Amtrak cancels Empire Builder out of fear of Xanto

4468 views
75 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    November, 2013
  • 1,179 posts
Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Friday, April 20, 2018 1:38 PM

cx500
But as several of us have tried to point out, the risk factor was virtually nonexistent.

And others have pointed out that going the safe way was the best Amtrak could do. I'm one of those.

How do you know there was no risk? From the discussion here?

Cancelling trains is not the end of the world. They are convenient, but not essential. The life goes on even without a train for a few days. A lot of communities in the the area between the routes of EB and CZ don't have the luxury of passenger trains.

Perhaps Amtrak considered the existence of ambulance-chasers and possible high damages into the risk assessment in case something might happen.

Yes, we take risks when walking and driving but we are responsible ourselfes for doing so. In passenger train travel Amtrak takes over the responsibility for us.

There are different opions as we see. But they are moot as Amtrak decided to cancel the EB trains. It is monday morning quarterbacking.
Regards, Volker

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,185 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, April 20, 2018 5:31 PM

charlie hebdo
I can report, however, that the sanitary conditions on DB (and most other service operators in Germany) today are vastly improved over thoe 30+ years ago.

I'll bet you can until I pay for that next trip and find out differently.    Seriously though I returned close to the year 2000 (forget the exact year), to find the once immaculate DB trains sprayed with graffitti, even the new Italian High Speed Train between Rome and Florence had some idiot that sprayed paint on it.

I'll give you an C at effort though at trying to convince.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,185 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, April 20, 2018 5:54 PM

VOLKER LANDWEHR
And others have pointed out that going the safe way was the best Amtrak could do. I'm one of those. How do you know there was no risk? From the discussion here? Cancelling trains is not the end of the world. They are convenient, but not essential. The life goes on even without a train for a few days. A lot of communities in the the area between the routes of EB and CZ don't have the luxury of passenger trains. Perhaps Amtrak considered the existence of ambulance-chasers and possible high damages into the risk assessment in case something might happen. Yes, we take risks when walking and driving but we are responsible ourselfes for doing so. In passenger train travel Amtrak takes over the responsibility for us. There are different opions as we see. But they are moot as Amtrak decided to cancel the EB trains. It is monday morning quarterbacking. Regards, Volker

I interpreted it more as an operational decision vs safety, since they have a new CEO.   

Why inconvinence passengers and potentially totally screw up your nationwide equipment availability because someone wants to prove they can move a train over the road?     And this also kind of fits with the haulage of Private Cars and the new policy there.    Fact is (via my own observation) some of the Class I and Terminal switching railroads were notoriously tardy and completely without care to Amtrak train schedules when it came to their contract to switch in and switch out private cars.    So the new CEO of Amtrak saw that and now we have a new policy (agreed it was not the only reason but it was part of the reason stated).   

Really it is not the point that the train could have moved over the road.    The point was could it have done so and maintained a schedule as well as a minimum service point that passengers expect?     I think the answer was, the risk was too high.   Housing passenger train passengers in a local gym represents failure not success here (I guess it is considered a success they are not dead but should the standard really be that low?).

I am hoping the concern for the passenger continues with the new CEO in the area of timeliness and equipment availability.     Again the main business of Amtrak is to haul passengers not cattle.    One life form has slightly higher standards with transportation than the other.   

Perhaps maybe some day with a little attention and some kicking of Class I railroads in the butt.   We might see a Amtrak train poster with the caption "The On Time Machine".    Maybe even soon we might see some of these po-dunk passenger stations dropped from the train schedules in favor of not stopping at all to speed up travel a little more?

Who knows, maybe even a 21st Century Amtrak not still stuck in how things were done back in the 1960's?

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: NotIn, TX
  • 520 posts
Posted by VerMontanan on Friday, April 20, 2018 11:09 PM

CMStPnP

 

That crap might be OK if your from Montana and used to those smells from the local pit toilet outhouse.

