Quantcast

WSDOT retiring, selling Talgo trainsets, not acquiring "Wisconsin" trainsets yet

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

rickycourtney

Conductor
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Messages
1,802
Location
Fresno, CA
WSDOT has made it official... they are selling the Talgo Series VI trainsets and spare cars this summer.

Here's the page advertising the competitive bid process: Trainsets for sale | WSDOT

In a blog post, WSDOT made it clear that they intend to use Amtrak-owned Horizon train cars on the Cascades route until new trains are manufactured and delivered in the years ahead. (WSDOT has previously stated that they are interested in joining Amtrak's national equipment replacement contract, but has also expressed interest in the Siemens Venture trainsets.)

Also quoting this important part of the blog post:
"In addition, the Talgo Series 8 equipment owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation will continue to operate in the corridor and Amtrak is evaluating adding other interim equipment as demand for service increases."
I asked WSDOT's spokesperson if that means the "Wisconsin" Talgo Series 8 trainsets are not coming to the Amtrak Cascades. She replied, "They are being considered by Amtrak as an option if we need more equipment than is already here. No final decisions."
 
Last edited:

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
391
Damn, I thought the Wisconsin Talgo saga was over. Maybe they can be tried on the Chicago - Detroit route?
 

Just-Thinking-51

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
AU Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
1,987
Location
USA
So are these trainset in working condition, or just scrap? Two recent accidents, one very bad.
 

rickycourtney

Conductor
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Messages
1,802
Location
Fresno, CA
There were five Talgo Series VI trainsets: the Mt. Hood and Mt. Olympus owned by Amtrak and the Mt. Adams, Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier owned by Washington state.

The Mt. Adams trainset (also known as the "Las Vegas" trainset) was destroyed in the 2017 derailment.

WSDOT is now selling the Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier trainsets. Both are in working condition.

What's not clear is if these trainsets will be allowed to run in the US. The FRA's waiver specifically spells out that the trainsets are to be used "in the Pacific Northwest" by Amtrak. So any other user would need to likely apply for and receive a waiver. They would also have to shoulder the liability of operating equipment that the NTSB as recommended no longer be in operation.

I think it's more likely that these trainsets will find a home in another country... or a scrap yard.
 

Maglev

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
961
Location
Orcas Island, Washington
The Talgo VI trainsets had comfortable seats. The Talgo VIII have uncomfortable, slimline seats that do not rotate so half the seats face backwards. There's also that cool ceiling in the cafe on the older trainsets. Along with the Talgo trains' needing a maintenance technician on-board at all times, I question continuing to use or buying more of these. I also can't imagine anyone in the USA buying the used trainsets.

Here's a picture of the ceiling on the Talgo VI's. The Las Vegas train was originally outfitted with a starry night sky ceiling. Also, that might be the Talgo tech behind my nephew.

IMG_6957.jpeg
 

John Bredin

OBS Chief
Joined
Dec 18, 2007
Messages
736
Location
suburban Chicago (Buffalo Grove)
What's not clear is if these trainsets will be allowed to run in the US. The FRA's waiver specifically spells out that the trainsets are to be used "in the Pacific Northwest" by Amtrak. So any other user would need to likely apply for and receive a waiver. They would also have to shoulder the liability of operating equipment that the NTSB as recommended no longer be in operation.
The last I heard, there was a motion before the NTSB to reconsider its (utterly unprecedented and IMHO groundless) anti-Talgo recommendation. If so, does anyone know what became of it?

This post prompted me to think about a corridor route where the Talgo trainsets' ability to go around curves a bit faster than a conventional train (IIRC, the Talgos have their own posted speed higher than for other passenger trains) could be put to good use if the Talgos got a waiver to operate elsewhere.

I would imagine the Missouri River Runner route is fairly curvy, and it's about two hours slower than driving between St. Louis and Kansas City. The usual (non-pandemic) schedule suggests the River Runner can be operated with two trainsets if it's operated separately from the Lincoln Service.

