empire Builder goes through less populated Montana and North Dakota cities and towns such as Kalispell, Havre, and Minot, instead of through the more populated ones of Missoula, Billings, Bozeman and Bismarck? I know one can theoretically(if they didn't want to fly, or didn't have the money to afford a flight) take a bus from Spokane east into one of those MT or ND cities, though it'd be easier to do for those MT cities. Though it'd be a pain in the arse to do, of course.

 

I have a LOT of researching on that Amtrak timetables website, I need to do later! I do sometimes wonder if certain cities that are north of the existing Amtrak system ever used to have train service at least briefly into the Amtrak era, such as Green Bay, WI, Wausau, Eau Claire, or Traverse City, MI? I know Duluth, MN used to have Amtrak service between there and the Minneapolis(Twin Cities) area(per research I did on my own), but that it was discontinued many years ago.



#22 Eric S

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 08:44 AM

 

On a similar note(about train discontinuations from decades ago), anyone know why the Floridian got discontinued? It's too bad there isn't a long distance train going southeast from Chicago, into the state of Florida that doesn't require going into DC(from Chicago), then south on either the Silver Meteor/Star. And I thought I heard there was a discontinued 2nd Auto Train route, between somewhere near Louisville, KY into Florida? Correct me if I'm wrong on that. Also, anyone know why that the Empire Builder goes through less populated Montana and North Dakota cities and towns such as Kalispell, Havre, and Minot, instead of through the more populated ones of Missoula, Billings, Bozeman and Bismarck? I know one can theoretically(if they didn't want to fly, or didn't have the money to afford a flight) take a bus from Spokane east into one of those MT or ND cities, though it'd be easier to do for those MT cities. Though it'd be a pain in the arse to do, of course.

 

I have a LOT of researching on that Amtrak timetables website, I need to do later! I do sometimes wonder if certain cities that are north of the existing Amtrak system ever used to have train service at least briefly into the Amtrak era, such as Green Bay, WI, Wausau, Eau Claire, or Traverse City, MI? I know Duluth, MN used to have Amtrak service between there and the Minneapolis(Twin Cities) area(per research I did on my own), but that it was discontinued many years ago.

 

 

Short answers:

 

Floridian - basically, bad track and trouble cobbling together a workable route

Auto Train - yes, there was a second route from near Louisville to Florida

Empire Builder - fewer transportation alternatives along the northern route than the southern route (US-2 vs I-94, for one)

 

Green Bay, Wausau, Eau Claire, Traverse City - no Amtrak service, although the relevant states have occasionally studied service to Green Bay (from Milwaukee), Eau Claire (from St. Paul), and Traverse City (from Detroit)



#23 dogbert617

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 03:54 AM

 

 

On a similar note(about train discontinuations from decades ago), anyone know why the Floridian got discontinued? It's too bad there isn't a long distance train going southeast from Chicago, into the state of Florida that doesn't require going into DC(from Chicago), then south on either the Silver Meteor/Star. And I thought I heard there was a discontinued 2nd Auto Train route, between somewhere near Louisville, KY into Florida? Correct me if I'm wrong on that. Also, anyone know why that the Empire Builder goes through less populated Montana and North Dakota cities and towns such as Kalispell, Havre, and Minot, instead of through the more populated ones of Missoula, Billings, Bozeman and Bismarck? I know one can theoretically(if they didn't want to fly, or didn't have the money to afford a flight) take a bus from Spokane east into one of those MT or ND cities, though it'd be easier to do for those MT cities. Though it'd be a pain in the arse to do, of course.

 

I have a LOT of researching on that Amtrak timetables website, I need to do later! I do sometimes wonder if certain cities that are north of the existing Amtrak system ever used to have train service at least briefly into the Amtrak era, such as Green Bay, WI, Wausau, Eau Claire, or Traverse City, MI? I know Duluth, MN used to have Amtrak service between there and the Minneapolis(Twin Cities) area(per research I did on my own), but that it was discontinued many years ago.

 

 

Short answers:

 

Floridian - basically, bad track and trouble cobbling together a workable route

Auto Train - yes, there was a second route from near Louisville to Florida

Empire Builder - fewer transportation alternatives along the northern route than the southern route (US-2 vs I-94, for one)

 

Green Bay, Wausau, Eau Claire, Traverse City - no Amtrak service, although the relevant states have occasionally studied service to Green Bay (from Milwaukee), Eau Claire (from St. Paul), and Traverse City (from Detroit)

 

Thanks for answering all my questions. It's too bad deteriorating track conditions, is the issue that killed off the Floridian. And as for the Empire Builder, I thought one of those eastern Montana towns that's east of Havre used to have a military base that's now closed down? I think it was in Glasgow, MT(which is served by the EB long distance train), per the satellite map image that shows the local airport there has abandoned runways, and places where buildings once stood. Yep between that and I-94, I guess it was the little transportation alternatives that swayed Amtrak to keep the more northern ND/MT route, over the southern train route that used to serve Bismarck, Billings, Bozeman, and Missoula among other cities and towns.

