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Congress getting impatient with Amtrak not expanding rail service with the new money allocated.

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Congress getting impatient with Amtrak not expanding rail service with the new money allocated.
Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 9:39 PM

Hilarious, now the excuse is, well we want to expand rail passenger service but we do not have enough employees and are having problems meeting hiring targets.............oh boy.....

https://www.route-fifty.com/infrastructure/2022/09/lawmakers-push-amtrak-restore-cut-routes-and-expand-service/376844/

 

 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 10:03 PM

Most of the airlines are hiring but cutting flights and raising fares.

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Posted by 54light15 on Thursday, October 13, 2022 12:28 AM

Besides the routes mentioned in the article, where do they want to expand the service? In their own districts I suppose. Chicago to Florida would be a good expansion but that's been talked to death, hasn't it? 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, October 13, 2022 2:23 AM

54light15

Besides the routes mentioned in the article, where do they want to expand the service? In their own districts I suppose. Chicago to Florida would be a good expansion but that's been talked to death, hasn't it? 

 

They produced and published a nice little color magazine describing in detail including projected trip times for all new corridor services.    The title of the spend $66 Billion project is "AmtrakConnectsUS".

https://www.amtrakconnectsus.com/

What is rather comedic about Chicago to Florida is they brought almost the entire route back except for Louisville to Nashville portion for some strange reason.    So Chicago to Florida still not possible until they fill that short gap somehow.    I am still scratching my head there.   Such an obvious train.

Here is something that will also make you laugh.   Download the Corridor booklet at the above link and look at the Auto-Train Demographics at who the primary market is according to age.    While not surprising, also stupid Amtrak marketing has not broadened that specific trains appeal more.    Instead it is maintain status quo....milk the cash cow.

Amtrak clearly states in booklet two high priorities for expansion to proceed.    #1 Amtrak train priority on host railroads (policy and enforcement).   #2  Host railroad be willing to accept new services at a reasonable cost which would be reviewed by STB for costs.................which I think is the whole foundation of the legal arbitration taking place now with New Orleans to Mobile service.

 

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, October 13, 2022 8:10 AM

CMStPnP
 
54light15

Besides the routes mentioned in the article, where do they want to expand the service? In their own districts I suppose. Chicago to Florida would be a good expansion but that's been talked to death, hasn't it?  

They produced and published a nice little color magazine describing in detail including projected trip times for all new corridor services.    The title of the spend $66 Billion project is "AmtrakConnectsUS".

https://www.amtrakconnectsus.com/

What is rather comedic about Chicago to Florida is they brought almost the entire route back except for Louisville to Nashville portion for some strange reason.    So Chicago to Florida still not possible until they fill that short gap somehow.    I am still scratching my head there.   Such an obvious train.

...

I don't know what facilities NS has between Louisville and Nashville, what I do know is that the Louisville to Nashville line on CSX is one of the most congested on the system, at least when I was working.

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Posted by York1 on Thursday, October 13, 2022 9:42 AM

From the article:  "Cantwell said the passenger service needed to do a better job hiring employees to make rail travel more dependable.

I wonder if she has any suggestions on how that could be accomplished?

York1 John       

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Posted by n012944 on Thursday, October 13, 2022 10:19 AM

I find it amusing that Amtrak has the nerve to still call the Sunset Limited "suspended" east of New Orleans, almost 20 years later.

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Saturday, October 15, 2022 2:35 AM

Of course, that's the reason most routes exist -polticics. It certainly isn't much demand for passenger service once a day arriving at 2:30 in the morning

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, October 15, 2022 4:00 AM

CMStPnP
What is rather comedic about Chicago to Florida is they brought almost the entire route back except for Louisville to Nashville portion for some strange reason.

Not a strange reason at all, and in fact one that has been played up repeatedly here over the years.  The 'vision' is for corridor trains... in other words, transportation... with multiple trips per day (Chicago to Louisville, with mention of all the potential academic traffic, and Atlanta-Nashville).  If you click through, you can even see the overall trip times, none so long as to require extended crew service time or the probability of death marches if delays propagate.  Nowhere in there do I see a place for LD service giving a parallel to the Silver services for Chicagoans... even if the 'bottleneck' section were amenable to supporting longer consists at 'peak' freight-traffic times, perhaps at Auto-Train length.  

This despite it being somewhat obvious to me that extensive portions of at least some of the new trains will be run largely at night.  (Perhaps this is an implicit extension of the mentality regarding train crews to the passengers: ride when we tell you the trains will run, and never mind that whole circadian-rhythm or quality of sleeping business.)

