Posts Tagged ‘American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners’

Amtrak Cracks Down Again on Private Cars

May 30, 2019

Private car owners have suffered another setback with Amtrak banning passengers from riding on open platform or in open dutch doors on a moving train.

In a special notice, Amtrak said private car owners and guests can only be on an observation deck or at an open dutch door when a train is stationary.

The rule also requires that when a train is stopped that those on a rear platform or in an open dutch door must wear protective eye wear and that sufficient hand holds and railings must be available for all occupants

Leaning beyond the sides or rear planes of any private car and liquids are also prohibited in these areas when a train is stationary.
Officials with the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance say the latest decree by Amtrak represents a reversal of an earlier agreement to ban riding on open platform decks only in the Northeast Corridor.

The two private car trade groups had worked with Amtrak last year to create a safety manual that address platform riding.

AAPRCO officials believe that the change occurred the manager the private rail car groups worked with at Amtrak moved to another department and the agreements it reached with the passenger carrier was never published on the Amtrak website.

“We immediately asked for reconsideration of the ban, but we’re told it came from safety – and no change,” APPRCO President Tony Marchiando told Trains magazine.

Amtrak had agreed to a rule proposed by the private car owners that those riding an open platform must be seated, wear eye protection and that no drinks of any kind were to be consumed on the rear platform.

Amtak’s former special movements manager had approved the private car safety manual, which has since been published.

“Of course, our membership is very disappointed with this,” Marchiando said. “Platform riding has always been an important part of the private car experience and very, very few, only minor, injuries have ever occurred. Our intention is to work to allow safe riding on platforms with sensible rules and procedures.”

Amtrak said car owners who fail to adhere to safety rules could be suspended or see their car’s permission to operate on any Amtrak train be revoked.

PV Magazine Seeks to Cut Costs

February 2, 2019

The American Association of Private Rail Cars owners is reducing the frequency at which it publishes its Private Varnish magazine.

The group took the action after Amtrak sharply curtailed operations of special trains. Revenue earned from those movements was used by AAPRCO to fund the magazine.

In its newsletter, AAPRCO said that without the revenue from special trains it cannot afford to publish Private Varnish at a loss.

The reduction in frequency of publication is one of a number of steps AAPRCO is taking to cut the costs of producing Private Varnish.

It also is undertaking more of the work of billing and collecting money for advertising.

AAPRCO is seeking additional volunteer work on the magazine and guest writers.

The AAPRCO website notes that PV is published three times a year and focuses on news about special trains and privately owned rail passenger cars.

It is published by Andover Junction Publications and features color photography printed on glossy paper.

AAPRCO Eyes Recurring Trips on Amtrak Routes

February 2, 2019

The American Association of Private Rail Car Owners is pitching to Amtrak the idea of having an annual train that would use existing Amtrak routes.

The group had until 2018 hosted rare mileage trips of private rail cars that were operated by Amtrak, but the carrier has since prohibited such one-time charters that do not use regularly scheduled Amtrak routes.

The excursions typically were combined with the group’s annual convention.

In a recent newsletter, AAPRCO officials said they are still working on the routing and eyeing layovers in some areas that are not accessible to individual private rail cars.

The excursion, if approved by Amtrak, would operate in mid September, a date designed to avoid overlapping other fall charter trips.

The rare mileage excursions have in past years also functioned as a fund-raising activity for AAPRCO.

Amtrak Has Reduced Level of Public Information

January 12, 2019

Amtrak is providing fewer statistics to the public regarding the operation of its trains.

In a news brief in the newsletter of the American Association of Passenger Rail Car Owners, Washington reporter Ross Capon said the reduction of information is significant because the missing statistics better show the value of long-distance passenger trains.

Amtrak provides monthly performance reports known as the Route Level Results.

Unlike past reports, the current reports are not longer showing longer shows gross ticket revenue, seat miles, or passenger-miles.

Capon wrote that the passenger-mile (one passenger carried one mile) “best reflects the LD trains’ value.”

He cited as an example the September 2017 report, which indicated that Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains accounted for 40.1 percent of Amtrak’s passenger-miles in fiscal year 2017.

That information is missing from the September 2018 report.

Capon, a former executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said this has enabled Amtrak executives to get away with claiming that long-distance trains account for only 15 percent of Amtrak ridership.

Private Car Owners Plotting Next Moves

May 30, 2018

Private passenger car owners huddled last week to plot their next moves in response to changes in Amtrak’s policies toward handling their cars.

The policy changes have raised fees and restricted how often and where private cars can operate.

The meeting involved members of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance.

Although the joint meeting did not produce any announced major strategy initiatives, AAPRCO President Bob Donnelley said the policy changes are forcing many of his group’s members to close or curtail their operations.”

PRCA president Roger Fuehring said Amtrak’s actions have adversely affected employees, suppliers, and the hospitality industry that works with private rail car trips.

Groups Fear Amtrak Killing Long-Distance Trains

May 5, 2018

Two organizations that represent private railroad car owners are accusing Amtrak of lacking commitment to support the passenger carrier’s national network.

The letter was sent to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson and signed by Robert G. Donnelley, president of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and W. Roger Fuehring, president of the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance.

It cited what it described as “recent, abrupt, negative changes in Amtrak’s policies toward special trains and private cars.”

The changes, the groups say, have imposed “unreasonable economic costs on Amtrak, car owners, their employees and vendors, and the communities these cars and trains visit.” The letter is seeking a review of current policies.

Last month Amtrak announced new fees and rules for the handling of private rail cars that had the effect of making them more expensive to operate and limiting where and how often they can run.

Amtrak in March also revealed other policy changes that sharply curtailed specials and charter movements, some of which use private rail cars.

Among other issues, the letter offered as evidence comments made by Anderson at a California conference of passenger rail officials that described as high the costs of long-distance trains and their per-passenger subsidies.

These figures, the letter said, “are particularly alarming because heretofore they have been talking points for Amtrak’s critics.”

If the long-distance network was removed, the private rail car groups said, it would result in the loss of Amtrak service to 29 states and a Balkanized network of four isolated pieces.

Such a network, the letter predicted, would lead to a drop in federal support far exceeding the costs of the long-distance network.

“Amtrak cannot afford to continue to act as if it doesn’t need friends,” the letter said.

It predicted that Amtrak’s [fiscal year] 2020 funding will be very tight, citing one congressman as saying that “funding will drop off a cliff’ after the two-year budget deal expires.”

Some Private Car Owners Disappointed in Amtrak Policy, Fee Changes

April 24, 2018

In the aftermath of a change in Amtrak policy for handling of private rail cars, some car owners told Trains magazine they are disappointed in the new policy and how the passenger carrier is jacking up the fees it charges to haul and service their cars.

Amtrak’s new policy restricts where private rail cars will be handled and in particular limits where the cars can be added or removed from Amtrak trains at intermediate stations.

Some car owners said the higher tariffs and operating restrictions will make their business more challenging and expensive.

Some car owners are trying to be philosophical with Altiplano Railtours owner Adam Auxier telling Trains it is better to have bad news you know than good news you don’t know.

Auxier said private car owners need to be able to plan their trips nearly a year in advance.

Many private car owners sell tickets to the public to ride in their cars on set dates.

Railroad Passenger Car Alliance President Roger W. Fuehring told Trains that some changes in how Amtrak handled private cars is disappointing.

In particular he cited the inability to store cars near Washington Union Station, the ending of some mechanical services, and a sudden increase in fees.

Fuehring said Amtrak had increased its tariffs every October, but now has warned private car owners that those fees can be increased at anytime at Amtrak’s discretion.

“How can anyone plan their business with such small margins when we don’t know what the tariff rates will be day to day?” Fuehring said. “What does the tariff matter if Amtrak has the ability to adjust the rates again?”

Burt Hermey owns four original California Zephyr cars that he stores in Los Angeles.

He said the fee increases are putting him into the difficult position of having to tell his customers they need to pay more for upcoming trips.

Hermey said he created fares based on the October 2017 tariffs.

He explained that Amtrak will now only do what is necessary to bring a car that is in the middle of a trip back into FRA compliance.

“A strict reading of that would seem to indicate that defects identified during an annual inspection would need to be repaired elsewhere,” Hermey said.

Hermey believes that the rule changes show that, “Amtrak management wants us off the property despite the multiple millions of dollars we pay each year, most of which flows to their bottom line. It’s also clear how little they value that segment of their business.”

Amtrak Clarifies Policy on Specials, Private Cars

April 20, 2018

Amtrak has clarified its new policy on special moves and the carriage of private railroad cars and as expected the passenger carrier is largely eliminating moves to and from intermediate points.

The guidelines say Amtrak will only accommodate private car moves at endpoint terminals or intermediate stations where the scheduled dwell time is sufficient to allow switching of the cars.

Amtrak listed 40 intermediate stations where switching will be permitted. The list includes such points as Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver; Houston; Kansas City; and St. Paul, Minnesota, but no cities in Ohio.

Private cars can also be added or removed from Amtrak trains at Pontiac, Michigan; Indianapolis; and Pittsburgh. However, the latter is limited to the Pennsylvanian, which originates and terminates in Pittsburgh.

Also excluded are Grand Rapids and Port Huron in Michigan, both of which are endpoints for the Pere Marquette and Blue Water respectively.

Nor is Huntington, West Virginia, included on the list. The omission of Huntington is notable because it is the origin of the annual New River Train and the home of the fleet of cars owned by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.

Amtrak said it will work with private rail car owners whose cars are marooned at prohibited intermediate switching stops on a one-time, one-way relocation move to a terminal or yard where private cars will still be permitted to operate.

The movement of private cars will also requires case-by-case written approval by Amtrak.

Amtrak plans to limit maintenance service for private-car owners to Federal Railroad Administration mandated repairs of safety appliances as necessary on private cars in the consist of Amtrak trains.

Private car owners will no longer be permitted to pay Amtrak’s maintenance services for preventative maintenance and general repair services. In the past Amtrak staff undertook such repairs and then billed the car owner for the work.

As for special moves and charters, Amtrak said those will be limited to existing Amtrak routes.

The guidelines also said Amtrak will continue to accommodate specials and charters that are already established in the Amtrak system. They must not be one-time trips.

That is good news for the annual New River Train, which uses the route of the Chicago-Washington Cardinal, but not so good news for the rare mileage specials sponsored by the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners.

Would-be operators of chartered trains that use Amtrak locomotives, equipment and personnel will be subject to the availability of those resources and their operation must not adversely affect scheduled operations.

A charter must also generate sufficient financial benefit for Amtrak to justify its use of its equipment and personnel, but the carrier did not explain how it calculates those.

The updated guidelines on charters and special moves do not apply to trains operated by Amtrak on its own or for governmental purposes.

Private Car Owner Defends Amtrak Policy Changes

April 18, 2018

In the wake of recent Amtrak policy changes that all but banned special and charter movements and a policy review pertaining to the carriage of private rail cars, reports have surfaced that bad behavior by private rail car owners is one underlying issue motivating Amtrak.

Now a private car owner has come forward to contend that there is some truth to those reports.

Bennett Levin, who owns former Pennsylvania Railroad office car No. 120 and two E8A locomotives painted in a PRR livery, told Trains magazine that the trade groups representing the interests of private rail car owners and operators have failed to address that.

“Things have spiraled out of control. Neither of the private varnish organizations have taken positive steps to address these issues, so now Amtrak has said, ‘Enough,’ ” Levin said. “What Amtrak has done is not draconian. It is prudent.”

Saying the issue of safety is paramount, Levin accused the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and the Rail Passenger Car Alliance of doing a poor job of self-policing their members and instilling a culture of safety first.

That brought a retort from both groups, which issued a joint statement denying the assertions.

RPCA President W. Roger Fuehring, and AAPRCO President Robert G. Donnelley said their groups each have safety committees that have provided safety manuals to members.

