Private Cars Face Oct. 1 Inspection Deadline

Private car owners are facing an Oct. 1, 2014, deadline to comply with Amtrak regulations that all wheels and axles must be ultrasound tested before being allowed to operate on Amtrak trains.

As of Sept. 22, Amtrak had tested 89 cars of which five failed the standards announced in early 2013.

Lee Trombecky, Amtrak’s manager of regulatory compliance, said of the five cars that failed inspection, seven axles were found to have condemnable defects.

There are about 450 private cars, including railroad-owned equipment, that could be Amtrak-certified, but no more than about 125 actively operate in Amtrak service.

“We are planning to bring the defective axles to Wilmington and cut them open so our engineers can investigate what we’re finding inside those axles,” Trombecky said during the recent convention of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners. “I know everybody was upset why we were doing this but it is all about safety. We don’t want cars out on the railroad and something breaking, and we know (testing) has been painstaking and costly, but we appreciate what you’re doing.”

Brian Gallagher, Amtrak’s operations director, said that that poor Empire Builder on-time performance precluded picking up a private car in Fargo, N.D., that its owner wanted to send to the AAPRCO convention.

“But I called the division and we had to say ‘no’ because that 25 to 30 minutes (needed to add the car and complete a brake test) could make or break the rest of that trip,”  Gallagher said.

He says that anytime a train loses time, host railroads “lose more for us. If we’re not where we say we are going to be, we get sidetracked – literally.”

Gallagher said that costs are “through the roof on late trains. If you have to charter a plane to fly a crew to some little grass strip in the middle of Montana, that’s significant.”

Gallagher also said that Amtrak is looking at a plan to rebuild more P42 and P40 locomotives. However, it lacks funding for the project and can’t afford or to buy new locomotives.

“We’ve had some catastrophic failures out there but we’re doing the best we can do,” he said.

Despite Amtrak’s meager financial resources, Gallagher said, “the board (of directors) and the administration has made a decision: We’re not cutting any trains. That I can tell you.”

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: