While Amtrak is best known for its many long-distance trains such as the Capitol Limited, Empire Builder, Sunset Limited, California Zephyr, and others the carrier also provides many regional services. Outside of the Northeast most are state-sponsored or subsidized and some, such as North Carolina and California, have spent heavily to develop such alternatives for commuters. This effort has paid off over the years as ridership by rail has steadily risen over the past few decades in these states while others have mulled implementing similar services. Covered here are brief overviews of many regional Amtrak trains from the Golden State to New England.
Amtrak California is actually a brand name developed by both Amtrak and California to provide stable and reliable rail service to the state (it even has its own reporting marks, CDTX). The service has been in operation since the early 1990s providing commuters and regional travelers the ability to reach all of California's largest cities such as Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, and others (overall, there are three primary trains that connect these cities). Today, despite the fact that Amtrak's future always seems to be in limbo as leaders in Washington, D.C. can never seem to decide if they want to put money towards subsidized passenger rail, thanks to Amtrak California's state-supported funding train services continue to grow in demand; this is especially true as gas prices seem to constantly be rising and California implements ever more environmental laws.
There are only a few state-sponsored passenger rail operations affiliated with Amtrak which sport their own livery, and California is one of them (the other is North Carolina and interestingly, both state's lead the way in developing rail travel services for their respective regions). Along with being one of the leading states in this field, California was also one of the first to providing its own funding. This originally started in 1976, just five years after Amtrak began operations. With only limited funding from the federal government at the time and losing patience with infrequent and unreliable service, California began helping the national carrier through monetary assistance to improve operations. In doing so the state created the Caltrans Division of Rail, at the same time forming the brand name Amtrak California.
There are three primary routes which make up Amtrak California; Pacific Surfliner in the southern regions of the state, the Capitol Corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, and finally the San Joaquin with service to the Bay Area and points south. As funding increased the trains began receiving their own paint scheme, which is now based on a version of Amtrak's Phase V livery; a combination of silver and blue along with a few other colors. Today, California owns several locomotives, which totals 17 units (15 EMD F59PHIs and two GE P32-8WHs), along with a fleet of passenger cars (which primarily consist of retrofitted and updated Superliners) and other equipment all of which are painted in either state colors or the Pacific Surfliner scheme. It should also be noted that Amtrak California provides many connecting services via a fleet of buses it operates.
As the only service in the Golden State with its own, separate livery (of silver, bright blue, and white trim) the Pacific Surfliner has been running since its opening day on June 1, 2000. Its corridor links California's southern oceanside cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo on trackage once owned by both the Southern Pacific and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (Santa Fe). The route is 350 miles in length and someone traveling the entire distance can expect to do so in about 5 hours and 45 minutes. As only a regional train the Pacific Surfliner's amenities include standard coach class as well as business class (a consist usually includes a business class car, coach-cafe, two standard coaches, and a baggage-coach). Typically, track speeds on the route are between the standard 60 and 79 mph with twelve round trips completed on a daily basis.
Amtrak's second-busiest service (the Pacific Surfliner is the most traveled) is the Capitol Corridor, which runs between San Jose, Oakland/San Francisco, Sacramento, and Auburn on trackage once owned by the SP (overall, it serves sixteen different stations). It is the most northern regional route available to residents of the state and sees nearly 1.6 million riders annually. The service first began in December of 1991 and the length of the corridor is 168 miles with the entire route covered in about 3 hours and 15 minutes (these short jaunts allow for numerous round trips on a daily basis). The on board amenities are fairly basic with only coach service and a cafe car available. Additionally, the Capitol Corridor offers connecting service to area commuter agencies such as the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) and Caltrain.
Finally, there is the San Joaquin, which serves much of central California. This train operates over primarily former SP lines as well and serves San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield (overall, it serves eighteen different stations) covering a distance of 315 miles in 6 hours and 15 minutes one way. The San Joaquin is also the oldest Amtrak California operation dating back to 1974 when it was inaugurated that March. On most trips the train carries three or four cars including coaches, a cafe, and a baggage compartment. All three trains that are part of Amtrak California operate in a push-pull fashion with a lead F59PHI and a cab car on one end. While the San Joaquin sees the fewest riders of the trio it still hosts numbers approaching one million annually.
The Amtrak Cascades is a service the carrier provides to the Pacific Northwest, which while dating back to pre-1970s when private lines like Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, and Great Northern hosted trains has only been named such since the late 1990s. While the routing between Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Eugene (Oregon) has been popular since Amtrak began providing services on its first day of operations (May 1, 1971) commuter and passenger traffic has exploded since the 1990s when the carrier began offering new trains and other perks. Today, the Cascades trains with their European equipment built by the French is the carrier's most popular in the west and now nearly tops one million riders annually and more than two thousand daily. As demand grows Amtrak continues to add new trains and services. Despite a funding situation that is always fuzzy and unpredictable Cascades will likely remain a very bright spot for the company throughout the foreseeable future.
When Amtrak first began it attempted to organize a chaotic network into something both manageable and sustainable in regards to the rather small operating budget it was given. Additionally, it attempted to make sense of seriously worn down and tired fleet of both locomotives, passenger cars, and other equipment handed over by the private railroads. One region which Amtrak retained was the Pacific Northwest and the corridor between California, Oregon, western Washington, and Vancouver. Historically, this service had been provided through a combination of several roads; Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Canadian Pacific. There was no Amtrak Cascades in 1971. However, you could reach all of those areas via trains such as the Coast Starlight (which continued to California), Mount Rainier, Pacific International (to Vancouver after 1972) and Puget Sound.
In 1980 northwest service received its first major "endorsement", if you will, when the state of Oregon subsidized a train to reach Eugene, the Willamette Valley. While it appeared the stage was set for the region to receive even further improved services. However, in the early 1980s Oregon cancelled its sponsorship and around the same time the Pacific International was dropped to Vancouver. This left only local/regional service between Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland (aside from the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles). Things stayed virtually the same for the next decade. On April 1, 1994 with more funding available from both the federal government and the states of Washington and Oregon, Amtrak again looked to expand its reach in the Pacific Northwest with new equipment that was built by the French company Talgo (short for Tren Articulado Ligero Goicoechea Oriol).
