Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Passenger rail returns to Roanoke

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Passenger rail returns to Roanoke William C. Vantuono (all photos)

Thirty-eight years after the last passenger train departed Roanoke, Va., Amtrak has restored service to this historic and culturally significant city of just over 300,000 nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, extending Northeast Regional service south from Lynchburg. This marks the fourth expansion of Amtrak service in the Commonwealth of Virginia since 2009, following new or additional service to Lynchburg, Richmond, and Norfolk.

DSC 0391Northeast Regional no. 176 now provides a one-seat trip between Boston and Roanoke, stopping in Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Culpepper, Manassas, Burke Centre, Alexandria, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Newark, New York City, New Haven, Providence and other cities along the Northeast Corridor. Power transitions between diesel and electric at Washington Union Station.

The first train left Roanoke on its northbound journey on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 6:19 AM. The day before, Amtrak, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and the city of Roanoke conducted a public ceremony with a chartered private train to officially kick off service. Among the speakers were (from top) Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, Virginia DOT Secretary Aubrey Layne, and Amtrak Vice President State Supported Business Services Joe McHugh. Several hundred people braved cold weather to attend the ceremony and tour the train, which was equipped with newly refurbished Amfleet cars. Amtrak business car 10001 brought up the markers.

Downtown Roanoke now sports an accessible, high-level concrete platform with a canopy located at 55 Norfolk Ave. SW, along the busy Norfolk Southern main line, in sight of the railroad’s former Norfolk & Western locomotive shop and car shop now owned by FreightCar America. The station is adjacent to the historic Hotel Roanoke, built by the N&W around the turn of the past century and now operated by Hilton.

Amtrak, DRPT, the city of Roanoke and Norfolk Southern partnered on the project to restore passenger rail service to the “Star City.” “The extension to Roanoke marks a milestone in the growth of Amtrak and passenger rail in Virginia,” Amtrak Co-CEO and former NS chief executive Wick Moorman said. “Rail service is a vital alternative in Virginia’s overall transportation solution. We look forward to continuing our partnership with DRPT and other cities to further expand rail service in the Commonwealth.”




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