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Smaller cars urged for Amtrak's Vermonter

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anonymous

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Source: United Transportation Union(UTU)

WATERBURY, Vt. -- Amtrak wants Vermont to participate in a rail demonstration project by buying new smaller passenger cars that could save the state money and increase ridership on the Vermonter passenger route that runs between St. Albans and New Haven, according to this report by Nancy Remsen published by the Burlington Free Press.

Agency of Transportation officials briefed two dozen lawmakers on the proposal Monday, saying they would like approval to order the new cars as early as September.

"I'm really enthusiastic about Amtrak and these cars," said Sen. Don Collins, D-Franklin, who is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee that will make a recommendation on the proposal. "It has the possibility to take rail in Vermont into the 21st century."

Sen. Robert Starr, D-Essex/Orleans, had a different reaction.

"The way I look at this, we are buying a pig in a poke," Starr said. The state would be responsible for buying and maintaining the new, untried cars while still paying Amtrak to operate them, he noted. He worried that state officials hadn't explored leasing rather than buying the new equipment.

Sam Lewis, director of operations at the Agency of Transportation, made the case for the state's participation in this demonstration of smaller cars. Currently Amtrak operates two big locomotives and train cars with seats for 400 passengers for its run to St. Albans because that configuration is needed on the southern end of the line as it travels to New York and Washington. In Vermont, Lewis said, "We are pulling empty seats with more power than is needed."

Under the demonstration project, passengers for the Vermont leg of the trip would switch in New Haven, Conn., to smaller cars called diesel multiple units.

"Amtrak came to us and said we'd like to try something -- to see what the new DMUs can do on inter-city routes," Lewis said. He noted that Amtrak would provide the state with $2 million to help with transition costs, retooling a maintenance facility and marketing.

The Federal Rail Administration has said it would loan the state the $17.5 million to buy five cars, with no payments due for the first three years -- the duration of the demonstration, Lewis explained. The loan would be for 20 years at 4.5 percent interest.

Lewis estimated the state would save $4.25 million during the three-year demonstration because the new cars require smaller crews and less fuel.

The state considered another source of cars, Farmrail, which is interested in reconditioning some 50-year-old smaller cars.

"Farmrail represents more risk to us," Lewis argued. Costs could be higher on rebuilt equipment compared to new, he said. Also Amtrak wouldn't provide its $2 million grant if the state bought those cars.

Lewis noted that the switch to smaller cars would be only on the Vermonter line. The Ethan Allen line, which runs from Rutland to New York, would still use the older, larger equipment. Lewis said, "We thought we shouldn't jump in with both feet."

Neale Lunderville, who took over Monday as Secretary of the Agency of Transportation, said he had reviewed the feasibility of this project months ago in his former job as an advisor to Gov. Jim Douglas. He said, "The governor is very enthusiastic about this."

"With a new train and new faster service, coupled with some marketing money, we can make it an attractive option," Lunderville said.

Many of the lawmakers listening to the presentation were intrigued by the possibilities.

"I'm willing to look at it," said House Transportation Chairman Richard Westman, R-Cambridge. He wants to be sure the state can resell the cars if the project flops. He said there also needs faster travel times on the route.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, nodded her approval of the project and its finances. "I think it is definitely something we should look at."

Senate Transportation Chairman Richard Mazza, D-Chittenden/Grand Isle, also cheered the chance to try the new cars and save money. "I support passenger rail."

Mazza said he especially liked that Amtrak would provide money to market the train service. Currently, he said, "The promotion is terrible. You don't know where to buy tickets. The stations are always closed. It can only get better, not worse."

Transportation officials promised to provide lawmakers with more information over the coming weeks. They will ask the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee to approve the purchase plan at its Sept. 19 meeting.

Lewis said the Colorado Rail Car Co. would need 14 months to fill Vermont's order for five cars. If ordered promptly, service with the new equipment could start in late 2007.

(The preceding report by Nancy Remsen was published by the Burlington Free Press on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006.)
 

jamesontheroad

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Er, why not just unhook two of the cars for part of the journey? Leave them in Springfield, Battleboro or New Haven (wherever it is that the train's passenger number start to tail off) and hook them back on when the train returns south the next day. Although this might have some implications for cabbage, because the train has to turn at Palmer, MA.

I know I may bore people with my fervour for cross-border services, but now that the route of the Washingtonian / Montréaler / Vermonter has been cut back to St. Albans, it's going to be an uphill struggle justifying the route's existence that far north. I don't know of the state of the permanent way, but I'd support exactly the opposite of this idea: restoring the route all the way to Montréal to offer more choice for cross-border services (connections to Boston would be a no-brainer while we're at it) and to encourage a full service to be maintained on the route through Vermont.

Jeez, I love that, we're spending too much money, so let's invest in an untried technology and fleet... if it fails, well hey-ho, we'll just sell the railcars to someone else. I see they've been making the coffee extra strong in the 'Route Killing' department this week.

*j*
 
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The Metropolitan

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Source: United Transportation Union(UTU)
WATERBURY, Vt. -- Amtrak wants Vermont to participate in a rail demonstration project by buying new smaller passenger cars that could save the state money and increase ridership on the Vermonter passenger route that runs between St. Albans and New Haven,
Is it just me, or does that sound somewhat counter-intuitive? I guess they're hinting that the newness of the cars would be a draw.

Since the Vermonter is essentially an extended version of a full-fledged Corridor Regional Train, I can imagine that the smaller cars may either (a) have issues on the rest of the NE Corridor's demand, or (B) require that the line be cut back between St. Albans and New Haven or New York. This might actually discourage ridership! :huh:
 

AlanB

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Er, why not just unhook two of the cars for part of the journey? Leave them in Springfield, Battleboro (wherever it is that the train's passenger number start to tail off) and hook them back on when the train returns south the next day.
Actually it's not so much about the extra cars, which could just as easily be dropped off in New Haven when the Electric motor is taken off. It's about the two engines that are used on the train north of New Haven. There is a considerable expense there in fuel, as well as wear and tear on the engines. The two engines are basically a requirement, since the only connection north from Springfield requires that the train reverse direction, so you must have a cab on each end.

During the summer months Amtrak sometimes uses a cab car to eliminate the second engine, but I understand that during the winter months the cab car is not a viable alternative.

What I don't understand is why Amtrak and Vermont don't consider creating a few new cabbaggage's. Find a few older engines, demotor them and use them on the Vermonter. That would most likely be cheaper than new DMU's.

That said, there is a certain amount of logic to using DMU's too. Doing so still leaves you with two sources of power, in case one breaks down, and it probably would use less fuel than a P42 hauling 2 or 3 cars and a cabbaggage. In fact under David Gunn Amtrak was already considering DMU's for the Springfield Mass to New Haven service. The DMU would probably be ideally suited for that run. I'm less certain that it is the correct answer for the Vermonter.
 

jamesontheroad

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I'm less certain that it is the correct answer for the Vermonter.
Good point - remember that 55/57 (southbound) takes just under eight hours to ride St. Albans - New Haven.

I believe that this is the type of train that they'd be looking at...

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=7068

..probably using two streamlined DMU railcars hooked back to back. I'm guessing that these units (you'd need two train sets) would do a daily round trip from St. Albans to New Haven, with connections to Acela and Regionals to New York and Washington.

And yes, the word 'fugly' springs to mind when I see that train.

How much would be required to re-engineer the junction at Palmer, MA? More or less than two new railcars?

*j* :blink:
 
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AlanB

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Since the Vermonter is essentially an extended version of a full-fledged Corridor Regional Train, I can imagine that the smaller cars may either (a) have issues on the rest of the NE Corridor's demand, or (B) require that the line be cut back between St. Albans and New Haven or New York. This might actually discourage ridership! :huh:
I somehow think that the need for a transfer in New Haven, even though it would be an across the platform transfer, will hurt ridership. As I noted in my post above, the Inland Route to Springfield had been consider by David as a place to run DMU's. But that route caters more to business people, than long distance riders. That means less luggage to haul from one train across the plat, to the DMU.

In the case of the Vermonter, we're going to see a lot more luggage. The need to move that luggage IMHO will hurt ridership, especially to/from cities south of New York. New cars for half the ride aren't going to sway people's minds when they have to make a mad dash across the platform in New Haven while hauling luggage, just to get good seats again.
 

AlanB

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I believe that this is the type of train that they'd be looking at...
..probably using two streamlined DMU railcars hooked back to back. I'm guessing that these units (you'd need two train sets) would do a daily round trip from St. Albans to New Haven, with connections to Acela and Regionals to New York and Washington.

And yes, the word 'fugly' springs to mind when I see that train.

How much would be required to re-engineer the junction at Palmer, MA? More or less than two new railcars?

*j* :blink:
That is precisely the cars that they are talking about, although they would not be the bi-levels that you see in the photo. They would only be single level cars do to the need to pass under the NEC's catenary. The article doesn't actually say what type of car, but based upon the 60 seats per car quoted, I have to believe that they are looking at the single level version.