However, among the population with newer indoor plumbing

Overall, this post is easily rebutted for those with knowledge of contemporary railroad operations, but doing so is clearly not worth it.  Your verbiage so describes the person you are.

Mark Meyer

  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,738 posts
Posted by cx500 on Friday, April 20, 2018 11:46 PM

CMStPnP
Housing passenger train passengers in a local gym represents failure not success here (I guess it is considered a success they are not dead but should the standard really be that low?).

You completely missed the point.  Failure is GUARANTEED when the train is cancelled, as happened in this case.  Success is running the train and providing the needed service in a timely manner.  The risk of serious problems on the main line is slim to begin with.  The risk increase to the physical well-being of the passengers due to weather conditions that are a regular, and routinely overcome, challenge to operations in the area is so negligible as to be laughable.  And in that other 0.00001% of the time, solutions can be found, like the school gym for some off-train relaxation.

After all, airplanes still take off in New York even though lifeboats and cranes are not now stationed all along the rivers, so as to be prepared should another passenger jet make an unexpected splash-down.  An unexpected problem, and local initiative pitched in. 

Those of us who actually understand, live and work in that northern type of climate are saying that any risk was grossly exaggerated, by several orders of magnitude.  Cancelling the Empire Builder was a ridiculous over-reaction.

 

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,185 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, April 21, 2018 6:19 AM

cx500
Those of us who actually understand, live and work in that northern type of climate are saying that any risk was grossly exaggerated, by several orders of magnitude.  Cancelling the Empire Builder was a ridiculous over-reaction.

Baloney, bottom line is if the train is not cancelled a passenger with the ticket investment has two choices,   take the train and the risk or lose out on the money.   Cancelled train allows the passenger to travel another day and keeps them at their origin where they do not have to take the risk.    Financially and risk wise, cancelling the train is more advantageous to the passenger.

Clearly this entire thread has revealed again a fundamental misunderstanding in the American railroad industry with just providing a service vs providing exemplary customer service.    Just providing a service is OK for cattle, providing in the past excellent customer service is what most paying passengers will use in the future when it comes to repeat patronage.

Just providing a service in the area of contract switching for Amtrak led us to the current restrictive haulage of Private Car rules that we see being implemented.   Had the same contract railroads provided exemplary customer service, would Amtrak still felt the need to implement those rules?    Maybe, maybe not.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,185 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, April 21, 2018 6:26 AM

VerMontanan
Overall, this post is easily rebutted for those with knowledge of contemporary railroad operations, but doing so is clearly not worth it.  Your verbiage so describes the person you are.

Or you could just compare average service time (table turn around time) in your average bum truck Montana restaurant with service time in North Dallas and you would also have your answer.    Time is valued differently depending on where you live and you will never convince me that time is valued for a Montana passenger in the same way as it is for most of the rest of the country.   

When I ride Amtrak LD I want to arrive on time to make connections and I don't care what the weather is outside.   During weather events I am somewhat more tolerant of delays and could probably accept an hour or two delay.    More than that and someone in management made a bad decision to run the train in the first place.

Now granted there are railfans on here that will accept 6 and 8 hour delays or the train crawling along at 20-30 mph.....thats their perogitive I guess.    Not me though, I pay for a ticket and I expect decent service.     I must say that on almost every single Dallas to Chicago Texas Eagle trip I have taken I only had one bad travel experience last Christmas with the departure from the origin point (weather related).     The train probably should have been cancelled then but someone made the decision to try and run it despite the massive problems at CUS that day.     

The most the Texas Eagle has ever been late on the Dallas to Chicago Leg while I have been riding it has been 2 hours.     Which given the schedule padding I think is not that big of feat.    But if it sometimes runs with an 8 hour delay WITH schedule padding, I would begin to have doubts with Union Pacific and Amtrak both.   Never has happened to me though.    On that route UP has had issues with signals as well as traffic and still we get to Chicago within that acceptable window (for me) of at most 2 hours late.     Empire Builder even though it has a better on time record generally than the Texas Eagle.........I know from living near the tracks when I was younger has been horribly late at times.    Usually fault of BNSF but sometimes CP.      It is just not late often and hence you have the nice on time stat BUT sometimes when it is late...........hate to be a passenger on that specific train.

