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  #281  
Old Posted Mar 12, 2021, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by M II A II R II K View Post
Amtrak Service Returning Next Year To The Gulf Coast. But Not To Pensacola Or Atmore.

http://www.northescambia.com/2021/03...cola-or-atmore
Ridiculous not to connect with East Coast services somewhere, whether at Jacksonville as previously or elsewhere.

And I'm sure they won't make the NOLA-Mobile service connection-friendly with the Sunset Limited but they should. I want to be able to go all the way from LA to the east coast like I once could (and preferably without an overnight stay in NOLA).
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  #282  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2021, 6:40 AM
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Ridiculous not to connect with East Coast services somewhere, whether at Jacksonville as previously or elsewhere.

And I'm sure they won't make the NOLA-Mobile service connection-friendly with the Sunset Limited but they should. I want to be able to go all the way from LA to the east coast like I once could (and preferably without an overnight stay in NOLA).
I thought the Crescent went from New Orleans to the East Coast already. Elsewhere already exists.

Why? NOLA-Mobile services will run twice a day, morning and afternoon services most likely because poor southern states will be subsidizing daylight services. The Sunset Limited, when on schedule, arrives in NOLA at 9:45 pm and departs NOLA at 9:00 am.

I do not think Mississippi and Alabama will want to subsidize trains that arrives at the stations in their states in the wee hours of the morning. No state would. Why do you think they should?

When California is willing to subsidize a Surfliner train between Santa Barbara and San Diego to be in Los Angeles at 3:00 am, then maybe you might have a point. But California does not, so your point is completely lost.
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  #283  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2021, 7:43 AM
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I thought the Crescent went from New Orleans to the East Coast already. Elsewhere already exists.
It does but it's not exactly what you want if you want to go to Florida and it does require you to disembark the Sunset Ltd, stay overnight in NOLA and then take the Crescent the next day. The old pre-Katrina Sunset Ltd went all the way, LA top Jacksonville and there's no reason something like that shouldn't be restored. If they don't want to go to Jacksonville, connect with the Silver Service somewhere in the southeast, far south of Washington.

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Why? NOLA-Mobile services will run twice a day, morning and afternoon services most likely because poor southern states will be subsidizing daylight services. The Sunset Limited, when on schedule, arrives in NOLA at 9:45 pm and departs NOLA at 9:00 am.

I do not think Mississippi and Alabama will want to subsidize trains that arrives at the stations in their states in the wee hours of the morning. No state would. Why do you think they should?

When California is willing to subsidize a Surfliner train between Santa Barbara and San Diego to be in Los Angeles at 3:00 am, then maybe you might have a point. But California does not, so your point is completely lost.
I think they should because passengers coming from west of New Orleans want to go to stops east of New Orleans and vice versa and the requirement to get off the train, go find a hotel and return to the station the next day to board a different train makes that a non-starter for a lot of people. It's easier to do what I've done since Katrina--get off in NOLA, rent a car and drive to my final destination. If you were going from, say, Mobile to Houston you'd probably do the same.

Your point about Surfliners is completely incomprehensible. I am talking about interstate service. You are talking about trains within CA. As to when trains might arrive in Mississippi or Alabama, the Sunset Ltd sits in San Antonio for hours connecting with the Texas Eagle. It should be possible to jiggle the schedule to eliminate this multi-hour station stop to arrive in NOLA much earlier in the late afternoon/early evening and then go on to Mobile, arriving before midnight (and leaving in the other direction in early morning). Neither of us are running AMTRAK so maybe there are other ways to do it. They've changed the schedules before as to when the train leaves LA heading east--they could do it again, leaving earlier if necessary. The later leaving time now is to connect with the Coast Starlight but nobody taking the Starlight is time-sensitive. If they were, they'd take the multiple San Joaquin trains running every day. Let those people have the overnight stay in LA if there's no other way.

Finally, the people in Mississippi and Alabama shouldn't have to subsidize the service. I'd pay a bit more to be able to go on one train coast to coast. I've never understood why AMTRAK doesn't just raise the fares if there's no other way to make the service work (they could keep them relatively low in coach for short distances, boost them for longer trips, especially in sleepers).

Last edited by Pedestrian; Mar 13, 2021 at 7:58 AM.
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  #284  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2021, 1:51 PM
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Your point about Surfliners is completely incomprehensible. I am talking about interstate service. You are talking about trains within CA. As to when trains might arrive in Mississippi or Alabama, the Sunset Ltd sits in San Antonio for hours connecting with the Texas Eagle. It should be possible to jiggle the schedule to eliminate this multi-hour station stop to arrive in NOLA much earlier in the late afternoon/early evening and then go on to Mobile, arriving before midnight (and leaving in the other direction in early morning).
What you have failed to realize is that state lines have nothing what-so-ever to do with if an Amtrak train is a long distance or regional train. Regional trains generally require subsidies from states, while long distance trains do not. Cascades trains cross both one state line and one international border while remaining within the regional train category. The defining difference is stated in Congressional language, a specific distance. New Orleans to Mobile is 144 miles, therefore well within the 750 miles classifying it as a regional train. FYI, Santa Barbara to San Diego is 215 miles, longer than the distance between New Orleans and Mobile. Who is incomprehensible now?

The issue of whether the Sunset Limited (east) should ever return or not, that bridge was burned down years ago. Amtrak started running the Sunset Limited east of New Orleans in 1993 and stopped doing so in 2005. The Sunset Limited extension existed for just 12 years. It has been dead over 15 years now.
Over the years, Amtrak has tried to make Mobile work on its national passenger rail system, every time it has died fairly quickly.
Per Wiki. "Amtrak left the Sunset unchanged, while it dropped the Louisville & Nashville's Gulf Wind, which operated between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida. The tracks between these two points remained unused by passenger trains until April 29, 1984, when an Amtrak train called the Gulf Coast Limited, running between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, began service, seeking to regenerate some form of regional intercity rail traffic between large cities outside the Northeast. However, this train only lasted until January 6, 1985. Almost five years later, on October 27, 1989, the track segment between Mobile and Flomaton, Alabama, came into passenger train use as part of the route of the Gulf Breeze. This was another attempt to regenerate regional inter-city rail traffic, this time between Birmingham, Alabama, and Mobile. The train was a reestablishment of the Mobile section of Amtrak's New York City—New Orleans Crescent. It branched from the Crescent's route at Birmingham, turning south toward Montgomery, Flomaton, and terminating in Mobile. The Gulf Breeze was discontinued in 1995."

As for the switching operations that occur in San Antonio, it is a miracle it happens at all. It occurs immediately adjacent to mainline tracks and not in a yard. There are no grade separations, downtown street grid with at grade streets intersections every 300 feet; bells, crossing arms, and train whistles constantly clanging; with manual turnouts for the entire switching procedure. It would make a great youtube video if it were not so dark in the wee hours of the morning. Here's someone's poor attempt at one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oB0JNl-Shg
it is done because both the sleeper and coach car making the transfer between trains are full, in both directions. It occurs in the wee hours in the morning in San Antonio because the city would not allow it during normal daylight or evening hours, it would kill traffic approaching downtown from the east. So forget about changing when the Sunset Limited visits San Antonio.

Last edited by electricron; Mar 13, 2021 at 2:28 PM.
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  #285  
Old Posted Mar 14, 2021, 2:24 AM
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All this talk of regional vs. long distance and restoration of route could be cured with an act of congress. It was a dirty trick to not require restoration of the eastern portion of the Sunset after Katrina, but I see no reason congress couldn't mandate its return.

