Why Superliners and Not Viewliners?

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JohannFarley

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This is something I've been thinking about and researching for quite some time. I was wondering what the reason was that Amtrak went with superliners in the west. I know the viewliners are in the east because of height restrictions in tunnels, but surely they could have been used system-wide? I know the first superliners were made before the first viewliners, this is more of a hypothetical single vs double level cars. I found some figures which I will post below, please correct me if anything is incorrect:

Superliners

Price Per Car (1978) - 1.2 million

Adjusted for Inflation (2012) - Approx. 4.3 million

Rooms - 14 roomettes, 6 bedrooms, 1 accessible bedroom

Weight - Approx. 80-85 tons

Top Speed - 100 mph

Viewliners

(The price each is from dividing the total cost of the CAF order by the number of cars, its just an approximation)

Price per car (VII's) - 2.3 million

Rooms - 12 roomettes, 2 bedrooms, 1 accessible bedroom

Weight - 65 tons

Top Speed - 110/125 mph (VI/VII)

It would seem to me that it would have been better to get all viewliners (or an equivalent single-level fleet), because they are cheaper, lighter, faster. They are only 1 floor so they are much easier to traverse. They may have 6 less rooms, but 2 viewliners can be bought for approx the same price as a superliner. So you could have one superliner for 4.6 mil with 21 rooms, or you could have two viewliners for the same price with 30 rooms. Just curious as to others opinions on this and to why the west coast has superliners.
 

Karl1459

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High platform vs low platform boarding. A commitment to single level and compliance with ADA rules would require the investment to rebuild all platform infrastructure in the West. The private railroads don't want them, Congress won't fund them, not going to happen.
 

JohannFarley

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Ah gotcha. I knew there had to be a reason. Just one question though, aren't the stations that Amtrak stop at owned by them?
 

A Voice

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This is something I've been thinking about and researching for quite some time. I was wondering what the reason was that Amtrak went with superliners in the west. I know the viewliners are in the east because of height restrictions in tunnels, but surely they could have been used system-wide? I know the first superliners were made before the first viewliners, this is more of a hypothetical single vs double level cars. I found some figures which I will post below, please correct me if anything is incorrect:

Superliners

Price Per Car (1978) - 1.2 million

Adjusted for Inflation (2012) - Approx. 4.3 million

Rooms - 14 roomettes, 6 bedrooms, 1 accessible bedroom

Weight - Approx. 80-85 tons

Top Speed - 100 mph

Viewliners

(The price each is from dividing the total cost of the CAF order by the number of cars, its just an approximation)

Price per car (VII's) - 2.3 million

Rooms - 12 roomettes, 2 bedrooms, 1 accessible bedroom

Weight - 65 tons

Top Speed - 110/125 mph (VI/VII)

It would seem to me that it would have been better to get all viewliners (or an equivalent single-level fleet), because they are cheaper, lighter, faster. They are only 1 floor so they are much easier to traverse. They may have 6 less rooms, but 2 viewliners can be bought for approx the same price as a superliner. So you could have one superliner for 4.6 mil with 21 rooms, or you could have two viewliners for the same price with 30 rooms. Just curious as to others opinions on this and to why the west coast has superliners.
The first production Viewliners did not appear until the mid-90's, or nearly twenty years after the Superliner design. It wasn't a platform issue, at least at the time (low-level Heritage equipment was used in the west prior to the Superliner I, and in a few cases even later), but rather a follow-on to the generally well regarded ex-Santa Fe "Hi-level" cars (five of which survive on Amtrak today as Coast Starlight Parlor cars).

The low-level design of the period were the Amfleet cars, based on the late 60's Metroliner design, hence why we have Amfleet II coaches and lounges on eastern trains.
 
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JohannFarley

Service Attendant
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Messages
130
This is something I've been thinking about and researching for quite some time. I was wondering what the reason was that Amtrak went with superliners in the west. I know the viewliners are in the east because of height restrictions in tunnels, but surely they could have been used system-wide? I know the first superliners were made before the first viewliners, this is more of a hypothetical single vs double level cars. I found some figures which I will post below, please correct me if anything is incorrect:

Superliners

Price Per Car (1978) - 1.2 million

Adjusted for Inflation (2012) - Approx. 4.3 million

Rooms - 14 roomettes, 6 bedrooms, 1 accessible bedroom

Weight - Approx. 80-85 tons

Top Speed - 100 mph

Viewliners

(The price each is from dividing the total cost of the CAF order by the number of cars, its just an approximation)

Price per car (VII's) - 2.3 million

Rooms - 12 roomettes, 2 bedrooms, 1 accessible bedroom

Weight - 65 tons

Top Speed - 110/125 mph (VI/VII)

It would seem to me that it would have been better to get all viewliners (or an equivalent single-level fleet), because they are cheaper, lighter, faster. They are only 1 floor so they are much easier to traverse. They may have 6 less rooms, but 2 viewliners can be bought for approx the same price as a superliner. So you could have one superliner for 4.6 mil with 21 rooms, or you could have two viewliners for the same price with 30 rooms. Just curious as to others opinions on this and to why the west coast has superliners.
The first production Viewliners did not appear until the mid-90's, or nearly twenty years after the Superliner design. It wasn't a platform issue, at least at the time, but rather a follow-on to the generally well regarded ex-Santa Fe "Hi-level" cars (five of which survive on Amtrak today as Coast Starlight Parlor cars).

The low-level design of the period were the Amfleet cars, based on the late 60's Metroliner design, hence why we have Amfleet II coaches and lounges on eastern trains.
I knew about the Hi-Level cars, and I can understand the good feelings based on how Santa Fe used them. I was just curious because with the way Amtrak seems to be funded i would have figured they would have gone with a cheaper option rather than the superliners :D and maybe developed something akin to the viewliners earlier in their history. Just my thoughts.
 

MikefromCrete

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In my opinion, the Superliners are superior to any single-level equipment. The ride, at least on the upper level, is smooth, the interiors are roomier and since they haul more passengers per car, are more efficient. Most commuter railroads, outside the northeast corridor, use double-leve equipment. More passengers per car, fewer number of cars needed, more efficient.
 
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JohannFarley

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That's true. Although I would also argue some of the tracks the viewliner consists travel on are worse than the ones superliners do. But the efficiency argument is a pretty good one
 

west point

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If a SL train is shorter than a single level that may prevent a double stop at stations with shorter platforms. With the low levels of the SLs passengers can board on and off quicker reducing station dwell times.
 
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JohannFarley

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Yeah, that's true. I suppose the real issue isn't the cars themselves but the stations they service which are not made for high level loading cars. Although they could have had single level cars that loaded low like old budds which had the flip down stairs under the doors. But regardless, this is all hypothetical of course because its already been done for a long time I was just curious of the motivations behind more expensive double-deckers.
 
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Philly Amtrak Fan

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In my opinion, the Superliners are superior to any single-level equipment. The ride, at least on the upper level, is smooth, the interiors are roomier and since they haul more passengers per car, are more efficient. Most commuter railroads, outside the northeast corridor, use double-leve equipment. More passengers per car, fewer number of cars needed, more efficient.
I believe NJT even uses bi-level on its NYP-TRE trains. I would be all for bi-level LD trains as well. Could Viewliner design a shorter bi-level?
 

Ryan

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Not with an acceptable amount of headroom. Also, commuter multilevels (not really bilevels, since they also have mid-height boarding and passage between cars) don't let you move through the train without constantly going up and down stairs. Not a problem for someone with mobility issues on a commuter train, much more of an issue on a LD train where you're going to want to move to the cafe/lounge/dining car at some point.
 

JohannFarley

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NJT does use bilevels and while they do hold many more people the way they are designed makes them feel very cramped, especially when full. Bilevels on the NEC have to be split level where they connect with a door at single level height and then splits into an upper level that's slightly higher and slower level that is lower than a normal car. Yeah one of the things I was curious about is that the accessible bedroom on a superliner is downstairs, which of course makes sense since they board from the lower level, but surely that doesn't make sense if the occupant wants to traverse the train like going to the cafe?
 
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Thirdrail7

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In my opinion, the Superliners are superior to any single-level equipment. The ride, at least on the upper level, is smooth, the interiors are roomier and since they haul more passengers per car, are more efficient. Most commuter railroads, outside the northeast corridor, use double-leve equipment. More passengers per car, fewer number of cars needed, more efficient.
Well, the NEC is also equipped with catenary which allows for electric engines to haul more cars with little effort when you compare it with a diesel. It also allows for MU operation, in which you can have a long train that requires little effort to move. Remember when Metro-North operated their "triplets?"

Not with an acceptable amount of headroom. Also, commuter multilevels (not really bilevels, since they also have mid-height boarding and passage between cars) don't let you move through the train without constantly going up and down stairs. Not a problem for someone with mobility issues on a commuter train, much more of an issue on a LD train where you're going to want to move to the cafe/lounge/dining car at some point.
There is also the lingering luggage problem.
 
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neroden

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The core motivation for bilevels is getting more people into each car. Remember how I keep going on about how important economies of scale are to railroads? Well, this is another economy of scale.
 

JohannFarley

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The core motivation for bilevels is getting more people into each car. Remember how I keep going on about how important economies of scale are to railroads? Well, this is another economy of scale.
I know, as a company like any other, government controlled or not, efficiency and cost effectiveness is the most important thing. But to me, it would seem more advantageous to them to go for a more comfortable experience than inexpensive, because, at least in the case of long distance, I feel that people are willing to pay a little more for a more comfortable experience with more amenities. (Especially with the cost of airlines and the fairly poor level of comfort they offer for the most part) But of course, for a company like Amtrak, I know that can be a BIG risk to take, so the cost effective option is always the first choice. We live in a quality vs. quantity world and sadly most have to choose quantity.
 