These cars, the only of their kind to be used in the United States, featured free tilting technology which meant that they could not only easily glide through curves but could also do so at high speeds. Despite the fact that they were meant to operate at speeds over 100 mph they are limited to the mandated track speed of no greater than 79 mph. In any event, the cars offer passengers an incredible degree of comfort even though they are only used in regional service. For power the trains used EMD's then-new F59PHIs (which remain the primary power today), capable of operating at 110 mph with 3,200 horsepower. When launched in 1994 the service was only available between Seattle and Portland on new trains the Northwest Talgo, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams later that year.
Then, in May 1995 the Mount Baker International returned service to Vancouver and a month later the Mount Rainier was extended to Eugene after Oregon again agreed to subsidize the service through its borders. This setup continued until the fall of 1998. It was then that the passenger carrier began publicizing Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene and Vancouver, a distance of 467 miles if one were to travel the entire route, which offered eighteen stops. An attractive new paint scheme adorned the five trainsets of green, white, and burnt umber. Typically, the trains operate with twelve cars plus the F59PHI and a retrofitted F40PH used as a control car (thus, the F59PHI is used in push-pull service). The consist includes a baggage, a business coach, lounge-diner, Bistro cafe, five coaches, and finally a service car.
The success of Amtrak Cascades
has been quite impressive as today it stands as the carrier's busiest
corridor outside of the Northeast and California. This has also been
helped by the fact that Washington, in
particular, has been aggressively pursuing the addition of new commuter
and passenger rail services similar to other states such as California
and North Carolina. Since Amtrak implemented the new Talgo trainsets
back in 1994 the demand has grown from less than 100,000 riders annually
to over 800,000 as of 2010!
This number is very likely to continue rising as the state continues to fund such services. To date Washington
is still eying upgraded services, such as returning unused tracks in the
Puget Sound region back into service for commuter purposes. They also
hope to one day operate high speed trains (i.e., 125 mph or higher)
between Oregon and Vancouver although a target date for such a plan is
unknown given the extremely high cost involved.
After Amtrak began operations in May of 1971 it was not given a particularly large source of funding from the federal government. As such, service could be unpredictable and unreliable at best, a fact not lost on California. Looking for better reliability the state began subsidizing service in its own state after 1976, which eventually transformed into a number of commuter and regional trains implemented, one of which was the Capitol Corridor. This service was also one of three that provided passengers the ability to ride a train from the Bay Area to the southern tip of the state via a branded service known as Amtrak California. Today, the equipment used for these trains are entirely state-owned and even feature their own livery (with Amtrak providing logistics and operations). Since it began in the early 1990s the Corridor currently is one of the busiest train routes along Amtrak's entire network and continues to grow on an annual basis.
The history of the Capitol Corridor dates to December of 1991 when funding from California allowed for a second sponsored passenger train to operate in the state (the first being the San Joaquin established in 1974). With this new service (at first it was known only as the Capitols but later changed to its current name to avoid confusion with similar Amtrak services, notably the Capitol Limited) available the Golden State now offered regional rail connections from Auburn and Sacramento to Oakland/San Francisco and San Jose on a corridor that was 168 miles in length. Travelers also had the ability to continue southward to Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield via the San Joaquin. In 2000, things were further expanded with the addition of the Pacific Surfliner serving the state's southern coastal cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo.
As with all Amtrak California trains the Corridor was funded by Caltrans Division of Rail and is currently managed between the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Bay Area Rapid Transit. The tracks used for the Capitol Corridor were originally owned by the vast Southern Pacific system (California's best remember railroad since it reached virtually every important area of the state) and today these are part of the Union Pacific with small sections around the Bay Area being state owned. Since much of the trackage the corridor uses remains an important freight artery for UP keeping a good working balance between both operations is paramount (an issue that keeps passenger trains from operating south of Bakersfield to offer a through system to LA/San Diego, the freight trains are simply too many).
When the Corridor service began in 1991 it featured little in the way of noteworthy services and was not particularly attractive. Trains used secondhand equipment that had been purchased from Amtrak such as EMD F40PH diesel locomotives and dated Amfleet cars, which date to the 1970s and have a tubular appearance (the cars actually look quite similar to the old Pennsylvania Railroad Silverliners). The only thing new at the time were two General Electric P32-8WHs, a four-axle diesel designed for use in passenger service and capable of producing 3,200 horsepower (the locomotive, externally, looked virtually identical to its freight counterpart). During the mid-1990s the state finally purchased a fleet of new locomotives, EMD F59PHIs, and refurbished several more Superliner, double-decked passenger cars. These retrofitted cars, along with another roster of cafe cars, were reclassified as California Cars and are named after geographic locations around the state.
Today, a typical consist for a Corridor train includes a cafe car, coaches, and a baggage car that has the ability to haul bicycles (which, interestingly enough, is a growing trend). Someone looking to ride the full length of the route can expect to do so in about 3 hours and 15 minutes if there are no delays or other extraordinary activity, such as maintenance work. Currently, there are sixteen trains dispatched over the line daily with train numbers including 518, 520-549, 551, 553, 720, 723-724, 727-729, 732-734, 736-738, 741-749, and 751. Not surprisingly, as funding and services have improved, so has demand, which has more than tripled since just 1998. As of 2010 ridership was reaching nearly 1.6 million annually, a number that will likely continue to grow in the coming years (the demand has also forced the state to add more trains to the line). If you are interested in riding the Corridor station stops along the route include Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Suisun City, Martinez, Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland (two stations), Hayward, Fremont, Santa Clara, and San Jose. Additionally, as with all Amtrak California trains (which now offer free Wi-Fi on board) there are connecting bus services available.