I think it's more likely that these trainsets will find a home in another country... or a scrap yard.
The latter would be an insane waste. :oops:
 

Chris I

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 8, 2019
Messages
39
Location
Portland, OR
This is so infuriating. WSDOT is dumping these and giving us crappy Horizon cars just so they can continue to try and deflect blame for the crash. The NTSB conclusions about the series VI trainset crash performance is baseless. No train would perform well when crashed off of and into a bridge at 60mph.

So now we get old equipment on trains that will always be late, due to slower performance on the curves. WSDOT has completely given up on Cascades, I guess.
 

Chris I

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 8, 2019
Messages
39
Location
Portland, OR
Should we start lobbying the BC government to buy 2 of these for the Vancouver - Seattle operations? If they own the trains, WSDOT can still save face by saying the got rid of them, but they can be used to improve service on that leg of the journey.

Any other excursion operators here in the NW who might be interested? I would hate to see them get scrapped. Seems like a good deal for someone.
 

KnightRail

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 24, 2015
Messages
486
Total guess, but these turning a revenue wheel again seems very unlikely. Talk about a money pit between the onboard technician, the availability of spare parts, economy of scale for operating two of a kind unique equipment, the need to have a specialized maintenance facility, the political baggage and liability, limited geographical use(not high level platform compatible), etc.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
391
These aren't Colorado Rail Car products. Talgo is alive and well and very successful all around the world so I would think the parts problem can be taken out of the equation.
 

Chris I

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 8, 2019
Messages
39
Location
Portland, OR
Total guess, but these turning a revenue wheel again seems very unlikely. Talk about a money pit between the onboard technician, the availability of spare parts, economy of scale for operating two of a kind unique equipment, the need to have a specialized maintenance facility, the political baggage and liability, limited geographical use(not high level platform compatible), etc.
Is there an onboard technician requirement? I was on a series VI train a few years ago that lost a nut on part of the tilting mechanism south of Olympia. We stopped in Olympia because the link had come off. No Talgo employee was around when I was out on the platform talking to the conductor about repairs. They ended rocking the train back and forth as the conductor pounded the pin back in, which got us to Seattle. I don't think they are on every train, and I don't think a private operator would need to pay Talgo for technicians. These cars are "as-is" "no warranty".
 

Just-Thinking-51

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
AU Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
1,987
Location
USA
I think they want a Talgo tech on each run. The job is posted a lot. Riding trains all day is not as enjoyable as some think.
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,706
Location
South Carolina
They would work well for a dinner train somewhere..... Especially if you gut the interiors and turn it into an all table car train. Hopefully they leave the celling of the lounge car alone though as that's a nice touch. One would also have to work on the air compressors between cars which I have heard are often quite loud. Manual operation would be a potential fix for that with slight modifications.

And the perk of a dinner train you wouldn't have to address the horrible creaking noise going around curves.

I've heard the Northwest Rail Museum wants a set, and I think that would be a good home for them.
 

Just-Thinking-51

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
AU Supporter
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
1,987
Location
USA
Air compressor between cars? One thinks your reference the door opening system. There a switch just above the door that lock it out and open. Much nicer than hearing that mechanical device operating ever 2 minutes.
 

rickycourtney

Conductor
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Messages
1,802
Location
Fresno, CA
Maintenance agreements are a big part of Talgo's business model.

For the last two decades, WSDOT and Amtrak have been paying Talgo fees for "maintenance" on these trainsets, which includes replacement parts, technicians on-board trains, and technicians who do some of the maintenance in the shops and supervise the work Amtrak does. Signing a maintenance agreement was also a requirement of the deal when ODOT and Wisconsin purchased their Series 8 trainsets more recently.

Now -- maintenance agreements aren't necessarily a bad thing, but Talgo's requirement that operators have one is just totally indicative of the way they do business. They want to do things one way, they think it's the best way, and they don't seem willing to change to meet the needs of the customer.

