Rail Photos, Reports

Amtrak Long Distance November On Time Performance

The Western trains with PHOTOS! (Don’t all Amtrak trains look alike?)
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Reported by Russ Jackson

Here’s our follow-up to the articles we’ve written for the Review and posted on RailPAC.ORG the past few months regarding Amtrak On Time Performance for the western long distance trains. As usual we check the performance at intermediate stations, as the endpoint times don’t reflect the true running times of the trains what with all the schedule padding built in. All long distance trains are reported to be SOLD OUT during the holiday travel season! Yeah, nobody rides trains anymore.

California Zephyr #6 carrying the GrandLuxeRail luxury cars crosses Solano County, CA, only a few minutes late on November 20 enroute to Chicago. This trainset was to arrive back in the Bay Area on 11/25 (Russ Jackson photo)

Train 5/6, Amrak’s California Zephyr had a schedule change on October 28, moving its Emeryville departure time to 8:05 am, closer to its regular departure time. So, has it worked? Yes and No. From November 1 to 15, its endpoint OTP was 53.4%. Since November 17 it has been early into Salt Lake City every day! But, when #6 gets to Chicago on those days the delays have been 165, 25, 14, 119, 0, and 34 minutes late. Shows it can be done, but isn’t always. BTW, that 0 minutes late into Chicago was on Thanksgiving Day when it was also hauling the GrandLuxeRail cars. Train 5, with a slight modification to its extended schedule, in the same period arrived into Sacramento early four out of seven days, and the other two were only 23 and 12 minutes late. Since October 1, through November 15, it’s endpoint OTP has been 54.3%. Grade: VERY GOOD.

Train 7/8 the Empire Builder (no photo available) arrived in Havre, Montana fairly close to on time with one exception during that period. #7 was late 14, 17, 13, 18, 38, 15, and 52 minutes on the days we checked between November 10 and 22. #8 was late at Havre 14, 75, 399, 13, 4, 24, and 21 minutes on the days we checked in that same period. OOPS, 399 minutes late on 11/12. Well, that’s the exception up there. Fiscal Year OTP 10/1 to 11/15 was 82.1%. Grade: EXCELLENT.

The Sunset Limited arrives under the palm trees at the Ontario, CA station at 12:08 pm on 11/21. It was 4 hours late. (Mike Palmer photo)

Train 1/2 the Sunset Limited had its usual problems, with #1 arriving in Los Angeles triple digit minutes late every day between 11/14 and 11/23. Last month we reviewed the problems this train encounters, and it hasn’t changed much even though it’s been proven it can be run OT. Train #2 arrived in San Antonio 113, 0 (on 11/13), 88, 225, and 65 minutes late in that same period, with only one time missing its 1:00 am departure time for New Orleans, and easily making its connection to the Texas Eagle. The connection time for the 7 am departure of #22 has been met each day. FY OTP since 10/1 was 7.9%, with only 3 trains listed as being on time at endpoints. Grade: POOR

The Southwest Chief hits the diamonds at Colton crossing on a cool, foggy 11/21 morning running 2 hours late. The UP crossing is in the foreground. This bottleneck for both passenger and freight trains is due to have a UP flyover grade separation constructed in 2011. (Mike Palmer photo)

Train 3/4 the Southwest Chief had its usual good record in November, with #3 late into Los Angeles only twice. On Thanksgiving Day #3 arrived at Fullerton 78 minutes late, but was only 21 minutes late at LA Union Station, showing the endpoint schedule padding. RailPAC contributing photographer Mike Palmer met relatives at Fullerton that morning and learned #3 was in a near-collision somewhere near Lamy, New Mexico and later had lineside signal problems. #4 arrived into Albuquerque on time every day! What more can we say? Its FY OTP from October 1 to November 15 was 84.8%. Grade: EXCELLENT

The Coast Starlight train 11 crossing Solano County west of Davis, running about 90 minutes late on the morning of 11/20. Its consist is now 11 cars and a baggage car. (Russ Jackson photo)

Train 11/14 the Coast Starlight had its usual mixed performance recently. We checked #11 at San Luis Obispo and found it was 27, 0 (on 11/18), 26, 128, 206, and 95 minutes late on the dates we checked. For #14, we checked at Eugene, Oregon, and the performance was not so good as it was triple digit minutes late every day but one, and that one was 85 minutes. Winter has just begun in the Cascades, too. Supposedly the Union Pacific has made major rail repairs up there that will improve service. For the FY from October 1 to November 15 the OTP was 55.6%, a vast improvement until the past week. Grade: BETTER.

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