I suspect at least some of the heavy traffic on this route is between Cincinnati and Bowling Green (where it splits off to the west and Memphis and I think Fulton) and trains there would have to be carefully blocked to 'fleet' with effectively scheduled traffic.  This is, I suspect, little effective problem for a sleeper train, which would run at no better than "efficient PSR" train speed through the curves and grades of Louisville-Nashville and then parts of Nashville-Atlanta.  A much more significant problem is negotiating Atlanta without yet worse stabbing: the sleeper would have to run together with the corridor trains as it almost certainly can't handle the jobs of one of each either conveniently.  And its raison d'etre is still elitist sleeper passengers between disparate regions, so any subsidy for it above the cost for the comparable 'corridor' segments might become a difficult sell.

Watch carefully to see the outcome in the STB of the discussions about Amtrak's 'right' to make new corridor train routes -- this might in fact be the reason for the Mobile trains vs. re-extending the Sunset to Jacksonville as part of the service 'provision'.

The amusing part is that I think Atlanta-Chattanooga is the heavier-trafficked and curve/grade infested part of the route, and throwing four spaced train movements into the existing traffic would be far more disparagingly resisted by freight carriers... unless, you see, there was a precedent saying Amtrak has the right to run anything it wants when it wants, as it and the Government say it does.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, October 15, 2022 3:07 PM

Overmod
Nowhere in there do I see a place for LD service giving a parallel to the Silver services for Chicagoans... even if the 'bottleneck' section were amenable to supporting longer consists at 'peak' freight-traffic times, perhaps at Auto-Train length.  

Great analytical post!

 Would it be possible to run a sleeper train via Cincy and Chattanooga, i.e. the old Rat Hole Route?

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Sunday, October 16, 2022 9:53 AM

Chicago-Florida service was discontinued by Amtrak in the late 1970's for lack of patronage.  Midwest-Florida service by Auto-Train didn't do much better, either.

Using the CNO&TP might be difficult due to the amount of freight traffic already on that route. 

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Posted by Gramp on Sunday, October 16, 2022 3:35 PM

Looking from the old world perspective, if the focus is travel between Chicago and Fla., might routing from Memphis to Jacksonville (using CN from Chicago) be a more workable choice?

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Sunday, October 16, 2022 5:07 PM

 

 

 

'

Gramp
Looking from the old world perspective, if the focus is travel between Chicago and Fla., might routing from Memphis to Jacksonville (using CN from Chicago) be a more workable choice?
  You're being a cayonista, darwing pretty lines on a map, putting the horse before the cart. The question is whether there is a market. History says there isn't. To quote an earlier poster,  "Chicago-Florida service was discontinued by Amtrak in the late 1970's for lack of patronage.  Midwest-Florida service by Auto-Train didn't do much better, either." So what has changed. Let's see some numbers from a formal study

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, October 16, 2022 6:27 PM

BEAUSABRE
 
Gramp
Looking from the old world perspective, if the focus is travel between Chicago and Fla., might routing from Memphis to Jacksonville (using CN from Chicago) be a more workable choice? 

  You're being a cayonista, darwing pretty lines on a map, putting the horse before the cart. The question is whether there is a market. History says there isn't. To quote an earlier poster,  "Chicago-Florida service was discontinued by Amtrak in the late 1970's for lack of patronage.  Midwest-Florida service by Auto-Train didn't do much better, either." So what has changed. Let's see some numbers from a formal study

And in the 70's the Interstates from the Midwest to Florida still had a lot of 'holes' in their route structures and were less than a easy drive.

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Posted by matthewsaggie on Sunday, October 16, 2022 7:57 PM

York1

From the article:  "Cantwell said the passenger service needed to do a better job hiring employees to make rail travel more dependable.

I wonder if she has any suggestions on how that could be accomplished?

 

Perhaps by not making their lives miserable once they are hired?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, October 16, 2022 8:43 PM

BEAUSABRE
You're being a cayonista, darwing pretty lines on a map, putting the horse before the cart. The question is whether there is a market. History says there isn't. To quote an earlier poster,  "Chicago-Florida service was discontinued by Amtrak in the late 1970's for lack of patronage.  Midwest-Florida service by Auto-Train didn't do much better, either." So what has changed. Let's see some numbers from a formal study

Technically correct but not a very good review.    First, the Auto-Train was combined with the Floridan for a while same train vs seperate.   Auto-Train did not do well on the route due to the Floridans crappy schedule keeping which deteriorated with the Penn Centrals track from 1971 to 1979.    Which is what led to the falloff in patronage.    Also there were the derailments caused by what was suspected were the new Amtrak locomotives.   The trains steam heated equipment was prone to failure as well.

