Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak rolling stock’

Letter Boards are (Sort of) Back

March 15, 2022

For decades railroads placed their names in the letter boards of passenger cars. Amtrak has never adopted this practice. It has had an on again, off again practice of even naming passenger cars.

The new Venture cars that entered revenue service on Feb. 1 in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor have sort of brought back the practice of letter board names.

Shown are two Siemens-built Venture coaches in the consist of Lincoln Service No. 301 in Springfield, Illinois, on March 1. Note that the Amtrak herald and the name “Amtrak Midwest” have been applied to the letter board area of the car.

Now the question is how long this practice will continue. Although the traditional Amtrak colors of red, white and blue have been incorporated into the car’s design, the dominant color is gray.

First Venture Revenue Run was ‘Soft Opening’

February 4, 2022

Perhaps it was inevitable that something would go wrong during the first revenue service trip of the new Siemens Venture passenger cars in Amtrak Midwest Corridor service.

As reported by Trains magazine, when conductor Erik Newsom tried to make an announcement over the train’s public address system about the significance of the trip, the PA didn’t work properly.

Newsome was later able to advise the passengers of Lincoln Service No. 303 that they were the first revenue passengers for the new equipment.

And technicians were aboard to resolve any other problems that occurred.

The Trains report indicated that the trip on Tuesday (Feb. 1) from Chicago to St. Louis was a “soft opening” with the Illinois Department of Transportation planning an official “grand opening” in mid February.

Lincoln Service trains will be the first to get the new Venture cars before they are assigned to other Midwest routes.

Jennifer Bastian, IDOT section chief of passenger rolling stock said the cars will be placed into revenue service at the rate of eight cars per month, “if Siemens can support getting the coaches ready.”

There are 42 Venture cars in Chicago now with more yet to be released by Siemens.

Bastian said until all of those cars arrive Midwest corridor trains will have a mix of Venture coaches and Horizon or Amfleet food service cars with a business class section.

The Trains article contained photographs of the interiors of the Venture coaches and descriptions of how the cars to be used in Amtrak service differ from those used by Brightline trains in Florida since 2018.

It can be found at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/first-look-siemens-venture-coaches-debut-for-amtrak/

Venture Cars Begin Amtrak Revenue Service

February 2, 2022

Amtrak’s new Venture cars made their first Midwest corridor revenue service run on Tuesday on Lincoln Service No. 303 from Chicago to St. Louis.

Equipment from that train turns in St. Louis and returns to Chicago as No. 306.

The Venture cars, built by Siemens, have been in Amtrak’s possession for more than a year, but undergoing testing on various Midwest routes, including corridors extending to Detroit and Carbondale, Illinois.

The first of the Venture cars built for Midwest corridor service were delivered in August 2020.

Siemens also built Venture equipment for California corridor service that has yet to enter revenue service. 

As was the case with the development of the Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotives used on Midwest corridor trains, the Venture cars were a collaborative effort involving state departments of transportation in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri.

Amtrak Sets Deal to Buy New Trainsets

July 9, 2021

Amtrak will spend billions to buy new trainsets from Siemens Mobility that will replace Amfleet I equipment in the Northeast Corridor and state-supported corridor trains.

How much the deal is worth depends on whose news release you read. Siemens said the deal is worth $3.4 billion while Amtrak put it at $7.3 billion.

The Amtrak news release indicated that the contract also covers parts and service, facilities upgrades and other related expenses. The deal has an option for up to 140 additional trainsets and related maintenance agreements.

Siemens characterized the contract as its largest North American order in its history.

Back in April Amtrak had announced it had chosen Siemens to build replacement equipment for its corridor trains.

Corridor trains expected to get the new equipment include the Adirondack, Carolinian, Amtrak Cascades, Downeaster, Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Keystone Service, Maple Leaf, Hartford Line and Valley Flyer, Pennsylvanian, Vermonter and Virginia services.

The long-distance Palmetto between New York and Savannah, Georgia, also will receive the new trainsets.

Amtrak said the Siemens order will include dual-power and battery hybrid trains, therefore ending locomotive changes in Washington and New Haven, Connecticut.

Also displaced by the new equipment will be dual-mode locomotives now used on Empire Corridor trains.

The announcement did not say how the order is to be divided between dual-mode and hybrid equipment.

Trains will have individual power outlets and USB ports, onboard WiFi, a digital seat reservation system, and trip information and digital navigation displays.

Cars will have ADA accessible restrooms, vestibules, and food service cars, wheelchair lifts, and inductive hearing loops.

Few other details about the makeup of the trainsets were provided other than saying they will have predictive maintenance technology and real-time digital monitoring

Siemens plans to build the trainsets in Sacramento, California, with the first deliveries being made in 2024. Deliveries will be completed in 2030.

Amtrak Refurbishing Superliner Interiors

June 27, 2021

Amtrak publicity photo of the new seating designs for Superliner coaches.
The new seating shown here in a Superliner Sightseer Lounge will also be applied to dining cars.

Amtrak has begun a three-year program to renovate the interiors of its Superliner fleet with the first of the new look cars entering revenue service later this month.

The passenger carrier will spend $28 million to give all of its 450 bi-level Superliner cars new seating cushions and upholstery, carpets, LED lighting, tables and curtains.

Booths in lounge and dining cars are being replaced with seating with a distinctive arched seat back.

Sleeping cars will receive new bedding and towels. The new bedding was tested last year on the Auto Train.

A supply shortage means the refurbishment of sleeping cars won’t start until August. The new bedding and towels will be provided in all sleepers as soon as the supplies are available, including in unrefurbished cars.

In sleeping car bedrooms, the single-use containers will be replaced by large pump dispensers for soap, shampoo and conditioner.

Amtrak officials said this change is similar to what major hotel chains are doing in an effort to reduce the significant amount of trash generated by single-use containers.

Superliner cars were delivered to Amtrak in the 1980s and 1990s. They are assigned to all western long distance trains plus the Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans and Auto Train. At times, some Superliner cars have been assigned to Midwest corridor trains.

Amtrak displayed this week at Chicago Union Station cars that have already been refurbished.

Superliner dining cars will receive a look similar to that recently applied to Viewliner I sleeping cars including the same color scheme, fabric selections, and design elements.

The refurbishment is only a partial rebuild. Shop workers are not stripping the cars down to the walls and rebuilding the interiors.

Amtrak vice president Roger Harris said the carrier is replacing those things that can be replaced quickly.

For example, Harris said, Amtrak is not changing the lighting or anything that needs to be done during a heavy maintenance overhaul.

Larry Chestler, vice president, long distance service line, said the project is expected to be completed in 24 months with coaches completed in about 18 months.

The work is being done at the Beech Grove heavy maintenance shops in Indiana as well as maintenance shops in Seattle and New Orleans.

Chestler said just three cars will be out of service at any one time to be refurbished.

Water Problem Sidelines Venture Cars

June 4, 2021

An issue with the water supplies in the restrooms has delayed use by Amtrak of new Siemens Venture passenger cars in corridor service in the Midwest and California.

The problem was found during routine testing last November, a California Department of Transportation official said.

A Siemens spokeswoman said the company has found a solution to the problem but further testing is needed before the cars can be delivered.

The spokeswoman said the fix will enable the cars to meet water-quality standards of the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

Caltrans is the lead agency overseeing the $386 million, 137-car order for single-level cars that was awarded to Siemens in 2017.

California will receive 49 of those cars while Midwest corridor trains will use 88 cars.

Contractor Sumitomo Corporation has been paid $28 million for its work on the cars, but the Caltrans spokesman said Sumitomo won’t be paid for the cars themselves until the water issue has been resolved.

California officials had hoped to put the cars into revenue service this fall but now the timeline for their debut is unclear.

Four Venture cars have already been delivered to Amtrak in Chicago for testing on the Chicago-Detroit corridor and on the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

The cars are based on the design Siemens used to build passenger cars for Florida’s Brightline intercity rail passenger service where they began revenue service in December 2017.

Siemens to Build New Cars for Amtrak

April 21, 2021

Amtrak will contract with Siemens for new equipment that will be assigned to service in the Northeast Corridor, on some state-supported trains and for the New York-Savannah, Georgia, Palmetto.

The passenger carrier said Siemens was chosen as the “preferred bidder” to build 83 intercity trainsets.

Siemens is already constructing new Venture cars to be used for Midwest and California corridor services.

Amtrak said it chose Siemens as part of a competitive procurement process that began in January 2019.

The new equipment will feature dual power in some cases and will replace Amfleet I and Metroliner cab cars.

The equipment is also expected to replace existing equipment used in Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest.

Siemens and Amtrak are talking about a contract for construction and long-term service that both parties hope to sign this summer.

The contract would also include technical support, spares and material supply.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said the carrier would not release any other information about the equipment order beyond what was reported in a news release.

New Rail Cars Arrive for Testing

September 2, 2020

Four new passenger cars built by Siemens have been delivered to Amtrak’s Chicago service facility for testing.

The cars, which were ordered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, are to be used on state-supported Midwest corridor trains.

Known as Venture cars, the single-level cars are built to a design pattern that Siemens used to construct coaches for Florida’s Brightline intercity service.

IDOT and its partner departments of transportation have ordered 88 of the Venture cars in coach, coach-business and coach-café configurations.

The cars are expected to be delivered through 2023. They are being built in Sacramento, California, where Siemens is also building an order of ALC-42 Chargers for Amtrak that will pull long-distance trains once they enter revenue service.

The Siemens passenger cars have a long and convoluted history that dates to 2012 when IDOT ordered  bi-level cars from Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo, which subcontracted construction of the cars to Nippon Sharyo, which had a manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Illinois.

However, a prototype car failed a crash safety test in 2015.

IDOT ultimately switched the contract to Siemens, which agreed to build single-level cars for the transportation agency over a 24- to 34-month period.

In addition to the cars being built for IDOT, Siemens is building 49 single-level cars for the California Department of Transportation for use on corridor trains in that state.

Once the new passenger cars enter service on Midwest corridor routes serving Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan, it will mean that the trains will have Siemens locomotives (SC-44 Chargers) and Siemens passengers.

Midwest trains currently use a combination of Horizon Fleet and Amfleet cars.

Last Amtrak Dome Car Sold

August 19, 2020

Amtrak’s Ocean View is shown in Oakland, California, in the consist of a National Railway Historical Society excursion.

Amtrak’s last dome car has been acquired by a private operator who plans to return it to service in excursion service in 2021.

Paxrail said it bought full-length dome Ocean View, a 92-seat passenger car built by the Budd Company in 1955 for the Great Northern for use on its Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle.

In recent years the car ran sporadically, most recently assigned to the Adirondack and Downeaster during the fall.

Amtrak retired the car in 2018 and offered it for sale last year. At the time the intercity passenger carrier said the car had become too expensive to maintain.

“We’re excited to now be a chapter in this wonderful car’s history,” said Paxrail President James Evenson.

“The Ocean View is a beautiful art-deco car offering a spectacular panorama for over 70 passengers in the dome. We’re looking forward to welcoming guests back aboard in 2021.”

Paxrail maintains a fleet of more than 20 historic passenger cars and provides the cars for excursions, day trips and corporate events.

Full-length domes, also known as great domes, also operated on the Santa Fe and Milwaukee Road.

At one time Amtrak owned all six full-length domes once used by the Empire Builder. Those cars were replaced in 1979 by Superliner equipment.

A few of the cars operated on Amtrak’s Auto Train in the 1980s and 1990s.

IDOT Expected to get New Rail Cars in August

July 11, 2020

New passenger cars to be used in Midwest Corridor service are expected to begin being delivered in August.

The cars are expected to be placed into service for trains funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Fifty-one of the 130-car order is currently being built by Siemens in Sacramento, California.

Siemens has delivered 11 cars to the California Department of Transportation.

It is not clear when the cars, once received by IDOT, would go into revenue service.