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Construction of Roanoke Amtrak Platform

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Great to see passenger trains returning to Roanoke. I changed trains in Roanoke from the Pocahantas to a Washington bound train and traveled westbound on the Pocahantas through Roanoke's beautiful N&W station. Later I traveled on Amtrak's Hilltoper from Roanoke to Washington via Richmond after taking a Trailways bus from Johnson City, TN. I made several business trips to Roanoke in the late 1990s by car because there were no trains. I hope the new train is well used!

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... and on to Bristol, we hope ...

 

 

Hey, on to Bristol....and then on to Knoxville......

 

 

You can only stretch this train so far, The schedule calls for a 6 a.m. departure from Roanoke, so any down-line additions will be in the wee hours. If you have a 6 a.m. departure from Knoxville, the train will arrive too late to be good for anybody wanting to go to Washington for the day. Not to mention the need for an additional consists and crews.

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... and on to Bristol, we hope ...

 

 

Hey, on to Bristol....and then on to Knoxville......

 

 

You can only stretch this train so far, The schedule calls for a 6 a.m. departure from Roanoke, so any down-line additions will be in the wee hours. If you have a 6 a.m. departure from Knoxville, the train will arrive too late to be good for anybody wanting to go to Washington for the day. Not to mention the need for an additional consists and crews.

 

 

Well, agreed, but it was more of a thinking-out-loud wish than an actual proposal anyway.

 

Regardless, further extension, even to Bristol, will involve consideration of crews, train sets, and schedule; Perhaps even a different train, on a differing schedule, altogether. It is certainly, however, a safe assumption that all of those issues are easier to solve than getting Tennessee to contribute money to bring rail passenger service to east Tennessee (and a train already at Bristol would add only relatively marginal costs to reach further into the state).

Edited by A Voice

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Ohhh ok. The Lynchburg train is an extension of the Northeast Regional, correct?

That's what was said, yes. Weekdays 171/176 will be extended.

 

Not looking forward to that layover.

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Well, agreed, but it was more of a thinking-out-loud wish than an actual proposal anyway.

 

Regardless, further extension, even to Bristol, will involve consideration of crews, train sets, and schedule; Perhaps even a different train, on a differing schedule, altogether. It is certainly, however, a safe assumption that all of those issues are easier to solve than getting Tennessee to contribute money to bring rail passenger service to east Tennessee (and a train already at Bristol would add only relatively marginal costs to reach further into the state).

I regard any extension to Bristol as something that won't happen for some years, a decade or longer, at the earliest. If ever. The tracks are slow and there are not exactly a lot of larger population centers in SW Virginia pass Blacksburg (and Virginia Tech). The economics and costs of extending a state supported train to Bristol don't provide a strong argument. The annual revenue stream that Virginia has for passenger rail would be better spent over the next decade on modest track improvements between Alexandria and Lynchburg / Roanoke (maybe another double track project) and primarily on the DC to Richmond to NFK/NPN corridors.

 

The second Regional to Lynchburg is in the near term plans. Likely to see a second NE Regional extended to Roanoke before service is extended southwest of Roanoke. But a second Regional extended to Roanoke might have to also lay overnight as Roanoke to NYP is likely too many hours for a round-trip day train originating in NYP.

 

Several weeks ago, the Roanoke Times reported that the storage track and service yard in Roanoke had been completed: Amtrak train has new parking place in Roanoke. The pictures of the new storage track area sure look to me to have a space reserved for adding a second storage track if VA someday wants to add it for a second layover train.

Edited by afigg

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Not even NYP to RVR are same day turns with the equipment. The only equipment that does a same day turn is 67/66, with a different LSA.

 

Remember we need to leave time for not only the train to be wyed, but also to be serviced and cleaned, so you need to leave a minimum of 3-4 hours.

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Bristol is in the plans, but in general there are two issues:
(1) Bristol itself is not big enough to support a train. Knoxville might be, but time becomes a serious issue. Feeder buses are another question, too.

(2) As mentioned, you can only extend a train but so far before the times become an issue. An extension to Bristol would either have to be the "reverse-peak" train (the second one being extended to LYH) or would functionally be running overnight. I've already started poking at VA on the potential sleeping car front...running an all-coach overnight train does not seem like a recipe for success, though a sleeper, cafe, and a few coaches seems like a workable possibility. This goes double for Knoxville (at which point there's the question of whether you're going to Washington or all the way to New York...IIRC you're looking at about 10-12 hours Bristol-Washington and thus 14-16 Bristol-New York; Knoxville would probably be about another 3-4 on top of that, so 13-16 Knoxville-Washington or 17-20 Knoxville-New York).

Edited by Anderson

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Noted above Bristol has several problems. In the 1950s there were not a lot of thru coach passengers on trains with sometimes only 2 coaches on each train ( 3 LD RTs ). Sleepers were often 4 - 5 cars. The riders <> Roanoke increased with each stop. Really hard to justify any service. Bristol can be somewhat of an anchor as the Tennessee 25 MSA of the Bristol station includes both Johnson City and Kingsport ( which never has had any LD trains other than a Clinchfield Dinky. Several other smaller towns are also in that MSA or just out of it.

 

Bristol - Knoxville SOU RR now NS much was built before the Civil war and built on the cheap. For the ~ 120 miles Bristol Knoxville SOU RR schedules were 3:45 - 4:15. That did include very heavy head end traffic but only 2 freights and an occasional local operated on the route. Now NS runs 10 -15 freights either way on now CTC track. Double track from Bulls Gap - Knoxville has been changed to single track and later CTC. Have no idea IM transit time but unconfirmed it takes 6:))+.

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Honestly, if the train were run from Atlanta/Chattanooga or Nashville/Memphis up to New York, having a "sandbagged" overnight schedule from Knoxville to Roanoke (timed for a morning departure from Roanoke a la the Lynchburger's putative schedule) isn't the end of the world. Five hours from Knoxville to Bristol and four from Bristol to Roanoke is nine hours. Depart Knoxville at 2000-2200 and arrive Roanoke 0500-0700, in line with what we're expecting for the Lynchburger from there onwards? That's a decent timetable that really only sucks for Bristol.

 

Operationally, something like that would probably be similar to the Silver Star: A respectable amount of business on each end (probably about 4-7 coaches, especially north of Roanoke) with a bit of a "gap" in the middle where the train would be a bit light on traffic. Honestly, though, you'd probably also get a fairly modest-but-steady flow of traffic in the sleepers over the reasonably long hauls from western VA into New York, given the length of the run (8-9 hours is long enough to justify an added expense on my end).

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Honestly, if the train were run from Atlanta/Chattanooga or Nashville/Memphis up to New York, having a "sandbagged" overnight schedule from Knoxville to Roanoke (timed for a morning departure from Roanoke a la the Lynchburger's putative schedule) isn't the end of the world. Five hours from Knoxville to Bristol and four from Bristol to Roanoke is nine hours. Depart Knoxville at 2000-2200 and arrive Roanoke 0500-0700, in line with what we're expecting for the Lynchburger from there onwards? That's a decent timetable that really only sucks for Bristol.

 

 

A 9:00 to 6:00 Knoxville to Roanoke schedule is really only practical if we're talking essentially a long-distance train service (off the top of my head, New York to Knoxville is very close to the arbitrary 750 mile distinction). That would be great, but we're already way, way, way premature with any discussion of a "thinking out loud" daydream of pushing on past Bristol (which, as noted, is not really a larger market, though in fairness, neither is Carbondale, Illinois).

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From what I read only an 800' platform is being built. This is good news but some questions remain. Amtrak served Roanoke back in the 1970.s The signaling was fine, the tracks were fine,there was a beautiful N&W station (now a tourist info center and museum on the lower level) , a Virginian Station (restored an now also a museum) covered platforms and everything necessary to support passenger trains. Then everything gets torn up and has to be rebuilt from scratch. It doesn't make sense. Instead of preservation for later use there was destruction and demolition. A rail fan told me that was the work of the N&W to insure that passenger service never returned to Roanoke.

