P42s leading the Coast Starlight by author
P42's leading the Coast Starlight by author

Sound Transit wants to remind everyone that there will not be a Home Run train to Safeco Field, Saturday, October 3rd, 2009. This is mainly due to the low projected attendance for the last remaining games.

Amtrak and WSDOT would also like to remind those last minute travelers to Vancouver BC or Seattle, WA on trains #510/517 will be¬†substituted with Superliner equipment for about a week. The FRA will be doing tilt testing using one of the Talgo’s using the P32 and P42 locomotives. This will be done late at night so it does not bother with normal daily traffic. The purpose of this test is to allow the P32 and P42 (and P40s) the ability to travel at the posted Talgo speed limits instead of following standard passenger train speeds in the curves.

Stanwood Station may open just before Thanksgiving weekend. The project has been delayed due to lead contamination at the station site delayed the early November opening.

Hundreds of people turned out for the opening of Leavenworth Station. The train arrived on-time to a large crowd on the platform. While the complete station will be finished later this year, Leavenworth opted to open the station now to support the upcoming winter months. Snow is expected to hit Stevens Pass this weekend with the cool temperatures. May be a good time to take the train there!

54 Replies to “Rail Advisories: No Sounder to Mariners and Superliners”

  1. Any insight into when/where those Talgos will be able to travel at the higher speeds? Or how much time it will shave off the journeys?

  2. When you say P32 (P32AC-DM), are you sure you aren’t referring to a B32 (B32-8WH)? P32’s are dual-mode Genesis-series locomotives designed for use in the tunnels into and out of New York’s Penn Station. B32’s are a part of the Dash-8 Series of locomotives produced by GE and are found around the Seattle area pulling Cascades trains (usually #510). Amtrak purchased w/ HEP generators in place of a larger prime mover, hence the 3200HP rating as opposed to the freight’s 4000HP rating (B40-8).

    1. Sort of off topic, but I’ll shoot: Could the B32’s be used on a route that was partially electrified? I used to live above BNSF’s switching yard in Interbay and noticed how grungy our house was because of the emissions. It would be nice if they electrified the yard and/or the lines running through the city. Of course I suspect they haven’t because of capital costs. Thoughts? Pointers to info on electrification of rail lines?

      1. No. B32’s do not have any of the components necessary to run on electrification. They are a straight diesel locomotive. BUT a P32 could as it has a 3rd rail system (easily convertible to an overhead contact system) and electrical switchgear. Dollar for dollar, a pure electric locomotive is much better since it has less equipment to maintain, can produce more power for its size, and it’s not lugging around a big diesel engine and fuel.

        If they’re going to electrify any of it, they might as well do all of it. It’s not worth the time or cost to only electrify a small section where BNSF will have to use diesels once they’re out of the city again. With CalTrain and the NEC, the trains stay on the same corridor all the time so electrification makes sense.

        Without going too crazy, Wikipedia is a good place to start! Just start clicking on things.

      2. Thanks for the link. One item in there pointed out that private rail lines with electrification facilities are charged a higher property tax rate than those without. It would be interesting to figure out a way to reverse that tax structure: Using clean electricity to power your rail line? You get a lower tax rate. Using dirty diesel? You pay more.

        Sigh… Anything involving rail ends up involving the Feds so I imagine it would be a mess to figure out.

      3. US regulations on diesel locomotives are very weak compared to regulations on automobile emissions or power plant emissions.[citation needed]

        Try this one more time. It’s weird how some posts fail for no apparent reason? Since this says, “citation needed”; where does the idea come from that there is a tax disincentive for electrification?

      4. I read somewhere that the November issue of “Trains” magazine will have a lot of articles about electrification. Should be on the news stands next week.

  3. Thanks Brian

    Do you have any update on my lament in an earlier post that the approach into the Vancouver yard via manual changing of the switches by Amtrak crews is in fact a disgrace and shame on Vancouver for the mess involved in both arriving at and leaving from the Central Station. For a world city in a rich country, this is anything but first class. This was my first Amtrak trip to Vancouver and it was quite a shock to see the mess up there.

    Any thoughts?

    Great about Leavenworth – so the full station will open by the end of 2009 then? Will it be staffed throughout the day?

