Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak rolling stock’

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.

Surplus Domes in Beech Grove

February 20, 2020

Dome cars were a fixture on most of Amtrak’s western long-distance trains through the late 1970s.

But as Superliner equipment began arriving in 1979 many of the dome cars were retired and sold to private owners.

A few domes were rebuilt as dome coaches for the Heritage Fleet and they operated on such trains as the City of New Orleans, Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Domes on the latter operated only west of Albany, New York.

But the gradual retirement of the Heritage Fleet also meant the sidelining of its fleet of short domes.

The Capitol Limited and City of New Orleans lost their domes due to the trains being assigned Superliner equipment. Amfleet II coaches became the standard for the Lake Shore Limited.

Some of the surplus short domes are shown in March 1995 at the Beech Grove shops after being removed from service and awaiting sale to new owners.

Amtrak IG Warns Carrier at Risk of Missing May 2021 Objective to Start Using New Alstom Acela Train Sets

January 25, 2020

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General said this week the passenger carrier is in danger of missing its stated goal of putting into revenue service in May 2021 new equipment for its Acela Express service in the Northeast Corridor.

That could mean lost revenue because the new train sets Amtrak has purchased and are still being built will have 82 more seats than the original equipment now used in Acela Express service.

“The Acela 21 program is entering a critical stage if it is to begin revenue service on time,” the report concluded.

Although the IG found the program has used “some sound program management practices” there are management and structural weaknesses that continue to pose significant risks.

“Foremost is that project delays have eliminated any cushion in the schedule, and multiple indicators point to further delays beyond the planned service launch in 2021,” the report said.

The report came on the heels of the Federal Railroad Administration giving approval to Amtrak to move one train set from the factory in Hornell, New York, where it was built, to an FRA test site in Colorado.

Amtrak also released a video showing the train set, which was built by Alstom, getting underway on its trip to the test track.

Alstom is building 28 train sets for Acela service. The train sets have cost $2.1 billion.

Amtrak assistant IG Jim Morrison wrote in his report that it is likely that Amtrak will not meet its 2021 target date for putting the new high-speed equipment into service.

The IG report said Amtrak has not upgraded maintenance facilities or information technology systems to handle the new train.

Training of the 1,000 maintenance and onboard personnel on the nuts and bolts operations of the new equipment has yet to get underway.

The original plan had been for Alstom to deliver to Amtrak as many as nine train sets in 2021, but that timetable is in doubt.

Amtrak plans to remove one existing Acela train set from service each time a new train set is ready to run.

In order for Amtrak to meet its 2021 objective, the testing of the first train set must be flawless and construction of remaining equipment must be without significant delays.

The IG report recommended Amtrak have managers working on the Acela 21 be given the property authority to focus on and finish the project.

This includes creating contingency plans for what the passenger carrier will do if it misses its target service and deliveries falls further behind schedule.

The report was based on interviews with Amtrak managers in late 2019 and early 2020.

It noted that many of the delays were beyond the control of Amtrak. These included delays that occurred during the manufacturing process.

Amtrak agreed with the five elements the IG identified, including employee training, development of IT services, and modifications to service and inspection facilities.

However, Amtrak said it believes it has a strong management structure in place to oversee execution and delivery of the project.

“There remains an extraordinary amount of work ahead and Amtrak management is confident that the proper resources are aligned to deliver this ambitious program on scope, schedule and budget,” Amtrak wrote in its response to the report.

The contract with Alstom was approved by Amtrak’s board of directors in 2016.

Amtrak said in the video of the first new Alstom train set that it will be moved to the test track near Pueblo, Colorado, in mid-February.

One Night at the Cleveland Amtrak Station

January 7, 2020

On most days if you want to photograph Amtrak in Northeast Ohio you’ll need a good tripod because the four trains that cross the region daily do so between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Back in the late 1990s I dabbled with making night photographs of Amtrak trains at the Cleveland station.

The two images shown above were made on Aug. 22, 1998. You’ve probably forgotten but it was a momentous day in railroad history because Norfolk Southern and CSX took administrative control of Conrail.