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Are they really looking at a 6am Roanoke departure? That makes the train almost impossible to use for Virginia Tech students, who would otherwise make a large chunk of train-taking crowd. To reach Roanoke by 5.30-5.45am, one has to leave Blacksburg by 5am and there is no bus service that early in the morning. Maybe Amtrak should offer Thruway Connection to Blacksburg?

Edited by Texan Eagle

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Are they really looking at a 6am Roanoke departure? That makes the train almost impossible to use for Virginia Tech students, who would otherwise make a large chunk of train-taking crowd. To reach Roanoke by 5.30-5.45am, one has to leave Blacksburg by 5am and there is no bus service that early in the morning. Maybe Amtrak should offer Thruway Connection to Blacksburg?

The projected departure time from Roanoke on weekdays IIIC is approximately 6:20 AM if they stick with the current #176 schedule. Which departs LYH at 7:38 AM. On weekends, #156 departs LYH at 9:59 AM, so Saturday and Sundays might be a circa 8:30 AM departure from Roanoke. Depends on what Amtrak and NS agree on as the best trip time from Roanoke to LYH with a TBD boarding time at LYH.

 

Virginia is already paying for a Roanoke to LYH bus which also starts from Blacksburg on Fridays. Current bus weekday departure from Roanoke is 5:50 AM with Blacksburg Friday departures at 4:32 AM. If the Regional departs Roanoke at 6:20 AM or later, that is a better time than the bus provides.

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Blacksburg, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville and to lesser extent Danville, Manassas all suffer from there not being a good interstate type road system going to WASH and the NEC. That fact IMO is a big factor for the success of Lynchburg service and the potential Roanoke service demand. It is entirely possible that this new service will suffer from demand exceeding supply. The 800 Ft storage area in Roanoke will limit trains to 9 cars + 1 loco. For VA DOT to initiate another Lynchburg <> NEC is going to be difficult with the present Amtrak car shortage and CSX intransigence?

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Blacksburg, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville and to lesser extent Danville, Manassas all suffer from there not being a good interstate type road system going to WASH and the NEC. That fact IMO is a big factor for the success of Lynchburg service and the potential Roanoke service demand. It is entirely possible that this new service will suffer from demand exceeding supply. The 800 Ft storage area in Roanoke will limit trains to 9 cars + 1 loco. For VA DOT to initiate another Lynchburg <> NEC is going to be difficult with the present Amtrak car shortage and CSX intransigence?

I vigorously disagree.

 

Manassas is literally one mile from I-66. The area people call "Manassas" is split in half by I-66 (the battlefield is north and the town is south). I-66 ends right in front of the Kennedy Center.

 

Roanoke is right next to I-81, which leads to I-66. Just because it doesn't go right through the center of town doesn't mean its not there. Downtown Roanoke is closer to 81 than Downtown DC is to 95 and you're not going to find anyone that says DC isn't on 95.

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To extend on that, Blacksburg is practically a stone's throw from 81, especially now that the route is 100% bypass with no traffic lights until you reach the campus (and I recall reading that the traffic light at Southgate was set for removal at some point). That would put the next traffic light way out in Pembroke(?). Been a while since I've been out that far...

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I-81 is heavily used by trucks and frequently is a pain in the rear to travel on by car: it needs widening in several areas. But it definitely is an interstate.

 

Danville/Lynchburg/Charlottesville are only served by Rt29 in a direct line to the NEC. Rt29 is not an interstate and has a bunch more stoplights than a couple of decades ago, particularly around Charlottesville and the approach to I-66 near Manassas.

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Dumb question but are they going to take advantage of any old school train stations to service this new line (assuming any exist), or are they just building a glorified bus stop next to the tracks?

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