Monday, July 03, 2006

New Amtrak Cascades round trip

Starting on Saturday, Amtrak Cascades began offering a new option between Seattle and Portland, and better connecting service from this corridor to Bellingham and Everett.

I rode the inaugural train - passengers were treated to little cupcakes, Amtrak Cascades pens, and an early arrival into Portland, despite chasing the slower, hour-late Coast Starlight all the way to Centralia. With passengers coming all the way from Bellingham, the train was sold out, including many seats in the dining car.

I browsed the urban design and transport sections at Powell's Technical Books while we were in town, and we returned to Seattle in the evening on the usual late service.

While on board, I learned that about 4/5 of the funding necessary to extend the second northern round trip to Vancouver, BC is now available - $4.5m of $5.5m. That would be fantastic - an evening trip into Vancouver would be possible, doubling the available seats and allowing for trips starting Friday night instead of Saturday morning.


At 7:51 AM, Blogger EvergreenRailfan said...

With this trip, King Street Station will be hosting more trains than it has in the last 40 years, at least. Also, in a way, this train brings back a Northern Pacific Pool Train schedule that was timed to pick-up passengers coming in off of the first International from Vancouver B.C, plus the Empire Builder and North Coast Limited. Now if only we could have something coming in over Stampede Pass.

Also, good to know that the 2nd train to Vancouver B.C. is getting closer to reality, we need it by 2010 for sure. It will also embarrass Ottawa, that Amtrak would have not One, but Two passenger trains pulling into Pacific Central Station, while VIA Rail's transcontinental flagship, and their only train on the mainland west of Winnipeg going into Vancouver, only runs tri-weekly.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Ben Schiendelman said...

I didn't realize it had been 40 years since we had this much service. It's nice to see - maybe soon we'll overtake the service that was there 100 years ago.

I wanted to take VIA cross-country, but the three day a week issue did kind of kill it for me. They do allow flag stops, though!

At 6:37 PM, Blogger EvergreenRailfan said...

It has been that long. About the time of the BN Merger, one of the two Internationals from Vancouver was dropped, so they were down to just the 2 Pool Trains(UP's contribution left from across the street at UNION STATION), and the two trains operated by each railroad headed East.

The Empire BUilder still has a one Flag Stop, the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana, and even that stop had a 5% jump in ridership recently. Gas came close to $3 per gallon in some of the communities near US2 in Eastern Montana. I will be taking it in a couple weeks. I would like to see the North Coast Hiawatha revived, at least between Seattle and Fargo. Have it run on the same schedule of the Portland section of the Empire Builder so they connect and combine at Pasco, and when they pull into Spokane, then seperate, as the Portland section gets combined with the Empire Builder. Have the NCH run over Montana Rail Link and BNSF Trackage as far as Fargo, NOrth Dakota. where the two trains combine headed east. In the old days, the North Coast Limited and the Empire Builder were combined east of St. Paul, Minnesota.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger EvergreenRailfan said...

Ben, there might be an un-tapped market for passenger traffic in Eastern Washington waiting to be exploited. Both on the old GN and NP routes. The ex-Northern Pacific runs through the populated areas of Eastern Washington, while at the same time there is traffic on the only passenger route in Eastern Washington, especially to Wenatchee. I rode Amtrak 8 to Malta, Montana monday for a familly reunion. The majority of the green tags above the seats in my coach were for Wenatchee and Spokane. Would be nice if there were schedules serving the Eastern Washington corridors.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Ben Schiendelman said...

Oh, you did say - the ex NP line.

I don't know - with that grade, it's a long trip. And you have to use the nasty coastal track from Seattle to Everett - remember that cost $400 million or something for Sounder to run four trains.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger EvergreenRailfan said...

Currently not much freight service on the line, and BN(before the merger with the Santa Fe) had put $135 million into fixing it up for frieght trains.(During the embargo years(railroad term for taking track out of service that is not really being abandoned) vandals had take some peices of the line. Now an F59 might not be able to get a train up that grade with the current consist. Either a bigger locomotive or shorter consist would help get it up grade.


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