Long Distance (LD) fleet replacement discussion (2022-23)

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GDRRiley

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Actually you’d need 4 full sets of passenger cars (call it 16), and four full sets of auto racks (30 each?) so 64 passenger cars plus 2 spares of each type you 75 pax cars, and 125 auto racks, versus the number they use now, plus construction of two extra sets of platforms and rack loading docks (because otherwise the late train would have to be held waiting for the spare set to depart) in order to combat lateness on the train whose audience is the least truly time sensitive of any train?

Among most so called transit advocates I think I am among the least “wasteful spending” sensitive, but that hits my gag reflex!
I agree its the most expensive way to fix an issue thats all down to dispatching.
No, I hate to inject my cynicism here, but it means management has decided to go ahead with enough consideration of the idea of fleet replacement that they want to pay somebody to help them decide what kind of equipment they would select in that eventuality. I believe 20-25 years passed between the design of the first view liner diner and its prototype and the construction of a second car of that type. All that initially came out of that contract was a reduction of the single level sleeper fleet from ~125 cars to 50, with two major train cancellations and several superliner switchovers to accomodate that.
Its on their roadmaps to have the LD fleet be replaced by the early 2030s. They need to and they've got funding for it.
had amtrak gotten more funding in the 90s and had MK not gone under they had a plan to get 500-600 viewliner which were to become the new car for eastern LD. With MK folding the 277 options after the 50 sleepers got canned.

They might get the bid through sooner but then they would have to follow it up with decades of maintaining a non-standard and very tiny sub-fleet.
I don't think I'd call 50+ a tiny subfleet and plenty of other operators run a wide mix of fleets. The ideas of standardization hit a wall, theres very little diffrence in 4 sets of 500 cars vs 3 sets of 700. Most countires don't order all their railcars once every 50 years.
 
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No, I hate to inject my cynicism here, but it means management has decided to go ahead with enough consideration of the idea of fleet replacement that they want to pay somebody to help them decide what kind of equipment they would select in that eventuality. I believe 20-25 years passed between the design of the first view liner diner and its prototype and the construction of a second car of that type. All that initially came out of that contract was a reduction of the single level sleeper fleet from ~125 cars to 50, with two major train cancellations and several superliner switchovers to accomodate that.
There is a clear laid out path between initial RFI and NTP which I think indicates a plan and congress is clear about running long distance service. I'm sure the cynical among us won't believe it until that NTP actually occurs and possibly not even until every last car is on the property and in service but this was always going to be a process no matter who is in charge. Many years have passed since the Superliners were built and times have changed so it makes sense to take the time to develop the right program.
 
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Anyone connected to an engineering firm enough to request the RFP documents from Jessica Nesbitt? Or anyone willing to try to get them as a member of the public?
When the RFI to carmakers goes out you should be able to get the documents from that procurement site. The thing out now is an RFP for an engineering firm so I wouldn't expect any kind of detailed documents associated with that RFP.
 

jis

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When the RFI to carmakers goes out you should be able to get the documents from that procurement site. The thing out now is an RFP for an engineering firm so I wouldn't expect any kind of detailed documents associated with that RFP.
I suspect the RFI document, when it comes out later this year, will be similar to the RFI that went out for the Amfleet I replacement. It should give one a pretty good idea of what sort of LD service the company envisages for the equipment they are looking to order. I suspect they will not spefiy details of the equipment, but describe the mission that the equipment must fulfill and then ask the responders to propose how they will fulfill the requirements of the mission(s), just as they did with the Amfleet I replacement project.
 
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Its on their roadmaps to have the LD fleet be replaced by the early 2030s. They need to and they've got funding for it.
had amtrak gotten more funding in the 90s and had MK not gone under they had a plan to get 500-600 viewliner which were to become the new car for eastern LD. With MK folding the 277 options after the 50 sleepers got canned.
What do you mean by "MK"?
 

jis

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What do you mean by "MK"?
Morrison-Knudsen. Actually the company of relevance to the Viewliner order was a subsidiary of MK called MK Transit (not to be confused with another subsidiary called MK Rail, which finally landed up to become a part of Wabtec, they did the locomotives while MK Transit did transit and passenger cars)

Actually though, I am not sure if MK (more specifically MK Transit) going under had anything to do with Congress not funding any further orders. Maybe it was more the other way around? Afterall at the end of the day the whole mess landed in the laps of Alstom following a bizarre circuitous path via Amerail, and eventually Alstom acquiring the Hornell plant and associated contracts. Which is one reason I was surprised when Amtrak chose CAF and not Alstom to do the Viewliner II order. The learning curve would have been much shorter at Alstom I had assumed, but who knows?