Furthermore, there have been no incidents or accidents that have been reportable to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The two group presidents noted that they have denied membership to car owners who have a poor safety record and that not all private car owners are members of AAPRCO or RPCA.

“Both organizations have investigated and taken action on the occasional violations of our membership,” the statement said.

The groups also took issue with Levin’s call for rail car owners and railfans to curtail contacting elected officials to urge them to take action in response to the Amtrak policy changes.

Levin argued in a letter to the National Railway Historical Society that such lobbying may do more harm than good.

“I would urge everyone who claims to have an interest in this matter, from those who own the equipment to those who stand trackside and record its passing for history, to use reason and restraint, and not add fuel to an already raging fire being fed by ineptness, poor judgment, and short sightedness,” Levin wrote in the letter addressed to NRHS President Al Weber.

Levin told Trains that the reaction of rail car owners and railfans is ill-timed and nearing “hysteria.”

In their joint statement, the presidents of AAPRCO and RPCA said the lobbying has been in response to a policy change that caught many by surprise, particularly in its severity.

“[I]t is not surprising that some tourist railroad organizations, charterers, private car owners, and car owner associations have sought help from their legislators in view of the fact that Amtrak is a government approved monopoly receiving aid from the legislature,” the statement said.

“Despite the extreme hardship that the policy entailed, we continue to respect and understand that, with new leadership, Amtrak is analyzing and reviewing all aspects of train operations. In light of the most recent developments, we have asked formally to meet with Amtrak’s President and CEO, Richard Anderson, in order to see how we can be better partners and support Amtrak where it would be beneficial to both parties.”

The two groups have made suggestions to Amtrak as to how to streamline the process of adding and removing private cars from Amtrak trains, particularly at intermediate stations.

Amtrak’s policy toward special movements and charters allows for exceptions in narrowly defined circumstances.

An Amtrak representative told Trains that the carrier’s policy in regards to hauling private cars continues to evolve and should be announced in the near future.

However, in its communications with rail cars owners, Amtrak has signaled that it wants to restrict the number of trains and routes that carry private cars and limit carriage on others to certain days of the week.

Amtrak also has indicated that it wants to primarily move cars from endpoint to endpoint and avoid adding and removing cars at intermediate stations with scheduled dwell times of less than 30 minutes.

For his part, Levin believes the policy changes pertaining to private cars and special movements is “a matter to be thoroughly considered in the context of the railroad’s regular operations.”

Levin said he fears that Congressional intervention may result in “something far worse than a decrease in the frequency of private passenger car trips on the national rail network.”

In their statement, AAPRCO and RPCA cited some of the hardships that private car owners have endured.

This has included cars stored in formerly permitted locations being “frozen in place” and cars already en route being forced to change their schedules at significantly higher costs.

“Cars on the California Zephyr, for example, were not allowed to transfer to the Coast Starlight and were forced to return to Chicago,” the statement said.

Because the Amtrak policy change in regards to special moves was effective immediately, the groups said this resulted in major costs of disruption.

Amtrak to Allow New River Train to Roll

April 13, 2018

West Virginia public officials say that Amtrak has committed to operating the New River Train this fall despite a recent policy change that banned such special moves.

Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins said Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson agreed after a telephone conversation to allow the train to operate for its 52nd season.

During that conversation, Jenkins and Mike Hall, the governor’s chief of staff, discussed with Anderson the importance of the 300-mile passenger excursion that runs the third and fourth weekends of October between Huntington and Hinton.

“I am very encouraged after our call with Richard Anderson that we have a commitment to resolving issues with the New River Train,” said Jenkins, whose district includes much of the route of the train over the former Chesapeake & Ohio mainline used by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Jenkins said Anderson indicated that the passenger carrier is receptive to making “some limited exemptions to its ban on charter trains.”

Amtrak has not yet said what criteria it will follow for allowing special trains and charter moves.

Even before the policy change was revealed last month, owners of private rail cars had reported that Amtrak was increasingly rejecting their requests to have their cars attached to scheduled trains on some routes.

Amtrak also declined to operate a special for the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners between Nebraska and Denver.