Amtrak NEC, Downeaster, Acela, & Long Distance

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
Though I'm aware that Union Station was rehabilitated that year, I hadn't realized its platforms were low till then. (IIRC, platforms at the other stations along the New Haven line were raised in the early 1970s.)
They started before then with the physical raising of the platforms because the M2 EMU's introduced in the mid-70's didn't have door traps...but some of the Amtrak & diesel platforms stayed low longer. The accessibility project that got all the egresses + platforms compatible with handicap access didn't wrap until the big '85 reno. Which was a big showcase deal stemming from Metro North's '83 founding.

NH Union spent a solid 10 years in total configuration disarray because MNRR's public spinoff was so much-delayed compared to all other Northeastern commuter rail agencies. Nothing was getting done in the decade of rudderless "Conrail Metro Region featuring ConnDOT fun bux" ops, so the mid-80's were a big burst of state-of-repair renewal flushed through after somebody finally got put in charge.
 

Norval Elliot

New member
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Messages
31
Reaction score
11
They started before then with the physical raising of the platforms because the M2 EMU's introduced in the mid-70's didn't have door traps…
I remember the M2 and the R46 were designed to resemble each other in an effort to create a unified appearance of commuter rail and subway cars.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
F-Line -- once again you did a nice job and you were even relatively non-judgmental about my comments [until the very end]

Problem with reading all the discussions -- too many repetitive statements are repetitively posted by the same suspects repetitively -- if you distill it all down -- its like one of the BBC imports on commercial TV -- there are so many commercials that you can compress things at least 3X
So...perhaps if reading for context is such a problem for you maybe you should first find a way to skip the commercials before hitting the post button to irrelevance.

Disruptive technology...dig it? 🔌
 

FK4

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2012
Messages
2,500
Reaction score
133
Which is a fascinating demographic classroom lesson, and yet so <<not very much relevant at all>> to the actual point of the discussion we were having on specific Boston-Springfield transit. "Greater Hartford-Springfield" is pretty much this unbroken 20-mi. wide band centered by I-91 going from New Haven well past Springfield to a point around Northampton where it finally fizzes out. A shitload of population, indeed. And I was also one of them born-n'-bred as a product of Bristol...though I think I may have visited scary thar-be-dragons Hartford more often than you. That massive population strip also happens to be a shitload of people you can't begin to all tap with Emerging HSR on an east-west alignment to Springfield because the people are all in the catchment of of the north-south Springfield Line + southern-half Conn River Line. It's a two-seat trip any which way unless you're going to City of Springfield-proper. So for purposes of building an east-west line...ayup!, City of Springfield-proper and its 153K residents + etc. etc. possible accessible on PVTA buses are the primary things carrying all water on cost-benefit when Springfield Union Station is the only stop. Just like we were saying in the original thread you lightning-skimmed. It's not nearly enough of an intersect to float the value proposition of a dedicated ROW, as per the original conclusion.

Now, do we want that transfer to be faster, faster, ever faster? Absolutely! We probably should be working towards the final NNEIRI recs for making a better B&A corridor, and keep brainstorming from there on ways to keep improving as demand increases. But we're cosmically far from being able to hit paydirt with a cleanroomed corridor, because any which way that corridor is only going to clip...not intertwine...with where that I-91 centered strip of monster Greater Hartford population is. As EGE said, in the real world it's probably easier done at shorter time on the schedule with far higher build ROI run via true-blue 150 MPH NEC alt-spine Boston-Providence-Hartford HSR built on a midland bypass on/near the canceled I-84 Providence routing tied into a couple long-and-straight legs of landbanked ROW. Then bullseyeing Hartford Union Station as the crossroads-to-end-all-crossroads since it forms the midpoint of the corridor and would be a higher-leverage linchpin to begin with for reaching the whole of that population strip. Transfer north on an already zippy Springfield Line to get to Springfield, instead of the other way around.

Any which way it's achieved--Inland or Midland--Springfield isn't really taking center-stage in any plan because the population strip isn't centered there. Albany even less so since the true metro area is far-distorted off the actual city CBD, and the rail lines covering all areas of the metro area E-W-N-S cross each other outside the actual city CBD leaving no downtown union station potential at all (the current station being in Rensselaer, the disused downtown station forever cut off from the rails by I-787 and being somewhat of a routing square-peg when it was still around).


TL;DR...This question was implicitly answered already by reading the actual discussion for a change. Try it out sometime.
We’ve heard tons of discussion but it would be very useful to see some sketches of what is being proposed here... you and a few others did a lot of nice ones for the old green line thread, I have a hard time getting exactly what’s being proposed as far as rail stuff is concerned and a pic = 1k words
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
Big news for anyone who's considered patronizing the Virginia run-thru NE Regionals :


$3.7B buyout by Amtrak and VADOT of 350+ miles CSX trackage from D.C. Union to Richmond and other commuter corridors points beyond from a to-be Richmond hub. Basically that state's equivalent (except bigger!) of the megadeals MassDOT swung with CSX in the last dozen years over Beacon Park relocation, Worcester Line ownership, the freight intermodal improvements, and all the branchline purchases including South Coast. The RF&P Line that carries the Regional to Richmond and the mainline for Virginia Railway Express commuter rail now goes under Amtrak upper-hand control, with CSX retaining a 50% residual for protecting its busy intermodal lane under TBD traffic separation alongside. All proposed tri- and quad-tracking proposals for the corridor immediately go into design-build, as well as a bunch of Emerging HSR initial investments like speedups to 90-110 MPH everywhere applicable, more grade crossing separations, passing tracks at VRE commuter stations, etc. No electrification yet because there's about 20 years of more meaningful bread-and-butter improvements to sink into the base infrastructure first before wires make a difference, and it's probably never going to be Acela-worthy on demand or performance until minimum midcentury. But pretty much paves the way for D.C.-Richmond to emerge into its own full-service Keystone-like appendage to the NEC over the course of the 2020's decade.

For commuter service VRE's going to be able to run hourly and run on weekends for the first time ever, plus it clears away one major paper hurdle for the long-desired MARC run-thru past D.C. to cover the other end of the Beltway as Maryland now only needs to negotiate with Amtrak and VADOT for logistics. The other corridors thrown in are for future considerations expansion off of a Richmond hub, akin to the extras CSX gave MassDOT for the South Coast Lines, etc.

An impressively bold and aggressive timetable for implementing all that in 10 years flat.
 

stellarfun

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2006
Messages
4,851
Reaction score
104
Important to note that about half the money will be spent on a new railroad bridge across the Potomac.
The $3.7 billion estimated cost over the next decade includes about $525 million for CSX’s land under current or future tracks, about $1.9 billion for Long Bridge construction, and the remainder for other new track construction and related work.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
Important to note that about half the money will be spent on a new railroad bridge across the Potomac.
It's an outright doubling of capacity. The current 2-track Long Bridge between D.C. and Alexandria is a speed-restricted bottleneck running way over-capacity. The new parallel span adds 2 tracks keeping quad-track territory bookending Alexandria fully contiguous, and will run faster than the old bridge which will continue to be maintained by CSX and be usable for overflow passenger traffic between freight slots. The new parallel span is worth a 50% increase in Amtrak slots and 75% increase in VRE commuter slots. It's comparable in overall impact to the Portal Bridge project in NJ and eventual twinning of that span for the NYC Gateway project.

The big gain from all this is being able to convert so many more Regional slots from terminating to run-thru at D.C. Union to substantially increase the terminal's scheduling capacity without touching its more-or-less tapped out track capacity. It's why Amtrak is putting such megabucks into renovating the station building for pedestrian throughput and expanded services. These southern schedule increases, which also bullseye Raleigh, NC as a capture market for Regional services because North Carolina is investing big just like Virginia, dovetail with the baseline NEC improvements like Gateway NYC and the quad-tracking in Maryland to make it so that Regional service levels post-2030 & 2040 are going to be so high you'll no longer have to pay attention at South Station to what the destination sign says to hit your desired destination. You can grab an any-train, and if your endpoint happens to be Newport News instead of Lynchburg or Raleigh you just cross platforms at any stop between SS and Alexandria to use the same ticket to board the train that is diverging onto the correct branching schedule. Same way that the Keystone Corridor and Springfield Line/Inland Route end up looming larger in the future for branching patterns and exponential linked-trip increases without the one-seat vs. two-seat distinction any longer throwing up tangible mobility barriers. Penn Station (via the whole Moynihan Station headhouse expansion) and D.C. Union are thus going to start acting much more like airline layovers for making linked connections, necessitating the huge megabucks expansions of the terminal buildings for crush-load foot traffic and more biz traveler amenities.

This was a legit Very Good Week™ for U.S. passenger rail. The coattails on this Virginia megadeal run long and strong across the whole East Coast.
 

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,217
Reaction score
413
I hadn't realized that the Tier 2 EIS for DC to Richmond was fully approved in September, meaning they can start design-build.


Also interesting is that as soon as DC DOT finishes its EIS on the Long Bridge (DC owns the whole Potomac), they will turn it over to VA to actually build (since VA is the big beneficiary)

Richmond - Raleigh HSR (on the ROW that VA just bought its part and NC has long owned its) can now worth advancing from Tier 1 to Tier 2.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
FWIW...if you go back to the Obama Admin. HSR emerging corridors map, this transaction means that the Southeast Region is now under full public lock-and-key D.C.-Charlotte on the west fork (which connects at Atlanta to the feds' Gulf Coast Corridor).



The abandoned segment of CSX "S-Line" route that Virginia acquired is the straighter preferred route into Raleigh paralleling US 1, capable of sustained 110 MPH. It used to carry the NYC-Miami Silver Star pre-1986 at shorter travel time than today before it was chopped off and Amtrak was re-routed via the CSX "A-Line" paralleling I-95. Currently landbanked from about 10 miles south of Richmond to about 6 miles past the NC border, with the rest to Raleigh state-owned and in use by a freight shortline north of Raleigh. The S-Line enters Raleigh on a less roundabout fashion than the A-Line and is direct-connected to the Raleigh-Charlotte Piedmont route at Raleigh Union Station unlike the A-Line which passes a stone's throw away. Comparison of the S vs. A routes here.


The NYC-Charlotte Carolinian and Silver Star currently have to swim in some of the heaviest freight traffic on the East Coast, with the A-Line having a lot less give for curve-straightening speedups. Full upgrades to the S-Line to Class 6/110 MPH are said to be worth 2 hours' savings to both routes, which currently take 5-1/2 hours to cover the 306 miles between D.C. and Raleigh. The Silver Star south of Raleigh is still on a CSX-owned segment of S-Line, but the freight traffic to Columbia & Savannah is far less down that way as most of the crush loads peel off instead onto a non-passenger route along the coast leaving ample headroom for passenger-centric upgrades to the east fork.

When the new Richmond-Raleigh pipe is open for business that's when you'll see the Carolinian likely folded fully into the Regional branding with the Virginia trains and the Piedmont extended to D.C. as its own Regional flavor since it'll finally be direct-connected to the rest of the Amtrak route network. You then may see breakaway NC commuter rail take up the growing roster of Piedmont intermediate stops Hartford Line-style with the Piedmont being recast at stronger Amtrak ties sort of like we're attempting to do here turning the Springfield Shuttles into the Inland Route. It's speculated that all south-of-D.C. services may then take on a new branding like Atlantic Regional distinct from the Northeast Regional name. i.e. Run-thru service from Boston-D.C. off the NEC identical in amenities to the originating northeastern trains, but a bit of a wayfinding cleanup for the Marketing Dept. from the ever-increasing number of service forks south-of-D.C.


Yes, there is a rail trail on the landbanked S-Line segment that is to be accommodated rail-with-trail by the service reactivation for Richmond-Raleigh. And no, there are not any NIMBY blockers with clout because full-speed-ahead reactivation is very far along in planning and has been an utmost priority for the two states for so long. The S-Line has been a high-value 'get' for VA & NC passenger service almost since the original abandonment evicted the Silver Star from its preferred routing, which is why CSX held out for 3 decades and such a king's ransom. It's not the longest reactivation out of abandonment in the history of the Federal landbanking statute, but it will be the most significant one yet by far and a possible game-changer for the currently moribund state of reactivation politics nationally because the initial service gains from it will be so dramatic.
 
Last edited:

Arlington

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 10, 2011
Messages
4,217
Reaction score
413
Other cool thing: in the short term (teal color on the service plan), all trains through Richmond will be routed through RVM (the downtown station on CSX) instead of most of them stopping only at RVS (the "suburban station" (roughly in Richmond's "West Roxbury")

Today, while all trains (dozen?) stop at RVS, only those (3?) headed to Williamsburg stop at RVM. Mostly Amtrak has has to cross the James River in a bypass bridge rather than going via downtown.
 

BostonUrbEx

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2010
Messages
4,309
Reaction score
84
Sharpening my crayons and coming up with some intercity services via SPG, other than Inland Route to HFD/NHV/NYP.

BOS—Chicago via Hamilton and Detroit
BOS—Toronto
BOS—Montreal via Albany
BOS—Montreal via Springfield and Burlington

We end up with twice daily to Chicago, three daily to Buffalo, four daily to Albany, five daily to Springfield, just to start. Toronto and Montreal could probably sustain more service than this.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
Sharpening my crayons and coming up with some intercity services via SPG, other than Inland Route to HFD/NHV/NYP.
BOS—Montreal via Springfield and Burlington
This is the NNEIRI study's official BOS-MTL route with completed Tier I EIS. Features the Inland Route-coordinated transfer to the existing Vermonter @ SPG providing second de facto daily frequency.

Note that the Central VT main doesn't pass through City of Burlington (and ex- Rutland RR trackage along Lake Champlain downtown to East Allburg is 50 years gone). Essex Junction is the Burlington-serving station on the Vermonter, close to the airport. GMT Route 15 bus runs between Essex Jct. and downtown every 30-40 minutes. Improved local bus frequencies probably cover the need.

Essex is very likely to become a union station for the Vermonter and the Burlington-extended Ethan Allen Express within 10 years. The Rutland-downtown Burlington EAE extension is slated to open in 2021, with closeout track and infill station work continuing into ‘22. After that VTrans is widely expected to seek trackage rights on the NECR Burlington Branch between downtown and Essex Jct., with upgrades to that 7.5 mi. of currently 10 MPH track simplifying AMTK ops by vacating the EAE layover in Vermont Rail System’s crowded downtown freight yard and more easily turning trains at the Essex wye. It will also allow future thru-routing of the EAE north to St. Albans, cross-tix transfer to the Montrealer from Rutland @ Essex, and future intrastate passenger rail between Burlington and Montpelier/etc.
BOS—Chicago via Hamilton and Detroit
BOS—Toronto
These unfortunately require Canada to get its act together before there's any there there. Unlike the MTL routes where Amtrak crews can now run 'sealed' from the border such that NY/New England state-sponsored routes can now pretty much do what they want going forward, the Empire Corridor still requires a Customs stop + crew change from AMTK to VIA Rail at Niagra Falls, NY to serve highish-demand intra-Canada ridership en route to Toronto at stops like Hamilton. It's a factor of Montreal being much more compact metro area with whole lot of nothing between the border and St. Jean vs. sprawlier Greater Toronto which has unbroken suburbia straight to the Niagra border. Route variety to Canada via Albany is thus wholly dependent on third-world and perennially cash-poor political football VIA taking up the baton at adding more border-crossing slots.

There'd be hope if NY could successfully arm-twist for another Maple Leaf round-trip to means-test it for VIA. The brand new Niagra Falls, NY station that opened 2 years ago slimmed the Customs check to an hour as overt nod to more border-crossing trains. Track speeds and congestion on the Canadian side also aren't nearly the problem to TOR as they are between MTL and the border, as GO Transit's RER megaproject is sinking hundreds of millions in trackwork into densifying commuter service on the main VIA-shared routes through the 'burbs. The GO Niagra Branch between Hamilton and the border is also being upgraded for full-time/year-round commuter rail service from its formerly seasonal- & weekender- only status to alleviate traffic congestion around St. Catharines.

