Number of Train Sets Used for Each Long Distance Train?

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Anthony V

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Does anyone know the number of train sets that are used on each of the long distance trains? I would like to know if Amtrak could be using their equipment more wisely to have a better LD network.
 

Trogdor

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Take a look at this thread: Line Numbers/Consist Listings

While it hasn’t been maintained in several years, and the car counts and types are no longer up-to-date, I don’t think there have been any significant changes that would adjust the number of equipment sets required for each route.

That said, it would be rather presumptuous for a casual observer to assert that Amtrak is or is not using their equipment wisely without knowing the full details of what goes on in between turns (i.e. the amount and type of servicing that is required for each car, how long it takes, what kind of maintenance and inspections are required and how often, etc.).
 

Anthony V

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The reason I asked is because I've proposed three changes to long distance consists that would resolve the lack-of-equipment issue in implementing some of the long-time low-hanging fruit in long distance route improvements by using some of the new Viewliners combined with equipment that will be freed up when the new Midwest/California rolling stock is delivered, and by moving Superliners to routes where they're usage would make more sense.

The first change would be to make a third train set for the Cardinal so that train can go daily.

The second change would be converting the Capitol Limited to a single-level train and moving those Superliners to the Sunset Limited so that train can go daily as well.

The third change would be privatizing the Auto-Train to a vendor with their own passenger equipment, with Amtrak selling the auto racks currently used on that train to the new operator, so those Superliners can be freed up for long distance Superliner route expansion, like a revived Pioneer and/or Desert Wind.

Of course, infrastructure upgrades would still be needed to implement any of these changes. But equipment availability has ALWAYS been the biggest barrier to Amtrak expansion, and one of the most costly and time-consuming barriers to resolve.
 

west point

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Why do you want to get rid of Auto Train ? It is one successful train. Getting about 5 more passenger cars will make it always successful. No RR is going to take it on for just the insurance liability costs.

Now one thing Amtrak can do is have cut off cars at WASH especially for sleepers. Coaches probably can be sold north bound and always southbound. If Cardinal stopped at WASH and the Star, Meteor, and Crescent all had one cut off sleeper that would give at least one of those trains another sleeper every day.

Now when the V-2 sleepers come on line 6 addition V-2s will add another sleeper to every one of these trains.
 

RebelRider

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Aug 20, 2018
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The reason I asked is because I've proposed three changes to long distance consists that would resolve the lack-of-equipment issue in implementing some of the long-time low-hanging fruit in long distance route improvements by using some of the new Viewliners combined with equipment that will be freed up when the new Midwest/California rolling stock is delivered, and by moving Superliners to routes where they're usage would make more sense.

The first change would be to make a third train set for the Cardinal so that train can go daily.

The second change would be converting the Capitol Limited to a single-level train and moving those Superliners to the Sunset Limited so that train can go daily as well.

The third change would be privatizing the Auto-Train to a vendor with their own passenger equipment, with Amtrak selling the auto racks currently used on that train to the new operator, so those Superliners can be freed up for long distance Superliner route expansion, like a revived Pioneer and/or Desert Wind.

Of course, infrastructure upgrades would still be needed to implement any of these changes. But equipment availability has ALWAYS been the biggest barrier to Amtrak expansion, and one of the most costly and time-consuming barriers to resolve.
Freeing up equipment won't make the Cardinal or Sunset go daily. The bottom line costs will go up, regardless of how much improvement there is in the per passenger statistics, and it won't happen.

What private operator has ~40 passengers cars of appropriate capacity and classes of service to take over Auto Train? Not to mention operating agreements with CSX and CFRC to use the railroad. Recall the Hoosier State? A private operator came in with their own equipment and promptly flopped. Further, several years ago when the FRA opened bidding for private operators to take over three Amtrak routes there was zero private interest.

