Overpowered short consists

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frequentflyer

OBS Chief
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Jun 10, 2008
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With many of the LD getting shortened consists, many are still using two units on five and six car trains. Why? The SWC can't make 90 with one unit and five cars?
 

ehbowen

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Mar 22, 2011
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You want to see an overpowered short consist?

I once saw a newspaper article from the mid-1960s in the clipping file of the Houston Public Library. It's gone, now, but it seems that back in those days when the Texas Chief still officially terminated in Galveston that the main body of the train was turned in Houston (where the ATSF commissary was). Only a single coach made the trip to and from Galveston. However, since Santa Fe's roundhouse was still on Galveston Island and since the HB&T (Houston Belt & Terminal; switching railway which owned Houston Union Station) charged a fee for each and every switching move, that single coach was pulled by the full A-B-B-A lashup of F7s...on a route which had a ruling grade of perhaps one foot per mile and no curves to speak of.

I think that's possibly the most overpowered intercity revenue passenger train in history!
 

railiner

Conductor
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If you have one and it breaks, you have zero.

If you have two and it breaks, you can still get over the road.
That is especially vital, when you are in territory that is a far distance from any 'rescue' engine...
 

ehbowen

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That is especially vital, when you are in territory that is a far distance from any 'rescue' engine...
Very true, and the passengers are much better off with one working Amtrak loco (for HEP) plus a freight rescue engine than they would be with any combination of non-HEP rescue units.
 

Qapla

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They may also be at that point where one engine could pull the weight load but not supply quite enough electric power for the passenger load
 

zephyr17

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They may also be at that point where one engine could pull the weight load but not supply quite enough electric power for the passenger load
I remember the Desert Wind back in the mid 1980s generally had about a 4 or 5 car consist ( coach/bag, coach, former Hi Level diner fitted out as a diner/lounge, sleeper) with 1 F40. It was often routed up Cajon's South Track which is a 3% grade. They'd usually cut HEP climbing the South Track on the steepest part between Cajon and Summit.

But HEP stayed on up Cima Hill, which is a long 2% climb.
 
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jiml

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I remember the Desert Wind back in the mid 1980s generally had about a 4 or 5 car consist ( coach/bag, coach, former Hi Level diner fitted out as a diner/lounge, sleeper) with 1 F40. It was often routed up Cajon's South Track which is a 3% grade. They'd usually cut HEP climbing the South Track on the steepest part between Cajon and Summit.

But HEP stayed on up Cima Hill, which is a long 2% climb.
My favorite Amtrak train, just as you described.
 

Siegmund

Service Attendant
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Nov 19, 2018
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Host railroad like BNSF & CSX require two units.
BNSF does not (or didn't as of a few months ago anyway): west of Spokane the Empire Builder normally runs with 1 unit on each half of the train.

But some railroads, at some times, do --- I don't know who does currently; when the Desert Wind and Pioneer still ran, UP required 2 units in winter but not in summer.

I am also told that Amtrak has identified a few problem units that aren't allowed to go out singly in case they fail (and you occasionally see 3 units on the Builder when one of those forced pairs is going to be working west of Spokane.)
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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The last time I was on 449 there were 3 P42s and 3 cars. During the winter, 2 P42s and 3 cars is common. The 3rd P42 was removed in Albany-Rensselaer on my trip, so was likely a Downeaster locomotive going to the maintenance facility there.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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I have not seen the Heartland Flyer since the pandemic, but even before there were several times it was 2 Superliners between 2 units (sometimes a P42 and a NPCU ("Cabbage") and sometimes 2 P42s). With ridership near zero, I imagine it is down to just the Cafe Coach and 2 units.
 

NW cannonball

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About the Builder #7. 3 observations last week. Not overpowered, but cut back. Observed from about 7mi west of MSP (SPUD)
Not April 1, but alternating days 3 total previous week, consist is
2Motors - P42, : Transition Dorm or SL sleeper (could only see lighted upper-deck windows of empty roomettes) : Diner (lights on): two passenger cars,likely coach or coach-baggage: Sightseer lounge (lighted but empty) : one coach : one sleeper: and the baggage car at the end of the Portland section which "I never seen before"
Obviously, the Builder needs two P42's CHI-SPK because, Marias Pass, and splits at Spokane. The new-style Bag car moved from the head of the Seattle section to the tail of the Portland section -- to lighten the load on the Seattle section?
Any ideas? Possible further cutbacks?
I've been wanting to visit relatives near SEA, but y'all know the damn virus thing.
 

Thirdrail7

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About the Builder #7. 3 observations last week. Not overpowered, but cut back. Observed from about 7mi west of MSP (SPUD)
Not April 1, but alternating days 3 total previous week, consist is
2Motors - P42, : Transition Dorm or SL sleeper (could only see lighted upper-deck windows of empty roomettes) : Diner (lights on): two passenger cars,likely coach or coach-baggage: Sightseer lounge (lighted but empty) : one coach : one sleeper: and the baggage car at the end of the Portland section which "I never seen before"
Obviously, the Builder needs two P42's CHI-SPK because, Marias Pass, and splits at Spokane. The new-style Bag car moved from the head of the Seattle section to the tail of the Portland section -- to lighten the load on the Seattle section?
Any ideas? Possible further cutbacks?
I've been wanting to visit relatives near SEA, but y'all know the damn virus thing.
As mentioned in the Amtrak related COV19 thread:


I'm pretty sure you will see the consists reduced to match demand. They'll probably resemble the winter line up.

BNSF does not (or didn't as of a few months ago anyway): west of Spokane the Empire Builder normally runs with 1 unit on each half of the train.

But some railroads, at some times, do --- I don't know who does currently; when the Desert Wind and Pioneer still ran, UP required 2 units in winter but not in summer.
BNSF typically requires Amtrak to operate the Empire Builder with three units during major snow events.


With many of the LD getting shortened consists, many are still using two units on five and six car trains. Why? The SWC can't make 90 with one unit and five cars?
The bottom line is Ryan hit 90% of it with this post:

If you have one and it breaks, you have zero.

If you have two and it breaks, you can still get over the road.
The additional point is often fuel consideration on some of the longer routes. They can probably make it to their next point without issue but if there is a major disruption, it can be an issue.
 

frequentflyer

OBS Chief
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Jun 10, 2008
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712
If you have one and it breaks, you have zero.

If you have two and it breaks, you can still get over the road.
Makes sense, but the Texas Eagle which routinely pulls 5-7 cars and yes there are some mild grades. The same can be said of the City of New Orleans which has a single unit. Is there a reason the Cap Limited pulling 5 cars have two Genesis? I think there more to it than your simple explanation.
 
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