Single level cars on the San Joaquin

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sttom

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Jan 23, 2019
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I was just wondering why there is an extra single level coach on the San Joaquin? Was a minimum axel count put on the San Joaquin? Also, what is the reason behind having a minimum number of axels on a train besides being an inconvenience to Amtrak? Also I put a picture of a San Joaquin train I saw this morning.
 

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GiantsFan

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Could be adding capacity to help people be socially distant on the train.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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Axle count requirements are instituted by the host railroad, often to ensure the train triggers signals. I have never been on the San Joaquin, but the presence of the Viewliner baggage car and the lack of any transition from the single level to bi-level cars makes me think this might be axle count related. They could also be deadheading but considering this is a stub-end route without a major facility at the end I doubt it.
 

Bob Dylan

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Axle count requirements are instituted by the host railroad, often to ensure the train triggers signals. I have never been on the San Joaquin, but the presence of the Viewliner baggage car and the lack of any transition from the single level to bi-level cars makes me think this might be axle count related. They could also be deadheading but considering this is a stub-end route without a major facility at the end I doubt it.
They are using Bags Cars for axle count cars on several routes. Don't be surprised if the Viewliner Diners start being used too!😣
 
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brianpmcdonnell17

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They are using Bags Cars for axle count cars on several routes. Don't CD surprised if the Viewliner Diners start being used too!😣
Yeah, I was just on the Missouri River Runner yesterday and there were three Viewliner baggage cars. Given that some Superliner trains are currently without full baggage cars I've also seen a lot of Viewliner IIs stored in Chicago.
 

TheTuck

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There are a handful of road crossings on the San Joaquin route which have activation timing issues with short trains. The BNSF is requiring Amtrak trains under 28 axles to slow down considerably at each of these crossings. Comets, bags, diners have all been used as deadhead cars from time to time. On a side note, starting tomorrow one of the SJ trainsets will be all comet cars so that more bilevel equipment can receive maintenance work.
 

roadman3313

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They are using Bags Cars for axle count cars on several routes. Don't CD surprised if the Viewliner Diners start being used too!😣
I am not sure if they still have the Viewliner Diners over here after the COVID related service reductions but I do recall seeing a Viewliner Diner (Frankfort) on the San Joaquin last fall (September-October 2019) and also another Viewliner Diner (Richmond) late last year (November-December 2019). It was nice to see nice new Viewliner-II Dining Cars (from the outside) as we normally do not have that opportunity out west, however it is unfortunate that they are just being used for the axles and not their originally intended purpose. As mentioned above, all are being used as Axle Count Cars due to BNSF crossing requirements in the Valley. San Joaquins have Coach/Baggage California Cars or the NPCU (Cabbage) to handle the baggage so the Viewliner Baggage car is generally just along for the ride (used for its axles).

On a side note, starting tomorrow one of the SJ trainsets will be all comet cars so that more bilevel equipment can receive maintenance work.
Thanks for the info. Will be interesting to see the makeup of the consists. Hopefully enough space to move around given all the social distancing in place. Also, manual doors with handles between cars and not automatic push buttons (as being advertised by Amtrak to use your foot to open doors for sanitary reasons). I know some crews latch them open before stops so that may help ease some concerns.
 

railiner

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Seems such a waste that some other solution can't be done, so as to not require "axle count cars"....the extra fuel burned to haul that "dead" weight, not to mention the wear and tear of simply rolling along...
 

amtrakpass

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Yeah I have seen all the justifications but still think something should be done to legally force all the railroads to run without excessive axel count restrictions. Boston's MBTA for instance runs 4 car plus engine trains with no speed restrictions up to 79 mph and their grade crossing warning system is no different than any of these other railroads.
 

Eric S

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Yeah I have seen all the justifications but still think something should be done to legally force all the railroads to run without excessive axel count restrictions. Boston's MBTA for instance runs 4 car plus engine trains with no speed restrictions up to 79 mph and their grade crossing warning system is no different than any of these other railroads.
TRAINS magazine had an article in the last few months that covered the issue. I don't have the magazine at hand right now, but I think the FRA was looking into the issue. I do not remember what the status of the FRA study was nor if there was any speculation what FRA might do with the results.
 

Anthony V

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On a different note but still on topic. Will the two Comet car trainsets regularly used on some San Joaquin trains be replaced with the new Siemens rolling stock once it's delivered? Also, how many of the San Joaquin trainsets (both single and bi-level) will be replaced by the new Siemens equipment?
 

rickycourtney

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On a different note but still on topic. Will the two Comet car trainsets regularly used on some San Joaquin trains be replaced with the new Siemens rolling stock once it's delivered? Also, how many of the San Joaquin trainsets (both single and bi-level) will be replaced by the new Siemens equipment?
Per the SJJPA business plan, the Comet car trainsets will be removed from the San Joaquins once the Siemens Venture trainsets are fully delivered.

The seven Siemens Venture trainsets should be more than enough to operate the seven current round trips. So bi-level equipment on the San Joaquin will probably be rare.

That said, there are no published plans on the bi-level equipment. There’s also no word on what will happen to the Comet car trainsets. They could sell them, hold on to them for use as spare equipment, or maybe keep them to use as starter equipment for the Coast Daylight.
 

nti1094

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They are using Bags Cars for axle count cars on several routes. Don't be surprised if the Viewliner Diners start being used too!😣
Oh they already have been used on the San Joaquin last winter as axle count cars. Although lately I have only seen comet cars used for that purpose.
 

sttom

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That said, there are no published plans on the bi-level equipment. There’s also no word on what will happen to the Comet car trainsets. They could sell them, hold on to them for use as spare equipment, or maybe keep them to use as starter equipment for the Coast Daylight.
My guess would be the California cars getting used on the Capitols at some point since an extension to Salinas is in the works and there presently isn't equipment to run that service. There was also some talk of expanding service east of Sacramento, so it'll probably end up there too.