Granted, Auto Train would be the most likely to succeed with a third-party, but again history on this specific train has a failed private-operator. Regardless, Amtrak won't let this one go, anyway.
 

jebr

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Freeing up equipment won't make the Cardinal or Sunset go daily. The bottom line costs will go up, regardless of how much improvement there is in the per passenger statistics, and it won't happen.
I've read (I think from one of the Amtrak reports done under the PRIIA a few years ago) that the Cardinal likely would require less subsidy overall by going daily. That wasn't on a per-passenger basis, but bottom-line total subsidy. Not sure about the Sunset, though I wouldn't be surprised if the additional subsidy needed would be pretty small.

There's a decent amount of fixed costs that Amtrak has to pay anyways (stations and station staff are the biggest ones) and there may be some operational efficiencies gained as well by going daily (I'm not sure how the crew rotations work on those, but there may be some longer layovers for engineers/conductors that could be reduced if the next train over their territory was sooner than it is now.)

There's also a huge revenue advantage, and one that isn't just "we're doubling the number of trains, so we'll get double the number of passengers." People no longer have to check to see if the 3 days the train goes through works with their travel plans; they can simply travel on the day that works best for them. Importantly, that works both ways on the trip. Right now, if only one direction of the trip works with the days the train runs, you either have to adjust your trip accordingly (not always feasible or desired) or simply take a different mode of transportation. For most people, they'll switch to just taking that mode of transportation both ways - why buy a one-way train ticket and a one-way flight when it's easier to just book a round-trip flight?

Getting the Cardinal and Sunset daily should be large priorities for any new equipment that's obtained. Even if it costs a bit more money, it'll make up for it in usability for those communities on the line, and it probably will cost very little to do. I wouldn't sell the Auto Train to do it - if you really need the cars from it, and there's another railroad that has adequate passenger cars to make it work, it'd be better to try and buy/lease those versus selling it off entirely.
 

cocojacoby

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May 13, 2014
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Now when the V-2 sleepers come on line 6 addition V-2s will add another sleeper to every one of these trains.
Not exactly. Amtrak has said that they will not be mixing the V-1 and V-2s because of the different configurations and facilities. They intend to use them exclusively on certain trains so they won't simply add them to existing trains.

Now if a train like the Meteor has all its sleepers upgraded to V-2s then those V-1s can be spread around the system.

They will also be added to the 65/66/67 "Night Owl" which of course doesn't have any at this time.
 

Siegmund

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Nov 19, 2018
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137
Take a look at this thread: Line Numbers/Consist Listings
...
That said, it would be rather presumptuous for a casual observer to assert that Amtrak is or is not using their equipment wisely without knowing the full details of what goes on in between turns...
There are a few cases where a casual observer can notice Amtrak does things differently than their predecessors did: 6 sets for the Empire Builder, for instance, when GN and NP did fine with five from the 1947 equipment order onward, on a similar running time to the present one.

Illinois Central similarly managed to run Chicago-New Orleans trains with 2 sets - on a different schedule, yes. It would be a tight squeeze, and require a different schedule, to run CONO with 2 sets rather than 3. I am willing to give Amtrak a pass for using three, but the casual observer does see the 22-hour layover in New Orleans and scratch their head.

The consist listing thread claims that 4 sets are needed for a triweekly Sunset when 5 would be enough to run it daily. (To my eye the current schedule seems to require only 3: can anyone confirm that it actually is assigned four?)

I think the point is more that if Amtrak were trying to squeeze more utilization out of its fleet, it could do so: when the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Texas Eagle, and Southwest Chief are ALL scheduled to have 23-hour layovers in Chicago... that looks like someone just isn't trying.
 

tricia

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There are a few cases where a casual observer can notice Amtrak does things differently than their predecessors did: 6 sets for the Empire Builder, for instance, when GN and NP did fine with five from the 1947 equipment order onward, on a similar running time to the present one.

Illinois Central similarly managed to run Chicago-New Orleans trains with 2 sets - on a different schedule, yes. It would be a tight squeeze, and require a different schedule, to run CONO with 2 sets rather than 3. I am willing to give Amtrak a pass for using three, but the casual observer does see the 22-hour layover in New Orleans and scratch their head.

