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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Amtrak to stop operating special trains, charter moves NEWSWIRE

Amtrak to stop operating special trains, charter moves NEWSWIRE

By Chase Gunnoe | March 28, 2018

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The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society’s 2017 New River Train rolls through Sandstone, W.Va., with 30 private cars in tow. A new Amtrak policy could mean the end of this and all other excursions using the passenger railroad’s equipment.
Chase Gunnoe
WASHINGTON — Special trains and certain private varnish moves will no longer be allowed on Amtrak routes according to a brief notice of a policy change sent to Amtrak employees and obtained by Trains News Wire Wednesday morning.

“Generally, Amtrak will no longer operate charter services or special trains. These operations caused significant operational distraction, failed to capture fully allocated profitable margins and sometimes delayed our paying customers on our scheduled trains,” the notice reads.

“There may be a few narrow exceptions to this policy in order to support specific strategic initiatives, for example trial service in support of growing new scheduled service. Otherwise, one-time trips and charters are immediately discontinued,” the notice adds.

It is not yet clear to what extent the passenger railroad will discontinue its move of privately owned passenger cars; however, some private car operators already report they are having move requests denied.

The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society in Huntington, W.Va., has been informed that their private car moves will no longer be allowed out of Huntington on Amtrak’s tri-weekly Cardinal, effective at the end of April.

“We are trying to better understand if Amtrak will allow the cars to be moved at beginning or end points,” Assistant General Manager Joe Rosenthal says.

For the Cardinal, that would mean the West Virginia non-profit railroad group would have to relocate its cars to Chicago or Washington. It is unclear if even those changes would allow their cars to operate on Amtrak trains.

And for the non-profit group’s flagship excursion, the New River Train, Rosenthal says that Amtrak’s policy would mean the discontinuation of the 51-year tradition.

“West Virginia will be losing a huge economic impact and it’ll be particularly devastating to the cities of Huntington and Hinton,” he says.

The annual excursion has operated the third and fourth weekends of October from Huntington to Hinton, W.Va., and return. It has used Amtrak locomotives and crews on CSX Transportation’s main line through West Virginia. In 2017, the excursion train operated with three locomotives and 30 privately owned passenger cars.

The excursions are a multi-million dollar tourism boost to rural West Virginia with nearly 5,000 riders annually. It is the largest mainline excursion train in the United States.

Similarly, there are dozens of other organizations and private operators whose railcars travel on the rear of Amtrak trains. As news circulated among the private railcar community Wednesday afternoon, there were more questions than answers. 

Trains News Wire reached out to Amtrak for additional details on the policy, but had not heard back as of early Wednesday afternoon. News Wire has also contacted the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance and the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners for comment.

This is a developing story. Follow Trains News Wire for additional information and reactions as they become available.

25 thoughts on “Amtrak to stop operating special trains, charter moves NEWSWIRE

  1. Gerald MacFarlane: As a veteran of Amtrak from 1972-1987, I concur. It has been proven to Amtrak time, and time again, that the only way to increase ridership, and revenue, is to expand services on existing routes, not cut it back. Look at the progress that has been made in California in the last forty years.

  2. I’m starting to get the feeling that Mr. Anderson becoming CEO of Amtrak was Trump’s idea, the idea being for an ex-airline CEO to sabotage Amtrak from inside so Trump can justify shutting it down and funnelling everyone onto airplanes so the airlines can monopolize intercity travel.

  3. Mr. Anderson and his ilk are hopefully not long for this world… or at least at the helm of Amtrak. Perhaps he should go back to Delta or better yet, maybe he should move on to United and try to prevent them from killing animals instead of trying to run something for which he has no background or experience.

  4. I can see it coming this year: coaches with three-abreast seating instead of two, less legroom, no more full service (or sit-down) diners, no lounge space (remember the early AmCafes?), no sleepers, charges for carry-on baggage with strict limits, one toilet per two cars. Congrats Anderson, you made Amtrak into UnitedTrak. When will we see passengers kicked off trains in the middle of nowhere because of overbooked flights, er, trains? I know—wait for it—he will rename “Business Class” into “Polaris” and charge $500 annually for the Acela Club lounge in major stations. And once onboard, the “new” Polaris will be nicknamed Baggage Class by critics. I know we can’t return to Diners with 8 crew members, First Class lounges in the Sleepers, and multiple service attendants, but this is absurd.

