Thursday, January 07, 2010

This Week In Amtrak

Sunset Limited in Houston.Image via Wikipedia

This Week at Amtrak; December 10, 2009

A weekly digest of events, opinions, and forecasts from

United Rail Passenger Alliance, Inc.

America’s foremost passenger rail policy institute

1526 University Boulevard, West, PMB 203 • Jacksonville, Florida 32217-2006 USA

Telephone 904-636-7739, Electronic Mail •

Volume 6, Number 50

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1) Just when we thought things were slowing down for the Christmas season ... word has come the Amtrak Board of Directors has authorized taking the current tri-weekly Sunset Limited and turning it into a daily operation.

The new version of the Sunset Limited – and, most likely, the Sunset Limited name will regrettably be retired, in a death before its time – will make the daily Texas Eagle a daily train all the way from its present daily endpoint in San Antonio, Texas to Los Angeles. For the first time in decades, the fabled Sunset Route of the former Southern Pacific Railroad and now Union Pacific Railroad will have daily service. The Texas Eagle will now be a Chicago-Los Angeles daily train. There is hopeful speculation the less than spectacular Texas Eagle name will be retired, too, and perhaps replaced with something more appropriate such as restoring the former Southern Pacific/Rock Island famed name, the Golden State. Other names, such as the lackluster California Eagle, have also been suggested.

Cities and towns with current tri-weekly service now having daily service from a full service train include

Del Rio, Texas

Sanderson, Texas

Alpine, Texas

El Paso, Texas

Deming, New Mexico

Lordsburg, New Mexico

Benson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Maricopa, Arizona (Phoenix)

Yuma, Arizona

Palm Springs, California

Ontario, California

Pomona, California

and, into Los Angeles Union Station.

For the segment of the current Sunset Limited route between San Antonio and New Orleans, a new daily stub train will be established, with coach and a first class coach service, along with a food service car. The schedules of this yet-to-be-named train will coordinate with the new version of the Sunset at San Antonio.

When this plan first surfaced earlier this year at the Railroad Passenger Association of California meeting in Los Angeles, many had hoped through car service from Los Angeles to at least New Orleans would remain. Alas, in this version, that is not to be; passengers traveling from points west of San Antonio will have to change trains for cities, towns, and hamlets east of San Antonio.

Many are hoping that will change; there are other points in the Amtrak system where that type of operation takes place, notably on the Lake Shore Limited and Empire Builder.

As an interesting note, Alpine, Texas, most known for its wide open spaces and almost total lack of denizens, will now have daily train service with sleeping cars, and a full service diner, but Houston, Texas, one of the largest cities in America, will have daily service with only coaches, a first class coach service, and some sort of diner/lounge food service. Somewhere, somebody at Amtrak thinks that’s a peachy idea.

Stations east of San Antonio which will now have daily coach service on the new stub train include

Houston, Texas

Beaumont, Texas

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana

New Iberia, Louisiana

Schriever, Louisiana

and, New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal.

There is no information as to when this service will commence, and on what schedules the two trains will operate.

2) What of service on the Sunset Limited route east of New Orleans?

Don’t hold your breath. Amtrak’s Gulf Coast report which it published late this summer made pretty plain hash of what the company wants before it will consider restoring this much-missed and much-needed service.

We will give the Amtrak Board of Directors some credit for embracing Brian Rosenwald’s plans for the Sunset Limited west of New Orleans, but the board will receive a collective lump of coal in its Christmas stocking for doing nothing to restore the immorally-stopped service east of New Orleans.

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J. Bruce Richardson


United Rail Passenger Alliance, Inc.

1526 University Boulevard, West, PMB 203

Jacksonville, Florida 32217-2006 USA

Telephone 904-636-7739

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