Upon re-reading the original article, I note that the initial configuration would be one powered car and one trailer with no motor. That of course blows my theory about having extra power in case one dies.

As for the junction at Palmer, I've been told that the problem isn't so much the cost, it's the fact that you'd be building the line right through the middle of the town.
 
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Guest_Gyuri_FT_*

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I can imagine Siemens "Desiro" VT642 DMU sets.

http://www.transportation.siemens.com/ts/e...iro/concept.htm

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/comm...Sofia-gruev.JPG

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/comm...sti_station.jpg

http://www.railfaneurope.net/pix/ro/diesel...6-2508-8-1-.jpg

http://www.railfaneurope.net/pix/ro/diesel...misc/Desiro.jpg

Actually, Desiro is not new to US: they are part of the Oceanside-Escondido project in California.

http://www.railway-technology.com/contract...rt4/press4.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprinter_(passenger_rail)

However, the US Federal Railway Administration rules effectively prohibit the use of lightweight DMUs in the United States, so my brain hurts again. I guess, Oceanside-Escondido is considered a "light rail" project.

Having such restrictive rules no wonder, new cars are diffilult to find. Wonder, how much technical backround and how much lobby is in US Federal Railway Administration rules. <_<
 

battalion51

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Ok here's my two cents. If the state of Vermont actually bites and buys these DMU's somebody deserves a swift kick in the butt. The DMU's are a terrible design with absolutely no power whatsoever. With a direct transmission (like a car) rather than traction motors it makes for terrible acceleration, which will only lengthen an already long schedule. The New England Central is in terrible shape with about four or five pages worth of Slow Orders between Palmer and St. Albans. Even Tri-Rail will not be using their DMU's as true DMU's, instead there will be an engine on the rear pushing or pulling the train, and the cars will be used as trailers just like their Bombardier counterparts.

Now, as far as this two engine stuff goes, they are running the cab car with a great deal of success at this point in time, the crews are fine with it, it provides better overall handling, and fuel consumption has been cut. The reason why you would be hard pressed to see Cabbage on this train is due to the stick rail and geometry (or lack there of) on the New England Central. The units are too light and would bounce right off the rails.

While I do not disagree that there are two empty coaches on this train everyday between Springfield and St Albans there's not many alternatives to the P-42. Over powered trains are rampant in this system, Shuttles from New Haven to Springfield being the classic example. And of course there are other examples like the LSL Shuttles from ALB-BOS, a number of Midwest trains, and who can forget the five car Sunset Ltd with two motors. The problem isn't that the 42's provide too much horsepower, the problem is the engines were designed wrong. With an HEP package that's integrated to the Prime Mover rather than a separate HEP package like many commuter roads have you are burning a lot more fuel than you need to. A P-42 running HEP runs at 900 Horsepower or roughly the 6-7th Notch. So rather than burning small amounts of fuel on the separate HEP package and letting the Prime Mover do its job you're always running at a high RPM. Also contributing is the fact that no one seems to understand the concept of Ground Power. Trains sit idle at stations with the HEP in Standby (720 RPM or about the 5-6th notch) while ground power boxes sit right next to the train unused. So rather than plugging in the train they would rather burn diesel and keep the engines running. I understand in Winter you have to keep the motors warm otherwise they'll never fire up, but there's no reason why in the heat of summer ground power can't be used.
 

JAChooChoo

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OK folks - time for a history lesson. In the pre-Amtrak New Haven era, and for the early Amtrak years, New Haven - Springfield service was all DMU.

Then most became thru Amfleet to NYC.

Then in 1980 Connecticut acquired 13 DMUs for Springfield-New Haven and other non-electrified routes. They only lasted 6 years.
 

George Harris

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"I can imagine Siemens "Desiro" VT642 DMU sets."

But only in Europe or somewhere else outside North America. A few years of running on the New England Central track or in reality most any other US track outside the Northeast Corridor, and they would be scrap metal.

These things are neither rugged, reliable, nor safe. They run in Escondido because that line has no freight. They do not come anywhere close to approaching the US FRA safety requirements and Siemens claims they can not be met, which is there way of saying, we don't know how to meet them.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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This article discusses how parts of Vermont's government are unhappy that the process of purchasing CRC DMUs isn't going faster. So the CRC DMUs may indeed be bought at some point.

The article does acknowlege the need to change trains in New Haven with the DMUs.

I'm a little confused about what they're saying about how many round trips a day there are going to be. There's a paragraph talking about the existing St Albans round trip and the Ethan Allen, and then a couple paragraphs later there's talk about being able to run three round trips, where it appears that they're talking about two new White River Junction to Springfield round trips, but they call them trips to New York and Washington (even though passengers will have to change trains) and don't mention the Ethan Allen in that paragraph, so presumably the three round trips in the future don't include the Ethan Allen, and there will be a total of four Vermont round trips operated by Amtrak.