Siemens, on the other hand, offers full maintenance agreements (which Brightline has), technical support/spare parts agreements (which Amtrak has), and just basic warranty coverage.

Even if these cars are sold "as-is" with no warranty, Talgo could still require a future operator to sign a maintenance agreement to get access to spare parts, many of which are probably unique and patented items that you can't just buy from another manufacturer.
 

NSC1109

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
356
Location
MI
Damn, I thought the Wisconsin Talgo saga was over. Maybe they can be tried on the Chicago - Detroit route?
No. MDOT toyed with the idea years ago and didn't proceed. There's no need to now, we'll have new equipment within a year.
 

NSC1109

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
356
Location
MI
This is so infuriating. WSDOT is dumping these and giving us crappy Horizon cars just so they can continue to try and deflect blame for the crash. The NTSB conclusions about the series VI trainset crash performance is baseless. No train would perform well when crashed off of and into a bridge at 60mph.

So now we get old equipment on trains that will always be late, due to slower performance on the curves. WSDOT has completely given up on Cascades, I guess.
Is there an onboard technician requirement? I was on a series VI train a few years ago that lost a nut on part of the tilting mechanism south of Olympia. We stopped in Olympia because the link had come off. No Talgo employee was around when I was out on the platform talking to the conductor about repairs. They ended rocking the train back and forth as the conductor pounded the pin back in, which got us to Seattle. I don't think they are on every train, and I don't think a private operator would need to pay Talgo for technicians. These cars are "as-is" "no warranty".

Okay, no. Just no.

The Horizon cars are being refurbished right now if the project hasn't already been completed. I've ridden in both the Talgo and Horizon cars and I enjoy the Horizon much more. In my opinion, the Talgo needs to be removed from service entirely and equipment changed over to existing units. The name of the game is fleet simplification. The airlines are doing it to save a LOT of money. My employers just cut the B777, the MD88, the MD90, the B737-700, and most of the B717s. The goal was to rid the fleet of equipment that was old or existed in such small numbers where the financial and operational situation did not justify operating such a small subfleet.

Amtrak needs to do the same thing with the Cascades service. Standardize the equipment with the rest of the fleet and save the money in the long run. If WSDOT wants to jump on board the Siemens order from the CALIDOT coalition or wants to use Amtrak's options, either way it would be a great alternative.

As for your quotes above...I find it quite ironic that you're complaining about "old equipment on trains that will always be late" when most, if not all, of the current equipment requires a tech to be on board for every run to rectify any issues that arise during the trip. Not saying the Amtrak-owned fleet doesn't have mechanical issues from time to time, but they don't require someone from the car shop to be on board for mechanical issues...just sayin'.
 

zephyr17

Conductor
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
4,047
Location
Washington State
WashDOT is DONE with Talgo. Their stated intention is to piggyback onto the upcoming standard Amtrak corridor, Amfleet replacement, buy for long term Cascades fleet needs. For economics of scale and maintenance standardization.

Amtrak might provide WashDOT with the "Wisconsin" set(s) as a temporary replacement they owe for wrecking WashDOT's equipment. But that would be Antrak's move, not WashDOT's.

WashDOT's stated intention is not to buy Talgos.

PS. Did any of you dissing the NTSB's findings actually READ the report? The Talgo VIs were not found to be the primary cause. They were found to have contributed to injuries and fatalities due to wheel sets breaking loose. They were operating under FRA waivers because they did not meet crash standards for wheelset retention. The waiver was approved with provision for additional strapping. But that strapping was found to be at only 50% strength at the time of the crash because it was NEVER inspected, tested or replaced after initial installation. And it is well known that nylon strapping degrades over time.
 
