North Coast Hiawatha Study

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updrumcorpsguy

North Coast Hiawatha route idea

Post by updrumcorpsguy » Wed Mar 16, 2005 1:22 pm

I was wondering how much of this route through Montana is left.

In an ideal world, it would be neat to see a third leg of the Empire Builder that would run from Billings to Spokane, or at the very least Bozeman to Spokane, so that there could be easy connections to Yellowstone. It would be a kind of klugey way to get to Chicago, but would be a slick way to get to and from Montana from the West Coast.

A sleeper, coach, and coach-lounge could probably do the trick. Maybe a coach-baggage as well.

David Benton
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Post by David Benton » Wed Mar 16, 2005 2:29 pm

Ill think youll find the national park is "car terriotory ".
When i tried to get there from Pocatello , some 15 years ago , there was no public transport , i had to hire a car .
and really , to camp in the park , your advised to have a car in case of bear threat .
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updrumcorpsguy

Post by updrumcorpsguy » Wed Mar 16, 2005 2:48 pm

Actually, many national parks have hotels, lodges and motels that offer lodging for the non-camper. And in the case of the of Grand Canyon, there is even a very popular rail service - in my opinion, it's the only way to go to Grand Canyon.

This extension of the EB would still depend on some sort of motor coach connection to Yellowstone, but once there, a car is not necessary at all to visit the more popular spots.

AmtrakFan

Post by AmtrakFan » Wed Mar 16, 2005 8:14 pm

Mr. L,
Most of the Line is still there I would like your idea of the train.

The S.P. Caboose

Post by The S.P. Caboose » Wed Mar 16, 2005 11:23 pm

I know my memory, for medical reasons, isn't what it used to be, but didn't the North Coast Hiawatha used to run in the 1980's?

AmtrakFan

Post by AmtrakFan » Thu Mar 17, 2005 5:05 pm

Mr. SP,
The NCH was Adidos in 1979 ran from 1971 to 79.

The S.P. Caboose

Post by The S.P. Caboose » Thu Mar 17, 2005 5:18 pm

Thanks AmtrakFan.

Richard Y

Post by Richard Y » Tue Mar 22, 2005 8:09 pm

I wish they would revive the Olympian Hiawatha (circa early 1950's) with its bright yellow colors and mini-dome cars. The route from Chicago through central Montana to Spokane and Seattle would make for a great tourist excursion run. If not Amtrak, maybe BNSF would be interested. I keep hoping a state-side equivalent to the Canadian Rocky Mountaineer would be envisioned by someone. It would be great to once again have a passenger train access to Yellowstone.

Gilbert B Norman
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Post by Gilbert B Norman » Tue Mar 22, 2005 8:29 pm

Mr. Y, I wish I knew what to make of your statement.

MILW Lines West was abandoned during 1980, parts have been converted to non rail use, such as a nature trail up the St Paul Pass from Avery, ID.

Further, the Olympian, did not have "mini domes" (whatever that may mean), but rather had Full length Super Domes.

Fortunately, MILW equipment survives, and has been lovingly (I mean that) restored mainly by the "friends of 261" organization. Also, Mr Web-Lurker (may I share that you are a Member at this site?) has carefully reported the disposition of the MILW domes, to which the Skytops, even though single level cars, he gives the title of "honorary domes" .

lattasnipe9
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North Coast Hiawatha Study

Post by lattasnipe9 » Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:11 am

The news reports I've read about the upcoming North Coast Hiawatha restoration study don't state anything about including the Willmar, MN (instead of St. Cloud) routing that the pre-1979 Empire Builder took. Will the study look into this possibility or is it out of the question?

jp1822
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North Coast Hiawatha Study

Post by jp1822 » Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:29 am

Is the study focusing on establishing the North Coast Hiawatha as sort of a separate train completely from the Empire Builder or perhaps just an extension running from say Spokane across the southern tier of Montana, but not necessarily hooking back up with the Empire Builder (stub-end). If it would just be a "stub-end connection" this could be done with running single level equipment as trying tofind Superliner for the service is definitely going to delay any startup. Course if they could run a "day train from some connection with the Empire Builder across the southern tier and then have it hook-up with the Empire Builder "later in the day" that also could be a potential with a single level train set. But timekeeping would need to be strictly adhered to. Some how I don't see that would happen. Perhaps one option would be to run the "Portland section" of the Empire Builder as the "North Coast Hiawatha." But whether it would be able to have a Sightseer Lounge Car, enough coaches (for both trains), be able to operate with a Superliner Diner (or equivlelant - Diner-Lounge I am afraid) and if a single sleeper coupled to a Trans Dorm Sleeper (if available) would be enough for the North Coast Hiawatha would be interesting. This service sort of was able to operate with Superliner equipment with having the train set alternate between operating one day on the regular Empire Builder route and one day on the North Coast Hiawatha route. A stub train from Spokane to southern Montana may be the best to start off with!

NellieBly
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Re: North Coast Hiawatha study question

Post by NellieBly » Sun Aug 16, 2009 3:15 pm

Well, I think the study will address the very issues you mention. As to the Willmar line, this used to be GN's fast mainline route from Fargo into MSP. The line through Alexandria, MN was a secondary main (now partly abandoned and partly shortline Otter Tail Valley).

BN didn't need three lines from Fargo to MSP, so the Alexandria line was let go, and the former NP through Staples became the main line. The Willmar Line, after the Amtrak discontinuances of 1979, became a secondary main with a 40 MPH speed limit, handling mostly grain trains. But with the growth of traffic over the past decade, the former NP has become saturated (especially around Becker, MN where BN unwisely lifted a number of miles of second main).

The Willmar line is still CTC, and I'm told the speed limit has been raised and some intermodal trains run that way. So I suppose it is possible we might see Amtrak service there, if the NCH every gets going again.
Randy Resor, aka "NellieBly" passed away on November 1, 2013. We honor his memory and his devotion to railroading at railroad.net.

mtuandrew
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Re: North Coast Hiawatha study question

Post by mtuandrew » Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:25 pm

jp1822 wrote:Course if they could run a "day train from some connection with the Empire Builder across the southern tier and then have it hook-up with the Empire Builder "later in the day" that also could be a potential with a single level train set. But timekeeping would need to be strictly adhered to. Some how I don't see that would happen.
If I remember correctly, in the 1960s the CB&Q, NP and GN (and later the BN) ran operations this way, operating the two trains as a single consist to either the Twin Cities or Fargo, splitting them to run their separate routes. They met again at Spokane to be reconfigured (the NCL being the slower of the two), then served the various Pacific Northwest cities. Can't remember whether it was the Empire Builder or the Western Star operated in such a way, but one of the two was paired with the North Coast Limited.
NellieBly wrote:Well, I think the study will address the very issues you mention. As to the Willmar line, this used to be GN's fast mainline route from Fargo into MSP. The line through Alexandria, MN was a secondary main (now partly abandoned and partly shortline Otter Tail Valley).

BN didn't need three lines from Fargo to MSP, so the Alexandria line was let go, and the former NP through Staples became the main line. The Willmar Line, after the Amtrak discontinuances of 1979, became a secondary main with a 40 MPH speed limit, handling mostly grain trains. But with the growth of traffic over the past decade, the former NP has become saturated (especially around Becker, MN where BN unwisely lifted a number of miles of second main).

The Willmar line is still CTC, and I'm told the speed limit has been raised and some intermodal trains run that way. So I suppose it is possible we might see Amtrak service there, if the NCH every gets going again.
The Willmar line is also the new gateway to the ex-Milwaukee lines in South Dakota and the shortcut to Montana, which makes me wonder if any intermodal traffic goes along the MRL and east through Aberdeen onto the Willmar line. Would be nice for a resurrected NCH to hit Willmar in any case, especially if it also enables commuter rail to the cities west of Minneapolis.

Station Aficionado
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North Coast Hiawatha

Post by Station Aficionado » Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:37 pm

I don't know if anyone has linked to this yet, but here is Amtrak's report on restoring service on the ex-NP route through southern North Dakota & Montana.

http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/PRIAA/NorthCo ... eStudy.pdf

The report lists just over $1 billion in projected startup costs, with some of the infrastructure improvements taking 4-5 years to implement. The ridership (360,000) and "farebox" recovery (52%) estimates are pretty good for a LD train, but the "list price" is pretty high.

A few other highlights:

--only option studied was a daily train operating separate from the Emprire Builder all the way from Chicago to Seattle

--total running time is about 48.5 hours WB, 50 hours EB

--same route as the Builder Chicago to Fargo, then the ex-NP through North Dakota and Montana to Sandpoint, ID

--in Montana, train would operate via Helena, rather than Butte, owing to line over Homestake Pass being out of service

--on the west end, train would operate over the Builder route from Spokane to Pasco, then follow the ex-NP line over Stampede Pass to reach Seattle (no Portland section)

--as with the other studies, Amtrak accepted host railroad's (CP, BNSF, MRL) assessment of needed infrastructure improvements, as well as the cost of such improvements

--conclusion is that train would provide a number of benefits, but Congress and states must decide if benefits are worth the cost (Can you say "punt"? Sure you can.)

I'm sure that, as with the other studies, the cost estimates will come under scrutiny and criticism.
Last edited by gprimr1 on Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Renamed thread to cover wider range of discussion.

mtuandrew
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Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by mtuandrew » Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:54 pm

I find it very suspicious that BNSF requires $546.6 million - over half of the proposed cost - to run an additional train daily each way. Aren't there enough alternate freight routes that they can use from St. Paul to the MRL at Jones Junction, and from Spokane to Seattle?

This LD reinstatement has the best chance of the bunch, but I do hope that a few senators lean on BNSF to bring their proposed costs down.

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