Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Viewliner II cars’

More Empire Corridor Track Work Planned

December 6, 2017

More track work is planned for Amtrak’s Empire Corridor rail officials said this week.

Speaking at a ceremony to make the 50th anniversary of the New York-Buffalo, New York, route, Amtrak’s Joe McHugh, vice president of state supported services and business development, said work is planned for the Empire Connector, which leads into New York’s Penn Station.

The ceremony was held at the Capital District Transportation Authority rail station in Rensselaer.

McHugh and other officials wouldn’t provide any specifics, but the Albany Times-Union reported that sources with knowledge of the plans said Empire Service trains would have to be temporarily redirected to Grand Central Terminal next summer.

Amtrak apparently still needs to reach an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to use GCT.

The event was held to look back on the history of the Empire Corridor, which was developed in 1967 by the New York Central Railroad.

McHugh said that in the middle 1960s it wasn’t clear whether there was a future for passenger rail.

“The people who rethought the roles that trains could fill are the people who saved the railroad,” he said.

In recent years, Amtrak has rebuilt some tracks used by Empire Service trains, added a fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer station, and installed a second track between Albany and Schenectady.

A new station for Schenectady is currently under construction.

Amtrak is still awaiting delivery of new dining cars and sleeping cars for its long-distance trains, including the Lake Shore Limited.

McHugh said the diners that have been delivered have received positive comments from passengers, and that refurbishment of the interiors of the carrier’s Amfleet I cars should be completed by March 2018.

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Amtrak Head Acknowledges Need for New Equipment

November 15, 2017

Amtrak needs to replace or overhaul the rail car fleet that serves its long-distance trains, its co-CEO told the National Association of Railroad Passengers earlier this month.

Richard Anderson

Co-CEO Richard Anderson said rebuilding or replacing aging Superliners and Amfleet cars will receive a “first priority.”

He also said the diesel locomotive fleet used to pull that equipment also needs replacement and/or rebuilding

Anderson said that the first up will be renovations of  Amfleet I and Amfleet II cars followed by new Acela Express trainsets.

New diesel locomotives are being placed into service on corridor routes in the Midwest and West.

Amtrak also expects CAF USA to complete soon an order for 25 new Viewliner II diners to be completed. Last on the list that Anderson ticked off was overhauling the current Acela fleet.

Despite saying it is a priority, Anderson did not describe a plan to replace or rebuild the Superliner fleet.

Amfleet II coaches are used on single-level long-distance trains such as the Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Crescent and Silver Service.

Anderson did, though, describe the importance of long-distance trains by emphasizing their role in “connecting small and large communities and bringing the most utility to the most Americans across the country.”

He said Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains serve a series of markets with just 6 percent of riders traveling from endpoint to endpoint.

Many of those markets have lost or seen their level of intercity bus and airline service greatly diminished.

Anderson said Amtrak faces “risk points” with host railroads delaying Amtrak trains, the Trump administration’s efforts to end funding of long-distance trains and a dire need for capital.

The latter is most acute in the Northeast Corridor although some might say capital is desperately needed to buy new rolling stock and locomotives.

The former airline executive also said Amtrak needs to become more customer-focused.

Another Viewliner II Diner Expected in March

January 7, 2017

The National Association of Railroad Passengers reported this week that Amtrak officials have said that the first Viewliner II diner has been performing satisfactorily in its trial revenue service.

Amtrak logoThe diner, built by CAF USA in Elmira, New York, has been operating on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor since late November.

Amtrak will place another Viewliner II diner in service in March with the remaining 23 diners that Amtrak ordered being delivered by late spring.

The diners are slated to be assigned to eastern long-distance trains. NARP said no date has been set for restoration of full dining service to the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

The Viewliner diners also are slated to be assigned to the New York-New Orleans Crescent.

Once the diners are delivered, CAF will focus on finishing the baggage-dorm cars and sleepers that Amtrak ordered.

NARP noted that Amtrak said adding the baggage-dorm cars to the Chicago-New York Cardinal will enable it make more sleeper space available to the public.

At present, the on-board crew of Nos. 50 and 51 are housed in revenue space and the availability of rooms on the Cardinal for the public is tight.

Amtrak’s Viewliner order was placed in 2010. When finished, CAF will have built 70 baggage cars, 25 diners, 10 baggage-dormitory cars and 25 sleepers.

Viewliner Diner in Revenue Service Testing

December 13, 2016

Revenue service testing began last week of the first Viewliner dining car built by CAF USA.

