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@neroden  If you have seen the speculative report on Railroad.net, things could be going very very very badly.

8 months, 3 weeks ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@MyRomeTourGuide This is a non-automated reply. But it is not an official reply. I don't have anything to do with Amtrak, except rarely as a customer.


You probably know that the Carolinian train runs NYC-D.C.-Richmond-Raleigh-Greensboro-Charlotte every day. The State of North Carolina pays a small subsidy to Amtrak to operate this train. 


In this way, Raleigh gets northbound service twice a day, once from the Carolinian, and once from the Amtrak's Silver Star running Miami-NYC.


And Charlotte gets service twice a day, once from the Carolinian, and once from Amtrak's Crescent, New Orleans-Birmingham-Atlanta-Greenville-Spartanburg-Charlotte-Greensboro-Lynchburg-Charlottesville, D.C.-NYC.


The Carolinian does not extend to Spartanburg, Greenville, or Atlanta because South Carolina and Georgia refuse to spend any money to support passenger rail.


In North Carolina, however, the State also sponsors the Piedmont trains running twice daily  Charlotte-Raleigh. Hundred of millions from the Stimulus is being invested in upgrading the tracks on this route, especially the section Charlotte-Greensboro. And in a couple of years, more runs will be added to the Piedmont schedule.


Nothing is being invested in South Carolina due to the bad attitude and bad decisions of the politicians in that state. Maybe you need to sack a bunch of them.

11 months ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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The deadlines are slipping, after all, perhaps due to Congress messing with the money. Until passage of the Budget the other day, Amtrak didn't know which bill to pay first because it didn't know how much money it would have this year.

So the first batch of new cars have not even begun testing. Joe Boardman said recently that they will begin entering service in the late part of this year. And no one knows where the new cars will go, like, the Lake Shore Limited NYC-Chicago or the Florida trains or what. By this time 2015 you should probably see them on the Silver Service.

11 months ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@MaryStephens 1 Much of the older equipment is hopeless. Diners are over 50 years old, and it's like each one came from a different railroad, making maintenance costs ridiculous. Some baggage cars are even older. So they got to go. Maybe railroad museums will grab a few of these antiques, but their time has passed.

The crew dorms/baggage combo cars will be additions to the fleet, flexibly allowing half a baggage car, and half a car worth of added roomettes (by moving the crew out of the sleepers), to be attached to current trains..

The 25 new sleepers will be additions to the fleet as well. And the plan is to give all the old Viewliner I sleepers a complete make-over, using modules, so they will be like-new.

We all see the need for more equipment. We hope Amtrak will be able to exercise an option it has for 70 more cars at the same price as those in this order, or less. That option order would allow some added service, like taking the Cardinal daily for sure. 

But Amtrak needs much more than another 70 cars. And states can't add corridor services due to the shortage of affordable used equipment.




1 year ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@Traingirl The new cars will let the long distance trains go faster on the electrified NorthEast Corridor, in most cases that's NYC-D.C. There the LD trains change locomotives to diesels, as they do now. So your further south problem will not get worse. 

I don't like a scary experience either -- haven't been on a roller coaster twice in my life. LOL. But I can't recall when a train tipped over in the U.S.. We're in much greater danger just trying to walk across a street, alas.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@edjackard  

It's quaint that you seem to think Amtrak can decide what cars to buy, or if. Congress thinks that is their job.

The Stimulus money that Congress voted for is all committed and mostly spent. 

Amtrak has taken a big loan from the FRA to buy the new electric locomotives coming into the fleet later this month.  Not sure how much the FRA has in its bank to make loans. It would be up to Congress to refill that account.

Amtrak has been paying for the Viewliner II order with change found between the cushions. Srsly, it is not budgeted as a capital expense. When Amtrak runs ahead of its operating budget -- by cutting costs, gaining more riders, etc. -- it takes that little extra to pay for these Viewliner IIs. That could account for the delay in getting them finished.

But Amtrak needs to be very, very careful about committing funds for even 70 more cars, at a time when Congress is full of crazies who want to slash its budget. It might need the change found in the sofa just to keep operating with what it's got.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@ryanstavely @edjackard 

Amtrak seems to think it can easily run three sleepers with one diner (they do that now on some trains), and that pushing things just a bit, it can run four (4) sleepers to one diner. So while they could use another 10 or 15 diners, they're not top priority. 

But the original order for 55 baggage cars can't replace all the old baggage cars, only the worst, and all of those on the Eastern single-level trains. Some old cars will still run on the Western trains without the option order.

Sleepers are scheduled to be the last off the assembly line. That give another year or so to add to that part of the order.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@edjackard 

The top speed on the Heritage cars is 90 miles per hour at best. Even the current crop of Viewliners tops out at 110 mph. But the new ones will go to 125 mph, and the old ones will get a rmake-over to let them go 125 also.

With the faster cars, these trains will not get in the way of faster Acelas and even Regionals and Keystones.  So the long distance trains on the NEC -- the Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Crescent, Cardinal -- will get faster, but most of the passengers are on the other trains that will benefit. 

All the East Coast Heritage equipment will go: every antique diner and baggage car will be replaced. 

The aging locomotives will be replaced soon, well, according to rumor, the first ACS-64 electric locomotives will go into service this month! 

The new equipment will go faster, but also will be more reliable, rarely breaking down out on the tracks, and saving huge maintenance costs, especially for the vintage diners. Best of all, the new engines will be such an improvement that the expectation is that they will pay for themselves in about six years.

Perhaps there'll be a few minutes shaved from the schedules NYC-D.C. But that is not really the point of buying these new cars and locomotives.

Sorry, my editing period expired! So I'm posting the better edited version.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@edjackardThe top speed on the Heritage cars is 90 miles per hour at best, maybe 80 mph.

A great nenefit from the new cars will be to speed up the long distance trains on the NEC --The Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Crescent, Cardinal -- so they will not get in the way of faster Acelas and even Regionals and Keystones. 

All the East Coast Heritage equipment will go: every antique diner and baggage cars will be replaced. And they'll be replaced starting, well, according to rumor, the first Next Gen electric locomotives will go into service this month! 

The new equipment will go faster, but also will be more reliable, rarely breaking down out on the tracks, and saving huge maintenance costs, especially for the diners. Best of all, the new engines will be such an improvement that the expectation is that they will pay for themselves in about six years.

Perhaps there will be a few minutes saved from the schedules NYC-D.C. But that is not really the point of buying these new cars and locomotives.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@AlineAlarieCarley The airfare could be even higher if Amtrak weren't competing in that market.

When the state of Virginia subsidized new trains from D.C. to Lynchburg and Norfolk, the fares were lower than the air fares, and the airlines had to cut their prices.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@LoudintheHouseHow much is an Amtrak ticket with advanced purchase? Amtrak sells out on peak dates, around holidays, spring break, sometimes Friday or Sunday evening.

You are right to see that Amtrak doesn't have enuff equipment to run enuff trains to meet peak demand. So pricing becomes 'what the traffic will bear'. As it should, so Amtrak can make hay while the sun is shining to offset its loses other times and places.

Amtrak has been talking about ordering new Acelas, to allow two trips per hour D.C.-NYC and double capacity.

It's also talking about running two Regional trains per hour. But until it can spend billions for new equipment, it can't add much capacity anywhere.

And upgrades to the route are needed: new tunnels, new bridges, new overhead catenary, etc. Amtrak needs billions to do it.

So tell your Congresscritter to invest in a better Northeast Corridor, and to support Amtrak with an order for new traincars by appropriate a few billions or more to get that job done.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@Mike77E9 Two assembly lines. One will make baggage cars -- 55 of them. The other line is all other, with diners first, then bag/crew dorms, and sleepers, in that order, everything subject to change. What we don't know is how many cars per month -- four or five or six? -- which will make a huge difference in when we see crew dorms and sleepers.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@RubyOldsColin I recall that the State of Missouri commissioned rail studies. The potential for Kansas City-St Louis was high. The cost of a train to Springfield was high. Missouri has continued to invest (with Stimulus help) in the favorable route. Springfield just cost too much. 

There has been chatter on the blogs about extending the River Runner beyond Kansas City, to St Joseph and on to Omaha, connecting with the California Zephyr. Missouri might invest in that expansion of the system. But would Nebraska step up to pay its share?

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@lawlass Let's assume you want to connect the state capital with its largest city, and there to Amtrak to New Orleans or Atlanta.  Like Albany-NYC, Harrisburg-Philly, Springfield-Chcago.

Not sure you get the big numbers Montgomery-Birmingham. Seems like a very long commuter train. For bigger numbers you usually need connections to Big cities. Like Atlanta. 

You'd think that Atlanta-Birmingham could grow into a corridor with 4 or 6 or 10 trains a day.  But.  That 164 mile stretch of track is notoriously hilly, curvy, and slow. 

From the Crescent timetable, depart Atlanta 8:36 a.m., arrive Birmingham at 11:50 a.m., or 3 hrs 14 min later. 

Wait a minute!  Time zone change!  Adjust the Atlanta/Eastern times to Birmingham/Central times. Depart Atlanta 7:36 a.m. Central Time, arrive Birmingham at 11:50 a.m. Central Time., or 4 hrs 14 minutes (254 minutes) later.

At a glance we can see that it is NOT a mile a minute, or even 60 miles per hour. 

Someone PLEASE check my arithmetic, long time since I learned this (or not) in 8th grade.  But I'm getting 39 miles per hour.  Dayum.  This train is pulling down the Amtrak average, which is said to be around 55 mph.  LOL.

To check my work I'll calculate it East Bound, Birmingham to Atlanta.   Again 164 miles, depart Birmingham 2:24 p.m. Central Time, arrive Atlanta 7:04 p.m. Central Time, 4 hrs 40 minutes (276 minutes) later.  So if my befuddled math is right, that's a lousy 36 mph.

No wonder they say the Crescent breaks even NYC-ATL, but loses money Atlanta-New Orleans!

Despite the hilly curvy lousy route, Birmingham-Atlanta has the big population centers. And I don't see a train Montgomery-Birmingham-Atlanta performing well until that Birmingham-ATL part gets fixed.

The host railroad, in this case Norfolk Southern, will be happy to present a dossier of proposed projects to bring this stretch up to speed, down from a 4 hr 40 min trip time. Be happy if their list totals less than $500 million. At least it is negotiable. You could find that a mere $100 million of new tunnel, bridges, curve straightening, double tracking, new sidings, etc could shave an hour off that 4 hr 40 min time. But more like $200 million. 

Then buy or lease a couple of trains. (Amtrak will help as soon as it gets more equipment, like, 5 or 10 years from now?)  The new Heart of Dixie train can leave Birmingham at 7 a.m. and (after you're upgraded the tracks with the $200 million for a trip time < 4 hrs) arrive before 11 a.m. Central Time, making the actual arrival before 12 noon Eastern Time. They'll need a couple of hours to drain the sewer tank, vacuum floors or at least pick up indoor litter, etc.

Depart 2 p.m. Atlanta Eastern Time, arrive in Birmingham around 4 p.m. Central Time. 

Is there enuff demand for an evening run? Depart Birmingham 6 p.m. Central Time, arrive in Atlanta at 11 p.m. Then you need to put the crew in a motel, with meal vouchers, burning money while they sleep. No, one roundtrip works well, but one and one half not so much.

OK. Make that departure out of Montgomery, go 60 mph over 91 miles, an hour and a half later arrive in Birmingham. So, depart Montgomery at 6:15 a.m., leave Birmingham at 8 a.m., arrive Atlanta at about 1 p.m. Eastern Time.  Make the return departure late afternoon, say 5 p.m. Eastern Time, arrive Birmingham around 7 p.m. Central, in Montgomery by 9 p.m. (Another train out of Atlanta could leave there mid-day, since the Crescent has morning times SB and afternoon times NB.).

That could work. Not sure it works with the regulations on hours of work for train crews. But it serves all three important cities, and with Atlanta maybe Georgia would pay half the subsidy. Or not.

If like Rhett, you don't give a damn, not about Atlanta in this case, especially after Georgia refuses to pay for any train because Obama likes trains, then you could look at Birmingham-Montgomery-Mobile-Biloxi-New Orleans. Break a few cars off the Crescent in Birmingham, give it a name like Gulf Breeze, or Gulf Coast Limited, that might work. Except, of course, that in the past Alabama was ready to pay for the service, and Mississippi said it was, but reneged on the deal in a year or so. (Well, this time MS has a good reason to keep paying for a train. The shorefront casino owners could explain it to the gang in Jackson.)

