AMTRAK: We're Still In the Planning Phase, Good Luck With THAT

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AMTRAK: We're Still In the Planning Phase, Good Luck With THAT
Posted by samfp1943 on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 9:11 PM

 I've just been reading the current edition [September 2020] of TRAINS.

Not sure if crying or laughing would make me feel any better?  Bob Johnston's by-line on the article "How to Kill a Network" [page 18].      The title (paraphrased) of this Thread is in reference to Bob Johnston's last sentence.'

It caused me to go and read some researched info on AMTRAK's History, and re-read some of its timelines.

One that seems to portray a fairly accurate time line is also a Wiki piece(?) linked @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amtrak AMTRAK

Then there is this a purely Historic Timeline[ unfortunately, only from 1971 to 2018!]  but seem to be fairly incluside of names,dates and equipment (?)

@ https://history.amtrak.com/amtraks-history/historic-timeline

It seems that Passenger Railroading was doomed when the US Post Office killed of the Railway Post Offices and their subsidies in late 1967 ( was operating on about 107,000m passenger train miles)  With the end of the subsidies the AT&SF fikled to stop almost all of its passenger train routes (31 of about 39 trains). 

About 1969 the Congress came up with a 'Plan'  they would create a quasi-public corp to tak and operate intercity passenger service. This was based on a piece of research done around 1960 called the"Doyle' report; that recommended consolidaton of all rail passenger service into a single operation(?). 

In Oct of 1970 Pres. Richard Nixon signed into law the National Rail Passenger Act. and it was set to take over in May of 1971  {Name was changed a couple of times, until AMTRAK was settled on].

ment was a 'hash' of Most of us 'older folks' are familiar with the 'circus' that followed. Eqipment was a 'has' of cars,locomotives, and generally cast-offs, as the Class 1s escaped that burden of passener rail.

Reading the linked Timeline will set it all out.  Then as Congress took over the rs, locomotives)financing game of just enough to run it, maybe, buy some equipment (cars, locomotives(?) and pay off debts on the political side(?)  The NEC was the 'bright spot' as that was where  the politicians rode the trains; up and down the East Coast. The Long Distance trains 'suffered' much like the red-headed step children of Congressional subsidies. 

Then there wwere the various Management Changes [Politics, again Sigh ]Each new change had a 'better plan' while they were in the 'Head Shed'. Whistling 

And as AMTRAK stumbled from one 'crisis' to another; it was a child and captive to the politicas of the times...Always on the edge of financially falling off the cliff, or Operationally, captive to their'Host' railroads.  

Bob Johnston surely summed it up with his last sentence!

  AMTRAK is the blood source for the  Horse Flys to feed on; and a politicized management that is not sure  "..If they are Washing, or Hanging out..." 

 They are only looking over the hiorizon for their 20 years in Federal Service, and retirement.   Whistling   Go Figure Grumpy

 OK! Rant Over !  Bang Head

 

 


 

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 9:18 PM

samfp1943
 I've just been reading the current edition [September 2020] of TRAINS.

Not sure if crying or laughing would make me feel any better?  Bob Johnston's by-line on the article "How to Kill a Network" [page 18].      The title (paraphrased) of this Thread is in reference to Bob Johnston's last sentence.'

It caused me to go and read some researched info on AMTRAK's History, and re-read some of its timelines.

One that seems to portray a fairly accurate time line is also a Wiki piece(?) linked @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amtrak AMTRAK

Then there is this a purely Historic Timeline[ unfortunately, only from 1971 to 2018!]  but seem to be fairly incluside of names,dates and equipment (?)

@ https://history.amtrak.com/amtraks-history/historic-timeline

It seems that Passenger Railroading was doomed when the US Post Office killed of the Railway Post Offices and their subsidies in late 1967 ( was operating on about 107,000m passenger train miles)  With the end of the subsidies the AT&SF fikled to stop almost all of its passenger train routes (31 of about 39 trains). 

About 1969 the Congress came up with a 'Plan'  they would create a quasi-public corp to tak and operate intercity passenger service. This was based on a piece of research done around 1960 called the"Doyle' report; that recommended consolidaton of all rail passenger service into a single operation(?). 

