National Limited

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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National Limited

Postby StLouSteve » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:26 pm

Just wondering out loud here...how much of the old route of Amtrak's National Limited (KC to STL then east to NYP) could easily be restored--(believe this service was dropped in early 80s)? KC to StL sees daily Mule/Ann Rutledge Service, I assume part of the eastern route duplicates the Capitol Ltd, but with the break up of Conrail is the rest of the route intact?
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Re: National Limited

Postby hi55us » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:48 pm

I'm not sure about the trackage east of STL but it may be able to provide Carbondale-St. Louis service(which is now by motorcoach). Why not extend this train all the way to Los Angeles? The train could operate with a superliner consist from WAS
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National Limited

Postby jp1822 » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:55 pm

Perhaps this will fulfill former Amtrak President George Warrington's goal of establishing a high-end limited stop cross-country trip (largely consisting of sleepers and mirroring VIA's Canadian) that was supposed to operate Washington DC to the West Coast. Although it was inteded to skip Chicago provisions were going to be provided where by a Midwestern town would serve as a connection for Chicago passengers interested in riding this route. Course he fell short of money and equipment, let alone negotiations with the freight RR's. Not sure if it was intended to follow the route of the Southwest Chief or often the more touted scenic route of the CA Zephyr. Course it all sounded good on paper.

Any way, from what I recall from previous discussions on the National Limited, the western most and eastern most sections of the route are intact, but the mid section would either need some re-building, re-routng, upgrading or a combination of all three.
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Re: National Limited

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:42 pm

The National Limited was killed as part of the 1979 "Carter Cuts"; also on the casualty list were the Lone Star and the Floridian.

As noted above there are numerous places in which the PRR "Panhandle" (the line to Chi was the "Fort Wayne, or the Pittsburgh,Fort Wayne ,& Western which held in itself a 25% interest in the Chicago Union Station Company) has either been abandoned or sold to Short Lines - and likely the most significant gap is that which was sold to the Pittsburgh mass transit agency that has converted such to a "light rail' route - and the FRA prohibits "co-mingling" of "light" and "heavy" rail.

Beyond these comments, I defer to other members with more contemporary knowledge.

Suffice to say, if there is to be an initiative for passenger service through Central Ohio and Indiana, emulating that of the NYC's "Big Four", it will have to originate at Local level and would need "heap big wampum" of funding before the infrastructure could even be considered for a passenger train. Aside from a brief 1972 "stint" with funding "Lake Shore One", Ohio has shown no interest whatever in funding any passenger train. Indiana also participated in "Lake Shore One", but since that one year initiative ended, has only funded Chicago-South Bend service on the South Shore.
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Re: National Limited

Postby matthewsaggie » Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:11 pm

I rode the National a number of times in the early 1970's and large stretches of the track have been removed. The train ran from KC to STL, Indianapolis, Dayton OH, Columbus OH, Pitt, and on east. I don't have a map near by at the moment, but I think all the track between STL and Columbus is gone or so downgraded to be of no value. If I recall, all of this was PRR track. I miss the National- despite the fact that it was about 8 hours late each of the half dozen or so times I rode it, it was interesting train trversing an interesting area, and I met a lot of interesting people on it. Had a full diner and lounge in those early years, later a diner/lounge combo. It left a very big hole in the Amtrak network.
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Re: National Limited

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:01 pm

I am not sure about this but I think they can still go to Crestline and pick up the "Big Four" there for Cincinnati where I again
think the B & O might still be able to be used to get to St. Louis.
On another subject, it seems to me that the existing line east (former Conrail) between St. Louis and Terre Haute is former
Pennsylvania athough east of Terre Haute I think it is former New York Central.
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Re: National Limited

Postby inch53 » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:20 am

Noel Weaver wrote:I am not sure about this but I think they can still go to Crestline and pick up the "Big Four" there for Cincinnati where I again
think the B & O might still be able to be used to get to St. Louis.
On another subject, it seems to me that the existing line east (former Conrail) between St. Louis and Terre Haute is former
Pennsylvania athough east of Terre Haute I think it is former New York Central.
Noel Weaver


The NYC tracks from Terre Haute to St Louis has been gone from Paris IL on west, since the early 80’s. CSX runs on the PRR, Vandalia line for that run. CSX does run the NYC tracks from Indy to Terre Haute. Both lines are in good condition.
The B&O [CSX] tracks from Vincennes IN to St Louis is still used and is in good condition, but don’t know how much is left in Ind.
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Re: National Limited

Postby NellieBly » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:33 am

The original Amtrak "National Ltd" ran NYP to PIT on the former PRR (with a Washington connection via the Port Road and Perryville, MD), thence the former PRR "Panhandle" line to St. Louis. Current status of this line is as follows:

1) Pittsburgh to Mingo Junction, Ohio: track out of PIT over the Monongahela River is now a PAT light rail line. West of that point, part of the line is an industrial track, most is abandoned. Routing option would be via Rochester, the Bayard Branch, and the Yellow Creek Secondary to Mingo.

