Monthly Archives

May 2012


Sunset Limited Early Morning Arrival in LA Information

NOTE: The info below is being distributed to passengers arriving on the Sunset Limited, train #1, at Los Angeles Union Station. The scheduled arrival time of this train there is 5:35 AM now with the new timetable effective May 7, 2012.

Train #1, as well as #3 the Southwest Chief cannot be scheduled to arrive between 6 and 8 AM because of Metrolink schedules, but can arrive in that time subject to Metrolink delays as has been done in the recent past. The first day’s arrival of #1 in Los Angeles on the new schedule was Wednesday, May 9: Scheduled at 5:35 am; Actual: 6:24 am Delay: 49 minutes. The train was on time departing New Orleans but two hours late out of San Antonio, which was cut to 1 1/2 hours late at Pomona. The padding time was accommodated by Metrolink for the LAUS arrival at 49 minutes late. –Russ Jackson, RailPAC.

Union Station Food Establishments

La Famina Convenience Store — open 24 hours

Starbucks — open 4:30 AM

Subway — open 5 AM

Los Angeles MTA Building (south end of loading tunnel and up the stairs) Cafeteria — open 6:30 AM

Metropolitan Water District Cafeteria (west of Amtrak ticket counter) – open 6:30 AM

Area Food Establishments

Philippe, “the Original” Restaurant – open 6 AM
1001 N. Alameda

Connecting Transportation

LAX Flyway Bus (south end loading tunnel) departures at 4 am, 5 am and then starting at 5:50 AM every twenty minutes

LAMTA Gold Line — service begins at 3:40 AM

LAMTA Red Line – service begins at 4:30 AM


San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Report for the Meeting of April 26, 2012

Meeting date: April 26, 2012 in Fresno, California; Reported by Mike Barnbaum, RailPAC Associate Director, Sacramento
Late April was a busy time for the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee. The Fresno meeting kept members busy with legislation pending in Sacramento that would allow for the possible formation of a Joint Powers Authority for the Amtrak San Joaquins.

The notion of a JPA is similar to that of the Auburn – Sacramento – Oakland – San Jose Capitol Corridor Service. The bill in Sacramento on this subject matter to watch is AB 1779 by Kathleen Galgiani. The members of the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee have felt one key point that motivates their need for such legislation. Members have been monitoring what has been going on at the Capitol Corridor for years and have also recognized that the LOS-SAN (Los Angeles – San Luis Obispo – San Diego) Rail Advisory Committee have legislation in Sacramento known as SB 1225 by Alex Padilla. If SB 1225 is ultimately signed by Governor Edmund G. Jerry Brown, then the San Joaquins will be the only service in California not governed by a Joint Powers Authority. Many speakers came up mostly with a neutral position on the bill, but needed some key matters addressed no matter what direction the legislation goes, including, but not limited to: Every Joint Powers Authority has participation for a Statewide Timetable; Through Ticketing must remain and exist; A State Agency must remain and exist that has pull and power, and… Steps need to be taken to ultimately reject and repeal the Perata Bill while respecting the territory & obligations of private transportation operators.
The matter on AB 1779 (Galgiani) & SB 1225 (Padilla) have been requested to be on the agenda from now until there is a final decision on these critical pieces of legislation. The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee will next have these on their Sacramento Meeting Agenda – August 30th inside the Stanford Gallery of the California State Railroad Museum.

