Amtrak recently offered the news media a glimpse at the new Viewliner II cars that are being built by CAF USA in Elmira, N.Y.
Four cars – a baggage car, diner, baggage dorm and sleeper – are nearing completion and are expected to be field tested this winter on the Northeast Corridor.
The $298.1 million order for 130 single-level long distance passenger rail cars includes 25 sleeper, 25 diners, 25 baggage/dormitory cars and 55 baggage cars. More than 120 suppliers in 25 states and 93 cities are providing parts for the new rail cars.
The new cars will be used on Eastern long-distance trains, including the Lake Shore Limited and Cardinal. The baggage cars will be used on long-distance trains nationwide.
The new long-distance cars will both replace and supplement the existing single-level fleet and allow Heritage fleet cars built in the 1940s and 1950s to be retired.
The first of the new cars is expected to begin service in summer 2014. Those are expected to be baggage and dining cars.
All 130 cars are expected to be delivered by the end of 2015 or early 2016.
Amtrak placed the first of its original order of 50 production Viewliner sleeping cars in service on the Lake Shore Limited in November 1996.
Those cars, built by Amerail, reequipped most of Amtrak’s single-level trains. Amtrak produced three prototype Viewliners, two sleepers and one diner, at its Beech Grove, Ind., shops in 1987.
The new Viewliners will feature modern interiors with better layouts, better lighting and more efficient air conditioning and heating systems, additional outlets to power personal electronic devices, improved accessibility for passengers with disabilities, and bicycle racks in the baggage cars.
The new cars also feature improvements for employees such as functional kitchen layouts that are easier to maintain, a more efficient process to stock food, and an improved baggage car for easier organization, including the addition of bike racks.
The baggage cars can accommodate up to 16 bicycles, baggage dorms up to eight. The baggage cars will have hinged doors that seal, which is designed to provide climate control.
They also will have good lighting, and two levels of pull-down racks (one near the floor) so that suitcases normally will be placed on racks instead of on the floor.
The dining cars have 12 tables, including one ADA table (seats on just one side).
Sleeping cars have 12 roomettes, two deluxe bedrooms (which can be sold as a single suite) and one ADA room, whose door is powered.
For roomette passengers, there are two public restrooms and one shower. There are still fold-down sinks in the roomettes.
For this fleet only, Amtrak is reintroducing its Phase III red white and blue stripes, and the company’s original logo.
Amtrak President Joe Boardman said a decision has not been made on the extent to which the new Viewliners will enhance capacity rather than simply replace older cars. He noted, however, that the order includes 25 diners whereas Amtrak has only 16 single-level diners today.
CAF USA, based in Washington, D.C., is the U.S. subsidiary of Spain’s Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A.