CA Zephyr big delays

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Old Jul 27, 14, 6:39 pm
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CA Zephyr big delays

Looking up the departure time from Denver for the westbound Zephyr sees an average of a 2hr+ delay over the last ten days.

Any insight to why and if it expected to last? Only one train in the last 10 days arrived in DEN w/in 1hr of schedule, today it was over 5 hours late.

Found this website to be useful in tracking trains:

http://dixielandsoftware.net/cgi-bin...l?mapname=West
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Old Jul 29, 14, 5:18 pm
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Many of Amtrak's long distance trains have had trouble staying on schedule this spring and summer. Particularly unreliable are Trains 7 and 8 (Chicago/Seattle-Portland), due to major increases in freight train operations as a result of Bakken oil trains, Trains 5 and 6 (Chicago/Bay Area), and 48/49 (Chicago/New York-Boston). Trains 3 and 4 (Chicago/Los Angeles) are perhaps doing somewhat better.

Good performers on Amtrak's long distance network include Trains 11 and 14 (Los Angeles/Seattle) and Trains 58 and 59 (Chicago/New Orleans).

Indeed, a 2-hour delay on the California Zephyr (5/6) would not be viewed by informed observers as a big delay. A big delay would be on the order of 6 to 8 hours. Twenty years ago, this service routinely ran 2 hours late on virtually every day due to the vagaries of freight railroad operations.

On Amtrak, things change slowly, as the deficiencies that cause regular tardiness on freight railroads must be resolved by them, and Amtrak is for the most part helpless.

In the 1980's, Amtrak took some solace when it sued SP (now absorbed by UP) when Trains 1/2 (New Orleans/Los Angeles) were regularly 8 hours late, and it came out at trial that SP's freight trains were regularly running 24 hours late.

In essence, the existing railroad physical plant does not provide much flexibility when traffic increases, as it tends to do with an improving economy. At other times, a down economy means that railroads may defer necessary work, with slow orders imposed.

Last edited by Reindeerflame; Jul 31, 14 at 11:48 am
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Old Jul 29, 14, 5:21 pm
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I am taking Train 6, the California Zephyr, next week, so I too have been checking that site - it does not look great! I am connecting to Train 30, the Capitol Limited, and have a 3 hour 50 minute connection time. I hope I am not going to spend an unplanned night in Chicago.

Today, however, Train 6 was only 20 minutes late leaving Winter Park, so it isn't bad EVERY day, just most of them!
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Old Jul 29, 14, 6:58 pm
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If you look at how Amtrak pads it's schedules, a long distance train running 20 minutes late through out its route is likely to reach it's destination on time. Just compare the time it takes from A to B with the time it takes to go from B to A where A is the destination.

The airlines also pad their schedules, but it's not as transparent and no one every complaints if a flight gets in early.

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Old Jul 30, 14, 12:25 pm
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Looks like Train 6 only left Denver 8 minutes late yesterday evening, but is now 3 hours 33 minutes late. One big delay between Denver and McCook (NB) and another between Hastings (NB) and Lincoln.

Monitoring these delays on a daily basis is kind of interesting in a twisted way, but I can see myself misconnecting and then losing my sleeper accommodations between Chicago and Washington, which would be a drag.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 7:33 pm
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Originally Posted by Kurt View Post
Looks like Train 6 only left Denver 8 minutes late yesterday evening, but is now 3 hours 33 minutes late. One big delay between Denver and McCook (NB) and another between Hastings (NB) and Lincoln.

Monitoring these delays on a daily basis is kind of interesting in a twisted way, but I can see myself misconnecting and then losing my sleeper accommodations between Chicago and Washington, which would be a drag.
I often will reserve a room in a connection city for peace of mind to cover myself if there is a long delay. If you have hotel program points, I suggest reserving a room with a same day cancellation policy (6pm if possible), and then you can cancel it and get your points back if you know you will make your connection. This can greatly reduce your stress of the unknown.
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Old Jul 30, 14, 11:46 pm
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I did the Zephyr last June and I think we got to Chicago under an hour late. We'd gotten all the way to Iowa when we stopped for over an hour to let three westbound freights pass us. I've one about ten long distance trains now and the longest delay has been on the Cardinal.