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neroden

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At the time, the Superliners were thought to be more comfortable than the then-current Amfleet single-levels. Which is probably true; the Amfleets are a misbegotten design. They were probably more comfortable than the Heritage cars, too. Nobody was thinking about the cramped design of the staircase (look at the entrance steps on Heritage and Amfleet cars). Nobody had images of spacious Viewliner coaches in their heads.

Yeah, looking back, we'd probably design a nice ADA-compliant Viewliner coach, but that was too visionary at the time.

====

This reminds me of the thing which has been most jaw-dropping to me in learning about history -- something totally unrelated. During the early development of nuclear weapons in the US, and in Russia, during WWII, *absolutely nobody involved was thinking about radioactive fallout*. Nobody! They were just thinking of them as large bombs. They were not thinking of the "posion the earth" aspect. It's absolutely mind-boggling today, because the fallout and toxic waste are the primary things we think about with regard to nuclear bombs. Truman doesn't even mention it in his ethical considerations before dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, and neither do any of his advisors. Not until roughly 1950 were there anyone in power even *thinking* about the problem. It's completely jaw-dropping.

Anyway, the general moral here is that something which seems incredibly obvious today may have been completely, utterly ignored by our predecessors.
 
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JohannFarley

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At the time, the Superliners were thought to be more comfortable than the then-current Amfleet single-levels. Which is probably true; the Amfleets are a misbegotten design. They were probably more comfortable than the Heritage cars, too. Nobody was thinking about the cramped design of the staircase (look at the entrance steps on Heritage and Amfleet cars). Nobody had images of spacious Viewliner coaches in their heads.

Yeah, looking back, we'd probably design a nice ADA-compliant Viewliner coach, but that was too visionary at the time.
It just happened to be what was easier to design at the time, which makes sense

EDIT: As far as your bomb edit; Looking back in hindsight solutions to everything look completely obvious. History is great isn't it? That's why its my major.
 
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neroden

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The thing about the disregard of nuclear fallout is that they already *knew* about (a) radioactive decay chains, (b) fallout, and © the biological dangers of radioactive material, from the Radium Girls cases (which were famous and made the New York Times and newspapers around the world) among others. Both the physics and the biology were well-understood by the early 1930s. So the people working on nuclear bombs in the 1940s actually had no excuse whatsoever for ignoring fallout. It was criminal negligence.

It's as jaw-dropping as the approval of tetraethyl lead in gasoline. Apart from the already existing evidence that lead was extremely poisonous, and specifically that it made people dumb, crazy, and violent -- evidence dating back to before the Roman Empire -- TEL in particular was already known to be driving the factory workers who produced it criminally insane, causing them to murder their families (if they didn't just drop dead with delerium on the factory floor). That's a case of the most spectacularly evil corruption in history, because there were massive protests against it at the time; Al Sloan and Kettering basically bought fake scientists, bought the judges, and bought the regulators in order to get it accepted.
 
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JohannFarley

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And the people of Amtrak already knew how single level cars worked, as railroads had used them since the beginning of railroading :D However in this case it wasn't criminal negligence it was just convenient ignorance
 

neroden

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Well, actually, what I was trying to say was that Amtrak carefully considered the benefits and problems with single-level and bi-level cars... but completely forgot about handicapped accessibility. Didn't even figure it into their planning. Which is excusable in the mid-1970s, though not great (Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1973).
 
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JohannFarley

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Ah ok, yeah the times have moved on and there is a lot more pro-accessibility which I am all for as someone with a disabled father. He's always wanted to go cross country on the train but he is wheelchair bound 75% of the time, he can walk with some assistance. So if we were ever to do that he would need to be in the accessible room, and would most likely have to stay in it for the duration of the trip, which is not fun in the slightest. A single level train would be much more traverseable for him as there would be no stairs and it would be a lot easier for someone else to help him walk down the train. I guess that was my main motivation behind asking the benefits of double level cars, especially on long distance trains.
 

neroden

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My fiancee has severe rheumatoid arthritis in her knees and extreme difficulty with stairs, uses a wheelchair part time and will probably eventually have to use one most of the time -- so I've had exactly the same thoughts! :)
 

JohannFarley

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Because of this it has always been my dream to become successful and own my own private car to let him realize his dream and travel across the country. I know thats a pretty ambitious dream but if they won't supply the necessary means, I'll have to do it instead. Also its because I look at the old California Zephyr or Super Chief or City of Los Angeles and wish we could have those majestic long trains back but that seems to be an unreal dream at least in the present and near future.
 
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