  • Member since
    November, 2013
  • 1,179 posts
Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Saturday, April 21, 2018 9:45 AM

As we are all monday morning quarterbacking here I'll link to a summary of storm Xanto: https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2018-04-12-winter-storm-xanto-forecast-rockies-plains-midwest

I expect that everybody sees his opinion supported y the link.Wink
Regards, Volker

  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,738 posts
Posted by cx500 on Saturday, April 21, 2018 11:07 AM

CMStPnP
Now granted there are railfans on here that will accept 6 and 8 hour delays or the train crawling along at 20-30 mph.....thats their perogitive I guess. Not me though, I pay for a ticket and I expect decent service.

I am perplexed.  You are not prepared to accept a possible delayed arrival by a number of hours safely seated in a warm train, but are quite prepared to accept a delay of several days waiting in a hotel in a strange city.  Not everyone is retired and has that degree of flexibility.  When I pay for a ticket I expect the carrier to make its best efforts to live up to its side of the deal, whether it be rail or air. 

BNSF continued to run its regular freight trains, and was expecting to handle Amtrak with no problem.  I hope, but doubt it happened, that Amtrak compensated the passengers that had their travel plans disrupted by the cancellations.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,185 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, April 21, 2018 3:10 PM

cx500
BNSF continued to run its regular freight trains, and was expecting to handle Amtrak with no problem.  I hope, but doubt it happened, that Amtrak compensated the passengers that had their travel plans disrupted by the cancellations.

I don't choose to live in Montana or Alaska and most Empire Builder travelers do not live in Montana.   As I indicated earlier that might be a frame of reference that is driving the difference of opinion here.     So should the entire Amtrak ridership pay a price because someone choose to live in Montana and now with a moderate to heavy snow storm the entire state is closed for business?     I don't think that is fair.

I have never spent days in a hotel due to a weather delay, the most I ever had to deal with was 6-8 hours delay via the airlines.    Because I cancel my ticket and go with another carrier if it looks like the delay will be longer.    Typically Southwest is the best for recovering / handling weather delays in this country and they are the default I go to when American, United or Delta falls apart and their CSR's can't explain when Humpty Dumpty will be put back together again.   In my experience, Southwest usually recovers their network in 1/3 to 1/4 the time it takes American or Delta Airlines to do it.     Then I call the offending airline which was clueless as to when they could have a free flight again and ask for my money back in a partial refund or future credit.

Amtrak paid for the hotels & meals of passengers when they were enroute to CUS on another Amtrak train and their connecting train was cancelled at CUS.   So I am guessing they compensate to an extent at least on what they refer to as a guaranteed connection.

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • From: Equestria
  • 6,518 posts
Posted by zugmann on Saturday, April 21, 2018 3:18 PM

cx500
I am perplexed. You are not prepared to accept a possible delayed arrival by a number of hours safely seated in a warm train, but are quite prepared to accept a delay of several days waiting in a hotel in a strange city.

Well, as long as the HEP keeps working, the toilets don't get filled, food doesn't run out. 

 

I think I'd take my chances in a hotel any day. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

  • Member since
    September, 2017
  • 572 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, April 21, 2018 3:30 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
charlie hebdo
I can report, however, that the sanitary conditions on DB (and most other service operators in Germany) today are vastly improved over thoe 30+ years ago.

 

I'll bet you can until I pay for that next trip and find out differently.    Seriously though I returned close to the year 2000 (forget the exact year), to find the once immaculate DB trains sprayed with graffitti, even the new Italian High Speed Train between Rome and Florence had some idiot that sprayed paint on it.

