News & Reviews News Wire Amtrak abruptly suspends ‘Adirondack’ after CN imposes heat restriction

Amtrak abruptly suspends ‘Adirondack’ after CN imposes heat restriction

By Bob Johnston | June 26, 2023

| Last updated on February 4, 2024

CN, which set 10-mph limit, says it is ‘currently negotiating’ track upgrades

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Passenger train with red and blue locomotive with body of water in foreground and high-rise apartments behind
Amtrak 50th-anniversary P42DC No. 108 leads the southbound Adirondack past the Peel Basin in Montreal on April 4, 2023. Adirondack service has now been suspended between Albany-Rensselaer and Montreal. Michael Berry

MONTREAL — Following a 47-mile run last week that reportedly took four hours because of a 10-mph speed restriction imposed by Canadian National, Amtrak has suspended operation of the New York-Montreal Adirondack north of Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y., as of Saturday, June 24.

The Adirondack — the last Amtrak route to return after pandemic-related cutbacks — had only resumed operation in April.

The restriction is on CN’s track north of the U.S.-Canada border. A Canadian National spokesman tells Trains News Wire that for the class of track involved, the railroad imposes a 10-mph restriction if temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) “to insure safe operation.” He adds, “We are currently negotiating with Amtrak to get necessary investments to insure continuous service at higher temperatures.”

If track does not meet certain tolerances related to tie placement and roadbed quality, temperature extremes can cause rails to move out of alignment, which can lead to a derailment.

Not clear is when negotiations began, whether other parties are involved, or what class of track CN would require. Deteriorating track conditions clearly played a role leading to the Adirondack being the last Amtrak restored after the COVID-19 pandemic [see “‘Adirondack’ tickets now on sale …,” News Wire, March 21, 2023] However, neither Amtrak nor the sponsoring New York State Department of Transportation would discuss why the train was not reinstated north of Albany-Renssalaer during the final two years of its extended hiatus, despite repeated News Wire inquiries.

As for the latest interruption, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams says, “A restoration date has not been determined.” He says passengers whose trains were cancelled were offered refunds but no alternate transportation. When asked whether Amtrak is considering a connecting bus service north of the state capital or turning the train south of the border so it could continue to serve New York State residents, he says, “we’re looking at all options.”

The company has posted a service alert notice, although passengers attempting to book the train last weekend through June 30 were advised without explanation that it was cancelled. Despite the statement, as of this evening (Monday, June 26), the Amtrak website was still offering tickets beginning Sunday July 2. Northbound and southbound trains were both showing a 90% sellout that day.

Now the issues are what track upgrades are necessary, how much they will cost, who will pay, and when work can commence. The immediate question is what weather conditions will allow service to resume. The 14-day Montreal forecast calls for daytime highs between 23 degrees and 28 degrees Celcius (73.4F-82.4F), below CN’s stated threshold when the 10-mph speed restriction kicks in. Though temperatures in Canada south of Montreal may have exceeded 28C (82.4F), for the city itself, that was the high temperature last Friday according to World Weather Info. Since then, temperatures have dropped.

38 thoughts on “Amtrak abruptly suspends ‘Adirondack’ after CN imposes heat restriction

  1. CN is an absolute disgrace of a railroad. It apparently can’t afford to maintain its own track to good standards despite its record-low OR and record-high profits. Same challenge affect VIA’s remote service in northern Quebec (Lac St-Jean, La Tuque and St-Maurice subdivisions), trains are forced to run on a very inconvenient night time schedule to avoid heat restriction during the day.

    And they dare call themselves “World’s best”.

  2. While this development is taking place, Greyhound continues its direct services between NYC and Montreal without interruption.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  3. Local officials are taken aback that heat is the stated reason for suspending the Adirondack train service since the issue has not been brought up in the past. CN did not respond to a request for comment.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  4. The imposition of speed restrictions on this route once daytime highs reached 25°C is clearly indicative of a rather modest standard of maintenance. If this line requires speed restrictions for much of the summer, Amtrak may be unable to sustain the service.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  5. It has occurred to me that Amtrak’stop management is almose exclusively from the airline industry, and the airline industry generally operates its flights from one point to another with no intermediate stops.

    So, could it be that top management doesn’t realize trains DO make intermediate stops and a significant amount of their ridership uses these stops.

    Thus, when they were told the train could not go to Montreal on a timely basis, they believed it could not go anywhere and withdrew it without replacement.

    1. Steve Gardener is NOT from the airline industry, he’s actually been with Amtrak from before airline industry management took over. He’s intimately familiar with how Amtrak runs. This is a case of CN wanting UNITED STATES TAXPAYER dollars to fix TRACK located in the COUNTRY of CANADA. In this case the FRA and STB need to get with their Canadian counterparts to get CN off their asses and to work. Give them an ultimatum, either fix the track or turn it over to another carrier!

  6. I agree if the train can not serve Montreal it still should provide service to the northern New York communities. This train is a state supported service so why not serve as many New York citizens and tourists as possible.The northern New York area has attractions that bring riders both in summer and winter. So why just abandon a large section of the route due to a problem on just a shorter section into Montreal. Provide in state service while working on a solution on how to continue service to Montreal.