Every Canadian PM's promises to increase VIA service dating back to Daddy Trudeau 40 years ago have ended up turning on their head into service cuts when ill-timed recessions and Parliament opposition have reared their heads. Junior Trudeau similarly talked a great game when he first took power, but has done nothing so far on the service expansion front (though VIA's finally replacing its rolling ruins with new Corridor equipment). The Emerging HSR studies for the VIA Corridor are moving along, but are painfully modest compared to what Amtrak has been sustaining for improvements year-in/year-out to Chicago hub, let alone on the NEC.

Perpetual VIA funding shocks are how the once well-patronized International Limited Chicago-Port Huron, MI-Toronto got cut back to the border in 2004, and how the NY-DET Niagra Rainbow got truncated in 1979 and again a brief '94-95 revival. The Blue Water remnant of the Int'l Ltd. is one of AMTK’s biggest non-NEC moneymakers and does 110 MPH on the Detroit Line to Kalamazoo with further 110 MPH speedups planned east of Kalamazoo now that MDOT's finished speed upgrades on the Detroit fork. A revived Int'l Ltd. would be pretty zippy, down from 10:47 under the last schedule in '04 to a worst-case 9:15 (with better times as more 110 MPH track comes online). A better Customs facility built to Niagra-spec can then lop another 30-45 mins. off the excruciating 90-min. former Port Huron layover. 8:30 CHI-TOR is easily achievable in the next 3 years with zero speedups on the Canadian side, and if the VIA Corridor actually starts pushing 110 MPH on the twin-fork Toronto-Sarnia and Toronto-Windsor routes another hour's savings goes up for grabs.

To achieve good enough vital signs for better border-crossing route options you've got to get VIA committed to a minimum of (#1) second daily Maple Leaf slot and (#2) an International Ltd. revival in the next 5 years. Both of those would be outright profitable with all the speedups on the U.S. side. Then you need to (#3) re-establish the International vs. International Ltd. route variety that used to exist, mixing the faster Port Huron AMTK route + faster (pre-1990) Kitchener-skipping CN route on the Ltd. vs. the (high-speed but longer-distance) Detroit-direct U.S. route and Kitchener fork to scoop the bigger population catchments at somewhat longer travel time. Then (#4) getting VIA to stick necks out on >2 Maple Leaf round-trips so there's enough equipment fluidity to attempt a Niagra Rainbow revival as conjoined Maple Leaf + International sleeper train NY-DET/CHI. Which definitely would require VIA proceeding with some initial 110 MPH Corridor upgrades.

In the real world #1-4 are not that big an ask. NY Gov. Cuomo just this week just called for new NYHSR study to sift through all the previous studies and pluck out any/all practical on-the-ground Empire speedups to put into the pipeline sooner vs. later. Then separating out the more tortured "vision thing" end goals into separate study effort so the state can walk and chew gum at the same time, correcting the political gridlock that felled all previous studies from mixing up their practical vs. existential recs to confusion and choking on it. Throw in ongoing Chicago Hub improvements and Amtrak's got its house in order for charting a future with lots more border-crossing trains.

Alas, in backwards VIA-world...who the hell knows. There's a number of good things happening: GO RER trackwork near Toronto, renewed push for Corridor 110 MPH EIS-design-build, and Customs streamlining. But coordination still lacks, even compared to what Amtrak--hardly a shining world example of planning acumen--is able to consistently achieve in real-time. Plus you still can't trust Canadian pols as far as you can throw them to keep their promises, starting with Trudeau The Younger who's already run his mouth to excess about HSR far further than his funding (in)action is backing up. So basic asks like #1-4 above end up total crapshoots.

--------------------

As far as MA is concerned, if NY can meaningfully speed up ALB-BUF-NIA and VIA can start plugging extra Maple Leaf slots, our way in with these border-crossers is by playing the Lake Shore Ltd. template. We fund extra BOS-ALB trips with a sleeper attached on improved B&A track with schedule coordination at Springfield Hub fattening the patronage from north-south linked trips. Then we do the lash-up/split-off move @ ALB onto the load-bearing New York half of the train like the LSL does. These extra "train chain" slots can glom onto parallel efforts for more Springfield-Pittsfield-Albany local travel options to justify track improvements through the Berkshires...which will never be fast-fast, but can be rounded up a bit and leverage schedule gains for CSX's intermodal profit center as primary means of amortizing costs. Then the only challenge is seeking time savings on the lash-ups/split-offs of the LSL halves @ ALB, which currently require excruciating 1:05 layover. If less required padding from BOS-ALB + NY-ALB schedule improvements and investment in more nimble yard facilities @ ALB for staging the lash-ups can trim that layover down to :30 or :40…then we’re in tolerable range to go for it. If you can make the LSL more useful overall and less crippled from the ALB layover, you've got viable service template for MA hot-plugging its way onto all manner of pan-Empire improvements. Including BOS-TOR lash-ups onto extra Maple Leaf slots and Niagra Rainbow revival to Detroit.

From MA’s perspective it's pretty cut-and-dried. We just have to follow through on all Inland Route + Springfield Hub ridership exploits to build up a head of steam for infilling service improvements through the Berkshires, and troubleshoot the sluggishness of the ALB layover to de-cripple the LSL and make “chained trains” more fiscally viable as a service template. Accomplish those practical and largely intrastate tasks, and everything else grander gets served up for us on a platter plug-and-play @ ALB from other states'/countries' efforts. What VIA and NYSDOT do are out of our control, but we can set our own table for taking advantage of whatever they do accomplish.
 
Last edited:

Riverside

Active Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
358
Reaction score
35
This idea got stuck in my head on Monday and has since consumed a non-trivial portion of my holiday. Riverside presents... overnight sleeper services for Boston.

What Do I Mean By "Overnight"?


For my purposes, I'm defining "overnight service" to mean "boarding in the evening in one city, sleeping aboard, and disembarking in a new city not long after waking." Like a red-eye, you save on overnight accommodations and don't waste daytime hours traveling. With a red-eye, you usually pay for those benefits at the cost of comfort and -- if we're honest -- any decent amount of sleep. An overnight train service will usually have those same costs, although the comfort may be a bit higher, and the cost of a more comfortable seat (e.g. business class) might be a touch lower.

But overnight trains have a couple of notable differences. First, even when just traveling in coach seats, you generally get a one-seat ride. For example, some red-eyes require a late-night or very early-morning transfer to reach your destination; even if you're lucky enough to get comfortable on the first leg, you have to start all over on the second. Second, it is possible to get an actual bed and privacy on an overnight train that you basically cannot get on a plane without paying a four-digit sum.

Finally, depending on the particulars, there are certain journeys that can be accomplished relatively quickly through air travel, but which take just long enough, especially when airport overhead travel time is accounted for, that they can still cost you most of a day. Some of those journeys could instead be accomplished with overnight rail with less overall disruption to one's week.

Additionally, there is the growing public awareness of the carbon impact of air travel, which may lead to renewed interest in alternate methods for medium-distance journeys.

Current Services

As it is, Boston currently has what might count as "one and half" overnight services -- depending on how you count them.

Northeast Regional

Trains 65 and 67 leave Boston at 9:30PM. The arrival time to New York is really too early to count as "overnight", since you still get there right in the middle of the night (2:30 AM). However, once you get to Philadelphia (4:30 AM), you just start to slip into "overnight" territory. Certainly journeys to Washington (6:30 AM) or Richmond (9:00 AM) would count (9 hours and 11.5 hours, respectively).