Today, Amtrak's Empire Service continues to grow in popularity and now carries more than one millions passengers annually along its corridor between New York City and Niagara Falls, with intermediate connections to Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany. If you are a history buff those names probably sound familiar as the train uses the former New York Central's main line on its 700+ mile trip that features multiple trips daily. The national carrier continued this route's passenger services, which was one of the few services that Penn Central had retained until the end. Currently, the Service also offers connecting trains via other regional Amtrak trains like the Maple Leaf and Lake Shore Limited. Additionally, the state of New York hopes to have this route upgraded to speeds topping 100 mph soon.
Because Amtrak's Empire Service operates along the ex-NYC's main line the railroad once hosted numerous named trains serving the same corridor, the most famous of which between New York and Buffalo was the Empire State Express. However, some of the other trains to serve this route included the iconic 20th Century Limited, Lake Shore Limited (still operated today by Amtrak), numerous Mercuries (which served numerous cities), Pacemaker, Commodore Vanderbilt, and many more. The Empire State Express was one of the railroad's oldest names trains, having been first inaugurated by predecessor New York Central & Hudson River Railroad in 1891. Back then, of course, equipment consisted of early 4-4-0 American Type steam locomotives and wooden Pullman cars.
The train was upgraded twice prior to the streamliner era, first in 1905 with more modern equipment although it still utilized 4-4-0s (albeit more powerful); then in 1920 it was updated again with all-steel, "heavyweight" Pullman cars and non-streamlined J Class 4-6-4 Hudsons. A typical run for the train to cover the 436 miles between New York and Buffalo, even during its early years, was just over seven hours. In 1941 the Empire truly came of age when the NYC decided to completely streamline the train with new equipment from the Budd Company. Using its patented fluted stainless steel the equipment included mostly coaches but also offered new amenities like air-conditioning. The Empire State Express was officially christened as a streamliner on Sunday, December 7, 1941 and unfortunately, as the NYC would soon learn the company could not have chosen a worse date to inaugurate the train.
While the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii completely overshadowed the Empire's inauguration it went on to remain a successful dayliner for the New York Central. The train lost its name in 1967 and many of the high class amenities that made it popular during its heyday. After this time it was simply known as the Empire Service by successor Penn Central, which continued to operate it until the start of Amtrak on May 1, 1971. While Amtrak retained this corridor it briefly no longer offered any service west of Buffalo to other key cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago. In 1975, this was restored via the Lake Shore Limited. Additionally, Amtrak reestablished connections to cities that had lost rail service in the 1960s such as Niagara Falls and Schenectady. Today, the Service runs a corridor that is 460 miles in length and offers station stops (from east to west) at Penn Station (New York), Yonkers, Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Hudson, Rensselaer/Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Rome, Syracuse, Rochester, Depew, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls.
Even though it is a very long route for what is technically a regional train (requiring more than seven hours of travel time) it runs numerous trains daily including numbers 230, 232, 233-239, 241-245, 250, 252-256, 258, 261, 263, 280-281, 283-284, and 288. The accommodations the Empire Service currently offers includes coach and business classes, a snack/cafe car, and even free Wi-Fi (Internet) on board (a feature that is becoming more common with Amtrak's trains every passing year). The train is normally equipped with a General Electric Genesis series diesel locomotive for power and Amfleet cars. Due to the intermediate to large markets the Service connects, ridership is naturally quite high with more than one million passengers hosted in 2011. The state of New York is working feverishly to upgrade this corridor to speeds at or above 110 mph. The funding has been secured by construction has yet to begin. The purpose of this is not only to increase speeds and lure more folks to travel by train but also to improve the economic conditions of western New York, especially the region around Buffalo which has been downtrodden for years.
While a bit confusing there are currently two trains by the same name of Hiawatha which Amtrak operates; the Hiawatha itself is a regional run that connects the Twin Cities with Chicago while the Service is a commuter-like between Chicago and Milwaukee. The heritage of these trains dates back to the railroad which first inaugurated them in the 1930s, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific better known as the Milwaukee Road. The Milwaukee kicked off its new streamliner as the regional Twin Cities Hiawatha serving the same corridor as Amtrak does today. The train became so popular that it forced the railroad to split it into two different versions operating daily. Today, both of Amtrak's Hiawathas are one of its most popular services and it still sees several departures daily. There is hope for the trains to cruise at speeds, just as their predecessors once did but thus far this remains only a dream.
What today operates as Amtrak's Hiawathas began in 1935 with the aforementioned Twin Cities Hiawatha from the Milwaukee Road. A year earlier the streamliner craze had hit the railroad industry and the CMStP&P was hoping to cash in on the new fad itself. However, instead of purchasing new equipment the railroad built its own and named the train after the great leader of the Iroquois. For power the train featured a 4-4-2 Atlantic type steam locomotive that was streamlined and could operate at speeds well above 100 mph. This high speed of travel, alone, made the Hiawathas legendary, as were the railroad's "Reduce to 90" signs along the right-of-way. The trains could carry an average speed of 60 mph and make the run from Chicago to the Twin Cities in just seven hours covering an astounding 421 miles during the journey!
The train's livery was a beautiful two-tone orange, created by noted industrial designer Otto Kuhler. It was also Kuhler who designed the interior layout and colors of the train. Perhaps its most striking feature was the one-of-kind Beaver Tail parlor-observation car, quite radical for the time as nothing like it had ever been seen before (at the time the now-common round-ended observations were still quite new in appearance). In later years the Hiawathas were powered by 4-6-4 Hudsons and during the diesel era EMD E8s and E9s were typically used. As the regional service became more popular the Milwaukee Road broke up the operation as Morning Hiawathas and Afternoon Hiawathas to properly meet demand. During its heyday the trains incredibly featured Super Domes for maximum viewing as well as the vaunted Skytop observations where the back of the cars were a glass solarium.
Interestingly, when Amtrak began on May 1, 1971 it retained the Hiawatha name for use as the Milwaukee's old transcontinental train although it was renamed as the North Coast Hiawatha and rerouted over the Burlington Northern out west to Seattle. A year later it revived the original regional train, although truncated to only Chicago and Milwaukee, and known as the Hiawatha Service. Additionally, it inaugurated the Hiawatha at the same time for through service to the Twin Cities just like the original. This setup remained until 1979 when the long distance North Coast Hiawatha was dropped in favor of the Empire Builder, which left the two regional trains. It still remains this way today although the carrier has been able to improve the trains since their early years. The Service did have a brief respite between 1976 and 1989 when Amtrak dropped the name in favor of its new French-built Turboliner trainsets that were used instead. However, these were transferred to a different region allowing the original name to return on the October 29, 1989 timetable.
Today, because the corridor is only 86 miles in length travel time is only about 1.5 hours with seven round trips made everyday except Sunday (with just six trips). Train numbers dispatched over the line include 329 through 342. In addition, passengers can take through bus connections to several nearby cities such as Green Bay, Oshkosh, Marquette, and Wausau. Being such a short route, trains operate with about a half-dozen Horizon Fleet and Amfleet coaches (combined), which include either standard coach or business class accommodations. However, upgrades to the line are very close to being completed. In 2009 the state of Wisconsin purchased two Spanish-built Talgo trainsets, which now has a plant located in Milwaukee. This 14-car consists will operate in push-pull service, have Wi-Fi ability, a bistro/cafe car, and carry tilting technology which will allow the trains to operate at speeds over 100 mph once the high speed upgrades are applied to the route. As of February, 2012 the trainsets were nearing completion and should be in operation before the end of the year.
Amtrak's Illinois Service is not actually a train itself but a brand name covering five regional runs that connect Chicago to a number of the state's smaller cities (it is also partially subsidized by the Illinois Department of Transportation). These services include the Illinois Zephyr (Chicago-Quincy), Carl Sandburg (Chicago-Quincy), Lincoln Service (Chicago-St. Louis), Illini (Chicago to Carbondale), and finally the Saluki (Chicago to Carbondale). Many of these trains can trace their roots back to a number of different Midwestern railroads like the Illinois Central, Gulf Mobile & Ohio (GM&O), and the Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q), albeit under different names. As you might expect the services for these trains are quite generic considering no trip usually takes longer than five hours. It is hoped that these routes will someday soon become high speed corridors although funding for such projects continues to remain elusive.
There are currently two trains that Amtrak operates between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois; the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg. The former harkens back to the Burlington's well known fleet of regional and long-distance streamlined Zephyrs. The route's actual predecessors were the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr, which both served Chicago and Kansas City and were canceled between the late 1960s and startup of Amtrak. On November 14, 1971 the national carrier added the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg to its timetable but interestingly never extended them to either Kansas City or any other nearby major city. It was also at this time that IDOT began to subsidize rail service creating the brand Illinois Service.
It is interesting to note that despite having no major connecting cities both trains are quite popular. The Illinois Zephyr is listed as trains #380 and #383 while the Carl Sandburg carries #381 and #382. Their corridor is 258 miles in length with a typical trip requiring about 4.5 hours. Standard power on the trains are General Electric P42s and about four cars (three Horizon Fleet coaches as well as a Amfleet lounge). Amtrak's Lincoln Service is another historically significant train as the Abraham Lincoln, which served the same cities (Chicago-St. Louis) and inaugurated by the Baltimore & Ohio in 1935. At that time the B&O owned the Alton Railroad and was hoping to strategically market itself in the Midwest as a way to gain leverage on competitors Pennsylvania and New York Central.
Interestingly, despite its regional status the Abe Lincoln was one of the B&O's first streamliners and it spent a lot of money purchasing its equipment from car builder American Car & Foundry along with marketing the train. On May 31, 1947 the B&O elected to sell its interest in the Midwest, with the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio purchasing the Alton but retaining the Abe Lincoln, which remained a rather popular train and it survived through the startup of Amtrak. It retained its name until 2006 when Lincoln Service was adopted instead. Today, it continues to operate over a 284-mile corridor with trips usually requiring a little over 5 hours. The train's consist is just as the above two trains; a GE P42DC, Horizon Fleet coaches as well as a cafe car.
The Illini (train #392-393) is a train with a history associated with the Illinois Central Railroad. The IC actually had a train by this very name that served the same corridor (Chicago-Carbondale) along with another by the name of the Shawnee. Upon Amtrak's startup it retained the latter but at first scrapped the former. This changed with the carrier's December 19, 1973 timetable when it brought back the Illini permanently to serve Champaign. After a roller coaster during the following decade where the train saw its routing switched several times with the January 12, 1986 timetable it was extended to Carbondale and has seen this routing ever since. It runs alongside its counterpart, the Saluki (train #390-391) providing daily service on trips that usually require 5.5 hours to complete over the 310 miles covered.
The Saluki is very recent addition to the corridor, established the the October 30, 2006 to better meet demand. Both trains continue to see ridership climb, which lately has been by 10% or more each year. Both of the trains carry roughly the same consist as the aforementioned Illinois Service with a GE P42 for power, a handful of Horizon Fleet coaches, a cafe service via an Amfleet club-dinette car. The future of these trains appears to be quite good considering that nearly all have seen growing ridership in recent years. Additionally, if Illinois is able to upgrade these routes, and others, with high speed service that could see trains eclipsing 100 mph demand will likely grow even more.
In recent years Amtrak's Keystone Service has exploded in popularity as the carrier has upgraded the route with full electrified capability which not only as increased train speed but also required less transit times as trains do not have to switch motive power. In a typical year, Amtrak now sees its ridership over this nearly 200-mile stretch of track top out well over one million easily putting it within the company's top-ten corridors around the country. The history of the route dates back to the carrier's earliest years with the Keystone, a train that operated across Pennsylvania, as well as the Silverliner Service. Today, a version of the former is known as the Pennsylvanian and operates alongside the current Keystone Service.
It is quite likely that the success of the New York to Harrisburg route will continue well into the future consider the electrified service and large metropolitan region the trains serve. The history of the current New York-Harrisburg corridor can actually be traced long before there ever was an Amtrak. With the Pennsylvania Railroad's main line to both Chicago and St. Louis slicing directly through the heart of the Keystone State (which split at Pittsburgh) the company ran numerous named trains between the Steel City, Philadelphia, and New York such as the flagship Broadway Limited and others like the St. Louisan (New York/Washington - St. Louis), Duquesne (New York - Pittsburgh), and Pittsburgher just to name a few. The latter two trains, of course, served the Steel City and by the time Penn Central was created in 1968 only regional Keystone Corridor trains remaining included the Duquesne (originally named after Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh) and Silverliner Service (Philadelphia - Harrisburg).
Both of these survived until Amtrak began on May 1, 1971. The Duquesne was retained by the carrier until Amtrak's first official timetable was released on November 14, 1971 when it was renamed as the Keystone, trains #42 and #43. This lasted until 1979 when the Keystone was dropped in favor of today's Pennsylvanian in 1980. Interestingly, due to its regional nature the Silverliner Service was always a relatively popular train even under Penn Central. It first entered service on the PRR around 1963 when the railroad took delivery of new Silverliner cars (thus the name) from the Budd Company. They carried the classic Budd stainless steel appearance and also sported a look similar to the company's popular Rail Diesel Car (RDC) save for the fact that they could operate electrically. The PRR came to own 38 Silverliner cars for service on the Keystone Corridor with funding provided through the new Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (at the time the railroad was in far too much financial trouble to pay for the equipment itself). When Amtrak began it also kept this operation and it remained relatively unchanged over the next decade.
However, in 1981 it was renamed as today's Keystone Service and extended to New York City. In an effort to avoid confusion between the New York - Harrisburg and Philadelphia - Harrisburg along the Keystone Corridor individual named trains were used including Big Apple, Harrisburg Express, Susquehanna, and Valley Forge. For more streamlined operations and better efficiency, however, Amtrak ended this practice in 1995 when all trains were listed as simply the Keystone Service (that year also spelled the end for the iconic Broadway Limited). Today, the train remains a rather simple, regional train with few on board amenities and consist that usually includes just five Amfleet standard coaches with both no business class or cafe service. The train's 195-mile corridor typically requires a 3.5-hour trip one way. Overall, there are forty-six train numbers that accompany the service including 600, 601, 605, 607, 609-612, 615, 618-620, 622, 637, 639-656, 658, and 660-672. This, along with the large metropolitan cities the train serves is the significant reason why it sees so many travelers/commuters on an annual basis, which now tops out at nearly 1.5 million.
Throughout the mid-1990s, when Amtrak began receiving General Electric's new Genesis diesel locomotives for use in standard service to replace aging EMD F40PHs, they could almost always be found powering the Keystone Service west of Philadelphia. For many years the Harrisburg to Philly main line was electrified by the PRR although it was shutdown some years ago. Finally, in the mid-2000s Amtrak received funding, $145 million between the state of Pennsylvania and federal government, to restore the electricity, reopening it to through electrified traffic in October of 2006. This allowed track speeds across the entire corridor to be increased to 110-mph, which further grew demand. Today, trains are usually powered by Amtrak's trusty AEM-7 motors, a Swedish locomotive that has been in service since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Amtrak's Silver Service is actually a marketing name used to describe its two premier east coast trains, the Silver Star and Silver Meteor that connect New York City with various tourist attractions in Florida such as Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville. Both trains have quite a history as part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad's popular fleet of southern streamliners during the classic era of rail travel when no expense was spared to make sure passengers thoroughly enjoyed their trip. Due to the fact that these trains served the sub-tropical regions of the U.S. from South Carolina to Florida they actually remained fairly popular with the public all of the way through the 1960s, which is a significant reason why several of then-Seaboard Coast Line's fleet was retained after Amtrak began. While the carrier's versions of the trains today are not quite as opulent, combined they still attract nearly one millions riders annually.
The most prominent train to make up Amtrak's Silver Service today would certainly be the SAL's Silver Meteor. This train was the railroad's flagship, first inaugurated on February 2, 1939 just when the streamliner craze was really catching on around the country. The Meteor evoked the South in every way possible with "tropical" colors adorning both the exterior and interior. While the original train was meant to be an all-coach run on the SAL it also offered through Pullman, sleeper service between Richmond-New York/Boston via the Pennsylvania and New Haven railroads. In the 1950s the Meteor sported its most prominent feature, the “Sun Lounge”, which featured glass ceilings since height restrictions forced the railroad from using domes.
In any event, the inauguration of the Silver Meteor forced rival Atlantic Coast Line to scramble and showcase its own streamliner to Florida, the Champion. Despite the fact that the ACL was a month or so late to the party its flagship became just as popular and both trains enjoyed many years of success. The SAL's counterpart to the Meteor was the Silver Star, which was inaugurated on December 12, 1947. The creation of this train was thanks to newer streamlined equipment purchased for the flagship, essentially making it a reborn version of the original Meteor with coaches, diners, lounges, and an observation. By the late 1960s both trains were still in service on the Seaboard Coast Line and because of their success survived through the start of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.
While the Silver Meteor has been retained by Amtrak it has undergone numerous routing changes, and even a name change since 1971. The train began bypassing Jacksonville just a year later in 1972, one of the major stops under SAL ownership. However, this was returned in 1973. Later that decade and into the 1980s it switched over to former ACL lines in Florida although part of these changes were due to the abandonment of SAL corridors as then CSX Transportation. Typically, the Meteor today uses Amfleet coaches for dining, lounge, snack, and diner services while Viewliners sleepers as used for nightly accommodations. Power north of Washington, D.C. is provided by AEM-7 electrics and General Electric "Genesis" diesels south of that point.
Overall, the entire corridor from Boston to Miami is 1,389 miles in length and requires more than 28 hours per trip. Ironically, this is now more than two hours slower than during the Seaboard era when the train required just under 26 hours along the same route. Annual ridership on the Meteor now sits at nearly 400,000 annually, or just over 1,000 passengers per trip. As for the Silver Star the sister train to the Meteor offers quite a similar routing. However, the one change with the train is that it connects directly to Tampa before reaching Miami as its sibling bypasses this city (but does offer bus service). As such, the entire route is 1,522 miles in length, nearly 150 miles longer. The accommodations, however, are roughly the same with Amfleet and Viewliner cars used on every train. A typical consist for the Star includes a baggage, two Viewliners, a Heritage Fleet diner, a cafe car, and at least three coaches.
Ridership on the Star is also quite a bit higher than the Meteor with more than 425,000 passengers taking the train in 2011. This can likely be partially explained by the addition of Tampa on the timetable. In any event, the train has also had a much greater increase in demand in recent years with a close to 10% jump in ridership. While Amtrak took a hard look at its Silver Service trains in just 2011 they are likely both to be on the timetable for many years to come given that they have retained a high level of ridership for being an intercity corridor. If you would like to learn more about riding the Silver Service please visit Amtrak's official website, which provides information on how to book a trip as well as all of the accommodations each train offers (a downloadable timetable is also provided which includes virtually everything there is to know about the trains).
As in Illinois, California, and a few other regions Amtrak uses the brand name Michigan Services to describe a series of regional trains which connect Chicago with several cities in Michigan. These trains include the Wolverine, Pere Marquette, and Blue Water and have were put into service after Amtrak began between the mid-1970s and 1980s. All three are historically significant and either were actually operated by a fallen flag railroad or its regional route is still in use (such as in the case of the Grand Trunk Western). Many years ago Michigan was home to several regional passenger trains thanks to its heavy industrial base and the once vitally important city of Detroit. Today, Amtrak's three trains are all that remains of this network. However, along with continuing growth in ridership there is hope that these trains will be upgraded to high speed, 110 mph service in the near future.
Before there was today's Michigan Services operated by Amtrak the state boasted several regional and long-distance trains. Railroads like New York Central (in particular, it alone operated numerous named trains through Michigan), Baltimore & Ohio, Grand Trunk Western, Pennsylvania, Wabash, Pere Marquette, and others connected many of the Wolverine State's cities with names such as the Red Arrow, Ambassador, Cincinnatian, Michigan, Wolverine, Twilight Limited, Pere Marquette, Wabash Cannon Ball, Detroit Limited, Maple Leaf, and several others. During the "Golden Age" of the railroad industry Detroit was extremely important due to its heavy industrial base alone and automobile manufacturing in particular (a lucrative traffic source).
Additionally, there were other important cities such as Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Durant, and the car ferry docks at Muskegon, Grand Haven, and Ludington. When Amtrak began on May 1, 1971 there were only five railroads still serving the state; the B&O, C&O, Grand Trunk, Penn Central, and Norfolk & Western which still operated some twelve various trains. However, all of these were abolished by Amtrak save for two former PC runs, which did not carry a name until the carrier issued its first timetable on November 14, 1971 naming them the Wolverine and the St. Clair (the latter train lost its name in the early 1980s but survived as part of the Lake Cities until 2004). The former has been the one train that has stood the test of time and has not been extended but is also now partially funded by the state of Michigan (as are all Amtrak services in the state).
Interestingly, Amtrak at first had high hopes in the state. In 1975 it began operating French-built Turboliner trainsets via the Wolverine. Unfortunately, with Penn Central in bankruptcy and deferring maintenance they could never operate at the intended speeds of 100+ mph and were relocated to other corridors in the early 1980s. Today, as with most regional Amtrak trains the current Wolverine, which has been expanded from Detroit northward to Pontiac, provides fairly light accommodations on its 304-mile trip between Detroit and Chicago; typically you will find two General Electric P42s for power (one on each end to avoid turning), three Horizon Fleet coaches, and an Amfleet cafe-club car. Despite these rather mundane services the train's ridership has steadily grown and now see more than a half-million passengers annually.
The Pere Marquette has a history that dates back to its predecessor railroad, the Pere Marquette Railway. Under the PM the train operated between Detroit and Grand Rapids as a regional run with service Monday through Saturday. In 1947 the railroad was purchased by the Chesapeake & Ohio, which retained the train but would expand it to serve three different corridors; Detroit-Grand Rapids, Chicago-Grand Rapids/Muskegon, and Detroit-Saginaw. Interestingly, the Pere Marquettes as they were known survived serving these routes through end although when Amtrak began on May 1 it initially did not retain the name. However, thanks to state support the name was revived on August 5, 1984 as a Chicago-Grand Rapids service, which continues through today. As a regional run the train offers a bit more than you might expect as three Superliner coaches typically make up a consist.
Finally, there is the Blue Water which serves Chicago and Port Huron, for some years known by Amtrak as the Blue Water Limited from 1975 to 1982. The route the carrier uses was originally part of the Grand Trunk Western, a Canadian National subsidiary, who once field such trains on the line as the Maple Leaf, International Limited, the Inter-City Limited and LaSalle all of which connected to Toronto. From 1976 through 1981 Amtrak equipped its new Turboliner high-speed trainsets over the line although because they were never able to operate at true high speeds were pulled in 1981. A year later the Blue Water name was dropped in favor of the old International Limited when the train was extended to Toronto. However, lagging demand forced Amtrak to truncate this back to Port Huron in 2004, returning the train to its original name as the Blue Water. Today, the corridor is approximately 319 miles in length and requires nearly six hours to complete a trip. The train's standard power today is a GE P42DC with up to eight cars consisting of a Horizon Fleet/Amfleet coaches and the same used as a cafe-business car.
Of all of the areas Amtrak serves its Northeast Corridor (or NEC) that stretches roughly from Richmond, Virginia northward to Boston, Massachusetts and connecting all of the major cities in the region along the way has always been the carrier's most popular. Because of this then, it probably comes as little surprise that its Northeast Regional service that connects the NEC is Amtrak's busiest seeing millions of riders annually, which either take the train all of the way through or stop at one of the major cities along the way. The history of passenger trains here can be traced well back into the classic Pennsylvania Railroad era when the once-largest such company to be found in the country dispatched dozens of various named trains along the NEC, which were also quite popular with the traveling public. The future of this route under Amtrak hopes to be expanded further with high speed rail service to Richmond and perhaps even into North Carolina.
The history of this route was predominantly owned by two different companies; the aforementioned PRR as well as the New York, New Haven & Hartford (New Haven). The former could boast a through line between New York and Washington, D.C. by around 1907 (mostly by purchasing smaller systems along the way) while the latter, the New Haven, operated a main line between New York and Boston by as early as 1888 (also by buying up smaller railroads). In general these two companies worked together (since they were not true competitors) in providing passengers and commuters with through connections from Boston to Washington. Due to the volume of traffic they carried then, just like now, both also listed dozens of trains, particularly the New Haven. Far too many to mention here the NYNH&H's more well known runs then included names like the Bostonian, Colonial, Merchants Limited, New Yorker, and Yankee Clipper.
For the PRR, it did not offer quite as many named trains but made up for this in the fabulous level of services, which were second to known for simply being a commuter/regional corridor! The Senator was one of the most popular, operating all of the way from Boston to Washington in conjunction with the New Haven. Aside from its lavish accommodations the train could complete the trip in just eight hours, more than two hours faster than today's trains offered by Amtrak! There was also the Congressional service, a very fast commuter train running from Washington, D.C. and New York. It also offered a vast array of amenities to passengers and was powered by the iconic GG-1 electric, which could complete a trip in less than four hours; again, much faster than Amtrak. Another sometimes forgotten regional commuter train serving this region was the Crusader operated by the Reading Railroad.
This commuter-like streamliner connected Philadelphia with Jersey City on a 90-mile corridor that was also popular with commuters and businessmen for its services that were right up there with the PRR. Sadly, as they say, all good things must come to an end and as the public abandoned trains for cars and planes the Northeast Corridor lost many of these trains while those that remained were mere shells of their former selves. Upon the start of Amtrak on May 1, 1971 some of these runs were retained (although the once-popular Congressionals were retired later that decade) and surprisingly survived for many years. Names like the Yankee Clipper and Federal survived under the Amtrak banner for decades before finally being retired in the mid-1990s. With the release of the carrier's October 28, 1995 timetable all of these services became known as NortheastDirect.
These new trains, which all operated under that banner served the entirety of the Northeast Corridor connecting Boston, Springfield (Massachusetts), New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Newport News, and Lynchburg. With Amtrak's April 7, 2008 timetable the name was again changed to today's Northeast Regional. Overall, the service now serves a total of 50 stations with electrified operations ending south of Washington. Train numbers used include 66, 67, 82-88, 93-95, 99, 110-111, 121, 123, 125-127, 129-141, 143, 145-148, 150-190, 192-199, 401, 405, 432, 450, 460, 463-465, 467, 470, 475-476, 479, 488, 490, 493-495, and 497. The entire corridor is 630 miles in length and if one were to ride it the entire length would require 12.5 hours. Because the Northeast Regional is just that, a regional service, services aboard train are fairly light consist of Amfleet cars offering standard coach and business classes as well as a cafe/snack car.
Power above Washington for the trains consists of either the reliable AEM-7 Swedish electrics (in service for nearly 30 years now) or the much newer HHP-8 motors used for the Acela Regional. South of the nation's capital Amtrak employs its standard General Electric Genesis series diesels. The future of the Northeast Regional service looks interesting as the carrier is attempting to work with the Virginia and Congress in obtaining funding to electrify the line to Richmond and provide through service to Norfolk via Class I Norfolk Southern's trackage. If this happens and the state is able to complete its project with North Carolina to offer high speed rail service to Charlotte, the Piedmont, and Wilmington one can ride a fast train from Boston into the heart of the South.
Amtrak California's Pacific Surfliner is the newest member in the state's family of intercity passenger rail services. Begun only relatively recently in 2000 the train has quickly become California's most popular, seeing more than two million riders annually on its route that runs the southern Pacific coast between San Diego and San Louis Opisbo. The service is also the only one featuring its own, unique, paint scheme different from even the standard Amtrak California livery of dark blue and silver. Much of the line the Surfliner uses was once owned by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (Santa Fe) and the railroad's heritage can still be found in many places, such as a number of the depots that remain in use and built in the classic Spanish Mission style. If you are hoping to rider the Surfliner service expansions over the years have increased its station stops to more than two dozen with multiple trips ran daily!
As the busiest route that is subsidized by California it took the state many years to see the Pacific Surfliner a reality. After the Santa Fe discontinued passenger trains along its "Surf Line" between Los Angeles and San Diego on April 30, 1971, Amtrak continued to use the San Diegan when it began operations the next day. In general, the carrier received although worn out equipment from mots railroads (both locomotives and passenger cars) which made reliable scheduling very difficult. However, things were a bit different in the case of the AT&SF which handed Amtrak a tired, but quite usable roster of equipment as the railroad did a much better job of maintaining its fleet right through the end. The state of California, which was hoping to see improved and more reliable intrastate passenger rail service began subsidizing Amtrak's operations in 1976.
This led the Amtrak California brand name and Caltrans Division of Rail, which both managed and funneled monies to the national carrier. At that time, two trains still provided intercity rail services in the state the aforementioned San Diegan and the San Joaquin, an upstart of 1974 between Oakland and Bakersfield. Both of these operations began to see significant improvement with increased funding as well as new equipment, such as the far more reliable EMD F40PHs of the late 1970s. In December, 1991 the Capitol Corridor debuted between Oakland, San Jose and Auburn giving the state three regional trains serving its largest cities. Then, on June 1, 2000 Amtrak and California re-inaugurated the San Diegan as a through train from San Diego to San Luis Opisbo via Santa Barbara.
This routing, north of Los Angeles used former Southern Pacific trackage and to better market the new corridor the name Pacific Surfliner was chosen (quite appropriate, considering trains skirt the coast much of the way, making for a breathtaking backdrop as swimmers can literally watch trains pass from the beach). With its increased range the entire route covers some 350 miles and takes about 5 hours and 45 minutes to ride the entire line (not including a return trip). Current train numbers dispatched now include 562, 564-67, 571-573, 577-580, 582-583, 587, 589-592, 595, 597, 763, 768, 769, 774-775, 784-785, 792, 796, and 798-799. In the early 1990s Amtrak California began purchasing new equipment such as upgraded Superliners (now known as California Cars) and EMD F59PHIs.
For use on the Pacific Surfliner are what are known as Surfliner Cars. These look quite similar to Amtrak's double-decked Superliners although they were specially built by Alstom (with the primary differences being on board amenities such as Wi Fi, power outlets, and general deign as well as sporting the special Surfliner livery). Of course, as demands ebb and flow considering the train is one of Amtrak's busiest with more than 2.6 million riders annually, traditional cars from the fleet will be used (sometimes to the chagrin of passengers). However, typically a consist will include an F59PHI, business car, coach-cafe, two or more standard coaches (as needed), and a coach-baggage-cab car (for push-pull operations since there is never a location to turn the entire train making things much more efficient).
Additionally, as with all Amtrak California services there are available connecting buses to other cities; in the case of the Surfliner these include Solvang, Buellton, Atascadero and Paso Robles. Finally, California's busiest passenger route offers treasures that many who ride it probably pay little attention, the restored depots of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific that still serve in their original capacity. Today, the Pacific Surfliner features 30 station stops and of those San Luis Obispo (SP), Santa Barbara (SP), Glendale (AT&SF), Los Angeles (Union Station), San Juan Capistrano (AT&SF), and San Diego (AT&SF) all still use their original depots to serve passengers.
Along with California, North Carolina is one of the only states which sports its own Amtrak-inspired livery. The Tarheel State has been at least partially subsidizing passenger rail service within its borders since the 1980s when it partnered with Amtrak to inaugurate the Carolinian. However, it was during the 1990s that things truly began to take off when an additional train was launched, today known as the Piedmont Service between Charlotte and Raleigh (it began as the Piedmont). As the state became more involved in supporting rail service demand grew and it now sponsors two daily Piedmont, which spurred the name change. Its current hopes include pushing passenger trains across the state to its largest cities such as Asheville in the west and the port of Wilmington along the Atlantic coast. Additionally, it hopes to operate them at high speeds (over 100 mph), which is a very real possibility as demand continues to grow for the trains.
The route now used by Piedmont Service was once part of the Southern Railway's route across North Carolina, which stretched as far as Morehead City to Raleigh, Greensboro, Salisbury, and westward to Asheville (stretching as far as Murphy). While the Southern did provide local services across the Tarheel State (including to Raleigh) and many of its well known runs connected to Charlotte which lay along its main line, it never hosted a named or expedited regional train between the two cities; the closest the railroad came was with trains like the Asheville Special (Washington - Greensboro - Asheville), Aiken-Augusta Speciall (Washington - Salisbury - Augusta), and Carolina Special (Cincinnati - Greensboro/Charleston). By the time Amtrak began on May 1, 1971 the Southern had long since ended all local and regional services.
Its sole remaining train, which was not initially included in Amtrak was the fabled Southern Crescent that survived until early 1979 when the railroad finally relinquished it to Amtrak. North Carolina's first venture into partially subsidized rail service began in the early 1980s when it partnered with Amtrak to provide a train, known as the Carolinian, that would connect Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh with Richmond, Virginia. From that point Amtrak would offer through service to passengers wishing to reach Washington, D.C., New York City, and all major points in between. The train debuted on October 28, 1984 but survived only a year due to poor revenues (despite high ridership).
Six years later the two tried the train again, which kicked off on May 12, 1990, but this time chose to operate it as a through train all of the way to the Northeast. As ridership and demand grew North Carolina began exploring the possibility of adding an additional corridor. Five years later on May 26, 1995 it debuted the Piedmont which served the cities of (east to west) Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, Kannapolis, and Charlotte (which is 173 miles in length). The major difference between this train and its counterpart is that the state fully owns all of the rolling stock used for the service, just like California. Its fleet of locomotives includes two EMD F59PHIs and four F59PHs, all of which are named for cities served along the route.
The cars used are dated Pullman-Standard and St. Louis Car Company equipment, which has been heavily refurbished. Additionally, the state continues to overhaul more cars. Everything sports a livery that is Amtrak inspired but uniquely North Carolina; silver and blue with red trim topped off by a large star on the nose of locomotives and "North Carolina" adorning their flanks. As demand grew the state elected to enter a second train into service over the corridor which renamed the route as the Piedmont Service. Today, the trains complete trips in about 3 hours and 10 minutes with train numbers listed as 73-76. As services have grown so has ridership and 2011 saw a jump in ridership by more than 40% over 2010 to more than 140,000 passengers! The route between Charlotte and Raleigh is also now owned by the state, known as the North Carolina Railroad (which in total owns 317 miles of track) with rights leased to Norfolk Southern to provide freight service.
The Tarheel State has big plans for its future rail service as it hopes to establish high speed operations throughout its borders from Asheville to Wilmington. While the North Carolina Railroad has its owns website to truly learn about the state’s incredible plans of passenger and commuter rail services you need to visit the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s dedicated website to such called Bytrain.org. This website not only give you the latest scoop concerning ongoing initiatives and plans relating to North Carolina’s railroading operations it also informs about the state’s steps to preserve right-of-ways for future rail use and keeping industries planted in its borders by providing rail access. All in all, the entire site is the best resource on the Internet to learn about North Carolina’s rail industry, from passenger to freight usage.Home › Amtrak › Amtrak's Services