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Viewliner II - Part 1 - Initial Production and Delivery

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neroden

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If Amtrak wanted to get more baggage cars, they would go ahead and exercise some of the options, not change the current production run. I could be wrong, but I doubt that we will see any of the options exercised on the CAF contract. The LD division is being told to keep costs down, both operating and capital.
If that is really what's going on, then Boardman is a complete idiot. Costs are not the problem for the eastern "long-distance" trains; revenues are. And revenues are suppressed partly due to capacity constraints. But I have two other hypotheses about this.

Second hypothesis: I think this is really a cash management & timing thing.

* There is an exceptional crunch on cash required for capital financing in FY2014, due to the Early Buyout Options and Lease Terminations on the P42s, Superliners, and Surfliners. It looks like Amtrak probably had to take out about $196.5 million in short-term commercial loans for this refinancing. Most of that is allocable to the long-distance business line. Amtrak's going to be doing its best to pay down as much as possible of that ASAP. (The refinancing needs drop significantly in subsequent years, and by 2017 it's all for NEC equipment Amtrak which is trying to get rid of.) There is a further cash crunch in 2014 & 2015 to meet the PTC requirements. Due to the exceptional cash crunch this year, it is advantageous to Amtrak (though not to CAF) to postpone expenditures into later fiscal years.

* This year and 2015 are also bad ones for the eastern LD trains due to poor host railroad performance and massive trackwork projects (including SunRail, Englewood, etc.). So the added revenue capacity from new sleepers isn't nearly as valuable *this* year with terrible OTP as it will be in 2016 after much of that stuff is hopefully resolved.

* The plans for new sleeper deployment have been associated with refurbishing the Viewliner Is, which is going to cost additional cash.

* The Heritage baggage cars are clearly falling apart. The last fleet plan proposed keeping some of them, which is unlikely to work; and several of the Eastern trains have baggage loads which are evidently too large for one bag-dorm anyway. So the new baggage cars are needed *ASAP*.

Some of the options need to be exercised for sleeper capacity expansion, period. 75 sleepers for the Eastern fleet is simply not enough to keep up with demand, particularly with the dining car and cafe car crews occupying roomettes. But the options can't possibly be exercised this year, given the cash situation; top priority for spare cash is almost certainly the lease refinancings. Amtrak probably doesn't have a chance of having the cash to exercise the options until FY 2016, due to the cleanup of the old leases. Right now, Amtrak is saying that it expects the 130 cars in the main order to be delivered by the "end of 2015" (presumably December), which would still give Amtrak a chance to go after the option in FY2016.

A third, perhaps even more likely, possibility:

It is, of course, also possible that Amtrak has decided that bag-dorms are a bad idea period (that they should strictly go with full baggage cars and full sleeping cars)... but that CAF has already built 10 bag-dorm shells. That would account for the slightly embarassed refusal by Amtrak to comment on the change in plan.

Note that 10 bag-dorms is certainly not enough to make a reasonable-sized fleet. For those speculating on the allocation of the 10 bag-dorms, remember that Amtrak will want a "protect car" at each terminal for a train which uses a bag-dorm. Amtrak will also want a 20% shop count. So really in order to avoid the overextension of the fleet, only 6 or 7 out of the 10 should be in service at a time, and that's if they're on routes which share the same terminals (i.e. Cardinal and LSL, or Star and Meteor). There are economies of scale in the allocation of "protect cars" if you have a larger fleet.
 
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William W.

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The Cardinal doesn't really need a full baggage car. There are few staffed stations along the route, and I've never seen the baggage car ever be close to full. Here's how I would see bag-dorm allocation: Cardinal (2), 448/449 (3), 66/67 (2), with three leftover. I'm not sure where those three would go. If the Cardinal becomes daily, that would mean that only one or two would be left over. The remaining cars could be used during holidays, or perhaps on a future new route (Pennsylvanian through car maybe?).
Why would the bag-dorm go on the Boston section of the LSL? The diner crew operates out of NYP, so they would not have a room until the BOS section of the LSL showed up. And they would have to vacate their rooms at Albany going eastbound. If the LSL gets a bag-dorm, it goes with the diner car.
As for #66/#67, why would it get a bag-dorm? It does not have a diner car. If sleeper rooms and roomettes are to be restored to #66/#67, it would be with a full sleeper car.

The Silvers with 4 consists each could fit the allocation of 10 bag-dorm cars. Oh well, more equipment allocation and deployment sequence stuff to speculate on for the next 6 to 12 months.
Good point on the LSL.

As for 66/67, my thought was that there may not be enough demand to warrant a full sleeper. A bag-dorm has 9(?) roomettes, and they could all be sold as revenue space, since the cafe doesn't close. In addition, I can't imagine that there would be much baggage, so a bag-dorm seems like the best of both worlds. If the sleeper space does end up regularly selling out, then they could consider replacing the bag-dorm with a full sleeper.