 

And it surprises me that some of those cities north of Milwaukee and Detroit/Lansing/Grand Rapids, never briefly had Amtrak service. I wonder if some of those more northern WI and MI cities, used to have train service at least in the pre-Amtrak era? It wouldn't surprise me if Green Bay, Wausau, Eau Claire, Muskegon, and Traverse City once had some sort of long distance pre-Amtrak train(s) that served those cities. Even if it was only a few times a day.



#24 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 06:21 AM

You can talk about the Floridian track conditions/poor performance, etc. all you want but before it was canceled it was still outdoing the Cardinal in PM/TM (so were the Lone Star and National Limited). Amtrak has had to reroute trains such as the reroute away from Phoenix on the SL or the CL reroute away from Canton but I can't recall any train that Amtrak had to flat out cancel simply because of poor track conditions other than SL East. Amtrak could've kept running the Floridian, they just didn't have the money/equipment to do so (and Byrd Crap was just more "important" to them). If you're going to talk about canceled trains as failures, don't forget about the failure that's still running now. There is no reason for me to believe that if the Floridian was still running today it wouldn't be more popular than the Cardinal since it was back then. It's not like West Virginia's population has skyrocketed since the 80's (I believe WV actually lost population since then).


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)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#25 dogbert617

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 06:58 AM

You can talk about the Floridian track conditions/poor performance, etc. all you want but before it was canceled it was still outdoing the Cardinal in PM/TM (so were the Lone Star and National Limited). Amtrak has had to reroute trains such as the reroute away from Phoenix on the SL or the CL reroute away from Canton but I can't recall any train that Amtrak had to flat out cancel simply because of poor track conditions other than SL East. Amtrak could've kept running the Floridian, they just didn't have the money/equipment to do so (and Byrd Crap was just more "important" to them). If you're going to talk about canceled trains as failures, don't forget about the failure that's still running now. There is no reason for me to believe that if the Floridian was still running today it wouldn't be more popular than the Cardinal since it was back then. It's not like West Virginia's population has skyrocketed since the 80's (I believe WV actually lost population since then).

By PM/TM, what did you mean by those 2 abbreviations? If you could explain those 2 abbreviations, I'd appreciate it(sigh). Usually I pick up on most of the abbreviations that posters on this board use, but I wasn't sure about those 2.

 

I have no doubt probably former Senator Robert Byrd probably had some role, as to why WV has 2 Amtrak trains running through it(the 3 times a week Cardinal, and also the daily Capitol Limited). I have no clue if he had any role, as to why a few runs of one of the MARC commuter rail lines ends/begins in the Harpers Ferry/Martinsburg area of the eastern WV panhandle? :) I hadn't looked up any info on the Canton, OH Amtrak reroute, but I know for Phoenix and the 2 other nearby places the Sunset Limited used to serve, that Union Pacific allegedly abandoned the tracks the SL used that were west of Phoenix. It appears from Phoenix east to Tucson, that the line the SL used to get into Phoenix is still in place. At least from what I could tell when I looked this up, that there now is some sort of shuttle service between Phoenix and Maricopa(today's SL Amtrak station). And that there is some sort of light rail system, to nearby towns and suburbs of the Phoenix area.

 

And I agree with you that the Floridian would potentially be FAR more useful of a train, vs. the Cardinal if it wasn't discontinued. Don't forget that there was a 2nd Auto Train route between Louisville, and Sanford, FL! It's sad that this line is only 1 of 2 Amtrak long distance trains, with less than daily service. Though I personally hope it isn't discontinued, since I'd hate to see Cincinnati and Charlottesville(2 cities I like, and've visited before) without Amtrak service. It is too bad the Cincinnati Cardinal train arrival/departure times are during overnight hours, but what can you do?



#26 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 08:42 AM

PM/TM = Passenger Miles Per Train Mile, as discussed in this thread: http://discuss.amtra...in-mile-metric/


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)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#27 jis

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 09:02 AM

PM/TM is Passenger-miles divided by Train-miles which gives a rough rolled up average number of number of passengers on a train. Whether it is an useful derived metric has been a subject of discussion running into many dozens of pages in this forum.

 

What is MARC service into WV today used to be Amtrak service in the past.

 

Arguably, the second Auto Train was such an enormous drain on the finances of the Auto Train Company that it finally put it into bankruptcy.



#28 railiner

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 11:33 AM

Charlottesville is also served by the Crescent and the Lynchburg trains...
metroblue?

okay on the blue!

#29 jis

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 02:48 PM

Charlottesville is also served by the Crescent and the Lynchburg trains...

But you cannot take them to Cincinnati. I think that is the point that was being made.






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