Hypothetical High Platform Superliner Replacements

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Tlcooper93

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I would use the VR Lapland cars from Finland. The cars are bilevel and are designed to run on OHE (overhead electric) routes too so it fits in tunnels fairly easily. They're similar in height to the Superliner cars so transitions to engines won't look awkward. In fact these actually will match the ALC-42 super well in my opinion.

The top photo is a VR Sleeper and the bottom is a VR Coach:
View attachment 24337
View attachment 24338

Simply Railways did a review of a night train featuring these cars. They certainly could be adequate superliner replacements assuming they could be repurposed for American railways at a reasonable price.

that said, Siemens already has such a huge presence in America that it makes sense to go with whatever they offer.
 

Cal

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Simply Railways did a review of a night train featuring these cars. They certainly could be adequate superliner replacements assuming they could be repurposed for American railways at a reasonable price.

that said, Siemens already has such a huge presence in America that it makes sense to go with whatever they offer.
I thought that these cars are also taller than superliners? And doesn't Chicago have very little clearance as is?

Edit: Fixed "very little more clearance"
 
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west point

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If there is a way to change the CHI clearances to taller the ability for taller Amtrak cars would certainly be improved. Since no one has ever published other western clearances that would have to be fixed then we can only speculate.
It would not only be overhead clearances but side such a canopies.
 

Cal

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If there is a way to change the CHI clearances to taller the ability for taller Amtrak cars would certainly be improved. Since no one has ever published other western clearances that would have to be fixed then we can only speculate.
I doubt they could increase the clearance at CHI, but who knows.

I could imagine that Washington, Seattle, and maybe some tunnels could impose some issues as well.
 

Trogdor

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If there is a way to change the CHI clearances to taller the ability for taller Amtrak cars would certainly be improved. Since no one has ever published other western clearances that would have to be fixed then we can only speculate.
It would not only be overhead clearances but side such a canopies.
Sure. All you have to do is rebuild every single street and building that was built over the tracks over the last century or so. And for what purpose? So a handful of long-distance trains can have a taller sleeping car or lounge car?
 

John819

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Anytime you want to change any physical infrastructure you are going to run into a swarm of environmentalist luddites, NIMBYs (not in my back yard), and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody). The "official" environmental review process for anything takes at least a year, and without a doubt somebody is going to bring suit over something. These reviews, by the way, not only consider the impact on what we would call "the environment" but also any cultural or historical issues, so it may be difficult to replace an old structure simply because it is old!

I an not anti-environmental, but we need a reasonable approach.
 

George Harris

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Sure. All you have to do is rebuild every single street and building that was built over the tracks over the last century or so. And for what purpose? So a handful of long-distance trains can have a taller sleeping car or lounge car?
Not true. For almost all the entire US railroad system outside the northeast and a few passenger only station areas the railroad system will already clear Superliners or even higher cars. Look at the double stack container trains, autoracks, and piggybacks. These are all taller than Superliners. To give an example: The two railroad bridges across the Mississippi, the Frisco Bridge opened in 1892 and the Harahan Bridge opened in 1916 will both clear any of these high cars. The Frisco Bridge clears laterally 11'-0" each way from centerline of track. Overhead I don't know, but I do know double stack trains use it, and these go to something like 19 feet high. The Harahan was originally built to have 24 feet above top of rail, 14 feet track centers and 8 feet lateral clearance from center of track, and these are both structures over 100 years old.

Most states have minimum railroad clearance laws or standards that give required minimum and lateral offsets to any structure adjacent to a railroad. Usually they were 8'-0" or larger laterally and 22'-0" or hlgher overhead. 9'-0" and 23'-0" are now fairly common. Most of these laws have been in effect for somewhere between 50 and 100 years. Their passing was pushed hard by the railroad operating unions on the basis of safely clearing a man on the ladder on the side of a car or standing on the roof of a boxcar. The accountant and management types were in the early days pulled kicking and screaming into accepting these dimension as they wanted to build smaller structures to save a few bucks. Their descendants are all now very glad they did not succeed.

As to width: The Shinkansen cars which are slightly wider than US rail vehicles standard would also be able to run freely on the US system. Unfortunately they would not be able to pass the close in platforms in the northeast.
 
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Tlcooper93

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Not true. For almost all the entire US railroad system outside the northeast and a few passenger only station areas the railroad system will already clear Superliners or even higher cars. Look at the double stack container trains, autoracks, and piggybacks. These are all taller than Superliners. To give an example: The two railroad bridges across the Mississippi, the Frisco Bridge opened in 1892 and the Harahan Bridge opened in 1916 will both clear any of these high cars. The Frisco Bridge clears laterally 11'-0" each way from centerline of track. Overhead I don't know, but I do know double stack trains use it, and these go to something like 19 feet high. The Harahan was originally built to have 24 feet above top of rail, 14 feet track centers and 8 feet lateral clearance from center of track, and these are both structures over 100 years old.

As to width: The Shinkansen cars which are slightly wider than US rail vehicles standard would also be able to run freely on the US system. Unfortunately they would not be able to pass the close in platforms in the northeast.
superliners can’t really run on any useful parts of the Northeast corridor (near NYC or Boston, or even Providence).

A while back, there was a pretty thorough discussion as to how far a superliner car could get towards Boston. The consensus (after some research) was a few low bridges outside of Back Bay station, probably terminating around Boston Landing. Back Bay tunnels are quite bit lower than 16 feet 2 inches.

I’m sure the height restrictions get even trickier towards NYC.
essentially, superliners run nearly everywhere they CAN run on the US rail system.
 

George Harris

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superliners can’t really run on any useful parts of the Northeast corridor (near NYC or Boston, or even Providence).

A while back, there was a pretty thorough discussion as to how far a superliner car could get towards Boston. The consensus (after some research) was a few low bridges outside of Back Bay station, probably terminating around Boston Landing. Back Bay tunnels are quite bit lower than 16 feet 2 inches.

I’m sure the height restrictions get even trickier towards NYC.
essentially, superliners run nearly everywhere they CAN run on the US rail system.
Not arguing your points at all. Merely pointing out that this is a regional issue, not a national issue, primarily a result of very shortsighted management of the railroads in that part of the country both in the past and currently.
 

John819

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So we all agree that Superliners cannot be used at NYP (or other NEC locations). In order to use them on, say, the Silvers, would be to have the trains originate in WAS, which means that NEC customers would need to change trains there.

Yes, this is a regional issue, but the region is the profit center for Amtrak.
 

Ryan

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So we all agree that Superliners cannot be used at NYP (or other NEC locations). In order to use them on, say, the Silvers, would be to have the trains originate in WAS, which means that NEC customers would need to change trains there.

Yes, this is a regional issue, but the region is the profit center for Amtrak.
They tried this with the Cardinal once. Ridership sucked and rebounded once it was returned to single level and extended back to NYP.

We're going to see the next order of sleeping cars able to be used systemwide, so these cars from Finland will be a nonstarter.
 

Trogdor

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Not true. For almost all the entire US railroad system outside the northeast and a few passenger only station areas
The comment I was responding to was specifically about Chicago Union Station, which is definitely a passenger-only station area.

Look at the double stack container trains, autoracks, and piggybacks.
None of which operate through Chicago Union Station, so completely irrelevant.
 

George Harris

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The comment I was responding to was specifically about Chicago Union Station, which is definitely a passenger-only station area.

None of which operate through Chicago Union Station, so completely irrelevant.
Not arguing about the Chicago issue at all. What I disagreed with was your statement, "All you have to do is rebuild every single street and building that was built over the tracks over the last century or so. " That sounds like talking about a little more than Chicago. What we have here with Chicago is a last few miles problem., not a systemwide problem which it the way what you said sounded.

As to the whole issue of bi-level cars, I consider single levels better to the greatest extent practical. Lifts either vehicle mounted or on the platform gets those needing it on the train. After that all is on one level. Being stuck on a lower level because of wife's mobility issues gives me a great appreciation of that. With great effort we got to the upper level for a trip across the Sierra for the sake of both access to the dining car and better views of the snow covered mountains, Otherwise, our rides down the Central Valley were get on the lower level and I run for food, etc.
 

Trogdor

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Not arguing about the Chicago issue at all. What I disagreed with was your statement, "All you have to do is rebuild every single street and building that was built over the tracks over the last century or so. " That sounds like talking about a little more than Chicago.
I don’t see how you could read that from my statement in response to the message I quoted, but…whatever.

I mean, obviously freights are already running plenty of taller equipment throughout the country, so “every single street and building” couldn’t reasonably apply to the entire country.
 
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John819

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Again, the ADA access requirements are a principal factor in going for single level. The current interpretation is that wheelchair and mobility-impaired passengers must have access to "public areas", specifically the SSL and the dining car. Since bi-level access is on the upper level, you would need some sort of elevator to have full access, and that would take away space for passenger accommodations. The fact that the NEC does not allow for Superliner sized cars is an additional reason to go with a single level nationwide fleet.
 

jis

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neroden

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As to the whole issue of bi-level cars, I consider single levels better to the greatest extent practical. Lifts either vehicle mounted or on the platform gets those needing it on the train. After that all is on one level. Being stuck on a lower level because of wife's mobility issues gives me a great appreciation of that.
This is fundamentally why I've always thought it would be better to have single-levels to the greatest extent possible. My partner is also mobility-impaired.

Bilevels, frankly, suck for the mobility impaired. While the current regulations allow for bilevel commuter cars, where it has been considered vital to pack the maximum people in per train, they should generally be avoided.

-----

It is possible to make a fully accessible bilevel with an internal elevator, but...


"The research investigated the possible use of elevators to access the upper level on bi-level cars in response to RVAAC recommendations. Three railroads operating bi-level passenger trains with elevators were contacted; they were consistent in their responses. All three railroads have: (1) much higher staffing levels than most regular commuter or intercity passenger services; (2) elevators are operate during train movement as well as when stopped at stations; (3) are operated by trained train crew personnel; and (4) ambulatory passengers who have difficulty negotiating stairs were the most frequent users of the elevator. "
...
"The findings reported are based on the use of elevators on bi-level passenger trains operated by the Alaska Railroad, Holland America Line [also an Alaska excursion train], and Rocky Mountaineer railroad. "
...
"All three railroads:
•Operate bi-level rolling stock that was originally manufactured between the mid 1990s and 2008. Colorado Railcar, the railcar manufacturer, is no longer in business.
•Onboard elevators were manufactured by National Wheel-O-Vator. The company is no longer manufacturing elevators for passenger railcars."

So, this is the only way forward for accessible bilevels. All three railroads raised concerns with operating the elevator while the train is going at high speeds, so it's probably incompatible with high speed service.

These cars are 19 feet 9.75 inches tall, much taller than the Superliner's 16 ft. 3 inches. Their design avoids the structure problems which doomed the Sumitomo/Kinki Sharyo bilevel order by having high floors on the lower level, so they could be high-platform-boarding cars.

So this is a perfectly viable design... *if* you have AAR plate H clearance on the entire route. They couldn't get into Chicago Union Station or DC or NY or Boston, so they're unusable on most of the Amtrak system.

It's conceivable that they might be usable on the Coast Starlight, Sunset Limited, or Heartland Flyer; I haven't checked the clearances. It doesn't seem like a general-purpose solution though.
 
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