I'll give you an C at effort though at trying to convince.

 

You have no idea how many DB trains I have ridden since you rode once in 2000 (maybe 80-112?). Your posting about this subject is indicative of an ignorant person who tries to bluff his way towards persuading others he is an expert.  Obviously many others on even this thread share a similar opinion of the 'sandwich man.'

  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,738 posts
Posted by cx500 on Saturday, April 21, 2018 9:57 PM

CMStPnP
I don't choose to live in Montana or Alaska and most Empire Builder travelers do not live in Montana. As I indicated earlier that might be a frame of reference that is driving the difference of opinion here.

Indeed that is the case.  For instance I don't choose to live on the Gulf Coast, so I have no experience with the storms there.  Without first hand experience I defer to the knowledge of those who live in the area.  Their opinion is valid; mine less so. 

A winter storm may be scary in the many parts of the continent that rarely see on, but that is not the northern interior of the USA and Canada who take them in stride.  Sometimes the highways may get closed but that is often mostly to save incompetent drivers from themselves.  Meanwhile rail traffic continues to roll on through, as would Amtrak.

I notice that you are very reluctant to tolerate more than a couple of hours of delay, presumably paying extra to reticket on another airline.  Yet apparently it is OK for an Amtrak passenger travelling to and/or from places without the luxury of competing airlines to be delayed by a day or more, simply because of remote nervous Nellies in management.

 

Moderator
  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • 63 posts
Posted by David Lassen on Sunday, April 22, 2018 9:10 AM

I see a lot of insulting going on in this thread. Please keep the discussion to the topic, not your opinion of the other posters.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 3,185 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, April 22, 2018 11:18 AM

cx500
I notice that you are very reluctant to tolerate more than a couple of hours of delay, presumably paying extra to reticket on another airline.  Yet apparently it is OK for an Amtrak passenger travelling to and/or from places without the luxury of competing airlines to be delayed by a day or more, simply because of remote nervous Nellies in management.

Kind of a faulty comparison there because the big airlines (of course one could also point out it is only the unionized carriers) also have routine weather delays that delay a traveler one day or longer.    The last attempt by American to stick me in Kansas City due to a hail storm at DFW airport would have lasted 2 full days before I could get a flight out.   

So it depends on airline of course not always geography.

After 4 hours of waiting and after the second American flight cancellation (which would have pushed me into day #2)........I just called Southwest Airlines and I was out of there.    I left my employer to haggle with American over the ticket refund because clearly this was American Airlines and not the weather (which they continued to blame) especially since a competing airline was operating the same route without issues just a few hours after the hail storm.    Coincidently the competing airline  (Southwest) was non-Union and for some strange reason has a faster wheels-up to wheels-down time on the Dallas to KC route despite both airlines flying 737's.....go figure.    And the baggage is usually out on the baggage conveyor by the time I get from the plane to baggage claim (little to no wait there).

If Southwest responded that they could not fly me back until day #2, I would have rented a car and drove as Kansas City to Dallas is drivable in shorter timeframe.

  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,738 posts
Posted by cx500 on Sunday, April 22, 2018 10:55 PM

Ah, excellent example.  Perhaps American was cancelling in part because they considered the weather was too risky, either then or earlier in the day which disrupted the network.  Southwest Airlines presumably had a different opinion. You felt running a possibly increased risk was justified in order to get home closer to the original schedule, rather than accepting that American's opinion was the right one.   The difference is that you were dealing with factors with which you had personal experience and could make an informed judgement.

BNSF did not see any measurable risk for running Amtrak through the area of the storm, and were expecting to accommodate it.  They backed up their view by continuing to run their own traffic just as normal (like Southwest?).  And BNSF is extremely risk-averse.  In the Seattle area there are some slide prone areas, and whenever one happens, even a minor one, they refuse to handle any occupied passenger train for 48 hours through that area.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy