Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About Siegmund

  • Rank
    Train Attendant

Contact Methods

  • Website URL

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location
    northwestern Montana
  1. Siegmund

    SWC Route vs. Santa Fe CHI-LAX

    Any chance you happen to recall when it was rerouted east of Galesburg? It stayed on ATSF through Joliet and Streator for Amtrak's first 20 years... I was fascinated by the puzzle of tracks with two Amtrak routes and another freight route crossing, when I first rode through Galesburg on the CZ as a kid.
  2. If I were going to have two basic flavors of diesels rather than one, I'd go in the opposite direction, making the new design lower-powered, perhaps in the 2500 neighborhood. The idea would be that the runs with 3-car trains would benefit a little bit from lower acquisition and operating costs, and the runs that are right on the cusp of managing with one high-horsepower unit might have 2 lower-HP units assigned (instead of the current 2 high-HP.) Though, to be honest, I think the Colorado Railcar DMU proposal of several years ago was the more realistic solution for almost all the short-distance trains. Was sorta surprised it fizzled. Re the 6000 HP idea, remember too that if you are limited by grades, you need weight on drivers, not just horsepower, and you can't make the current 4000HP engines 50% heavier without breaking a lot of rails. Super-high horsepower per axle only works for high speed on level ground.
  3. Siegmund

    What would you add?

    I've been intrigued by the idea of some reauthorization act requiring the national network to serve all 48 states, or perhaps even to increase service to all 48 states. (Though I confess I'm not sure what the best way to include South Dakota is.) I see many others here are onboard with the general theme of aiming for twice-daily service between as many city pairs as possible. Once upon a time I sketched out a list for the whole country to do that... about three computers ago now.
  4. Baggage-dorms, or some other sort of half-baggage-half-revenue-space car, make a great deal of sense, on almost every route except the few with heaviest baggage usage. Combines were used 150 years ago on light-load trips, and Amtrak made good use of Coach-Baggage cars when Superliner I came out. I am a little surprised that full baggage cars and transition sleepers are still a thing out west, actually... if I had been king, those would have been baggage-sleepers. Re Inland Route service... yes, there was through Boston-Springfield-Washington service "forever". I would have guessed 3 trips a day, but the Museum's 1990 timetable revealed only two. Along with a multitude of trains splitting in New Haven with through cars to Springfield. I had sort of hoped that, if the desire was to eliminate the New Haven switching, they'd do something like extend additional trains northward, perhaps alternating Boston-Springfield-New York and Boston-Providence-New York hourly. (Yes, I know that possibility mostly died with electrification of the shoreline route.)
  5. Siegmund

