Steam group reacts to Amtrak policy on special trains, charters

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Nickel Plate Road No. 765 inches closer to the platforms at Metra's LaSalle Street Station in Chicago on June 17, 2017, as it leads the Joliet Rocket. Organizers are holding off on ticket sales pending clarification of Amtrak's recent announcements regarding private passenger cars and excursions under Amtrak's common carrier umbrella.
TRAINS: Steve Sweeney
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Tickets will not go on sale next week for the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s proposed Joliet Rocket trips as the Fort Wayne group and other preservationists seek clarification on Amtrak’s new policy on special trains and charter moves.

The Sept. 15 to 16 Chicago-area excursions with Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 were scheduled to go on sale next week. Even though the proposed trips will use tracks owned by Chicago-area commuter railroad, Metra, the Fort Wayne group relies on privately owned cars that would use Amtrak trains and facilities.

“At this time, we feel it would be imprudent to open ticket sales as previously scheduled before we have more clarity on the situation,” a Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society news release states. “As such, this policy will force us to revisit our contractual agreements with car owners, re-confirm both their availability and costs, and confirm Amtrak’s ability to transport them to our venue. Amtrak’s participation was critical to last year’s Joliet Rocket trips.”

To date, more than 1,800 people had expressed interest in the summer trips along Metra’s Rock Island line between Joliet, Ill., and Chicago.

Nationwide, the preservation community spent much of Thursday rallying against Amtrak’s policy change through the online petition site The petition had received more than 450 signatures with a goal of 500.

Amtrak has yet to issue any clarification or additional guidance on how it will operate private cars, aside from a Wednesday morning memo stating it would do away with operating special trains and charters.
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