Posts Tagged ‘passenger cars’

Amtrak Offering 99 Cars for Sale or Donation

November 29, 2018

Amtrak plans to offer another 99 passenger and baggage cars for sale, although some might end up being donated to museums or preservation groups.

The cars have been deemed surplus by the passenger carrier include 19 heritage dining cars, which Amtrak began retiring in 2015.

Also up for sale or donation are 51 baggage cars, seven refrigerated express cars, four Hi-level coaches and 18 crew dormitory cars.

The baggage cars were built between 1946 and 1962 while the Hi-level coaches date to 1956 when they were built by Budd for use on Santa Fe’s El Capitan.

The crew dorms are former Union Pacific 10-roomette, six bedrooms sleepers while the express cars were used by ExpressTrak in the late 1990s during a time when Amtrak was actively seeking to boost its mail and express business.

Amtrak said it will consider donating some of the cars to museums or preservation groups that submit a letter “stating the reason for the donation request and the intended use of the equipment should the donation be granted.”

Trains magazine reported that Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the “donation requests will be evaluated within the finance department.”

Magliari would not say what criteria will be used to decide what donation proposals will be accepted or rejected, particularly when there are competing proposals.

The cars will be available for inspection starting next week at the Beech Grove Heavy Maintenance Facility near Indianapolis.

However, the refrigerated express cars and one crew dormitory are being stored elsewhere.

All cars are being sold or donated in an “as is-where is” basis with Amtrak saying it will off no performance guarantees nor will it agree to  perform any work required to make the cars acceptable for interchange by a freight carrier.

Amtrak also said the equipment may not leave the property in Amtrak service and must be removed or scrapped on site within 90 days of the transfer of ownership.

The closing date for bids or requests for donations is Jan. 4, 2019.

Illinois Passenger Car Plant Closing

August 16, 2018

A passenger car manufacturing plant that was expected to build the next generation of rail cars has been closed by its owner and put up for sale.

Nippon Sharyo opened the plant eight years ago in Rochelle, Illinois, with the expectation that it would build 120-bilevel passenger cars to be used on Amtrak corridor routes in Illinois and California.

But when a prototype built at the plant failed to pass federal crashworthiness tests, the contract was given to Siemens in 2017.

The plant did, though build 160 Highliner cars for Metra, the Chicago commuter rail agency. The last of those cars was delivered in 2016.

At one time, the plant employed 800 workers but the payroll has been declining in recent year as car orders dried up.

Although Nippon Sharyo did not say when the plant would close, production has already ceased.

The only workers left handle administrative duties, field service, and maintenance services for customers.

The $371 million contract for the Amtrak route cars was awarded to Nippon Sharyo in September 2012 with delivery between the end of 2015 and early 2018.

In September 2015, the prototype car buckled during an 800,000-pound compression test.

Work on the cars halted and 98 workers were laid off. Nippon Sharyo has never publicly disclosed the reasons why the prototype car failed the compression test.

In a statement, the company said the complexity of the project prevented it from completing it.

“This result brought significant losses, which severely impaired our financial conditions to the extent that we can no longer build rail cars at the Rochelle factory,” the statement said.

New Midwest Passenger Cars 2-3 Years Away

December 6, 2017

New passenger cars for Amtrak’s Midwest corridor routes are at least two to three years away.

“The order is in but I don’t expect to see the cars out here for two to three years  . . . it’s a big order,” said Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari. “So we are not going to be able to re-equip all four of the Lincoln Service roundtrips with new cars I don’t think certainly in 2018, maybe in 2019, pretty confidently in 2020.”

The cars had been expected to go into service earlier, but the delays have been caused by a change in vendors.

A consortium of states, including Illinois and California, had awarded a contract to Nippon Sharyo to build the cars in Rochelle, Illinois.

But a prototype car failed to pass federal safety rule tests. That prompted the consortium to instead contract with Siemens to build the cars at its plant in Sacramento, California.

Chicago-St. Louis Ridership Up 9%

December 6, 2017

Amtrak said that ridership in its Chicago-St. Louis corridor is growing and is up about 9 percent when compared with last year.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said upgraded track conditions and the completion of various construction projects has resulted in an uptick in passengers.

“The construction disruptions we have been enduring since about 2010 are pretty well gone. We’ve been able to run trains in nearly all the slots, not substitute buses,” Magliari said.

“The track improvements are pretty much in place so the promised improvements here on this route are coming true and the passengers are coming back because of it,” he said.

“There are 59,000 more people riding these trains between Chicago and St. Louis largely because some of the work we have been doing is paying off.”

In addition to the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains, the corridor also hosts the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Canceled Car Contract Not Good News for Rochelle

November 16, 2017

The news that Nippon Sharyo has lost the contract to build new passenger cars for Midwest and California corridor trains operated by Amtrak is not good news for  Rochelle, Illinois.

Nippon Sharyo established a factory in the northern Illinois city that does not see any scheduled passenger trains to build the bi-level cars.

But a prototype car built at the plant failed to pass safety tests and many employees at the Rochelle plant had already been laid off before the California Department of Transportation announced that Siemens will instead complete the cars at a factory in Sacramento, California.

The contract with Nippon Sharyo had been announced in November 2012 by former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and was valued at $550 million.

The Illinois Department of Transportation had banded together with its California counterpart to oversee the car orders, which also involves the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The original contract had called for 130 passenger rail cars of which California agreed to buy 42. The remaining 88 cars were earmarked for Amtrak’s Midwest corridor routes.

