Auto Train Expansion/Changes?

Discussion in 'Amtrak’s Future: Member Ideas and Discussion' started by lordsigma, Aug 15, 2019.

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  1. Aug 15, 2019 #1

    lordsigma

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    lordsigma

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    Except they sort of are admitting it already by keeping a chef and more traditional dining for the sleeper passengers on the Auto Train - current management undoubtedly values the Auto Train over the other eastern routes as it is a better revenue performer and closer to breaking even which seems to be what these guys are all about - they are also adding a sleeper to the train which is also a possible admission that ADDING beds could improve the revenue and get it possibly closer to profitable. By keeping full service on the “better” train they are admitting it’s better in my opinion.
     
  2. Aug 15, 2019 #2

    Winecliff Station

    Winecliff Station

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    I thought that was only for a few more months though....long enough to cover the hardcore last of the snow birds, those who hold out to have a white Christmas and then head south after the holiday season.

    I myself don't see the appeal of the Auto Train...for many people it's still a long drive on both ends. They're possibly missing a large market by not starting in Croton or Albany on one end and finishing in Miami at the other.
     
  3. Aug 15, 2019 #3

    jiml

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    Albany would be wonderful (just sayin'), but would result in some rather interesting routing to rejoin its current tracks.
     
  4. Aug 15, 2019 #4

    Winecliff Station

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    Oh I know it’s too late now, especially since the word “expanding” doesn’t seem to be in Amtrak’s current vocabulary....just wish the original plans had farther visions at the time.
     
  5. Aug 16, 2019 #5

    Qapla

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    Unless they reroute the AT at DC - it can't go any further north ... it is too tall to fit under the power lines used for the electric trains.

    Starting it out in Miami would be a nice addition as would adding a stop in Jacksonville to service riders from the panhandle.They could even load the cars and the passengers before the AT arrives and insert the loaded cars into the consist.
     
  6. Aug 16, 2019 #6

    ehbowen

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    While I believe that clearances have been raised somewhat in the intervening 45+ years, at the time Auto-Train service was instituted there was no rail route north of DC which was suitable for the auto carriers used. On the south end, Orlando/Sanford is a good compromise between northern and southern Florida points and is extremely convenient to the then-new and widely publicized destination of Disney World. Additional stops introduce additional operational complications; the addition of the midwestern Auto-Train (which operated with Amtrak's Floridian) essentially bankrupted A-T as a private company. Auto-Train company's business philosophy was that passengers could spend the morning driving down from New York or Philly (sorry, Boston!) to Lorton, spend a pleasant evening and night aboard the train, and awaken an easy drive from wherever their ultimate destination might be in Florida...Miami, Tampa, St. Augustine or the eastern beaches...or the Mouse House.
     
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  7. Aug 16, 2019 #7

    lordsigma

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    Boston is possible. I do it from Springfield, MA and will be again in October.
     
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  8. Aug 16, 2019 #8

    ehbowen

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    I'm kidding, I'm kidding! On a more serious note, it wasn't just the auto carriers; the original Auto-Train consists included Big Domes which A-T company purchased from Santa Fe. They needed a high clearance routing bumper-to-bumper.
     
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  9. Aug 16, 2019 #9

    Seaboard92

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    Today there is a route available to get into New York. Especially once the DC tunnel work is done. Keep straight to avoid Union Station and follow CSX to the Camden Line. Up the line to Baltimore then to the Philadelphia Sub. Then follow the ex Reading and Central Railway of New Jersey into the NY Metro area.

    But it would take a lot longer than the regular NEC for starters. And CSX and NS would demand improvements and capacity increases. Not worth it
     
  10. Aug 16, 2019 #10

    Thirdrail7

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    You'd need two additional sets of equipment as well but is is doable. Actually, wit ha few improvements, some undercutting, restoration of the gauntlet track through the B&P tunnel and restoring access to the High Line (Philadelphia bypass), you could probably run it over a large part of the NEC. :D
     
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  11. Aug 16, 2019 #11

    ehbowen

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    New Auto-Train station: Bangor, Maine!
     
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  12. Aug 16, 2019 #12

    Rasputin

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    Third boxcar in that train.
     
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  13. Aug 16, 2019 #13

    ehbowen

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    Arriving at midnight!
     
  14. Aug 16, 2019 #14

    jis

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    Of course its financial performance will go totally to hell, so that the Amtrak administration can discontinue it in six months after that too. :D All problems solved (where is the ROTFL emoji?)
     
  15. Aug 16, 2019 #15

    Dakota 400

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    I still am of the opinion that an Auto-Train originating/ending in Cincinnati or Indianapolis. maybe not daily and on a seasonal schedule, might be successful for Amtrak. Particularly if it was on a late Fall to early Spring schedule. Time the schedule so that those cruising from Florida during the late Fall-early Spring time frame could arrive in Florida with plenty of time to reach their port.
     
  16. Aug 16, 2019 #16

    ehbowen

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    If we could upgrade and dispatch at least one of the lines to match the same speeds which were possible 78 years ago...or even 80% or so of that speed...I would agree with you.
     
  17. Aug 16, 2019 #17

    Palmland

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    It would seem to me that the best potential new market for Auto Train would be the Chicago area, presumably west of the congested area, to Colorado. The drive through the Great Plains is interesting but those on vacation might like to skip it. If nothing else it would help justify the investment KS and CO have made in the SWC route. Perhaps Pueblo, on I-25, might make a good end point. It’s 2 hrs to Denver, 4.5 to Albuquerque, about 2.5 to the ski areas around Breckinridge.
     