The Civil Engineering side of MK finally landed up as part of AECOM following an even more convoluted route. Basically its footprint in Boise ID vanished in the process.
 
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GDRRiley

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What do you mean by "MK"?
Morrison–Knudsen who became Amerail and Motive power after their attempts to build rail cars failed badly.
they made Bart C2 which were the first to be retired, very troubled first gen California cars, M6 which were late and had early issues.
About the only thing they did well was rebuilding of existing stock be that coaches or locos
 

GDRRiley

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Actually though, I am not sure if MK (more specifically MK Transit) going under had anything to do with Congress not funding any further orders. Maybe it was more the other way around?
Trying to figure out the history at that time is a real mess.

Best info I could find from 10 years back
Amtrak initially ordered 50 sleepers from Amerail – M-K. The conventional wisdom was that the order would greatly expand through options to several hundred cars of all different types. The plan was to equip all single-level long distance trains with 100% Viewliner consists. M-K knew the plan, so they bid the 50-car order (which required assumption of all start-up costs) at a loss. The expectation was that forthcoming options for hundreds of additional cars (with the start-up costs already paid) would then be profitable. Sadly for M-K, money issues at Amtrak derailed that plan. No options were exercised. No cars other than the initial 50 were ordered. With only 50 cars to recoup the start-up costs, M-K took a bath on the Viewliner order. That, and similar problems with other car orders, sent M-K into Chapter 11.

The impact of the M-K bankruptcy on the Viewliner order was extended deliveries and quality control issues (plus I suspect some interesting discussions on payment terms). However, all the cars ordered by Amtrak were delivered. No portion of the order went unfulfilled. M-K was acquired by engineering-construction conglomerate Washington Group, and reverted to its roots as a heavy construction contractor. I suspect the M-K CEO who thought building railcars was a neat idea was handsomely rewarded and retired comfortably.
The Viewliner I Order Meltdown
 

jis

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Trying to figure out the history at that time is a real mess.

Best info I could find from 10 years back

The Viewliner I Order Meltdown
My point is that I believe that options were not exercised because Congress refused to fund any more. Even the initial order was supposed to be 100 cars, but had to be cut back to 50 because there was no money for any more. I lived through it in the rail advocacy community back then, and the whole MK thing flabbergasted me a bit.

It is true that MK Transit was the loss leader among the various divisions of MK. If they had managed to shed MK Transit early on the rest of the company may have survived. But then MK appeared to be in the Rail business more as a matter of faith than a cogent business decision as it seemed to me even back then. They never had a business case to be doing what they were trying to do IMHO.
 

AmtrakFlyer

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There is a clear laid out path between initial RFI and NTP which I think indicates a plan and congress is clear about running long distance service. I'm sure the cynical among us won't believe it until that NTP actually occurs and possibly not even until every last car is on the property and in service but this was always going to be a process no matter who is in charge. Many years have passed since the Superliners were built and times have changed so it makes sense to take the time to develop the right program.
That is a concern seeing we have some new viewliners never placed in service. Long term policy has to be longer than the current management and Congress at the time, good or bad.
 

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That is a concern seeing we have some new viewliners never placed in service. Long term policy has to be longer than the current management and Congress at the time, good or bad.
By the nature of how Amtrak gets funded it is fantasy to think that Amtrak will have a consistent long term policy beyond a couple of years as Congress tends to zig and zag along and the policy governing the entire country is not as long terms as it ought to be. The fix for that constant problem is not to order things haphazardly either because change in policy would equally undermine haphazard orders. Might as well do it right and try to steer the ship the right way.

When the original Viewliner order was put together there was a consistent plan to order a large number of them. The original order was supposed to be 100 cars IIRC. In spite of all the good intentions Congress would not fund more than 50. So promises were made about funding a second tranche and of course things came to a nought and as it turned out the company that was given the order to satisfy all the NIH desires of the time did not really have a business case that would allow it to survive even through final delivery. At least this time around hopefully the order won't be placed with a company that had three of its paws in the grave.

A prime example of effects of Congress zigging and zagging on policy - the Mica directive on F&B came after the Viewliner II order for Diners was placed.
 
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NES28

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A major frustration is that the additional VL sleepers (VL2) have not been deployed to increase single level sleeper capacity, as was the stated plan. Per this week's RPA Amtrak webinar only now is Amtrak starting to design an overhaul/modification program for the VL1 sleepers. So we will still have a long wait for the capacity increase that we thought was being planned years ago.
 