Last edited:

Chris I

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 8, 2019
Messages
39
Location
Portland, OR
WashDOT is DONE with Talgo. Their stated intention is to piggyback onto the upcoming standard Amtrak corridor, Amfleet replacement, buy for long term Cascades fleet needs. For economics of scale and maintenance standardization.

Amtrak might provide WashDOT with the "Wisconsin" set(s) as a temporary replacement they owe for wrecking WashDOT's equipment. But that would be Antrak's move, not WashDOT's.

WashDOT's stated intention is not to buy Talgos.

PS. Did any of you dissing the NTSB's findings actually READ the report? The Talgo VIs were not found to be the primary cause. They were found to have contributed to injuries and fatalities due to wheel sets breaking loose. They were operating under FRA waivers because they did not meet crash standards for wheelset retention. The waiver was approved with provision for additional strapping. But that strapping was found to be at only 50% strength at the time of the crash because it was NEVER inspected, tested or replaced after initial installation. And it is well known that nylon strapping degrades over time.
The NTSB report was filled with errors and baseless claims:

Talgo report here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/14VXFiyvqSx8DcfUNlffiQ8Ji4TueIJeD/view?usp=sharing

It includes examples of similar crashes with standard equipment where truck separation and fatalities occurred.

The biggest issue here is speed, though. The passive tilting of the Talgo trains allow them to transit between Seattle and Portland in less time. That is why people like them. The Coast Starlight, with standard equipment is scheduled for 4:15 on the segment, while Cascades is 3:30. People here like the style and comfort of the Talgos, and many are going to be dissapointed when they book their next trip and end up on 30 year-old Horizon cars with no bistro/dining, and 15-30 minutes extra travel time on every trip. I've checked the OTP for the past few days, and 500/505 have consistently been between 15 and 30min late on the PDX/SEA route. This isn't a coincidence. The equipment is slower. From what I've seen in blog posts and social media, the reaction to this equipment change is universally negative. The regular riders are not happy.

So, aside from the water route south of Tacoma, what is the advantage of the train over Bolt Bus now? I was a frequent traveler on the PDX/SEA route, and people choosing the train do so because it is a premium service. The bus is almost always cheaper, and now it will be faster. Even after Covid ends and travel recovers, this is going to be a disaster for ridership. Before the crash, Cascades had the best farebox recovery % of any state route. You might save some maintenance dollars by ditching the Talgos, but premium ridership will collapse, and we will end up paying just as much state subsidy for an inferior service. I understand the desire for standardized equipment, but I think WSDOT is going to shoot themselves in the foot here.
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,706
Location
South Carolina
The Horizon cars are being refurbished right now if the project hasn't already been completed. I've ridden in both the Talgo and Horizon cars and I enjoy the Horizon much more. In my opinion, the Talgo needs to be removed from service entirely and equipment changed over to existing units. The name of the game is fleet simplification. The airlines are doing it to save a LOT of money. My employers just cut the B777, the MD88, the MD90, the B737-700, and most of the B717s. The goal was to rid the fleet of equipment that was old or existed in such small numbers where the financial and operational situation did not justify operating such a small subfleet.
I agree with you having a standardized fleet makes the most sense from an operational and financial stand point. I'm not as knowledgable on airline mechanics as I am on airline customer service, and railroad mechanics and customer service. But I do think that several of the larger Boeings share a common part pool don't they between models?

Amtrak's fleet really is a hodgepodge of various fleets that reflect the poor management it's had at various times in the past that prevented them from having a standard fleet which like you said benefits from economies of scale on parts management. The shops where this is shown to be the worst would be Los Angeles which has one single level Amfleet/Horizon trainset, three long distance superliner sets, and the large amount of California Cars that call it home. Washington, DC being another prime example of a terminal with only one Superliner train, and the rest being Amfleet I's which don't have a large commonality between parts.

