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Discontinued Amtrak Routes: Any Future?

Discontinued Amtrak Routes  

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I voted for four of them, but the Broadway Limited/Three Rivers is by *far* the most important. And there are no serious obstacles in its way: all that's needed is rolling stock and agreements from the Class Is.

 

The Desert Wind and Pioneer should not come back any time soon. Amtrak needs to concentrate on routes with population.

- The only intermediate population on the Desert Wind route is Las Vegas, and for Vegas service, it's better to support the High Speed Rail proposal. With California HSR getting built via Palmdale (and at this point I think this will really happen), the Vegas-California HSR ("XPressWest") becomes plausible. (The connection would probably be done as part of the "High Desert Corridor" highway project.)

- There's even less intermediate population on the Pioneer route -- and travel from Denver/SLC to Portland/Seattle in general is minimal. It's simply not worth having this route. People who really want to take the train from Denver/SLC to Portland/Seattle can change trains in Sacramento, and that's OK.

 

The other routes are routes with major potential in terms of population, but they all have various serious obstacles in their way.

- Sunset Limited has problems from Mobile to Talahassee. I would rather see a Mobile-New Orleans train (bring back the Gulf Coast Limited!)

- Floridian has horrible track problems through the Appalachians, which might cost multi-billions to fix.

- National Limited has track problems west of Indianapolis.

 

 

I'm surprised you didn't mention a few other discontinued routes in the poll:

-- The Inter-American (San Antonio - Laredo)

-- The Lone Star / Texas Chief (Chicago - KC - Topeka - Wichita - Ft Worth - Houston)

-- The Toledo-Dearborn-Chicago train

-- The Niagara Rainbow (yeah, I know, the track in Canada is missing so it would be really hard to bring back)

-- The International Limited (Chicago-Toronto)

-- The North Coast Hiawatha (southern route through Montana)

 

Of these, Toledo-Dearborn-Chicago is certainly the most valuable, but both of the Texas routes would likely be quite successful.

Edited by neroden

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Ditto on the Broadway Ltd./Three Rivers 2)Daily Cardinal that runs WAS-STL-KCY instead of NYP-CHI 3)Daily Texas Eagle CHI- LAX with a stub train SAS-NOL

Edited by jimhudson

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There are some serious missing track issues on the route last used by the National Limited. Many many miles of track and ROW just don't exist any more, and the rest that exists is not in the best of shape in many places. An alternative routing will have to be found for it between Pittsburgh and Indy. West of Indy is not that bad. Indeed west of Indy it would use the same trackage that is proposed for the alternative considered in the Cardinal PIP for splitting the Card at Indy and sending one section to St. Louis.

 

If there came to be two or more trains between NYP and CHI (other than the Card) all going on the NYC Water Level Route, it might make sens to route one vial Toledo - Dearborn - Chicago thus opening up a host of new city pairs.

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I'm surprised you didn't mention a few other discontinued routes in the poll:

-- The Inter-American (San Antonio - Laredo)

-- The Lone Star / Texas Chief (Chicago - KC - Topeka - Wichita - Ft Worth - Houston)

-- The Toledo-Dearborn-Chicago train

-- The Niagara Rainbow (yeah, I know, the track in Canada is missing so it would be really hard to bring back)

-- The International Limited (Chicago-Toronto)

-- The North Coast Hiawatha (southern route through Montana)

 

Of these, Toledo-Dearborn-Chicago is certainly the most valuable, but both of the Texas routes would likely be quite successful.

 

I forget about the New York to Detroit route (Niagara Rainbow).

 

If the Heartland Flyer was expanded north to KCY that would fill the Lone Star gap.

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There are some serious missing track issues on the route last used by the National Limited. Many many miles of track and ROW just don't exist any more, and the rest that exists is not in the best of shape in many places. An alternative routing will have to be found for it between Pittsburgh and Indy. West of Indy is not that bad. Indeed west of Indy it would use the same trackage that is proposed for the alternative considered in the Cardinal PIP for splitting the Card at Indy and sending one section to St. Louis.

 

 

Is there any train tracks that go from Columbus to anywhere? Maybe a Cleveland to Cincinnati route (although that would for sure depend a lot on Ohio funding)?

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Here is a set of excerpts from a previous discussion of the Panhandle route, that I managed to dig out:

What is the current status of the Panhandle route between Columbus and Pittsburgh? I know that at the Pittsburgh end the original RoW and the Panhandle Bridge has been repurposed, though I understand that there are alternatives possible to get to Pittsburgh Amtrak station, though I am not sure of the details off the top of my head. What about the rest of the route to Columbus?