In the shorter term, it would be nice to see the Sunset extended to Mobile. Since the stations would already be serving a 2 daily service (or 4 for the intermediate stops), adding 3 weekly roundtrips would be a relatively minor expense and since it is a relatively population dense portion of the route, it might even improve the economics of the Sunset. What really hurt the eastern portion (apart from the timing) was the long detour from Mobile to Pensacola and the low population between Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville. Also, a modest improvement in the run time between NOL and SAS would vastly improve the times east of NOL

If it were up to me, I would require that Amtrak provide at least one daily long distance service at no charge to the states on every state-sponsored corridor. That way if you get an unfriendly state administration, service would not be totally lost and ramping it back up would be easy. Plus, it is not fair to communities that don't currently have service to pay Amtrak, while those grandfathered in don't.
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  #286  
Old Posted Mar 14, 2021, 3:03 AM
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In the shorter term, it would be nice to see the Sunset extended to Mobile. Since the stations would already be serving a 2 daily service (or 4 for the intermediate stops), adding 3 weekly roundtrips would be a relatively minor expense and since it is a relatively population dense portion of the route, it might even improve the economics of the Sunset. What really hurt the eastern portion (apart from the timing) was the long detour from Mobile to Pensacola and the low population between Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville. Also, a modest improvement in the run time between NOL and SAS would vastly improve the times east of NOL
Extending the Sunset Limited to Mobile would place it in Mobile around 3 to 4 hours later than it arrives in New Orleans today, and would have to depart Mobile 3 to 4 hours earlier than in New Orleans today as well.
I wrote the existing arrival and departure times for the Sunset Limited earlier in this very thread, "arrives in NOLA at 9:45 pm and departs NOLA at 9:00 am." So that would mean a 12:45 to 1:45 am arrival and a 5:00 to 6:00 am departure at Mobile. So not only would you have to staff the train station and facilities in Mobile during the day for regional service, you would also have to staff the facilities in Mobile in the wee hours of the morning as well.

Do you really believe Amtrak is going to man two different shifts of staff in Mobile every day, or thrice a week? Think about it, how many places do you think Amtrak mans staff over one shift in the entire country? Think really hard on that one. Good luck with that!
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  #287  
Old Posted Mar 15, 2021, 3:29 PM
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The problem with Sunset Limited is just how crappy the routing is. So many detours, it misses major population centers, etc. It's hard to replicate the success of other regional service where direct and reasonably well-maintained corridors already exist.

If they had $3B, they really should restore the Southern Railway bridge over the Atchafalaya from Baton Rouge to Lafayette, then Louisiana can run a regional service connecting the three largest cities and route the Sunset Limited along that corridor as well. They can serve Cajun country with another regional line. Then they need a direct corridor from Mobile to Pensacola and major upgrades (track/signal) to CSX's line along the Panhandle.
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  #288  
Old Posted Mar 17, 2021, 2:34 AM
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This video has much more to do with Amtrak's past than its future, but I thought it belonged here. It's a brief history of Amtrak liveries over the railroad's 50 years, as well as a sneak peek at some commemorative locos, as well as the upcoming Phase VI and Phase VII for the new long-distance Charger locos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOZdzbDpftI

Video Link
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  #289  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2021, 2:58 AM
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  #290  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2021, 2:43 PM
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Regarding the Sunset Limited, its routing may not be ideal, but it is not the most desolate route in the network by far. You have a decent sized city every 50-80 miles between NOL and HOU and then nonstop between HOU and SAT - two of the largest cities in the country. By my math, the average speed NOL-SAT is 38 mph, not including the frequent delays. Even a modest improvement to 55mph average would shave off over 3 hours each way, allowing for an 8-9am departure and 8-9pm arrival in MOB. One would assume that there would be only minimal increases in costs for maintenance and host payments, but substantially more revenue.


Amtrak's long distance network is full of examples like this where there is enormous potential, but ridiculously slow speeds due to congestion or obstruction from the hosts. For the cost of one brand new high-speed line, you could build enough sidings, double track, and bridges to increase the average long distance speeds by 40-50% and bring the long distance network into profitability. This needs to include legislation giving more teeth to Amtrak's priority and making sure that sidings for passenger improvements aren't used to park empty freight cars.

This would help to ensure the long-term viability of Amtrak and would have the highest return on investment and needs to be done alongside any new high speed lines or else we will be stuck with a patchwork of unsustainable commuter lines which would be at risk of being dismantled every time an unfriendly governor comes into office.
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  #291  
Old Posted Apr 8, 2021, 6:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
The problem with Sunset Limited is just how crappy the routing is. So many detours, it misses major population centers, etc. It's hard to replicate the success of other regional service where direct and reasonably well-maintained corridors already exist.

If they had $3B, they really should restore the Southern Railway bridge over the Atchafalaya from Baton Rouge to Lafayette, then Louisiana can run a regional service connecting the three largest cities and route the Sunset Limited along that corridor as well. They can serve Cajun country with another regional line. Then they need a direct corridor from Mobile to Pensacola and major upgrades (track/signal) to CSX's line along the Panhandle.
Bingo. The problem with the stretch between Mobile and Jax is the track is crap, several bridges need restoration and CSX sold it to a Class III railroad a few years back. Major upgrades are in order if passenger rail is to ever return the Panhandle.
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  #292  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2021, 3:59 AM
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Bingo. The problem with the stretch between Mobile and Jax is the track is crap, several bridges need restoration and CSX sold it to a Class III railroad a few years back. Major upgrades are in order if passenger rail is to ever return the Panhandle.
I doubt passenger rail will ever run east of Mobile. The only way to get from Mobile to Pensacola on rail is to go NE all the way to Atmore, then turn S back toward the Gulf. The track isn't just crap, it doesn't even exist. The shortest, existing, rail route across the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is about 15ish miles north of Mobile and it's not heading in the right direction.

An adequate route from Mobile to Pensacola for passenger rail would first have to cross the Mobile River in a tunnel, then cross the rest of the lower delta on a bridge high enough to avoid inundation in the future.

There's a lot to gain with a project like that, but.... $$$
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  #293  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2021, 4:55 PM
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^ If it's a passenger-only line across the Mobile delta they can potentially reuse the Wallace Tunnel for rail once I-10 moves onto a high bridge. This way you could keep a train stop close to downtown Mobile, probably in a shallow trench next to the Civic Center. The grades would likely require lightweight equipment though, so it wouldn't work with the Superliner equipment on the Sunset Limited but could be run as a regional train.
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  #294  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2021, 5:04 PM
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^I've never been through Mobile or the Wallace Tunnel, but just looking at photos it looks like it would have more than enough clearance for a double deck coach even with the added foot or so subtracted for top of rail.
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  #295  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2021, 6:17 PM
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I doubt passenger rail will ever run east of Mobile. The only way to get from Mobile to Pensacola on rail is to go NE all the way to Atmore, then turn S back toward the Gulf. The track isn't just crap, it doesn't even exist. The shortest, existing, rail route across the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is about 15ish miles north of Mobile and it's not heading in the right direction.

An adequate route from Mobile to Pensacola for passenger rail would first have to cross the Mobile River in a tunnel, then cross the rest of the lower delta on a bridge high enough to avoid inundation in the future.

There's a lot to gain with a project like that, but.... $$$
I used to work an offshore job based out of Mobile and I didn't realize until I read your post and looked on a map that there is no direct railroad link between Mobile and Pensacola.

They are now contemplating a high truck-only toll bridge over the bay. Slapping a single railroad track on that thing would make it asymmetrical but it would make direct rail between Mobile and Pensacola possible for the first time. Make it a Class 6 railroad and it could make the trip in about 40 minutes. In the context of a $2 billion project you've got to wonder how much throwing a railroad track on the thing would add.

Pensacola is bigger than I expected. 500,000 residents puts it roughly on par with Chattanooga, and Georgia has been talking about building HSR between Atlanta and its Tennessee neighbor since the 1996 Olympics.
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  #296  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2021, 6:20 PM
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^I've never been through Mobile or the Wallace Tunnel, but just looking at photos it looks like it would have more than enough clearance for a double deck coach even with the added foot or so subtracted for top of rail.
The clearance isn't the problem, it's the grades (possibly up to 6%, some construction could lower it to just under 5%). A consist of Superliners hauled by a loco would never make it out of the tunnel; far too heavy, not enough power, and the power it does have is only on a few axles. On the other hand, a lightweight modern DMU might be able to do it, but I'm not aware of any lightweight modern DMUs that are bilevel.