    Lastly and apologies to bug you for the information, but will you be writing a post shortly on the proposed opening of the Pioneer route to Salt Lake City and Denver, Would this be from Seattle or from Spokane or would it be a split train from both cities joining up in Spokane. The possibilities of this are endless as it could mean being able to get a second daily train to Spokane and a better departure time perhaps from Leavenworth on the return. As I have mentioned before, the westbound departure from Leavenworth on the Empire Builder is anything but convenient for the hotels and b&bs in the area to return their patrons back to the station.

    1. I’d be more upset with the manual switches in King Street Station, but part of the Vancouver Bypass is to streamline freight and passenger movements through the yard by eliminating diamonds, reprofiling track, and constructing a new eastern bypass around the yard. It was another project I got to work on.

      Leavenworth will never be staffed. It is a platform and Phase II will build a large shelter. Due to the limited train service, it wouldn’t be cost effective to have train service (note Wenatchee is unmanned as well).

      The Pioneer would travel from Seattle to Salt Lake City via Portland. There aren’t north-south main-line rail connection from the Tri-Cities to, oh man, probably Wyoming. Once the Union Pacific splits off the Columbia River and heads towards Boise, thats it. Pioneer via Spokane wouldn’t be easy if at all possible. A better route would be the lesser-served I90 and I82 corridors and it wouldn’t require backtracking 100 miles or turning facilities that don’t really exist in Spokane. When traffic picks up again (it will), Stevens will really bite for passengers as the Cascade Tunnel and the lack of a siding between Scenic and Skykomish slow things down.

      1. I think there’s a pretty significant rail line going north-south that roughly parallels Interstate 15 from Salt Lake City to Edmonton. Anyone know for sure.

      2. I’m looking at my June 1958 Official Guide to the Railways, and UP had/has a line from SLC to Butte. Montana link or BNSF from Butte to Great Falls via Helena (if it has been maintained), BNSF to Shelby then east to find a branch off the BNSF into Canada. There was a branch to the border at Sweet Grass north of Shelby but I do not believe any of the old Great Northern Rwy branches into Alberta and Saskatchewan from Montana are still operable – I’d bet you’d have to get east to Minot, ND before you could turn north.

      3. Leavenworth will never be staffed. It is a platform and Phase II will build a large shelter. Due to the limited train service,

        Understand the train service is limited (and aweful hours) but would it make sense to combine this with other modes like Greyhound and the local public transit (is it called Link). Sort of a mini Skagit Station concept. It could even be a met up point for resorts, rafting parties, etc. And a sleigh station in the winter :-)

      4. Mike, I was referring to Vancouver, BC and not to Vancouver, Wash. – sorry, should have made that clearer in my post.

        So there are manual switches for King Street too – well that isn’t good either – is anyone working on this one?

      5. Didn’t a lot of manual switches get replaced at King Street during the main line relocation work that was finished last year? There may be some still left at the north end of the station, but I presume those would be replaced in the phase 2 work in the next couple of years.

      6. King Street 3-7 are still manual with plans to make it remote/powered by 2011. In the interim, a brakeman has the job of lining the switches for incoming Amtrak trains.

        King Street 1 and 2 (which Sounder uses) are now powered and 30mph tracks.

      7. So Amtrak crews do not need to get out of their trains and manually flip these at KSS?

      8. 95% of the time, no, unless the train is dramatically late….

        This is how things look now.


        The tracks to the right are the old Main 1/2. These are now called Amtrak 1/2.

        When Amtrak comes into King Street from the main line (Northbound from Tacoma) they will cross over at Stadium (next to 3rd Avenue) and the track in the middle, nearest the roof support for Safeco, is the Lander Main. The cross overs from Amtrak 2 to Amtrak 1 are powered but the leads into King Street are not. They are all manual (as the switch stands show)

    2. Sorry, I meant to ask if the Pioneer would go from Seattle or Portland to Denver via Spokane and not from Seattle or Spokane via Spokane! Sorry for any confusion.

      Also, in my post, I am referring to Vancouver, BC and not to Vancouver, Wash. WSDOT is working on the main line bypass for our Vancouver, but the Canadian authorities seem to be doing next to nothing for their section of the line north of Blaine to their Vancouver,

      1. Tim,

        Unfortunately, without a huge chunk of money, Vancouver is going to pretty much remain as it is now. Ottawa doesn’t readily care about foreign passenger rail trains, even if it brings money into their country.