The consist listing thread claims that 4 sets are needed for a triweekly Sunset when 5 would be enough to run it daily. (To my eye the current schedule seems to require only 3: can anyone confirm that it actually is assigned four?)

I think the point is more that if Amtrak were trying to squeeze more utilization out of its fleet, it could do so: when the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Texas Eagle, and Southwest Chief are ALL scheduled to have 23-hour layovers in Chicago... that looks like someone just isn't trying.
Maybe those long layovers and "extra" train sets have something to do with making up for freight interference and hugely unreliable OTP.
 

Trogdor

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But equipment availability has ALWAYS been the biggest barrier to Amtrak expansion, and one of the most costly and time-consuming barriers to resolve.
That isn’t exactly true.

For example, Amtrak had plans to make the Sunset Limited daily about 10 years ago through some realignment of the Sunset and Texas Eagle schedules. What stopped it wasn’t a lack of equipment, but rather Union Pacific demanding something north of $750 million in infrastructure upgrades to allow the increased frequencies.

A daily Cardinal, likewise, would require quite a bit of investment in capacity on the Buckingham Branch where it currently operates through WV, though I don’t recall exactly how much it would be.

The Viewliner order, while being somewhat of a disaster due to CAF’s inability to properly outfit cars, has meant that Amtrak won’t be short of single-level sleepers for a while, and California/Illinois orders mean coaches will be freed up (plus Amtrak’s own impending Amfleet replacement order). Equipment availability has been an issue, but it is not *the* issue that is holding back LD expansion.
 
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rrdude

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^^^ I think politics, (both company and political) $$$ for increased frequencies & so called "updates", and then maybe equipment, third, is the reason why the Card and the Sunset are still the ******* step children of Amtrak's LD family.
 

Siegmund

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Maybe those long layovers and "extra" train sets have something to do with making up for freight interference and hugely unreliable OTP.
44 hours out, 8 hours in Seattle, 44 hours back, and 24 hours in Chicago still only requires 5 trainsets. A sixth trainset - presumably held in Chicago as a spare - can only be insurance against a catastrophe, or a plan to have 1/6th of the fleet out of service for long term heavy maintenance at any given time. That seems like a mighty high maintenance rate unless there is a full-on rebuild program going on.

It smacks of "creative accounting" on Amtrak's part to insist that 6 sets are needed for the builder and CZ - just as it smacked of "creative accounting" when they told us we "had to" lose the Pioneer and Desert Wind to have enough equipment to operate the other trains.
 

Thirdrail7

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44 hours out, 8 hours in Seattle, 44 hours back, and 24 hours in Chicago still only requires 5 trainsets. A sixth trainset - presumably held in Chicago as a spare - can only be insurance against a catastrophe, or a plan to have 1/6th of the fleet out of service for long term heavy maintenance at any given time. That seems like a mighty high maintenance rate unless there is a full-on rebuild program going on.

It smacks of "creative accounting" on Amtrak's part to insist that 6 sets are needed for the builder and CZ - just as it smacked of "creative accounting" when they told us we "had to" lose the Pioneer and Desert Wind to have enough equipment to operate the other trains.

If you recall, the BNSF meltdown caused the sixth set to get pressed into service. Additionally, as equipment ages, it becomes more unreliable. You said it yourself.....the Builder consist spends 96 hours in transit. A LOT of things can (and do) go wrong in that amount of time and distance. Remember, these are mechanical devices and a lot of the components are not in the average passenger's line of vision. Hitting things like trees, trespassers and debris may not seem like it has a lot of impact to the naked eye, but it can be a time-consuming ordeal to correct things underneath...particularly since some replacement parts must be manufactured for the occasion.