Service Changes
Monday, 7 May 2012, will mark the start of Amtrak’s Spring/Summer 2012 Travel Portion of the year. The travel will return to Fall/Winter sometime in October 2012. The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee will be notified of the October Date at its Sacramento Meeting on August 30th. The Spring/Summer Timetable is now available at stations across the United States including the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station. In the new National Timetable, the San Joaquin bus service linking from the Bakersfield Station to San Bernardino, Indio, and Hemet will have a Downtown Palm Springs Stop added with connections from Train #702 and #714. Return trips from the new Downtown Palm Springs Station to locations throughout the San Joaquin Valley will be connections in Bakersfield to Train #715 and #703. In late July/early August additional connection time will be added to all motorcoach runs at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station to accommodate the new track location. According to the Amtrak California Operating Timetable shown at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee by Statewide Bus & Schedule Coordinator, Will Schilling, the date listed for the changes at Sacramento Valley Station is August 6th. The Amtrak California Operating Timetable is also accessible via the Internet. Using the Google Search Engine, type in “CalTrans Division of Rail” and search the documents listed on their page. Once you find the Operating Timetable #45, this is the one that shows the Spring/Summer 2012 Service and the August 6th date of the changes at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station. If the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station date changes, and is mentioned by Staff of the City of Sacramento, we will send interested parties an Email alert on this matter.

The most significant change to Amtrak in California will be in Los Angeles where Train #2 (Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle) will depart Los Angeles three days a week (Wednesdays Fridays and Sundays) at 10:00 P.M. rather than the current 3:00 P.M. This change will virtually open up many available schedule opportunities for Californian’s in Central and Northern California and eliminate the existing “tight” connection from Train #702 and Bus Run #5802 that gets to Los Angeles at 2:30 P.M. for a 3:00 P.M. departure.

On a personal note, based on a careful schedule analysis, this writer recommends that for anyone connecting in Los Angeles to either the Southwest Chief or the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle, that they purchase tickets that will guarantee them a seat on Train #712 in the Southbound direction and Train #715 in the Northbound direction. Riders doing this at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station will need to be at the station by 7:35 A.M. when traveling in the Southbound direction, and will arrive back at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station from Southern California by 6:35 P.M. In Oakland, the #712 Train Departure is at 7:30 A.M., while the #715 Train Arrival is at 7:25 P.M.

State Update
There have been no changes to the Governor’s January Budget Proposal as was reported at the last San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting. This still means that many CalTrans Division of Rail Positions could be eliminated and the status of staffing in the marketing, food service and San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Positions could be gone and not back filled. We will keep close eye on this matter and send any alerts necessary when writing the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Report after the conclusion of their June 2012 Meeting on the 20th in Oakland, California.

Work is progressing along on the ability to acquire 130 additional rail cars of which 90 will be delivered to the Midwest and 40 in California. A Request For Proposal (RFP) has been completed with the potential Notice To Proceed (NTP) expected this October. In or around Thanksgiving 2012 California is set to receive a set of seven “Comet Cars” from New Jersey. These cars are not sponsored by the green cleaner Comet, in retail stores. – LOL

Amtrak Government Affairs Update
Alex Khalfin of Amtrak Government Affairs gave an update at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee. The written report covered San Joaquin Corridor Performance, the FFY13 Amtrak Legislative Request, and Amtrak Governance.

For the months of January, February, and March 2012 – San Joaquin ridership and revenue was higher then over the same time period in 2011. Endpoint on time performance ranged from a low of 85.8% to a high of 91.1%. So far to date Amtrak has made a budget request to the White House and to Congress that is for less operating money than allowed by the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act (PRIIA). We should know by the August 30th San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting what the House, Senate, and the Obama Administration will submit on their own for Amtrak for the FFY 2013 Year, which takes effect on Monday 1 October 2012.

What’s Up for the Next San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee

Besides the pending legislation, which will be a topic of lengthy discussion, the City of Sacramento needs to be on alert. Not only will the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee be meeting in Sacramento, but the Committee will be hearing from representatives throughout the Sacramento Region on the prize infill project known as the Sacramento Railyards. The tracks, proposed Entertainment Sports Complex, and Infrastructure layout will all be topics of discussion and deliberation with much, much more to come on the Sacramento Railyards as time gets closer to August 30th.


