North Coast Hiawatha Study

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

Post by goodnightjohnwayne » Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:52 pm

kmillard wrote:
From this study, it appears this revived "North Coast Mainstreeter" would perform quite admirably especially in comparison to other Amtrak LD trains with roughly 1000 riders a day (combined) and a higher than average farebox recovery of 58% to 52%. In fact, with 153 passenger miles per train mile, thats a superior projection to a restored Sunset between New Orleans and Orlando or a restored Pioneer. I just don't get why it would take Amtrak 4 to 5 YEARS from the time funding is available to add a single train. To me that's just godawful inefficiency and ineptitude.

I think it's time to open up bidding for service contracts to other service providers such as Royal Caribbean or Virgin and make this competitive rather than just let Amtrak assume that they get to run this service by default. If they have to be the horses @a$$e$ in the transport industry and can't get things done efficiently, then it's high time we find someone who will.
Keeping in mind that this service disappeared 3 decades ago, there is a great deal of infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt. Just as important is the current equipment shortage.

In the end, no "cruise ship line" could be any more effective than Amtrak given the labor considerations. You just can't operate passenger trains with third world labor at slave wages. I also don't think that any other transportation company could manage a federally funded equipment order any more quickly than Amtrak. Intercity railroad passenger equipment orders are so rare in North America, that 10 or 15 years can go by between major production runs. In contrast, there is a continuous order stream for airliners and cruise ships, so the lead times aren't as long.

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

Post by neroden » Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:53 pm

kmillard wrote:Question; Didn't the former North Coast Mainstreeter or whatever it was operate via Stampede pass before??? What would it cost to upgrade the ventilation on the Cascade tunnel???
My question is, what would it cost to electrify the Cascade tunnel and surrounding track (again) and provide powerful electric freight engines for BNSF to traverse it with (towing the diesel engines along with the rest of the train), and small yards to add and remove them? :-) That would eliminate the ventilation restrictions on it completely..... and Amtrak could tuck one or two electric passenger engines into those yards for its trains....

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

Post by kmillard » Sat Oct 24, 2009 11:53 pm

neroden wrote:
kmillard wrote:Question; Didn't the former North Coast Mainstreeter or whatever it was operate via Stampede pass before??? What would it cost to upgrade the ventilation on the Cascade tunnel???
My question is, what would it cost to electrify the Cascade tunnel and surrounding track (again) and provide powerful electric freight engines for BNSF to traverse it with (towing the diesel engines along with the rest of the train), and small yards to add and remove them? :-) That would eliminate the ventilation restrictions on it completely..... and Amtrak could tuck one or two electric passenger engines into those yards for its trains....

I don't believe the Cascade Tunnel ever was electrified. That was the Milwaukee Road main line which was electrified. Interesting article in Trains Magazine this month about electrifying railroads and the Cascade Tunnel would certainly be a prime candidate for electrification. Although I'm not sure why new trains cannot be added to the cascade tunnel with the advent of Ultra Low Emission Locomotives and Super Ultra Low Emission Locomotives which would already be Tier III compliant. It's not like we're sending first-generation Alcos through there anymore. Also Just not sure it would be worthwhile for Amtrak to purchase and maintain just a couple locomotives for the sole purpose of getting 2 -4 trains a day through the Cascade Tunnel. It would almost make more sense to lease the power from BNSF which would also be using them for freight. On the other hand, lets say BNSF electrified all the way from Spokane to Seatlle and/or Portland, then sure It would make sense for Amtrak to get a couple of electrics for that service. (Provided they are similar to electrics on the NEC for ease of maintenance and not unique on the system requiring extra training to maintain.)
"Government isn't the solution to our problems, government IS the problem."

Ronald Reagan

Station Aficionado
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Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by Station Aficionado » Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:23 am

kmillard wrote:I don't believe the Cascade Tunnel ever was electrified.
The tunnel was electrified from the early 1900's until the mid '50's. Here's a roster of GN's electric locomotives:

http://www.greatnorthernempire.net/inde ... osters.htm

The ventilation system was installed in the '50's and allowed diesel locomotive to operate through the tunnel. The short and isolated electrification was then shut down.

Station Aficionado
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Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by Station Aficionado » Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:32 am

kmillard wrote:I just don't get why it would take Amtrak 4 to 5 YEARS from the time funding is available to add a single train. To me that's just godawful inefficiency and ineptitude.
Actually, I believe it's the infrastructure improvements that CP, BNSF and MRL say are necessary that would take up to 5 years to complete. And I'd bet it was the freight RRs, not Amtrak, that supplied that timeline. Whoever supplied the timeframe, it does seem awfully long--afterall, it only took four years to get from Sacramento and Omaha to Promontory Summit.

mikeydc03
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Re: $1bn for a new North Coast Hiawatha

Post by mikeydc03 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:50 am

With the NCH running at about 2 hours off, two things could happen, if ridership on the EB drops significantly from CHI-MSP, or the NCL doesn't gain enough ridership, couldn't the train run combined with the EB until the routes diverge and allow Amtrak to run an 18 car train, then send each 9 car train across Northern and Southern Montana. And if schedules permit it, combine the trains each to Seattle and Portland, or Send one to Portland and one to Seattle and tack thru cars from each train on the opposite train.

