Would a Chicago to Calgary, AB Passenger Train be viable?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 9:33 AM

cx500
And of course, if we are talking only economics, very few passenger trains are viable.  Exceptions such as the Rocky Mountaineer succeed by marketing the trip as a cruise experience at VERY expensive ticket prices.  But then, most other forms of transport are also subsidised but less visibly.

One area that the Rocky Mountaineer exceeds expectations compared to Amtrak is with the additional packages you can buy, extended hotel stays, side excursions and the like.    RM makes money on all that stuff and at the end of paying and taking one of the side packages you feel as though you got value for your money that you spent.     For example, extend a night at the Fairmont Banff or Fairmont Lake Louise..........cheaper via RM than doing it yourself at the front desk.

Now go and open the Amtrak vacations / vacation packages brochure and what do you see.    Ho-hum, and you can probably do a lot better financially on your own.

This is where Amtrak consistently looses in perception and in capturing additional revenue.    It's marketing is targeted towards the budget traveler and it's offerings reflect that (one could argue so do the lack of any profit).    Yet look at who rides Amtrak........is it really the budget traveler or is it well above the budget traveler looking for a different experience or change of pace.    So I would argue that Amtrak does not know the market as well as RM does.

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Posted by JAY J RUEDIGER on Thursday, August 10, 2017 3:07 PM
I believe is from Chicago gto Winnepeg I believe a route that needs exploring is from Chicago to Winnipeg on CN lines through Wisconsin and up through Northern Minnesota. Think about it, we have only 4 rail passenger links across the entire border with Canada and once past lower Michigan the Next one is way out in NW Washington state. I think it would boost both Amtrak and Via in ridership. Jay J. Ruediger, Up North.
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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, August 11, 2017 10:21 AM

The last service from the United States to Winnipeg was a stub run from Grand Forks which connected with the "Empire Builder" or "Western Star" and was discontinued on April 30, 1971.  That says a lot about the demand for such a service even with a connection to St. Paul.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by RME on Friday, August 11, 2017 10:31 AM

JAY J RUEDIGER
I think it would boost both Amtrak and VIA in ridership.

But that's not the issue.  The first issue is "will it boost both Amtrak and VIA ridership enough to pay for the service net of all Government incentives" and the following issue, really just as important, is "will the ridership be consistent enough to sustain the train, seasonally and yearly, without losing excessive money at off times".  I can't really imagine trains on that route, even operated with a modern equivalent of RDCs, doing either.

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Posted by schlimm on Friday, August 11, 2017 1:40 PM

RME

 

 
JAY J RUEDIGER
I think it would boost both Amtrak and VIA in ridership.

 

But that's not the issue.  The first issue is "will it boost both Amtrak and VIA ridership enough to pay for the service net of all Government incentives" and the following issue, really just as important, is "will the ridership be consistent enough to sustain the train, seasonally and yearly, without losing excessive money at off times".  I can't really imagine trains on that route, even operated with a modern equivalent of RDCs, doing either.

 

Agreed.  Amtrak subsidies should be reserved for necessary services. As CMStPnP pointed out earlier, this seems like a service that the well-off seek as something akin to a land cruise as in Rocky Mountaineer with deluxe service and fares.  Leave that to the private sector.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, August 11, 2017 3:59 PM

Winnipeg does sound like a better route.  Start out dropping / adding cars to the Empire Builder at best location.  If arrivel times good at Winnipeg then connections to both Canadians and the Church Hill trains.  Need to have lots of schedule slop connecting to VIA departing Winnipeg.

We still have the problem of getting funds for equipment for the service.  This equipment would have to be assigned equipment to this route not the common US equipment.  This is because an additional problem is the equipment would need additional wiring and switching equipment to be compatible with VIA and Amtrak HEP equipment. 

Do  not believe VIA would allow Amtrak equipment with out it being able to have a substitute loco(s) to power train.

VIA's HEP come in on the forward left side of cars, is routed to the car's electric bus and exits on right rear.  Right front HEP passes  thru car and exits left rear without normally supplying car.  But that route supplys the next car that connects on its left side.  That way every other car is supplied from one side or other of loco consist.  That is why VIA can operate such long HEP Canadians   That is when two locos provide each  ==  half HEP to train.  If one route of VIA HEP fails switching equipment in each left side powered car allows HEP from other route.

Amtrak connects each HEP side in each car to a common bus but each side can be isolated ==  left or right train route if a failure of one route.

Yes if Amtrak would use the VIA HEP system on the Auto train Amtrak  could  have many more passenger cars with 2  P-40s each providing half the HEP demand load.

