Lake Shore Limited

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Lake Shore Limited

Postby 7express » Wed Jul 07, 2010 5:27 pm

Took this back from Chicago Monday night to yesterday and have a couple thoughts:

1) Why/when did it switch from the 7:30 Chicago departure to the 9:30 Chicago departure (I have an old timetable from Spring-Summer 2008 when it left Chicago at like 7:30 or 7:25)?? It took us almost 2 hours to get from the Rhinecliff station to the bridge at Sputyen Duyvil. If it went back to the 7:30 deparure, it would skip the rush hour traffic on metro north, and once we got to Poughkeepsie I don't think we went above 35 that whole stretch.

2) Why does the dining car get sent to New York while the Cafe car gets sent to Boston?? It doesn't arrive in Boston until 9:15 or so, so plenty of time to have a couple rounds of dinner. Unless they send out that same dining car on the Crescent, Silver Meteor or Silver Star, while the send that cafe car from Boston down an NEC run, doesn't make much sense to do that.

3) When have they started to do the switch at the yard?? When I took it from Springfield to go out to Milwaukee in 2002 they did the switch at the station, and I'm pretty sure when I camr back from Cleveland in 2006 it was at the station as well. Doing it at the station gives you an extended time to go out and stretch your legs (especially going to Boston) since you don't have a break longer then 10 minutes since Cleveland, and if your going to Boston won't have another one (I think Springfield is around 5 minutes) and its still around a 6 hour trip. Do they only do the EB switch at the yard, or are they doing the WB switch in the yard as well??
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:17 pm

Mr. Express, let's try to take a crack at your perfectly reasonable inquiries.

While obviously an earlier departure from Chicago, say after the close of the business day and a noontime arrival in NY (FWIW, 2.5hrs longer than The Century) would surely enhance local Chi to NY business, but the Lake Shore is now the only Daily train serving Amtrak's "hub' and the Northeast. If any of the Western trains, namely the Chief, Zephyr, Empire Builder, or Eagle were to be late (not that much of an issue at present, but wait until the economy recovers and railroads again see 3007 traffic levels), there would be misconnects and Amtrak is obligated to 'take care' of these passengers - and that gets costly. Having the Lake Shore set with a departure time roundly emulating that of the now-discontinued Three Rivers alleviates that problem.

Regarding the Dining Car assignment, I think you hit the nail on the head. The maintenance base for Diners is Hialeah and obviously Amtrak wants to get then there for periodics in revenue sevice rather than deadheading. Further, On-Board Service employees are paid by the hour so more hours more pay; also let us consider such would be the only Dining car in Boston which means that additional items would have to be contracted for with Amtrak's outside commissary. Therefore, having the car go to Boston, even if somehow it would serve more meals so routed - and I'm not sure about that one, would be counterproductive.

Finally, minds smarter than mine have determined that greater efficiency is attained, that so long as i believe some "pol' leaned on Amtrak to reestablish through BOS-CHI cars, by accomplishing the switch near the maintenance facility. My guess is that it results in less congestion at the station, but we have a number of members here better qualified to discuss that point.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Thu Jul 08, 2010 8:45 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby jp1822 » Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:40 pm

The Lake Shore Limited was pushed back to a later eastbound departure when the Three Rivers was eliminated. The Lake Shore Limited, as Mr. Norman notes, is now the "cleanup train out of Chicago. It's a horrible eastbound schedule that allows no dinner upon departing Chicago and no dinner while cruising down the Hudson River from Albany - even though one could be served - and was on the list of things that were "supposed to happen" but haven't. Instead there is the "pre-boarding" at Chicago for the Lake Shore Limited around 8 p.m. or so, if everything is on-time and all is in place etc.

The Heritage Diners are all based out of Sunnyside, New York. The cafe/lounge car assigned to the Lake Shore Limited stays with the Lake Shore Limited and is not rotated out to head down the NEC unless there are immediate or routine maintenance issues that Boston Yard crew can't handle. So yes, in a way, the Heritage Diners are pooled together with the Crescent and Silver Service Heritage Diners at Sunny Side. The Lake Shore Limited Diner stays intact with the inbound Lake Shore Limited until the next day's westbound departure. It could get swapped out if a Heritage Diner is bad ordered on the Crescent or Silver Service trains. In this case, an Amfleet Diner Lite may substitute until a Heritage Diner is "found" to be put back into the Lake Shore's consist. Even more reason why Amtrak needs to make ONE train do a same day turn at Sunnyside Yard. Presently none of the single level long distance trains do - and at least ONE could if scheduled properly.

It would make sense for a "Diner" to go to Boston, but the passenger traffic is just not there to support it any more. Amtrak feels the low traffic volume between Albany-Boston can be handled with an Amfleet Diner Lite car. I can remember when the Lake Shore operated with four coaches and two 10-6 Heritage sleepers to Boston (split from the Lake Shore at Albany). But not any more! Just two Amfleet II coaches, a cafe/lounge (hopefully Amfleet Diner-Lite) and a Viewliner sleeper.