I'd say the Northeast Regional counts as somewhere between one-half and one overnight service. The biggest challenge is that there never is the option of sleeping accommodations on this train. I suspect that this is because -- being the Northeast Corridor -- Boston-Washington (or BOS-PHL or Boston-VA) journeys have a lot of options already. Between cars, buses, trains and flying, you basically can leave Boston any time you want and arrive in Washington as quickly as you are willing to pay for.

Likewise, I think there would be low-demand for sleeping accommodations on this corridor -- in its current form -- because of its length. Leaving Boston at 9:30 is manageable enough, but even by the time you get to Providence (10:22), you're starting to push the convenience level -- it's getting late. And certainly by the time you hit southern Rhode Island, it's basically already 11pm -- if you're going to be traveling at this hour, it's officially a Hassle™, so why not fly and get there faster? There are so many options on this corridor.

(The northbound equivalent Train 66 fares only a little better -- Washington at 9:40, Baltimore at 10:25, but 11:16 by the time you get to Wilmington.)

This means that the only market is Boston/Providence to Washington/Baltimore -- hardly an underserved market, especially given that BWI is a hub for Southwest.

So, unless Amtrak wants to try to rake in some cash by selling First Class tickets and hooking a Viewliner onto 65/66/67, sleeper accommodations seem unlikely for this corridor.

Lake Shore Limited

Train 449 leaves Boston at 12:50PM, combines with 49 at Albany from which it departs at 7:05PM, and arrives in Chicago the next day at 9:50AM. Certainly from Albany onward, this counts as an "overnight", but adding on the 6 hours at the start from Boston is brutal. And, it's worth adding, that 9:50 arrival in Chicago is definitely pushing the convenience level, as it definitely eats into your day (and that's before any delays on this 1,000 mile journey). So, from a Boston perspective, this is also probably not a proper "overnight" service.

Unlike the Northeast Regional, the Lake Shore Limited does offer sleeper accommodations. A one-way ticket from Boston to Chicago for a roomette is roughly $400. By comparison, a flight from Boston to Chicago, plus a hotel in Downtown Chicago is between $200 and $370, depending on economy vs business, and whether you check bags. Plus add $40 to reach downtown from the airport by cab.

So, for a business traveler who can sacrifice half of her time in the office on Tuesday, the cost for an overnight Amtrak might be just comparable to flight + hotel if she needs to be in Downtown Chicago for a mid-day meeting on Wednesday. (Barely.) To be fair to Amtrak -- if our traveler opted for air instead of rail, she would either need to chop off a few hours of her workday for a 5pm flight out of Logan, or would need to do a late (10pm CT) arrival into Chicago, probably not reaching hotel until close to 11pm CT/midnight ET. An Amtrak roomette won't be as comfortable as a hotel room, but at least you can be in bed at a reasonable hour.

The other variable to note here: on average, Train 49 is 45 minutes late into Chicago, according to the Amtrak Status Maps Archive Database. A delayed flight will keep you from getting to bed, but won't make you late for that mid-day meeting -- a delayed train arriving that same morning might.

The Amtrak fact sheet on the Lake Shore Limited offers some interesting data points. First, a full 21% of journeys are simply between Albany and New York -- part of the frequency layer cake that amounts to a train every 60-90 minutes between Albany and New York for most of the day (!). All but one of the remaining top 10 city pairs involve Chicago. Trips between Boston and Chicago only seem to account for 3.1% of ridership, though NYC-CHI only does a bit better at 6.9%. However, even among these smaller groups, Sleeper reservations still make up a minority -- not even half, by the looks of it.

The low share of Sleeper reservations may in part be because Coach is much cheaper -- the $400 trip above is $96 in the cheapest tier of Coach. That is still in fact more expensive than some flights (when booked in advance), though perhaps if you are able to avoid a cab fare it might be slightly cheaper.

Unlike the BOS-WAS corridor described above, BOS-CHI is probably a bit too long to be attractive for overnight sleeper travel.

But there are a couple of other data points I want to highlight from the LSL schedule and ridership, as I think it does inform what could work in Boston.

Lake Shore Limited from Chicago -- a model for success?

I'd like to focus on this middle tier of city pairs:

3. Buffalo, NY - Chicago, IL 528 mi
4. Chicago, IL - Syracuse, NY 668 mi
5. Albany-Rensselaer, NY - Chicago, IL 818 mi
6. Chicago, IL - Rochester, NY 589 mi
7. Chicago, IL - Cleveland, OH 341 mi
8. Chicago, IL - Toledo, OH 234 mi

I think there is something very interesting here. Notice that the shorter-distance pairs (with Cleveland and with Toledo) are less patronized than the longer journeys to Rochester, Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo. Likewise, population is not particularly predictive: the Albany, Buffalo, and Rochester CSA's are roughly 1.1, 1.2, and 1.1 million respectively, while Cleveland's is at a whopping 3.6 million -- the largest on this corridor aside from its endpoints, but wallowing down in 7th place on this list. Likewise, Syracuse at 730K handily trounces Toledo's 830K, despite being more than twice as far to travel.

You can probably guess where I'm going with this, but bear with me. This dip in ridership makes perfect sense -- once you look at the schedule:

1577899551781.png


Those scheduled times for Cleveland and Toledo suuuuuuck. In both cases, one direction is sorta okay -- Cleveland to Albany leaves just before 6AM, and likewise for Toledo to Chicago -- but the other direction requires you to be at a train station at 3 in the morning.

Contrast that with the brackets created by our more popular destinations. Going east, a 9:30PM CT departure from Chicago will get you to
  • Buffalo at 8:46AM
  • Rochester at 9:53AM
  • Syracuse at 11:23AM
  • Albany at 2:31PM
Likewise, departing from
  • Albany at 7:05PM
  • Syracuse at 9:52PM
  • Rochester at 11:12PM
  • Buffalo at 12:20AM
will get you to Chicago at 9:50AM CT.

Now, all of these are a bit on the late side -- it would probably be nicer to leave Chicago earlier and be in Rochester in time for breakfast -- and that Buffalo departure is rough, plus the Chicago arrival is a bit late in the morning -- but all of them would allow you to get a reasonable night's sleep.

All of this suggests that medium-distance overnight journeys of 10-13 hours might be a "sweet spot" wherein longer travel times are tolerated because they are convenient.

[continued below]
 

Riverside

Active Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
358
Reaction score
35
Finally, it's worth noting that some 225K riders in 2018 took the LSL in Coach (not counting those ALB-NYC supercommuters). This is more than the 110K who took the daytime Adirondack, and is comparable with the overnight Capitol Limited, daytime Palmetto, and overnight City of New Orleans, which travel similar distances. So, even though it may be a bit of a drag, sleeping in a Coach seat in order to travel ~800 miles overnight definitely seems to be done.

(By the way -- of those last three, the Capitol Limited sees by far the most Sleeper passengers, and most of those are Chicago-Washington, with Chicago-Pittsburgh coming in a reasonable 2nd place. WAS-CHI is 4:05PM-8:45AM and CHI-WAS is 6:40PM-1:05PM -- though a long journey, those timings are great, especially the westbound. The Pittsburgh times are a little rougher -- depart at midnight going west, arrive at 5AM coming east, but it's not bad, especially with the time change taken into account. I'd wager that the higher share of Sleeper passengers on this route is explained in part by the maximally convenient times. Linking two of America's largest urban areas probably helps, but NYC is bigger than WAS [albeit 200 miles further] and had some 20% fewer Sleepers.)

All of which is to say:

Among current medium-distance overnight riders, convenient "traveling time brackets" seem to play a non-trivial role in encouraging and discouraging ridership.

Proposed Services

So where does this leave Boston?

With the above in mind, I propose four corridors for overnight service from Boston:
  • Boston-Albany-Montreal
  • Boston-Albany-Buffalo(-Toronto)
  • Boston-Albany-Buffalo-Cleveland and onward
  • Portland-Boston-Washington
Montreal

By splicing together the LSL and Adirondack schedules -- and assuming that Gare Centrale's Customs Facility finishes up soon -- we arrive at a travel time of about 12 hours. Now, for daytime travel, this would be pretty rough -- not at all competitive against driving. However, as an overnight service, it may just fall into our sweet spot.