Some saw the new cars as a first-step toward creating 125-mph passenger service in the Midwest.

With more than $10 million in state and local financial incentives, Nippon Sharyo opened a new U.S. headquarters and the $35 million passenger rail car facility in Rochelle in July 2012.

As recently as 2015, the Rochelle plant employed 694. Last month employment there was 54.

Illinois officials had said when announcing the contract to build cars in Rochelle that Nippon Sharyo had agreed to create 250 jobs and retain 15 at its office in Arlington Heights. A report in the Chicago Tribune said it is unclear if this agreement has changed.

Nippon Sharyo said it “will continue its business operations going forward with a reduced number of employees to meet the needs of existing customers and contractual responsibilities.”

Caltrans recently said it has awarded a $352 million contract to Sumitomo Corporation of Americas and Siemens to complete the car order that Nippon Sharyo once had.

The new contract calls for 137 single-level rail cars of which 88 will be used in the Midwest.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association says that single-level cars are safer and better able to protect passengers in the event of a crash.

Siemens to Complete Passenger Car Order

November 10, 2017

Siemens will replace Nippon Sharyo as the builder of new passenger cars for the departments of transportation of California and Illinois, the agencies have confirmed.

Caltrans said in a news release that it has amended its $371 million contract for new passenger cars so that Siemen and Sumitomo Corporation of American will complete the long delayed multi-state order.

Under the new contract, the order will include 137 single-level passenger railcars – 49 to Caltrans and 88 to IDOT.

The original contract called for bi-level cars with Sumitomo subcontracting construction of the cars to Nippon Sharyo. The revision designates Siemens as a subcontractor.

The cars are to be delivered in 24 to 34 months after production begins next year.

The original cars were being built in Rochelle, Illinois. A prototype car was completed, but failed to pass federal crashworthy tests.

The single-level cars will be constructed at a Siemens plant in Sacramento, California. All components will come from U.S.-based suppliers.

California plans to use the new passenger cars on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor trains. The equipment will also be used on Midwest corridor trains.

Siemens Cars to Replace Sharyo Cars

September 2, 2017

Single-level passenger cars built by Siemens will replace bi-level coaches that were to have been built by Nippon Sharyo.

The departments of transportation of California and some Midwest states had ordered 130 bi-level cars from Sharyo that were to be built in Rochelle, Illinois.

However, design problems and an inability of a prototype to pass federal rigidity tests delayed the order.

Now the California Department of Transportation, which is leading procurement of the cars, has said it will substitute 130 Siemens cars for the Sharyo order.

The number of seats will be reduced, but state officials said the time frame for delivering the cars will be shortened from five years to 24 to 34 months.

In the Midwest, the Siemens cars are expected to replace Horizon equipment.

That Seventies Look

March 13, 2017

If you rode Amtrak in its early years this is what you would have seen. The interiors of its passenger cars received blue carpet that extended up the sides to window level.

The seats were blue with head rest covers in paisley print. From an appearance standpoint, it was a scheme of cool colors and I don’t mean cool as in hip or popular.

By the late 1970s Amtrak had switched to an earth colors look emphasizing browns rather than blues.

The early Amtrak appearance continues to live at railroad museums and on tourist trains that use former Amtrak passenger cars.

Such is the case with this coach, which at the time this image was made on Oct. 16, 2005, was owned by the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and used on its excursions.

This high-capacity coach was built in 1947 by the Budd Company for the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac where it had roster number 856. It became Amtrak No. 5220 and later No. 6031 before being retired by Amtrak in October 1981.

Not Much Longer to Wait

February 13, 2017

north-coast-hiawatha-september-24-1979-06

It is a Monday night at Amtrak’s Midway Station in St. Paul, Minnesota. I waiting for the Chicago-bound North Star to arrive and in the meantime the Seattle-bound North Coast Hiawatha is in the station.

A conductor stands by a vestibule looking for boarding passengers. It is ritual that he won’t be performing much longer for this train. In less than two weeks, Nos. 17 and 18 are slated to be discontinued as part of a massive Amtrak route restructuring.

A court order will keep the North Coast Hiawatha running for a few more days, but it will eventually succumb and intercity rail passenger service on the former Northern Pacific route will end.

The Empire Builder will continue to operate between Chicago and Seattle, but the “North Coast Hi” will be history.

This image was scanned from a slide and made on Sept. 24, 1979.

Layoffs Threaten Passenger Car Order

January 24, 2017

The factory that is to build new passenger cars for use on Amtrak routes in the Midwest and California has just laid off 100 workers, throwing the future of the order into further doubt.

Nippon Sharyo had already laid off workers from its plant in Rochelle, Illinois, in 2015 and 2016.

nippon-sharyoThe Japanese company has a contract to build 172 bi-level cars with $551 million of the cost being paid for with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The cars are ticketed to replace the Horizon fleet cars that are now typical on Midwest corridor trains.

Nippon Sharyo has attributed the layoffs to continuing production and mechanical issues. Chief among those is the failure of a prototype car to pass a stress test in 2015.

The funding for the passenger cars will expire on Sept. 30, 2017, and revert back to the U.S. treasury if it is not spent by that date.

“The Midwest states know that there are delays relevant to Sumitomo and Nippon Sharyo being able to deliver equipment,” Tim Hoeffner, head of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s rail office, told Trains magazine. “The states don’t know what the new delivery schedule is yet and are waiting for Nippon Sharyo, California (which is leading the railcar procurement) and the Federal Railroad Administration to come back to us with a proposed schedule and a path forward.”