2) Mingo Jct. to Columbus is owned by the state of Ohio, operated by Ohio Central RR. It's a 40 MPH unsignaled railroad.

3) Columbus to Indianapolis is mostly gone. Parts may still be in service as industrial tracks

4) Between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Conrail (now CSX) uses the former NYC. The former PRR is abandoned west of Ben Davis tower.

5) Terre Haute to St. Louis, the former PRR is in service as a CSX main line

If the "National" were to be revived, one possibility would be to run west to Crestline on the former PRR, then either to Columbus or Indianapolis on active CSX lines. From Columbus, you'd have to go to Cincinnati and then west on the former B&O, or miss Columbus altogether and run via Indianapolis.
Randy Resor, aka "NellieBly" passed away on November 1, 2013. We honor his memory and his devotion to railroading at railroad.net.
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Re: National Limited

Postby jhdeasy » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:11 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:The National Limited was killed as part of the 1979 "Carter Cuts"; also on the casualty list were the Lone Star and the Floridian.


The 1979 "Carter cuts" at Amtrak also included The North Coast Hiawatha and The Champion.

1979 was also the year that Southern Railway's Southern Crescent became an Amtrak train.
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Re: National Limited

Postby neroden » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:58 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:likely the most significant gap is that which was sold to the Pittsburgh mass transit agency that has converted such to a "light rail' route - and the FRA prohibits "co-mingling" of "light" and "heavy" rail.


No. That part is insignficant; it's mostly just the bridge across the Monogahela. There are multiple alternate connections from the west which would be better for reaching Pittsburgh Penn Station in the right direction. (probably crossing to the north side of the river and NS tracks near somewhere called Glanford?).

The missing tracks in Ohio and Indiana, and the vast, vast stretches which are currently maintained to low standards by branch lines, are the significant parts.
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Re: National Limited

Postby Midlands Steve » Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:13 pm

Getting back to the original question which asks how much of this route could easily be restored, I would say that Indianapolis to Dayton, through Richmond, would qualify. Double track with no grade crossings. Although I would like to see a revived National Ltd., or perhaps even the Penn Texas, I am not optimistic about it, and would just as well like to see high speed corridors developed where practical. Along the old PRR "Panhandle" route, St. Louis to Indianapolis; Indianapolis to Dayton; Dayton to Columbus; and Columbus to Pittsburgh come to mind. For now, we should at least have two train each way between STL-IND (just as we have between STL-KCY).
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Re: National Limited

Postby bratkinson » Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:34 pm

While Amtrak would certainly benefit from the restoration of the route taken by the National Limited, there is no business purpose to do so.

If you are assuming that Amtrak would be the sole beneficiary of the restored route, even via some circuitous routing when necessary, it would create a major cost and maintenance expense to be borne solely by Amtrak. This is akin to the Post Road Cutoff in NY that has only one train per day in each direction...448 and 449. Track maintanence occurs about once every 10 years on this 10 mile (or thereabouts) portion of track that Amtrak owns.

In short, WHO would own the restored route? WHO would operate/dispatch on the route? WHAT FREIGHT??? The customers that were along the former PRR are largely gone, or, at least, gone over to trucks. In other words, even if some regional railroad were to own a portion of the route, would Amtrak be burdened with 100% of the cost to operate and maintain the route?

In short, although the I-70 corridor sees a fair amount of highway traffic, is there sufficient freight traffic available to justify restoration of the route to Amtrak standards (69 mph)? I don't think so. And if you think Uncle Sam will gladly pick up the tab for one, even two trains a day on a route it's already paying the tab for, think again.
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Re: National Limited

Postby inch53 » Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:19 am

Midlands Steve wrote: Along the old PRR "Panhandle" route, St. Louis to Indianapolis; Indianapolis to Dayton; Dayton to Columbus; and Columbus to Pittsburgh come to mind. For now, we should at least have two train each way between STL-IND (just as we have between STL-KCY).


There is interest in restoring passenger service along the St Louis-Indy route, but odds are against it. Indiana doesn’t seem to have much interest in investing money for it. As for Illinois, well it’s like a state senator friend said, “If it doesn’t go to Chicago, it never get funding under the current leadership”
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Re: National Limited

Postby Tadman » Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:30 am

Good luck getting passenger money out of Indiana. They fund NICTD and that's it. I don't see this changing any time soon. It's not good, but I'm trying to be a realist.
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Re: National Limited

Postby Paul1705 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 10:54 am

Regarding a route via Crestline: yes, it’s possible, but that would serve either Columbus or Indianapolis but not both. Either way, it’s hard to see a restored National being a strong route.

The key state to think about is not Indiana but Ohio. If the latter develops the “Three-C” corridor (Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati), then one could imagine a branch from Crestline to Canton and Pittsburgh – and maybe to New York eventually. Also, a Cleveland-Crestline-Indianapolis train might happen – and that might be extended to St. Louis.

But until Ohio makes the first move, I don’t see much happening in this region.
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