Some of the accounting is fascinating:

Spaulding said the state would pay for the rail cars with a loan from the Federal Railroad Administration with the deal structured to minimize the impact on the state's debt. During the first year after the purchase, only 10 percent of the loan, or $1.8 million, would count against the state's debt obligation — an impact that Spaulding called minimal. If the state decides to keep the cars following the three-year trial period, the remainder of the loan would go on the books incrementally after that over three years, he said.
There's also something about how the economy has changed in the last year, and how that changes how much debt Vermont can occur. I'm confused by this, because bonds have to be paid back over a large number of future years. Wouldn't there be an expectation that over the life of the bonds, some years will be good, and others will be no so good? How does the last year's performance have much effect on that overall picture?

They're looking at getting three powered cars and two unpowered trailers. Is Tri-Rail running trains with one powered car and one unpowered trailer?
 

Walt

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I just rode the Vermonter a little while ago.

There was one "dead end" stop, where the train had to backup and retrace its track. It was at that stop, they switched the locomotive from one end of the train, to the other. IMHO, if the northbound had to "loose" a couple of passenger cars too, that would be the ideal spot. The train could pick them up later, on its return southbound trip.

There is no checked luggage. So, if passengers needed to move cars, it would just be their carry-on.
 

jis

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Actually, Desiro is not new to US: they are part of the Oceanside-Escondido project in California.
http://www.railway-technology.com/contract...rt4/press4.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprinter_(passenger_rail)

However, the US Federal Railway Administration rules effectively prohibit the use of lightweight DMUs in the United States, so my brain hurts again. I guess, Oceanside-Escondido is considered a "light rail" project.
Oceanside-Escondido, as well as the other two DLRT lines in the US, Austin TX and the NJT RiverLINE, operate under temporal separation with freight, which means that a DLRT and a freight cannot ever be on the railroad main line at the same time. That is how the issue of non-compliance with FRA Tier I buff strength requirements by the DLRTs are handled.

It is possible that eventually FRA will develop a well defined doctrine of Positive Train Separation which would allow mixing with significant and expensive upgrades to the signaling system and track layouts, but we are not there yet. Recently RiverLINE has gotten approval for one short segment to use Positive Train Separation even during daylight hours. It is a small step, but there are many more steps yet to go before something reasonable comes out of the FRA. Of course California is also working the issue since they want to run non-FRA compliant EMUs on the Peninsula Line mixed with FRA compliant stuff - well not mixed in the same trains, but in the traffic mix.

As for Vermont, if this were Europe or Japan a Vermont DMU would crawl up behind a New York train and hook up using a Scharfenberg coupler or equivalent, shut down its diesel engine and after a brief brake test the train would be on its way to NY. In the reverse direction, the DMU set would come attached to the rear of a Boston train and at New Haven would uncouple itself, power up the diesel engine, the Boston train would be on its way followed by the Vermont train.

At Morioka in Japan to Shinkansen trains a Komachi to Akita and a Tohoku to Morioka come in as a single train from Tkoy and split and the Komachi goes oof on its way. In the reverse direction the Komachi comes in and connects itself upto the Tohoku and off they go to Tokyo. Total stop at Morioka for the Komachi is about 3 minutes.

But as I said that would be the way if we were in Japan or Europe. But we are not. We are in the US. Here the best we will be able to do is a cross platform transfer.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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As for Vermont, if this were Europe or Japan a Vermont DMU would crawl up behind a New York train and hook up using a Scharfenberg coupler or equivalent, shut down its diesel engine and after a brief brake test the train would be on its way to NY. In the reverse direction, the DMU set would come attached to the rear of a Boston train and at New Haven would uncouple itself, power up the diesel engine, the Boston train would be on its way followed by the Vermont train.
At Morioka in Japan to Shinkansen trains a Komachi to Akita and a Tohoku to Morioka come in as a single train from Tkoy and split and the Komachi goes oof on its way. In the reverse direction the Komachi comes in and connects itself upto the Tohoku and off they go to Tokyo. Total stop at Morioka for the Komachi is about 3 minutes.

