FROM THE CAB - May 2023
By Martin Wheeler, President
Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
NC BY TRAIN ANNOUNCES MORE TRAINS, NEW SCHEDULES
INCLUDING 10 DAILY TRIPS BETWEEN RALEIGH, CHARLOTTE
Effective July 10, 2023, passenger rail riders in North Carolina will enjoy more trains and new
schedules, highlighted by 10 trips daily between Raleigh and Charlotte.
Highlights of the new service include:
- 10 trips daily between Raleigh and Charlotte
- New 1 p.m. mid-day departure from Raleigh
- New 5:30 p.m. departure from Charlotte
- Earlier afternoon departure at 2:20 p.m. from Charlotte
- Later evening departure at 7:45 p.m. from Charlotte
- Scheduled trip times of just under three hours for the 6:30 a.m. departure from
Raleigh and the 5:30 p.m. departure from Charlotte.
- Continued service on the
connecting North Carolina to the Northeast,
including stops in Washington D.C. and New York
Click on this link for more information.
PROJECT P-5740 – RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY
FOR AN ICONIC RAIL SEGMENT
By Tommy Thomas,
CAPT Board Member
One of the oldest and most important rail segments in the Southeastern US is set to receive a
long overdue facelift late this summer as the Wilmington Beltline Improvement Project (Project
P-5740) will commence. Completion of this project will enable the Beltline to better serve the
burgeoning Port of Wilmington for decades to come, as well as allow for other major changes to
the rail network of Southeastern North Carolina.
Opened in 1907, the Wilmington Beltline stretches 13 miles from the Davis switching yard in
Navassa, NC (Brunswick County) to the Port of Wilmington. When it was completed, its
elongated "boomerang" shape allowed it to serve as a bypass around downtown Wilmington,
allowed for access to the tracks being built to Jacksonville and New Bern, NC (the "Y" at the
point of the boomerang is still known as the Fernside Junction), and continued around to its
terminus south of Downtown near the area that would become the State Port years later.
Today, the Beltline (having long since been overtaken by the eastward growth of Wilmington)
features 32 at-grade crossings along its length. These can cause a good deal of consternation
due not only to the length of modern-day freight trains, but mostly due to the 10 MPH speed
limit the trains must adhere to because of track conditions. Upgrades to all crossings (two will
be eliminated), new rails, ties, signals, and signage, along with a "softening" and banking of the
Fernside Junction curve, will allow for an increase in the speed limit to 25 MPH.
The Project will also feature upgrades to the two major Beltline bridges; one over the Cape
Fear River near the Davis Yard and the Hilton Bridge over the NE Cape Fear just north of
Downtown (there are two other smaller bridges also in line for long overdue improvements).
Of great personal interest to myself is the work that will be done at the point on the Beltline
where the old Wilmington and Weldon corridor crosses on its way in and out of Wilmington.
This 161-mile railroad was opened in 1840 (longest in the world at the time) and became known
during the Civil War as "The Lifeline of the Confederacy".
While the parts of the W&W that were removed richly deserve to be restored (and will be the
key to returning passenger service to Wilmington), that's a subject for another day--let's get
P-5740 executed successfully first. Stay tuned!
Use this link for the maps.
CATS PASSES ON AMITY GARDENS LIGHT RAIL STATION
“The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) is recommending the proposed Amity Gardens light
rail station be deleted from planning.
The station was to have been just east of the Eastway
Drive interchange off Independence Expressway.
Elevation and adjacent neighborhood issues
made the station too costly, inefficient, and user unfriendly to retain.
Eliminating the station
will speed up service and provide a smoother, speedier ride through the area.
The Silver Line is
planned to serve Bojangles Arena/Ovens Auditorium closer in, and Sharon Amity Rd. further out
in the area.
A public virtual meeting was held on May 23rd at 5:30 pm to consider light rail maintenance
needs for the Silver Line.
Two sites near Matthews are under consideration, and the existing
North Brevard light rail yard is expected to be expanded to handle maintenance needs as
The meeting will be on the CATS YouTube page."
LATE SUMMER LAUNCH DATE SET FOR ORLANDO-MIAMI BRIGHTLINE SERVICE
"Brightline is now taking reservations for its new high-speed Orlando to Miami passenger train
service. Bookings are available after September 1st, and more inventory may be added for
earlier dates when a definite start date is announced. Business class and premium class will be
offered. During the day hourly service will be offered from Miami and Orlando. Sun Rail
connections to Brightline at the Orlando airport are planned at some point in the future as part
of the joint Brightline-SunRail "Sunshine Corridor '' service between the Orlando Airport and the
Disney World area via Orange County. Schedules will be adjusted for weekends. For details,
click on https://www.gobrightline.com/
Charlotte to Atlanta is on Brightline's future corridors map.
