Chicago Union Station Mess on December 30th

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Chicago Union Station Mess on December 30th
Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, December 31, 2017 4:49 PM

Probably the worst I have ever seen CUS in regards to Amtrak operations was this past week on December 30th.    Not complaining as I think for the holidays 1-2 hours delay is becomming normal no matter the mode but my thoughts are Amtrak should be more resilent to cold weather than apparently it is....

1. Empire Builder boarding from South Concorse.

2. Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha held for 20 minutes sitting just North of the throat of Union Station (past Canal Street and under cover) while a Joe Lunchpail Metra train took it's time departing.   Amtrak was ontime, Metra was late....again.

3. Southbound Texas Eagle 2 hours late backing into Union Station to recieve passengers on account of an operating  locomotive shortage (said the Amtrak employees when asked w-t-f).

4. Number of trains arriving and departing late.

5. Reports from other passenger from December 29th Lake Shore Limited that it missed several connections and passengers were put up in Swiss Hotel in Chicago, also reported the Dining car pipes froze limiting meal service to an extent.

6. Reports City of New Orleans Northbound On December 29th also had problems with pipes freezing on the Dining car.......limiting meal service as well as CNO being late into Chicago.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, December 31, 2017 8:22 PM

Cold weather is great for finding equipment problems, problems which likely existed for some time just short of their breaking point.

The age and worn-out state of much of Amtrak and Metra's equipment does not help.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Kevin C. Smith on Monday, January 01, 2018 4:42 PM

Why would they load the Builder from the south concourse? Track work? I was in CUS about a month ago-perhaps there is renovation work being done at the A & B loading areas on the north side?

"Look at those high cars roll-finest sight in the world."
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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, January 01, 2018 6:47 PM

Kevin C. Smith
Why would they load the Builder from the south concourse? Track work? I was in CUS about a month ago-perhaps there is renovation work being done at the A & B loading areas on the north side?

Empire Builder empty trainset first attempted to reach the North Concourse boarding area and then backed up all the way back to the South Concourse but remained on the through tracks.     My guess and observation on why that move happened....

Saw via my inbound Milwaukee to Chicago train....Metra was using the North end of the CUS pass through track for both moving trains from the South Concourse to the North side (not sure why they were doing that but perhaps on a weekend they only have the North shop / yard open for CUS).     Also, Metra was using the North End of the pass through for boarding.   Leading to a slight choke point in operations on the pass through tracks.

Normally the pass through tracks are kept clear, they were not on the 30th.    Also the Chicago to Milwaukee trains were moved over a track or two from where they normally board.    So to me, yes, it looked like some tracks were taken out of service at CUS but I did not have time to look and see where because I was late getting into the station and worried about missing the outbound train.

CUS had the switch flame heaters all flaming up on the 30th outside the station so perhaps frozen or inop switch heaters were causing an issue within CUS???   Not sure.

All I got from Amtrak employees (Conductor on trains as well as passenger reps roaming the station).    Amtrak was having issues with locomotive reliability and there was more than one locomotive on CUS inbound tracks in dead status, that needed to be towed out and to the shops.    Additionally, Amtrak was having issues with the cold and the passenger equipment.  

Another example was the wierd boarding of the California Zephyr.   Coach passengers were boarded first.   Sleeping Car passengers were held until last....no idea why that was but I suspect the attendents needed more time to attend to prepping the beds in the car for the first nights passengers.......just a guess, I did not ask and have no idea why they reversed boarding priority.

Outbound the Texas Eagle sleepers even though they were two extra hours at the Amtrak service yards before they backed into CUS, did not get our water bottles until the very last minute prior to pull out of CUS and the sleeping car attendent had to manually distribute the really cold water bottles to each compartment.   So looks like a slight logistical issue with resupply and turn around of sleeping cars?

BTW, noticed all CUS rail traffic signaling is upgraded now to LED lights, not sure when that happened but looks nice.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, January 01, 2018 6:50 PM

Union Station has some trains arriving VERY late tonight. #8 (30) is estimated to arrive at 3:57 AM (12 Hrs 2 Min Late) and #6 (30) is estimated to arrive at 11:20 PM (8 Hrs 30 Min Late) Yesterdays #30 left Chicago at 10:08 PM (3 Hrs 28 Min Late) and was estimated to arrrive Washington DC at 5:17 PM but I suspect that it was annulled at Pittsburg as all times East thereof are shown as estimated. #29 does not show on the ASMTransitdocs map currently. 

