Should America pursuit extra-wide trains (wider than 10 ft 6 inches)

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

NeueAmtrakCalifornia

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
144
This is more of a general discussion than Amtrak-specific.

The average width of an American passenger train is 10 ft 6 inches (3.20 m). There are some wider trains like the MPXpress (10 ft 7.5 inches or 3.238 m) that have been encountered on the NEC (high-level platforms). The AAR Plate E specifies a maximum width of 10 ft 8 inches (3.251 m) and a maximum height of 15 feet 9 inches (4.8 m). However, some designs go past that height, like the Superliner family (16 ft 2 in or 4.93 m). If they can make a railcar design that's taller than AAR Plate E, maybe they can make one that's wider than that. The Russian Gauge 1-T specifies a maximum width of 11 feet 2 inches (3.4 m) but the Lastochka is even wider than that by 3 inches (at 11 feet 5 inches).
Recently, I read this blog post and this analysis highlighting the advantages of wider trains, among them the ability to add more seats and lowering crew costs. An ideal width would be 11 feet (3.35 m). This is the width used on the Shinkansen trains. These trains have been shown to hold 2+3 seats. Having wider trains also gives more leeway for the freight trains (who constantly balk at high platforms).
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
614
I would not be a fan of 2+3 seats, though wider cars would make for a lot of interesting options when it comes to sleeper cars. But it seems like it would be hard to make them work with the existing infrastructure/tunnels/tracks.
I would be happier if Amtrak had the allocated money to buy 50 cars and 10 locomotives a year for the next 10 years. Just build modestly on what they have with a few more trains per day on the routes that would best support them while replacing the worst of the existing rolling stock.
 

NeueAmtrakCalifornia

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
144
I would not be a fan of 2+3 seats, though wider cars would make for a lot of interesting options when it comes to sleeper cars. But it seems like it would be hard to make them work with the existing infrastructure/tunnels/tracks.
I would be happier if Amtrak had the allocated money to buy 50 cars and 10 locomotives a year for the next 10 years. Just build modestly on what they have with a few more trains per day on the routes that would best support them while replacing the worst of the existing rolling stock.
It's easier to do it out west (where freight trains truly rule). As for a constant order of 50 cars and 10 locomotives a year for the next 10 years, that would require higher frequencies (and new routes) to justify such a purchase, and that, in turn, would require either negotiating with the freight railroads or outright build new tracks, neither of which are easy.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
345
Although the idea is interesting and probably impossible, I would think that any additional width just might be negated by more stringent ADA requirements such as aisles wide enough for wheelchair access throughout the train (including sleepers and dining cars). Don't know. It's still unclear to me what is considered "reasonable accommodation".

I also definitely do not want to see 3-2 seating! Talgo is promoting 3-2 seating on it's new Avril model which they consider "extra wide" at our standard 10' 6".

I do believe that California is/was considering wider Japanese style trains and Texas Central is definitely heading in that direction selecting Japanese Shinkansen equipment for it's new high-speed rail line.
 

NeueAmtrakCalifornia

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
144
Although the idea is interesting and probably impossible, I would think that any additional width just might be negated by more stringent ADA requirements such as aisles wide enough for wheelchair access throughout the train (including sleepers and dining cars). Don't know. It's still unclear to me what is considered "reasonable accommodation".

I also definitely do not want to see 3-2 seating! Talgo is promoting 3-2 seating on it's new Avril model which they consider "extra wide" at our standard 10' 6".

I do believe that California is/was considering wider Japanese style trains and Texas Central is definitely heading in that direction selecting Japanese Shinkansen equipment for it's new high-speed rail line.
The Shinkansen that Texas Central is ordering certainly is going to have to be made ADA-compliant (I wonder if the Shinkansen by itself is ADA-compliant, though I would suspect it would need some changes anyway).
If California HSR does go for wider trains then that would be a good move (though I am disapponted that Caltrain went for not-so-wide KISS trains when they could have gone for a wider design like the Eurasia variant).
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
614
Yeah, NAC, one of my biggest wishes for Amtrak is increased frequency. Whether it is making the Cardinal and the Sunset Limited daily, or making the EB, SWC, CZ, CL, Crescent and Coast Starlight twice daily routes, I just think that more Amtrak would allow Amtrak to be better at its job. But that require two huge and expensive undertakings. Compensating the host railroads more to encourage better On Time Performance and upgrading/enlarging the rolling stock pool.
Twice a day trains out west on all routes might not be possible due to lack of demand at first, but if there were additional sleeper cars on each train it might reduce the amount of loss for the route while encouraging more use, perhaps leading to a need for those second daily trains on the western LD routes. But it would probably require full service dining cars to keep the sleeper clientele happy. Which, conveniently, Amtrak has recently acquired.
Getting the Pioneer or the North Coast Hiawatha back would be like getting biscuits with my beer.

It's easier to do it out west (where freight trains truly rule). As for a constant order of 50 cars and 10 locomotives a year for the next 10 years, that would require higher frequencies (and new routes) to justify such a purchase, and that, in turn, would require either negotiating with the freight railroads or outright build new tracks, neither of which are easy.
 

jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,074
The slight increase in width proposed in the OP would hardly allow for an additional seat of the current proportions, so then you're talking about smaller seats to achieve 2 + 3. This is something airlines have mastered over the years, but would remove another one of the advantages Amtrak has over them - i.e. big, roomy seats. (We presume they've already surrendered on dining.) The only place I can see this sort of seat increase work is in a high-density corridor for shorter distances, and if you're looking at the NEC the infrastructure would limit increasing car width. There really is no reason for it "out west" at all.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,816
Commuter trains in NYC have long had 3 and 2 seating. Certain commuter trains in India are wide enough for 3 and 3 seating. As is the Shanghai Maglev.
 

Qapla

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
893
One problem with making wider trains would be their need to be able to pass each other on the existing tracks … you have to account for the actual car clearance and the additional room needed for the cars to be able to "rock" a bit. There have already been some instances of train cars hitting those on a passing train - this would become a real problem if the trains were made wider.

Busses and motorhomes on the nations highways have been held to the width standard for roads - however, over time they have found ways to make it seem as though there is more room by being creative with design. If you compare a motorhome made today with some from the 1970's you will find the newer ones seem to have much more room even though they are the same width. It all has to do with layout and space saving materials (they used to frame with wood) and good design.

There is about 124,440 square inches of space in a single level of a passenger train car - that space can be used well or wasted … depends on the design.

However, if the only goal of a designer is to see how many people he can fit in the space to achieve higher revenue at the expense of practicality and comfort - the result is never going to be well received by the paying customer.
 

NeueAmtrakCalifornia

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
144
Yeah, NAC, one of my biggest wishes for Amtrak is increased frequency. Whether it is making the Cardinal and the Sunset Limited daily, or making the EB, SWC, CZ, CL, Crescent and Coast Starlight twice daily routes, I just think that more Amtrak would allow Amtrak to be better at its job. But that require two huge and expensive undertakings. Compensating the host railroads more to encourage better On Time Performance and upgrading/enlarging the rolling stock pool.
Sometimes (and more often than not), the freight railroads simply can't let Amtrak run any additional trains without interfering with its own schedule, and that's where building new tracks is gonna be the best option for increased frequencies. Amtrak can build something akin to Germany's Neubaustrecke (NBS): a parallel alignment, with flyovers and flyunders to ensure that neither corridor has interference from each other's operations. It's expensive so it would work best in places where the demand warrants it, like in California, the Northeast, and the Midwest.

But it would probably require full service dining cars to keep the sleeper clientele happy. Which, conveniently, Amtrak has recently acquired.
What exactly do you mean by that?

