Amtrak begins restoring Chicago service after Wednesday cancellations

RELATED TOPICS: PASSENGER | AMTRAK | CHICAGO
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A Chicago-bound Amtrak Hiawatha passes the station at Deerfield, Ill., on Dec. 24, 2016. Almost all Amtrak corridor service in and out of Chicago will resume Friday after cancellations on Wednesday and Thursday.
TRAINS: David Lassen

CHICAGO — With temperatures expected to bottom out at minus-23 degrees and wind chills in the minus-50 degree range into today (Thursday, Jan. 31), Amtrak has cancelled all Midwest corridor services in and out of Chicago until Friday, Feb. 1. The company will, however, originate all overnight trains serving Chicago beginning Thursday except the Lake Shore Limited, which will resume Friday. The tri-weekly Cardinal will leave New York as scheduled on Friday (it will not depart from the Windy City until the equipment turns on Saturday)

Initially, Amtrak had announced it would continue to run all long-distance trains and maintain a reduced schedule Tuesday through Thursday on Midwest routes between Chicago and St. Louis; Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Carbondale, Ill.; Quincy, Ill.; and three Michigan end points [see “Weather prompts significant operating changes from Chicago hub,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 27, 2019.] But when the severity of the cold became apparent late Monday, the company cancelled Tuesday’s Empire Builder, all long-distance trains serving Chicago on Wednesday, and all Midwest Corridor service both Wednesday and Thursday.

Amtrak’s wholesale cancellation of all Chicago-area trains was unprecedented, as were Chicago temperatures that set low temperature and wind chill records.

Long-distance trains already en route to Chicago were allowed to continue to their destination, but trains departing from West Coast and East Coast terminals for Chicago on Wednesday were also cancelled entirely, rather than short-turned to serve travelers at intermediate stops on unaffected portions of the routes. For example, a Southwest Chief trainset could have operated from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, N.M., on Wednesday and returned to Los Angeles on Friday morning instead of being sidelined.

Cross country trains from the west arriving into Chicago Tuesday and Wednesday ranged from being on time to up to 4 1/2 hours late (for Tuesday’s California Zephyr). Wednesday’s inbound Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited from the east both arrived more than 7 hours late.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells Trains News Wire, “Our decisions also took into account host railroad operating conditions, such as fleeting of trains that wouldn’t allow passing or overtakes, far away from Chicago.”

The lone exception to Friday's scheduled restoration of corridor service is the morning inbound Saluki, train 390 from Carbondale, which won’t operate because of lack of equipment there, but passengers who get up early will be able to take the City of New Orleans.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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