Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

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ryanch
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by ryanch »

I know we've been advised that the proper place for additional service on the Empire Builder is in another thread, but I'll tentatively post this here, since I see it as somewhat different.

I'm planning a family ski trip to Cascade Mtn., near Portage, WI. The Portage/Wisconsin Dells area is a fairly big regional tourist destination. I wonder whether Wisconsin has ever considered an extension of 1 or 2 Hiawathas to the area.

The Builder schedule isn't ideal for a vacation routing with it's mid-afternoon departure from Chicago, and mid-day run back from Wisconsin. For my family, that would mean either losing two days of recreation, or taking additional time off work. Extending, say, the 5:32 departure from Glenview would allow a Friday departure without taking time off (maybe leaving the office early), and still getting us to Portage at a reasonable hour. Arguably, a similar timing on a return trip would work well.

I recognize that "similar timing" would mean extending two trains, which may make this even less likely. The Builder runs Portage-Milwaukee in 1:40, or Wisconsin Dells-Milwaukee in 2 hours, so you'd be adding a 5-6 hours of running time, which may not work with existing or planned train-sets.

Does anyone know whether this has ever been considered?

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by mtuandrew »

It’s a great idea and I don’t think anyone has seriously considered it :-D the closest would be the Madison service proposal, which would probably extend that same train from MKE. I don’t think Wisconsin Dells on its own is a big enough destination unfortunately, or at least not one with a big voting population!

In a future where the Builder is allowed 110 mph on parts of the ex-MILW and can shave down to 7 hours reliably, you might only have to take a couple hours off & pull the kids from school after a half-day. I don’t imagine there will ever be a departure that goes solely to the Dells - politically it would have to reach at least La Crosse or Eau Claire, and then you may as well hit the Twin Cities to garner MnDOT financial support, and if you do that you’d better arrive at a more reasonable hour than 11pm as now.

This would be a good place for a bus bridge. I get the frustration about it just not being the right schedule for a train, and short of having an overnight CHI-MKE-MSP train arriving at the Dells at midnight and departing for Chicago at 6am, I don’t think it ever will be the right time.

gokeefe
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by gokeefe »

Routes focusing on tourism destinations almost never make sense for Amtrak service. Seasonal demand is too unreliable and uneven.
gokeefe

ryanch
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by ryanch »

The Portage/Wisconsin Dells area has summer and winter vacation seasons, and fall to a lesser degree. I get that it still might not make sense, but think that this is worth mentioning.

I think it's also worth considering that successful NEC extensions in Virginia provide a possible template. The existing Hiawatha service is a very successful corridor that it might be possible to hitch a new wagon to.

A fair amount of attention has been given to making a second Twin Cities train work, which would certainly require new equipment, etc. I don't know whether you can extend an existing run to the Dells without losing that trainset for its return to Chicago, but that's the essence of my question.

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Rockingham Racer
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by Rockingham Racer »

gokeefe wrote:
Fri Nov 29, 2019 3:19 pm
Routes focusing on tourism destinations almost never make sense for Amtrak service. Seasonal demand is too unreliable and uneven.
The Denver ski train seems to have done well, though. Enough to increase service this year.

gokeefe
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by gokeefe »

That service has all costs not covered by fares paid for by the resort.
gokeefe

electricron
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by electricron »

Rockingham Racer wrote:
Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:35 pm
gokeefe wrote:
Fri Nov 29, 2019 3:19 pm
gokeefe wrote:
Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:57 pm
Routes focusing on tourism destinations almost never make sense for Amtrak service. Seasonal demand is too unreliable and uneven.
The Denver ski train seems to have done well, though. Enough to increase service this year.
That service has all costs not covered by fares paid for by the resort.
Additionally, when the Ski Train runs, it runs only on weekends when most people have a day off for recreation purposes, in this case skiing. They do not run an extra local train during the spring, summer, or fall seasons for fishermen, hikers, and mountaineers panning for gold.

Amtrak runs extra trains on the NEC, and longer trains elsewhere during the Thanksgiving season because there is a higher demand for seats than during the rest of the year. While not purely for recreation purposes or tourists, it is definitely not the normal travel patterns existing the rest of the year.

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Rockingham Racer
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by Rockingham Racer »

gokeefe wrote:
Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:57 pm
That service has all costs not covered by fares paid for by the resort.
Well, yes, I know. But I was responding to the second statement of your post. But we're veering off topic. Sorry!

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by mtuandrew »

Rockingham Racer wrote:
Sat Nov 30, 2019 7:26 am
gokeefe wrote:
Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:57 pm
That service has all costs not covered by fares paid for by the resort.
Well, yes, I know. But I was responding to the second statement of your post. But we're veering off topic. Sorry!
But are we? I don’t know if the Dells visitor bureau has that kind of cash, but for the right price Amtrak might be willing to run an extra-long Hiawatha on Friday evenings between CHI and WDL, returning Sunday afternoon.

eolesen
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by eolesen »

I can see an argument for an extension to Portage/Dells on Fri-Sun.

It's only about 120 miles/minutes, and would use up about 5 hours of crew time total.

David Benton
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by David Benton »

It would require an extra set of equipment, as the current service returns to Chicago, as the last train from Milwaukee. Unless they split the trainset, I can't imagine the last service been more than 1/2 full.
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eolesen
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by eolesen »

David Benton wrote:
Tue Dec 03, 2019 5:45 am
It would require an extra set of equipment, as the current service returns to Chicago
Not so sure about that -- looking at the service patterns, there are two overnighting trainsets at MKE.

Last two trains arriving into MKE @ 2135 and 0054, which is after the last departures back to CHI. The first two trains departing @ 0615 and 0805 appear to be using those two trainsets. Run those to Portage/Dells, and bring 'em back @ 0400 and 0600.

A third trainset would make for more palatable timings, but I'd expect CP to be less than enthusiastic about it.

Might need a siding at Wisconsin Dells to make this work, though.... it's single track. There's an old siding about a half mile short of the station that might be able to be upgraded and/or extended up to the station platforms, and a passing siding about two miles west where they could go in the hole until it's time to return... Given how many competitions and events they do in the off season, this might be something the locals or the state would be willing to fund.

lstone19
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by lstone19 »

eolesen wrote:
Tue Dec 03, 2019 7:23 am
David Benton wrote:
Tue Dec 03, 2019 5:45 am
It would require an extra set of equipment, as the current service returns to Chicago
Not so sure about that -- looking at the service patterns, there are two overnighting trainsets at MKE.

Last two trains arriving into MKE @ 2135 and 0054, which is after the last departures back to CHI. The first two trains departing @ 0615 and 0805 appear to be using those two trainsets. Run those to Portage/Dells, and bring 'em back @ 0400 and 0600.
Only on Friday nights are there two sets overnighting in Milwaukee. Every other night has one set in Chicago and one in Milwaukee. And during the day including on Sunday, all equipment makes 30 to 60 minute turns in Milwaukee back to Chicago. So any sort of Sunday afternoon service from Portage or Wisconsin Dells would require another set of equipment.

The other thing is even if you did send those two on to Wisconsin Dells at night, the arrival times would be very late. It takes the EB about two hours from Milwaukee to Wisconsin Dells so you are looking at 11:30pm and 3:00am arrivals. Neither is family friendly and Wisconsin Dells is primarily a family destination.
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eolesen
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by eolesen »

Well, WisDOT did fund cars for expansion... maybe it's time to up that order.

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Rockingham Racer
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Re: Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

Post by Rockingham Racer »

For an extention of service to points west of Milwaukee, I imagine that CP would want double track. I don't thinks there's any at the moment.

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