Getting the Pioneer or the North Coast Hiawatha back would be like getting biscuits with my beer.
Since Southwest Airlines ramped up its operations between the Pacific Northwest to SLC and Boise shortly before the Pioneer was discontinued, that's gonna be incredibly difficult. Amtrak did a study and concluded that a revived Pioneer would have noticeably lower ridership than most of the LD trains. The most they can do is create daily inter-city trains (one between SLC and Boise the other between Boise and Portland or Seattle), which isn't gonna be easy because it's on UP tracks.
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
614
I don't know how difficult it would be for the host railroads to run another passenger train, but I figure it would require a carrot and stick approach. More compensation for each train and some form of legal enforcement if they delay Amtrak too frequently. Along with everything else in my post, it was more of a wish list rather than a call to arms.
I wasn't thinking of something as extravagant as the NBS, more in the line of looking at where the most delays due to traffic occur and sharing the expense between Amtrak and the host railroad to double or triple track that section. One of the problems with this is the increasingly long trains that the host railroads are using.
On the diner part I was talking about the relatively new VLII Diners, 68000 through 68024. They have a hot production line if they want more, too. It is incredibly slow, but they are actually delivering cars.
Yeah, both the Pioneer and the North Coast Hiawatha are dreams more than real goals, but those communities could really use the service back. I think 300 to 500 mile corridor trains make more sense than a 2200+ mile NCH. Having an 800+ mile long Pioneer that went from Seattle and Salt Lake City might work with state subsidies, but the 1300+ mile Seattle to Denver route would be better but it would be even more difficult to make it work.
Again, more of a wish list than an appraisal of what I think we will see, but it would allow Amtrak to serve more communities and to so so in a way that makes the network stronger. But the lack of long term funding and the increasing levels of freight traffic make it a difficult wish list to see delivered.
I think adding a second daily route to either the Empire Builder or the California Zephyr are the least unreasonable to work towards since they are trains that have a single frequency per day and both have ridership over 400,000 people per year and have been higher in the recent past. Start with more sleepers on existing trains and hopefully work up to a second daily train.

Sometimes (and more often than not), the freight railroads simply can't let Amtrak run any additional trains without interfering with its own schedule, and that's where building new tracks is gonna be the best option for increased frequencies. Amtrak can build something akin to Germany's Neubaustrecke (NBS): a parallel alignment, with flyovers and flyunders to ensure that neither corridor has interference from each other's operations. It's expensive so it would work best in places where the demand warrants it, like in California, the Northeast, and the Midwest.

What exactly do you mean by that?

Since Southwest Airlines ramped up its operations between the Pacific Northwest to SLC and Boise shortly before the Pioneer was discontinued, that's gonna be incredibly difficult. Amtrak did a study and concluded that a revived Pioneer would have noticeably lower ridership than most of the LD trains. The most they can do is create daily inter-city trains (one between SLC and Boise the other between Boise and Portland or Seattle), which isn't gonna be easy because it's on UP tracks.
 
Last edited:

Qapla

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
893
that's where building new tracks is gonna be the best option for increased frequencies. Amtrak can build something akin to Germany's Neubaustrecke (NBS): a parallel alignment, with flyovers and flyunders to ensure that neither corridor has interference from each other's operations. It's expensive so it would work best in places where the demand warrants it, like in California, the Northeast, and the Midwest.
sharing the expense between Amtrak and the host railroad to double or triple track that section.
It is not as simple as "spending money" ... in many areas where railroads have tried to build additional/longer sidings, double track or otherwise improve the capacity of the rails, citizens have blocked their efforts with the "not in my back yard" mentality.

It doesn't make any difference how logical, convenient and/or practical such improvements are - someone will not want it and sue to keep it from happening or delay the process
 

NeueAmtrakCalifornia

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
144
I wasn't thinking of something as extravagant as the NBS, more in the line of looking at where the most delays due to traffic occur and sharing the expense between Amtrak and the host railroad to double or triple track that section. One of the problems with this is the increasingly long trains that the host railroads are using.
Whatever improvements/changes are made to the tracks they own, the freight railroads want the expenses to be beared on the state and/or Amtrak. For whatever reason, they don't want to bear any of the expenses.

On the diner part I was talking about the relatively new VLII Diners, 68000 through 68024. They have a hot production line if they want more, too. It is incredibly slow, but they are actually delivering cars.
The Viewliner IIs are intended for the East Coast. Also, Amtrak is likely never gonna work with CAF due to the incredibly delayed order of said cars.
If you want stuff like a second daily CZ or EB even possible, Amtrak is gonna have to buy brand new bilevel carriages (bilevels rule out west). Thankfully they're looking to do so to replace the Superliner I and IIs. Personally, I can see Stadler making a variant of the Rocky Mountaineer car for Amtrak services (lower it from 18 ft 1.3 in to 16 ft 2 in). One new feature is that it will have high and low floor doors like the Caltrain KISS. It comes in two varieties
* IC: These coaches are the successors to the California and Surfliner cars, and have an internal layout similar to the Caltrain KISS.
* LD: These coaches are the successors to the Superliner I and II cars, and have an internal layout similar to the Super Dome that's currently seen on the Downeaster.

It is not as simple as "spending money" ... in many areas where railroads have tried to build additional/longer sidings, double track or otherwise improve the capacity of the rails, citizens have blocked their efforts with the "not in my back yard" mentality.

It doesn't make any difference how logical, convenient and/or practical such improvements are - someone will not want it and sue to keep it from happening or delay the process
Yet it seems they don't balk as much when an airport or freeway expands, and it seems they rather want perpetual gridlock
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
472
So a bunch of points that I would like to make in no particular order.

3+2 seating even in a wider piece of equipment would run into the same problems as lowering the seat pitch, which would be adding not a lot of people for a general decrease in comfort. In a California car, you could maybe cram 19 extra people into it, but that's 38 people that now have a smaller seat and another person to deal with.

As for what will will be the base of the Superliners 3, there is also the Viaggio Twin which is the double deck version of the Viaggio Classic that the cars we are getting against our will is based off of. Adapting existing designs for semi custom jobs is well within Siemen's wheelhouse.

When it comes to expanding rail, how much really depends on how much you're trying to expand service. Hourly service with only 1 route likely won't require quadtracks unless you electrify at the outset, which is what a freight railroad is likely to demand like what is happening with Denver RTD. Which adds unnecessary expense.

Flyovers sound nice, but that would push rail costs into the same territory as highway construction costs. One thing rail improvements have over highways is they tend to be cheaper, especially when done at scale. Most areas that could sustain an hourly passenger service likely won't need more than triple tracking, unless there is already a high freight volume.

The only area where I could see quad tracking possibly being necessary would be between Oakland and Martinez if both the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin were on a solid hourly schedule. That would mean a passenger trains every half hour in both directions. But even here at that frequency it's an if. I've watched the trains in the area and they're doesn't seem to be an equal number of passenger to freight trains during the day.

As for freight companies meeting resistance to expansion, that makes sense. Freight trains are noisy which ruins the character of the neighborhood. A state DoT backed passenger project could win more people over since people tend to like trains that they can ride. And if the project isn't planned locally (so this probably wouldn't work in California's current political climate) the state would face less recourse to angering some people who live in a neighborhood several miles from the track who are likely to be the ones complaining.
 

NeueAmtrakCalifornia

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
144
When it comes to expanding rail, how much really depends on how much you're trying to expand service. Hourly service with only 1 route likely won't require quadtracks unless you electrify at the outset, which is what a freight railroad is likely to demand like what is happening with Denver RTD. Which adds unnecessary expense.
What exactly do the freight railroads demand concerning Denver RTD. Also the reason they went for electric was for environmental reasons.

Flyovers sound nice, but that would push rail costs into the same territory as highway construction costs. One thing rail improvements have over highways is they tend to be cheaper, especially when done at scale. Most areas that could sustain an hourly passenger service likely won't need more than triple tracking, unless there is already a high freight volume.
This is the case with the BNSF Southern Transcon and the UPRR Sunset Route within SoCal (it's why the latter doesn't want any more Amtrak trains running on those tracks)

The only area where I could see quad tracking possibly being necessary would be between Oakland and Martinez if both the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin were on a solid hourly schedule. That would mean a passenger trains every half hour in both directions. But even here at that frequency it's an if. I've watched the trains in the area and they're doesn't seem to be an equal number of passenger to freight trains during the day.
Don't forget between San Jose and Oakland. There needs to be new passenger tracks because the existing alignment is rather awkward, and there's just some alignments that need to be replace period (i.e. the Cuesta Pass alignment)
 

Attachments

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
472
What exactly do the freight railroads demand concerning Denver RTD. Also the reason they went for electric was for environmental reasons.



This is the case with the BNSF Southern Transcon and the UPRR Sunset Route within SoCal (it's why the latter doesn't want any more Amtrak trains running on those tracks)



Don't forget between San Jose and Oakland. There needs to be new passenger tracks because the existing alignment is rather awkward, and there's just some alignments that need to be replace period (i.e. the Cuesta Pass alignment)
The reason why Denver's commuter rail is very nearly completely grade separated from freight traffic is that freight companies don't want their trains running under power lines. Or at least that's what I've read about it. There are a lot of problems with FasTracks, there....let's just say conservative construction schedule and political cowardess are at the top of the list.

