That's cleared up some question, but does anyone know if it ran on the Auto Train?Amtrak unveils the ViewlinerPrototype sleepers to break in on Auto Train
Frank L. Walraven
THE EVOLUTION of the passenger car has taken a step forward with the development of Amtrak's new Viewliner, three prototypes of which are being built at the company's Beech Grove (Ind.) shops southeast of Indianapolis. Designed to replace the aging Heritage Fleet built mostly in the 1950's and overhauled in the 1970's, the 85 foot single-level Viewliner-sleepers 2300 and 2301, and diner 8400-somewhat resemble the Amfleet Car and can be made into sleeper, diner, lounge, coach, or baggage-dorm configuration. The car shell has been designed ot meet clearance requirements on all Amtrak Midwestern and Eastern routeds, clearances that restrict the two-level Superliners to Western routes.
The first completed Viewliner, sleeper 2300, was finished on September 30, 1987, and was deadheaded on the Cardinal, City of New Orleans, and Sunset October 7-10 to Houston for display at the American Society of Travel Agents' national convention. Originally scheduled for completion in late 1985 and early 1986, Viewliner construction was slowed by delays in delivery of roomette modules manufactured by an outside supplier. After Houston, No. 2300 operated Washington-Chicago on the Capitol Limited, taking Amtrak marketing department employees to an annual sales meeting.
The genesis of the Viewliners can be traced to June 1982, when Amtrak's board of directors appropriated $515,000 for intial engineering and design of a new generation of single-level passenger cars, to be carried out by a team of Amtrak's equipment engineering staff and contract engineers, designers, and draftsmen. Budd built the carbodies at its Fort Washington (Pa.) tech center (Budd's successor, Transit America, has since exited the car-building business, in early 1987). In April 1983, the board approved spending $11.7 million to assemble the prototypes at Beech Grove followed by a $2 million suppliment in July 1985. The first car shell left Budd's plant on July 1, 1985 [page 16, November 1985 TRAINS].
The two sleeping carshave identical interior configurations, and Superliner sleeper passengers will recognize many features; there are 14 double roomettes (Superliner Economy Rooms), 2 deluxe bedrooms, 1 handicapped bedroom, and a porter station with coffee urn. One major difference in the double roomettes: each Viewliner room is equipped with sink and toilet and an ice-water faucet! Improvements from Heritage equipments include upper-berth windows, more in-room luggage storage, redesigned wash-basin modules, and showers for the deluxe and handicapped bathrooms. Toilets, provided in wvery accomodation, are connected to a retention/dump waste disposal system. The 48-seat dining car also has upper-level windows, creating and airy atmosphere in the car; the upper windows are identical to those in early Amfleet coaches.
Different equipment has been used in some of the Viewliners' operating systems. Sleeper 2300 features trucks built by Tokyo Car, while 2301 has CLRT Trucks, a French product. The dining car has American-made GSI trucks. Car 2300 has double sliding end doors, meeting in the middle; 2301 has single-leaf doors. Other nonduplicated systems include heating and air conditioning, electrical, brakes, and waste disposal.
Passengers will find Viewliner accomodations more spacious than the old products of Budd and Pullman-Standard they're to replace, although the basic car is similar in overall size, the Viewliner rooms are a little larger than the older Heritage rooms, especially in height, said R.D. Higginbotham, superintendant of engineering in Beech Grove. "Of course, we always have to package the modules pretty dense in order to get as much as you can into a given space," he said, "Yet the higher ceilings of the Viewliner make it seem like a bigger room. They're no smaller than the old roomette cabin, but the new arrangement makes them seem larger and more open."
As soon as the second sleeper is completed, probably by the end of 1987, Amtrak plans to introduce the Viewliner sleepers into Auto Train service for an 18-month test. The Lorton (Va.)-Sanford (Fla.) service was chosen because the train has no intermediate stops, making it easier for Amtrak to control invetory for the cars and to integrate them into the national reservation system, since Auto Train equipment can easily be a "Captive" consist not used elsewhere. The dining car, set for completion in November 1987, will be assigned to a variety of trains on a rotating schedule.
The Viewliners' longer-term future is less clear, despite the obvious need to replace Heritage cars at some $1 billion over the next 10 years, a large portion of which would be dedicated to Viewliner construction, but such capital funding must come either through special congressional appropriation or outside financing, possibly commercial. Prospects for either are uncertain, at best.