Classic Streamliners - TRAINCYCLOPEDIA
Interior of the Cascade Bistro Car. Note the beautifully lighted route map on the ceiling.
By Bachcell at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4625847
The Cascades at Carkeek Park in 2006.
By Tim - originally posted to Flickr as IMG_3093, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3793539
The Amtrak Cascades awaiting departure at Portland Union Station, Portland, Oregon with an NPCU at the head of the train. The Fremont Bridge is in the background. By Ajbenj at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Oroso using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4625872
The Amtrak Cascades is a passenger train route in the Pacific Northwest, operated by Amtrak in partnership with the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is named after the Cascade mountain range that the route parallels.
The corridor runs 157 miles (253 km) from Vancouver, British Columbia, south to Seattle, Washington, continuing 310 miles (500 km) south via Portland, Oregon, to Eugene, Oregon. No train travels the entire length of the 467-mile (752 km) corridor from Vancouver to Eugene.
In the fiscal year 2016, Cascades was Amtrak's eighth-busiest route with a total annual ridership of 792,481. In fiscal year 2015, farebox recovery ratio for the train was 59%.
As of December 2017, two daily trains operate between Vancouver, BC, and Seattle or Portland; six daily trains operate between Seattle and Portland; and two trains operate between Eugene and Seattle or Portland. For trains that do not travel directly to Vancouver or Eugene, connections are available on Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach services. Additionally, Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach services offer connections to other destinations in British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington not on the rail corridor.
On December 18, 2017, a train derailed on the inaugural run along the new Point Defiance Bypass alignment near DuPont, Washington; at least three people were killed and dozens injured.
The Cascades passenger train route was originally operated as a joint partnership by the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, and Union Pacific.
Amtrak took over intercity passenger rail operations from the private railroads on May 1, 1971. Initial service consisted of three Seattle-Portland round trips, with no service to Vancouver, BC. The trains were initially unnamed; in November 1971, one became the Coast Starlight (which continues south to Los Angeles), while the other two became the Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. 1972 brought the return of Vancouver service with the inauguration of the Seattle-Vancouver Pacific International, which operated with a dome car (unusual for short runs).
Amtrak introduced the Seattle–Salt Lake City, Utah Pioneer in 1977. The Pioneer took over one round-trip between Seattle and Portland, arriving in Seattle in the late evening and Portland just before noon. Amtrak eliminated the Puget Sound altogether, and shifted the Mount Rainier's northbound trip to replace it.
The corridor grew in August 1980 with the State of Oregon financially subsidizing two daily round trips, the Willamette Valley, between Portland and Eugene. The Pacific International was discontinued in September 1981, followed by the Willamette Valley at the end of the year. This left three trains on the Portland-Seattle corridor: the Coast Starlight, the Pioneer and the Mount Rainier. This situation remained unchanged for the next 13 years.
Expansion in the 1990s and 2000s
In 1994, Amtrak instituted a six-month trial run of modern Talgo equipment over the Portland-Seattle corridor. Amtrak named this service Northwest Talgo, and announced that it would institute a second, conventional train on the corridor (supplementing the Mount Rainier) once the trial concluded. Regular service began on April 1, 1994. Looking toward the future, Amtrak did an exhibition trip from Vancouver through to Eugene. Amtrak introduced the replacement Mount Adams on October 30. At the same time, the state of Oregon and Amtrak agreed to extend the Mount Rainier to Eugene through June 1995, with Oregon paying two-thirds of the $1.5 million subsidy.
Vancouver service returned on May 26, 1995, when the Mount Baker International began running between Vancouver and Seattle. The state of Washington leased Talgo equipment similar to the demonstrator from 1994. Amtrak renamed the Mount Rainier the Cascadia in October 1995; the new name reflected the joint Oregon-Washington operations of the train.
A third Seattle-Portland corridor train began in 1998, replacing the discontinued long-distance Pioneer. By spring 1998, all three Seattle–Portland/Eugene trains were using leased Talgo equipment, while the Vancouver train used conventional equipment. Amtrak introduced a temporary Pacific Northwest brand for all four trains, dropping individual names, in preparation for the introduction of new Talgo equipment built in the United States and owned by the state of Washington. Amtrak announced the new Amtrak Cascades brand in the Fall 1998 timetable; the new equipment began operation in December. Amtrak extended a second train to Eugene in late 2000.
In 2004, the Rail Plus program began, allowing cross-ticketing between Sound Transit's Sounder commuter rail and Amtrak between Seattle and Everett on some Cascades trains.
The corridor has continued to grow in recent years, with another Portland-Seattle train arriving in 2006, and the long-awaited through service between Vancouver and Portland, eliminating the need to transfer in Seattle, beginning on August 19, 2009 as a pilot project to determine whether a train permanently operating on the route would be feasible. With the Canadian federal government requesting Amtrak to pay for border control costs for the second daily train, the train was scheduled to be discontinued on October 31, 2010. However, Washington State and Canadian officials held discussions in an attempt to continue the service, which resulted in the Canadian government permanently waiving the fee.
Total ridership for 2008 was 774,421, the highest annual ridership since inception of the service in 1993. Ridership declined in 2009 to 740,154 but rose 13% in fiscal year 2010 to 836,499 riders.
Service on the Cascades route is provided by articulated trainsets manufactured by Talgo, a Spanish company. These cars are designed to passively tilt into curves, allowing the train to pass through them at higher speeds. Despite a maximum design speed of 124 miles per hour (200 km/h), current track and safety requirements limit the train's speed to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h), although $781 million work is currently underway for the Cascades route which will allow them to operate at speeds up to 110 miles per hour (180 km/h).
The Cascades is painted in a special scheme consisting of cream, brown and dark green. The train is normally operated in a push-pull configuration with an EMD F59PHI or GE P42DC at one end, a 12- or 13-car Talgo-built trainset, and an unpowered EMD F40PH locomotive called a Non-Powered Control Unit (NPCU) on the other end used as a cab car. The NPCU contains a concrete weight to meet FRA weight requirements for collision safety as well as regulations for crash safety for the Talgo cars, which are not FRA crash-rated.
Four of the five 1998-vintage trainsets are named after mountains in the Cascade Range: Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood. The last set is named after Mount Olympus, in the Olympic Range. A typical train consists of a baggage car; two business-class coaches; one lounge/dining car; one cafe car (also known as the Bistro car); six standard coaches; and one service car. From the mid 1990s to the May 12th, 2008, Amtrak System timetable, full service dining was available on trains going north out of Seattle's King Street Station to Vancouver, BC. The southern trains to Portland Oregon briefly had full dining services until the May 16th, 1999 Systems Timetable. As noted, the cars still run but, are now only used for lounge services and are open to all passengers. One of the five sets currently in service, the Mount Adams set was originally built as a demonstrator for potential service between Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. It was built with two additional standard coaches, for a total of 14 cars. It operated on the Seattle-Vancouver, B.C. run for several years in its original configuration. It was also originally painted in a different color scheme, using the blue, black and silver of Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner instead of the green, brown and cream found on the other sets.
A six-car spare set, including a baggage car, service car, lounge-dining car, café car and two standard coaches, was also built. The two additional coaches from the fifth trainset and the two coaches from the spare set were placed in service on four of the other sets, resulting in four 13-car trains and one 12-car train. Fins on the baggage and service cars serve only as an aesthetic transition from the high top of the American-built locomotives to the roof of the low-slung European-designed passenger cars.
During 2013, two new Talgo 8 trainsets, owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation, entered traffic to enable further expansion of services. These trainsets differ from the original five by having cab cars integrated into the set, therefore not requiring the use of ex-F40PH NPCUs. Additionally, these sets also maintain other minor interior differences such as cafe car layout and onboard electrical systems. The two new sets are named Mount Bachelor and Mount Jefferson, after the respective peaks located in Oregon.
Funding for the route is provided separately by the states of Oregon and Washington, with Union Station in Portland serving as the dividing point between the two. As of July 1, 2006, Washington state has funded four daily round trips between Seattle and Portland. Washington also funds two daily round trips between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Oregon funds two daily round trips between Eugene and Portland. The seven trainsets are organized into semi-regular operating cycles, but no particular train always has one route.
As a result of Cascades service being jointly funded by the Washington and Oregon departments of transportation, public transit agencies and local municipalities can offer a variety of discounts, including companion ticket coupons.
FlexPass and University of Washington UPass holders receive a 15% discount (discount code varies) on all regular Cascades travel. Employers participating in these programs may also receive a limited number of free companion ticket coupons for distribution to employees.
The Sound Transit RailPlus program allows riders to use weekday Cascades trains between Everett and Seattle with the Sounder commuter rail fare structure.
The Cascades service also benefits from Sound Transit's track upgrades for Sounder service, notably the upcoming Point Defiance Bypass project.
According to its long-range plan, the WSDOT Rail Office plans eventual service of 13 daily round trips between Seattle and Portland and 4–6 round trips between Seattle and Bellingham, with four of those extending to Vancouver, BC. Amtrak Cascades travels along the entirety of the proposed Pacific Northwest High Speed Rail Corridor; the incremental improvements are designed to result in eventual higher-speed service. According to WSDOT, the "hundreds of curves" in the current route and the cost of acquiring land and constructing a brand new route" make upgrades so cost-prohibitive that at most speeds of 110 mph (177 km/h) can be achieved.
