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Amtrak seeks bids for 130 new Viewliner 2 cars

For those who believe Amtrak is neglecting long distance trains.

Amtrak intends to issue a competitive Request for Proposal for a vendor to design, manufacture and deliver 130 “Viewliner 2” Long Distance Single-Level Passenger Cars, with an option for Amtrak to purchase up to an additional 70 cars.   The “Viewliner 2” rolling stock which is fully described in the Technical Specifications, will be used as Amtrak passenger trains, primarily in long-distance service, but capable of operating anywhere within Amtrak’s system.  There are four (4) “Viewliner 2” car types: Diners, Sleepers, Baggage-Dorms and Baggage cars. The “Viewliner 2” cars will be modeled on the concept of the Amtrak “Viewliner 1” cars.

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Filed under: Amtrak

26 Responses

  1. Avery says:

    Does this mean we will no longer see the gigantic superliner cars currently in use, but a more moderate size, sleek looking (and possibly faster) amtrak?

  2. MadPark says:

    No, at least not right away. Most would assume that these will replace aging and aged cars in the East, Mid-west and South, and hopefully allow some expansion of overnight services as well. Lets hope they take the option for the other 70 and add 200 or more comfortable single level long distance coaches (perhaps w/ a premium/business class?) as well, not to mention another 400 or 500 car “Amfleet 3″ order for daytime short distance intercity service.
    Amtrak is being verrrrry coy about Superliner replacement, and each day without a 400 to 500 car re-order can be seen as another bit of a lost opportunity – the Superliner I cars are now into their 3rd decade of service

  3. Brian says:

    Avery: No, I do not think these would be replacing the Superliner cars. Nor do the Superliner cars need replacing. They do not limit the speed of Amtrak trains.

  4. Cal says:

    This order is a little misleading as the majority of the order is for baggage and bagdorms(80cars) and 25are dinners, so we will have 25 extra new sleepers only out of this order. Better than nothing but not large amount and will add just one extra car per train.

  5. Spokker says:

    The Superliner cars rule. If there’s one on the Pacific Surfliner I will always choose to sit in it. More legroom, curtains and at night it’s darker. They should build Superliners with two automatic doors on each end and they’d be in business.

  6. Superliners have a top design speed of 100 mph, but nowhere does track speed allow them to operate that fast.

    An alternative might be the bi-level shell that Bombardier designed for NJ Transit (and also ordered by Montreal) that can operate into Penn Station. However, it may be that these cannot be used on the westside connection that links the Empire Corridor into Penn Station.

  7. Woody says:

    Nice little start, I guess, but I’d say the order needs another zero on the end — not 130 but 1,300 new train cars.

    That’s because my idea of expanding isn’t to add another car to existing trains, but to add another train run on every long distance route to provide daylight stops in every station and double the number of seats available. We’d see all those trains filled, of course. Then if we start to see speeds increase and trip times decrease, we might need 2,600 new passenger cars to meet the suppressed demand coming forth.

  8. This is a nice start, but we desperately need a Superliner order also. The Coast Starlight could probably fill another 2-3 cars right now and so could some of the other routes (Empire Builder, etc).

    The news of the Talgos for Wisconsin is great! The Talgos are great equipment and usually create positive experiences.

  9. Allan says:

    I’d like to see an economical sleeper car.

    My experiences to beds on a train are limited to the old troop trains that we used between Frankfurt and Berlin during the Cold War. Altho most had four beds (two bunked on each side), I did ride it once with six beds in a compartment (stacked three high on each side). I slept fine in those.

    I was actually sad to see the Germans replace the old-style compartment cars with the newer … I called them airplane-style … coach cars. The old compartment style (two rows of seats facing each other in a compartment) really encouraged people to talk to each other over a long journey. And, to my surprise, the seats would extend out so you could sleep on them. Still kind of short for me (6’3″) but better than an upright seat!

    Along these lines, Chattanooga uses electric buses on the downtown loop with inward facing seats. They did that purposely to encourage interaction among the passengers.

    But the newer airplane-style cars were just like riding in an airplane … not nearly as much fun … and people don’t interact as much.

    There does need to be an in-between option between riding coach (cheap) and riding in a room (expensive) … again, something like the troop carriers or something like you see in the old movies of the beds with curtains. The Motel-6 version! It doesn’t make much difference once the lights are out!