The state of California was already pretty ambivalent towards expanding passenger trains pre COVID, I'm fairly certain that any expansion beyond the confines of the existing routes is pretty dead on arrival with the oncoming depression after COVID. Even if these problems weren't around, I still doubt the state would be interested in expanding passenger trains. We've had decades to work on the whole equipment shortage, track access and so on, but the state created local agencies to handle the day to day instead of handling things more directly. Which shows how serious they are. Instead of dealing with things like Virginia, they passed a law to create local agencies to deal with trains.
 

rickycourtney

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My guess would be the California cars getting used on the Capitols at some point since an extension to Salinas is in the works and there presently isn't equipment to run that service. There was also some talk of expanding service east of Sacramento, so it'll probably end up there too.
Yeah, I should have been more clear on that point. The bi-level equipment is definitely going to be reassigned to the Capitol Corridor, and I've heard rumors that they'll also be shifted to the Pacific Surfliner. (They could also shift the NorCal Surfliner cars to the Pacific Surfliner.)

All of California's routes in the state are in need of additional equipment, so displacing the bi-level equipment on the San Joaquins will help every route.
The state of California was already pretty ambivalent towards expanding passenger trains pre COVID, I'm fairly certain that any expansion beyond the confines of the existing routes is pretty dead on arrival with the oncoming depression after COVID. Even if these problems weren't around, I still doubt the state would be interested in expanding passenger trains. We've had decades to work on the whole equipment shortage, track access and so on, but the state created local agencies to handle the day to day instead of handling things more directly. Which shows how serious they are. Instead of dealing with things like Virginia, they passed a law to create local agencies to deal with trains.
Yeah, local leaders were so frustrated with Caltrans, they pushed to shift the three corridors to local control. IMHO, the local control (Joint Powers Authorities) model has worked out really well.

I'm not bullish that the Coast Daylight or service to Palm Springs will happen anytime soon... but the Comet cars are "paid for" and I'm not sure how much demand there would be for cars like them on the open market. Makes since to mothball them for now until there's a route to put them into service on.
 

sttom

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Yeah, local leaders were so frustrated with Caltrans, they pushed to shift the three corridors to local control. IMHO, the local control (Joint Powers Authorities) model has worked out really well.
I consider the JPAs more a failure than a success. Having an agency run by a board of people who also have to worry about cutting the lawn in parks and over seeing the dog catcher shouldn't be running trains. Having a board of resume padding politicians isn't smart because they end up planning services like SMART, where the Marin members of the board seem more willing to scuttle the service than build a functional rail service or the San Joaquin JPA thinking bringing back automats are a good idea or intercity service is comparable to commuter services. I know SMART is technically a district, but it is structured like a JPA in the sense that the board represents other agencies rather than geographic constituencies. It comes off as a perverse incentive to have the board of one agency be made up of people who are sitting representatives of some other entity who's constituents might thing the joint agency shouldn't exist. My point is, I'd rather have a state board appointed by resume padding politicians rather than resume padding and inept politicians running two things at the same time and having no idea how transportation works. I personally think the State never had any interest in increasing train service and if it weren't for the initiative system, we probably wouldn't have the system we have now.
 

rickycourtney

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Caltrans added the sixth round-trip to the San Joaquins in March 2002. For the next 10 years, they did nothing to improve the service, even with the "San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee" advocating for improvements.

Once the SJJPA stepped in, they were able to quickly add the seventh round-trip (planning for that began once there was a push to transfer the route to local control) and they have been adding improvements to add an eighth and ninth round-trip.

Has everything they've tried been successful? No. (see: Morning Express Service)
Are they trying harder than Caltrans did? Yes.
Is the governance more transparent? Absolutely.
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
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490
Caltrans added the sixth round-trip to the San Joaquins in March 2002. For the next 10 years, they did nothing to improve the service, even with the "San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee" advocating for improvements.

Once the SJJPA stepped in, they were able to quickly add the seventh round-trip (planning for that began once there was a push to transfer the route to local control) and they have been adding improvements to add an eighth and ninth round-trip.

Has everything they've tried been successful? No. (see: Morning Express Service)
Are they trying harder than Caltrans did? Yes.
Is the governance more transparent? Absolutely.
Its really not that hard to improve from ambivalence to the first iterations "pet project" and that is frankly my issue with the JPAs in general. They work fine if you need a place holder or to make a transition from one form of governance to another, but long term you can't have something as technical as a public transit system run as a pet project. The people on these boards don't run the train as their day job, its one of many things they have to worry about. Some local oversight could be argued for, but to say its the end state because its better than ambivalence isn't a selling point. The state doesn't like doing its duty of running things in California, but instead of forcing them to do it, we accept them kicking their responsibilities off onto other people just to keep them from having to make a decision about something. Their needs to be another option besides state level ambivalence or local incompetence in California. Which means having more of a discussion about the role of government and who should handle what more broadly instead of the default notion of "just create another agency" which even the Bay Area is starting to realize that doing so is wasteful and doesn't come to better or even comparable results to states that do things in a more centralized way.
 
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