Hopefully the Amfleet Diner Lite is assigned and not a Horizon dinette, as I think a Amfleet Diner Lite is better suited for pairing on the Lake Shore Limited as long as it has a Heritage Diner.

The Heritage Diner was pulled out of service from the Lake Shore Limited from about 2007 or so until just recently. Glad the Heritage Diner is back! But I see many head into the Albany train station to get their dinner for either the ride to Boston or ride down the Hudson River. Amtrak is missing a great revenue opportunity. The onboard staff for the Heritage Diner is basically not needed until the day following departure from Chicago eastbound - to serve breakfast and lunch (and occasionally a late dinner if the train is running very late).

Personally, I'd like to see an overhaul of Chicago-East Coast long distance Amtrak train service. I don't think the Capitol Limited nor the Lake Shore are suited for late night "clean-up service" out of Chicago. The Capitol Limited worked out great when it departed Chicago at 5:45 p.m., arriving in Washington DC at 12 noon. The Lake Shore would be great if it could depart at 6:45 p.m. - or something like that - and arrive into NYP around 2 p.m. The Three Rivers discontinuation really disturbed Chicago to East Coast long distance train travel. I doubt same day connections from westbound long hauls to east coast trains at Chicago would be dropped. Amtrak puts a lot of reliance on these connections.

Could the Cardinal be the "cleanup train" from Chicago to the East Coast under a new schedule - operating daily and divorced from the Hoosier State (i.e. Hoosier State would operate on a more passenger friendly schedule daily). Course I would say to terminate the Cardinal at Washington DC, as here, if needed passengers could transfer to NEC trains to NYP or even Boston (i.e. train 66/67 with a Viewliner sleeper restored leaving at 10 p.m.). Southern connections could actually be made via the Crescent and bus to Richmond (to the Silver Meteor, not the Silver Star). Course intermediate stops across the NYC Water Level Route and on to upstate NY and through central PA would be completely missed. Misconnect passengers could overnight in Chicago or Washington DC for the next day's train. The best solution was the Three Rivers as the "clean-up" train, perhaps operating over the NYC Water Level Route to Cleveland and on down to Pittsburgh, but I doubt that will come to be, even though it should with the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore and Cardinal (operating tri-weekly) are often booked up in advance. The discontinuation of the Three Rivers eliminated the Capitol Limited's schedule where by it left Chicago and Washington DC in the 5 p.m. hour and elimiated what was left of NYC-Chicago's premiere train - the Lake Shore Limited (Leaving NYP at 4:30 p.m. and Chicago at 6:45 p.m.). The Three Rivers was scheduled so it could even make connections with various southbound trains even at Philly travelling eastbound - especially if under a tightened schedule.

Perhaps middle ground would be alternating the Three Rivers and Cardinal on a tri-weekly schedule and Amtrak "flipping a coin" in hopes trains make it into Chicago for their eastward connections. But I'd still leave the Cardinal on a potential "clean-up" train out of Chicago - leaving Chicago around 9 p.m. with a tightened up schedule and perhaps improvements at Charlottesville to get on the NS main quicker.

And I did like the option of splitting the Lake Shore at Clevland, running one section to Boston, with the other to NYP. The Pennsylvanian could then shift to an afternoon departure from Pittsburgh.

Amtrak has options and could tighten schedules up possibly. It would also help if it could deploy more equipment where needed (i.e. the Cardinal) and make better utilization of equipment by doing a same day turn of perhaps the Silver Meteor at Sunnyside Yard, NYC. This would provide the needed Viewliners for a daily re-instated Three Rivers or every other day running for the Cardinal and Three Rivers (with a second Viewliner sleeper) and restoration of a Viewliner sleeper on the NEC (Northeast Regional trains 66/67). Course Amtrak may have to put one more Viewliner out in service rather than just the "39" on a given day!

EDITED: Cardinal/Three Rivers/NEC Sleeper Service option
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby 7express » Thu Jul 08, 2010 1:27 am

And I did like the option of splitting the Lake Shore at Clevland, running one section to Boston, with the other to NYP. The Pennsylvanian could then shift to an afternoon departure from Pittsburgh.


How would they do the split in Cleveland?? Have the Boston set run through New York, and the New York set run down the Cap route to Pitt and then the Pennslyvanian route to New York?? With the Empire service, it pretty much gets no passengers going to NYC anyways. From what I observed on the train, the majority of Penn people boarded in Chicago, and the majority of people from Boston to Albany were going to either of those stations or the Mass section.