In Oct of 1970 Pres. Richard Nixon signed into law the National Rail Passenger Act. and it was set to take over in May of 1971  {Name was changed a couple of times, until AMTRAK was settled on].

ment was a 'hash' of Most of us 'older folks' are familiar with the 'circus' that followed. Eqipment was a 'has' of cars,locomotives, and generally cast-offs, as the Class 1s escaped that burden of passener rail.

Reading the linked Timeline will set it all out.  Then as Congress took over the rs, locomotives)financing game of just enough to run it, maybe, buy some equipment (cars, locomotives(?) and pay off debts on the political side(?)  The NEC was the 'bright spot' as that was where  the politicians rode the trains; up and down the East Coast. The Long Distance trains 'suffered' much like the red-headed step children of Congressional subsidies. 

Then there wwere the various Management Changes [Politics, again Sigh ]Each new change had a 'better plan' while they were in the 'Head Shed'. Whistling 

And as AMTRAK stumbled from one 'crisis' to another; it was a child and captive to the politicas of the times...Always on the edge of financially falling off the cliff, or Operationally, captive to their'Host' railroads.  

Bob Johnston surely summed it up with his last sentence!

  AMTRAK is the blood source for the  Horse Flys to feed on; and a politicized management that is not sure  "..If they are Washing, or Hanging out..." 

 They are only looking over the hiorizon for their 20 years in Federal Service, and retirement.   Whistling   Go Figure Grumpy

 OK! Rant Over !  Bang Head

 

The removal of Post Office business killed the passenger train; now there are plans afoot to kill the Post Office.  Ironic.

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Posted by samfp1943 on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 11:33 PM

To BaltACD's comment:  I think you are correct; The USPS has become 'a drag' on Government spending. Since JFK  sponsored [ Eexcutive Order 10988,in Jan.1962] and signed off on it;  that allowed the Government Employees the right to organize ansd Collective Bargain. 

     The expenses have gone up at every occasion they were examined.  The Operations aspect of the USPS have gone down, because the expenses of equiping them have escalated.'  So have their service levels.  Seems like that Fat lady is abot to sing her ending aria, Sigh

I am surprised that it has not become an issue that one of the 'National Package Carriers' have not made an open proposal to buy out the Delivery aspects of the USPS {FedEx, UPS or DHL}  or a consortium of partners(?).  

Just imagine how a SCHEDULED, Inter-City Passenger Service could fit into an Operational Plan for AMTRAK and that delivery aspect of their services.

 

 

 


 

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 10:28 AM

I have seen USPS deregulation and privatization arguments over the years; I'm sure there are many more I haven't seen.  Most of them hinge on cherry-picking things like first-class letter service while dropping "less profitable" things that many people and groups in the United States might have come to rely on, such as carrier parcel delivery in inner-city areas.

Always amusing to see bull-in-a-china-shop antiunion ranting from people connected with government, in a nation where things like SEIU are effectively organized and know how to conduct aggressive lobbying and promotion.  

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 11:57 AM

Unions endeavor to hold companies to the promises they have made, and been required to put in writing.

Companies don't want to fulfill the promises they have made, thus they are anti-union.

It is as simple as that.

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Posted by MidAmerican on Thursday, August 6, 2020 7:31 PM

Why is Amtrak unable to compete for mail business?  I know it was tried in the 90s but was it poor execution that resulted in failure?  Why can't they compete by adding numerous cars on a dedicated train between major cities 800-900 miles apart?  

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, August 7, 2020 10:25 AM

MidAmerican
Why can't they compete by adding numerous cars on a dedicated train between major cities 800-900 miles apart?

It's that the United States Postal Service doesn't want to pay for it.  Much of their sorting infrastructure is near Amtrak (see the Harrison distribution center or the mail lifts from the Penn Station approach tracks into the old Farley post office) but there is no real convenient way to switch modes.  Vs. the operating model of farming the ground transportation out to mom-and-pop team-driving low bidders, that can leave when full and go straight where expected.  (with U.S.Mail crudely brushed on the side and rear door, over the destination pairs...)

Theoretically Amtrak might be able to put together a fast intermodal system and the personnel to keep it snapping.  I don't rate the likelihood of that very high ... although the risk of some part of the necessary QoS failing certainly seems to be high.

If they had trouble landing and switching MHCs, are not lowest-cost for the slow cheap bulk, and can't provide assured timing for priority, I'd wonder what the point of expensive trying anew might be.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, August 7, 2020 12:44 PM

MidAmerican
Why is Amtrak unable to compete for mail business?  I know it was tried in the 90s but was it poor execution that resulted in failure?  Why can't they compete by adding numerous cars on a dedicated train between major cities 800-900 miles apart?  

Your conflating the premium First Class Mail with Package Express.   Amtraks attempt in the 1990's was in the Package Express area.   From what I remember they could not generate enough sustainable volume. 

Also, if you remember, Milwaukee Road attempted a similar concept with dedicated Intermodal trains that were high speed and only two person crews between Chicago and the Twin Cities.    I suspect at best they ran just a little bit above break even.    3 Sprint Trains a day between those two cities (20 flatcars min and 1 SD40-2) and Milwaukee's Marketing Department could not keep the trains full with trailers.   Freq dropped to 2 a day then eventually just 1 a day.     They were gone by the time Soo Line was making an offer for the railroad.

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, August 7, 2020 3:24 PM

MidAmerican
Why is Amtrak unable to compete for mail business?  I know it was tried in the 90s but was it poor execution that resulted in failure?  Why can't they compete by adding numerous cars on a dedicated train between major cities 800-900 miles apart?  

Mail is hauled by the freight carriers in intermodal trailers/containers; needless to say what the freight carriers are getting is not of the high value time sensitve variety - it is nowhere near the volume that was being handled on passenger trains and dedicated railroad operated mail & express trains of the era.

Part of the problems with Amtrak and mail was that the freight carriers opposed it on the principle that Amtrak was 'poaching' business from the freight carriers.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, August 7, 2020 3:35 PM

BaltACD
Mail is hauled by the freight carriers in intermodal trailers/containers; needless to say what the freight carriers are getting is not of the high value time sensitve variety - it is nowhere near the volume that was being handled on passenger trains and dedicated railroad operated mail & express trains of the era. Part of the problems with Amtrak and mail was that the freight carriers opposed it on the principle that Amtrak was 'poaching' business from the freight carriers.

True because the private railroads operated before Fed Ex, UPS and Roadway Express, etc.    They had all three, first class, 2nd Class, and Package express in an RPO.    After the RPO's stopped the majority of the First Class mail transferred to commercial airlines or air cargo carriers.    Then premium package express moved over to Airlines.    I am not sure much First Class mail transits by truck, I think that is mostly 3rd and 2nd Class Mail plus non-express packages.

Additionally USPS required the baggage cars and RPO's that handled the Mail to be stenciled U.S. Mail and you will see that stencil on some of the older baggage cars.   The reason is the car has to be secured after a derailment if it is carrying mail.......I suspect due to insured shipments.    Would have to ask a railroader the reason for the stencil as I am just guessing.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, August 7, 2020 5:46 PM

CMStPnP
 
BaltACD
Mail is hauled by the freight carriers in intermodal trailers/containers; needless to say what the freight carriers are getting is not of the high value time sensitve variety - it is nowhere near the volume that was being handled on passenger trains and dedicated railroad operated mail & express trains of the era. Part of the problems with Amtrak and mail was that the freight carriers opposed it on the principle that Amtrak was 'poaching' business from the freight carriers. 

True because the private railroads operated before Fed Ex, UPS and Roadway Express, etc.    They had all three, first class, 2nd Class, and Package express in an RPO.    After the RPO's stopped the majority of the First Class mail transferred to commercial airlines or air cargo carriers.    Then premium package express moved over to Airlines.    I am not sure much First Class mail transits by truck, I think that is mostly 3rd and 2nd Class Mail plus non-express packages.

Additionally USPS required the baggage cars and RPO's that handled the Mail to be stenciled U.S. Mail and you will see that stencil on some of the older baggage cars.   The reason is the car has to be secured after a derailment if it is carrying mail.......I suspect due to insured shipments.    Would have to ask a railroader the reason for the stencil as I am just guessing.

When you see videos of mail clerks working on RPO's note that each of the clerks is carrying a side arm.  In USPS of today, I don't think I have ever seen a USPS employee armed.

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