#21 (8/9-10-11) absolute hellish mess

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by fillyjonk, Aug 11, 2019.

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  1. Aug 15, 2019 #51

    Thirdrail7

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    Do you think it is a good idea to possibly block the only main? This means other trains can no longer get by, which means other passengers/commuters can't pass and freight congestion which would ultimately put other people in the same boat and expose them to the same major delay that your train may be in.

    You could multiple delayed trains instead of one.....which as I'm sure most of you know, has happened .
     
  2. Aug 15, 2019 #52

    crescent-zephyr

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    In short. Yes I do. I think it’s reckless to proceed towards a swamp or other desolate area knowing the crew is going to go dead and the train can not move for several hours thereby stranding 100 humans in the middle of a desolate area.
     
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  3. Aug 15, 2019 #53

    ScouseAndy

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    I fail to believe that there would be many occasions when a crew knew they were going to run out of hours and not find a siding close to habitation to park up in to be relieved rather then getting stranded in the middle of nowhere.

    Does this really happen?
     
  4. Aug 15, 2019 #54

    crescent-zephyr

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    I mean... you can call the above posters liars if you want. I personally believe them.
     
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  5. Aug 16, 2019 #55

    ehbowen

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    The thing is that if the crew goes dead on hours between stations it's going to end up with the train blocking the main as well. Might as well do so at a station. Better yet, a passing siding.
     
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  6. Aug 16, 2019 #56

    ehbowen

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    It happened to us on the Sunset Limited in 2006 in the middle of New Mexico. Actually, it was a Union Pacific crew which went dead on hours in single-track territory, blocking the main. Then our train went dead on hours. Then other (freight) trains went dead on hours...chain reaction. And it was the desert in the middle of nowhere, at midnight. They had to run new crews to all the trains in four-wheel-drive Jeeps. Took hours. Eight hours late into L. A.
     
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  7. Aug 16, 2019 #57

    dogbert617

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    At the time this occurred, were you traveling on train #21(south), or train #22(north)? Agreed that it's IDIOTIC to stop the train inbetween 2 stations, and not have the train HOLD at a stop if Amtrak employees think a crew will 'time out' inbetween 2 stations, until the next crew could arrive to do a crew change! Plus for those smokers they'd probably like that too, as they'd have a longer smoke break. :) With these horror stories I'm reading here, I worry one day I will be riding an Amtrak train somewhere, and such a horror story happens to me. Hopefully it NEVER does, but you never know.
     
  8. Aug 16, 2019 #58

    ehbowen

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    According to the title of her post she was on #21. The ONLY justification I can see for leaving Walnut Ridge (next stop north of Little Rock; crew change point) when that short on hours is if the station is on single track (dunno if it is) and if there was a passing siding which the train could reach from there (and there may be, a few miles south at Hoxie).

    Edit To Add: Just confirmed via Google Maps. Yes, the Walnut Ridge station is on single track and, yes, there is a passing siding (or at least an approach to a wye which could be used as one) at Hoxie just south of the crossing of the BNSF main line to Memphis. So dispatching the train from Walnut Ridge does indeed make operational sense if that was the plan. Still deucedly inconvenient for the passengers.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
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  9. Aug 16, 2019 #59

    dogbert617

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    I see why the train wasn't held at Walnut Ridge, then. Probably so that the train wouldn't be holding up other freight train traffic theoretically, I'd guess? And why IMO, as much freight train trackage as possible should be built with passing sidings in mind(if a freight line will only remain single track). And honestly, my preference is to see freight railroads double track as many freight line mileage as possible.
     
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  10. Aug 16, 2019 #60

    fillyjonk

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    Southbound, train 21. It wasn't really the middle of nowhere but it wasn't at a station so people couldn't get off and the smokers on the train were livid
     
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  11. Aug 16, 2019 #61

    fillyjonk

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    Now that I think back to it, yes, your point makes sense, we were stopped on a double track so other trains could pass us. But still, it was aggravating when we were already 9 hours late (and hot, and dirty, and tired) to sit there for 2-3 additional hours
     
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  12. Aug 16, 2019 #62

    ehbowen

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    This is way, way down the wish list after new equipment and better service, staffing and food in the diners, but in a perfect world I'd like to see a push to have passing sidings with dedicated passenger platforms at all passenger stations. I understand that Santa Fe felt much the same way; one of the reasons why they achieved such a good record of on-time performance in the pre-Amtrak years. They could sideline passenger trains at virtually all major stations and keep the main line clear for other traffic.
     