An 7:30pm departure from South Station would reach
  • Worcester at 8:45
  • Springfield at 10:00
  • Pittsfield at 11:15
  • Albany at 12:30
before arriving in Montreal at about 7:30am the next morning. And that assumes no track upgrades in Massachusetts, and assumes all currently scheduled Adirondack stops (except for St Lambert) are made. You could probably pick up some time by trimming the Albany layover (23 minutes in this exercise) and by dropping most of the Adirondack stops. Assume an hour within the station for customs, and you're out having breakfast in the Old City by 9am.

Note that those stop timings correspond very closely with the pattern we saw on the westbound LSL with Albany through Buffalo. That's a sweet spot that could work.

Especially if positioned as a weekend getaway train, a la the CapeFlyer, this could introduce Massachusetts (including Western Massachusetts) to the idea of taking the train to Montreal -- before needing to upgrade the track north of St. Albans or working out the philosophical questions of Higher Speed Rail in Northern New England. As we saw with the Lake Shore Limited versus the Capitol Limited, the longer run time may actually help in this case.

Burlington, VT

The Adirondack currently stops at Port Kent during the summer. Mere feet from the station is the dock for the ferry to Burlington, VT, which itself lands right in downtown Burlington, a 10-minute walk from the Church St Marketplace, a number of hotels and of course Burlington's waterfront. The ferry crossing itself is scenic and takes 1 hour. A 7pm departure from Boston would arrive at Port Kent a bit too early to be appealing, but a 9pm departure would arrive at about 6:15am, putting our travelers in Burlington by 7:30am. While it would push arrival in Montreal to 9am, it would add another summer destination to the route.

Buffalo

By splicing the LSL and Maple Leaf schedules, a journey to (downtown) Buffalo would take about 10.5 hours, using current travel times. Now, Buffalo may seem a bit far-flung, but we've seen that Buffalo-Chicago can work, and Boston's CSA at 8.2 million is not that much smaller than Chicago's 9.8 million, and Boston is a little bit closer. Boston also has the advantage of having Rochester, with another 1.1 million CSA on top of Buffalo's 1.2 million, being that much closer than Chicago.

A 9pm departure from South Station would reach
  • Springfield at 11:30PM
  • Albany at 2:10AM
  • Syracuse at 5:00AM
  • Rochester at 6:15AM
before arriving in Buffalo at 7:30AM the next morning. Again, no track upgrades, and assumes all current stops.

Now, in order to reach Buffalo (to say nothing of similarly large Rochester and only somewhat smaller Syracuse) at a reasonable hour of the morning (not too early), it does mean that Western Massachusetts would be boarding pretty late. If the LSL model holds, Worcester and Springfield would both see passengers, but Pittsfield would be less likely. Likewise, Amsterdam, Utica and Rome all would suffer the "Cleveland" problem of trains stopping in the dead of night. But, Syracuse + Rochester + Buffalo are where the population is, and a 9pm departure could work for those stops.

Niagara Falls

Especially in the summer, certain Buffalo trains could be extended to Niagara Falls, a little less than 1 hour north. A 9pm Boston departure could have you in Niagara Falls by 8:30am the next morning.

Toronto

Toronto is tricky. Beyond the trackage issues discussed upthread, as well as the need for a customs clearance area at Toronto Union Station, the fact is that the route runs through some 80 miles of Canada, half of which are reasonably dense suburbs of Toronto. A pre-clearance approach would basically require overnight trains to express through all of these suburbs; while most Americans probably aren't going to Mississauga, an express could cut down on the number of Canadians using the service to get to Boston.

It's also hard to estimate a hypothetical travel time from the border to Toronto. I guesstimated about 1h20m, assuming something like an average of 50 mph (running non-stop on upgraded track) but that's a pretty wild guess.

However, all in all, the journey might be something like 13 hours, which should fall into our sweet spot.

A 7pm departure from South Station would reach
  • Springfield at 9:30PM
  • Albany at midnight
  • Rochester at 4:15AM
  • Buffalo at 5:30AM
  • Niagara Falls at 6:45AM
before arriving in Toronto at 8AM the next morning.... maybe.

Note that in order to reach Toronto by the start of the business day, you may have to sacrifice Rochester and certainly Syracuse getting service at a reasonable hour. So, that probably calls for divorcing "local" Buffalo service (which likely would be oriented toward bringing passengers from Buffalo to New England, and so could potentially afford a later arrival in Buffalo on the way "home") from "international" service to Toronto (which would likely be oriented in both directions) -- have the Toronto train leave Boston at 7pm, with the Buffalo train following at 9pm.

One interesting feature of this particular scheduling arrangement is that a 7pm train from Boston could meet a 9:15pm train from New York in Albany at midnight, and either combine the cars (more convenient, but costlier in time) or have a cross platform transfer. In fact, all of the proposals discussed so far could support a meet in Albany. The question would be whether the timing is also convenient for New Yorkers (since NYC-ALB is much shorter than BOS-ALB -- read: later departures).

Cleveland

Cleveland's CSA is estimated at 3.6 million, which makes it a little bit smaller than Greater Montreal's 4 million. Based on the Lake Shore Limited's schedule (which includes a 1 hour layover in Albany that hopefully could be trimmed by avoiding combining trainsets), a train journey from Boston to Cleveland would take 14.5 hours. Let's assume we can iron out the layover and call it 14 hours even. This puts it a bit smaller than and a bit further away than Montreal, and (not to be unkind) without the tourist appeal.

A 6:30pm departure from South Station would reach Cleveland the next morning at 8:30am, having hit Buffalo around about 5am. In all likelihood, the reverse journey would probably be the prioritized one -- leaving Cleveland at 6:30pm, picking up passengers in Buffalo at about 9:30, and arriving in Boston at 8:30am in time for the work day (and in time to be delayed by MBTA problems on the Worcester Line, ha!). If the train were to split in Albany, then Boston arrival would be more like 9am, and New York arrival would be around 7:30.

On its own, a Cleveland-Boston overnighter might be a bridge too far -- I'm not sure. However, in the context of the Chicago discussion below and the Buffalo discussion above, it may have its place.

Chicago

The Lake Shore Limited's current schedule is rough for Boston. From Albany and west, the journey is somewhat feasible as an overnighter. The eastbound journey suffers from the time change, but overall it's still a reasonably good link between Chicagoland and Upstate New York.

But for New England, and for Ohio, the current schedule is utter pants. Too far from New England, and too ungodly an hour for Ohio.

So I propose a second overnight train be added, and be paired with "short-turn" service to Buffalo (and maybe Toronto).

[continued below]
 

Riverside

Active Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
358
Reaction score
35
A 6 pm departure from South Station would reach:
  • Springfield at 8:30PM
  • Albany at 11:15PM
  • Buffalo at 4:30AM
  • Erie at 6:00AM
  • Cleveland at 7:45AM
  • Toledo at 10:15AM
  • Elkhart at 12:30PM
And arrive at Chicago at 3:00PM ET/2:00PM CT.

Upstate New York gets stuck with night service, but that can be covered by a Buffalo train that leaves Boston later so as to reach Syracuse during early morning hours. Meanwhile, Ohio can receive passengers during daylight hours, and a reverse train leaving Chicago mid-day can pick up Cleveland passengers around dinnertime, and have them in Boston first thing that next morning.

