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Herb,

These are single-level cars. Bilevel trains already have a pool of dormitory cars they can use, not to mention sleepers and diners. This equipment aims to replace and then augment the current single-level baggage and dining cars, which were built when Dwight Eisenhower was president. Single-level trains have not had dormitory cars since February of 2007 when the existing ones were removed from service. Evidently, at that time it made no fiscal sense to spend the extra cash (in diesel fuel) to run an additional railcar for the crew, so they have since then occupied part of a sleeping car, making those rooms unable to earn revenue. Baggage dorms also give flexibility to multi-section trains, allowing checked baggage to still be offered, but not committing a full railcar to it where the demand may be lacking. One great example of this is the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited. It doesn't need a full baggage car, but it runs with one now in order to offer the service. When this section combines with the other Lake Shore section at Albany-Rensselaer, the second baggage car becomes mostly redundant, and the crew occupies a good portion of one sleeping car, canceling out many rooms which could otherwise generate revenue. Putting the crew rooms between the rest of the train and the baggage space adds another layer of security for baggage as well. So after the new cars come on line, baggage service will be retained, more sleeper rooms will be available for sale (meaning the train won't sell out as quickly, and sleeper fares should stay in lower price brackets/buckets for longer), and the trailing weight of the train should remain roughly the same. The sleepers will augment the existing Viewliner sleeper fleet, and the dining cars will allow the painfully-expensive-to-maintain hand-me-downs to be retired. The full baggage cars will be deployed to the nationwide long-distance trains as a start, and (not committing to anything nor putting words in anyone's mouths) may allow the expansion of baggage services where practical, sensible and in demand. One ancillary benefit of removing the older equipment from service will be allowing long-distance trains which traverse the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington DC to operate faster, as the older equipment has speed restrictions placed on it. When trying to utilize as much of the potential capacity of the corridor, one slower-moving train on occasion is an operational migraine, like driving a tractor trailer on an interstate well below the median or posted speeds, and forcing everyone else to go around.

I for one cannot wait to see the new equipment. Although the future is currently represented by one baggage car with messed up lettering, the future isn't going to stay away forever. For the time being, though, my folding bike will keep seeing the miles.

1 month, 3 weeks ago on New Baggage Cars Coming Soon

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It is much safer to assume a train does not accommodate unboxed bikes unless told otherwise. Some routes in the midwest have them, some do not. The Downeaster service between Boston and the state of Maine has it. I am amazed at how many people ride to a station and demand a service that is not offered there, often at the last minute. Trains sell out, especially this time of year. The existing baggage cars date to the Eisenhower administration, and they have been taking themselves out of service even on the long distance trains. Please check the national timetable, or look at the website, or call the 800 number, or talk to a station agent in advance. Previously, baggage cars with bike racks dedicated to the Vermonter, Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express, were discontinued because they ran empty. Granted, gasoline was a buck and a quarter a gallon, but still, the service needs to be used. With more new cars ordered than existing needs demand, it is implied that baggage cars may he added to routes with high tourist potential where the service does not exist now, such as the three medium-distance trains listed above. Yes, there are procedural issues to work out, especially on the Adirondack, which has to pass customs inspections. However, as hinted by trial runs performed last fall, and judging from which trains offered unboxed bike carriage in the past, Amtrak knows where the demand is. Their first priority will undoubtedly be to supplant the existing baggage car fleet, but I doubt they'd put out a front-and-center blog post if they did not plan to expand bike carriage as soon as their equipment availability will allow.

It still may be worth getting in touch with your state transportation department to let them know you are a potential user of this service, should they offer it on their state corridor trains. Politicians are mindful of what they hear from constituents, so communicate with them, especially state politicians who control funding to corridor trains within their own state. Nothing is guaranteed until it happens. I am glad the cars are scheduled to be released, but I won't rest until the entire order is delivered, proven, and placed in service.

2 months, 2 weeks ago on New Baggage Cars Coming Soon

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I am familiar with the policy. I'm saying when the new equipment goes into service the regulations may change. The 50 pound weight limit may remain, but that comes from OSHA.

2 months, 2 weeks ago on New Baggage Cars Coming Soon

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What will the addition of the new equipment mean to your Amtrak journey?

Simple, fewer miles on my folding bike.

It is difficult to see the majority of commenters assuming or at least implying this is going to be customer-serviced roll-on/off service. I highly doubt it, although I have been surprised in the past. Baggage cars are home to personal belongings for all passengers, not just cyclists. Besides, thanks to a political tirade a few years back, baggage cars have to accommodate firearms now, so you can pretty much bet that baggage cars will remain off limits, and the customers will relinquish their bikes at trackside when the train arrives. That also means the passenger will be able to claim the bike at the station, although how this is all supposed to happen is still being worked out. It appears to me that the racks will work on anything with a front wheel, so recumbents and trikes may see accommodation, but tandems still may require boxing.

These cars will be assigned to the long-distance trains. For all who wish to see roll-on bike service on their local corridor services where none is offered now, you need to contact your state-level politicians and transportation department people, now that states have to pay for corridor services. After the new cars are built (only one has been released for preliminary testing so far, kinda jumping the gun a bit I think) the lack-of-servicible-equipment excuse ought to go by the wayside. And even if the new cars all go on long-distance routes, your state could pay to modify and use one of the existing baggage cars, assuming any are left by then. The existing cars have been around the block a few times.

As it turns out, the standard Amtrak bike box was about two inches too short for my mountain/touring/commuter bike anyway. Somewhere between New York and LA one end of the handlebars poked through the top of the box. No harm done, no damage to the bike, but it wasn't a huge bike with elaborate handlebars, so I was concerned.

I wouldn't recommend bringing a hyper-expensive high-end bike on a tour anyway, much less one involving a train ride. Amtrak baggage service is light years ahead of intercity bus and definitely airline baggage, where airline handlers try to kill your bike, but the Amtrak crew isn't going to kiss your bike and talk nicely to it either. In short, if it's that breakable, you should not have it on a tour anyway.

I look forward to seeing some made-in-New-York cars in service soon, and I will continue to use the services offered by Amtrak.

2 months, 2 weeks ago on New Baggage Cars Coming Soon

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