There is a Chicago to Florida market if a train is provided with a decent schedule and route, especially for college students at Spring Break.   Have you looked at Auto-Train demographics Lorton to Sanford?   Majority of it's ridership are retired people taking their cars to Florida to their second homes and back.    Same market exists Chicago to Florida.    Problem is the Auto-Train ramp was in Louisville vs Chicago.   Why did they pick Louisville?  Because of the crappy track #1.   Secondarily they were after an entirely different demographic than Amtrak now carries.    They were after familes with kids on their way to visit the Disney park.    Not after a bunch of blue hairs taking their cars to Florida for the season.     So even if Amtrak revived the Auto Train on that route it would probably fail because not a lot of retired people are going to drive all the way to Louisville in the snow to go to Florida.    Now if they could change the marketing or appeal of the train back to include young people again......

Anyways, if you could provide a decent vs the time the Floridian was actually taking to tranverse the route (with very aged steam heated cars that broke down a lot and I believe the train was like late 80% of the time).    I think a newer train on a newer route would do OK.

And your probably going to get your wish on the numbers as Congress has mandated that Amtrak do a review on restoration of the Chicago to Florida Service.    It was passed with the Biden Infrastructure bill and the report is due Congress in 2023.   I am curious what Amtraks position is.    It's my hunch that the main reason they are holding off is horrendous startup costs of the new train vs ridership being low.   The route would require a lot of new staff and some new stations.   Also the fact it is a LD train and they are trying to avoid that segment unless they have dedicated funding for it.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, October 16, 2022 8:50 PM

Gramp

Looking from the old world perspective, if the focus is travel between Chicago and Fla., might routing from Memphis to Jacksonville (using CN from Chicago) be a more workable choice?

You would have to get out of Chicago FAST, and pay for significant signalling and track upgrades more than likely Memphis to Jacksonville at which point I would have the train flip to FEC to Miami, possibly contract with Brightline to run it South of Jacksonville, FL as it would be cheaper to use their crews than for Amtrak to train another crew South of Jacksonville.

I think the issue with bringing the train back is still crappy track and the cost it would take to bring it up to a level where a Passenger Train could run at 79 mph.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, October 16, 2022 9:07 PM

CMStPnP
So even if Amtrak revived the Auto Train on that route it would probably fail because not a lot of retired people are going to drive all the way to Louisville in the snow to go to Florida. 

Leaving from Louisville (instead of Chicago) is analogos to Leaving Lorton, VA (instead of New York) in the present Auto-Train route.  It serves a much larger collection area.  Also many retirees leave for Florida before the snow flies, as my parents witnessed on their annual FL migration.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 16, 2022 11:38 PM

CMStPnP
Gramp

Looking from the old world perspective, if the focus is travel between Chicago and Fla., might routing from Memphis to Jacksonville (using CN from Chicago) be a more workable choice?

You would have to get out of Chicago FAST, and pay for significant signalling and track upgrades more than likely Memphis to Jacksonville...

I'm assuming this isn't having the train make a square corner at New Orleans and then reconstitute the eastern part of the Sunset Limited adding traffic to the Mobile trains that have already caused such consternation.  We have discussed that already.

You could just run the train across the ex-Southern from Memphis to Chattanooga after you get that far, and take it south from there as Amtrak's plan says with the connection to Nashville being one of the planned day trains.  Or (although this is a bit of a kludge) run from Memphis (or perhaps via Fulton?) up to Bowling Green and then south to Nashville which is comparatively few route-miles.

I have no idea whether you could get any joy out of running east from Memphis to Grand Junction and turn south there, then back east near the Gulf coast.

I still fail to see the problem with the trackage between Louisville and Nashville.  All the times I went through Sonora on 65 in the middle of the night (where there is a very fast piece of railroad) I have never seen a train.

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Posted by Gramp on Monday, October 17, 2022 12:03 AM

Overmod

 

 
CMStPnP
Gramp

Looking from the old world perspective, if the focus is travel between Chicago and Fla., might routing from Memphis to Jacksonville (using CN from Chicago) be a more workable choice?

You would have to get out of Chicago FAST, and pay for significant signalling and track upgrades more than likely Memphis to Jacksonville...