  18. Aug 17, 2019 #18

    pennyk

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    MODERATOR NOTE:
    Comments in the "More Diners Cut effective October 1" thread pertaining to Auto Train expansion and changes were split off and moved to this new thread.

    Thank you for attempting to keep our threads more or less on topic. :)
     
  19. Aug 18, 2019 #19

    lordsigma

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    The Sleeping car diner isn’t going anywhere from the auto train and is not going contemporary - coach diner is being removed. In my opinion (and not that I agree) current management feels the auto train is more valuable than the meteor or crescent and has more of a place in their vision of an Amtrak 2.0. The auto train is certainly the most popular true long distance overnight trip in Amtrak’s network. Every passenger on it is overnight end to end, hence the need for all the rolling stock. If their plan is to have just a few experiential traditional overnight trains and the rest corridors, auto train is certainly one that makes sense to have as part of such a portfolio.
     
  20. Aug 25, 2019 #20

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    I don't think the current management is trying to cut most of the Eastern LD routes; they are certainly modifying the experience, but that doesn't mean they want the routes completely gone. They recently starting the process of acquiring new locomotives for LD service, and the eastern LD routes function as overlapping corridors in many cases. It is also worth noting investment in certain areas, such the new high level platform being constructed at Tampa Union Station, improvements to New Orleans UPT, and the acquisition of trackage from Palatka to DeLand, all projects which exclusively benefit LD trains. This is entirely my opinion and many will disagree with me, but I think Amtrak is just transitioning the LD routes from more of a luxury experience to essential and competitive transportation while minimizing subsidies. Anderson has specifically mentioned the CZ, EB, and CS in future plans, whereas the eastern routes seem to fit his model much better, so the only routes for which I foresee a significant risk of being eliminated are the other largely rural routes, namely the SL and SWC. I'm don't support such an elimination, but I don't find the situation to be as dire as made out to be and I would be very surprised if Anderson cut all service from the NEC to Florida or Chicago, for example.
     
  21. Aug 29, 2019 #21

    lordsigma

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    I think service from the NEC to Florida and to Chicago will continue, but it may look different in an Anderson Amtrak 2.0 in how say the Silver Meteor's route is served. You may not have the present 97/98 in their present form and instead possibly strung together corridors with a once per day longer distance train running between points in which there is no corridor. I think Anderson sees the three trains you mentioned and the Auto Train as the trains that he supports continueing in their present form as an end to end long distance train with traditional amenities.
     
  22. Aug 30, 2019 #22

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    That would require either a change in the 750 mile rule or state funding. Looking at the SWC bus proposal, both train segments were to be in excess of 750 miles, so Anderson likely plans with this in mind. To do the same on the SM route, a train from NYP would have to travel at least to Charleston while a train from MIA would have to travel to at least Florence. Charleston doesn't currently have the facilities to turn a train, so that train would likely run to Savannah, which is just the Palmetto. From Miami, Florence may be capable of turning a train, but it would destroy ridership and is not that far from reaching the existing corridors services that feed into New York and Boston. While I wouldn't describe Anderson as pro LD, I don't think he has overall bad intentions and doubt he would intentionally dismantle a train like that without a benefit. It would also be difficult to get equipment to the Hialeah shops with such a setup, as the train to Miami would terminate in a location without terminating trains from NYP or WAS. If Amtrak management wants to try and split up a route, IMO the best test case would be the Crescent, where it could be separated into NYP-ATL and CLT-NOL, which would improve OTP and could setup twice daily service at reasonable times from Charlotte to Atlanta in the absence of state funding.
     
  23. Aug 30, 2019 #23

    MARC Rider

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    I always thought that the point of the auto train was avoiding the costs of gasoline, hotel and meals on the drive down and the cost of the rental car when you arrive. And also the cost of additional auto insurance on your rental car, if you're renting for more than 30 days. (Most insurance policies limit coverage on rental cars to rentals of 30 days or less.) Plus, of course, avoiding 800 miles of driving.

    I suspect that the additional costs of having more pick-up and drop-of points, both financial and in terms of running time wouldn't be recovered from the additional passengers they might get from pick-up/drop-offs north of Lorton and south of Sanford. Adding and dropping auto racks at intermediate points would be similar to the bad old days of the early 2000s when the LD trains were constantly delayed by additing and dropping off freight, err "express" cars along the route.
     
  24. Aug 30, 2019 #24

    MikefromCrete

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    The whole point -- and economics -- of the Auto Train is to provide an overnight trip from the northeast to Florida. A consist can be turned at each end every day. Extending the train means a long er time on the train, which railfans would love, but would turn off regular folks, and additional consists, which increases cost. The Auto Train will never run north of Lorton or south of Sanford.
     
  25. Aug 30, 2019 #25

    sttom

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    An Auto Training running into New Jersey would work financially speaking, *an* Auto Train. For it to work it would need it's own set of equipment. Just like any other potential Auto Train route would. And there are some that would. I would bet Auto Train lines from West Coast cities to Utah would work because of the national parks as well as a few seasonal lines to Arizona. But, Amtrak would need the equipment for that to work.
     

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