Amtrak Southwest Chief Discussion

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Amtrak Southwest Chief Discussion

Postby Jeff Smith » Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:26 pm

http://hutchnews.com/Localregional/city ... 4T18-33-11

Reroute possible?

The funding gap, Deardoff said, is $300 million over the next decade, including $111 million needed for immediate repairs in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

Without the repairs, rail speeds could be reduced until the Southwest Chief eventually is rerouted along a more southerly route that would leave Hutchinson and western Kansas without rail service.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Tadman » Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:50 pm

That is a lot of darn money to run 1x/day through flyover country. Reminds me of the debacle facing the Builder where they're going to pay millions to keep that flooded route open when there's a perfectly good alternative route open. These are examples of egregious wastes of money that open Amtrak up for criticism. Such is an example of pork barrel, not reducing carbon footprint or the like.

Wichita has NINE TIMES the population of Hutchinson and it's not served. When school is in, Manhattan has about double the population and it's not served. Why must Hutchinson have service?
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby goodnightjohnwayne » Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:42 pm

So, if BNSF has ended freight service between La Junta, CO, and Lamy, NM, and downgraded the route between Hutchinson, KS, and La Junta, CO because of decreased or reoriented traffic, how does it make economic sense to maintain the entire route to 79 MPH standards? For one train a day in each direction? Oh, and $15,000 of lobbying money from each of 10 communities who think that the rest of us should spend $300 million solely for their benefit. Why don't the city fathers of Hutchinson, KS try to raise 10% of $300 million from their own taxpayers. For a community of 42,000, that's only $714 for every man, woman and child to pay. Of course, that would be a lot of money. It's always a lot of money, unless the money belongs to someone else.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:54 pm

I haven't been shy about wanting to see continued and expanded service where possible. Just as Tadman pointed out, the first priority ought to be rerouting the Southwest Chief through Wichita and Amarillo, just as the Empire Builder ought to take the Surrey Cutoff rather than being the only tenant of the GN high line.

However, in both cases I think there is a need for supplemental shorter-distance service. For the Builder route, that should come in the form of CHI-MSP-GFK service and a bus connection to Winnipeg. To supplement the Chief, I'd advocate for Kansas City-La Junta-Pueblo-Denver service. Perhaps it's a bit of pork directed towards western Kansas, but it also would serve major cities in Colorado that haven't had service since before 1971.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Mr.T » Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:55 pm

Tadman wrote:That is a lot of darn money to run 1x/day through flyover country. Reminds me of the debacle facing the Builder where they're going to pay millions to keep that flooded route open when there's a perfectly good alternative route open. These are examples of egregious wastes of money that open Amtrak up for criticism. Such is an example of pork barrel, not reducing carbon footprint or the like.


The alternative route for the Empire Builder would have eliminated service for 3 out of 7 of N.Dakota's stations, Grand Forks, Devil's Lake, and Rugby, so I'd hardly consider it to be a "perfectly good alternative". AFAIK the cost of raising the tracks is being split roughly equally between Amtrak, BNSF, and N.Dakota. BNSF plans to resume freight service once the work is done, because the detour route around the flood zone was less than ideal. I consider this to be a worthwhile project on a route that still has some utility for both passenger and freight.

As for rerouting the S.W. Chief onto the Transcon, how much time and mileage would this add to the route? This would also add a backup move to reach Albuquerque. Besides Wichita and Amarillo what are other likely stops? I'm guessing that the cities and towns would be expected to pay for their own stations.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:42 pm

I am not sure about this one, sometimes smaller cities generate more traffic than bigger cities, I don't know if this might be the case here or not. It is not a bad idea to continue on the present route if a way can be found to pay the costs of maintanance of the route to passenger train standards. One thing highly in favor of the present routing is very little freight train traffic means very little freight train related delays. I wouldn't jump to conclusions on this one.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Tadman » Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:32 pm

I'm very sure about this one. $400m to maintain the ATSF passenger line and rebuild the Devils Lake area. That's a waste in my book. It's not like the North Dakota passengers are going to stop using Amtrak, they're going to drive to whatever stations Amtrak starts to serve. Money doesn't grow on trees, it comes from whoever buys our gov't IOUs.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby hi55us » Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:53 pm

Tadman wrote: it comes from whoever buys our gov't IOUs.