That said, I'll be on the Capitol Limited in September and I saw this today:

On-Time Performance (Route): June 2014: 5.0% Last 12 Months: 29.4%
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Old Aug 5, 14, 5:04 pm
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looks like the eastbound #6 never left emeryville on Monday, maybe from the backlog of delays?
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Old Aug 5, 14, 6:07 pm
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It appears as though once Train 11 (Southbound Coast Starlight) departs Cherbault, OR, it pickups an hour delay? Is this due to freight traffic at 8PM?
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Old Aug 6, 14, 1:17 pm
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Originally Posted by martusd View Post
looks like the eastbound #6 never left emeryville on Monday, maybe from the backlog of delays?
Amtrak.com says that train left on time and is somewhere east of Omaha now, running about 7 hours late.
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Old Aug 6, 14, 6:30 pm
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Originally Posted by martusd View Post
looks like the eastbound #6 never left emeryville on Monday, maybe from the backlog of delays?
Originally Posted by nerd View Post
Amtrak.com says that train left on time and is somewhere east of Omaha now, running about 7 hours late.
I'm on that train now. We did pretty well until Salt Lake City., where we sat for almost 5 hours. Due to flooding (and I *think* they said track washout) in the Helper area, they rerouted the train north to Ogden, east to Cheyenne, and south to Denver. Normally that route would be faster, enabling us to make up most of that time, but as it turned out there were multiple delays including track work, slow freight trains, and lightning storms that disrupted the signaling/switching system causing our conductor to have to throw and verify switches manually, that we arrived in Denver over 6 hours late.

We are currently over 8 hours late, having departed Mount Pleasant about 15 minutes ago. This will be my first experience missing our connection in Chicago.
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Old Aug 6, 14, 7:17 pm
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Originally Posted by Rare View Post
I'm on that train now. We did pretty well until Salt Lake City., where we sat for almost 5 hours. Due to flooding (and I *think* they said track washout) in the Helper area, they rerouted the train north to Ogden, east to Cheyenne, and south to Denver. Normally that route would be faster, enabling us to make up most of that time, but as it turned out there were multiple delays including track work, slow freight trains, and lightning storms that disrupted the signaling/switching system causing our conductor to have to throw and verify switches manually, that we arrived in Denver over 6 hours late.

We are currently over 8 hours late, having departed Mount Pleasant (Iowa) about 15 minutes ago. This will be my first experience missing our connection in Chicago.
The delay in SLC may have been caused in part for the need to 'call' a crew qualified to run the UP route through Wyoming.

You can expect Amtrak to put you up for the night in Chi town.

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Old Aug 6, 14, 8:10 pm
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Originally Posted by BobH View Post
The delay in SLC may have been caused in part for the need to 'call' a crew qualified to run the UP route through Wyoming.

You can expect Amtrak to put you up for the night in Chi town.
I think you're right. One of the conductors told me that it took them about 15 minutes to figure out that we were going to have to detour, and 4 hours to set it up.

I'd like to stay in Chicago tonight, but the conductor just announced that everyone going to Michigan will be put on a bus or van to our destination. I feel sorry for those going to eastern Mi; they'll be on a bus all night! We're only going about a two-hour drive from Chicago. Still, that means arriving at 2:00-3:00 a.m. at best, which is inconvenient for the person picking us up. Do you know if we can request an overnight in Chicago? I suppose we could if we're willing to pay for it, so I guess the question is will Amtrak pay for it--and will it be worth the wait?
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Old Aug 6, 14, 8:49 pm
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The way to think about it is 2 AM in Michigan is 11 PM in Calif.

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Old Aug 6, 14, 9:20 pm
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Originally Posted by BobH View Post
The way to think about it is 2 AM in Michigan is 11 PM in Calif.
Ha. And it's 8:00 in Hawaii.
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