    Amtrak at its pinnacle

    I believe summer 1979 is correct for peak Amtrak route miles. Gaining the Crescent helped more than losing Detroit-Buffalo part of the Niagara Rainbow hurt. 1977 will substantially beat 1976, because of the Pioneer starting. If you are counting total number of route miles whether Amtrak-operated or not, I think summer 1977 is the post-1971 peak. 1978 and early 1979 slip a little vs 1977, because of little things like losing the Norfolk-Petersburg segment of the Mountaineer. Are there any "tiebreaker" route changes between February and September 1979 that will narrow it down further?
  6. Spokane switching westbound is the easiest thing in the world: Combined train stops alongside the platform. Lead unit pulls ahead and out of the way. Uncouple just ahead of the lounge car. The former 2nd unit remains in place, becomes the Seattle section's engine, and departs. The original lead unit backs onto the lounge car and departs for Portland ~20 minutes later. HEP is off for 10ish minutes in the Portland section. Eastbound I have been asleep. Portland section still arrives first, and the end result is still the Portland engine being on the point after departure. But it must require at least one extra move-- I don't know if that extra move is the Seattle section going past the parked Portland section and backing into the platform ahead of it, or something else. Nor do I know if the Portland engine "hides" east or west of the station while waiting for the Seattle section to pass it. I doubt that the combined Builder has ever *needed* 3 units. It routinely ran with 2 F40s in the 80s and early 90s, and routinely runs with 2 P42s now, summer and winter. In seven trips and several dozen sightings, the only time I've ever seen a 3rd unit, it was a BNSF freight unit leading a 4-hours-late westbound, presumably after a failure somewhere west of Spokane. There was a gap of several years when I neither saw nor rode it -- approximately 2005-2013. Were there times when the Seattle section was heavy enough to need 2 units? Do not know. If it had 2 seattle sleepers and 3 seattle coaches, perhaps it would. I don't recall ever seeing 3 seattle coaches, either - it would be a rarity to need them, since there are always 2 portland coaches which tend to have lots of extra capacity, and anyone not actually going past Spokane on the Seattle section is likely to get placed in them.
  7. I'm not aware of cases were Amtrak, of its own free will, ran backup engines. There are certainly cases where the host railroad insists upon it. When the Pioneer and Desert Wind were still running, Union Pacific used to have a rule that all trains must have two engines in winter, and the Pioneer ran with 2 F40s pulling 3 or 4 Superliners when it had to (and dropped the extra unit the instant UP allowed them to in the spring.) It will vary run-by-run whether the 2nd engine is added for acceleration, or for grades, or for some other reason. My memory of F40s is that a single unit occasionally pulled as many as 9 single-levels, and 6ish Superliners. The combined CZ/Wind/Pioneer was limited by grades in Colorado, and started carrying a 3rd F40 when it started carrying a 2nd dining car. This was, far as I know, the only train Amtrak ever ran that routinely required 3 units. In the 1990ish timeframe, the summer consist looked like bag-bag-transdorm-CZ sleeper sleeper coach coach diner lounge; Pioneer coach, sleeper; Desert Wind coach sleeper, diner. Running that 2nd diner through to Chicago started between 1988 and 1990. When the Pioneer started going through Wyoming, there was no longer a need for the 3rd engine between Denver and Salt Lake - I can't help wondering if that was a factor in Amtrak's willingness to split in Denver. It wasn't to improve CZ timekeeping by switching it twice, and wasn't because of Idaho's or Wyoming's enthusiastic political support...heh. CZ always ran with 2 engines west of Salt Lake, even when it was just bag-trans-sleeper-coach-coach-diner-lounge, while the Builder ran with 1 west of Spokane, same consist minus the lounge.
  8. I haven't seen any sign of enforcement in Whitefish - but I haven't seen anyone try to take anything absolutely ridiculous, either. Just that there is no barrier beyond carrying it past the attendant. I imagine that means something insanely huge would get stopped. But if you can lift 75 pounds without being in visible agony... just don't hand it to the attendant to carry it for you and he won't know. In the sleeper, the attendant might try quite hard to be helpful.
  9. Siegmund

    Size of the Western LD Winter Consists

    When there is only one Seattle sleeper, car 0831 is the dorm. (The consist/line number thread is a bit misleading, in that it gives the impression the dorm might always be 0832 or 0840 even if there is only one sleeper.) And in my experience, even if your ticket says 0831 now, you're quite likely to find yourself moved into the 0830 car between now and departure time - they put as few people in the dorm as they have to. There is a picture posted on this forum of two Seattle sleepers in January 2017 - but in the dozen or so times I've seen the Builder pass by the last two winters (and the three times I rode it) there was never a second Seattle sleeper.
  10. Siegmund

    Who in the world are you???

