Posts Tagged ‘Private railroad cars’

Private Car Owners Hear From Amtrak at Convention

September 20, 2019

Those attending a convention of private railroad car owners were urged to continue to work together to ensure that elected officials understand that Amtrak is a public service.

The convention of the American Association of Private Rail Car Owners was held in Albuquerque, which is on the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

The Chief has been at the center of much controversy in recent years including a plan by Amtrak to replace rail service between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kansas, with buses.

That plan was thwarted by Congress.

Karl Ziebarth, chairman of the board, CEO, and general manager of the Santa Fe Southern Railway said one way to influence Amtrak’s future is to weigh in on an authorization bill Congress must approve that will authorize funding for Amtrak.

Amtrak has angered many private rail car owners by restricting the number of locations at which private rail cars can be added or removed from Amtrak trains.

The passenger carrier has also implemented more stringent operating practices governing private rail cars and increased the tariffs charged to handle and haul those cars.

Stephan Robusto of Amtrak’s Commercial Development Group conceded that the new rules have displeased some private rail car owners.

But he said that with those rules now in place car owners will now have a better idea of what moves are possible and what trips they can sell.

Robusto said the approval process for private cars moves will be quicker and more straight forward.

“The good news is that we’re still running private cars,” Robusto said. “Obviously there are a lot of limitations, huge price increases that came out, but at least we’re still running private cars. It could have been a lot worse. It could have been totally thrown out.”

Amtrak views handling private cars as a business proposition, Robusto said, and is not operating as it did in the past just because that was the way that it was always done.

Robusto said Amtrak was losing money on a full allocated cost basis in the handling of private rail cars.

The carrier doesn’t view the handling of private rail cars as an incremental business.

In response to a question about the prospects of Amtrak agreeing to again allow private rail cars to be added to trains at stations with short dwell times, Robusto reiterated Amtrak policy that no delays, even a delay of one minute, will be tolerated.

“We are trying to eliminate any delays we can control,” says Robusto.

When asked if Amtrak intended to fulfill its public mission to provide service to private cars, Robusto said he didn’t believe Amtrak has an obligation to do tthat.

“I believe that we should provide service to private cars because it’s good for Amtrak’s business under the new guidelines,” he said.

Michael DeAngelo, Amtrak’s manager of charter and special movements, said the passenger carrier is no longer handling as many charter and excursion trains in part because of the lack of positive train control systems on some routes.

“If it [route] doesn’t have PTC it doesn’t get past box number one. We will not operate another [excursion train] without PTC,” Robusto said.

Rob Mangels Sr., a mechanical associate for R.L. Banks & Associates said the limited number of terminals at which private cars can be maintained is becoming a problem for private car owners.

“Another thing that’s happening is that Beech Grove has sold off the excess equipment that Amtrak had,” Mangels said.

“That means they don’t have parts, they don’t have drawings, they don’t have the people who know how to deal with it, they don’t have the skill sets to deal with it and within three or four years, there’s going to be a really big brain drain at Amtrak when it comes to handling [heritage passenger] equipment.”

Beech Grove is an Amtrak heavy maintenance shop located in an Indianapolis suburb.

Private Car Trip to Operate Philly to Pittsburgh

September 7, 2019

A fall foliage special featuring former Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman car Catalpa Falls will operate from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and return on Oct. 18-20.

Tickets are $1,100 per person and includes round-trip private rail transportation, four meals, and all beverages aboard the train.

It does not include lodging in Pittsburgh.  The trip is limited to 20 passengers.

The trip is being sponsored by Executive Rail. For inquiries or additional information send an email to Tickets@ExecutiveRail.com or call Carolyn Hoffman at 862-763-0508.

During the journey on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian, passengers will cross the Rockville Bridge and traverse Horseshoe Curve.

There will be four meals served – two in each direction – that have been selected from menus of the Broadway Limited.

All meals will be prepared on-board by the Catalpa Falls’ executive chef using the original Pennsylvania Railroad recipes.

That will include the Pennsy’s famous pennepicure pie.

Executive Rail has arranged for a rate of $155 per night (plus fees and taxes) at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Rooms at this rate must be booked with the hotel directly by Sept. 16. Passengers should mention the Catalpa Falls to get the special rate.

However, passengers can also make their lodging arrangements at another hotel in Pittsburgh if desired.

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.

Amtrak OIG Critical of Private Car Practices

February 10, 2019

A report by Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General has found that the carrier has significant deficiencies in how it handles the financial accounting and policy making for its handling of private railroad passenger cars.

The IG report described it as a “longstanding management weaknesses in the company’s transport program for privately owned rail cars, including inadequate controls for cost and revenue management, a lack of standard operating procedures, and limited safety and parking guidelines.”

The report said additional steps are needed beyond those recently taken in order “to ensure the company can make sound business decisions about operating the program, covering its costs, and mitigating potential safety and liability risks.”

Between 2015 and 2017 Amtrak earned nearly $14 million for 1,144 private railcar movements and 315 long-term parking transactions,

However, Amtrak officials “did not know whether its billing and pricing model actually covered the costs of services provided to private rail car owners,” the IG report said.

Amtrak management told the IG it has not identified and accounted for costs associated with private rail car services because Amtrak has historically taken the position that it does not incur additional costs to move the cars on scheduled trains and that the program is relatively small compared to other activities the company must manage.

Amtrak officials also have provided at no cost some ancillary services as power, water and ice rather than deal with the administrative burden of tracking each time those services were provided.

The IG report also was critical of Amtrak for missing out on opportunities to generate additional revenue by not adjusting prices during periods of peak demand, such as during the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival or the Washington Cherry Blossom Festival.

Amtrak’s accounting practices have led to lost revenue because the carrier has not established standard operating procedures or guidelines to manage the handling of private cars.

The report said a review of 3 percent of transactions between 2015 and 2017 revealed that inconsistent billing practices—practices not previously established by operating procedures—led to a loss of $46,100 in revenue.

As the Office of Inspector General was undertaking its review, Amtrak “took steps to address these deficiencies, such as developing initial operating procedures for program staff, developing a safety manual to which private rail car owners must abide while in transit, establishing safety guidelines for private rail car owners parked in a Los Angeles rail yard, and establishing long-term parking permits requiring owners to adhere to company rules, regulations, and directives.”

However, the IG report concluded that these actions do not go far enough in addressing the weaknesses it found and recommended Amtrak better identify its program costs and factor them into decisions about the prices it charges private rail car owners for its services.

Another recommendation is that Amtrak “monitor the program’s financial and performance reporting, finalize and implement the program’s standard operating procedures, and implement guidelines and parking permits at all short- and long-term parking facilities.”

In an appendix, Amtrak said it agreed with all of the report’s recommendations.

Amtrak has hosted private railroad passenger cars since its 1971 inception, typically by carrying them on regularly scheduled trains.

The carrier has over the years charged various fees for such services as parking, switching, power, water and ice, septic pumping, and car washing.

Amtrak to Increase Private Car Fees Again

November 5, 2018

Amtrak has told private car owners that it plans to increase various fees that it charges them to haul and store their cars effective Jan. 1, 2019.

The increases are part of another round of rule changes being implemented by the passenger carrier.

It is the second time in the past eight months that Amtrak has increased its private-car tariffs.

The new rate will become $3.67 per mile, an increase of more than 12 percent from the $3.26 fee imposed on May 1, 2018.

In the past year, Amtrak has increased the cost of hauling a private car 77 cents per mile for an increase of 26 percent.
Overnight parking rates will become $174 per night. They had been $155.

The monthly parking rate at Amtrak terminals will increase to $3,516 per month, up from $3,125.

If another locomotive is added to a train that has added private cars that fee will increase to $5.74 per mile. The previous rate had been $5.10 per mile.

Other charges that Amtrak is imposing include daily locomotive charge of $1,970 and a head end power daily charge of $2,692.

Further, Amtrak said it “reserves the right to change the terms and rates contained herein at any time.”

The carrier did agree to honor the rates contained in a confirmation agreed to before any rate increases go into effect.

In a win for private car owners, Amtrak has restoring Oakland, California, as a connecting point at which cars can connect between the Coast Starlight and the California Zephyr. Making that connection will cost $2,065 per occurrence.

The rule changes slated to go into effect includes a clause that private car owners or the person in charge of a private car shall not offer business courtesies to any Amtrak employee.

This includes such things as “presents, gifts, hospitality, or favor for which fair market value is not paid by the recipient.”

The rules also cite meals, drinks, entertainment, door prizes, and transportation as examples of business courtesies, among any gifts or services with a value greater than $10.

The new guidelines also contain additional details regarding professional conduct, inspection and repair guidelines, and insurance and liability requirements.

Amtrak Won’t Allow Being on Open Platform Cars

June 11, 2018

Amtrak has revised its safety manual for private rail car owners to prohibit passengers aboard open platform cars from riding or standing on the platform while the car is in motion.

The manual said the rule applies to cars attached to any Amtrak revenue train or charter operation.

“Failure to adhere to this safety rule could result in the private car owner being suspended or revoked from operation on any Amtrak train or charter train,” the rules states.

A related rule requires that vestibule doors and windows shall be closed and latched before a train departs and remain closed until it comes to a halt at the next station.

The safety manual is a 15-page documents that spells out in detail Amtrak’s rules and expectations for private car owners and their passengers.

The manual also notes that starting on May 14, 2018, the procedure for scheduling the annual, 40 Year, and 10 year follow-up inspections is now being managed Amtrak’s Centralized National Operations Center.

Amtrak’s mechanical maintenance facilities are no longer available to perform these periodic inspections.