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Posted by conrailman on Friday, August 11, 2017 4:13 PM

Amtrak does not have the Money or Superliners Cars, to Start a New Service like this. Amtrak is luckly to have just enough Superliners cars for service they have Now in 2017. Amtrak needs more Superliners cars for any new service.My 2 Cents

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Posted by GERALD L MCFARLANE JR on Friday, August 11, 2017 5:14 PM

CMStPnP

  ~snip~

 
  It's marketing is targeted towards the budget traveler and it's offerings reflect that (one could argue so do the lack of any profit).    Yet look at who rides Amtrak........is it really the budget traveler or is it well above the budget traveler looking for a different experience or change of pace.    So I would argue that Amtrak does not know the market as well as RM does. 

Except in this case Amtrak's primary clientel is the budget traveler so perhaps they do know their market better than you think.  Look at it this way, sleeper cars are added and deducted from train consists depending on the season, not so much with coaches...why do you think that is?

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Posted by bill613a on Friday, August 11, 2017 5:29 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

The last service from the United States to Winnipeg was a stub run from Grand Forks which connected with the "Empire Builder" or "Western Star" and was discontinued on April 30, 1971.  That says a lot about the demand for such a service even with a connection to St. Paul.

 The service connected with the WESTERN STAR.

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Posted by Sunnyland on Friday, August 11, 2017 8:24 PM

When friends and I rode CP from Winnepeg we flew there via Northwest Orient airlines, this was in 1974.  Then took CP Canadian to Banff  in old time Pullman berths with curtains made into a couch during day and stayed 5 days taking Grey Line tours to Lake louise and Icefields. On to Vancouver, going thru the Spiral Tunnels, ferry to Victoria Returned via CN Super Continental in a day-nighter car with nice reclining seats, it was upgrade from reg coach. Spent a couple of days at Jasper Park lodge and back to Winnepeg to fly home. I've never been on VIA and they use the old CN route, not quite as scenic as CP. I can't afford the Rocky Mountaineer special train.  Glad I did it when it was affordable and still run by the two main RR's in Canada.  Don;t know if there were any flights out of Chicago, we just flew direct from St. Lou with stop at Minneapolis. 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, August 11, 2017 11:00 PM

JAY J RUEDIGER
I believe is from Chicago gto Winnepeg I believe a route that needs exploring is from Chicago to Winnipeg on CN lines through Wisconsin and up through Northern Minnesota. Think about it, we have only 4 rail passenger links across the entire border with Canada and once past lower Michigan the Next one is way out in NW Washington state. I think it would boost both Amtrak and Via in ridership. Jay J. Ruediger, Up North.
 

The Michigan to Ontario connection has been gone for a few years.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, August 11, 2017 11:10 PM

blue streak 1

... 

Do  not believe VIA would allow Amtrak equipment with out it being able to have a substitute loco(s) to power train.

...

 

When the Chicago-Toronto train ran, Amtrak and VIA each had one train, that would make the entire trip between the 2 end points.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, August 12, 2017 10:27 AM

Sunnyland
When friends and I rode CP from Winnepeg we flew there via Northwest Orient airlines, this was in 1974.  Then took CP Canadian to Banff  in old time Pullman berths with curtains made into a couch during day and stayed 5 days taking Grey Line tours to Lake louise and Icefields. On to Vancouver, going thru the Spiral Tunnels, ferry to Victoria Returned via CN Super Continental in a day-nighter car with nice reclining seats, it was upgrade from reg coach. Spent a couple of days at Jasper Park lodge and back to Winnepeg to fly home. I've never been on VIA and they use the old CN route, not quite as scenic as CP. I can't afford the Rocky Mountaineer special train.  Glad I did it when it was affordable and still run by the two main RR's in Canada.  Don;t know if there were any flights out of Chicago, we just flew direct from St. Lou with stop at Minneapolis.

A friend of mine will be doing the Rocky Mountaineer tour towards the end of this month.  I will be interested in hearing his experiences.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, August 12, 2017 12:13 PM

MidlandMike
 

When the Chicago-Toronto train ran, Amtrak and VIA each had one train, that would make the entire trip between the 2 end points.

 

 
Great idea but VIA is short of LD equipment as well.  It cannot even make up an extra Canadian ( # 1& 2 ) consist when the enroute train takes extended delays causing outbound origination delays.
 
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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, August 12, 2017 10:42 PM

Winnipeg is not much farther into Canada then Montreal or Vancouver, so I might guess an all ATK operation would work there also.

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Posted by schlimm on Saturday, August 12, 2017 11:17 PM

However, as was pointed out before, a Calgary or Winnipeg to MSP train does not seem to be justified in terms of demand.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, August 13, 2017 9:21 PM

schlimm

However, as was pointed out before, a Calgary or Winnepeg to MSP train does not seem to be justified in terms of demand.

 

My post was in response to an equipment discussion, rather than a demand potential.

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Posted by schlimm on Monday, August 14, 2017 8:04 AM

I was referring to CSX500's and Buslist's posts, not yours.

