Empire Builder #8 Eastbound On-Time results for 2019


January 28, 2020 – To complete my 2019 project of reporting on-time Empire Builder trains, here is my first installment.

Refreshing my parameters for the chart and footnotes:  This chart uses Columbus, WI. as a point of reference for on-time, not Chicago.  I use Amtrak’s protocol for this train: It can be up to 30 minutes late and would still be considered on-time.  The data used for my chart comes from < Juckins.net >.  Juckins is not an official Amtrak website, and my chart is not an official Amtrak on-time document.  I am solely responsible for the analysis of this data.

Updating the November blog- chart, #8 was on-time 65 percent of the time in December 2019.  It averaged 48 minutes late for the month.  Compared to some of the data earlier in the year, this is a considerable improvement.  But I note the Empire Builder had better than average performance last winter until the weather turned what I’ll call Winter-Ugly at the end of January 2019.  Summertime when Amtrak consistently has its highest ridership, the performance of the Empire Builder was at its poorest performance.

For fiscal year 2019 Amtrak still registered a one percent rise in ridership on the Empire Builder.  The passenger numbers for the five stops west of Milwaukee for the Empire Builder were up two percent for FY2019.  All of these positive numbers came from a train that was on-time only 38 percent for the calendar year.  Imagine what the ridership numbers might be if the EB could be on-time 50 to 65 percent all year?

Eastbound8 Frequently Late 2019 chart

What can you do to help make this train on-time more often?  See the November Empire Builder Eastbound #8 post for more information.

Terry Brown Vice President – Public Relations

Empire Builder #7 Westbound On-Time numbers for November


December 22, 2019 – For those of you that attended the WisARP Membership meeting in Madison on Saturday, October 26, you saw my presentation debuted an On-Time chart for the Empire Builder #7 westbound.  This chart was created to demonstrate expectations for the TCMC train running just between Chicago and St. Paul (MSP).

The Empire Builder #8 eastbound has its own issues with scheduling, which easily distracts us trying to gauge the 400 miles between St. Paul (MSP) and Chicago.  The #7 chart should more clearly demonstrate how well Canadian Pacific is likely to take care of the TCMC train.  CP with Metra would be the dispatchers for the TCMC train.

EMPIRE BUILDER Westbound #7 thru November 2019

For the month of November 2019, the Empire Builder #7 running to St. Paul had another very good month.  A route of over 400 miles with 83 percent of the trains on time, and an average of just 10 minutes late.  Very Nice!!  Use the link above to see the full chart for 2019.


December 24, 2019

On August 5, 2019 Peter Fletcher began as Director as the LaCrosse/ LaCrescent Metropolitan Planning Organization.  Fletcher replaces Tom Faella who retired December 31, 2018.

LaCrosse is an important stop for Amtrak and the State of Wisconsin with over 25,000 on/offs for Fiscal Year 2018, the last year data is available.  LaCrosse County and the MPO also contributed $30,000 in the early stages of the TCMC Environmental Impact Studies, declaring their vote for another train.

Fletcher brings to the LaCrosse area a strong resume.  His Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee in 1993 is just a start.  He was the Planning Director for Trempealeau County (WI) from 1993-97 and the Senior Planner for the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission from 2004-2019.

Peter Fletcher in August IMG_0261LaCrosse MPO information sheet

WisARP will be inviting Fletcher to speak at a future General Membership Meeting.

The two attachments on this post include:  A one page PDF file brief explaining the LaCrosse/ LaCrescent Urbanized Area, and a picture of Left, Terry Brown, WisARP Vice-President Public Relations and Right, Peter Fletcher, Director of the LaCrosse MPO, taken August 22, 2019.

Empire Builder #8 On-Time numbers for November 2019

December 12, 2019 – For those of you that attended the WisARP Membership meeting in Madison on Saturday, October 26, you saw my On-Time charts for the Empire Builder, both the #7 westbound and #8 eastbound.  For the #8 Builder, the days of heavy freight interference from high numbers of oil trains is over, but late running Amtrak trains isn’t over.

For the month of November 2019, overall the chart looks very good!  There were still a half-dozen days of seriously late trains, which I guess is apt to happen.  When you consider a 2200 mile trip through the mountains with little or no pressure to maintain performance, aging equipment with maintenance needs; it is likely to produce late trains without any other interference.

As discussed at the meeting, for Amtrak riders needing to get to Chicago to make a connection to another Amtrak train leaving late afternoon/ early evening, the TCMC as it is currently scheduled will not be a solution.  The only viable solution right now is writing your lawmakers in Washington D.C. to re-enact some teeth in Amtrak’s On-Time performance standards for the host freight railroads.

Eastbound8 Frequently Late chart nov2019  rpa-amtrak_ON TIME PERF_v8

Check out the YouTube link below from a recent House subcommittee meeting on Freight trains.  The exchange between Rep. DeFazio and AAR President Jefferies that’s roughly in the middle of the clip offers some hope.  Happy Holidays to all!!

Terry Brown, Vice-President Public Relations


WisARP Fall General Membership Mtg

Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers

Fall General Membership Meeting

October 26, 2019

La Quinta Inn & Suites, Madison, Wis.

