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North Carolina Piedmont Train Service 7/31/2018

by Chris Guenzler

I was up at 5:30 AM and worked on my story before we drove to the new Raleigh Union Station and parked in the parking structure taking a ticket. Then we took the elevator and walked across the street into the new building and had just a three minute wait when the announcement was made to board the train.

North Carolina Piedmont Train Service

The Piedmont or Piedmont Service is a twice-daily passenger train operated by Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) between Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina. Operations began in May 1995. The North Carolina Department of Transportation owns the rolling stock used on the Piedmont, unlike the Carolinian, which uses Amtrak rolling stock.


North Carolina developed the Piedmont as a follow-on to the successful Carolinian, which had entered service in early 1990. Officials sought to add a second daily round-trip between Charlotte and Raleigh. In the fall of 1990, the board of transportation approved the acquisition of five used passenger cars and the leasing of two diesel locomotives. The board planned to have the second train enter service by early 1992.

The Piedmont (as the train came to be called) faced numerous delays. Norfolk Southern, which leased the track, insisted that the state construct a wye in Charlotte for turning the two trains around. At the time, the Carolinian had continued 10 miles south to Pineville and turned around there. In 1993, the cost of the wye plus land purchase was estimated at $200,000; by late 1994, this grew to $695,000, plus $1.5 million for a maintenance facility in Raleigh. The Piedmont finally began operating on May 26, 1995.

After delays in refurbishing the motive power and passenger cars, an additional Piedmont began operating on June 5, 2010. With the addition of the second train, Amtrak rebranded the route Piedmont Service to reflect the multiple daily frequencies.

On March 22, 2011, it was announced that an agreement between NCDOT, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and the North Carolina Railroad had been reached that would allow for $461 million in grants from the federal government to be used in upgrading infrastructure. The money would be used to add additional double track and passing sidings, as well as reducing curves, resulting in a 13-minute reduction in travel time. Improvements, and the new Raleigh station, are scheduled to be completed by 2017, and two new daily trains.

Rolling stock

The motive power for the Piedmont has been provided by eight state-owned locomotives. Two are EMD F59PHIs, numbered 1755 (City of Salisbury) and 1797 (City of Asheville). Six are EMD F59PHs, numbered 1810 (City of Greensboro), 1859 (City of High Point), 1869 (City of Durham), 1871 (Town of Cary), 1893 (City of Burlington), and 1984 (City of Kannapolis). NCDOT has also had two of five planned Cab control units delivered which are numbered 101 and 102. NCDOT's current F59PHs were originally used by GO Transit of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and rebuilt by American Motive Power and Altoona Works.

NCDOT formerly operated 2 GP40PH-2's rebuilt by AMF. 1768 (City of Charlotte), originally B&O GP40 4008, was sold to the Virginia Railway Express and became VRE V24. 1792 (City of Raleigh), originally L&N GP40 3006, was wrecked in the Mebane accident. Everything except the EMD 645 engine, bell and horn were scrapped. Locomotives from Amtrak's national fleet, such as the GE P42DC, may also be used.

State-owned passenger cars on the Piedmont are refurbished coach cars originally built by Pullman-Standard and the St. Louis Car Company in the 1960s for the Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific. There are five lounge/baggage cars and one coach/baggage car originally built by the St. Louis Car Company in the 1950s and used by the United States Army. There are 14 regular coaches used on trains in addition to the 6 lounge/baggage cars.

All rolling stock has been painted in special North Carolina livery (different from the national Amtrak livery). The color scheme, of blue and silver with red accents, was based on the North Carolina flag.

All rolling stock is stored and serviced in the Capital yard in Raleigh.

Our Trips

We walked out to the train and started taking our pre-trip pictures.

The rear of our train just before daylight.

The old Raleigh station building across and to the east of the new platform.

NCT F59PH 1984 "City of Kannapolis" built by General Motors Diesel Division in 1984. It is former GO Transit 551.

The front of our train with NCT F59PH 1810 "City of Greensboro" built by General Motors Diesel Division in 1984, former GO Transit 529, on Train 73.

Our train with the skyline of Raleigh behind it. The train consisted of NCT F59PH 1810 "City of Greensboro", coach "Longleaf Pine", coach "Sweet Potato", coach "Plott Hound", lounge car "Currituck Sound" (with vending machinces, free bottle of water, tea or coffee) and NCT F59PH 1984 "City of Kannapolis". We had our tickets scanned at the door then took seats in the "Sweet Potato" coach.

The interior of our coach.

Robin was making his first trip on a Piedmont train; this was my second. I would use this train and the return trip to get caught up on stories. The train departed on time and made its way to Cary. After that I went to the vending machine and bought a cinnamon roll and free bottle of water. The train ran to Durham and then Burlington before making its way to the old Southern mainline and stopping in Greensboro and High Point before being stopped for twenty minutes by a Norfolk Southern freight train having a large problem. After that delay, the train ran to Salisbury and Kannapolis then made the final sprint to Charlotte.

On the way there we passed a Lynx light rail train on their new route to the north of the city. This would give us a reason to come back. The train pulled into Charolotte and we detrained. As the conductor who knew we were going back, he checked us in on the platform so we would not have to go into the station. We could photograph on the station platform.

The front end of the now Train 74.

The passenger cars on the train.

The now rear of the train. We left on time and I worked most of the way back to Raleigh and purchased some cookies from the vending machines. Robin really liked the passenger cars and the whole trip aboard the Piedmont service, as did I.

Informational sign about the "Sweet Potato" coach. We arrived back into Raleigh and thanked the crew for an excellent trip aboard the North Carolina Piedmont train service. Great job by all!

Train 74 at Raleigh.

The last picture of our train I took with the new Raleigh Union Station in the picture. We made the long walk back through to the station and into the parking structure where it cost us $18 for the day. We drove over to the old Amtrak station and it made us sad to see what was happening.

The old Raleigh station, built in 1912, was in the process of being destroyed by city workers. From there we returned to the Knights Inn and I walked over to Popeye's Chicken and returned to the room, finished up the story, then watched NCIS and called it a night. Tomorrow back to Ronoake.