Late Wednesday: Amtrak's late, later, and canceled

The Buckingham Branch (CSX) tracks near an Ivy-area crossing Saturday morning.
Same spot, but looking in the opposite direction on Tuesday morning.
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Christmas Eve update: This morning, the Northeast Regional departed 7 minutes late but arrived on time in Washington; the Crescent departed 2 minutes late but arrived 28 minutes early.

Since the Hook provided a slideshow of the popular 8:49am Northeast Regional train's nearly on-time departure on Monday, it seems only fair to follow up with few less sunny details.

First, not only was the 7:20am Crescent booked up on Monday, it was running 5 hours and 37 minutes late into Washington.

On Tuesday, the Crescent was canceled; the Northeast Regional was 58 minutes late into Washington.

Today, Wednesday, the Crescent was 2 hours and 45 minutes late to D.C. By that standard, the NE Regional's 1 hour, 20-minute late arrival was looking good.

How about the Cardinal, the train that runs east and west? The Chicago-originating train never made it to Charlottesville on December 20.

"On Sunday, it made it as far as Huntington, West Virginia," says Amtrak spokesperson Tracy Connell, "before the weather was too bad, and it terminated in Huntington and turned around and went back."

The same thing was happening Wednesday, according to a rep at 800-USA-RAIL, who says that passengers were getting off the train in Huntington. They should be on time to Washington–- but they'll be arriving by motor coach, he says.

The Crescent typically runs on time about 80 percent of the time. The Cardinal has made incredible strides–- at least by its own standards–- over the past years. Around this time last year, it had recently jumped from 18 to 35 percent on-time rating. In the last 12 months, however, it's achieved a 59 percent rating–- with November's trains hitting their mark 88 percent of the time.

The good news is that the Cardinal's snow woes aren't the fault of the Buckingham Branch, the Dillwyn-based railroad that operates the east-west tracks through Charlottesville as far west as Clifton Forge. Still, the company leader admits that the snow fell heavy enough to halt trains early Saturday morning, and indeed there were blockages.

"We pretty much worked on it all day Sunday and most of the day [Monday] to get it back," says Steve Powell. "The main thing was trees down that we had to cut as we went along."

Powell notes the snow was so deep that instead of using its usual road-rail vehicles for the repairs, he had to send out "light locomotives," i.e. an engine without cars, to get the work done.

–-updated 10:33am Thursday with historical on-time data


I'd take sitting on a late train any day of the week over sitting in the Charlottesville traffic, today. From Rio and 29, to Park at the 250 By-Pass, it took 50 minutes, and that was at 3pm; then the ride up 250 to Pantops (bumper to bumper) another 20 minutes. A long time resident of Charlottesville, I have never seen this much traffic, and at least on a train no one can hit your car, saw 3 parking lot accidents today.

Nice article - most would stop at "those darn AMTRAK trains are late" but it is good to note WHY. Trees down are NOT good things for trains.

Nancy, yeah, it was insane, and I watched people get all goofy too, like stopping where there is no stop sign, running red lights, and stopping ong reen. If everyone would just remain steady and follow the rules.

It really made me realize why I so dislike Xmas and similar holidays. Everyone feels the need to run around getting this and that. It's a time to slow down, play a game of scrabble and not worry about the rest. As long as there is food in the fridge you should be just fine.