There is no longer a direct route between Columbus and Indianapolis the PRR is completely gone east of Indianapolis. As is the old PRR thre Logansport. The train would have to go South to the B&O or North to the Big Four before going west, The only Mainline thru Indianapolis is the Big Four from the Northeast and then the Alternating sections of the original Big Four and PRR going west.


The Panhandle Line between Columbus and Mingo is operational and has been upgraded with the shale industry in Eastern Ohio for oil transport. The Gould Tunnel just south of me is operational and seems to have had some repairs and is sending rail traffic to Pittsburgh on the former Wabash Bridge. The Panhandle Line continues up through Steubenville and across the Ohio River Bridge to Weirton, WV where it ends. The rail to Pittsburgh was removed. Access remains by following the Ohio River from Steubenville to Conway Yard at Rochester, PA, on the River Line. Much longer, but it does connect.


So it would appear that the real problem is between Columbus and Indy. From the above it would appear that it is possible tog et from Pittsburgh through Conway yard to Columbus with some pain, but doable. And it is a fine run from indy to St. Louis. The problem is getting from Columbus to Indy. As mentioned either you have to go South to get on the Cardinal route or go north to catch the big 4 to get to indy.

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Ohio came close a few years ago to adding a Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati corridor service (sometimes referred to as the 3C route for the 3 major cities). And there are certainly other rail lines that serve Columbus.

 

I don't see any (or at least many) of these discontinued long distance trains being brought back. However, I could see corridor service in many of these places. Neroden mentioned Los Angeles-Las Vegas (HSR) and New Orleans-Mobile. Ohio's 3C corridor is certainly a reasonable corridor in a more favorable political climate. Same thing with a number of other corridors studied in the Midwest (Chicago-Columbus, Columbus-Toledo-Detroit, Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati/Louisville, etc) and elsewhere.

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So it would appear that the real problem is between Columbus and Indy. From the above it would appear that it is possible tog et from Pittsburgh through Conway yard to Columbus with some pain, but doable. And it is a fine run from indy to St. Louis. The problem is getting from Columbus to Indy. As mentioned either you have to go South to get on the Cardinal route or go north to catch the big 4 to get to indy.

 

Is an IND-CIN-Columbus-PIT route possible?

 

You could reroute the Cardinal CHI-IND-CIN-Columbus-PIT-PHL-NYP if the CL/Pennsylvanian never happens. Or how about CHI-IND-CIN-PIT (although that would defeat the purpose of adding Columbus service)? I'm sure either would be quicker and the Pennsylvania route has more business than the irrelevant West Virginia cities the Cardinal goes through now.

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I think the folks in Virginia and West Virginia will throw a major tantrum if anyone tries to divert the Cardinal away from them, specially considering the amount of money that Virginia is sinking in the BBRR to bring it upto state of good repair thus potentially enabling making the Cardinal daily. Considering that Virginia has stepped upto the plate to fix that track through the mountains while Pennsylvania has nothing beyond funding one borderline irrelevant study after another for west of Harrisburg, it would seem quite unfair to take away Viriginia's train to gift it to a state which has shown very low inclination to do anything about service to Ohio anyway. Pennsylvania has neither lifeted a finger nor parted with a single penny to get the track layout changes needed in Pittsburgh to make the Pennsylvanina through cars on Capitol work.

 

If anyone ever wanted to reinstate a National Limited they'd basically have to either struggle through from Pittsburgh to Columbus via Steubenville and then head south to Cincy on CSX to join the route of the Cardinal to indy or possibly avoid all that mess, go out on the old Fort Wayne Line and jump CSX at Mansfield down through Columbus to Cincy. Even that route will face 60mph MAS over extended segments.

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I voted for four of them, but the Broadway Limited/Three Rivers is by *far* the most important. And there are no serious obstacles in its way: all that's needed is rolling stock and agreements from the Class Is.

 

I'm surprised you didn't mention a few other discontinued routes in the poll:

...

-- The International Limited (Chicago-Toronto)

I agree that if any LD service is to be restored, the most logical is a Broadway Limited/Three Rivers going through CLE and TOL. Preferably with a schedule providing "daytime" service between CHI and TOL/CLE to capture the CLE-CHI corridor market.

 

Much of the rest of the OP list is not going to happen without specific dedicated funding from Congress and that is difficult to see happening in the next decade or two. If in the next 6-8 years, Amtrak gets a daily Cardinal, daily service over the Sunset Limited route from NOL to LAX, by a small miracle a restored BL/TR, and no more service truncations or eliminations that would count as progress for the LD system. Ok, I'll throw in extending the Palmetto to Miami over the FEC with the overnight leg both ways between SAV and southern FL as something else that should be feasible, if Amtrak had enough rolling stock and AAF/FEC was willing to allow the train.

 

As for a Chicago to Toronto corridor service, that could happen. It is part of the studies or discussions on trans-border trains involving Amtrak, VIA, US and Canadian officials. The prospects of 235 miles of upgraded track in MI for CHI-DET service appears to a factor in putting a possible restoration of Chicago to Toronto service into official talks. The route would be through Windsor. But this is likely to remain stuck in the talking about it stage for years to come.

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Is there any train tracks that go from Columbus to anywhere? Maybe a Cleveland to Cincinnati route (although that would for sure depend a lot on Ohio funding)?

Cleveland-Columbus is in good shape; Columbus-Cincy is in good shape on two separate routes.

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So it would appear that the real problem is between Columbus and Indy. From the above it would appear that it is possible tog et from Pittsburgh through Conway yard to Columbus with some pain, but doable. And it is a fine run from indy to St. Louis. The problem is getting from Columbus to Indy. As mentioned either you have to go South to get on the Cardinal route or go north to catch the big 4 to get to indy.

Is an IND-CIN-Columbus-PIT route possible?

 

Columbus-Pittsburgh is active track, good right-of-way, but in bad shape (operated by a shortline). Edited by neroden

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I think the folks in Virginia and West Virginia will throw a major tantrum if anyone tries to divert the Cardinal away from them,

Worth noting -- the ridership for the Cardinal is mostly

* Chicago - everywhere as far as Charlottesville

* Charlottesville - NY/DC

Charlottesville is arguably the strongest city for the Cardinal, and the online traffic between there and Chicago is strong. You don't want to divert it.

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I think the folks in Virginia and West Virginia will throw a major tantrum if anyone tries to divert the Cardinal away from them,

Worth noting -- the ridership for the Cardinal is mostly

* Chicago - everywhere as far as Charlottesville

* Charlottesville - NY/DC

Charlottesville is arguably the strongest city for the Cardinal, and the online traffic between there and Chicago is strong. You don't want to divert it.

 

 

Is Charlottesville Philadelphia? I would think CHI-PHL would be way more important than CHI-Charlottesville (plus, they can always take a train to WAS and connect with the CL and it might be close to if not faster than the Cardinal).

 

PHL is the 3rd busiest Amtrak station. HAR and Lancaster are in the top 25. No city in VA is in the top 25 unless you count DC. And West Virginia? Does anyone outside of West Virginia care about West Virginia?

 

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1246041980246

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Don't count on any support from the State of Ohio as long as John Kasich is Governor.

 

Tom

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Since we're daydreaming...

1) Daily SL and Cardinal.

2) Restore SL to Phoenix.

3) Restore Broadway Limited.

4) Send the LSL to Boston with a connecting NYP train at ALB; add a new NYP-CHI train with a morning arrival at NYP.

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I think the folks in Virginia and West Virginia will throw a major tantrum if anyone tries to divert the Cardinal away from them,

Worth noting -- the ridership for the Cardinal is mostly

* Chicago - everywhere as far as Charlottesville

* Charlottesville - NY/DC

Charlottesville is arguably the strongest city for the Cardinal, and the online traffic between there and Chicago is strong. You don't want to divert it.

 

 

Is Charlottesville Philadelphia? I would think CHI-PHL would be way more important than CHI-Charlottesville (plus, they can always take a train to WAS and connect with the CL and it might be close to if not faster than the Cardinal).

 

PHL is the 3rd busiest Amtrak station. HAR and Lancaster are in the top 25. No city in VA is in the top 25 unless you count DC. And West Virginia? Does anyone outside of West Virginia care about West Virginia?

 

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1246041980246

 

There's also a lot more trains to take from PHL, and even HAR and Lancaster have fairly frequent service, a lot of which is commuter or "extended commuter" service. It's not necessarily true that those same people would use Amtrak for a long-distance or overnight service to Chicago.

 

The same argument that you're making for Charlottesville could be made for PHL as well - just take one of the numerous regionals down to WAS and get on the Capitol Limited. Or take the Pennsylvanian and have a few hours to relax in Pittsburgh before going on to Chicago. In fact, this argument can be made for every single city on a proposed restored Broadway Limited route. This cannot be said for every community on the Cardinal route; in fact, everyone between IND and Charlottesville has to either drive to another station that does have daily service or hope that the schedule lines up for their trip.