Which is our Banks! So keep your money with Bank of America!
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Backshophoss » Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:25 pm

If last years reroute due to the "track" forest fire proved anything,the Transcon is not ready yet,timekeeping was a lost cause.
There are still 2 single track sections in NM(Fort Sumner+ Vaughn),the trackage between Newton-Mulvane would need to be brought back
to Passenger train standards and a reinstall of Automatic Train Stop Equipment on the Clovis,Hereford,+ Panhandle subs to run above 79 mph.
Add to that ,you need to keep a EB main track thru Belen yard open to connect with NMRX at Belen Jct.
The only reverse move needed will be from the Abajo wye to ABQ station platfroms
NMRX might need to rebuild the passing siding at Los Lunas.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Jeff Smith » Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:10 am

Noel Weaver wrote:I am not sure about this one, sometimes smaller cities generate more traffic than bigger cities, I don't know if this might be the case here or not.


Noel makes a great point; larger cities may have (better) air service. If a smaller city does not have air service, or limited flights, train service might be the better alternative.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby joshuahouse » Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:17 am

Will all these reroute ideas endanger the NEC/Heartland alliance? For years people have talked about the need to have pro-Amtrak voters in Congress that are enticed by the services that exist.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:25 am

hi55us wrote:Which is our Banks! So keep your money with Bank of America!


A. P. Giannini appreciates your plug for his Bank of Italy. Youngsters, do a little giggling and you'll know from whence I cometh :)

But more to the point, I accept Mr. Weaver's position that LD's do provide a greater public service when routed through regions that have fewer alternative transportation resources, such as Interstate highways as well as available - and affordable - air transport. That would suggest 3-4, Chief, should stay on the existing route. Our new member, Mr. Backshop, also suggests that the "Transcon" is 'not ready for prime time' with regards to handling a scheduled passenger train. Additionally there remains the matter of how to provide economic and efficient service to Albuquerque in the event of a reroute.

But, on the flip side, as several here who like myself put the pocketbook before the passion have noted, the possibility that Amtrak could be burdened with the incremental cost of maintaining some 355 miles, Newton-LaJunta, at FRA Class 4 (psgr 80mph) over the apparently existing Class 3 (psgr 60mph) as well as the entire La Junta-Lamy segment (try all the way to Albuquerque if NM elects some Tea Party governor and Railrunner is gone with his inauguration) is simply economic madness - especially when BNSF is "openly receptive' to handling The Chief over the Transcon.

Regarding service to Albuquerque in the event of a reroute, the only reasonable way to handle such is Ambus - QED.

Finally, it is a safe assumption that at 60 Mass, Government Affairs, which is hardly staffed by a cadre of dummies, will carefully weigh the political impact of the reroute. If the Mayor of Hutchinson KS blows his wind to a local media reporter who, enjoying the access and would like to continue having such, will write whatever he wants, that will be weighed against showing the 'Amtrak haters on The Hill" that we are attempting to serve the public, but we also have their pocketbook in mind.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Station Aficionado » Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:14 am

Ah, but NM did elect a Tea Party governor, Mr. Norman, although the state leg remains in the hands of the Dems. That's why the state pulled out of the purchase of the Lamy-Trinidad segment. Not sure whether she thinks the political fight to kill the railrunner worth the candle.

Over at the Trains website, Fred Frailey's latest post says BuffettNorthernSantaFe is sending bills to Amtrak for the maintenance cost on Lamy-Trinidad, which Amtrak then studiously ignores.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Station Aficionado » Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:18 am

Backshophoss wrote:There are still 2 single track sections in NM(Fort Sumner+ Vaughn),the trackage between Newton-Mulvane would need to be brought back to Passenger train standards and a reinstall of Automatic Train Stop Equipment on the Clovis,Hereford,+ Panhandle subs to run above 79 mph. Add to that ,you need to keep a EB main track thru Belen yard open to connect with NMRX at Belen Jct.

I don't think there's any need for reinstalling ATS. 79mph would be sufficient.
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Re: Southwest Chief Under Threat? Reroute?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:22 am

Station Aficionado wrote:Ah, but NM did elect a Tea Party governor, Mr. Norman, although the state leg remains in the hands of the Dems. That's why the state pulled out of the purchase of the Lamy-Trinidad segment. Not sure whether she thinks the political fight to kill the railrunner worth the candle.
That's what i thought, but wasn't completely sure.

Over at the Trains website, Fred Frailey's latest post says BuffettNorthernSantaFe is sending bills to Amtrak for the maintenance cost on Lamy-Trinidad, which Amtrak then studiously ignores.
Just what we need; a "knock down drag out' with Amtrak's best contractor - at least so far as operations are concerned. Throw some Kibbles and Bits at the 60Mass Legal Beagles; they're howling and "ready to rumble".
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