Again? Railroads Alter Plans as Frances Approaches

TAMPA, Fla. – Not again.

Just weeks after Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Charley disrupted rail service in the southeast, another storm is doing it all over again. This time, Hurricane Frances is causing railroads throughout the southeast and along the eastern coast to alter their operations.

“Many uncertainties remain about the track of the storm, and plans will be updated based on changing information,” CSX said in a service bulletin.

“From Auburndale, Fla., south to Miami, all counties have closed their schools and all public transportation has been suspended,” the bulletin continued. “CSXT has discontinued rail service from Auburndale, Fla., south, including Miami.”

From and to the south of Auburndale, Fla., CSXT on Thursday signal teams have secured crossing gates. Crews were expected to continue securing gates to the north on Friday and train operations were expected to start shutting down by 3 p.m. Friday (Sept. 3) in the Tampa, Bradenton and Crystal River areas.

“Ballast trains have been staged at various locations from Montgomery to Hamlet,” CSX said in the bulletin. “Generators, chain saws and other equipment have been staged throughout Florida, and private contractors are on call to help with removal of debris and restoration of CSXT lines in the aftermath of the storm.”

Following CSX’s direction, Amtrak is continuing to make service changes to and from Florida based on the predicted landfall of Hurricane Frances. Amtrak announces the following service changes:

These trains from the north to Florida are affected

Palmetto (Train 89), Silver Star (Train 91), and Silver Meteor (Train 97), which originate tomorrow (Sept. 3) from New York to Miami, are canceled with no alternate transportation available.

Auto Train (Train 53), which originates tomorrow (Sept 3.) from Lorton, Va., to Sanford is canceled with no alternate transportation available.

These trains to the north from Florida are affected

Palmetto (Train 90) and Silver Star (Train 92), which originate tomorrow (Sept. 3) from Miami to New York, are canceled with no alternate transportation available.

Silver Meteor (Train 98) will originate in Sanford instead of Miami tomorrow (Sept. 3), with alternate transportation provided from Orlando and Winter Park only.

Auto Train (Train 52), will originate in Sanford and operate to Lorton.

Also effective tomorrow (Sept. 3) all Amtrak facilities south of Orlando will be closed and secured, including Tampa, Sebring, West Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami.

Amtrak said, however, plans could change, just as Frances’ direction has in recent days. And, the hurricane isn’t just train service in Florida that is seeing changes because of Frances. 

“Does the weather in Florida really affect VRE service?  It does when that weather disrupts CSX’s dispatching center in Jacksonville, Florida,” Virginia Railway Express said in a service update.

“Even though we don’t expect that Hurricane Frances will force the evacuation of Jacksonville, we are keeping an eye on weather and in touch with CSX.  However, Hurricane Frances is forecasted to hit Florida well south of Jacksonville.  Just in case the track of the storm takes a northward turn, CSX has already advised its dispatchers to be ready at a moment’s notice to pack up and head for the ‘field.’  In the case of VRE service area, the ‘field’ is a CSX dispatching center in Baltimore, where they will be able to dispatch VRE trains.”