The Southwest Chief, new route?

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muralist0221

Active Member
A while back, the BNSF elected to run their transcon route through Texas and Oklahoma into Emporia, Kansas. This bypasses the former Santa Fe route which went through Newton (Wichita), Hutchinson, Dodge City, Garden City, Trinidad, etc. The only thing running on this track is Amtrak's Southwest Chief. The Chief has recently been slowed down on this leg.

If BNSF allows Amtrak to run the Chief on its new transcon, will travel time for the Chief be reduced? Have seen the roadbed and it's in good shape. Those Kansas Cities would loose Amtrak service, but when you look at the times the trains comes in (the middle of the night), doubt it would have much affect on ridership.
 

NM_RailNut

Member
A while back, the BNSF elected to run their transcon route through Texas and Oklahoma into Emporia, Kansas. This bypasses the former Santa Fe route which went through Newton (Wichita), Hutchinson, Dodge City, Garden City, Trinidad, etc. The only thing running on this track is Amtrak's Southwest Chief. The Chief has recently been slowed down on this leg.

If BNSF allows Amtrak to run the Chief on its new transcon, will travel time for the Chief be reduced? Have seen the roadbed and it's in good shape. Those Kansas Cities would loose Amtrak service, but when you look at the times the trains comes in (the middle of the night), doubt it would have much affect on ridership.
Santa Fe actually made the decision to reroute the "Transcon" long before the ATSF-BN merger; the route through Texas and Oklahoma via the Belen Cutoff has always been the primary freight route between L.A. and Chicago since its completion just as the route via Raton Pass had been the Santa Fe's principal L.A.-Chicago passenger route until it transferred the remaining passenger service to Amtrak in 1972.

To answer your question, it really depends on how closely BNSF works with Amtrak to coordinate their respective operating schedules. The entire Transcon route has been double-tracked and converted to CTC signalling except for the Abo Canyon segment, and that is being converted over at this moment (all that's left is finishing the roadbed on the new alignment and laying down track and ballast, along with getting the new signals in place), so there's no reason why the Chief's schedules couldn't be speeded up. You're also right about ridership; there's not too many folks who get on or off between Albuquerque and Newton, Kansas (the two points where the Chief would deviate from or rejoin the old route) and most of those could use Amtrak's Thruway Bus connections to connect with the Chief or even the California Zephyr. For that matter, there's probably enough potential ridership in Amarillo and along the Panhandle Sub to make up for what might be lost in Colorado and Kansas if the Southwest Chief is rerouted to the Transcon. And that rerouting could happen fairly soon, now that New Mexico's new Governor has made clear that she's not interested in having the state buy the rest of the Raton Pass route north of Lamy; BNSF itself had already had proposed rerouting the Chief back before the previous administration had expressed interest in buying the line, so it's possible that BNSF might still be willing to do so.
 

crazyace777

Jack of no trades
Santa Fe actually made the decision to reroute the "Transcon" long before the ATSF-BN merger; the route through Texas and Oklahoma via the Belen Cutoff has always been the primary freight route between L.A. and Chicago since its completion just as the route via Raton Pass had been the Santa Fe's principal L.A.-Chicago passenger route until it transferred the remaining passenger service to Amtrak in 1972.

To answer your question, it really depends on how closely BNSF works with Amtrak to coordinate their respective operating schedules. The entire Transcon route has been double-tracked and converted to CTC signalling except for the Abo Canyon segment, and that is being converted over at this moment (all that's left is finishing the roadbed on the new alignment and laying down track and ballast, along with getting the new signals in place), so there's no reason why the Chief's schedules couldn't be speeded up. You're also right about ridership; there's not too many folks who get on or off between Albuquerque and Newton, Kansas (the two points where the Chief would deviate from or rejoin the old route) and most of those could use Amtrak's Thruway Bus connections to connect with the Chief or even the California Zephyr. For that matter, there's probably enough potential ridership in Amarillo and along the Panhandle Sub to make up for what might be lost in Colorado and Kansas if the Southwest Chief is rerouted to the Transcon. And that rerouting could happen fairly soon, now that New Mexico's new Governor has made clear that she's not interested in having the state buy the rest of the Raton Pass route north of Lamy; BNSF itself had already had proposed rerouting the Chief back before the previous administration had expressed interest in buying the line, so it's possible that BNSF might still be willing to do so.
Abo Canyon Project was finished just last week, there are still 3 single track segments on the transcon, 1. the flyover at Vaughn, NM, 2. The Pecos River Bridge in Ft. Sumner, and 3. There is also an 11 mile stretch between Avard, OK and Alva, OK that are all single track.
 

muralist0221

Active Member
Thanks for the information, gents! Have often wondered why Amtrak couldn't come up with a passenger train which would run between Cheyenne, Denver and Dallas. Have seen that BSNF roadbed and it looks pretty good. Given the population explosion for that region, ridership would be heavy.

Of course, Amtrak is fighting for its life with the new Congress and that proposal is a mere pipe dream.
 

crazyace777

Jack of no trades
Thanks for the information, gents! Have often wondered why Amtrak couldn't come up with a passenger train which would run between Cheyenne, Denver and Dallas. Have seen that BSNF roadbed and it looks pretty good. Given the population explosion for that region, ridership would be heavy.

Of course, Amtrak is fighting for its life with the new Congress and that proposal is a mere pipe dream.
BNSF has a split (Southbounds through La Junta, Northbounds through Trinidad) route between Pueblo, CO and Amarillo, TX. Both lines would have to be made CTC for passenger service ($1M a mile according to a railroad source) the south route is CTC from La Junta to Springfield (13 miles) and is TWC the rest of the way. plus they would have a lot of work to do as between La Junta and Amarillo there are numerous slow orders due to bad track, and the majority of trains on this route are coal trains, meaning extra work to deal with the heavy weight
 

BNSFEng

Locomotive Engineer!!!
Abo Canyon Project was finished just last week, there are still 3 single track segments on the transcon, 1. the flyover at Vaughn, NM, 2. The Pecos River Bridge in Ft. Sumner, and 3. There is also an 11 mile stretch between Avard, OK and Alva, OK that are all single track.
Missouri River Bridge is also single track in Missouri. Last Time I was there in 1994.
 

BNSFEng

Locomotive Engineer!!!
Missouri River Bridge is also single track in Missouri. Last Time I was there in 1994.
Also on the Emporia Sub there is single track from Eldorado MP 171.6 to Ellinor 124.7 plus Tolle 222.8 to Augusta 183.3. Plans are for some double tracking in these areas sometime in the future.
 




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