  5. I am literally LAUGHING MY A** OFF reading over all these comments! I have never seen such an endless mixed bag of reactions before in my life… The 2016 election being the only exception to this, though. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 Y’all are having your own temper tantrums of “fire and fury” (just like the Orange Toddler in the White House) How PATHETIC! Not to get TOO political here, but I haven’t seen this big a bitchfest since this past Saturday when hundreds of thousands of butthurt liberal, spoiled, selfish, entitled, “know-it-all” millenials protested over NOTHING. Our country’s future is in jeopardy because of these little nutcases, but hey… WHO CARES as long as railfans get their silly little excursion trips, RIGHT? Wink, wink… 🙂

  6. Do our DC protectors not realize that a line of business that has significant fixed costs, requiring general fund investments, will always fail to “capture fully allocated profitable margins” just as highways never recover anywhere near their total costs relative to incremental revenue. There is almost always additional overhead to be allocated. Only if the market subsidies where eliminated, such that the clearing price rose, could profit ever be had.

    By engineering analysis (Davis Equation and diesel efficiency) additional cars might use another 0.2 gallons per mile, or $0.40 per mile, but are charged $2.90 per mile plus extra fees, but yet no profit?

    Also Federal Law requires Amtrak to operate charters, who is the master?

  7. Bottom line—- Anderson is the WORST person to ever come to Amtrak. He MUST go if Amtrak is to thrive let alone survive. National Assoc. of Rail Pass. needs to show the rail community that you are worthy of support, by leading the dispatching of “airline Anderson”!!!!

  8. TRAINS SUBSCRIBER WROTE: “maybe we should find somebody in charge of the railroad industry to go work for the airline industry”

    Leo F. Mullin, who served as Delta Air Lines CEO from 1997 to 2004, worked for Conrail.

  9. Looks like I will have to take the Crescent to New York where I will HOP on the Queen Mary2 to the UK. They have hundreds of steam locomotive restoration groups that give THOUSANDS of English, the thrill of a life time event!!!

  10. Oh, my. The only thing worse than this announcement is the Anderson bashing. Geez, guys, he’s not a moron or the devil. Take a breath.

    The only really relevant comment I read in all this is by BILL SNORTELAND.

    And, lets see how this all shakes out before we all jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

    FWIW – if private varnish is verboten, then Wick Moorman will be left without any place to run his Sandy Creek.

  11. Am I correct in assuming that the Milwaukee Road 261 trips are Amtrak “special trains” and thus ended under this announcement?

  12. DAVID NELSON 261 and its trailing consist are not Amtrak owned and I don’t believe Amtrak has any involvement. – Here’s my best understanding – bear in mind that the requirements of the original Amtrak legislation have long since been superseded by contracts between AMTK and the individual carriers – typically under most contracts Amtrak has rights to all passenger movements but it can also look the other way when another group such as Friends of 261 goes to CP Rail. I nay be very wrong but I think that’s how it comes down.

  13. Sounds like Anderson has listened to one too many train crew members who blame the private car on the rear for everything. On one trip, the private cars on the rear were blamed for electrical failures on Amtrak equipment 5 cars forward. Overloading the HEP was the claim. While all in the private cars who heard it knew better. Why? Because the private cars on the rear were not even tied into the HEP and were running on their own generators. Caused motive power problems? If it hadn’t been for a chartered train trip, there would not have been a loco which Amtrak could have swapped out for one that was defective and stuck the defective one on the charter trip’s train. Thus causing it to stall out on a mountain grade. Most of the regular crews were great to work with but there were some bad apples and the new boss sounds like he was cut from the same cloth.

    As for CSX taking on the New River trains, that would require them to send their business car locos as the train would require HEP. Or Juniata based E units which could not lead as there is a requirement that trains on that line must have units equipped with PTC in the lead.