 

I'm not sold that there's a big enough market in CHI - PHL to create a second daily train that could be closely mirrored by having some through cars on the Pennsylvanian. I'd much rather see money and political capital spent by having through cars on the Pennsylvanian (thus allowing a one-seat ride for customers) and making the Cardinal daily (improving an already known strong market for long distance travelers, adding an additional daily frequency for the extended commuter service form Charlottesville to NYC, and creating further connections by having daily service to WV, VA, and KY communities that are not already served by a daily train.

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Don't count on any support from the State of Ohio as long as John Kasich is Governor.

 

Tom

He killed the CCC Route right?

 

And this guy is considered, along with Bush, the Sensible Moderate in the Circus that is The Donald,Snow White and the 15 Dwarfs Show!! 😢

Edited by jimhudson

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I think the folks in Virginia and West Virginia will throw a major tantrum if anyone tries to divert the Cardinal away from them,

Worth noting -- the ridership for the Cardinal is mostly

* Chicago - everywhere as far as Charlottesville

* Charlottesville - NY/DC

Charlottesville is arguably the strongest city for the Cardinal, and the online traffic between there and Chicago is strong. You don't want to divert it.

 

 

Is Charlottesville Philadelphia? I would think CHI-PHL would be way more important than CHI-Charlottesville (plus, they can always take a train to WAS and connect with the CL and it might be close to if not faster than the Cardinal).

 

PHL is the 3rd busiest Amtrak station. HAR and Lancaster are in the top 25. No city in VA is in the top 25 unless you count DC. And West Virginia? Does anyone outside of West Virginia care about West Virginia?

 

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1246041980246

 

There's also a lot more trains to take from PHL, and even HAR and Lancaster have fairly frequent service, a lot of which is commuter or "extended commuter" service. It's not necessarily true that those same people would use Amtrak for a long-distance or overnight service to Chicago.

 

The same argument that you're making for Charlottesville could be made for PHL as well - just take one of the numerous regionals down to WAS and get on the Capitol Limited. Or take the Pennsylvanian and have a few hours to relax in Pittsburgh before going on to Chicago. In fact, this argument can be made for every single city on a proposed restored Broadway Limited route. This cannot be said for every community on the Cardinal route; in fact, everyone between IND and Charlottesville has to either drive to another station that does have daily service or hope that the schedule lines up for their trip.

 

 

And between IND and Charlottesville would be Cincinnati and a bunch of irrelevant towns. Maybe expand the "Hoosier State" to Cincinnati and put CHI-IND-CIN on a better schedule.

 

They canceled Akron and Youngstown service and I'm sure they had more passengers than those tiny West Virginia towns do now.

 

Hey, I would love to have the BL and the Cardinal but if I had one you bet I'd rather have the BL. I think I deserve the right to a direct connection from PHL to CHI (that doesn't take 26 hours) than Thurmond West Virginia does. I think Harrisburg, Lancaster, Altoona, Akron, and Youngstown deserve a direct connection to CHI more than Thurmond does.

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No one particular individual has any more "right" to train service (or a particular train service) than any other particular individual. Philadelphia may be more deserving of it than many of the smaller communities that are on the Cardinal's route, but Philadelphia (and all the other towns covered by a restored Broadway Limited) have other train options. Many towns on the Cardinal's route do not.

 

If I had to make the (false) choice between the Broadway Limited and the Cardinal, I'd keep the Cardinal. I also don't live in or near any of the towns on either the Broadway Limited or Cardinal's route; if I lived in Philadelphia (or Harrisburg or another town on the Broadway Limited line) I may very well want a Broadway Limited over the Cardinal. But, as someone not on either route, I'd much rather have the Cardinal + through cars on the Pennsylvanian to give that 19-hour one-seat ride to Philadelphia from Chicago and still have service/expand to daily service to the communities on the Cardinal's route than either just the Cardinal or just the Broadway Limited.

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Hey, I would love to have the BL and the Cardinal but if I had one you bet I'd rather have the BL. I think I deserve the right to a direct connection from PHL to CHI (that doesn't take 26 hours) than Thurmond West Virginia does. I think Harrisburg, Lancaster, Altoona, Akron, and Youngstown deserve a direct connection to CHI more than Thurmond does.

But you already have trains to take from Philly to Chicago three different ways in addition to the Cardinal.

 

You don't have any more right to anything than the folks in Charlottesville. So get rid of that delusion ASAP.

 

I am all for restoring direct connectivity from New York to Chicago via Pittsburgh, however, not at the cost of losing the Cardinal. That will not happen and I am sure most people will oppose your position.

Edited by jis

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