The eventual high-speed rail service according to the long-range plan should result in the following travel times:
Seattle to Portland – 3:30 (2006); 3:20 (2017, assuming completion of Point Defiance bypass); 2:30 (planned)
Seattle to Vancouver BC – 3:55 (2006); 2:45 (planned)
Vancouver BC to Portland – 7:55 (2009); 5:25 (planned)
In order to increase train speeds and frequency to meet these goals, a number of incremental track improvement projects must be completed. Gates and signals must be improved, some grade crossings must be separated, track must be replaced or upgraded and station capacities must be increased.
In order to extend the second daily Seattle to Bellingham round trip to Vancouver, BNSF was required to make track improvements in Canada, to which the government of British Columbia was asked to contribute financially. On March 1, 2007, an agreement between the province, Amtrak, and BNSF was reached, allowing a second daily train to and from Vancouver. The project involved building an 11,000-foot (3.35 km) siding in Delta, BC at a cost of $7 million; construction started in 2007 and has been completed.
In December 2008, WSDOT published a mid-range plan detailing projects needed to achieve the midpoint level of service proposed in the long-range plan.
In 2013, travel times between Seattle and Portland remained the same as they had been in 1966, with the fastest trains making the journey in 3 hours 30 minutes. WSDOT received more than $800 million in high-speed rail stimulus funds for projects discussed in the mid-range plan, since the corridor is one of the approved high-speed corridors eligible for money from ARRA. The deadline for spending the stimulus funds is September 2017.
In 2009, Oregon applied for a $2.1 billion Federal grant to redevelop the unused Oregon Electric Railway tracks, parallel to the Cascades' route between Eugene and Portland. However, it did not receive the grant. Instead, analysis of alternative routes to enable more passenger trains and higher speeds proceeded. In 2015, the current route, with numerous upgrades, was chosen by the Project Team as the Recommended Preferred Alternative. The schedule is for the Leadership Council to vote on this in December 2015, then a Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement should be released in 2016 and hearings held on it, for the Leadership Council to finalize the Recommended Selected Alternative in 2017, then publish the Final Tier 1 EIS and receive the Record of Decision in 2018. If funds can then be found, design and engineering must be done before any construction can begin.
Point Defiance Bypass
The Point Defiance Bypass is a partnership with Sound Transit to bypass BNSF Railway Puget Sound shore track for an alignment between Tacoma at the north end and the Nisqually River at the south. It increases train speeds in this corridor with a straighter, shorter track alignment, while eliminating the need for Cascades trains to use the single-track Nelson Bennett Tunnel. The first phase will decrease travel time through the corridor by 6 minutes; the second phase will decrease travel time by at least another 5 minutes.
Sound Transit construction of the line between Tacoma and Lakewood was completed in 2012 after feasibility studies, design work and acquisition of land had begun in 2005. The first phase of construction began in June 2009; by that time the completion date had been pushed back to 2019. In 2010, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided additional funding for the project, enough to bring the completion date forward to 2017. Construction between Lakewood and Dupont began in December 2014 and should be completed by the summer of 2017.
Accidents and incidents
July 2017 derailment
On July 2, 2017, northbound train 506 derailed while approaching the Chambers Bay drawbridge southwest of Tacoma, Washington. The train had been traveling above the speed limit of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) while approaching the bridge, which activated an emergency "derail switch". The incident caused only minor injuries. The train's consist, an Oregon DOT-owned Talgo VIII set, was returned to the Talgo plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for repairs and was due to re-enter service in March 2018.
December 2017 derailment
On December 18, 2017, while making the inaugural run on the Point Defiance Bypass, Amtrak Cascades passenger train 501 derailed near DuPont, Washington, sadly killing three passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board said in a news conference later that day that the event data recorder showed the speed to be 80 mph, while the speed limit in the area was 30 mph. Positive train control, a technology meant to help regulate train speed and prevent operator error, was reported to have been installed on the line, but preliminary reports state it was not active. On December 21, Washington State DOT and Sound Transit announced that the Point Defiance bypass for Amtrak will be shut down until the Positive Train Control system has been approved by the FRA and fully implemented. Meanwhile, Amtrak will continue to operate on its former Puget Sound route.
Amtrak Cascades Overview
Service type: Inter-city rail
Locale: Pacific Northwest
First service: May 1, 1971
Current operator: Amtrak
Ridership: 2,038 daily, 792,481 total (FY16)
Distance traveled: 467 miles (752 km)
Train numbers northbound (even): 500, 502, 504, 506, 508, 510, 516
Train numbers southbound (odd): 501, 503, 505, 507, 509, 513, 517
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Text: wikipedia.org. Images: Public Domain; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (unless otherwise specified) and 17 U.S. Code § 107 fair use. References: Lewis, Robert G. The Handbook of American Railroads. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1951, 2nd Edition 1956. Site Map Contact webmaster HERE.