Mark your calendars, take the day off from work, or whatever else you might have to do to be in Sacramento on both Wednesday 30 August 2012 as well as Saturday 15 September 2012. Both dates will be busy inside the Stanford Gallery Room behind the main California State Railroad Museum as they will be the meeting and conference locations for the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee (August 30th) and the Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada (September 15th).


Upcoming Rail Meeting Event Calendar

Prepared by Mike Barnbaum, RailPAC Associate Director

The legislation discussed at the April San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee and associated infrastructure changes forthcoming at the Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station set the slate for a busy calendar ahead for California and the West Coast. Here is the latest of what we do know through September 30th.

Monday 7 May 2012: Amtrak National Timetable (Spring/Summer) Changes take effect through sometime in October 2012.

Saturday 12 May 2012: 5th Annual National Train Day Celebration with the largest West Coast Event in Los Angeles from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Tuesday 22 May 2012: Oral Report on the S.J.V.R.C. & South Sacramento County Transit Link to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

Friday 15 June 2012: California State Legislative Constitutional Deadline to pass the 2012-1013 California State Budget.

Sunday 1 July 2012: Fiscal New Year’s Day for the State of California. The 2012-2013 California State Budget Year (if on time) is now in effect.

Wednesday 20 June 2012: Amtrak Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors Meeting at BART Board Room in Oakland, California.

Monday 6 August 2012: Sacramento Valley (Amtrak) Station Track Location Changes according to the CalTrans Division of Rail Timetable.

Thursday 30 August 2012: San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting – California State Railroad Museum’s Stanford Gallery in Sacramento.

Sunday 2 September 2012: Year 1 of 5 of Sacramento Regional Transit District’s Transit Renewal Service Changes take effect beginning at 4am.

Saturday 15 September 2012: Rail Passenger Association of California &Nevada Annual Steel Wheels Conference in the Stanford Gallery Room – Sacramento.

Wednesday 19 September 2012: Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors Meeting: City Council Chambers of Suisun City, CA.

Sunday 30 September 2012: Federal Fiscal Year 2012 for the United States of America comes to a close after 11:59 P.M. in their local time zones.


Does California need Tilting Turbine Trains?

Opinion By Noel T. Braymer

The heyday for Turbine powered passenger trains was back in the 1960’s and 70’s. The conventional wisdom is rising oil prices and high fuel consumption with Turbine Trains caused their days to be numbered. One reason for the decline was the leader in building Turbine Trains was France. The prototype TGV train built in the 70’s was a turbine train which still holds the speed record for turbine trains of 198 miles per hour. The decision to electrify the TGV trains was largely political. During the oil uncertainties of the 70’s the French Government began building more Nuclear Power Plants. The government soon found they had a glut of electrical power from these new power plants so it ordered the railroad to electrify more lines and the TGV trains.

Turbine trains have high power yet are light weight and the engines take up little space. Turbine passenger trains don’t have locomotives, they have power cars which hold the power plant as well as carry passengers and control cab. Turbines are actually very efficient at full power. The problem is they are not efficient at low power or at idle which is why they were considered inefficient. There is a solution for this: instead of using a big turbine engine on a train it is better to use several smaller ones. With 4 smaller turbines you could use 1 for Head End Power and for going at slow speeds in and out of stations or sidings. With 2 turbines you could cruise at medium speeds while a third engine would let you cruise at high speed with an extra turbine for steep grades or quick acceleration. This is like a car’s engine that can shut down engine cylinders than are not needed to save fuel . Unlike diesels, turbines can be started and shut down quickly.

During the 1990’s the Federal Rail Administration paid Bombardier to build a new turbine train as part of the contract for the Acela. Called the Jet Train, it was a tilt train meant to provide high speed rail service to places without electrification on existing rights of way. The Jet Train had a top speed of 150 miles per hour. At this speed with tilting trains it is possible to provide rail service with running times close to those of faster non-tilting HSR services. This has been successfully done in other countries such as Sweden. The Jet Train was actually a hybrid with both diesel and turbine power. The diesel was a small engine for Head End Power and travel at slow speeds. The turbine was used once the train was under way. The basic concept was sound but High Speed Rail projects in this country went into hibernation by the the Jet Train was finished.

