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Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

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Noon train to Chicago on time only 40% of the time

The+Amtrack+station+at+Galesburg%2C+IL.+Photo+courtesy+of+Flickr.+
The Amtrack station at Galesburg, IL. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which is scheduled to leave Galesburg everyday at 11:54 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 2:50 p.m. is on time only about 40% of the time, according to a report released by Amtrak in March.

This makes it the third worst of Amtrak’s fifteen long distance train routes. Only the California Zephyr (Emeryville, California to Chicago) and the Sunset Limited (Los Angeles to New Orleans) have worse track records.

Three trains a day depart Galesburg for Chicago. The ride is about three hours and tends to be a relatively inexpensive means to travel to the city. Many Knox students and Galesburg residents ride the train regularly.

The state-supported Amtrak trains, the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are treated as one route by Amtrak arrive as scheduled 80% of the time. This is the national average for Amtrak trains.

The Southwest Chief’s delays often leave passengers waiting in Galesburg Station for hours at a time.

Train delays can be caused by a multitude of factors and are sorted into three categories by the company.

Amtrak itself takes responsibility for equipment problems or delays related to passenger loading and unloading.

In other cases, railway owners are deemed to be responsible. This includes freight train interference or instructions to slow down the train.

Amtrak classifies everything else as a third-party delay, including such things as weather and police action.

The Southwest Chief, commonly known as ‘the noon train’ in Galesburg, starts in Los Angeles. Galesburg is one of the last stops on its 42-hour ride – that leaves a lot of time for something to delay the trip.

More than half of the delays to the Chief are caused by the host railroad. Most of them are related to freight train interference, but orders to slow down progress are also common.

Amtrak takes responsibility for delays that are passenger related, crew related, technical problems, as well as a few other causes. These factors cause the delays 25% of the time.

The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sanburg are both state-supported Amtrak trains. They run the same route to and from Quincy and Chicago and back at various times of the day. The full ride is a little under four and a half hours.

The Zephyr is scheduled to leave Galesburg at 7:37 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 10:30 a.m. At 5:30 p.m. it leaves Chicago to arrive back at Galesburg at 7:00 p.m.

The Sandburg runs starts from Chicago at 7:40 a.m. and arriving in Galesburg at 10:20 a.m. It leaves Galesburg again at 8:36 p.m. and arrives in Chicago at 10:00 p.m.

Like the Chief, most delays on this route are the responsibility of the host railroad.

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About the Contributor
Eleanor Lindenmayer, Editor-In-Chief
Eleanor Lindenmayer '25 (she/her) is a journalism major. She started working for TKS as a staff writer when she was in her first year. She has also worked as the discourse editor and is now the Editor-in-Chief. Eleanor has also been published at Tri States Public Radio, where she was an intern and a freelancer. Eleanor was born and raised in the pacific northwest and will argue that there is no better place on this earth. Awards Illinois College Press Association 2024
  • 1st Place In Depth Reporting
  • 1st Place News
  • 1st Place Feature
Illinois College Press Association 2023
  • 2nd Place Columns
  • Honorable Mention Columns
Knox College 2023 Ida M. Tarbell Memorial Prize For Investigative Reporting    

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