I'd still be willing to bet that the Cardinal would be the train most likely to get bag-dorms. Low baggage usage frees up full baggages cars for other trains, and the high demand for sleepers necessitates a maximization of revenue space. This is especially true, if for whatever reason, they decide not to immediately add a second full sleeper to the Cardinal.
 

rrdude

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If Amtrak is cutting amenities, (flowers on table, cloth covers, wine, chz, "freshly" prepared entrees, china, glass, amenities kits, etc.) WHY don't they go after a HUGE non-rev segment? FREE BAGGAGE. Start charging $25 per-checked-bag.

I'm shocked Mica, et all, haven't railed at the "free baggage problem".... I mean "diners don't make money, lounges don't make money," why are baggage cars getting a free pass from microscopic micromanagement?

I'll betcha the increase in baggage revenue would WAY offset the drop in reservations due to a a newly introduced fee.
 
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The Davy Crockett

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If Amtrak is cutting amenities, (flowers on table, cloth covers, wine, chz, "freshly" prepared entrees, china, glass, amenities kits, etc.) WHY don't they go after a HUGE non-rev segment? FREE BAGGAGE. Start charging $25 per-checked-bag.
Good question!

And while we are at it, more for bikes since they take up a lot of space.

I'm shocked Mica, et all, haven't railed at the "free baggage problem".... I mean "diners don't make money, lounges don't make money," why are baggage cars getting a free pass from microscopic micromanagement?
Maybe because baggage ain't sexy!?! :blink:

I'll betcha the increase in baggage revenue would WAY offset the drop in reservations due to a a newly introduced fee.
Agreed.
 
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jis

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Actually, the Baggage Dorm should be on the Boston section of the LSL, as that section should get far less baggage then the NY section.
There are aarguments to be made in favor of either scenario.
Argument for New York: Most of the staff that will be occupying the Dorm are from New York.

Argument against New York: Baggage from New York will overwhelm the Baggage part of the Bag Dorm.

Argument for Boston: Boston has less luggage and therefore the Dorm part of Bag Dorm will work well for Boston

Argument against Boston: Boston section has just two or three staff to occupy the Dorm part. So the Dorm part is an overkill for the Boston section while the much larger NY crew will have to wait until Albany to get their rooms and will have to stow their stuff somewhere on the train between New York and Albany.
 

afigg

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If Amtrak is cutting amenities, (flowers on table, cloth covers, wine, chz, "freshly" prepared entrees, china, glass, amenities kits, etc.) WHY don't they go after a HUGE non-rev segment? FREE BAGGAGE. Start charging $25 per-checked-bag.
Amtrak already reduced the number of free checked bags to 2 per passenger not long ago. If Amtrak copied some airlines and charged for each checked bag, the luggage storage areas on the Superliner and Viewliner sleepers and LD train coach cars would be overflowing. Similar to how crammed airplanes can get with carry-on luggage.
 

rickycourtney

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There are aarguments to be made in favor of either scenario.

Argument for New York: Most of the staff that will be occupying the Dorm are from New York.

Argument against New York: Baggage from New York will overwhelm the Baggage part of the Bag Dorm.

Argument for Boston: Boston has less luggage and therefore the Dorm part of Bag Dorm will work well for Boston

Argument against Boston: Boston section has just two or three staff to occupy the Dorm part. So the Dorm part is an overkill for the Boston section while the much larger NY crew will have to wait until Albany to get their rooms and will have to stow their stuff somewhere on the train between New York and Albany.
They should have plenty of room to stow their stuff in that full baggage car. :giggle:
 

The Davy Crockett

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If conductors actually enforced limits, that would be a start to this process.

And since Amtrak seems to be taking its cues from the airlines these days...

The airlines, and I appreciate FFs and FC get breaks, are way ahead when it comes to the curve on this one. They view all of us as carrion. :eek: I've also noticed greater enforcement, as well as perks like earlier boarding for checking carry-on at the gate, of late.
 

William W.

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I personally think that charging for baggage would be a bad idea. Amtrak needs to keep "goodies" like free baggage, and the ability to change a ticket without a fee as points of differentiation between them and the airlines. The revenue gained from charging for baggage would be offset by the ill-feelings that such a move would create.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that Amtrak is at the limit of what it can cut, service wise. The only things left are included meals for FC passengers, and the complimentary juice, water, and coffee. There is literally nothing left on the coach side of things. Cutting the included meals would mean the end of the LD trains, IMO. The juice and coffee could probably go, but how much would they really save by doing that?
 

