Posts Tagged ‘private rail cars’

Amtrak Cracks Down Again on Private Cars

May 30, 2019

Private car owners have suffered another setback with Amtrak banning passengers from riding on open platform or in open dutch doors on a moving train.

In a special notice, Amtrak said private car owners and guests can only be on an observation deck or at an open dutch door when a train is stationary.

The rule also requires that when a train is stopped that those on a rear platform or in an open dutch door must wear protective eye wear and that sufficient hand holds and railings must be available for all occupants

Leaning beyond the sides or rear planes of any private car and liquids are also prohibited in these areas when a train is stationary.
Officials with the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance say the latest decree by Amtrak represents a reversal of an earlier agreement to ban riding on open platform decks only in the Northeast Corridor.

The two private car trade groups had worked with Amtrak last year to create a safety manual that address platform riding.

AAPRCO officials believe that the change occurred the manager the private rail car groups worked with at Amtrak moved to another department and the agreements it reached with the passenger carrier was never published on the Amtrak website.

“We immediately asked for reconsideration of the ban, but we’re told it came from safety – and no change,” APPRCO President Tony Marchiando told Trains magazine.

Amtrak had agreed to a rule proposed by the private car owners that those riding an open platform must be seated, wear eye protection and that no drinks of any kind were to be consumed on the rear platform.

Amtak’s former special movements manager had approved the private car safety manual, which has since been published.

“Of course, our membership is very disappointed with this,” Marchiando said. “Platform riding has always been an important part of the private car experience and very, very few, only minor, injuries have ever occurred. Our intention is to work to allow safe riding on platforms with sensible rules and procedures.”

Amtrak said car owners who fail to adhere to safety rules could be suspended or see their car’s permission to operate on any Amtrak train be revoked.

Private Car Trip Celebrates Golden Spike Anniversary

May 8, 2019

In what its organizers have described as likely the last of its kind, four private rail cars are traveling on Amtrak this week as part of the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike in Utah to complete the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.

The cars are Berlin, built by Pullman Standard in 1956 for the Union Pacific; Pacific Union; Cimarron River, built in 1948 as a Pullman sleeping car; and the Milwaukee Super Dome.

Berlin, Pacific Union and Cimarron River are all sleepers.

The cars departed Chicago on May 2 on the Southwest Chief. They transferred in Los Angeles to the Coast Starlight and later transferred to the California Zephyr.

The trip is being sponsored by Altiplano Rail and was marketed as the Golden Spike Rail Tour.

A spokesman for Altiplano Rail told Trains magazine that due to increased Amtrak fees and restrictions on operations of private rail cars “this will likely be one of the last trips we operate.”

Amtrak Won’t Handle Private Car Moves at WUS

April 21, 2019

Amtrak is citing construction work at Washington Union Station in refusing requests to allow private passenger cars to use the facility for layover and switching.

The passenger carrier has denied requests for some trips that were to originate in Washington.

In particular, Amtrak said work on rebuilding the station concourse will restrict its ability to accommodate private cars there.

The work involves rebuilding the concourse to increase passenger capacity and provide new amenities.

Over the next 20 years Amtrak will seek to double the station’s train capacity.

Amtrak has told private car owners that their cars may no longer be switched onto or off of almost all trains in Washington. The carrier has also banned parking of private cars in the terminal. This situation is expected to last for up to two years.

Although Amtrak said it couldn’t say how many private rail car trips were affected, the Washington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society has said it has been forced to cancel three trips involving its car Dover Harbor.

Private Car Trip Set on the Pennsylvanian

March 14, 2019

A private car journey will be offered between New York and Pittsburgh to mark the 70th anniversary of the introduction of streamlined equipment to the fabled Broadway Limited of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The trip will use three cars that went into service on the Broadway Limited in 1949 and will be carried on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian on July 12-15.