A Review of Proposed B&A Corridor Services

Station
BOS-CLE-CHI (14h & 22h)
BOS-TOR (13h)
BOS-MTL (12h)
BOS-BUF (10.5h)
Boston South Station6:00PM7:00PM7:30PM9:00PM
Springfield8:30PM9:30PM10:00PM11:30PM
Albany11:15PM12:01AM12:30AM2:10AM
Montreal--7:30AM-
Syracuse2:00AM3:00AM-5:00AM
Rochester3:30AM4:15AM-6:15AM
Buffalo4:30AM5:30AM-7:30AM
Toronto-8:00AM ?--
Cleveland7:45AM---
Toledo10:15AM---
Chicago3:00PM ET---

Portland

A comparatively brief note here: in a future where the Inland Route has been rehabilitated, Portland service that reverses out of North Station could be ideal for overnight consideration. The trip from Portland is about 2.5 hours -- closer to 3.5 if coming all the way from Brunswick. When added to the aforementioned 9 hour journey to Washington, then you have a ~12 hour journey, and along a corridor that is slightly less saturated (i.e. the north-of-Boston segment). Add an 8pm departure from Portland, arrive in Boston at 10:30, depart North Station around 11pm, arrive in Philadelphia around 6am, and Washington around 8am.

An Amusing Thought About Rolling Stock

Amtrak has of late been murmuring about focusing more on their short-distance routes, at the expense of the long-distance routes. I imagine that a BOS-MTL proposal could benefit from such a refocus, as likely would a BOS-BUF proposal. BOS-CHI may be pushing it.

If those long-distance routes do indeed get the sack (and I am not saying one way or the other whether I'm in favor of that), those extra Superliners could be repurposed for overnight service out of Boston. They wouldn't be usable in many other places because they don't fit through the tunnels in NYC.

There is, as I understand it, one problem with the Superliners -- they are equipped for low-level boarding only.

But never fear -- our own dragging of the feet may come to save us! Simply have Superliner passengers board exclusively at Back Bay on the low-level platforms on tracks 5 & 7. (Yes, this is obviously absurd, and would have to be a stopgap measure, at most.)

In Conclusion

First, bless you for reading this far, I got totally carried away with this.

Second, I see two major takeaways here.

First -- almost all of the above is potentially feasible with existing infrastructure (though possibly not existing rolling stock). Yes, Toronto is a problem. But even before Montreal's pre-clearance facility opens, that extra hour is not killer on an overnight train. Overall, these proposals are organizational ones that wouldn't require a drop of concrete to be spilled. The biggest challenge (and it would be a big one, to be sure) would be negotiating with the freight companies that own these tracks. But that is a political problem that ultimately could be solved.

Second -- particularly with respect to the BOS-MTL routing, overnight trains potentially give us a "loophole" to get around the ludicrously slow track speeds on many of these corridors. A 12-hour ride to Montreal during the day will never fly except with the most die-hard enthusiasts. But a comfortable ride that you board after dinner in Boston, and awake in Canada? That could be sellable.

Which brings us to the final point: is this sellable? Assuming that the $400 BOS-CHI ticket is strictly a time factor, a BOS-MTL ticket would cost $200-ish. That is probably competitive with a flight to + hotel in Montreal, but it would be tricky. Amtrak would need to price carefully.

Likewise, while there may be some demand for Coach seats on these very long journeys, is there enough Coach demand for a 10 hour overnight supercommute from Buffalo? That's a tough call.

I leave you with this: between the growing public skepticism in air travel and Amtrak's renewed push for profitability at the expense of their long-haul routes, there is ripe opportunity here for reimagining the Northeast rail network. Instead of simply becoming a satellite of New York City, Boston could forge an identity as a place that you can do a convenient “supercommute” to a couple of times a month from Albany, Rochester, Buffalo or Cleveland – or from which you can do a day trip (bookended by Sleeper travel) to Montreal, Niagara Falls, or Toronto -- and could give us a distinct identity in the region.

Post Script

If anyone is interesting in the spreadsheets I put together to figure out these schedules, feel free to ask! Happy 2020!
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
Some misc. notes here. . .
  • Customs Preclearance -- These are govened by US-CAN national treaties, so must abide by the prevailing operating agreements between Amtrak and VIA Rail. Montreal Gare Central (for the Adirondack + future Montrealer) and Vancouver Pacific Union Station (for the Cascades and future considerations like a Coast Starlight extension) are getting the preclearance facilities; Niagra and other border crossings will still have Customs stops at the border (albeit streamlined to be a tad faster). This isn't changeable without acts of Congress and Parliament, and there are major business reasons why that won't change. MTL and VAN can run sealed because there's no intermediate stops worth serving between those big-city union stations and the border, so Amtrak (and predecessor) crews have always had the greenlight to run their trains all the way thru into Canada. At Niagra and on the former International + International Ltd. Port Huron-Sarnia and Detroit-Windsor border crossings the crew change to VIA takes place at Customs to collect intra-Ontario revenue on the other side. For Empire trains Hamilton and St. Catharines are busy enough catchments to always be must-have stops for VIA, and Sarnia + Windsor are the terminating forks of the big VIA Corridor Services that makes VIA the lion's share of its revenue. Each fork is subject to all those Emerging HSR studies for 110 MPH to/from Toronto, so are as mission-critical as it gets for VIA leveraging extra revenue.
Therefore, for purposes of Canada doing Canada's business, they will always have their own stops to serve on any border-crossers from Empire or Chicago-hub services. You won't ever see the Wolverine or Blue Water just +1'd across the river to Windsor and Sarnia with Customs pre-clearance; that's leaving too much money on the table for VIA to not interline those trains as extra Corridor slots. You'll only see those border crossings return to service as some permutation of the International bringing back most/all of the Ontario-side stops. But as much as that may throw a monkey wrench in some individual sleeper train concepts, it is overall a Good Thing™ for both countries. Southern Ontario is big and congested as hell, and needs all the expanded intracity + international transit schedules it can get.​

--------------------
  • BOS-ALB-MTL: Because the NNEIRI study leverages the faster Vermonter route (and SPG cross-tix transfers for extra slots) instead of the Adirondack route, there's very little juice for this particular lash-up service pattern @ ALB. Delete it. Besides the Adirondack being slower than the Montrealer for anyone interested in just the big cities, the Vermont intermediates also have more individual year-round demand than most of what's north of Saratoga Springs on the NY side of Lake Champlain. There's some summer weekender surges Upstate, but it's not a game-changer such that a completists' thru slot to there is any sort of missing piece of the puzzle. Just arrive in ALB from BOS within range of a regular Adirondack slot and anyone who's vacationing at Lake George can hit a transfer. Nothing more is needed.
I doubt this route pattern ever comes to fruition. If you're going to run "chain trains" w/sleeper from Boston to Albany you're going to get so much more bang-for-buck apportioning them west along the Empire Corridor as extra Maple Leaf or LSL slots rather than trying another nice-to-have/surplus-to-requirement MTL slot. It's throwing revenue way to insist the Adirondack must be served in addition to the Montrealer from Boston when 1 more ALB lash-up slot can be apportioned less-redundantly to a bigger destination like Toronto instead and 1 more Montrealer slot is what ends up driving more revenue to MTL.​

