TRAIN BLOG (WSAU) Amtrak had five trains a day to Springfield. Four were two car shuttle trains that left the main line in New Haven. They were the first two cars of Boston-bound rains. The cars would be separated from the rest of the train at New Haven, a new engine would be attached, and the tiny train would head inland. The rest of the train would continue along the coastal level route to Boston.
The Bankers, The Ben Franklin, The Yankee Clipper, and The Mayflower would dwell in New Haven for about 30-minutes while the cars were separated and new engines were attached.
The fifth train was the Bay State. It was different. A 6-car train with a snack car, it went beyond Springfield and then turned east, stopping at Worcester and Springfield. It continued on to Boston via the inland route. When visiting my girlfriend in Wallingford, the Bay State, which left an hour after The Bankers, was my preferred choice.
The two car shuttle trains were often crowded. They sometimes necessitated passengers changing seats if they were riding in one of the rear cars. Passengers were always grumpy after changing seats. On a Friday or a holiday weekend the shuttle trains would be standing room only.
The Bay State was always empty. There were never six cars worth of passengers going north to Springfield. I’d wait the extra hour to ride the Bay State because there was never a problem getting a seat, and because I could have one of Amtrak’s moderately-satisfying microwave pizzas in the snack car.
People would wonder why some trains always too crowded, while another has too many cars? Others would ask why an extra car can’t be added when there’s not enough space. After all, a train isn’t like an airplane with a fixed number of seats.
There are reasons, although they are not particularly satisfying. A two-car shuttle train cannot become a 3-car train under Amtrak’s union rules. One conductor can work a two-car shuttle. Add another car, and another conductor gets pressed into service. Amtrak doesn’t have the budget to add extra conductors, and has cut back its staffing to the point where there are fewer conductors on the railroad’s extra board. The 6-car Bay State can’t be shortened because once it arrives almost empty in Boston, it gets cleaned, turned, and sent out the following morning as The New England Express. It needed all 6-cars the following morning.
Long time passengers would stand on an overcrowded train or sit on an empty one an hour later and be reminded how low things have fallen. They remember when passenger terminals had extra coaches on stand-by overcrowded trains. Heck, they remember when an entire second train, a section, would be added and run 5-minutes behind the first section. Railroads had a can-do attitude then… poor service reflected poorly on their employer… angry customers might not come back. All of those things have come to pass.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau