Posts Tagged ‘American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners’

Private Car Train to Operate in September

January 18, 2020

Private car trains are making somewhat of a comeback on Amtrak.

The passenger carrier has given the Association of American Private Car Owners preliminary approval to operate a private car special from Chicago to Vermont in September.

The train is scheduled to depart from Chicago at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 22the previous day.

The special will also operate on the Mohawk Adirondack Northern Railroad and the Vermont Rail System.

In announcing the special to its members, AAPRCO said Itinerary is subject to railroad approvals, but the group said it has contingency routings.

The announcement did not say what route the train would take between Chicago and Cleveland, but it likely would be the Norfolk Southern line used by Amtrak.

Nor did it say which route would be taken between Cleveland and Buffalo, New York.

In September 2014, an AAPRO special traveled on NS east of Cleveland.

The train has been named the American Autumn Explorer.

The announcement said the train would operate overnight through Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania and expects to pass the former Buffalo Central Terminal during breakfast hours.

The train will continue to Niagara Falls, New York, where passengers will be able to disembark and spend time there.

The train will depart Niagara Falls on Sept. 23 and use the former New York Central Water Level Route to Utica, New York, where it will drop its Amtrak locomotives and operate as a special train on the Mohawk Adirondack Northern Railroad.

The destination will be Thendara, New York, where the train will park overnight.

Departing Thendara on Sept. 24, the special will go back to Utica, pick up the Amtrak locomotives and use former Delaware and Hudson Railroad tracks (now owned by Canadian Pacific) to travel to Saratoga Springs, New York.

The special will leave Saratoga Springs on Sept. 26 and en route to near Plattsburgh, New York, where it will reverse direction and run to Albany-Rensselaer, New York, to pick up additional private cars.

Departure from Albany-Rensselaer will be on Sept. 27 for Whitehall, New York, and then east to Rutland, Vermont.

At Rutland the Amtrak locomotives will be dropped off and the train will continue on the Vermont Rail System to Burlington where it will be parked downtown for three days.

The annual AAPRCO convention will be held in Burlington.

The special will depart Burlington on Oct. 1 and return to Albany-Rensselaer where the special will terminate and its cars forwarded back home on regularly scheduled Amtrak trains starting on Oct. 2.

Private Car Owners Hear From Amtrak at Convention

September 20, 2019

Those attending a convention of private railroad car owners were urged to continue to work together to ensure that elected officials understand that Amtrak is a public service.

The convention of the American Association of Private Rail Car Owners was held in Albuquerque, which is on the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

The Chief has been at the center of much controversy in recent years including a plan by Amtrak to replace rail service between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kansas, with buses.

That plan was thwarted by Congress.

Karl Ziebarth, chairman of the board, CEO, and general manager of the Santa Fe Southern Railway said one way to influence Amtrak’s future is to weigh in on an authorization bill Congress must approve that will authorize funding for Amtrak.

Amtrak has angered many private rail car owners by restricting the number of locations at which private rail cars can be added or removed from Amtrak trains.

The passenger carrier has also implemented more stringent operating practices governing private rail cars and increased the tariffs charged to handle and haul those cars.

Stephan Robusto of Amtrak’s Commercial Development Group conceded that the new rules have displeased some private rail car owners.

But he said that with those rules now in place car owners will now have a better idea of what moves are possible and what trips they can sell.

Robusto said the approval process for private cars moves will be quicker and more straight forward.

“The good news is that we’re still running private cars,” Robusto said. “Obviously there are a lot of limitations, huge price increases that came out, but at least we’re still running private cars. It could have been a lot worse. It could have been totally thrown out.”

Amtrak views handling private cars as a business proposition, Robusto said, and is not operating as it did in the past just because that was the way that it was always done.

Robusto said Amtrak was losing money on a full allocated cost basis in the handling of private rail cars.

The carrier doesn’t view the handling of private rail cars as an incremental business.

In response to a question about the prospects of Amtrak agreeing to again allow private rail cars to be added to trains at stations with short dwell times, Robusto reiterated Amtrak policy that no delays, even a delay of one minute, will be tolerated.

“We are trying to eliminate any delays we can control,” says Robusto.

When asked if Amtrak intended to fulfill its public mission to provide service to private cars, Robusto said he didn’t believe Amtrak has an obligation to do tthat.

“I believe that we should provide service to private cars because it’s good for Amtrak’s business under the new guidelines,” he said.

Michael DeAngelo, Amtrak’s manager of charter and special movements, said the passenger carrier is no longer handling as many charter and excursion trains in part because of the lack of positive train control systems on some routes.

“If it [route] doesn’t have PTC it doesn’t get past box number one. We will not operate another [excursion train] without PTC,” Robusto said.

Rob Mangels Sr., a mechanical associate for R.L. Banks & Associates said the limited number of terminals at which private cars can be maintained is becoming a problem for private car owners.

“Another thing that’s happening is that Beech Grove has sold off the excess equipment that Amtrak had,” Mangels said.

“That means they don’t have parts, they don’t have drawings, they don’t have the people who know how to deal with it, they don’t have the skill sets to deal with it and within three or four years, there’s going to be a really big brain drain at Amtrak when it comes to handling [heritage passenger] equipment.”

Beech Grove is an Amtrak heavy maintenance shop located in an Indianapolis suburb.

SW Chief Mayors Coalition Being Formed

August 31, 2019

Two mayors who have been fighting to maintain operation of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief will deliver the opening session presentation to the annual meeting of the Association of Private Railroad Car Owners in Albuquerque on Sept. 17.

The mayors, John Pritchard of Galesburg, Illinois, and Tim Keller of Albuquerque, are expected to announce the creation of a Southwest Chief Mayors’ Coalition to coordinate advocacy efforts of elected officials and stakeholders.

Numerous public officials have become involved in the fight in recently years to save the Chief, which operates between Chicago and Los Angeles.

First there was a threat that the train would lose its route in parts of western Kansas, southeast Colorado and northern New Mexico after host railroad BNSF said it would no longer maintain the track to passenger train speeds.

That threat was turned back by using a combination of federal, state and local funds to rebuild the track.

The latest threat to the train played out this year when Amtrak indicated it would cease operating the Chief between Dodge City, Kansas, and Albuquerque and instead bus passengers over that segment.

Those plans for now have been thwarted by political opposition.

During the AAPRCO convention, the group will make a ceremonial check presentation to Colfax County, New Mexico, representing a $10,000 contribution to the 2018 Southwest Chief federal TIGER. Colfax County was the lead applicant for the grant.

Also scheduled for the meeting is a rare mileage excursion from Albuquerque to Santa Fe using Rail Runner Express and Santa Fe Southern equipment.

That trip will include lunch at the historic Legal Tender Saloon in Lamy.

Other highlights of the meeting include a tour of Albuquerque’s Alvarado Transportation Center, which is used by the Southwest Chief, and a gourmet dinner aboard railcar Northern Sky.

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.”