Fleet simplification makes sense from a business stand point, and it makes it far easier for the operations department. I wouldn't be surprised to see the superliners be replaced by single level equipment for this exact purpose.
 

rickycourtney

Conductor
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Messages
1,802
Location
Fresno, CA
A few quick thoughts:
  • Talgo, who had a lot to lose in the ruling, claims that the report was filled with errors and baseless claims. The NTSB has rejected that claim.
  • The Coast Starlight has significantly more planned station dwell time as it accepts Amtrak Express shipments at Tacoma, Centralia, and Vancouver. If it's a pallet load, it can take a few minutes to load with a forklift.
  • Once the Pt. Defiance Bypass is in service, it removes one of the curviest parts of the route, which is where the Talgo's speed difference comes into play. That bypass will also cut travel times down.
  • Add those two points up and non-tilting equipment will only add a little time to the Cascades (presumably less than the 15-30 minutes Chris cited).
  • Talgo is the ONLY manufacturer making passive tilt trains in North America.
  • Brand new trainsets from Siemens or whoever Amtrak chooses will feel just as premium, if not more premium, than the aging 22-year-old Talgo Series VI trainsets.
 

NSC1109

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
356
Location
MI
The NTSB report was filled with errors and baseless claims:

Talgo report here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/14VXFiyvqSx8DcfUNlffiQ8Ji4TueIJeD/view?usp=sharing

It includes examples of similar crashes with standard equipment where truck separation and fatalities occurred.

The biggest issue here is speed, though. The passive tilting of the Talgo trains allow them to transit between Seattle and Portland in less time. That is why people like them. The Coast Starlight, with standard equipment is scheduled for 4:15 on the segment, while Cascades is 3:30. People here like the style and comfort of the Talgos, and many are going to be dissapointed when they book their next trip and end up on 30 year-old Horizon cars with no bistro/dining, and 15-30 minutes extra travel time on every trip. I've checked the OTP for the past few days, and 500/505 have consistently been between 15 and 30min late on the PDX/SEA route. This isn't a coincidence. The equipment is slower. From what I've seen in blog posts and social media, the reaction to this equipment change is universally negative. The regular riders are not happy.

So, aside from the water route south of Tacoma, what is the advantage of the train over Bolt Bus now? I was a frequent traveler on the PDX/SEA route, and people choosing the train do so because it is a premium service. The bus is almost always cheaper, and now it will be faster. Even after Covid ends and travel recovers, this is going to be a disaster for ridership. Before the crash, Cascades had the best farebox recovery % of any state route. You might save some maintenance dollars by ditching the Talgos, but premium ridership will collapse, and we will end up paying just as much state subsidy for an inferior service. I understand the desire for standardized equipment, but I think WSDOT is going to shoot themselves in the foot here.
7/10: 505 delayed 25m into EUG, no cause given.
7/11: 500 delayed 30m due to congestion south of Centralia.
7/11: 505 delayed 55m due to mechanical issues between PDX and ORC.
7/12: 505 delayed 25m, likely due to the cancellation of 500 same-day, which was due to mechanical issues.
7/13: 505 delayed 30m due to rail congestion/speed restrictions
7/14: 505 delayed 2h10m due to trespass incident @ TAC
7/15: 505 delayed 30m, no cause given
7/16: 505 delayed 30m due to mechanical issues @ TUK

In the last week, 505 has been delayed every single day. Most of the delays are due to mechanical defects. Two delays were given no explanation, potentially supporting what you have to say regarding the lack of tilting tech.

Say what you want about the Horizon subfleet, but they don't break that often even in the middle of a Midwestern winter.


I agree with you having a standardized fleet makes the most sense from an operational and financial stand point. I'm not as knowledgable on airline mechanics as I am on airline customer service, and railroad mechanics and customer service. But I do think that several of the larger Boeings share a common part pool don't they between models?

Amtrak's fleet really is a hodgepodge of various fleets that reflect the poor management it's had at various times in the past that prevented them from having a standard fleet which like you said benefits from economies of scale on parts management. The shops where this is shown to be the worst would be Los Angeles which has one single level Amfleet/Horizon trainset, three long distance superliner sets, and the large amount of California Cars that call it home. Washington, DC being another prime example of a terminal with only one Superliner train, and the rest being Amfleet I's which don't have a large commonality between parts.

Fleet simplification makes sense from a business stand point, and it makes it far easier for the operations department. I wouldn't be surprised to see the superliners be replaced by single level equipment for this exact purpose.
I'm currently in ACS myself but operations is where my heart is at. Most aircraft variants have part and type rating commonality in order to ensure the greatest amount of efficiency possible from both a cost and labor standpoint. For example:

The B737-700, -800, and -900ER are all one type rating (meaning a B737 Next Gen-rated pilot can fly all three variants). Same goes for the A319, A320, and A321, the B757/767-300ER. I believe the B767-400ER and B777-200/300 are on the same type rating as well.

Generally speaking, those variants are mechanically the same aircraft. As a result, you can keep the spare-parts sets and labor pools as small as possible. It's a neat little system.

If Amtrak were to proceed with this approach, they would save boatloads of cash in the long run. They would be able to:
-Retire most, if not all, of the old equipment
-Simplify car shops
-Simplify parts stores and training
-Simplify crew training

From a customer service/experience standpoint:
-Provide an updated, modern, and uniform service nationwide
-Use saved funds to help pare down other expenses or to take on large capital projects such as ROW acquisition from Porter to Chicago, overhaul food and beverage service, or even start new services in underserved areas like the Front Range.

I would bet that Siemens is going to get the Amfleet/Superliner replacement order, and I truly hope they go back to single level. I've seen the interior of the new cars and I am extremely impressed with what they're producing, and I personally think they're a shoo-in for the job.
 

Maglev

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
961
Location
Orcas Island, Washington
I think these are the things that determine a premium service: How comfortable are the seats? It's easy to beat the Talgo VIII's. Are the trains on time? An extra 15 minutes won't make that much of a difference on a 3.5 hour trip but just being on time is important. Are there decent foods and beverages in the cafe? The menu was acceptable in the past, but reductions in demand may necessitate lower quality. Is there a pleasant boarding process? The elimination of assigned seats (I think in October, 2019) creates a free-for-all rush to get good seats. Are the trains and stations clean? I once saw the Talgo tech refilling the paper towels in a bathroom on the train.

Washington and Oregon can have a good transportation corridor if attention is paid to details.
 
Last edited:

Chris I

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 8, 2019
Messages
39
Location
Portland, OR
I think these are the things that determine a premium service: How comfortable are the seats? It's easy to beat the Talgo VIII's. Are the trains on time? An extra 15 minutes won't make that much of a difference on a 3.5 hour trip but just being on time is important. Are there decent foods and beverages in the cafe? The menu was acceptable in the past, but reductions in demand may necessitate lower quality. Is there a pleasant boarding process? The elimination of assigned seats (I think in October, 2019) creates a free-for-all rush to get good seats. Are the trains and stations clean? I once saw the Talgo tech refilling the paper towels in a bathroom on the train.

Washington and Oregon can have a good transportation corridor if attention is paid to details.
15 minutes matters when you have a competing service on the same route with similar travel times (Bolt Bus). In the last week, the delays on the route are 30+min from the Talgo times, and I have a hard time believing that mechanical issues are the cause every day. And say what you want about the Talgo food offerings, but the Horizons have nothing. Might as well take the bus.

How many years until new Siemens cars are plying this route? How much ridership will be lost in the interim? For a fair comparison, we need to compare Talgo and Siemens current offerings. We can't compare 20 year-old Talgo VI trains to the new Brigtline trains, for example.

My main argument here is that WSDOT is being shortsighted in retiring the Series VI trains before new equipment is available. I think future ridership numbers will show this (again, once Covid is over).
 
Top