22.10.06

CHANGING TRAINS. Amtrak schedules to take effect October 30 include expanded frequencies in Illinois paid for by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

There will be five daily trains between Chicago and St. Louis: the Texas Eagle and four running under the fleet name Lincoln Service. One each way also serves St. Louis-Kansas City as the Ann Rutledge after a long layover in St. Louis. (Curmudgeon's note: why not, as long as there is one long-distance train on the route, keep the Rutledge name for the entire leg (and get after Union Pacific to run it on time), and bring back the Gulf Mobile and Ohio names of Abraham Lincoln and Alton Limited for two of the other trains and use Green Diamond for the third?)

On the Chicago-Carbondale route, a morning departure from Chicago arrives Carbondale in midafternoon and turns for an evening trip to Chicago. A new morning departure from Carbondale arrives Chicago just after lunchtime, and turns for an evening run downstate. Because the Amtrak schedule had late-afternoon runs in both directions timetabled previously as Illini, the morning trains in each direction are called Saluki. The overnight City of New Orleans offers a red-eye schedule downstate and a hard-core commuter schedule into Chicago. The new service pattern is more like the Illinois Central mini-corridor service that faded shortly before the coming of Amtrak. It permits travelers a full day in Chicago or close to a full day at most of the downstate cities.

Along the Route of the Zephyrs, the traditional morning-up, evening-down Illinois Zephyr as far as Quincy is joined by a morning-down, evening-up Carl Sandburg. Naperville, Mendota, Princeton, and Galesburg also have afternoon calls by the Southwest Chief and the California Zephyr, although these are subject to delays, particularly eastbound.

The additional frequencies are encouraging, although I hope the Amtrak and Illinois DofT performance reviews consider the potential for connectivity. The geography of Illinois makes some connections impractical via Chicago (e.g. Urbana-Bloomington or Carbondale-St. Louis) but there might be some value in having good connections such as Milwaukee-Bloomington or Kalamazoo-Macomb or Ann Arbor-Urbana or Lansing-Springfield. Here, there are a few niggling details. In the morning, the Monday-Friday Milwaukee train (on the old Fast Mail schedule) arrives at 7.57, with the morning Michigan train leaving at 7.50, the morning Quincy train an impossible connection to the 8.00 departure, and the next Carbondale and St. Louis departures at 9.15. A St. Louis train arrives at 9.55, making a comfortable connection to the Morning Hiawatha at 10.20, but the next Michigan train is at 1.15 and the next Carbondale and Quincy connections are in the evening.

In the afternoon, a Carbondale train leaves at 4.05, with a Milwaukee train arriving at 4.29 and a Michigan train arriving at 4.41. These offer decent connections to a St. Louis at 5.15 and a Quincy at 5.55 but the next run downstate leaves at 8.00 and makes Carbondale after 1.00 the next morning.

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