Since the high-speed route from Charlotte to Atlanta involves very little road or freeway
alignments Georgia and the two Carolinas would need to "secure" the right of way for Brightline
to seriously look at putting the corridor high on its implementation list. Just recently South
Carolina and Georgia failed to request any FRA Rail Corridor funds for the route. Georgia did
request several other corridors for consideration, South Carolina requested none, and North
Carolina did include a request for the Charlotte-Atlanta route. Brightline is currently working on
Orlando to Tampa in Florida and starting construction on Las Vegas to Los Angeles area service.
CHARLOTTE-ATLANTA ONE OF 12 RAIL CORRIDORS
SUBMITTED BY N.C. TO FEDERAL RAIL ADMINISTRATION
While the State of South Carolina considers new passenger rail corridors for possible submission
to the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) in 2024, the State of North Carolina has identified 12
corridors this year deemed worthy of study and needing grants to conduct those studies.
Those corridors are:
- Charlotte to Washington, DC
- Wilmington, NC to Raleigh, NC
- Charlotte, NC to Kings Mountain, NC
- Greenville, NC to Raleigh, NC
- Winston-Salem, NC to Raleigh, NC
- Hamlet, NC to Raleigh, NC
- Morehead City, NC to Raleigh, NC
- Fayetteville, NC to Raleigh, NC
- Winston-Salem, NC to Charlotte, NC
- Weldon, NC to Raleigh, NC
- Atlanta, GA to Charlotte, NC
- Salisbury, NC to Asheville, NC
For more information on North Carolina’s submissions and where they stand, contact
NCDOT Rail Division Director, Jason Orthner, 1 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh, NC 27601.
HISTORIC SALUDA GRADE AT RISK OF BECOMING RAIL-TRAIL
As described in the April issue of From the Cab, three non-profit groups continue efforts to
convert the historic Saluda Grade into a rail-trail. The 31-mile route first saw rail service in
1878. The Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains objects to this effort, instead wanting
Norfolk-Southern to work with both North and South Carolina on a more comprehensive
solution to disposition of their (Saluda Grade) line. Click on the link below to learn what
Conserving Carolina, Upstate Forever, and PAL are advocating for 16 miles of railroad track in
South Carolina and 15 miles of railroad track in North Carolina. Recently the group’s website
was changed to indicate all contributions would go to the SC portion as NC interests were
interested in a feasibility study first for trackage in the Tarheel state.
PLACING FEET ON EMPTY TRAIN SEAT: IS IT OKAY OR NOT, OKAY?
We all know lessons learned in kindergarten can go along ways in determining how well we get
along with others in adulthood. When traveling on passenger trains, buses, or airplanes, some
adults believe the best course of action is to consult with a conductor, bus driver, or flight
attendant when in doubt about proper etiquette. Five million people clicked on the story below
about a train passenger who put his feet on an empty seat.
HONOLULU RAIL SYSTEM BEGINS OPERATION ON JUNE 30
Many years of work culminates on June 30, 2023, when passenger rail service begins in
Honolulu, Hawaii. The first phase of the project will cover an 11-mile stretch between
Kualaka'i (East Kapolei) Station and Hālawa (Aloha Stadium) Station. Visit
to learn more about Honolulu’s newest form of transportation, which Board Member Don Yehle
witnessed under construction while visiting Hawaii in January 2018. CAPT President Martin
Wheeler also visited in February 2020 and met with HART representatives.
REGISTER TODAY FOR FREE PASSENGER RAIL SEMINAR
Passenger rail enthusiasts are invited to register in advance for a free advocacy event on June 9
about Michigan’s Passenger Rail Progress. The virtual event takes place at 12 noon CST,
featuring Peter Anastor, director of the Office of Rail, Michigan Department of Transportation.
Amtrak operates five round-trip services in the Wolverine State. The Office of Rail operations
for the Michigan Department of Transportation includes “intercity passenger rail, crossing and
safety regulation, safety oversight of light-rail systems, and rail-related economic development
programs.” In announcing the meeting, promoters said “Michigan plans to continue partnering
with other Midwest states and Amtrak to identify projects and improvements that will lead to
better passenger-train service.”