The cost of the trip will be $1,300 for a lounge seat, $2,800 for a bedroom (based on double occupancy) and $4,200 for a drawing room (based on triple occupancy).

The ticket prices include five on-board meals and overnight accommodations in Pittsburgh.

Rail cars being assigned to the trip include sleeper-buffet Catalpa Falls, sleeper-buffet-lounge Colonial Crafts and sleeper-observation Frank Thomson.

All three cars still wear their PRR liveries and are now privately owned.

In Pittsburgh passengers holding sleeping room accommodations will stay aboard the train in their rooms. Lounge car passengers will be booked into a hotel.

Meals during the journey will be prepared to Pennsylvania Railroad dining car recipes.

Additional information is available at www.BroadwayLimited1949.com.

Rising Amtrak Fees Prompt New River Train Cancellation

February 27, 2019

Amtrak’s changing practices pertaining to private rail cars have claimed another victim, the New River Train.

The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society said this week that it will not operate the train this year due to high fees demanded by Amtrak.

The excursions have operated for 52 years, usually between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia, during two weekends in October.

Trains magazine reported that the society said Amtrak jacked up its fees to operate the train by 9.6 percent two weeks after it gave the organization a price quote in January operate the service.

Society officials decided that the fees would make it uneconomical to run the excursion this year.

Amtrak said rising labor costs attributed to its increasing its initial price quote.

The 2018 New River Train lost more than $100,000, which society officials attributed to Amtrak’s raising fees after the trip had been announced.

The 2018 trip had been budgeted based on Amtrak’s published Oct. 1, 2017, tariffs.

The New River Train was the last scheduled mainline passenger operation in the United States. Earlier this year the last scheduled steam mainline excursion, the Denver Post train to Cheyenne, Wyoming, over Union Pacific rails, was canceled for this year.

The New River Train typically carried 4,800 passengers in 30-car consists. Many of those cars were privately owned rail cars.

At various times during its five-decade run the New River Train was pulled by steam locomotives, including Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Milwaukee Road No. 261, Chesapeake & Ohio No. 614, and Pere Marquette No. 1225.

The train provides an estimated $8 million annual economic benefit to West Virginia, particularly to Hinton where it lays over during its daylight run.

Society officials said they hope the suspension of the New River Train is only temporary.

Private Car Owners Plotting Next Moves

May 30, 2018

Private passenger car owners huddled last week to plot their next moves in response to changes in Amtrak’s policies toward handling their cars.

The policy changes have raised fees and restricted how often and where private cars can operate.

The meeting involved members of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance.

Although the joint meeting did not produce any announced major strategy initiatives, AAPRCO President Bob Donnelley said the policy changes are forcing many of his group’s members to close or curtail their operations.”

PRCA president Roger Fuehring said Amtrak’s actions have adversely affected employees, suppliers, and the hospitality industry that works with private rail car trips.

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 Raising Private Car Fees

April 23, 2018

As Amtrak is restricting where private railroad cars can operate it is also jacking up the rates that it charges to carry, switch and store them.

A new fee structure effective May 1 will increase the base rate to carry a private car will be $3.26 per mile, an increase of more than 12 percent from the current rate of $2.90 per mile.

Additional cars will be $2.50 per mile, up from the current $2.22 base rate.

The overnight base parking fee will rise to $155 with some facilities charging even more.

In Portland, Oregon, for example, the overnight parking rate will be $270. In Boston it will be $360. In Chicago, the premium daily parking rate will be $600.

Short-term and long-term parking fees are also rising to $2,400, up from $2,085 for short time parking and $1,600 per month, an increase from $1,391, for long-term parking.

Terminal switching fees and waste-tank service costs now incur an annual $400 administrative fee.

Amtrak last increased fees for private car owners on Oct. 1, 2017, using an Association of American Railroads quarterly index of prices and wage rates.

In its latest private car tariffs, Amtrak said its rates are subject to change “from time to time at the discretion of Amtrak.”

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.