 

I'm assuming this isn't having the train make a square corner at New Orleans and then reconstitute the eastern part of the Sunset Limited adding traffic to the Mobile trains that have already caused such consternation.  We have discussed that already.

 

You could just run the train across the ex-Southern from Memphis to Chattanooga after you get that far, and take it south from there as Amtrak's plan says with the connection to Nashville being one of the planned day trains.  Or (although this is a bit of a kludge) run from Memphis (or perhaps via Fulton?) up to Bowling Green and then south to Nashville which is comparatively few route-miles.

I have no idea whether you could get any joy out of running east from Memphis to Grand Junction and turn south there, then back east near the Gulf coast.

I still fail to see the problem with the trackage between Louisville and Nashville.  All the times I went through Sonora on 65 in the middle of the night (where there is a very fast piece of railroad) I have never seen a train.

 

I was thinking CN Chicago-Memphis, NS Memphis-Birmingham, CSX Birm-Valdosta-Jacksonville. Maybe combine  with CNO to Memphis in the off-season. 

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, October 17, 2022 2:14 AM

How does NS get from Memphis to Birmingham?  Isn't the direct route ex-Frisco, now BNSF?  That is a heavily-trafficked single-track line from roughly the Mississippi line...

Something of a major pain to turn from the current IC line via Central Station onto the line at Broadway -- up until comparatively recently the curve was still there but unused, but I think it is gone and might be difficult to re-lay.  As there is a connection between the CNIC freight bypass to Johnston and BNSF, but only southbound so you couldn't go to Johnson and turn east without backing and filling, that might be a better way to run a new train.

I don't think you'd want to split the train in Memphis, although there are two active tracks through the station to work with, and crossovers for power would be relatively simple to install.  HEP continuity would be a big concern.   

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Monday, October 17, 2022 5:30 AM

Gramp

Looking from the old world perspective, if the focus is travel between Chicago and Fla., might routing from Memphis to Jacksonville (using CN from Chicago) be a more workable choice?

 
Maybe  CNO to Memphis attached then BHM - ATL ??
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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, October 17, 2022 9:36 AM

Overmod
I still fail to see the problem with the trackage between Louisville and Nashville.  All the times I went through Sonora on 65 in the middle of the night (where there is a very fast piece of railroad) I have never seen a train.

BaltACD is correct.   When I worked for EDS on the Fort Knox, KY contract I lived just off that mainline in Elizabethtown, KY.       Reason you do not see a train much on the route is they are parked at various parts on sidings waiting.   The siding at Elizabethtown was a regular parking spot.     Between Elizabethtown and Louisville I would classify as foot hill mountain railroading to an extent given the curves and ups and downs of the route or maybe it is the freeway that goes up and down.    Their method of operation was to send one train over and park them at either end waiting for it to complete the journey over that segment if the trains were headed in opposing directions.     If headed in same direction not an issue to send multiple trains over.     Also, my observation is it was more movements at night then during the day..........not sure why that is but there are a number of really, really dangerous railroad crossings (due to lack of road visibility of the tracks) along the route as well.

This was the 1990's though before the gianormous increase in train length.    Back in the 1990's they had an issue with some sidings on the route being too small.   Which is probably a bigger issue now.    That is why they parked trains in the sidings where they would fit.    I know I saw one train park in Elizabethtown for days, to include lead locomotive consist shutdown.    I could not believe that train sat in that siding for like 2-3 days with the same loco number in the lead.     How a railroad can run like that?    I cannot explain it.    If I had a boxcar on that train I was waiting on I would be upset.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, October 17, 2022 4:18 PM

CMStPnP
 
Overmod
I still fail to see the problem with the trackage between Louisville and Nashville.  All the times I went through Sonora on 65 in the middle of the night (where there is a very fast piece of railroad) I have never seen a train. 

BaltACD is correct.   When I worked for EDS on the Fort Knox, KY contract I lived just off that mainline in Elizabethtown, KY.       Reason you do not see a train much on the route is they are parked at various parts on sidings waiting.   The siding at Elizabethtown was a regular parking spot.     Between Elizabethtown and Louisville I would classify as foot hill mountain railroading to an extent given the curves and ups and downs of the route or maybe it is the freeway that goes up and down.    Their method of operation was to send one train over and park them at either end waiting for it to complete the journey over that segment if the trains were headed in opposing directions.     If headed in same direction not an issue to send multiple trains over.     Also, my observation is it was more movements at night then during the day..........not sure why that is but there are a number of really, really dangerous railroad crossings (due to lack of road visibility of the tracks) along the route as well.