The Davy Crockett

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I personally think that charging for baggage would be a bad idea. Amtrak needs to keep "goodies" like free baggage, and the ability to change a ticket without a fee as points of differentiation between them and the airlines. The revenue gained from charging for baggage would be offset by the ill-feelings that such a move would create.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that Amtrak is at the limit of what it can cut, service wise. The only things left are included meals for FC passengers, and the complimentary juice, water, and coffee. There is literally nothing left on the coach side of things. Cutting the included meals would mean the end of the LD trains, IMO. The juice and coffee could probably go, but how much would they really save by doing that?
I wouldn't be too sure about any of this. Is it a coincidence that NARP's new CEO and President Jim Mathews' background involves 26 years at Aviation Week?
 
G

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Hey guys a little off topic but do you guys think viewliner 2's may even make it to Via (Canadian Trains)?? I mean their heritage coaches (sleepers, diners, baggage, even coaches) are just as old as Amtrak's and they might need replacing soon? Anyone know? Thanks
 

William W.

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I don't think that VIA is in a position to purchase new LD rolling stock at this point. What they've got is what they've got.

Even if they were, the Viewliners only exist due to the lack of clearance in certain NEC tunnels, and the height of the catenary. If the clearance issues didn't exist, I think we'd probably see Superliners across the entire system.
 
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afigg

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Argument for New York: Most of the staff that will be occupying the Dorm are from New York.

Argument against New York: Baggage from New York will overwhelm the Baggage part of the Bag Dorm.
How do we know that checked baggage from NYP will overwhelm or fill up the baggage half of the bag-dorm car? Or at least would do so on a regular basis? I have not seen numbers provided by Amtrak on how many bags are checked on the LSL or other LD trains on average and for peak travel periods. Even though counts of checked bags does not tell one the total volume of the checked baggage, but if one assumes a typical checked bag is a large suitcase and uses that size as an average, could get a ballpark estimate of the volume and footprint of the checked baggage.
Amtrak has these numbers, we don't. I am not saying that the baggage half of a bag-dorm is going to always be big enough, my reaction is that without numbers or data from Amtrak, how do we know that baggage from NYP and south of Albany stops would exceed the capacity of the bag-dorm?

On my recent WAS-CHI trip on the LSL, we ran real late and got bussed at Toledo. This is a single data point for a less than full LSL so it has limited relevance, but from what I observed at Toledo, the crew loaded all the checked baggage on 1 baggage cart which they then moved to the buses. Now the baggage cart was full, with the bags carefully stacked up in a roughly 8' long by 6' wide base by 5' to 6' high pile. While an impressive pile, all the bags would have fit into a one corner of the baggage car. You and Nerodon may be right on the need for a full baggage car for some of the eastern LD trains over the course of the year, but I rather see some numbers that support that notion.
 

battalion51

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I think the concept behind the New York Bag Car would be rethought if they got the bag-dorm (which is the logical thing to do since the majority of the crew members are on the New York side). The New York side of the LSL only has one stop where baggage is handled, New York. So theoretically on departure from New York you need two piles: bags going to Chicago and bags not going to Chicago. The bags going to Chicago can remain there for the duration of the trip, and the bags going to intermediate destinations like Toledo and Cleveland can be transferred up to the full bag car at Albany. For the eastbound trip all New York bound bags are loaded into the dorm at Chicago, and then any residual pickups that occur en route are put in the main bag car. Those bags are transferred back to the dorm at Albany, and voila. There's no reason to have two working bag cars at one time, one is your workhorse, and the other is a shuttle.
 

afigg

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Not to mention Amtrak owns the Viewliner design.
Well, if VIA was interested in buying Viewliners for their fleet, I don't see why Amtrak would object provided Amtrak either got royalty payments or financial compensation. If VIA were to buy Viewliner diner, sleeper, baggage cars, they could team with Amtrak on spare part contracts which should lower the cost of spare parts for Amtrak. VIA is not going to operate in the US, so they would not compete with Amtrak, so they would be a safe partner for Amtrak.
But VIA does not appear to be in a financial position to buy new equipment for their LD trains. Despite the inadequate capital funding from Congress, Amtrak is in a state of robust financial health compared to VIA with a much better cost recovery ratio.
 

William W.

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I still don't know why VIA would ever consider buying Viewliners. As I pointed out earlier, the Viewliners were created to fill a specific need (single-level trains for the east).

VIA has no requirement for single-level trains. If they ever were to be in a position to purchase new cars, it would make the most sense for them to go with bi-levels.
 
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jis

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Argument for New York: Most of the staff that will be occupying the Dorm are from New York.

Argument against New York: Baggage from New York will overwhelm the Baggage part of the Bag Dorm.
How do we know that checked baggage from NYP will overwhelm or fill up the baggage half of the bag-dorm car? Or at least would do so on a regular basis?
I don't and neither does anyone else utside Amtrak AFAIK. I was just listing all the arguments that I have seen mentioned so far.
I know you appear to have a pretty strong feeling one way. I don't have any feeling either way. I just think one of the sections of the LSL is likely to get a bag dorm.

Of course almost anything else could happen too, including both sections getting a full bag and the NY section getting two additional sleepers. Who knows?
 
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