Amtrak logoNo. 68001, the Annapolis, ran northbound from Miami to New York on the Silver Meteor on Dec. 5.

The testing is part of an Amtrak acceptance program for new cars. If No. 68001 passes the testing program, Amtrak will begin taking delivery of additional Viewliners in January.

Amtrak has one other Viewliner diner, No. 8400, the Indianapolis, which was a prototype diner built in 1988.

The Viewliner diners will be assigned to Eastern single-level long-distance train. Amtrak has ordered 25 Viewliner diners from CAF.

Viewliner Diner Training May Start Soon

November 25, 2016

Amtrak’s first Viewliner II diner will be ready for crew training once it completes a testing program in Florida.

Amtrak logoThe dining car is at the Hialeah Maintenance Facility near Miami.

Amtrak has ordered 25 Viewliner II diners for assignment to single-level long-distance trains, including the Lake Shore Limited and the Cardinal.

The cars were originally scheduled to be delivered two years ago but have been delayed by production issues.

The Viewliner diners will replace Heritage Fleet dining cars, some of which have in the past several months been replaced by Amfleet food service cars.

Only the New York-New Orleans Crescent and the New York-Miami Silver Meteor are operating with Heritage dining cars.

The testing is being done at Hialeah because it maintains single-level long-distance equipment.

Viewliner II Diner Released for Testing

November 5, 2016

The first new Viewliner II dining car left the CAF USA assembly plant in Elmira, New York, this week for testing on Amtrak.

Amtrak logoThe car, No. 68001, was to be moved to Hialeah, Floridia, near Miami on the Silver Meteor.

Known as Annapolis, the diner will under testing and inspections to ensure that there are no problems with the Viewliner diners.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers cited an Amtrak source as saying the passenger carrier is confident that the problems that have hindered production of the Viewliner II cars have been resolved.

Amtrak expects CAF to release cars at a rate of two or three per month and that all 25 dining cars being built will be delivered in the first half of 2017.

The next batch of Viewliners to be released will be sleepers.

The Cardinal Lands in Charlottesville

September 21, 2016

cardinal-july-2012

It is a July afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia. Amtrak’s tri-weekly Cardinal is scheduled to arrive from both Chicago and New York.

In fact, the Cardinal calls in Charlottesville in both directions three days a week, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. That is not the case on the western end of the route where the Cardinal arrives in Chicago on Monday, but doesn’t depart again until Tuesday.

Otherwise, Nos. 50 and 51 arrives and departs Chicago on the same day, Thursday and Saturday.

I had some free time during a vacation trip so I made it a point to venture to the Amtrak station to catch the Cardinal. It is a train I used to ride when I lived in Indianapolis, but since leaving there in 1991 I seldom see the Cardinal.

On this day, No. 50 has its then standard consist of one P42DC, a Heritage Fleet baggage car, one Viewliner sleeper, a food service car and three Amfleet II coaches.

Since making this image four years, ago, the Heritage Fleet baggage car has been replaced by a Viewliner baggage car and the train now seems to routinely have two Viewliner sleepers.

It has been a long time since the Cardinal had a full-service dining car. Maybe it will get one when the new Viewliner dining car order is completed by CAF USA. And maybe the dining car will arrive, but the food service will be little different than it is today.

Change in Amtrak service on trains such as the Cardinal seems to be incremental. This train is unlikely to ever be confused with the George Washington, the one-time premier train of the Chesapeake & Ohio, whose tracks the Cardinal uses between Cincinnati and Washington.

But then maybe it doesn’t need to be. Given the history of the Cardinal and how political pressure is all that saved it back in the 1980s, having any service at all is a good thing.

Removal of Dining Cars From Lake Shore Limited Described by Amtrak as Temporary Measure

July 25, 2016

Amtrak has confirmed removing Heritage Fleet dining cars from the Lake Shore Limited and substituting Amfleet II café cars.

Although Amtrak said that table service on linen is being provided, one report from the train posted on a railfan chat list indicated that the silverware was plastic and the meals were pre-pared and merely heated by an attendant.

Amtrak logoAs a safety concern, the Heritage diners, which were built in the streamliner era following World War II, were sidelined due to cracks in their frames.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers reported that the removal of diners from Nos. 48/49 is temporary until new Viewliner diners enter service.

The Amfleet café cars are featuring a menu similar to that of the Cardinal and City of New Orleans, trains that have modified dining service.

NARP said it was told by Amtrak that repairing the cracks would require a major effort to repair. Currently, Amtrak has 12 Heritage diners in service.

The Lake Shore Limited was chosen to lose its Heritage diners because it has the fewest full meal periods of Amtrak’s single-level long- distance trains.

Viewliner dining cars are part of an order of new equipment being built for Amtrak by CAF in Elmira, New York.

Amtrak officials said the Viewliner diners are now in production and CAF is addressing a “punch list” of items that Amtrak has created.

NARP said Amtrak officials expect the new Viewliner diners to enter revenue service as early as late summer, which it defined as August or early September.

NARP said Amtrak has assured the passenger rail advocacy group that once new diners are available, a more conventional dining service would return to the Lake Shore Limited.

New Viewliner sleepers are expected to begin leaving the CAF plant during the fall.

A review of Amtrak’s CAF Viewliner order conducted by the Government Accountability Office found that the cars are three years overdue.

Amtrak ordered 130 cars for $300 million in 2010 and thus far the only cars to be placed into service have been baggage cars.

The order included 25 dining cars. The GAO report said the order won’t likely be completed until at least 2017.

Boardman Sees Possibility of Funds Coming to Bolster Amtrak’s Aging Long-Distance Fleet

December 11, 2015

Although he didn’t make any promises, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman sees a glimmer of hope that the railroad’s aging Amfleet and Superliner equipment might be replaced or at least supplemented.

In an interview with Trains magazine held a week before he announced that he will retire from Amtrak in September 2016, Boardman said he didn’t expect any difference in the annual appropriations but that the transportation legislation authorizes money for the “Gateway” Hudson River tunnel project might free up funds that can be used to buy equipment for long-distance trains.

Boardman said that means “that there’s going to be capital money that needs to be made available for our national system and to replace and improve the equipment we have out there.”

Much of Amtrak’s current fleet was built in the 1970s or 1980s and is now older than the streamliner era equipment that it inherited when it began operations in 1971.

In the meantime, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles continues to build new Viewliner equipment at its plant in Elmira, New York.

“We’re really working hard to make sure we get the CAF deliveries for long-distance equipment,” Boardman said. “We have all the baggage cars now, the dining cars are in the climate chamber, and then we move on to (the baggage dorms and sleepers).”

Boardman doesn’t expect to see equipment arrive for the Northeast Corridor during his remaining time with Amtrak although he does expect to announce the details about an equipment order within the next three months.

“I don’t expect to be here when they get here, but I want to make sure they get ordered and that gets done before I leave,” he said.

At present, Amtrak doesn’t have “a final figure from the vendor and we don’t yet have approval on a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan but we are doing all the due diligence that we are supposed to do to make that happen.”

During Boardman’s watch, Amtrak began taking delivery of new Siemens electric locomotives with 56 of the 70 ordered having been delivered thus far.

Boardman said he wants to get Amtrak’s Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System version of positive train control installed on all sections of the Northeast Corridor by the end of 2015.

When he steps down next year, Boardman will have served as Amtrak’s president for eight years, which will be the second-longest tenure among Amtrak presidents. Only W. Graham Claytor Jr. at 11 years served in the post longer.

The announcement that Boardman would retire came in a letter to employees that was sent a month after the Amtrak board of directors had voted to extend Boardman’s tenure for another two years.

“When I look back at this time I see so many accomplishments and so many changes we made to make America’s Railroad a stronger, safer and a more important part of our nation’s transportation system,” Boardman said.

“Our debt is lower, our revenues are up, our ridership is up, our labor efficiencies have improved. There’s no question that we’ve got more to do — I think we’re more incremental (recently) because we have so many things to move forward, like Americans with Disabilities Act improvements and implementation of all of the ideas and concepts that came out of the PRIIA legislation. I think we’ve gotten a lot done.”

Amtrak Viewliner II Baggage Cars Enter Service

March 25, 2015

Amtrak’s new Viewliner II baggage cars entered revenue service this week on the East Cost.

The first trains to carry the cars were the northbound Silver Meteor (New York-Miami) and northbound Carolinian (New York-Charlotte, N.C.).

Altogether, Amtrak ordered 55 of the cars and plans to assign them to all of its 15 long-distance routes.

The cars were built at the CAF USA plant near Elmira, N.Y. Earlier, they were ferried to Amtrak’s Hialeah maintenance facility in Miami for inspection.

Amtrak has ordered 130 single-level, long-distance passenger cars, including diners, sleepers and baggage-dorm cars.