--------------------
  • Portland-Boston-Washington: NNEPRA has officially stated a desire in running a NY-BOS train via the Inland Route if those Springfield-hub services start cooking. The only above-and-beyond investment required is enough Grand Junction upgrades to thru-route to North Station and reverse onto a normal Downeaster slot, which isn't a big ask $$$-wise (and also understood not-consequential enough to hold off any future rapid transit conversion of the GJ, since the West-NS connection ultimately flushes more total revenue into the Downeaster's coffers through enhanced NS access than the lone thru train would generate). Note that projected thru NY-POR ridership is tiny and very weekender-skewed. The attractiveness of running this train is that the separate Inland and DE audiences that heavily overchurn @ Boston each make the lion's share of the revenue carrying their normal patronage on the route halves, such that the thru NY-POR audience can 'hide' inside the much more robust profit margins of its component halves.
Don't get any grand ideas about this being a moneymaker or some type of major latent growth audience. And certainly don't project this as extending to Brunswick, Augusta, or Bangor like regular future Downeaster do/will; scope is strictly limited to a Portland turn. The only reason it's feasible as a one-a-day is because it's overlaid on the profitable Inland + DE halves that underwrite the margins for the small specialty audience. Right now NNEPRA's limiting its scope to just reaching NY, mainly because ConnDOT wants to extend a few post-Inland Shuttle trains from New Haven to New York and it's easiest reach for one state's (ME) tiny advocacy to glom off a bigger state's (CT) bigger advocacy. You can, however, have the chips fall where Washington is reachable if this thru North Station train happens to grab a Springfield Regional as its Inland slot instead of a Shuttle. NNEPRA's assumption is merely that they'll be taking the first/lowest-hanging fruit available to them and running with it regardless of southern terminus...but that could very well end up being a D.C.-terminating instead of NY-terminating slot.​
--------------------
  • Lake Shore Ltd. West & etc.: Ironically Congress did consider a bill in the late-80's to re-route the LSL off that ridership-cratering Ohio jog and onto the Windsor-fork VIA Corridor from Buffalo to gain a little speed and skip a little freight congestion where Conrail just just didn't give a crap about passenger service in that between-Empire/Chicago Hub no-man's land. So interestingly we could've had the LSL turn into a permanent Niagra Rainbow out of Boston. Fell several votes short of happening, with Ohio staunchly opposing. In the end it's probably a good thing it never happened because the VIA funding shocks and service cutbacks of the 90's and 00's would've chopped Ontario in a heartbeat and left us with no LSL at all...just a regular Empire train for our troubles and no remaining political will for reinstating any sort of ALB-CHI long-distance route.
Ohio is frustrating in that their intrastate Emerging HSR dreams keep getting upended by the very swingy politics of the state house and projects repeatedly getting proposed with fanfare then cancelled with fanfare for ideological grandstanding. But Chicago hub and the Empire Corridor bookending them are getting good enough continuously enough from major investment that eventually Ohio's going to get dragged kicking and screaming integrating its cities in with the adjacent corridors. We just have to be patient because they're so much slower on the ball policy-wise...but eventually there's good potential here for Cleveland and Toledo becoming bigger and higher-speed route linchpins.​
Note that all Empire trains that run west to Buffalo already thru-route to Niagra Falls, NY and terminate there because that's where the layover yard and crew base is. No need to extend anything; they're already extended. To expand Niagra options means adding more west-of-Albany Empire slots period, because they are 1:1 the same. The LSL--and any future Ohio-crossing permutations therein--is the only train that does Buffalo without also doing Niagra, for obvious reasons. That simplifies the picture a lot as far as what future schedule increases serve up, because Niagra is already considered a mandatory baseline for the NYSHSR studies on the Empire Corridor.​
 

Riverside

Active Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
358
Reaction score
35
Great commentary and context, F-Line.

Re BOS-ALB-MTL: 100% agree that the Vermont route is preferable all around. However, one of my key points with this proposal is that it could be done today, given available rolling stock and political will. There still remain infrastructure improvements called for in the NNEIRI Study. Once those are done, yes, I agree that running through Upstate New York is unnecessary. That being said, I think the difference may be a bit less significant in overnight travel terms -- is anyone really going to want to disembark at White River Junction at 3 in the morning?

Either way, the specific routing isn't my main point here. The key idea that I see worth further examination is overnight service between Boston and Montreal, where the 8-12 hour travel time is less of a killer than it would be for daytime travel, and that such service could be introduced sooner than speedier daytime travel and lay the groundwork in the public consciousness for the idea of taking the train to Montreal. The more we can pull Montreal into our orbit, and vice-versa, the better.

Re Portland: agreed, this is hardly a flagship proposal. In truth, I included it mainly for completeness's sake, as it would potentially be one more service out of Boston that could count as "overnight."

Re "extending to Niagara Falls": since I am describing net-new services, I wanted to divorce the Boston-Buffalo discussion from the Boston-Niagara Falls discussion. The former I see targeting business travelers and students -- the latter I see targeting tourists/vacationers (obviously not exclusively). The former would mainly be travelers from Buffalo/Rochester/Syracuse going to Boston and then returning home -- the latter would be more of a mix, with both ends of the lines being potential "destinations". Even though, as you say, a Boston-Buffalo service would be operationally identical to a Boston-Niagara Falls, it may be worth distinguishing them as potentially distinct services serving different needs.

Re Ohio: I think one of the things that was revelatory for me about this project was that Buffalo, Cleveland and Toronto could all be as accessible as Washington DC from Boston, if the necessary infrastructure improvements are made, and the right services are offered. I never would have thought of Cleveland as a place that could potentially be in Boston's orbit, but now I'm less skeptical. Certainly if Ohio can get its act together, it would speed things along.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
Great commentary and context, F-Line.

Re BOS-ALB-MTL: 100% agree that the Vermont route is preferable all around. However, one of my key points with this proposal is that it could be done today, given available rolling stock and political will. There still remain infrastructure improvements called for in the NNEIRI Study. Once those are done, yes, I agree that running through Upstate New York is unnecessary. That being said, I think the difference may be a bit less significant in overnight travel terms -- is anyone really going to want to disembark at White River Junction at 3 in the morning?

Either way, the specific routing isn't my main point here. The key idea that I see worth further examination is overnight service between Boston and Montreal, where the 8-12 hour travel time is less of a killer than it would be for daytime travel, and that such service could be introduced sooner than speedier daytime travel and lay the groundwork in the public consciousness for the idea of taking the train to Montreal. The more we can pull Montreal into our orbit, and vice-versa, the better.
Keep in mind that NNEIRI stages Vermonter re-extension to Montreal first amongst all investments, so the specced track upgrades in the study are follow-through, not prerequisite. This is because all NECR track from the Vermonter terminus at St. Albans, VT to Cantic, QUE where NECR junctions with CN and the Adirondack route has already been upgraded to Class 3/59 MPH passenger by a prior VTrans grant from 3-4 years ago. That track work is 100% done and finished on the portion of the route that was allowed to lapse into deferred maintenance after the Montrealer's 1995 truncation. So opening of the preclearance facility at Gare Central is the literal only prerequisite for funding the schedule re-extension at somewhat better than 1995 travel times. You may see the revival in as little as 2-3 years, and may see it appear quickly out of nothingness because all the existential debates were long ago hashed out in VT and D.C. prior to that preclearance treaty getting signed.

The other NNEIRI investments are lion's-share for the Inland Route and setting up the linked-trip hot-plugging @ Springfield. With the investment options on the Conn River + Central VT corridors mainly for supporting the additional BOS-MTL frequency and the other optional New Haven/etc. to St. Albans/etc. frequency. Of course, it's sorely hoped that Quebec province will hold steady on its promises to upgrade the hideously slow CN track north of Cantic to something that nets a more functional schedule for both the Adirondack and Montrealer, but the NNEIRI study doesn't make any assumptions there for any of its investments because it's not New England's jurisdiction to lobby another country for state-sponsored improvements.

So for purposes of "now"...the Montrealer re-extension from St. Albans to Gare Central is the now proposal and everything else strengthening its usefulness and expanding the frequencies is the stuff that needs funding follow-through. Any future route maps can safely treat the Montrealer as an incumbent service pattern before anything else gets done.

Re "extending to Niagara Falls": since I am describing net-new services, I wanted to divorce the Boston-Buffalo discussion from the Boston-Niagara Falls discussion. The former I see targeting business travelers and students -- the latter I see targeting tourists/vacationers (obviously not exclusively). The former would mainly be travelers from Buffalo/Rochester/Syracuse going to Boston and then returning home -- the latter would be more of a mix, with both ends of the lines being potential "destinations". Even though, as you say, a Boston-Buffalo service would be operationally identical to a Boston-Niagara Falls, it may be worth distinguishing them as potentially distinct services serving different needs.
MassDOT's say and involment ends at the Albany "chain train" move, so whither Niagra vs. Buffalo is entirely NYSDOT's bag. Which in turn is entirely dictated by operational convenience as the new rebuilt Niagra station has all the layover and crew base fixins'. There's only going to be two service flavors for expanding the Empire-west map: more trains going to Niagra and beyond from Buffalo, or more trains going to Ohio and beyond from Buffalo. Buffalo is never going to be a terminus unto itself because of the way ops are divvied on the Empire. But that's not something we ever have to worry about, because we're just parasitic-chaining a B&A train @ ALB onto some New York-originating train that's going the places you want on your route map.