Where could we use turbine tilt trains in California? Metrolink is planning faster express service in the near future. A major part of this to to provide faster service to Palmdale. Improved tracks and reduced curves in the mountainous area between Sylmar and Palmdale are planned. This is a perfect place to use a tilt train combined with the high power and low weight of a turbine train in a mountainous region. Such turbine services in Southern California could reach down to San Diego up to Palmdale and west possibly as far as Santa Barbara. Turbine tilt trains would be useful along the entire California Coast though the chance the UP will allow it north of Santa Barbara is unlikely. In the North ACE is looking at creating a higher speed (125-150 mile per hour) service between Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose and possibly as far as Merced.This will require new separate tracks to get off the UP to allow the speeds and frequency of service to justify higher speeds. In the Altamont Pass tilt service and higher turbine power would make such a service faster.

On the Initial Operating Segment (IOS) of the High Speed Rail Project between Merced and the San Fernando Valley running turbine trains from San Diego to San Jose via the Altamont Pass via the IOS are a possibility. So would trains from San Bernardino to Sacramento or Chatwsorth to Oakland. This could give direct service blending old and new tracks for high speed from day one. This could be run in addition to electrified trains running just on the IOS. Turbine trains would also be an option to use on the entire IOS to provide High Speed Rail Service while postponing electrification of the line which is a major expense. Reducing capital costs and starting a viable service sooner is a possibility in wake of unsure financing. The California High Speed Rail Projects needs to get fast trains running to as many markets with good ridership numbers as soon as possible to attract investors to improve and expand High Speed service in the future. Turbine Tilt trains can give major flexibility to quickly provide State Wide High Speed Rail service in a short time and low cost.


Enewsletter for April 30, 2012

Tax dollars generate economic growth when spent WISELY. On the left we see the San Diego Depot in 1995 soon after the start of Coaster service. On the right is a view 12 years later. Transportation is central to economic activity and growth. Rail service attracts jobs and business.

April 30, 2012   April 30, 2012 Part 2

The above copy of this enewletter is on a PDF file and  you will not be able to click on to the links in blue. If you would like an emailed copy of this enewsletter or to subscribe to it email


RailPAC Will Participate at National Train Day, May 12. Steel Wheels Conference set for September 15

For information about Train Day activities near you, go to click on your state for a list of events! Now read about some of the activities in California: RailPAC salutes one of the Train Day events to be held in California: at the Dunsmuir Amtrak station from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This historic railroad town on the route of the Coast Starlight, built in the 1880s, will have many features, an exhibit of train use during World War II, and the 4th annual Pie Social! Pie is $3 a slice, $20 for a whole pie. Come on up!

RailPAC Officers, Directors, and Members will be present at Train Day activities at Los Angeles Union Station, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and other locations. Come by, see what we are doing, discuss current events, and get free copies of RailPAC publications INCLUDING the new “Seat Checks” for you to use when riding trains.

California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento. Two visually exciting 1950s-era vintage streamlined diesel locomotives from the CSRM’s prized collection — Southern Pacific 6051 and Western Pacific 913 — will be on a special back-to-back configuration pulling the open-air gondolas and first class El Dorado observation lounge car on National Train Day. Sacramento will also have a “delayed” National Train Day Event either in late July or early August as a direct result of the Sacramento Track Project ready date being pushed back from May to Late July/Early August.

The next “Steel Wheels Conference” in California will be in Sacramento on Saturday, September 15, 2012, in the Stanford Gallery at the California State Rail Museum. Confirmed Keynote speaker: Assemblymember Roger Dickinson. RailPAC will present Caltrans Division of Rail Chief Bill Bronte an award honoring his career. Stacey Mortenson, Executive Director of ACE, will be a speaker. Please check here for update announcements as they become available.
Paul Dyson, RailPAC President