This was the 1990's though before the gianormous increase in train length.    Back in the 1990's they had an issue with some sidings on the route being too small.   Which is probably a bigger issue now.    That is why they parked trains in the sidings where they would fit.    I know I saw one train park in Elizabethtown for days, to include lead locomotive consist shutdown.    I could not believe that train sat in that siding for like 2-3 days with the same loco number in the lead.     How a railroad can run like that?    I cannot explain it.    If I had a boxcar on that train I was waiting on I would be upset.

One thing to remember - South of the Ohio River, the trackage for the Class 1 carriers is mostly Single Track.  Over the years the characteristics of the single track lines have changed - from Timetable & Train Orders with many short sidings to CTC with a significantly fewer number of longer sidings; but the lines are still single track.

It is not that hard for any single track railroad to be swamped with excess traffic - putting passenger trains on a line that is already at or beyond capacity does not enhance On Time of the passenger operation.

While I never had the CSX line between Louisville and Nashville as a part of my territory - I did know and converse with Dispatchers that did have that territory, they reported it was difficult to keep the line fluid.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 6:16 PM

For those unfamiliar with this route, there is one enormous grade on I-65 north of Nashville, just south of the Kentucky line, and then an enormous one just north of Elizabethtown up and past Fort Knox.  In both these places the railroad route diverges wildly from the Interstate route.  The line from Memphis and the connection from Fulton come in at Bowling Green, a little over 20 miles on I-65 from the Tennessee line.

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Posted by Gramp on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 8:52 PM

Maybe what all of these issues need is a Swiss-like decision where all of this stuff is needing to move in a way that doesn't make life miserable for everybody. We'll dig a huge hole in the ground, and this is where all of it will go. 

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 3:52 AM

Overmod
an enormous one just north of Elizabethtown up and past Fort Knox.

As a railfan who attended the Armor Officer Basic and Advanced Courses when they were still at Knox, I got to know Muldraugh Hill both on a professional (mainly map exercises) and fan (observation) perspective. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 10:40 PM

Overmod

For those unfamiliar with this route, there is one enormous grade on I-65 north of Nashville, just south of the Kentucky line, and then an enormous one just north of Elizabethtown up and past Fort Knox.  In both these places the railroad route diverges wildly from the Interstate route.  The line from Memphis and the connection from Fulton come in at Bowling Green, a little over 20 miles on I-65 from the Tennessee line.

So the line along I-65 is former L&N and it has very crappy grade crossing visibility for most of the route.    It is not too differrent from the D&RGW line climbing to Moffat Tunnel in places but in KY it does not gain the elevation.   Lots of sharp curves cuts, fills and I think a Tunnel or two.    Most all of it single track.

The line up to Ft Knox is former Illinois Central, I think it is Paducah and Louisville now.    It too is a steep climb with a decent wood trestle or two over the drops in elevation.    The climb is basically a rise from the Ohio River valley up to the Bluff overlooking it for the ex-IC route.      The L&N is a little less dramatic on the climb but it does achieve a fairly high elevation relative to the freeway in places.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, October 20, 2022 3:09 PM

These examples are a indication of why it is so hard to route any passenger trains CHI / Cincinnati - Florida.  Who do we blame?  Climate changes 50 million years ago.  The glaciers cut from NNE to SSW through all these locations.  the 35 - 65 degree off set angles of hills and valleys to north south alignments make any surface routes more difficult than the western US.   I Have driven I-77,  I-64, US-421, US-23, I-65, Blue Grass PKY, US-231, US-41.  None of them is easy.  Twists turns and grades no RR can really handle with ease.

Probably the best route is NS's  (SOU RR { CNO&TP }) rat hole route CIN - CHA.  That mainly because the owner, city of Cincinnati plows back the leese payment into additional improvements to the ROW.  It would require the CITY or Amtrak to invest into more 12 -  15K sidings  and 2  main tracks.   However, both CSX (NC&SL ) & NS (SOU ) From CHA to ATL  are much slower  for the same topo reasons.

IMO it would be less costly to use the CN ( IC ) route to Childes junction ( Near Paducah ) and follow the old ROW to abeam Land between the lakes and then NEW ROW following  I-24 to Hopkinsville then CSX to Nashville  . Then CSX onto CHA.  However that has the same topo problems from Bridgeport, AL.  up Mount Eagle to CHA which is slow MAX speeds, even though 2 MT.  NS has trackage rights as well to MEM. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, October 20, 2022 5:51 PM

It is so infuriating when topography gets in the way of straight lines people want to draw on maps.

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