    1. There are not facilities further north of Albany-Renssalaer to service the trains.

  7. Just curious – The Laurentian and Montreal Limited ran D&H – CP all the way into Windsor Station. Isn’t there a crossover from CP to the CN mainline to Toronto, very close to and just west of Montreal?

  8. CN have there hands out for a government handout to a corporation again, makes the shareholders happy.

    1. The CP route leads to Lucien l’Allier station, not on Central station. An agreement would also be required with Exo to park the train at their Lachine (Sortin yard) facility. Not impossible, but it can’t happen overnight.

  9. 1. Presume there are grade crossings between Rousses Point and Montreal. How does the Adirondack energize the circuits without a draft of Superliners in the consist? Perhaps the secret could be transferred to Illinois. 2. If you have been following the “Roaming Railfan” series on Youtube covering the Brightline construction, there is a segment showing and explaining how welded rail is “de-stressed” to prevent kinking at high ambient temperatures. Interesting mathematical calculations.

  10. It’s all about safety, nothing to do with not wanting Amtrak.
    Happens all the time with GO trains and Via.

    1. Bullshit…even if it does happen all the time with GO and VIA, it has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with getting a government handout to maintain the track at passenger train levels…even though that would help their freight business too.

    2. Pretty strong opinion Gerald, so you can prove that a Canadian company is trying to shake down an American tax payer funded operation to fund work in a foreign country?
      I would imagine CN can prove from a standard operating procedure backed up with engineering data for their decision.

  11. Sounds like CN is trying once again to tell Amtrak in the most passive-aggressive way possible that they’re not welcome on their tracks.

  12. Abrupt breaks put on Amtrak Adirondack line, rated as a “Top 10 Most Scenic Train Ride in the World”.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  13. This railroad line is not just important for cross border traffic but for locals as well, especially the many college students who utilize their services throughout the academic year.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  14. Amtrak says, its Adirondack Trains 68 and 69 will originate and terminate in Albany until further notice.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  15. A return to jointed rails is in order for regions prone to extremely high temperatures. Jointed rails have gaps to permit expansion unlike welded rails.

    Welded rails are most efficient and durable in high latitude where year-round temperatures range from cold to mildly warm. The metallic melodic “tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick…” would be a welcome return.

    1. Alas, the melodic ticking comes at a price. Jointed rail is prone to wear at the joints; the wider the joint, the worse it is. Does anybody know what kind of rail UP uses in southern Arizona (i.e., Phoenix/Tucson/Yuma)? That area gets pretty toasty in the summer months. If they are making welded rail work for them there, maybe CN could adopt & adapt the same techniques up north.

    2. The problem is not the high temps, the problem is the high temp to low temp between summer to winter.
      Montreal 90 degrees is not uncommon in the summer and minus 30 degrees in the winter, 120 degree swing.
      CWR is a Russian invention, so the high latitude statement is correct.
      Holland Company imported rail welding heads from Russia to use in North America, since copied. I worked with them on steel mill projects and the head still had Russian labeling on it.

    3. Hello Melvin, “That area gets pretty toasty in the summer months.” Just an educated guess; perhaps the welded rails are planned and constructed in warmer and hotter weather where winter rail contraction would be an easier issue to deal with, as opposed to summer time rail expansion??? And also, perhaps the introduction of concrete ties are a big help as well???

      I spent quite a few years during UP’s double track construction between Tucson and El Paso, first at the dbl-track Stein’s Pass project, and then a bit later the rest of the EP-Tucson sub to
      2010 retirement, as a traveling MW-UHF-VHF telecom field tech, also servicing and installing many of UP’s double-track vehicle VHF radios.

      But quite honestly, it never occurred to me that much at the time, about the track dept’s hot weather rail issues. But I do recall at least one or two derailments back in the SPRR days due to rail buckling rail expansion, and always with much hi-rail truck inspections. And of course my district wasn’t quite as hot in the summer as was Tucson-Phx-Yuma, but hot enough none-the-less.

    4. Rail does build up considerably large amounts of stress, either compression or tension.
      We had a floating 1100’ long 171#CR fail at a thermite weld mid length after cooling from 120F to 30F in less than 24 hours. The gap was 3-1/2 inches.
      And different from RR applications the rail sat on rubber pad with spring steel clips 24”OC.
      Rail installation is a science now days no matter the application, with ballast and ties playing an important role.

    5. @Jim Salisbury CWR is not a Russian invention. Germany created the concept of CWR back in 1924..

      Poor ballast conditions lead to sunkinks. Perhaps CN and others should invest in breather switches..

  16. It’s like the world is ending. The government spends countless billions on corporate welfare for EV battery factories but we can’t run a damned train.

    1. Get real, Charles. Given a choice between acting in a fiscally responsible manner and pissing away money on some trendy fad-du-jour, you know full well which option the gubmint, especially the current one, is gonna choose.

    2. This is in the CANADIAN portion of the Adirondacks route, and controlled by the CN. So this is a case of the FRA and STB getting together with their North of the border counterparts to come up with a solution that forces CN to do it’s damn duty. Yes, freights run on that line Anthony, I don’t understand why none of the railroads understand how maintaining your track for higher speed passenger service also benefits your freight because it also allows a higher speed for freight trains.

  17. I was on the Ethan Allen twice this year. In Albany they put a locomotive on the rear of the train because there was no turnaround in Burlington. Why can’t they do that on the Adirondack and serve New Yorkers to Rouses Point?

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