It's not really worth a lot more thought... can't ever see a billion-dollar rail project connecting Mobile and Pensacola. But at the very least Mobile should mothball the tunnels for future use.
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  #297  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2021, 7:53 PM
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  #298  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2021, 10:15 AM
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There are three two lane tunnels under the River at Mobile. All three allow ships to sail over them with 40 feet drafts. The first to be built was the Bankhead Tunnel in 1940 which has a 12 feet vertical clearance and 6% grade on either end. Semi-trucks with 13.5 feet heights can not use it. The last two are the east and west bound lanes of I-10 Wallace Tunnels which also has 6% grades was built in 1973. I'm not aware of its' vertical clearance, but semi-trucks are encouraged to use it. The Wallace Tunnel approach in Mobile has a fairly sharp curve, sharper than many expect on a freeway. FYI, The top of rail height of Viewliner cars is 14 feet, Superliner cars are 16+ feet, and Venture cars are 14 feet.

Even if a railroad was laid in one of the tunnels under the main channel, how would you get the track to the tunnel over the Bay on the eastern side? That would be at least 7 miles of new railroad trestles needed. The existing 7 miles of I-10 viaducts will be expanded from 4 to 6 lanes if the new bridge is built.

Class 3 railroad lines are what most freight railroads would prefer to maintain their lines at, except their main high traffic lines. CSX's line along the Gulf coast is not CSX's main traffic generator. They should expect some subsidy to maintain the entire rail corridor to higher Class 4 or better standards.

Whereas I understand why regional planners desire alternatives to I-10 along the Gulf coast, finding the funds to subsidize regional passenger trains is difficult considering there are no local trains (commuter, light rail, metro rail, streetcars) services. Take the Downeaster being subsidized by Maine as an example, is it operating as a regional train or a long distance commuter train service? The distance suggests regional, but the timetable scheduling suggest commuter. When it arrives in downtown Boston, there are local trains servicing the train station as well, both commuter and metro services. In this area, only New Orleans has local "streetcar" services. I'm thinking it would be better to concentrate first on local services than regional services.

Last edited by electricron; Apr 11, 2021 at 10:38 AM.
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  #299  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2021, 6:13 PM
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.

Even if a railroad was laid in one of the tunnels under the main channel, how would you get the track to the tunnel over the Bay on the eastern side? That would be at least 7 miles of new railroad trestles needed. The existing 7 miles of I-10 viaducts will be expanded from 4 to 6 lanes if the new bridge is built.
It's actually more like 12 miles across the marsh.

Adding to the dilemma is that if a rail track were added to the proposed new bridge, it would be a bit south of downtown Mobile and so well outside walking distance. It couldn't serve the historic Mobile train station site, either. I can't imagine that east-west freight traffic will increase, so I don't see a duel utility with freight trains for a new bay rail crossing, especially with coal use by power plants on the decline in the area. Two of the plants we used to deliver coal to (Pensacola and Panama City) have switched to natural gas.

I remember that Mobile Bay was super-shallow and when we'd motor out of there turbines on the back of our boat would kick fish out of the water and up in the air about 10-15 feet. We'd be followed for like 45 minutes by seagulls that would pluck the fish out of the air.
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  #300  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2021, 9:32 PM
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Going east of Mobile is probably not in the cards given how ill-suited the existing rail corridors are and the high cost of creating a new corridor. The cost might be worth it in a more populous part of the country, but Mobile isn't fast-growing and the Panhandle is not the fast-growing part of Florida.

These coastal landscapes of estuaries and inlets are extremely difficult to retrofit rail, IMO. It's not just a problem in Mobile or Pensacola but also Charleston, Wilmington, tidewater Virginia, and to a lesser extent Jacksonville and Savannah. Historically the rail connections led from coastal port cities inland to their hinterlands; they were not built to link coastal cities with each other. Still today the best way to serve these cities is with terminal stations rather than through-stations.
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Last edited by ardecila; Apr 11, 2021 at 9:44 PM.
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