It's called protection. Sure, they could attempt to run every piece of equipment by tightening turns and have nothing in reserve. However, that would be ludicrous and lead to less reliability. The cushion that is now provided now allows the repetition of train ping-ponging between terminals with initial terminals to end sooner rather than later. It also allows for equipment substitutions if something goes wrong on another line (using leftover Superliners to sub for a missing Cardinal set as an example.)

One only needs to look at the Auto Pain to see what we're talking about.

Additionally, a comparison to the 1940s or even the 2000s is irrelevant since priorities, regulations, hosts, and capacity has changed. When freights ran their own passenger service, they often treated passenger trains as hotshots since it was their train and their reputations on the line. This is no longer the case.


While I am aware of the general consist availability (although it has changed over the last few months, so you have a greater number of tiny sets), as @Trogdor mentioned, the casual observer would not be able to balance the fleet.
 

Ryan

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Armchair railroaders that purport to know better than Amtrak on how best to run a railroad amuse me. Thanks for folks like @Thirdrail7 for keeping it real.

At the end of the day, you can optimize for 100% efficiency, but we don't live in a 100% efficient world. When things go sideways, you want something in reserve to help get people over the road.
 

jiml

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It's important to note that the "heritage" railroads had lots of surplus equipment to draw on if something happened to a consist. It might not have been the same "customer experience" that passengers were expecting, but if substituted it would run. Amtrak does not have that luxury.
 

sttom

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Also, off topic question, why does every idea to improve Amtrak over the last month or so seem to involve killing the Auto Train for its equipment?
 

jiml

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Also, off topic question, why does every idea to improve Amtrak over the last month or so seem to involve killing the Auto Train for its equipment?
It started with the thread that invited us all to make decisions on Amtrak's future, which had as one of its preconditions that the Auto Train had been sold to a private operator.
 

Anthony V

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The fact is, even under Amtrak's full costs allocation accounting system, the Auto-Train almost breaks even. If the Auto-Train were privatized, it should show a profit because the new operator would be using the avoidable costs accounting system Amtrak doesn't use. The reason the original Auto-Train Corporation failed in 1981 is not because the service was unprofitable. but because of their decision to enter the Louisville market despite the Floridian's many ongoing performance issues. In effect, the poor performance of the Floridian dragged the Auto-Train Corporation down with it. Had they not entered the Louisville market, the Auto-Train would likely still be run by a private corporation as long as they're using the avoidable costs accounting system.
 

Thirdrail7

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If the Auto-Train were privatized, it should show a profit because the new operator would be using the avoidable costs accounting system Amtrak doesn't use

You don't know that since @RebelRider mentioned, you don't know how much a host railroad will charge for access, maintenance, other fees, or what shields from liability the host will charge an entity other than Amtrak. I've mentioned NS has always told potential users of their railroad not to count on the Amtrak model and the use of their asset isn't free. I have a copy (that was made publically available) of their guidelines for those who want passenger operations on their territory. Pay close attention to the second page.
 

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sttom

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It started with the thread that invited us all to make decisions on Amtrak's future, which had as one of its preconditions that the Auto Train had been sold to a private operator.
I remember this post and commented on it. But its not good to cut off your nose to spite your face, since when is cutting off your leg to do the same a good idea? I just question the wisdom in selling off a great part of a business for effectively a loss somewhere else.
 

jiml

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I remember this post and commented on it. But its not good to cut off your nose to spite your face, since when is cutting off your leg to do the same a good idea? I just question the wisdom in selling off a great part of a business for effectively a loss somewhere else.
I agree with you - just attempted to answer your question.
 

IndyLions

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I remember this post and commented on it. But its not good to cut off your nose to spite your face, since when is cutting off your leg to do the same a good idea? I just question the wisdom in selling off a great part of a business for effectively a loss somewhere else.
;)

Guys - it was a FANTASY GAME to provide relief from the boredom and outright gloom and doom on this forum that we were all experiencing during Covid 19.

A game is more fun if you have game pieces to move around the board - and the Auto Train has a lot of equipment - hence the idea to spin it off...
 
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