But as I said that would be the way if we were in Japan or Europe. But we are not. We are in the US. Here the best we will be able to do is a cross platform transfer.
I gather the brake test takes long enough that the schedule wouldn't be written for 3 minutes in the US, but couldn't it be done in ten minutes? It seems like the main problems are that there aren't going to be enough DMUs for the DMUs to travel to DC if they do indeed add additional round trips, possibly that tying up a platform track for ten whole minutes at New Haven might be a problem (but clearly there's enough available platform time for both trains to stop individually at New Haven, and there must be some layover space at or near New Haven for the Vermont DMU, too, so is there really no track somewhere to the west that they could tie up for 10 minutes to couple together?) and inertia against combining the trains like that. Coupling the DMUs should be easier than what the current Vermonter does in the sense that they add coaches at New Haven now, and those coaches temporarily need a switching locomotive, which shouldn't be needed to couple a Boston locomotive hauled train with a Vermont DMU.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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Upon re-reading the original article, I note that the initial configuration would be one powered car and one trailer with no motor. That of course blows my theory about having extra power in case one dies.
As for the junction at Palmer, I've been told that the problem isn't so much the cost, it's the fact that you'd be building the line right through the middle of the town.
Doesn't the powered car still have two diesels? It would probably accelerate very, very poorly on only one diesel, but would the acceleration be so poor that it wouldn't even be able to reach its destination at all?

If you could build a track with a 500 foot diameter, it looks like you could build a connecting track across the river and through an unbuilt area that would eliminate the need to back up (as far as I can tell from the Google Maps satellite photo, anyway). Looking at the curve between South Station and Back Bay makes me think that passenger trains can in fact deal with curves that tight. It certainly wouldn't be high speed, but it would be faster than reversing the train's direction.
 

Joel N. Weber II

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As for Vermont, if this were Europe or Japan a Vermont DMU would crawl up behind a New York train and hook up using a Scharfenberg coupler or equivalent,
Wouldn't it be best to use a coupler type that can automatically connect HEP, the air brakes, and maybe the MU controls, but that can also couple to a traditional Amtrak car that was built in 1980 and hasn't been modified since? The Wikipedia article seems to suggest that a type H coupler can automatically make all the connections but it also compatible with a standard modern variation of the Janney coupler. Then again, none of the current type H users are likely to care about being able to use the full wattage that Amtrak HEP can handle, so type H may not have been designed for that.

If there is a viable automatic coupler that's backward compatible, Amtrak ought to be able to retrofit some Amfleet cars with the fully automatic coupler to use as transition cars at the back of the trains that need to couple with DMUs.
 

George Harris

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The Wikipedia article seems to suggest that a type H coupler can automatically make all the connections but it also compatible with a standard modern variation of the Janney coupler.
However, if you go to the horse's mouth, www.aptastandards.com/portals/0/PRESS_pdfs/Mechanical%20Reaffirm/RP-M-002-98%20Inspection%20&%20Maintenance%20Type%20H-Tightlock.pdf you will find that Wikipiedia is incorrect. What you see in the picture in Wiki is a Type H coupler with the addition underneath of a set of electrical pins for the connection for low voltage wiring. A type H coupler has a large peg and socket arrangement to prevent vertical bypass of the couplers in case of large relative vertical movements between the cars.
 

Larry H.

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I may be missing something here, but why is a more or less local train using two engines when the City of New Orleans pulling superliner equipment only uses one?
 

Joel N. Weber II

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Go to Google Maps, and look up Palmer, MA. Springfield is to the west. Vermont is to the north. The track (which Google Maps should be showing you if you're in map mode) is set up such that you have to be going westbound to turn northbound, yet the Vermonter is going eastbound out of Springfield on the northbound run. The solution to this problem is to run the Vermonter backwards between Palmer and Springfield, and therefore the Vermonter needs, at the very least, a cab car on the back.
 
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transit54

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Go to Google Maps, and look up Palmer, MA. Springfield is to the west. Vermont is to the north. The track (which Google Maps should be showing you if you're in map mode) is set up such that you have to be going westbound to turn northbound, yet the Vermonter is going eastbound out of Springfield on the northbound run. The solution to this problem is to run the Vermonter backwards between Palmer and Springfield, and therefore the Vermonter needs, at the very least, a cab car on the back.
Just to expand on that, they always used cab cars on the route (at least in the last several years, which as long as I've lived in Burlington and had a need to ride it) until they introduced upgraded Keystone service in Pennsylvania. With the increased number of trains and the focus on quick turns at Harrisburg, the cab cars from the Vermonter (as well as perhaps some other trains) were assigned to the Keystone service. Or at least that's what I remember reading. Someone else on here also mentioned that the P42 was needed due to winter conditions - that could be, as I started riding a few years ago in May and the changeover happened in November of that year. But it never runs with a cab car now, its always two P42s.
 
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