        The mayor of Vancouver, B.C, wants upwards of 6 trains serving the city but can’t make that committment until the Government changes its attitude towards Amtrak, especially at the border crossing. Scott’s Road would probably be a better location for Amtrak in order to reduce not only the delays but also to make things easier for passengers. It would be a easy transfer to SkyTrain and according to some reports, save nearly 50 minutes. I’ll time the trip when I go up there in November.

      2. I disagree about Scott Road being a better location for the Amtrak station. It may be better for people living in Surrey and New West, but the trip between the bridge and downtown Vancouver over the BNSF/CN tracks through Burnaby is pretty quick except for the bridge. I took the train southbound to Seattle on Saturday and except for a delay leaving the yard just outside of Pacific Central it went pretty smoothly. The extra transfer of passengers having to transfer to a packed SkyTrain car at Scott Road station in Surrey would deter riders, and it definitely wouldn’t save 50 minutes. Better to upgrade/replace the New West rail bridge.

  4. Here is the “proposal” from Amtrak for restoration of trains 25 and 26, The Pioneer.
    It is almost certain that Amtrak and the UP will attempt to extort money from the states of OR, ID, UT and WY (maybe CO and WA, too) to pay for “improvements” to this superbly maintained and heavily used railway east f Portland. Please read the document carefully, and please think about the value of this project vs all of the many other rail projects needed in the US. If there were, perhaps US$113B rather than just the US$13B proposed by the President, we might see the Pioneer restored. I think it is fair to assume that this will not be high priority in the next 10+ years.

    1. I’m kind of leaning towards Option 2 (Seattle-Denver). Connections to Salt Lake can be made on Frontrunner in Ogden and this provides service in Wyoming, coming close to Cheyenne.

      I could live with Option 4 if the schedule allowed for a connection from Seattle on the Amtrak Cascades.

      I wish this train existed last summer as I had a round trip from Seattle to Denver with a three-day stay in Salt Lake City. Although with the road work between Denver and Salt Lake, I went eastbound through Colorado and westbound through Wyoming. The trip between Salt Lake and Denver is much faster through Wyoming by about three hours.

      1. Either way it is a great trip – I think I made about 10 one way trips between Seattle/Portland and Salt Lake or vv , with 2 trips to/from Denver via Wyoming, over the years the Pioneer ran – always a delightful trip. And through most of the 1990s, the crews that worked 25 and 26 were just wonderful.

    2. How did this route get the name Pioneer in the first place? Wasn’t the original Pioneer from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Milwaukee. wouldn’t Prospector have been more fitting? Or Rio Grande Zephyr, something that actually served Salt Lake and Denver.

      1. The Amtrak marketing department apparently came up with the name to honour the Oregon Trail Pioneers who preceded the Union Pacific Railway along the route from Ogden to Portland. The train originally connected Ogden with Seattle; SLC came later when the California Zephyr was re-instated, and even later the Pioneer was switched to the Wyoming route to/from Denver in the last years of its life.

      2. City of Portland? or maybe Portland Rose? (Both UPRR trains that ran on the Overland route between Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Ogden, Boise, and Portland)

      3. Oooh, I like Portland Rose (and Prospector ;-). I guess The Oregon Trail would be good too. No prior history as a passenger train that I know of but I’d never linked Pioneer with the pioneers that came out the Oregon Trail because that name already came with history.

        It seems like it would make more sense to terminate the route in Portland than continue to Seattle. Let Amtrak Cascades handle the connection. There’s already contention with BNSF over freight on this busy cooridor and increased ridership on the Cascades can’t hurt. Potentially the Talgo equipment should be faster and it gives riders the flexibility to layover and visit Portland.

    1. The seasonal snow train has proven very popular. Leavenworth is a fantastic little weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It’s a perfect place to go without a car as the town is rather nuclear. A better question would be why does anyone want to go anywhere?

    2. Uh… closer than Disneyland? Seriously, I know Leavenworth is a fake German town but we actually had a good time there. They do have real cultural events, too.

    3. I take it you’re not a climber. But the climbing in the Icicle Creek Canyon is sehr gut

    4. Leavenworth is just stunning – spring, fall and winter and for those who love heat, in the summer too. The bed and breakfasts on East Leavenworth Road are all amazing – check out these:


      I can’t afford any of these now as I am unemployed and my wife has pissed off to Los Angeles, but in better economic times, they were all great.