Considering how anti rail UP tends to be and how easy it is to scare local governments into inaction in California, I'm not going to just take the railways word for it that flyovers would be necessary. Also, Denver has two flyovers around Union Station, with a slightly better reason. I would like to see third party confirmation of any claims railroads make about what would be necessary to expand passenger service. And even if one was necessary, that is an excuse for pressing further with service expansion.

I didn't mention the Oakland to San Jose portion of the Capitol because frankly it doesn't get the same amount of traffic as the line from the Port of Oakland to points East get. And it's already has an upgrade plan in the works.
 

NeueAmtrakCalifornia

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
144
The reason why Denver's commuter rail is very nearly completely grade separated from freight traffic is that freight companies don't want their trains running under power lines. Or at least that's what I've read about it. There are a lot of problems with FasTracks, there....let's just say conservative construction schedule and political cowardess are at the top of the list.
It's theoretically possible to have those freights run under the wire, as shown here (https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1BbF3QiAd-0/Ui9YbpGk-8I/AAAAAAAACC4/Skzmp1iCK5Q/s1600/container+clear+elec+lines.jpg).

Considering how anti rail UP tends to be and how easy it is to scare local governments into inaction in California, I'm not going to just take the railways word for it that flyovers would be necessary. Also, Denver has two flyovers around Union Station, with a slightly better reason.
I take it it's those two road overpasses (Also they really shouldn't have had made DUS a stub-end station since that's gonna kill a Denver-Pueblo and points south train).

I didn't mention the Oakland to San Jose portion of the Capitol because frankly it doesn't get the same amount of traffic as the line from the Port of Oakland to points East get. And it's already has an upgrade plan in the works.
How much traffic does Oakland-SJ have? If it's similarly light like the Coast Subdivision then California DOT can try to buy the tracks from UP (maybe hand over Tamien-Salinas to Caltrain). And what's its upgrade plan like?
 
Last edited:

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
472
It's theoretically possible to have those freights run under the wire, as shown here (https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-1BbF3QiAd-0/Ui9YbpGk-8I/AAAAAAAACC4/Skzmp1iCK5Q/s1600/container+clear+elec+lines.jpg).



I take it it's those two road overpasses (Also they really shouldn't have had made DUS a stub-end station since that's gonna kill a Denver-Pueblo and points south train).



How much traffic does Oakland-SJ have? If it's similarly light like the Coast Subdivision then California DOT can try to buy the tracks from UP (maybe hand over Tamien-Salinas to Caltrain). And what's its upgrade plan like?
I'm aware that running a freight train under a wire is possible, but it's not like our railways care to figure it out, or better yet it could have been an attempt to get the cost high enough that RTD would run out of money. And quite frankly it has. The B line to Fort Collins won't be finished until 2045 at the earliest.

The Capitol is planned to start using the same route the Starlight uses to travel between Oakland and San Jose. From what I can tell, they use part of the Western Pacific to get between somewhere in Oakland and Fremont now. The Starlight takes the more direct path. I know the railroad is concerned about local traffic along the more direct tracks, it runs right through an industrial area.

As for the overpasses. I'd still like to see some proof of their claimed necessity.

A stub end station isn't really that big of a deal. Worst case scenario the engineer would have to go to the other end of a push/pull train. And from that reading of done on Denver Union Station, it wasn't really used as a through station anyways. Most trains either ended there or had to do some weird maneuver to leave.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
345
Just a quick note to say that some Bay-Window and Wide-Cupola cabeese were 10' 10" wide.

Also remember these staggered three abreast airliner seats:
seats.jpg
A bit better but I still don't want to see them on a train.
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
472
I don't even get how those staggered seats are even supposed to be comfortable.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,816
I don't even get how those staggered seats are even supposed to be comfortable.
I'm not sure about that, either, having never seen them. The only thing I could imagine, is perhaps a bit more shoulder room? Maybe...there's not really enough offset to allow overlapping...
 

jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,074
I'm not sure about that, either, having never seen them. The only thing I could imagine, is perhaps a bit more shoulder room? Maybe...there's not really enough offset to allow overlapping...
That was the claim when they were marketed. I'm not sure whether any North American airline actually went for them. One of the concerns was rapid egress from window seats without injury in a darkened or smoke-filled airliner.
 
Top