Amtrak Service Returns in Western New York; Trains elsewhere see problems

Eastbound Lake Shore Limited conductors board January 13, 2009 in the snow at Buffalo’s Depew station. Amtrak services in western New York resumed Sunday after a record snow storm. Bob Johnston

BUFFALO, NY — After a two-day hiatus while up to 6 feet of lake-effect snow fell in Buffalo, Amtrak trains resumed service through western New York today (Sunday, November 20), though many roads in the area remained impassable.

Meanwhile, as the Thanksgiving holiday — and its usual high ridership — approached, operational disruptions began to appear on several long-haul routes west of Chicago, as well as on state-sponsored routes in Chicago.

The last train to venture west of Albany-Rensselaer, NY was on Thursday November 17th imperial service No. 283, which was finished at Syracuse; he usually goes to Niagara Falls, NY. The equipment returned to New York City from Syracuse as No. 284 Friday morning. An earlier eastbound departure, train No. 280, had been canceled for Albany on Friday. Abbreviated versions of cross-state Rich Until Saturday, trains only ran south of the state capital to New York.

That Lake Shore Limited did not run Wednesday through Saturday from Chicago and Thursday through Saturday from New York. but the wagons and sleeping quarters were sold out for the Sunday departures in both directions.

Cascading delays on western long-distance routes

Chicago-Seattle/Portland, Oregon, empire builder, , which recently faced operational problems, saw the delay multiply after the westbound train hit a car Thursday afternoon in Brookfield, Wisconsin, west of Milwaukee. The 4-hour police delay after the driver’s death was followed by a traffic jam en route to the west coast. After the train returned east that same day, the delay grew to more than 9 hours by midday Sunday as the builder transited through Idaho and Montana.

After arriving in Chicago, which will likely be late Monday evening or early Tuesday morning and passengers will miss eastbound connections, the same equipment will be heading west again on Tuesday, November 22 at 3:05 p.m. The three coaches are already sold out on the Chicago-Columbus, Wis. segment.

Longer delays also affected the Chief of the Southwest Departs Los Angeles on November 16th. Departed 4½ hours late from its first eastbound stop boss lost another 3 hours to Albuquerque, NM and three more to Chicago, arriving almost 11 hours late at 1:31 am on Saturday November 19th.

The fact that Amtrak’s Chicago Maintenance Facility had much less time to prepare the train for onward travel west may have been a factor, as it was delayed by 5 hours and 29 minutes from a reported on-time departure from Chicago on Saturday upon arrival, his first stop was in Naperville, Illinois, just 28 miles away. By midday Sunday, it was behind schedule by the same amount. The same equipment must return to Chicago from Los Angeles on Monday; This train is sold out on buses east of Kansas City and the one remaining LA-Chicago roomette is over $1,000.

Service issues in the Midwest

Also on Thursday, November 17, “mechanical problems” turned the last leg to St. Louis Lincoln service Train of the day, No. 307, into a night train. Left Chicago at 7:05 p.m., it was more than 7 hours late. Arrival in St. Louis was at 7:26 a.m. on Friday instead of 12:23 a.m. This in turn delayed the morning Lincoln service #302 to Chicago by more than 2 hours.

The train approaches the full platform in the afternoon sunlight
A rare afternoon departure by Pere Marquette of Holland, Michigan on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2013 uses the same equipment as the regular round trip. Amtrak’s ability to complete such additional moves will be limited this year by equipment and staffing issues. Bob Johnston

Another incident Thursday involving an intruder in Kalamazoo, Michigan was delayed eastbound wolverine No. 355 from Pontiac, Mich. Passengers were flown to their destinations that evening, but stranded equipment and unavailable operating personnel forced Amtrak to cancel Friday’s Wolverines 350 and 355.

Previously, Amtrak and its state sponsors routinely deployed additional pre- and post-Thanksgiving services from Chicago by manipulating schedules and crew rotations. The company has little ability to attract additional holiday customers due to a lack of equipment or qualified staff and has little failure rate to keep its regular trains running. It has previously announced cancellations of state-sponsored round trips on the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, through December; Chicago-Quincy, Illinois; and St. Louis-Kansas City, Mo., routes.