Very important to draw the line in the sand on scope creep: New England is only responsible for getting its sleeper trains to Albany and doing its part to help streamline the ops-chaining task. We can cheerlead NYSDOT, the feds, and the Canadians for all else...but we don't have a say in what actually gets done west-of-ALB. We just put ourselves into a position to pounce on what does get done, and state for the record our interest in padding their revenue. That's it. Interstate and international commerce unfortunately aren't our jurisdiction here in Boston, so all the planning has to break along separation-of-powers lines. The outstanding thing about the Inland Route's scalability is just how easy a reach it is from our own self-controllable backyards to get in on all this expansive linked-trip mojo from the SPG & ALB hubs without having to stick our business in other states multiple borders removed. If they get with the program, we get with their program...simple as that.

Re Ohio: I think one of the things that was revelatory for me about this project was that Buffalo, Cleveland and Toronto could all be as accessible as Washington DC from Boston, if the necessary infrastructure improvements are made, and the right services are offered. I never would have thought of Cleveland as a place that could potentially be in Boston's orbit, but now I'm less skeptical. Certainly if Ohio can get its act together, it would speed things along.
Someday, indeed. Ohioans are frustratingly slow learners on this compared to their immediate neighbors, but they'll get with it in due time. Their own higher-speed proposals are/were solid on-spec. They just need to stop flipping party affiliations in the Gov.'s mansion every 4 years so something has enough oxygen to take root after somebody's ideological pro-train/anti-train campaign promise finishes its ritualistic showy sacrifice-and/or-resurrection upon inauguration day. OHDOT management rank-and-file see the same eye-popping route map you do, and the same gains from making the steady year-in/year-out investment push that the other Chicago Hub member DOT's keep making. It's just got to get past the point of zero-sum politics showboating from Executive and Legislative branch flips every other election cycle for things to calm down enough to get 4-year CIP budget actually populated with stuff that'll self-perpetuate over a couple cycles.
 

F-Line to Dudley

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2010
Messages
5,691
Reaction score
582
BTW...the one border-crossing route ripe for revival which we haven't talked about (because it doesn't fit the Empire or Chicago Hub template) is the VIA Rail Atlantic from Montreal to Halifax via a route that crossed the U.S. border twice in northern Maine. VIA operated the entirety of the route including all U.S. miles detached from the Amtrak system, though the length of the Maine route miles means having *some* intermediate stops and border-crossing Customs rather than pre-clearance is necessary. Cut during the 1994 bloodbath of VIA service cuts, the Atlantic was a very well-patronized train whose suspension was bitterly opposed by the Maritime provinces who saw it as a provocative move by the Federal Gov't. to punish them for the Parliamentary districts along the route who voted against the PM's Majority rather than a move made on supposed budget scruples. It's been a hotbutton restoration debate ever since. Shaky ownership on the mainline portion that cuts from Sherbrooke, QUE through Maine (spun off by Canadian Pacific in '94, 3 shortline owners in 25 years, then re-acquired by CP just last month in a stunning about-face) has inhibited any action on that, though all U.S. track is currently being upgraded by MEDOT grant for higher freight speeds putting that segment in the best shape it's been in several decades. VIA recently committed to shoring up intra-Maritimes service with more frequencies on the route of the less-direct MTL-HAL Ocean train (which follows the St. Lawrence River and skips a big swath of SE Quebec incl. Sherbrooke and Western New Brunswick incl. Fredericton) as first order of business. But now that the Moosehead Subdivision is back in the steady hands of CP you can expect another round of Atlantic debate to imminently flare-up. While seemingly minor in the grand scheme of things VIA needs to do, the Canadian Feds are probably in a conciliatory mood since the Maritimes backstopped Trudeau's Majority bigtime and the original '94 service suspension piled-onto the Quebec & Maritimes secession debates (since quieted) at their late-90's/early-00's peak. So there's some greater political symbolism at work in making amends for the '94 axe which may yet play out.

  • Atlantic schedule...early 1980's:
Atlantic.jpg


The Atlantic crossed the border at Jackman, ME (along US 201 about 25 miles west of Moosehead Lake) and Vanceboro, ME (on ME 6 about 18 miles off US 1, midpoint on Route 1 between the bigger I-95 Houlton and Downeast Region Calais/St. Stephen border crossings). Stops in Maine at Jackman, Greenville, Brownville Jct., Mattawamkeag (closest pass to I-95), Danforth (US 1), and Vanceboro. Most of those extremely small towns, with Greenville and Brownville the only ones >1000 population. Greenville is near Squaw Mountain ski resort, so VIA sold a lot of ski weekend packages with bus pickups from the stop.

You're never going to see any Boston passenger trains return to the Vanceboro border crossing via the old Boston & Maine-era North Station-Portland/Bangor-Mattawamkeag routing. The demarcation line for subsidizable Downeaster farebox recovery is Bangor and no further, with Maine too cash-poor a state to stretch itself through the great population cavity to the border. Plus Pan Am's freight volumes fall off the table after Bangor and are much too light past there to ever amortize public upgrade $$$ on their sub- 10 MPH deferred-maint horror show of a "mainline" to 'Keag. But there is potential as the Downeaster keeps incrementally extending north to target better coordination with a revived Atlantic via thruway buses out of Augusta or Bangor linking the routes, so this is one to watch for over the next decade. The Atlantic is almost forgotten on the U.S. side of the border because its demise pre-dated the Downeaster's launch by 7 years and it doesn't fit the mold of anything else on our intercity network. But the Maritimes want it back bad because the markets served between Montreal and St. John are completely distinct from the Ocean's routing. The U.S. miles (and piddling little towns it ran through) were incidental to the intra-Canadian demand, but it is a sorely-missed route in Southeastern Quebec and New Brunswick that the remaining Ocean route can't approximate.

Customs on the old train was handled uniquely: passengers who bought tix to/from a U.S. stop were segregated in different cars and went through the U.S. Customs check at each border, while intra-Canadian and sleeper passengers were left alone and treated 'sealed'. Canadian Customs was handled for U.S.-boarding passengers only at either Lec Megantic, QUE or McAdam, NB. Eventually more draconian border regs required everyone to get inspected for longer Jackman & Vanceboro layovers and much inconvenience for the sleeper passengers who got woken at 3:00am in Jackman on the eastbound trip. Then they tried a streamlining experiment in the last years with a different type of 'sealed' Customs where the U.S. agents boarded the train at Jackman and departed at Vanceboro (or vice versa) and did all their Customs checks onboard while the train was in-motion. If anyone needed to be detained for some reason, they'd rendezvous with another Customs agent in a car at one of the intermediate stops and escort them off.

The streamlined Customs allowable today probably means you'll see something deployed on any revival resembling either the segregated seating or onboard 'sealed' Customs of old. It's a lot easier in 2020 to computer-track points of origin and destination than it was pre-'94, so they have options for managing a square-peg route like this. This is probably the only border-crosser than can make it fly that way, as the Empire and Chicago Hub trains simply have too much turnover on both sides of the border to keep up with the volumes. Only needing to accommodate those little-zit Maine towns and maybe a thruway bus of Bangor/Portland transferees at one of them is much easier for the crew to handle. While the U.S. roster of intermediates could probably use a trimming to fewer 5...Jackman and Vanceboro would have to stay for the border crossings, Greenville and maybe also Brownville would stay as the only population catchments of any significance, and something Mattawamkeag-or-replacement would be in the mix for I-95 kiss-and-rides.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

stick n move

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
6,655
Reaction score
887
Whats going to become of the old acela trainsets? Sold? Used on a different route? Turned into an artificial reef on the atlantic continental shelf? I hope they stay in service somewhere... maybe on the “higher speed” hopefully 110mph-ish chicago lines?
 

Top