  14. What a ridiculous move by an airline executive out of his depth. Airlines don’t have charter flights? They all fully allocate their profit margins (whatever that means)? If the airlines took the same action then the baseball season would be cancelled, as would all other major league and college sporting tournaments. Unfortunately there is no effective leadership in Washington to stop this nonsense. It will inevitably fall to the courts to sort it out. I would be surprised if the leading groups with an interest in preserving access to Amtrak charter services are not already working on a strategy for litigation. I can see injunctions and years of court proceedings, given the fact that federal law provides ample support for reasoned claims by the charter industry. As a retired US lawyer I wish I could volunteer to help. Unfortunately I now live overseas.

  15. This might actually be one of the few sensible things that Anderson has done so far. How, exactly, do private cars stuck on the end of a train improve the on-board experience and on-time results for Amtrak passengers? Amtrak’s actual passengers are the ones that matter, not the people riding private cars.

  16. Rubbish. They can’t even operate their regularly scheduled trains consistently on time. Why make additional money when it’s easier to let available equipment sit idle.

  17. Interesting. The Philadelphia Phillies generally take a charter train using Amtrak equipment to Washington for games. I am not sure if they take a train for NY games or not. I assume Washington and the NY teams also take Amtrak charters. The Phila Orchestra also occasionally charters a train. It is too bad this tradition/history looks to be ending.

  18. I’m a life member of the group, and a regular on the twice-annual Spring-Fall steam runs (usually in the Superdome). The June weekend run to Duluth, MN is indeed on-ice with Amtrak’s draconian announcement, sadly after the sold-out trip’s tickets have already been sold. Worse, out-of-staters like myself have non-refundable airline tickets and hotels in MSP and the Twin Ports already booked – we’ll be out more than just the steam experience should this “brilliant” policy of Amtrak hold. As it’s been said before what a way for “America’s Railroad” to screw its most-supportive base of rail travel advocates and enthusiasts. I’m also a NARP member besides holding a Guest Rewards account.

  19. The additional absurdity of Amtrak’s policy is the claim that the Milwaukee 261 train may impact existing Amtrak scheduled operations, terminals and facilities, and equipment availability. No, not possible, and nonsense! The operation originates and terminates outside Amtrak’s network, utilizes no Amtrak-owned equipment and only requires 2-3 operating crew members from Amtrak while operating on BNSF Railway freight-only trackage. The entire train set is either owned by the 261 group or leased from other private operators, from the S3 Northern up front to the Skytop lounge Cedar Rapids showing the markers to the rear. Mr. Anderson, please reconsider this harmful policy – it only serves to hurt the few friends Amtrak can hope to have – railfans and pro-rail passengers. If Amtrak and passenger trains hope to survive you cannot afford to lose us too.

  20. Just as class 1 freights are forced to allow Amtrak on their rails, Amtrak should be forced to allow these moves to continue.

  21. There may not be many who can boycott Amtrak because train travel is a must for their jobs, but given the lack of punctuality of Amtrak, the rest of us can just travel by car (and I will continue to travel 100% by road) and control our own destinies to arrive on time. I’ve long wanted to travel the country end to end by train, but what is the point if you can never count on the trains to get you there on time. BTW, all those stupid ferried cars, etc. all pay there way. No one has ever gotten a free ride out of Amtrak. Except for a rodent. Or Anderson.

  22. If the Amtrak Board of Directors has any serious concern for Amtrak’s future, they had better start looking real quick for a new CEO. Between this announcement, his Feb. 15 comments regarding Amtrak and PTC on host railroads, scaling back/eliminating various long-standing discount programs; he is quickly alienating customers, industry peers, the railfan community, AND customers. He needs to be shown the door, ASAP. What has been going on at Amtrak the past three months or so makes me kind of glad that I retired when I did!

  23. It seems that the new CEO is trying to accomplishment what the Republicans in Congress have been trying to accomplish since the early ’80s: drive a stake through the heart of AMTRAK.

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