Anyway, Birmingham-Montgomery-Mobile-Biloxi-New Orleans looks like about an 8 hr run. Split from the Crescent around noon, good arrival times in Montgomery and Mobile, arrive in the Big Easy in time for a gourmet meal. So SB is fine. 

But NB not so much. Leave New Orleans at 6 a.m. (Really? I was up late last night!), in order to arrive in Birmingham 2 p.m. to catch the Crescent arriving at 2:15. This schedule allows for no delays! None!  Amtrak won't like that.

If the Crescent could head north out of Birmingham an hour later, we could sleep later in New Orleans and Biloxi. LOL. So we're back to the need to seriously upgrade tracks Birmingham-Atlanta to squeeze an hour out of the timetable!

Now we wait for another financial crisis (it could happen sooner than you think), or a different Congress, and hope to see many billions invested in Amtrak and in upgrading the railroads.

Or another thing. Lass, I don't know how old you are, but take the long long view.  Aim your train northeast from Birmingham to connect to Chattanooga-Knoxville-Bristol, VA. The state of Virginia is spending money on plans and approvals for first, an in-the-budget extension of the train D.C.-Charlottesville-Lynchburg-Roanoke, second to Bristol on the Tennessee border. If Tennessee wakes up to see value connection two of its largest cities to the Northeast Corridor, the tracks are in place.  Somebody will have to pay for needed upgrades on the host railroad, of course.

Then does that train turn southeast to Atlanta? Or keep moving southwest to Birmingham? 

If Birmingham still wants to be a rival to Atlanta, it should try to grab ahold of that train coming around the mountain to Bristol-Knoxville-Chattanooga-Birmingham-Montgomery-Mobile-Biloxi-New Orleans. Not in my lifetime but probably in yours. And starting service Birmingham-Montgomery-Mobile would help pull that mountain train toward Alabama.


1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@mujozen The information suggests that testing will go on until summer, when the first cars can join the fleet. Then two or possibly three baggage cars a month off the assembly line. 

The new cars will go first to the East Coast trains because the rattletrap antique baggage cars slow down the Long Distance trains on the Northeast Corridor, and make problems for the faster Acelas and Regionals. So the Silver Star and Silver Meteor to Florida, the Crescent to Atlanta and New Orleans, the Cardinal to Cincinnati and Chicago, perhaps the Palmetto to Savannah, and the Lake Shore Limited to Buffalo and Chicago will all come first. That's almost 20 right there. At 2 per month it's almost 10 months from July 2014, at 3 per month it could be 6 or 7 months from then.

Then the new baggage cars will be assigned to long distance trains out west. Again I'd expect the first trains to get new ones will be those where the Heritage cars are slowing down the trains, and replacing them will improve On Time Performance. I have no idea which ones that would be. 

I know the Empire Builder badly needs more cars, but I doubt if it's baggage cars that it needs the most. On the other hand, there could be a train very popular with Sleeper passengers, who tend to carry more baggage, that does need another bag car quick, fast, and in a hurry. Maybe the Coast Starlight? Your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, 55 baggage cars in the order, about 20 go to Eastern trains first, then 35 to the Western trains. At 2 per month off the assembly line, it will be about 28 months to finish the baggage car part of the order, more than 2 years from July 2014, or September 2016 more or less. At 3 per month it could be only 18 months, or roughly end of 2015.

In short, the earliest West Coast trains could see new baggage cars would be spring of 2015.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@ahblid @wilton_woodsYou're making me feel better about the outlook. 

Maybe what Amtrak would need to do in the worst case -- crazies keeping control of Congress -- would be to get CAF to build spare frames. Then from time to time, as Amtrak finds a few pennies in the sofa cushions or whatever, Beech Grove could finish them out. Not sure that would be cheaper or more efficient than letting CAF handle the assembly, but it could be easier to hide the progress from the haters that way.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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I assume that the job of rebuilding the Viewliner Is to Viewliner II standards would be put out to bid. But CAF would be very well positioned for that! 

So maybe after that work they could get a few more sleepers, diners, bag-dorms, and baggage cars off that line. Now that's looking about 6 years ahead. 

The fleet replacement plan wanted 100 new single-level cars a year for 5 or 6 years iirc. Won't be able to do that without a replacement plan for the current House of Representatives first. But in 5 or 6 years, who knows.

Meanwhile, if CAF can keep the assembly lines open on 50 cars a year or so, well, we don't have a better alternative in sight.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@ahblid @wilton_woods I knew the sleepers were modular. And I guess half of each the bag-dorm too. LOL. Are the diners in any way modular?

I'm still trying to hope of ways to keep the line open after the 130-car order, and the modular thing makes it easier.

I could even see an order for Viewliner II coaches coming off the CAF lines in 2 or 3 years. That could allow going back to making a dozen more modular sleepers fairly easily, and bag-dorms. Diners could be a problem.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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Do you know, or has Amtrak or CAF stated what the monthly production rate will be? I had heard 4 per month. Lately I've heard 5 per month, but no good source.

Please do not tell me the cars will be delivered by a certain date and divide the 130 cars by the number of months to reach that date. As noted, I have no confidence in announced delivery dates.

If it is 5-per-month, then I figure 3 baggage cars per month off that assembly line and 2 cars per month off the all-other line.

That would make it about 22 months of full production of diners, bag-dorms, and sleepers, which might begin next summer, in June or September, 2014, depending.  That gets us to about mid-year 2016.

In turn, that gives a little time to scrape up funds to order a few more cars and keep the line open a few more months.

I'm not expecting CAF to get deluged with other orders and need to use the space for something else. The crazies in Congress will not be spending any more money on mass transit than on Amtrak. CAF will be glad of any business they can get.

But without more money it will come to an end all too soon.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@ahblid @wilton_woods I would think of myself as exceedingly naive if I said all cars are to be delivered by a date Amtrak has put forth. They have not met one single announced date on this Viewliner order yet. Why would I think they will change?

I'm always willing to have surprises on the upside. But that's not the way to bet.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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Correction Needed. The "Silver Service Route Guide" linked above says the sleepers offer Superliner service. No. They don't. They offer Viewliner service. 

Does anybody read these things? 

Or read the Correction Needed comments here?

 

1 year, 1 month ago on Midnight Train to Georgia with #AmtrakGram

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@RobMartin1 Don't hurry. The first four test cars will enter service "next summer." Is that June 21 or Sept 21? LOL. Only then will production ratchet up to four trains a month, 2 baggage cars and 2 diners. Let's be nice and say the first diners will come off the line July, 2014. At 2 per month, we could get half the order by Dec 31, 2014. But we'll be lucky to see all 25 new diners by July 4, 2015. Then a year of bag-dorms, gets us to July 2016, and a year of sleepers after that, July, 2017, but more likely by the end of fiscal 2017, Sept 30.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@wilmamreever But where is PRC?

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@GenePoon Can you point us to where Joe Boardman says "there will be no new [Superliner] equipment order?"

I can see how they're not at the top of the priority list.  First the Next Gen diesels for long distance trains, both Eastern and Western routes. That order might get put out for bid next year, if any of the needed money can get past the crazies in Congress. 

Next we need to see the option taken up, so Amtrak can get another 70 or so Viewliner sleepers, diners, bag dorms, and maybe even more baggage cars. 

Then start buying Viewliner coaches. 

And not to forget we need a big billion $ order for Acela IIs to get the high-speed service running every half hour. 

By the time those matters are taken care of, Joe Boardman may be retired (he's of a certain age). So maybe he's thinking there'll no order for bi-level LD cars on his shift. 

But one day Amtrak will order new Superliners, or drop half its business -- and I don't think that's the plan. Really, it's not.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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@AlineAlarieCarley

Good news. Glad Amtrak fixed the mistake.

1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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Quibble: Is there a word missing in the second sentence?

"That’s why we’re bringing 130 new single-level long distance cars to the rails by 2014."


Isn't it "starting" in 2014? Or "by" 2017?


=========================

Sure hope the option is still open, or that CAF extended it. The 130 cars is a great start. But even another 70 new cars will be barely enuff.


1 year, 1 month ago on Coming Soon: New Long Distance Cars

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