5217 East Terrace Drive

Tentative Agenda
9:00 a.m. Social Hour, Coffee, Juice and Rolls
10:00 a.m. – Noon, 1:00 – 2:30 Speakers
Speakers will include
Arun Rao, Passenger Rail Implementation Manager, WisDOT
Status of passenger rail projects in Wisconsin

Al Schmitt, WisARP Board Member
John Parkyn, WisARP President
Noon Lunch
2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Elections
3:00 p.m. Adjournment
Register today! You can register online at https://reg.planetreg.com/E91515143528663
Or Mail the coupon below to: Mark Weitenbeck
3385 S. 119th St.
West Allis, WI 53227-3943

Fee $25 ($35 after October 18th) Youth (age 22 and under) $5
Make checks payable to WisARP. For questions, 414-541-1112 or weitenbeck@sbcglobal.net
Name(s)__________________________________________ No. in party________
Are you interested in carpooling? _______ Phone number ____________________
Will you be staying over in Madison on Friday night? _____ Saturday night? ____
If “yes” to staying over in Madison either night, would you be interested in having dinner with other WisARP
members? _____
Email address ________________________________________________________

Will the U.S. Senate cut funding for Long Distance Amtrak trains this fall?

WisARP and All Aboard WI working to save Amtrak’s Empire Builder Service in Wisconsin

By Mark Quam

This story, written by Mark Quam, is from the August 15, 2019 issue of the TCMC Newsletter.  Quam is very involved in Passenger Rail advocacy in the State of Wisconsin.  He is Vice President of All Aboard Wisconsin.  He is also Secretary of the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition trying to start passenger rail service between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities. 

Efforts are currently underway by the White House to shut down Amtrak’s long distance train system this October.  In response to this recent development, All Aboard Arizona has taken on a national effort to help save Amtrak’s long distance trains west of the Mississippi River.  All Aboard Arizona and several other western passenger rail organizations (see sidebar, page two) recently appointed Tony Trifiletti as Coordinator of the Western Interstate Trains Coalition. (WITC)

WITC currently has efforts underway to save Amtrak’s long distance trains which serve the Midwest, Southwest and Western States.  Those routes would include the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight and the Sunset Limited.  The goal is to form partnerships and working relationships with other non-profit passenger rail organizations from the Midwest, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Plains Region, Mountain Region and South Central States and basically everything west of Chicago and the Mississippi River.

WITC is interested in having Wisconsin form some type of public outreach campaign to reach out to WI mayors, WI local officials, WI chambers of commerce, WI state legislators, WI U.S. Congressional Representatives and WI U.S. Senators.  The goal is to gain as much local support from WI cities and people who live near or along Amtrak’s Empire Builder route in Wisconsin.  This is an urgent situation which needs to be addressed this August and September. Congress will vote on this matter in October.

In response to Trifiletti’s efforts, AAW and WisARP have taken an interest in doing some outreach efforts to help save the Empire Builder service in Wisconsin.  This will be a big task.  Mark Quam, Vice President of AAW has reached out to Terry Brown with WisARP and would like to see both organizations work together to contact their Wisconsin U.S. Senators and Wisconsin Congressional Representatives with phone calls and letters.   WITC and All Aboard Arizona has put together a tool packet guide for doing outreach.  A coordinated effort between WisARP, AAW and even ProRail might make all the difference here in Wisconsin to save the Empire Builder. Members from all organizations are urged to get involved and make a difference.

WisARP-WITC Congressional Letter

Included in this post is a sample letter you can download to help create a letter to send to Senators Baldwin and Johnson, and your representative in the House.  This issue is very important to our neighbors to the west in Minnesota, but it is also very important to many Wisconsin riders that travel the Empire Builder west of St. Paul, MN.  Your participation in this issue is very much appreciated!

Western Interstate Trains Coalition has created a very informative YouTube video regarding this topic.

Check back to < http://www.WisARP.info > for more updates on the funding battle for Long Distance Amtrak trains.  Contact Terry Brown at < WisARPWisc@Gmail.com > with any questions.


TCMC Funding Battle Continues

June 28, 2019 — Regardless of what you’ve heard about the Wisconsin budget status, we all need to keep telling everyone about the benefits of the TCMC train.

Hopefully you know what the TCMC train is:  A second daily passenger train between the Twin Cities (St. Paul, MN.) – Milwaukee & Chicago.  This train will travel on the Empire Builder route through central and western Wisconsin, in addition to stops at Milwaukee, Sturtevant and the Mitchell Airport Station.

As I type the TCMC train is not completely shut out of the 2019-2021 Biennial Budget process, but the road to success is long and hard now.

In the meantime, your voice expressed to your elected representatives in Madison is still very important, regardless of the outcome of the 2019-2021 budget.  If you don’t know how to contact your representatives over this topic, two documents are attached to this post to help you out.

WisARP sample legis letter verA2             WisARP sample legis letter verB2

These two documents are sample letters you can use contacting your Senators and Assembly Representatives.  They are very similar, but the letter information is presented in a different order.  Choose the one that represents your feelings best.  Absolutely no problem if you decide to tweak the letter or add your own personal experience to make it stronger.  The letter also contains the website URL for finding out who your representatives are and how you can contact them.

WisARP would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to contact your Madison lawmakers.  Even if you do not live along the Empire Builder route of the TCMC train, your input is still very important.  Do not discount the value of your contribution at this time.

I would like to thank Mark Weitenbeck for his invaluable contributions to this post and sample letters.  Please contact me at < WisARPwisc@gmail.com > if you have any questions.