There seems to be a lot of potential for this route, the double frequency from MSP-CHI seems to be the biggest draw, but hopefully there would be a bigger split to make the trains more beneficial.

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

Post by wigwagfan » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:37 am

kmillard wrote:Also Just not sure it would be worthwhile for Amtrak to purchase and maintain just a couple locomotives for the sole purpose of getting 2 -4 trains a day through the Cascade Tunnel. It would almost make more sense to lease the power from BNSF which would also be using them for freight.
You still have the issue of providing train power, and BNSF's freight motors wouldn't be set up to provide power to the cars. So Amtrak would need some way to take power from the overhead and send it through the HEP line - am I not correct?

I don't think BNSF would have any interest in only electrifying Stevens Pass - I think to make it worthwhile, it would need to be a Seattle-Havre, MT electrification (remember, you also have Flathead Tunnel with its extensive ventilation system, and then it would be an image statement to have the electrification run along Glacier National Park. You already have a shop complex and inspection point at Havre which makes it a natural location to change locomotives, since it's done today.)

However, the problem becomes where do you get the power from. The region's power generation capacity is maxed out. The area is already debating how to get wind and solar onto the grid, while removing the (very) few coal plants in the region, much of the hydro capacity, and NOT building nuclear. Oh, and we don't want more natural gas. Many of the wind-rich areas of Oregon in particular are off-limits for wind development (NIMBYism: Oregon Coast, Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, a number of federally protected areas in Eastern/Southern Oregon). Wind and solar has the potential to provide only 20-30% of the total power need for the nation, not considering new consumers like railroads.
--------------------------------------------------
Erik Halstead - Portland, Oregon

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

Post by mtuandrew » Sun Oct 25, 2009 4:10 pm

wigwagfan wrote:
kmillard wrote:Also Just not sure it would be worthwhile for Amtrak to purchase and maintain just a couple locomotives for the sole purpose of getting 2 -4 trains a day through the Cascade Tunnel. It would almost make more sense to lease the power from BNSF which would also be using them for freight.
You still have the issue of providing train power, and BNSF's freight motors wouldn't be set up to provide power to the cars. So Amtrak would need some way to take power from the overhead and send it through the HEP line - am I not correct?

I don't think BNSF would have any interest in only electrifying Stevens Pass - I think to make it worthwhile, it would need to be a Seattle-Havre, MT electrification (remember, you also have Flathead Tunnel with its extensive ventilation system, and then it would be an image statement to have the electrification run along Glacier National Park. You already have a shop complex and inspection point at Havre which makes it a natural location to change locomotives, since it's done today.)

However, the problem becomes where do you get the power from. The region's power generation capacity is maxed out. The area is already debating how to get wind and solar onto the grid, while removing the (very) few coal plants in the region, much of the hydro capacity, and NOT building nuclear. Oh, and we don't want more natural gas. Many of the wind-rich areas of Oregon in particular are off-limits for wind development (NIMBYism: Oregon Coast, Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, a number of federally protected areas in Eastern/Southern Oregon). Wind and solar has the potential to provide only 20-30% of the total power need for the nation, not considering new consumers like railroads.
I'll respond to most of this post on the BNSF Electrification thread, but wanted to remind our friendly posters that Amtrak would still run the North Coast Hiawatha and Empire Builder as diesel-only trains unless forced, legislatively, to do otherwise. At least, the Milwaukee Road did such for their Olympian Hiawatha, and I highly doubt Amtrak would prefer to lease BNSF motors or station their own motors out west until they can run the entire route under wire.

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

Post by goodnightjohnwayne » Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:08 pm

neroden wrote:
kmillard wrote:Question; Didn't the former North Coast Mainstreeter or whatever it was operate via Stampede pass before??? What would it cost to upgrade the ventilation on the Cascade tunnel???
My question is, what would it cost to electrify the Cascade tunnel and surrounding track (again) and provide powerful electric freight engines for BNSF to traverse it with (towing the diesel engines along with the rest of the train), and small yards to add and remove them? :-) That would eliminate the ventilation restrictions on it completely..... and Amtrak could tuck one or two electric passenger engines into those yards for its trains....
The easy answer is "too much."

When it come down to it, electrification doesn't make any real sense in terms of freight railroading, especially when traffic is down this much. Within the context of the early 20th century, before practical diesel locomotives, electrification made a degree of sense when it came to the issue of tunnel ventilation - although some railroads stuck with steam, went to oil as the fuel and even put the cabs on the head end of their locomotives.

Looking at the few examples of freight electrification which occurred three decades ago, it only really made sense when heavy coal trains were to be hauled over relatively short lines. Right now, with the coal industry threatened with regulator extinction, it just wouldn't make any sense whatsoever.

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

Post by kmillard » Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:18 pm

wigwagfan wrote:However, the problem becomes where do you get the power from. The region's power generation capacity is maxed out. The area is already debating how to get wind and solar onto the grid, while removing the (very) few coal plants in the region, much of the hydro capacity, and NOT building nuclear. Oh, and we don't want more natural gas. Many of the wind-rich areas of Oregon in particular are off-limits for wind development (NIMBYism: Oregon Coast, Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, a number of federally protected areas in Eastern/Southern Oregon). Wind and solar has the potential to provide only 20-30% of the total power need for the nation, not considering new consumers like railroads.

You don't even want to get me started about how frustrated I am over this administration's energy policy and how his lapdog congress and fawning press go along. Any good technology for harnessing whatever potential there is for wind and solar power is still many decades off. And yet this President and Congress keep hamstringing us at accessing domestic supplies of energy using that stupid "global warming" hoax as the excuse. France has been 80% nuclear for decades while we keep letting the movie "The China Syndrome" dictate our nuclear policy. If we were 80% to 85% nuclear like France is, we would have had abundant and cheap electric power and railroads would have electrified decades ago opening up the door for high-speed rail throughout the Nation.
"Government isn't the solution to our problems, government IS the problem."

Ronald Reagan

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

Post by wigwagfan » Sun Oct 25, 2009 8:44 pm

kmillard wrote:You don't even want to get me started about how frustrated I am over this administration's energy policy.
In all fairness, I wouldn't quite place all the blame on the current administration. Oregon lost the Trojan plant about a decade ago. Washington State never completed four of its five planned WPPSS plants in the 1980s.

That said, I otherwise agree with you.
--------------------------------------------------
Erik Halstead - Portland, Oregon

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

Post by kmillard » Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:47 am

wigwagfan wrote:
kmillard wrote:You don't even want to get me started about how frustrated I am over this administration's energy policy.
In all fairness, I wouldn't quite place all the blame on the current administration. Oregon lost the Trojan plant about a decade ago. Washington State never completed four of its five planned WPPSS plants in the 1980s.

That said, I otherwise agree with you.
What are these plants you refer to.... I know were getting a TAD off topic albeit just momentarily. But the only reason for that is the discussion of electrification of the Cascade tunnel and the fact that ventilation considerations would "force" any possible new trains via Stampede Pass. (I use the term "force" loosely because it's entirely possible that the State of Washington would prefer to have rail service reinstated in this area.)

And yes, I know that GWB had 6 years with a Republican-controlled Congress to move us away from the China Syndrome nuclear policy, yet did nothing. Of course, at that time, energy policy was hardly on the front burner from 2001 - through 2006.
"Government isn't the solution to our problems, government IS the problem."

Ronald Reagan

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

Post by wigwagfan » Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:29 pm

It's certainly valid (albeit straying from Amtrak) to discuss the differences between electrification then (ventilation concerns with steam locomotives) and now (diesel exhaust/pollution concerns, cost and availability of diesel fuel)...

WPPSS was a public power project initated in the 1970s to build a series of nuclear reactors - three on the Hanford reservation and two in Puget Sound. Only one of the reactors, WNP-2 (at Hanford) was completed and is owned/operated by Energy Northwest, a consortium of PUDs. Another reactor remains partially constructed, the other three reactors were never completed and what was constructed was torn down. WPPSS earned the nickname "Whoops" as it was involved in the largest municipal bond default in history.

Trojan was a plant owned/operated by Portland General Electric located about 25 miles north of Portland along the Columbia River, just across the river from Kalama, Washington. After years of problems causing several plant shutdowns, there were calls for the plant to shut down - while the public attempts failed, PGE finally gave up on the plant and began to decommission it. Some structures remain, but the reactor vessel is buried at Hanford (a controversial move in itself) and the cooling tower was demolished a few years ago.

With that - Oregon went from being an energy exporting state, to an energy importing state, and much of the power consumed in Oregon (especially in the winter months) is imported from Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and California...
--------------------------------------------------
Erik Halstead - Portland, Oregon

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

Post by jstolberg » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:31 pm

I noticed that all of the coach seats are sold out on the EB from Spokane to Seattle for 14 of the 16 days from December 19th through January 3rd. It wouldn't hurt to have a bit more seating capacity over that segment.

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

Post by kmillard » Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:05 pm

That's about the time when the whole system could stand to have a little more capacity but you can't take cars off one train at that time to put on another one because everyone's at capacity.

A Portland/Seattle - Spokane daylight regional train would probably do a lot to free up Space on the Empire Builder for Washington State passengers originating/terminating at points East of Spokane.
"Government isn't the solution to our problems, government IS the problem."

Ronald Reagan

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