That had no effect on Conrail operations because the carrier continued to operate as normal until being formally divided on June 1, 1999.

In 1998 Amtrak’s P42DC locomotives still wore the Phase III livery in which they were delivered although some had the Phase IV look and the now ubiquitous Phase V livery would be introduced in the next year.

Shown above is dome lounge No. 2511. Like any Heritage Fleet car that was still operating in the late 1990s, this car has an interesting history.

It was built by Budd in April 1950 as Pacific Park for the Union Pacific, a 10 roomette, 6 double bedroom sleeper. At UP it was No. 1430.

It initially carried Amtrak roster 2623 and became the 2923 when rebuilt in September 1977 for head end power capability.

It was transformed into a dorm lounge in April 1998. Amtrak’s thinking at the time was that it could double as a lounge, but that apparently didn’t happen because Amtrak onboard crew members objected to having revenue passengers in their dorm car.

Amtrak retired the 2511 in June 2006. It was stored at the Beech Grove shops for several years until being offered for sale in 2018.

Long Way From Its Roots

January 5, 2020

Amtrak dining car 8507 was part of the consist of the eastbound Lake Shore Limited in Albany-Rensselaer, New York, on July 12, 2000.

It is wearing at least its third roster number since being built in 1957 by Budd for the Northern Pacific, which assigned it to the North Coast Limited.

At one time this dining car was NP No. 463 and Amtrak No. 8049.

It became No. 8507 when it was rebuilt in March 1980 with head-end power capability.

It is wearing the Phase IV livery with its emphasis on Federal Standard 15090 blue along the windows.

No. 8507 would be among the last of the Amtrak Heritage Fleet dining cars in active service before it was retired in April 2018.

New Hiawatha Equipment Will Increase Train Capacity

December 16, 2019

The new equipment that Wisconsin expects to buy for use in the Hiawatha Service corridor will be phased into service between 2020 and 2024.
The equipment will expand the capacity of the route where during the peak summer months some trains operate with as many as 50 standees.

“The Hiawatha line currently experiences standing room only conditions on an average of 19 trains per month, mostly on weekdays,” said a report from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan state agency that provides the legislature with program information and analysis.

The new equipment will cost $39 million with a federal grant covering some of the cost.

Arun Rao, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation passenger rail manager, said the existing service uses six passenger cars and a cab car.

Rao said the existing train consists can seat up to 408 passengers, while the most current estimates for the new cars — which still have some equipment in the design phase — are 468 to 475 passenger seats.

The existing cars are 30 to 40 years old and approaching the end of their life cycle fiscal bureau report said.

“The new trains will help address overcrowding, but not solve the issue completely as we do have trains with 500-plus passengers,” Rao said.

“Ridership has seen sharp increases — 4.5 percent year-over-year for the federal fiscal year. If that rate continues, although the new equipment will help significantly, we may continue to have capacity issues.”

The Hiawatha Service is funded by WisDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

IDOT passenger rail and transit communications manager Scott Speegle said the new cars will have wider aisles and built-in wheelchair lifts.

The equipment assigned to Hiawatha Service at present uses wheelchair lifts on the platform at each station.

Speegle said the cars will be paired in sets of two, which will allow for easier movement between the two cars for passengers with disabilities.

Each new car will have one wheelchair space but the armrest at each seat will go up thus allowing passengers in a wheelchair the opportunity to transfer to any seat in the car, if they are able.

Rao said restroom facilities aboard the cars will be fully ADA compliant.

The Wisconsin purchase is in addition to new passengers being acquired and paid for by IDOT.

Illinois is buying 88 passenger rail cars for Amtrak Midwest corridor service at a cost of $112.6 million.

Speegle said six of those cars are earmarked for assigned to Hiawatha Service.

He said the cars are expected to be delivered between 2020 and 2023.

In fiscal year 2019 Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service trains carried 882,189 passengers, an increase of 4.5 percent over FY2018 and an increase of 8.9 percent over FY2015.

Ridership of the Hiawathas is not evenly distributed and Amtrak charges a premium to ride some peak travel time trains.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the premium is designed to encourage riders who don’t need to travel during rush hour to pick a different time to travel.