As Jeff noted, http://cs.trains.com/trn/f/111/t/266889.aspx?page=3#3022560 in Nebraska it was MINUS 18 and his railroad (UP) was experiencing multiple rail pull-aparts, switch problems and freights having air issues. VIA Rails Canadian died in the MINUS 20's trmperature with fuel issues. The folks in SPY HILL came to the rescue. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/via-rail-stranded-spy-hill-1.4464542 This winter is shaping up to be a tough one. I hope everyone can stay warm. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, January 01, 2018 7:21 PM

Zero and lower weather is at best survived - never defeated.  Technologies that work well in 'normal' temperatures fail miserably when the mercury dives well past Zero F.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, January 01, 2018 8:10 PM

Ordinarily, sleeping car attendants make the beds up with clean sheets for the next trip before they end a trip. The only preparatio work, so far as I know, would be putting clean cases on the pillows. Of course, this would not apply in the westbound Sunset Limited because of its scheduled early arrival.

Johnny

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Monday, January 01, 2018 10:42 PM

Have to wonder how many locos are suffering DC traction motor failures due to all the powder snow ??

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Posted by MIClipper on Tuesday, January 02, 2018 3:28 PM

Trian 30 that departed Chicago on Dec 31 was terminated at Pittsburgh due to a CSX derailment near Cumberland. We were bussed to Washington.  Late departure was due to late inbound 29 and crew rest issues.

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Posted by runnerdude48 on Monday, January 08, 2018 6:20 PM

You guys think that is bad you should have been in Penn Station on the evening of January 5.  Very little was leaving on time.  Multiple NJ Transit trains held for no explained reason.  Broken rail held all inbound and outbound Empire Service trains.  Long distance trains all held for frozen toilets, frozen doors and frozen other stuff.  The LSL was running almost 6 hours late with no estimate as to when it would arrive due to the broken rail.  The concourse was absolutely standing room only with crowds of people waiting their NJ Transit trains home with more people pouring down the escalators.  I believe that the Silver Star due out at 11:02 AM was still not in the station at 6:00 PM.  Many NEC trains delayed or cancelled.  Glad I was just passing through to my hotel.  The mess had been mostly straightened out by Sunday at noon but even that day's Silver Star was delayed and based on conversations overheard the previous days train had been cancelled and a number of the waiting passengers had been waiting over 24 hours to depart.  Example of why I seldom travel in the winter, by any mode.

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Posted by Kevin C. Smith on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 1:57 AM

CMStPnP
Another example was the wierd boarding of the California Zephyr.   Coach passengers were boarded first.   Sleeping Car passengers were held until last....no idea why that was but I suspect the attendents needed more time to attend to prepping the beds in the car for the first nights passengers.......just a guess, I did not ask and have no idea why they reversed boarding priority.



     My guess is that the CZ's coaches are toward the front of the train, and the sleepers in the back (at least, that's how I remember it from my trips). Given that there are more coach than sleeper passengers, it would be less congestion on the platforms to get them through the gates first.

"Look at those high cars roll-finest sight in the world."
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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 8:07 AM

Kevin C. Smith

 

 
CMStPnP
Another example was the wierd boarding of the California Zephyr.   Coach passengers were boarded first.   Sleeping Car passengers were held until last....no idea why that was but I suspect the attendents needed more time to attend to prepping the beds in the car for the first nights passengers.......just a guess, I did not ask and have no idea why they reversed boarding priority.

 



     My guess is that the CZ's coaches are toward the front of the train, and the sleepers in the back (at least, that's how I remember it from my trips). Given that there are more coach than sleeper passengers, it would be less congestion on the platforms to get them through the gates first.

 

 

Generally, the sleepers. except for the car with accommodations for the onboard service crew, are on the rear, though I do have a memory of their being on the front on one of my trips. I definitely remember when my wife left here for Sacramento nine years ago, we walked almost the entire length of the train, in a snowstorm, before we reached our car. And, the time I had a roomette in the crew's car when coming back from Chicago, I walked through the coaches to get to my roomette (I did have opportunites to talk with the conductors that trip).

Johnny

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