And speaking of the Pennsylvanian, why not extend that out to Cleveland?? Its only about 3.5 hours if even that, so you could still do that run in 1 full day, just like the Palmetto from a couple years ago, instead of sending that 3rd train down to Miami, they stopped it in Savannah. I think it would get a lot more ridership if they did that extension with a cafe car & business class car. I'd much rather pay an extra $60 or whatever to upgrade to a business class seat then sit in that coach set on the LSL.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby CHANGEATJAMAICA » Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:07 am

New York/Chicago appears to be, along with the Silver Services, the only route where Amtrk ignores its apparent LD dictum: One a day each way. The traveler between the Big Apple and the Second City has the choice of 1.4 trains a day each way, counting the Toonerville Trolley masquarading under the title The Cardinal. In my humble opinion having traveled on both too many times neither provides anything but the minimum acceptable service level one should expect for trains operating between these two metropolises (motropili?). Actually I fabricate, neither provides the minimum acceptable service one should expect traveling between New York and Chicago. And to make matters worse, or exaserbate them as the current vogue goes Amtrak literally holds a gun to one's head when it comes to the cost of LSL sleeper accomodations. Amtrak has taken the law of supply and demand to a completely new and to me, unacceptable level. Me? I'll take Acela to Washington and catch the Cap to the Windy City and vis versa.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby jp1822 » Thu Jul 08, 2010 9:48 am

- Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited (if split at Cleveland) - run through upstate NY, into Albany and directly to Boston (those wanting to head to NYC from this section of the train would have to change at Albany to an Empire Corridor train).

- New York City section of the Lake Shore Limited (if split at Cleveland) - run down to Pittsburgh and then across central PA to Harrisburg/Philadelphia and end at NYC. It would run on the old Broadway Limited or Three Rivers route across PA.

Your not the first to suggest extending the Pennsylvanian to Cleveland. It's been suggested before, and was a major talking point when the Three Rivers was discontinued. But alas - the train's terminus stayed at Pittsburgh. Not sure if Cleveland would have a service/crew base. Remember at Pittsburgh, the Capitol Limited AND Pennsylvanian have a service and crew base.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby highrail » Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:38 am

I had the experience yesterday (7/8/10) of trying the loop from Boston to NY to Albany to Boston (the last link via the lakeshore) all in one day. The first 2 segments, ending in Albany were great, with the lakeshore a disappointment. The lakeshore seems chronically late, but that is based on heresay, although if yesterday was any example, it is no wonder that the numbers to Boston are not great. The train left Albany for Boston over 3 hours behind schedule, with faulty air conditioners and cranky passengers and crew. I think that better track speed and greater dependability would be a key to improving ridership on this line! If I were a business traveller, why would I take a 5+ hour trip (if it is on time) when I can drive the same distance in about three hours, and have greater dependability? Amtrak does so many things well, i.e. NE corridor and the line along the Hudson, but mix it up with trying to share track with CSX and it turns to mush. Yesterday reminds me why I have such mixed feelings about Amtrak, and why I hesitate to use them on a regular basis...not worth the hassle and not dependable.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby electricron » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:48 pm

highrail wrote: Amtrak does so many things well, i.e. NE corridor and the line along the Hudson, but mix it up with trying to share track with CSX and it turns to mush. Yesterday reminds me why I have such mixed feelings about Amtrak, and why I hesitate to use them on a regular basis...not worth the hassle and not dependable.


There's so many things that can go wrong and cause a train to be late, it drives me crazy to read so many instances that are self inflicted on Amtrak by Amtrak. I understand when there's a crossing accident and the train must wait for the police investigation to be completed. We've all have been or will be in traffic accidents, waiting on the police to do their jobs. I understand when a train stops because there is a medical emergency aboard. Taking care of the seriously ill passenger is more important than getting me to my destination on time. Freight train dispatchers favoring freight trains over Amtrak passenger trains is always causing trains to be late. These are things Amtrak has little to no control over.
But it is hard to accept self inflicted delays; locomotives breaking down, catenary line outages, the tracks are either too hot or too cold, and train crews reaching time limits in the middle of nowhere. Better engineering and maintenance should cure many of these self-inflicted ills.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby neroden » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:56 am

highrail wrote:I had the experience yesterday (7/8/10) of trying the loop from Boston to NY to Albany to Boston (the last link via the lakeshore) all in one day. The first 2 segments, ending in Albany were great, with the lakeshore a disappointment. The lakeshore seems chronically late, but that is based on heresay, although if yesterday was any example, it is no wonder that the numbers to Boston are not great. The train left Albany for Boston over 3 hours behind schedule, with faulty air conditioners and cranky passengers and crew. I think that better track speed and greater dependability would be a key to improving ridership on this line!


As with any line!

CSX has not been maintaining its lines in NY very well, but lately it's done OK from Albany to Cleveland.