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A major frustration is that the additional VL sleepers (VL2) have not been deployed to increase single level sleeper capacity, as was the stated plan. Per this week's RPA Amtrak webinar only now is Amtrak starting to design an overhaul/modification program for the VL1 sleepers. So we will still have a long wait for the capacity increase that we thought was being planned years ago.
Actually all VL II Sleepers have been deployed while almost an equivalent number of VL I Sleepers have been temporarily withdrawn awaiting various levels of overhaul.
 

NES28

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Actually all VL II Sleepers have been deployed while almost an equivalent number of VL I Sleepers have been temporarily withdrawn awaiting various levels of overhaul.
Yes, that's my point. Amtrak has waited for years after delivery of the last VL2 sleeper to even start design of the VL1 program, allowing them to keep fares extraordinarily high, hurting riders and thrawting the will of Congress. The overhaul should have been designed before completion of delivery of the VL2s which would have allowed the work to be done by now, with all of the cars in service. Fares would be lower.
 

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Yes, that's my point. Amtrak has waited for years after delivery of the last VL2 sleeper to even start design of the VL1 program, allowing them to keep fares extraordinarily high, hurting riders and thrawting the will of Congress. The overhaul should have been designed before completion of delivery of the VL2s which would have allowed the work to be done by now, with all of the cars in service. Fares would be lower.
I don't think the so called VL1 program is anything beyond the superficial face lift that the Superliner Coaches and Sleepers are going through, which no doubt is very necessary and desirable. But if you are thinking that the VL I program will replace the current modules by VL II like modules then you may be over reading into the so called VL1 program as it stands today. 😐
 
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I don't think the so called VL1 program is anything beyond the superficial face lift that the Superliner Coaches and Sleepers are going through, which no doubt is very necessary and desirable.
It seems that any written material from Amtrak is suspect. The written garbage is such that various persons can interpret it differetly.
 

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It seems that any written material from Amtrak is suspect. The written garbage is such that various persons can interpret it differetly.
That is a pretty sweeping statement. Did you have any specific written material in mind? With regard to Viewliner I refresh, nowhere has Amtrak said anything about doing anything beyond the refresh that they have talked about. OTOH, they have specifically said that the originally proposed modification of VL Is to become like VL IIs is currently off the table, and AFAIK there has been no subsequent statement rescinding the previous one.

There is a separate matter of the replacement of the entire LD fleet which in an extreme scenario may even include early retirement of all Viewliners. We do not know for sure how that will go, and a lot will depend on whether they want to go for a single all spanning single level fleet or not too. We won't know about what will happen for a couple of years as the procurement process goes through its various steps as was spelled out by Mr. Chestler.
 
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NES28

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That is a pretty sweeping statement. Did you have any specific written material in mind? With regard to Viewliner I refresh, nowhere has Amtrak said anything about doing anything beyond the refresh that they have talked about. OTOH, they have specifically said that the originally proposed modification of VL Is to become like VL IIs is currently off the table, and AFAIK there has been no subsequent statement rescinding the previous one.
I assume that when Mr. Chessler discussed an upcoming "design" effort he was talking about more than reupholstering
 
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Interested in a few thoughts here.

If the Pioneer/Desert Wind were to be restored as the states of Idaho, Utah, and Nevada are requesting, would Amtrak incorporate that increased need into future passenger car orders? Or would they purchase dedicated equipment and have states operate it?

The idea of Amtrak potentially ordering from Stadler is intriguing to me. Since the Rocky Mountaineer cars were delivered they now have a rolling stock manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City and room to grow significantly if needed. With Utah looking at regional routes and restored service on Pioneer/DW I believe that a service facility for Amtrak and/or regional service could be operated out of UTA's Warm Springs shops, UTA only uses about half of that space if I understand correctly. More track could be purchased from UP since they have shifted most work out of the North Yard. This would be ideal for hypothetical Stadler cars as they would be close to the manufacturer for heavier service and parts.
 

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Interested in a few thoughts here.

If the Pioneer/Desert Wind were to be restored as the states of Idaho, Utah, and Nevada are requesting, would Amtrak incorporate that increased need into future passenger car orders? Or would they purchase dedicated equipment and have states operate it?
If things are done according to current law, since both would be traveling over distances longer than 750 miles they would rightfully be LD trains and not state supported ones, so they would be Amtrak's responsibility, not the individual state's.

If such comes to pass, most likely scenario would be Amtrak exercising options on their LD equipment order to equip such trains. Actually that is what would happen most likely irrespective of who actually pays for and runs those trains, since the price per car would probably be quite attractive if done that way compared to a separate order just for those trains.
 
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