  5. If they did pick Seattle as the endpoint, I hope they consider running on the Stampede Sub. If they did then they could make stops in Yakima and Ellensburg as there is potential ridership there.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Stampede Pass tunnel could fit Superliner equipment. Also, Portland is not going to be left out of any new Pioneer. We need a separate train from Seattle to the Tri-cities via Ellensburg and Yakima with equipment that will fit into the tunnel. Is BNSF considering enlarging the tunnel to fit stack trains?

      1. Stampede can run Superliners through the tunnel.. there has been a few detours of the train back in the early 80s and 90s. It’s a close one.. let me tell you…

        BNSF is waiting to do the tunnel work until the Port of Seattle provides the money for the Eastside Rail Corridor. Until that sale happens, Stampede won’t happen. Stampede is actually in the process of being furloughed due to lack of use…

        It would be nice to run the Pioneer via Stampede but Portland would be the bigger hit and needs to run via the Union Pacific in order to hit other towns/cities that don’t have rail service in Eastern Oregon.

        I’ve been slacking on a post about running trains out to Eastern Washington. New jobs does that though =)

  6. I enjoy these comment threads; you railfans really know your shit. And Brian: fantastic photo! I love pre-dusk sky/light in winter, especially with snow on the ground.

  7. Amtrak and WSDOT could cooperate on a train that left Pasco at about 600am, picking up transferring passengers from the westbound Empire Builder. Just a guess, but that train might arrive in Seattle at about 1100am. The train would turn in Seattle and head back to Pasco in time to meet the eastbound Empire Builder, which leaves Pasco at 857pm. One trainset would be needed, but Superliners wouldn’t be the best choice, whether or not they fit thru the tunnel. The line is very curvy and has lots of grades to climb and descend. The Superliners are Superheavy, so using them on Stampede Pass would be Superslow.

    1. Not necessarily slow as it would be requiring more fuel. I am sure Horizon cars would be fine for the job since it would be more of a corridor type of train. All trains are only good for 30mph up there which is no problem for a single P42 locomotive. (The Coast Starlight every once in a while goes solo with 1 P42 and a 12 car train over the Cascades, which is slightly steeper but much longer of a grade than Stampede is)

      David, thanks dude! Sometimes I wonder if I know ‘too much’ for only being 24 years old =P

      1. Even better would be to buy some more Talgo gear. Heck since Amtrak needs to buy new cars for the Pioneer it would be nice to see them buy some Talgo sets with sleeping cars for that run too.

    2. Isn’t BNSF closing the Stampede Pass tunnel for the winter? Unless there’s an agreement made to crown the tunnel so that double stack containers can pass through it’s of limited value to BNSF. Seattle’s position as a major west coast port is perilously dependent on several single point of failure choke points; landslides north of Seattle, flooding south of Seattle and earthquake and avalanches that can shutdown Stevens Pass.

      1. Until the Port of Seattle sales the Eastside Rail Corridor, the Stampede Tunnel work will not be done.

      2. Do you mean until the sale goes through? I’d heard that it might be done by year end but we’ve been hearing that for a while and I don’t know if the bond market has become liquid enough.

        I didn’t know Port of Seattle was working to find funding to help with the tunnel. They certainly should be making ROW a priority. I thought it was only going to be State dollars that were available. The State’s budget is pretty tight right now too but given the economic impact that rail transportation has it definitely something WSDOT rail should be making a priority. Port of Tacoma too.

        PS. From posts on TrainOrders and other message boards it looks like BNSF stopped scheduled service on Stampede back in the middle of Febuary. Is this true? Amazing there’s zero coverage of this in the mainstream media. It was sure a big deal back when BNSF anounced they were going to resume freight traffic through Auburn. If they leave it closed for any length of time there will be that battle to fight again.

    1. If that’s what’s available, and with some renovation and redecoration, they’d serve adequately until new Talgos are available. Who knows,there might even be a genuine 1950s era dome car luring around which could be used?! And how about originating that train in Walla Walla in the AM to Pasco, Yakima, Ellensburg and Seattle and returning in the afternoon to Walla Walla, terminating there in the evening – lots of tourism possibilities and an absolutely stunning trip along the canyon north of Yakima. One train set would do.

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