Posts Tagged ‘American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners’

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.

Private Car Owners, Amtrak Management Talk About Policy Change in Handling PVs

April 5, 2018

At least they are talking. Amtrak executives spoke on Tuesday on a conference call with representatives of private railroad passenger cars who have decried a policy change by the nation’s passenger carrier that has banned charter trains and specials, and made it more difficult for car owners to move their cars on Amtrak trains.

Amtrak management told the car owners that the policy change followed a review of carrying private rail cars on Amtrak trains and how that affects the on-time performance of the trains as well as the passenger company’s finances.

During the call, Amtrak officials reportedly reiterated their intent to cease adding and removing private cars at most intermediate points.

“If you want cars switched at every station, we can’t do that,” an Amtrak representative said during Tuesday’s call. “We are interested in your thoughts about what you think is reasonable and consistent with the mission of not delaying trains.”

Amtrak officials didn’t rule out carrying private cars, but seemed to suggest that it would prefer to do that at route endpoints because en route switching can delay a train.

The private car groups made suggestions that could improve on-time performance, but preserve midpoint pickups, such as requiring private car operators to have their own qualified mechanical personnel to help facilitate midpoint switching, or to add private cars to front of trains to eliminate extra switching moves.

The private car owners also suggested having their cars operate on a generator until reaching a station with sufficient dwell time to allow head-end power to be connected.

The meeting notes were distributed to members of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance.

Among the mid-point Amtrak stops at which private cars are sometimes  added or removed are Lamy, New Mexico; Huntington, West Virginia; Denver; St. Paul, Minnesota; Whitefish, Montana; Charlotte, North Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Jacksonville, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Milwaukee; Cleveland; St. Louis; San Antonio, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Kansas City, Missouri.

Amtrak indicated during the call that it is reviewing the fees it charges private car owners to haul their cars.

The private car owners said that in particular they want Amtrak to better explain what CEO Richard Anderson meant when he wrote in a memo to Amtrak employees that specials and charters were not meeting Amtrak’s expectations of “fully allocated profitable margin[s].”

At one point the private car owners expressed a willingness to pay double the actual cost of moving private cars on Amtrak.

The conference call did not discuss special trains, but Amtrak has refused to handle a planned AAPRCO train, the Black Hills Special, that was to have operated from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Denver on May 17-22.

Amtrak Policy Change Has Private Car Owners Scrambling

March 30, 2018

Amtrak’s recent decision to cease running charter trains and specials as well as to curtail carriage of privately-owned passenger cars on its trains has sent a trade organization scrambling to rally its members to seek to apply political pressure on the passenger carrier to reverse the decision.

The American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners sent a memorandum to its members this week urging them to contact lawmakers and opinion leaders about the significance of private cars but acknowledged that there is little it can do to attack Amtrak’s decision in court.

AAPRCO told its members in the memo that it is “working to get the most accurate information about the full extent of Amtrak’s policy, which may not yet be firmly in place, and to mount the strongest possible effort to push back against it.”

In the meantime, Amtrak’s decision has prompted the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society to delay selling tickets for a planned trip in Chicago in September behind its 2-8-4 Nickel Plate Road No. 765.

The steam locomotive is to pull excursions between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois, on track owned by commuter railroad Metra.

However, the Fort Wayne group relies on privately-owned cars that would use Amtrak trains and facilities to reach Chicago.

Several private car owners have reported in recent weeks that Amtrak has rejected some of their requests to move their cars.

Amtrak’s new policy pertaining to the carriage of private passenger cars will prohibit attaching and detaching those cars to Amtrak trains at points where an Amtrak train is scheduled to dwell for less than 30 minutes.

However, the carrier has yet to spell out in detail how it will handle private cars going forward.

“At this time, we feel it would be imprudent to open ticket sales as previously scheduled before we have more clarity on the situation,” said a Fort Wayne Society news release. “As such, this policy will force us to revisit our contractual agreements with car owners, re-confirm both their availability and costs, and confirm Amtrak’s ability to transport them to our venue. Amtrak’s participation was critical to last year’s Joliet Rocket trips.”

It is not know yet if these development will affect a planned visit of the NKP 765 to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in late September.

For those excursions, the FtWRHS uses CVSR’s own passenger fleet and does not need to bring in private passenger cars.

As for Amtrak’s policy change pertaining to charter trains and special trains, AAPRCO President Robert Donnelley told his members that the association’s annual convention and mid-year special trains are at risk.

“Amtrak’s stated rationale for these changes is that private varnish has the potential to worsen on-time performance, which is a major concern of President and CEO Richard Anderson,” Donnelley wrote. However, he took issue with that.

Another private car owner trade group, the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance said it has contacted Amtrak to express its concerns but it also has told its members that the implications of the Amtrak policy change are ominous.

“The policy as officially released on March 28, 2018, will have drastic effects on many private car owners, excursion operators, private companies, and tourism in many communities that utilize Amtrak’s service,” RPCA President W. Roger Fuehring told Trains magazine.

“As we move forward, we hope to have an open dialogue with Amtrak in regards to discussing this policy. We look forward to returning not only the revenue stream to Amtrak that we produce with our clientele, but the goodwill that we generate on behalf of Amtrak with every trip.”

One point of contention in talks with Amtrak and the private car owners will be how much revenue the national passenger carrier receives from fees charged to handle the cars.

AAPRCO contends that the private car business adds $10 million in gross revenues to Amtrak, but a recent Wall Street Journal article said it was $4 million.

The memo written by Amtrak President Anderson and sent to employees that announced the ban on most special moves and charters suggested that Amtrak has not been recovering its fully allocated costs for those trains and that they have become a distraction.

AAPRCO’s Donnelley has instructed his group’s members to talk up the importance of private passenger cars and the number of jobs associated with the industry.

His memo said this would include employment at shops and other vendor facilities that support private passenger cars.

The railroad preservation community has launched an online petition to protest Amtrak’s decision at the website change.org. The petition has received more than 450 signatures with a goal of 500.

Amtrak Special Rolls Through Cleveland

October 11, 2016

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On Sunday, Oct. 2, a seven-car American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners special went west through Cleveland.

The special consisted of Amtrak P42DC’s 134 and 190; Pennsylvania 120; Juniata Terminal’s Warrior Ridge; Morristown and Erie’s Alexander Hamilton; former New York Central 43, Mount Vernon; former Pullman Pacific Home; and former NYC Babbling Brook.

I caught the special going through Berea and thought it looked somewhat like the Great Steel Fleet that the New York Central ran in the postwar era.

I probably should have gone to a more representative location such as Olmsted Falls with the depot but sometimes you take what you can get.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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Private Cars Face Oct. 1 Inspection Deadline

September 26, 2014

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.”