Category Archives: Railroads

In January, 2007, a ROYAL TRAIN ran from Philadelphia to New York

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were guests of the Levin family. Amtrak’s role was limited to that of a support services contractor, providing locomotives, crew and track to Junita Terminal Company for their chartered special train. Amtrak made an incremental profit on operating the chartered special train for Juniata Terminal Company, as they do on all special train and private car moves.

Both the Prince and the Duchess enjoyed the trip, and the railroad experience. He was knowledgable and interested in the cars, and the rail operations from PHL to NYP.

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The Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley Railroad

The Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley Railroad was organized in 1866 and came under the Lackawanna in 1870. Inclusion of the Greene Railroad Company linked up this road with the Syracuse route at Chenango Forks. As well as providing an important link, it also put the Lackawanna in the resort business. The branch to Richfield Springs was on Canadarago Lake and tourist trains now ran from Hoboken. The Utica-Binghamton line was a big dairy carrier and solid milk trains ran until the late 1940’s. Army reservists also used this line up to the 50’s to travel from New Jersey to Utica then over the New York Central’s St. Lawrence Division to Camp Drum near Watertown.

Scranton Division, Utica Branch

Station Mile Note
Chenango Forks 11.1
Willard’s 12.0
Greene 19.2
Brisben 25.0
Coventry 28.5
Oxford 33.1
Haynes 36.5
Norwich 41.3 Ontario & Western
Galena 46.9
Sherburne 52.4
Earlville 57.5
Poolville 60.0
Hubbardsville 64.2
North Brookfield 68.0
Sangerfield 72.4
Waterville 73.7
Paris 77.9
Richfield Junction 81.7 Richfield Springs Branch
Clayville 83.9
Sauquoit 85.9
Chadwicks 87.3
Washington Mills 89.9
New Hartford 91.1
West Utica 94.0
Utica 95.2 NYC Union Station

Troy and Albany Passenger Trains in 1939

The “Information Superhighway”, sometimes called the Internet, has several “discussion groups”. One or more of these are railroad related. Some of the computer “chatter” on the Internet relates to the old railroads of New York and New England. Joe Brennan of New York City found some interesting facts from his 1939 NY Central timetable. Regarding the Boston and Maine train 59, “The Minute Man”, 1939…

Boston 3:50–Troy 8:45 (all times p.m.)
Troy 9:02–Albany 9:22
Albany 9:45–Chicago

Study reveals the facts of the matter to be a New York Central Troy–Albany local as the link. He notes that train 5611 shown in the full B&M timetable for the line, running just the last 16 miles to Troy, shown are Troy 8:22 and then the same times Troy–Albany. It requires a turn to the Rutland RR page to find this is Rutland train 56 from Rutland to Troy, running as B&M 5611 on the B&M’s tracks.

B&M 59 passed just one sleeper to the NYC at Troy. The B&M parlor came off at Troy along with the coaches. Thus everyone other than sleeper passengers had to change at Troy to coaches on the NYC local, and then again at Albany. The Rutland train 56 (B&M 5611) was only coaches and ended at Troy, so their passengers changed too– this is not made explicit in the Rutland timetable but is seen in the equipment list.

Turning to the NY Central itself… The Troy–Albany locals are listed in a little table printed sideways, just a list of depart times from each city with “approximate running time 25 minutes”. We see the 9:02 Troy time. This local carried the B&M sleeper, besides local coaches.

The NY Central train Albany–Chicago was NYC 19, “Lake Shore Limited”. Interestingly, it carried not only the sleeper leaving Boston North Station 3:50 via the B&M, but also one leaving Boston South Station at exactly the same time via the NYC’s Boston and Albany. The B&A train also had a second sleeper to Chicago taken by NYC 17 “The Wolverine”, leaving Albany 45 minutes earlier but arriving Chicago 15 minutes later. The B&A sleeper into 19 sat at Albany for 55 minutes (a tight 10 minutes into 17), while the B&M sleeper spent 17 minutes at Troy and 23 minutes at Albany. B&A coach passengers had to change at Albany as against two changes for the B&M coach passengers.

The Rutland train 56 advertised a connection south to New York, unlike the connection west for the “Minute Man”. This could have meant a reasonable if unadvertised Boston-New York route via B&M, but the Rutland connection is shown as arriving Grand Central at a very late 4:45 a.m. The time leaving Albany is not shown, and only the NYC timetable reveals it to be 1:15 a.m., just 7 minutes shy of four hours at Albany! The only earlier connecting train south was the West Shore 12:30 a.m., which reached Weehawken 4:25 a.m. and foot of 42d St at 4:40 a.m., no big advantage over the Grand Central train unless a ferry ride under the stars sounds good; and the Grand Central train also offered sleepers.

Two other B&M trains connected at Troy for Albany, with waits of 15 and 20 minutes respectively. In 1934, the B&M sleeper (arriving Albany 9:10) is picked up by NYC 47 “The Detroiter” at Albany 9:43 and dropped at Buffalo, not a scheduled passenger stop for 47, where it is then picked up by 19 “Lake Shore Limited” about an hour later. The reason seems to be that 19 had to drop cars from New York to the Adirondacks at Utica; taking the B&M car at Buffalo is simpler than juggling the cars at Albany or Utica. However, coach passengers off the B&M and Troy local had to wait at Albany for 19, since 47 has no coaches, only pullmans! Thus the B&M’s sleeper and coach passengers rode separate trains from Albany to Buffalo, but neither had to get out and change at Buffalo.

In 1940, all timetabled B&M passenger trains went via Troy. The trackage from Mechanicville to Rotterdam Junction was for freight service and it shows D&H trains as “scheduled”.

Troy was essentially a passenger only route, except for one local freight a day. Main interchange with D&H was Mechanicville and with NYC at Rotterdam Jct. There were thru freights from DeWitt (Syracuse) until the traffic left the B&M to run Conrail via Worcester. B&M also ran a train or two into Selkirk yard once a day; ran up to Rotterdam Jct, switched ends and went into Selkirk. They had several engines equipped with NYC style train control for this service.

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Columbus-Chicago passenger rail moves ahead, slowly

Plans are advancing to eventually start high-speed passenger train service between Chicago and Columbus, with stops in Fort Wayne, Lima and Marysville and other cities in Indiana and Ohio.

Don’t listen for the call of “all aboard” in Columbus anytime soon, however. Plans for the estimated $1.3 billion project are moving gradually.

Plans call for adding tracks, signals and other equipment to current freight routes to accommodate passenger trains that would travel up to 110 mph, and would take riders between Chicago and Columbus in three hours, 40 minutes, said William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Development of the western portion of the proposed passenger rail service took another step this week.

Indiana and Ohio officials announced at a news conference Monday in Fort Wayne that the Federal Railroad Administration has approved a $350,000 study to examine preliminary engineering, environmental impact and other issues along the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Lima stretch of the proposed route.

Local cities, businesses and others along that portion of the proposed route will fund the study, which is scheduled to start in January and finish in the fall.

And even though the federal OK to conduct the study doesn’t mean approval of the route or the project — far from it, said Lima Mayor David Berger, a passenger-rail advocate — it marks a significant step forward.

“Our ultimate goal is to have passenger rail established on the entire corridor, but the piece in Columbus isn’t as far along,” said Berger, who raised $58,000 from businesses in his northwestern Ohio city to help fund the $350,000 study.

No similar environmental studies have been conducted or funding identified to do them on the proposed route’s Lima-to-Columbus portion, which would include stops in Kenton and Marysville. No funding has been identified to build the project, no firm timetable has been established, and whether Amtrak or another operator would run it is not known.

The initial study that will be conducted on the Chicago-Lima leg and agreements among cities to support passenger rail are all part of preparing to build the project should federal money become available.

“These projects take a lot of work and study and collaboration and planning to pull them off,” Murdock said. “We want to be ready if there’s an opportunity to fund it. That’s why we’re taking the long view.”

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther has not said whether the city would help fund an initial environmental impact study, like the one announced Monday for the western portion, for the Lima-Columbus leg.

“Mayor Ginther is committed to the future of mobility through the Smart Columbus initiative,” said spokeswoman Robin Davis. The $50 million initiative makes Columbus a testing ground for new transportation technology including self-driving vehicles.

“That is where our immediate focus is,” Davis said. “We’re not ruling anything out. Our focus is transportation in Columbus, and a smart mobility system that can grow into the future.”

Columbus hasn’t had passenger train service since Amtrak’s National Limited pulled out about 40 years ago. The Columbus metropolitan region is the largest in the country without passenger trains.

Gov. John Kasich killed a plan by former Gov. Ted Strickland to link Columbus to Cincinnati and Cleveland by high-speed passenger rail, saying he was concerned the project would be too expensive and wouldn’t draw enough riders.

Supporters of the Chicago-Columbus rail project said it would help drive economic development.

“It opens up opportunities that we don’t currently have,” said Eric Phillips, executive director of the Union County-Marysville Economic Development office. “Having options for transportation is key.”

 

States Take Larger Role in Passenger Rail

A federal law enacted in the late days of the Bush administration is starting to force states to take a closer look at local Amtrak routes that they subsidize.

Illinois, which sits at the center of the country’s railroad network, has long promoted passenger rail. It’s rebuilt track so trains could travel faster between Chicago and St. Louis, added service along preexisting routes and even began planning for expansions to new cities. Ridership on Illinois routes grew by 85 percent in the last decade. But now the talk in Springfield is about cuts to Amtrak, not expansions.

That’s no surprise considering Illinois’ precarious finances. Nearly every service provided by the state is under scrutiny as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders in the legislature try to come to an agreement on the budget.

But the uncertainty over Illinois’ passenger rail isn’t all the doing of lawmakers in Springfield. Illinois, like many other states, recently had to start paying higher subsidies in order to continue providing local Amtrak service to its residents. The increased state costs come as a result of a 2008 federal law, called the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, that required many states to pick up a bigger part of the tab for 28 Amtrak routes that are shorter than 750 miles. Those routes cross 19 states and carry almost half of Amtrak’s passengers.

As more states pay higher subsidies to Amtrak, their scrutiny of the rail company has also increased. Lawmakers in Oregon have explored reducing its payments. Indiana officials are bringing in an outside contractor to try to improve Amtrak service there. And other state officials around the country are trying to clarify what they can expect from Amtrak going forward. “If you’re making an investment in something, you have an obligation to make sure it’s a certain quality,” said Patricia Quinn, chair of the States for Passenger Rail Coalition. “This is a new relationship with all of the states and Amtrak.”

The same 2008 law that increased the cost of subsidies also gave states more flexibility to use vendors other than Amtrak to provide rail service. Indiana officials are using that to try to improve service on the Hoosier State line, which runs from Chicago to Indianapolis.

It is working on an arrangement where a separate contractor, Iowa Pacific Holdings, would take over key functions. It would provide the train equipment, marketing and on-board services, such as food sales and Wi-Fi. But Amtrak would remain the primary operator, providing the train crews and ticketing services.