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  13. Aug 16, 2019 #63

    Thirdrail7

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    There is also another thing to consider: After looking at google maps, I see there are grade crossings in the proximity of the train station. Depending on the track speed through the area, the approach circuits could be far out from those crossings, which would cause the gates to drop (assuming they aren't on motion sensors.)

    Now, you're dealing with blocking a grade crossing and Arkansas has a state law that prohibits blocking a grade crossing for more than 10 minutes. It seems every additional 10 minutes brings in an additional fine.

    I'd venture to say UP would want the train out of the area of the crossings circuits as well.

    Naturally, this may not work well for those on board the train. This is where true characteristics used to come into play. It is helpful if the crew can stop in an area that is accessible to things. Perhaps near a restaurant or a store if there is an option.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
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  14. Aug 16, 2019 #64

    ehbowen

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    Very true, but in today's litigious society I can't see a conductor allowing passengers to disembark, even temporarily, if the train isn't at a station with some form of platform except in a true emergency.
     
  15. Aug 16, 2019 #65

    dlagrua

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    Its safe to say that if you travel by train sooner or later you will encounter a delay. Air travel is also not perfect and flights are sometimes cancelled leaving you stranded at an airport. When it snows just about everything goes out of wack. Flooding, excessive heat, landslides mechanical problems and freight traffic can all cause rail delays. Without the infrastructure to efficiently move passenger trains past slow moving freights, there is little solution to OTP. At the height of the Bakken oil boom in ND, the Empire Builder arrived late more often than on time. We were on such a trip about 6-7 years ago and arrived into Chicago 12 hours behind schedule. The freight railroads own the track and must accommodate a service that slows down their trains. They are unhappy with the situation . This is why when I hear Steve Gardner talk about the grand plan for "corridor routes" I laugh. There is neither rail space or real cooperation with the freight railroads to see this happening on a large scale.
     
  16. Aug 16, 2019 #66

    jis

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    And yet, in spite of all the factors that inhibit execution of a world class corridor plan, the greatest growth in ridership today is apparently in the non-NEC Corridor segment. So it may still be a good idea to pursue that wherever possible notwithstanding how much it might cause some to laugh. :D

    Only thing is, IMHO, it is not an exclusive either-or proposition. Both corridors and LD can be pursued simultaneously. That is where my thinking parts ways with the Anderson-Gardner thinking.
     
  17. Aug 17, 2019 #67

    drdumont

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    Sorry, IMHO, Amtrak needs to send a relief crew or have them staged at stations, ready and able, when extremely long delays happen to any LD train.

    Stopping in the middle of a swamp is simply beyond gross incompetence. If the crew will time out before reaching the next station, then don't even try. Duh! Hold at the last station they can reach. At least the stranded passengers could make use of the station while waiting. What is Amtrak afraid of? After 24+ hours, the stranded passengers will take a taxis to the airport?[/QUOTE

    There DOES appear to be a terrible lack of foresight in Amtrak's procedures in re crews timing out, especially in the case of major off the wall interruptions such as this incident.

    The airlines doe a pretty good job of looking ahead at crew times, and getting a relief crew in place. Of course they can fly a new crew there, a slight bit more difficult on Amtrak.
    I'm pretty sure the freight railroads are on top of this, they have an extensive van system in place to put new crews aboard in the middle of nowhere.

    One would think that there would be flexibility in the law/rules in case of really impossible circumstances. Alas, the lawmakers think in terms of absolutes, as to some labor unions and members. NOTE I SAID SOME, please no nastygrams from lawmakers or union members. Not all are absolutists. I'm a former union member, and although our union leaders were absolutists, in practice, we made exceptions case by case, and never had interruptions because "THE RULE SAYS EXACTLY..."
    But I digress...
    Forewarned is forearmed. If AMtrak crew dispatechers and the rest would take a bigger view, look past the ends of their noses, then arrange for new crews, stopping at a better location, etc. Of course, there will never be a panacea, if a bridge collapses a mile ahead, or the train hits some moron who goes past the gates, there's not much planning for these kinds of cases.
    We've got doomsday plans and equipment in place for equipment/power/disasters/failures, alternate arrangements for transmission, all the rest, so our viewers won't miss a single exciting moment of their favorite novela or game show. Seems to me Amtrak could have a few similar arrangements standing by.
    Sitting for 24 hours? They couldn't charter a plane? Backed to the nearest dry land or ststion? Wow.
     
  18. Aug 17, 2019 #68

    Trogdor

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    It’s amazing how many experts on railroad operations there are on this thread who are thoroughly convinced they could do things better than the folks that do this every day.

    Are things perfect? No, of course not. And they never will be with a system as skeletal and underfunded as Amtrak is. Even if it was fully funded and had multiple frequencies on every route, and double the number of crew bases, things would still go wrong every once in a while.

    The idea that Amtrak crew management doesn’t “look past the end of their noses” is ridiculous and insulting, and shows a complete ignorance of how much goes on on a daily basis to keep things going. The trains waiting for a couple of hours for a relief crew are the exception, not the rule, and it’s specifically because of the proactive nature of crew dispatching in many cases. When things start to melt down, it becomes difficult to have crews staged in advance at the station prior to where the crew will die. In those cases, you do the best you can. Further, if the relief crew is coming from the direction where your train is headed, then 9 times out of 10 it’s better to get the train moving, closing the gap between where the train is and where the relief crew is, thereby reducing the total delay. Just because it’s at a grade crossing or adjacent to some highway or whatever, doesn’t mean it’s impossible for the relief crew to get there. Fine, a handful of passengers currently on board would rather sit at a station for 4 hours, being able to stretch and smoke, rather than sit in the “middle of nowhere” for 3 hours, but everyone else, who actually is still trying to get somewhere (including other passengers on the train, and everybody waiting at downline stations), would rather the train make some progress, and reduce the total delay, rather than extend the delay even longer “just because...”

    The idea that freight crew dispatchers are somehow orders of magnitude better at this than Amtrak crew dispatchers is another fallacy. Heck, just look at ehbowen’s post a few posts up about UP fouling their entire mainline with a series of outlawed crews. I’ve also been on a train delayed because BNSF had a series of crewless trains blocking the main while they waited for their crews to take rest and resume their journey. And for the record, Amtrak uses the same van companies the freight railroads use to get crews to outlying locations.

    When you’re dealing with long-distance trains operating once per day, or less, it becomes very expensive to maintain crew bases with a full complement of relief crews. A typical turn might only require 3 sets of crews for regular service (accounting for working time and days off). But you need at least a fourth crew anyway, just for some semblance of an extra board (in case someone calls in sick, takes vacation, is needed for recurrent training and such). That’s already a 33% extra ratio when ideally you should be able to do it with 20% or so. Now, let anything happen at all, and it’s easy to use up your extra board and still run out of crews. So, you could staff even more extra board, who won’t be used 90% of the time, or you go with the smaller but still too large (on a percentage basis) extra board because financially, it’s hard to justify having lots of expensive crews sitting idle most of the time. You can’t just fly in crews from other bases, either, because they need to be qualified on the territory, and there’s a practical limit to how much territory someone can be qualified on. So, you’re stuck with limited backups in case things do fall apart, which they do on occasion (this trip happened to be one of those occasions).
     
  19. Aug 18, 2019 #69

    drdumont

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    I take your point. I do not nor have I worked for Amtrak. I do, however, have a working history of scheduling and logistical planning. Maybe AMTRAK does have plans for these really off the wall events. But I don't see any evidence of this. Sure, it costs a lot of money to have standby or even semi standby or Doomsday plans.
    So the alternative is to just go the cheap route, have paying passengers sit stranded and inconvenienced , hungry, thirsty missing their own deadlines, perhaps losing money, while AMTRAK just muddles along, "Oh well, yuh gotta expect losses.".
    This really turns AMTRAK Long Distance service from a service for the public convenience and necessity into a quaint way of traveling which just might leave you sitting in the middle of nowhere wishing you had brought along maybe an MRE or a couple of Twinkies.
    No sir, I reject your dismissal of my opinions being those of just another clueless tyro natterinag about things of which he knows not.
    It is intuitively obvious that AMTRAK has not and maybe never will reach its potential of public service. Certainly it will never regain the level of service it once offered. It could, but probably never will. Probably for financial reasons.
    I now ride AMTRAK purely for my personal enjoyment, and treat every AMTRAK ride as potentially my last, and deal with the failures in the same way I deal with my failures of advancing age and perhaps overspending my youthful assets.
    Should we just say The Hell With It and scrap AMTRAK? Certainly Not!
    Should we try by whatever means to chevvy it along, fix whaat we can, help get the financing needed, and rebuild a system which can provide needed service to areas outside the Northeast Corridor?
    Certainly!
    I fear that many have simply taken the The Hell With It way of thinking and are just riding it out until the last paycheck clears.
     
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  20. Aug 18, 2019 #70

    jis

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    I wonder, other than posting stuff here, what have you been doing to actually help Amtrak become better (other than riding for enjoyment that is), as you suggest everyone should. Just curious. Feel free to take the Fifth if that suits. :cool:
     
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  21. Aug 18, 2019 #71

    drdumont

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    1) Supporting AMTRAK friendly politicians
    2) Writing to my local representatives on AMTRAK related issues
    3) Encouraging others to do the same, even a few co-workers who tried a trip, and came back relating their positive experiences to others.
    4) Not much else once can do, except perhaps to win an umptyleven trillion dollar lottery and spending it on supplanting Amtrak's budget.

    Participating in fora such as this. The squeaky wheel can get the grease.

    And you?
     
  22. Aug 18, 2019 #72

    jis

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    Good for you. Thank you.

    I am a Silver Rail member of the RPA (Rail Passenger Association).
    I am a member of the RPA Council.
    I am on the Board of the FCRP (Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers).
    I am an Emeritus of the Board of the NJ-ARP (NJ Association of Rail Passengers), stepped down when I left NJ for Florida
    and
    a long time member of ESPA (Empire State Passenger Association)

    I generally attend both the meetings of the RPA each year and participate in the Day on the Hill to bend the ears of a few Congressmen and Senators. Full disclosure, I did not make it this year to the Washington DC Spring meeting due to medical issues, but will be there at the Fall meeting in Sacramento.

    I am currently the Lead for the Southeast Zone of RPA but am in the process of stepping down because I do not have the time to do justice to the post, as I am fulfilling one of my life's dream of traveling to very unusual places to ride trains and explore historic sites, more than I had planned when I took it on.

    Welcome aboard!
     
  23. Aug 26, 2019 #73

    fillyjonk

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    Been a couple weeks and beyond the $125 voucher (about half what I paid for the ticket), I haven't heard anything back so I am going to decide what I assumed at the time, that the customer-care person's "We'll forward your concerns to a higher-up" was a stinkin' lie.


    then again, that's little different from customer service in ANY large company these days, so I am not surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised.
     
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  24. Aug 27, 2019 #74

    drdumont

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    Same here. Been a week since I submitted a complaint about the horrid service I had in the diner on 21. No response whatsoever. At least they used to respond that they "were looking into it", or "sorry 'bout dat". Now, ugats.
    Really a fine way to attract and/or retain customers.
    Jeeze. Might as well be WalMart.
     
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  25. Aug 27, 2019 #75

    Bob Dylan

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    Call Customer Relations, that will get you some action! emails,texts,tweets etc are just lost in the flood of stuff Amtrak receives.

    Real People = Real Action!!!
     

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