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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / UPDATE: Dates set for ‘Zephyr,’ ‘Starlight’ service to resume after snow disruptions NEWSWIRE

UPDATE: Dates set for ‘Zephyr,’ ‘Starlight’ service to resume after snow disruptions NEWSWIRE

By Bob Johnston | February 28, 2019

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RENO, Nev. — Amtrak has announced plans to resume full service on its California Zephyr and Coast Starlight routes, both currently disrupted after snow-related closures.

According to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari, the first Zephyrs to cross Donner Pass after that route was closed by a Feb. 26 avalanche near Truckee, Calif., are scheduled to do so on Sunday, March 3 — meaning the March 1 departure from Chicago will be the first that will not be turned at Reno, has has been the case since the closure.

Amtrak has been operating charter buses to connect to the Zephyr at Reno; because of a closure of Interstate 80 between Reno and Colfax, Calif., those buses have been taking a circuitous route on U.S. 50 causing substantial delays to eastbound departures. Tuesday’s train left more than 7 hours late; Wednesday’s departed almost 8 hours late. I-80 reopened Thursday morning after being closed Tuesday night, having received more than 4 feet of snow.

Meanwhile, the first Coast Starlights to travel the train’s entire route will do so beginning with the March 3 departures from Los Angeles and Seattle. In the interim, trains from Los Angeles continue to turn at Sacramento, Calif., because of a closure near near Oakridge, Ore., where a southbound train was stranded Sunday night through Tuesday morning [see “Stranded ‘Coast Starlight’ now on the move,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 26, 2019].

The line is now operational between Portland, Ore., and Eugene, Ore., so Amtrak Cascades service resumed on Thursday.

— Updated 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 with details on restoration of service.

21 thoughts on “UPDATE: Dates set for ‘Zephyr,’ ‘Starlight’ service to resume after snow disruptions NEWSWIRE

  1. Rodger,
    Sorry but I don’t agree with you. If no other form of land transportation was available you would have a point. But bus service does exist along all LD passenger routes. Therefore, for those who won’t fly (which anymore is a very insignificant percentage of the traveling public that is almost non-existent below the age of 50) there is always that option.

    As I’ve said before, eliminate Amtrak’s monopoly on LD rail service and there is a decent chance deluxe LD trains operated by travel companies to serve the public that wants to take a long train trip for pleasure would be able to survive.

    Frequent mega city rail service, especially if its 4 hours or less which can compete with the airlines, with an average of 80 or more mph is the way to go if we have to have a government supported rail service. That’s what most developed countries are doing now. The determining criteria in determining where to operate should be it has to at least cover its operating costs.

  2. My daughter lives near Truckee. Says I-80 just opened this morning for the 1st time this week. She also said some streets in Truckee are down to 1 lane cause they are running out of places to pile the snow.

  3. To the folks who think that passenger trains are unnecessary for LD travel, a little story: My brother was stranded when all flights were cancelled due to a winter storm in northern Ohio. He could not get a flight for four days. He was able to book a seat on the Southwest Chief and he made it home the following day.

  4. Steve Foster, If you have been on a long distance bus in the last forty years or so,then I believe that you would recognize that it is neither a safe or comfortable option. This is not the days of Scenicruisers and Silver and Golden Eagles with courteous drivers with decent meal stops along their routes. The long distance trains still provide a valuable transportation choice. Personally,I would love to see the private railroads get back into the passenger business,but until they realize the opportunity and get over their complex regarding passenger trains, then Amtrak is what we have. It is time that Amtrak transforms the LD trains into the shining examples of LD train travel that they once were and still should be.

  5. Mr. Williams, the social media posts of those folks stuck on Amtrak trains for 24 hours or more provided an interesting and insightful piece of marketing research. They should not be ignored.

    In another post, your pining for “private railroads to get back into the passenger business” falls into one of those “…wouldn’t it be nice if…” sentiments. Unfortunately, these railroads had their bad passenger service memories refreshed a few years back when a truly premium overnight passenger service between NOLA and Chicago didn’t do so well.

    I wouldn’t say these railroad have a “complex regarding passenger trains.” It’s more like an extreme rational fear of burning a hundred dollar bill every two-tenths of a mile.

  6. Steve Foster: Thank you for your supportive comments concerning mega-city rail services. With the demise of long-haul multi-day “land cruises,” perhaps the market will develop for premium rail travel for those who want the experience of train travel.

  7. Arthur Miller, Of course someone stuck on a train for 24 hours will post very negative things. However,so will someone stuck in an airport or on the runway or for many other bad experiences during a flight or going through security before boarding an airplane. Times have changed for the better since 1971 in regards to the optimistic future of train travel. I fully understand the railroads’ reluctance to re-enter into the passenger business. With that said,however,I believe that BNSF in particular could have a successful passenger operation over some of its’ system.

  8. Rotaries are up top right now. Trains running Donner. Saw two go by the Truckee Cam within the last 45 min. IG2LT going by now.

  9. Mr. Williams, further to your comment about BNSF having the potential for a successful passenger operation. The irrefutable economics of passenger train operations will ensure that, absent a Congressional directive from the likes of AOC or Bernie, BNSF, NS, CSX, UP, KCS and the Big Regionals will never ever operate passenger trains. Sorry.

  10. Mr. Miller, If they ever were to do it,I certainly would want them to do it at their own free will based on economics and not by any political directives. You can never ever say never!

  11. They might have been able to detour from Sparks via the WP Reno Branch and the WP Main to Sacramento, then back on the SP. Of course UP might not have kept the branch in usable condition.
    And cancelling the train or turning it back is a lot easier for all involved.

  12. The problem with that Charles is that Feather River Canyon was just recently hit by a washout, so the train can’t get through that way either.

  13. If these delayed passengers had booked a ticket on any one of six for-profit airlines, they’d already be at — or very near to — their destinations. Multiple social media posts arising from these delays appear to support Richard Anderson’s thesis that many long-distance Amtrak customers are riding solely for the train ride experience, and not for the purpose of changing locations (going from Point A to Point B).

    Would it not be better to focus Amtrak’s limited resources on providing frequent service between mega-cities and helping thousands of people a day change location? This would be instead of running a “land cruise” operation for a few hundred seeking a train riding experience?

  14. SP practice was that a set was kept on either side, 1 in Roseville or staged in Colfax, and the other in Truckee, just to give a faster response on either side. Does anyone know if this is still UPs practice?

  15. Arthur J. Miller, Taking advantage of an unfortunate and isolated incident such as this avalanche to further your anti-passenger train agenda is an unfortunate choice on your part. These type of things do and will occasionally happen as they always have. This does not change the fact that everyone does not want to be forced to fly and not have the right to choose how they travel. Long distance trains are so much more than just endpoint to endpoint services as passengers are constantly getting on and off all along the way. Within each LD train,there exist corridors that are served. Yes, it would be good if these corridors were better served at more convenient times with additional trains,but not at the expense of the LD trains as they will always be needed to keep everything connected and fluid.

  16. Mr. Williams: I appreciate the spirited and respectful back and forth discussion. Thank you for sharing your vision and ideas.

    I have both ridden and operated as an Engineer many passenger trains over the past 45 years. And I have used all manner of heritage passenger trains in film and video tape production projects. There is nothing better than a trio of E’s accelerating 12 or 15 heritage coaches north out of Etowah…or making time over the old N&W in the southwestern Virginia Highlands. (Well, maybe having #611 handle the N&W train!)

    Unfortunately, I also have witnessed first-hand the high costs of scheduled passenger train operations. Indeed, my former employer — Ed Ellis and IowaPacific — made a valiant effort to revive true first class passenger service a few years back. In spite of the hard work dedication of Ellis and his management team, and in spite of the high quality of the service, it just did not attract enough ridership to become a permanent and ongoing enterprise.

    I also appreciate what Richard Anderson and his team did at Delta Air Lines. They created an operation that today often can charge an extra $150 to $200 per ticket more than its competitors for service on identical routes. While flying 4 or 5 hours in an aluminum tube is nothing close to the experience of a long-haul passenger train, those B737s and A-320s DO get you safely to your destination. If one is trying to maintain business relationships in multiple cities, the airplane — either DL’s or its competitors — are the way to go these days.

    The mega-city link concept is growing in popularity these days because of its ability to each day serve 10 times or 20 times the number of people that can patronize one of Amtrak’s long haul passenger trains. That ability will, I predict, draw to the concept the public funding that is required for any scheduled passenger service.

    Over time, as many (or all) of Amtrak’s long haul trains inevitably die out, perhaps for-profit premium services on highly-scenic routes will emerge. The Rocky Mountaineer operation recently featured in TRAINS Magazine can serve as a model for new similar ventures. These trips are not cheap, so we’d all perhaps dedicate this year’s Roth IRA contribution to an excursion.

    Professional regards and best wishes —

  17. Mr. Miller, I respect your viewpoints and expertise as well. Many good ideas are incubated when respectful conversations with opposing viewpoints are encouraged. Respectfully,Roger

  18. The growth market for passenger rail lies in two categories of people, the aging baby boomers and millennials…lets just ignore the aging baby boomers for now and concentrate on the millennials. Millennials will not take the bus, so you can forget that option..and most baby boomers won’t either, once they ride one for a semi-long distance. Let’s take the Zephyr as an example, if you break it down into corridors, you have the following, depending on how you want to route it: Chicago – Denver and/or Chicago – Omaha, Denver – Salt Lake City/Ogden and/or Omaha – Salt Lake City/Ogden, Salt Lake City/Ogden – Reno, and Reno – Sacramento, finally Sacramento – SF Bay Area. Now those actually leave out corridors that would be shorter, but in reality you need to run those corridors, and others that I’m sure you could figure out on your own, and there would still be intermediate stops at decent sized cities along the way. Corridors like this make sense for shorter distances, like you have along the NEC, or between Chicago and Milwaukee, but not for something like SF Bay Area to Los Angeles Basin. The other thing not in play here, because it doesn’t really exist, is marketing, and by that I mean proper marketing and pricing/revenue, with a complete change to work rules to create something akin to team drivers for engine service crews, you could even call them team crews if you wanted. Food, price it at cost, so you neither make money nor loose money, but you have to ADVERTISE that fact to the travelling public, they NEED to know what is available and what the cost is, otherwise you will still lose money. I could go on and on but a lot of the things necessary to make Amtrak successful are really just common sense, which is either nonexistent or in short supply in this entire country.

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