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Posted by phkmn2000 on Tuesday, August 22, 2017 8:34 PM

piplog

WOW!!!!!!!!!

The title of this thead is:

"Would a Chicago to Calgary, AB Passenger Train be viable?".

It wasn't "Which Amtrak trains would be a good idea to run", or, "Where should Amtrak have kept it's trains", or, "Which old trains would be good to still have today?".

Could everyone please keep to the original topic?

 

 

No, it would not be viable.

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Posted by MEG on Monday, August 28, 2017 8:17 PM

Work out a joint agreement between VIA and Amtrak to route the Canadian through Chicago, Milwaukee and MSP up to Winnipeg.  Improve timekeeping which is nearly impossible to operate on-time presently and market the train to major American markets. Route through Calgary and southern Alberta on the way to Vancouver and you have opportunity to improve financial performance. 

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, August 28, 2017 9:01 PM

MEG

Work out a joint agreement between VIA and Amtrak to route the Canadian through Chicago, Milwaukee and MSP up to Winnipeg.  Improve timekeeping which is nearly impossible to operate on-time presently and market the train to major American markets. Route through Calgary and southern Alberta on the way to Vancouver and you have opportunity to improve financial performance. 

 

You would have to deal with more roads than Amtrak and VIA. Amtrak does not operate into Winnipeg, nor does VIA operate into the United States. You would also want to have efficient customs operations at the borders.

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Posted by ghCBNS on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 4:25 AM

MEG

Work out a joint agreement between VIA and Amtrak to route the Canadian through Chicago, Milwaukee and MSP up to Winnipeg.......

Leave the Canadian where its at. I would not want to travel through the US on a trip between Toronto and Winnipeg.

Your routing is for an operator such as the American Orient Express/Grandlux once was…..running a strictly tourist train. (And we know what happened to them!)

Question.... How can Rocky Mountaineer consistently fill trains on a near daily basis in the summer and fall and have for close to 30 years…..where operators like AOE and Pullman Rail Journeys can’t in a country with a population 10 times that of Canada with a proportional number of tourists?   

 

 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 6:44 AM

Location is everything.  The Rocky Mountaineer has more scenery than it can promote.  AOE in its final iteration billed itself as a routing to the Greenbrier, the scenery is pretty good but it isn't the Canadian Rockies.  Pullman Rail Journeys was a Chicago-New Orleans overnighter primarily promoting luxury travel.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:28 AM

ghCBNS
Question.... How can Rocky Mountaineer consistently fill trains on a near daily basis in the summer and fall and have for close to 30 years…..where operators like AOE and Pullman Rail Journeys can’t in a country with a population 10 times that of Canada with a proportional number of tourists?   

Friend of mine from Florida is currently taking a vacation including the Rocky Mountaineer.  When it comes to successful businesses it comes down to location & service; when you have both you get happy customers and good word of mouth advertising; advertizing that money can't buy in the media.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 11:17 PM

ghCBNS
Question.... How can Rocky Mountaineer consistently fill trains on a near daily basis in the summer and fall and have for close to 30 years…..where operators like AOE and Pullman Rail Journeys can’t in a country with a population 10 times that of Canada with a proportional number of tourists?  

Remove the scenery and RM has a superior service offering over any other rail passenger service on the North American continent.    The pricing for that superior service is less that top tier VIA service, less than Pullman, and far less than AOE.  Price is really what drives folks to RM.   Yes the scenery is great but if AOE had the Rocky Mountaineer route concession it would still go insolvent in my opinion because it didn't understand service vs price.   Same with VIA.

RM are better at pricing, marketing and building business relationships.   Rocky Mountaineer is closer to the Cruise Ship model than any other of the alternates in my view.

Pullman Rail Journeys.....too short in life span to build relationships with hotels, livery companies, experiment with on board catering, or build a bus tour type operation like RM, though I am not sure Pullman had a business plan.    Probably no narration on the trip on lineside views or points of interest....like RM.    RM's dining car operation seemed to be designed to be low cost onboard and RM didn't carry sleeping cars but had assigned seats throughout.   Additionally, RM has more car attendants per car than Amtrak, AOE or Pullman had with RM' Gold Leaf Service, remember seeing 3-4 car attendents per car.    Serving alchol, pushing purchases from their tour catalog and onboard gift shop, providing at your seat snacks.

AOE, priced themselves into the stratosphere but offered nothing once you stepped off the train.    Contrary to RM who will carry your luggage from train to hotel room, arrange side trips if you want them, arrange extra days in a hotel.   Pretty sure RM got commissions on each option. 

I believe AOE offered guests to spend time on the parked train as do private car operators vs paying for a hotel.    Have yet to see rail passenger car accomodations more luxurious or spacious than a hotel room and seriously who the hell wants to spend time on a parked rail car?   Kind of defeats it's purpose if it is not rolling towards a destination.

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