Albany to Massachusetts is much slower, twistier, older track to start with, and frankly needs a bypass route (one of the few places in the country which really needs new-build).
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby CSX Conductor » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:57 pm

highrail wrote:I had the experience yesterday (7/8/10) of trying the loop from Boston to NY to Albany to Boston (the last link via the lakeshore) all in one day. The first 2 segments, ending in Albany were great, with the lakeshore a disappointment. The lakeshore seems chronically late, but that is based on heresay, although if yesterday was any example, it is no wonder that the numbers to Boston are not great. The train left Albany for Boston over 3 hours behind schedule, with faulty air conditioners and cranky passengers and crew. I think that better track speed and greater dependability would be a key to improving ridership on this line! If I were a business traveller, why would I take a 5+ hour trip (if it is on time) when I can drive the same distance in about three hours, and have greater dependability? Amtrak does so many things well, i.e. NE corridor and the line along the Hudson, but mix it up with trying to share track with CSX and it turns to mush. Yesterday reminds me why I have such mixed feelings about Amtrak, and why I hesitate to use them on a regular basis...not worth the hassle and not dependable.

OK, sorry if I sound rude, but I don't understand how you can complain about the length of your journey when it sounds like it was just a railfan joy-ride. Looks like you just picked a bad day. We all know that there are many routes in which one can drive between two points quicker than the train, but that is depending on traffic and many people prefer the train because they'd like to sit and relax or do work while still moving. As you can see by the fact that you left 3 hours late and arrived 2hours late, there is padding in the schedule. A major factor in the summer when running on CSXT territory during the summer is that when the temperature goes above 80 degrees CSXT issues Heat Restrictions, which requires passenger trains to reduce speed by 20mph, but not below 40mph. For example, on the Post Road Branch out of ALB, the speed is 79, but would be 59 with Heat Orders in effect. The rest of the B&A is average of 60, which would be 40 during heat orders. Other spots that are 50 or 55 would also be reduced to 40mph. This is a huge time difference over a distance of almost 200 miles. Trust me, the crews don't like doing 40 when they could be doing 50 or 60.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby JoshKarpoff » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:42 pm

And considering that the train originated in Chicago the day before and spent half of that traveling on CSX trackage, I'm surprised that it was ONLY 3 hours late into Albany. Also, remember, if it were an airline and there was a weather restriction, they'd just park your plane out on a taxiway somewhere at the airport, with all the passengers on board and no AC (I read about this happening all the time, frequently enough that even Congress has had to intervene).
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby gprimr1 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:04 pm

The problem is the Boston-Albany LSL is not intended to be used the way people want to use it. It's an extension of the Lake Shore Limited and assumes passengers going east are originating from points west of Albany. There is no real reliable option for people going east that originate in or after Albany.

Westward it makes a great way to get from Boston to Springfield, but eastwards it's a crap shot.

I agree the line needs rebuilding, but New England is not exactly economically booming and until that happens, I doubt you'll see much more than basic upkeep. The wild car is Norfolk Southern moving in by partnering with Pan Am. A NS/Pan Am joint venture now runs the Boston and Maine and has trackage rights down to New Haven. That competition could cause CSX to beef up their game, but I"m not hopeful.

It's very sad because MA's population is basically concentrated along either the B&A or B&M route, so there are a lot of cities online that would benefit from expanded Amtrak service.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby StLouSteve » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:07 am

In the old days, there was a NYC Beeliner (RDC) that connected to one of the Empire Service trains and provided a nice connection to MA cities. Something like this would be a nice addition to the LSL once a day service.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby electricron » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:57 am

gprimr1 wrote:The problem is the Boston-Albany LSL is not intended to be used the way people want to use it. It's an extension of the Lake Shore Limited and assumes passengers going east are originating from points west of Albany. There is no real reliable option for people going east that originate in or after Albany.

Westward it makes a great way to get from Boston to Springfield, but eastwards it's a crap shot.


That's true for any long distance train. The train is close to being on time the first afternoon of the trip, but by the next morning it can be hours late. Passengers waiting for the train's arrival towards the end of the run of a long distance train may wait an indeterminable amount of time for the train.
In a way, this is only experienced by Northeast Corridor patrons on just a few trains, the Lake Shore Limited being one. Usually, NEC patrons choose to ride "regional" trains northbound to NYC, for a valid reason. Heading southbound on a long distance train isn't much of a problem because the train just recently started.
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Re: Lake Shore Limited

Postby gprimr1 » Wed Jul 14, 2010 12:43 pm

Usually, NEC patrons choose to ride "regional" trains northbound to NYC


I'm not sure what you mean. You can't book a northbound ticket on a northbound LD train so regional or Acela is all they can ride. Do you mean they transfer in Washington? I never understood why people would do that. If I'm comfortable on the train I might as well stay there, after all once you make it to the NEC, you can make up a lot of time.
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