    I'm on the pre-1970 Builder route, anyway Middle-of-nowhere northwest Montana, but in Kalispell often for work, and lots of chances to see the Builder as it passes through Whitefish. Occasional trips up the forest service roads alongside the tracks between Whitefish and Libby looking for good berry-picking spots. Outside of enjoying model and full-size railroads, a statistician, bridge player, classical composer, and private pilot.
  11. Every November I have a work conference which rotates among Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, and my employer has been willing to buy me a sleeper berth on the Empire Builder instead of making me fly. (As long as the sleeper is available at the low-bucket price of ~$200 each way it's often the same price or a little cheaper than a flight, too.) I always look forward to that trip, and typically sit up with my interior curtains drawn, and watch Montana go past by moonlight and/or starlight, and only go to sleep about Bonner's Ferry. I was happy that this year my sleeper attendant waited until I boarded and asked me whether I wanted my bed turned down - last year the bed was already made when I got on at 9pm and I had to turn it back into a seat (and into a bed for a second time at midnight) myself. One thing that hasn't changed is that the sleeper is always about 80 degrees when I got on. First thing I do is turn the temperature knob to Cool and then go back downstairs for fresh air. It takes it half the night to cool down. I suppose if it's too cold it takes it half the night to warm up, too, and they've decided that turning up the heat in winter results in fewer complaints. I didn't have moonlight this trip, but got great reflections of town lights off Whitefish Lake, and again off the river between Libby and Troy. I have to drive US-93 a few times a week and enjoyed watching (and passing) headlights in that first half hour after Whitefish. If you're a picture taker chasing the train, you have to pick your spot for your one shot - it's pretty much impossible for a car to overtake the train between Whitefish and Stryker (where the track curves away from the highway toward the Flathead Tunnel.) Last year I discovered that I sleep poorly in a roomette: if I'm lying horizontally, I rock side to side and feel like I'm going to fall out of bed. This year I planned to try reclining one half of the bed only 3/4 of the way, and seeing if I'd sleep better reclining than lying flat. Nice idea, but turns out the cushions don't lock in place once you put them more than halfway down. When I tried to climb onto the 3/4-reclined bed, it zoomed the rest of the way down and I bonked my head into the wall. Ah well... it was a nice idea. Back to plan B - I had brought an extra pillow and blanket, mostly to wedge beside my head and make me feel less like I was tipping over. Beautiful morning view of the Columbia Gorge. An odd east wind had flushed out the morning fog. Leaves were still turning along the tracks, while the trees at the top of the cliffs were coated in frost. The usual cold boxed breakfast for sleeper passengers. I had never realized before that the P42s stand several inches shorter than the F40s did. If you stand on tiptoe you can actually look straight ahead over the top of the engine, from the front of the lounge car. But there's one thing that nags at me. Both last year and this year, I had the feeling that it was 1968. The Builder is short in winter - one sleeper and one coach to Seattle, one sleeper and two coaches to Portland (two only because they need a place for baggage and a place for handicapped seats, I expect.) I walked through the train before I slept. Five roomettes and two bedrooms occupied in the Portland sleeper. 13 and 14 people in the two Portland coaches. About 25 in the Seattle coach. It was comfortable and the service was great but I can only imagine what'll happen once the budget folks see just how empty the train is --- and this from, supposedly, the best-performing of the long distance trains. It's still very popular in Montana. We often have 20 or more people getting on in Whitefish, and a similar number getting off. But I guess nobody from anywhere else rides. The yield management strategy produces some odd results. Last year I got a $200 sleeper both ways; the sleep was full and coach half-full on the way there; on the return trip they claimed the one coach was sold out and people were being sold first-class tickets from Seattle to Wenatchee and seated in the dorm rooms nearest the sleeper. This year I couldn't get a return sleeper unless I wanted to pay $425, though cheapest-bin coach seats were still available. Leaving Whitefish I (and one other passenger) were assigned to rooms that had just been vacated by people getting off in Whitefish; we sat temporarily in vacant rooms while we waited for ours to be cleaned. Why not just put us in one of those other rooms? We had a choice of eight or ten of them. At least on the Portland side, the lounge serves until a civilized hour of the morning, and there is plenty of seating upstairs. Going to Seattle, the diner closes "promptly upon exiting the Cascade Tunnel," at about 6:30 in the morning, 4 hours before arrival. You have to REALLY want your free breakfast to get it. The dining car staff absolutely insist that they pack people in four to a table at only four of the eightteen tables, instead of letting anyone spread out. Really? It's that awful to have to tear off a paper tablecloth from another table? Sure, I get that, in the summer when they have to seat 72 people at each of three sittings for dinner. I don't see the point with 16. The way the dining car was run last year felt like a deliberate attempt to drive away the tiny bit of remaining business that it had. The lounge attendant this year smiled and said something like "we aren't quite as uptight about it as they are on the Seattle section." Given the expensive return sleeper, I had to fly home. I will reluctantly admit the Embraer 175 is more comfortable than the Dash 8s and Q400s Alaska/Horizon used to fly. But oh how I appreciate the ease of getting on and off the train, and the comfort while aboard -- and while waiting to board! -- compared to fighting with airport security. Next year will have to book farther ahead and make sure I can ride both ways. Even a full train feels so much more civilized. But if this is still the best-performing long distance train, Amtrak is in a lot more trouble than I thought. It only ran one car longer (a second Seattle coach) last summer.