  10. HockeyFan says:

    Hear hear, Woody. Politicians need to understand that 130 car orders aren’t going to get any new factories built. 1300 cars, that’s a different story and might reactive a shuttered car plant. Take your pick in the Midwest.
    I too was disappointed to see so few sleepers ordered and no lounges. What’s up with that? The dearly departed Montrealer train had a sleepers and a piano lounge car. Since the train carried a lot of skiers, who love to party, it was a perfect match. I’m no critic of Amtrak but ancient Heritage cars or remanufactured AmCafes are really unappealing places to hang out, even with food and drink. The Superliner Sightseer lounges are great.
    Amtrak’s Contact Us link:

    http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/ContactUs

  11. Sea Toby says:

    There are plenty of Amfleet coaches and cafe/lounge cars in service. Sixty of the Amfleet coaches and cafe/lounges are to be refurbished and put back into service along with 20 Superliners.

    The new 130 Viewliner 2 cars are:
    25 sleepers
    25 baggage dorms
    25 diners
    55 baggage cars

    The optional 70 Viewliner 2 cars are:
    10 sleepers
    15 baggage dorms
    15 diners
    30 baggage cars

    The original order will replace all of the old Heritage cars in long distance service and add a sleeper to each train set. The optional order will provide cars for additional service, and replace the old Heritage baggage cars of short distance service train sets. The old Heritage cars, whether diners, baggage dorms, and baggage cars are slowing trains down on the NEC.

    On the other hand the Amfleet 1 and 2 coaches and cafe/lounges are around 15 years older than the Viewliner 1 sleepers. The Amfleets are rated at a higher speed than the Viewliners.

    The key to the Amtrak stimulus package is to replace the ancient Heritage cars, not build new trainsets. As for any expansion of train service, the optional order will provide not much more than two added trains, the return of the Twilight Shoreliner and possibly the Broadway Limited, if that…. A few derailments in the future will find Amtrak cutting those trains again.

    Two hundred cars look large, but nationwide its a nice order, but no one would consider it a large order. If you wish to add many more trains, many more cars will have to be bought.

  12. Sea Toby says:

    During the mid-1990s 50 Viewliner sleepers were bought one year, with plans to buy up to 450 cars over several years. Amtrak had to wait 15 years to order more cars from that order 15 years ago…

  13. Woody says:

    Sea Toby, Thanks for the added detailed info.

    To put this in the best light, perhaps Amtrak is ordering the minimum not only because it can only afford the minimum under current funding. (Actually I’m surprised it can afford this order.)

    Amtak may also be breaking the issue down so even a Congresscritter can understand it. Order 25 new sleepers, add one sleeper to 20 or 25 existing trains. Order 10 more new sleepers if you want to see daily service on the Sunset Limited route west of San Antonio and on the Cardinal, or to restore another train like the Pioneer.

    A Repub Senator from Idaho (not the T-room tap dancer, the other one) has been leading the push to restore the Pioneer. So this could be part of the answer he gets: “O.K., we can do that, but we’ll need to buy lots more equipment. Give us the money and it’s a Go.”

  14. Nathanael says:

    The new diners will be really helpful, since Amtrak has simply run out of Heritage diners and is replacing them with extra diner/cafes on the Lake Shore Limited, a very undesireable situation (the staff hate it, the passengers find it very substandard). Heck, we might even get a meal between Albany and NY if we had a real diner (although currently the layover in Albany is actually long enough to go into the station and eat dinner, which really needs to be changed, but I think that requires more schedule reliability, which means track work).

    Amtrak is also losing sleeper revenue by having a shortage of single-level sleepers, and by having no crew dorms (so the crew has to use passenger space to sleep in). The extra sleepers might bring the typical price of a sleeper on the Lake Shore Limited down to a more affordable level (it’s currently consistently very high, always; significantly higher than the price for the sleepers from Chicago to the West Coast).

  15. Chris Robbins says:

    I would like to see more coaches ordered so Amtrak can open up new corridor services between the midwest and the east and in Florida. Then again, I would also like to see a huge new superliner order to refit some fading equipment on the Sunset Limited, Southwest Cheif, and California Zephyr, and possibly new Superliner consisted trains from Denver to Seattle and Oklahoma City to Kansas City.

    Amtrak seriously needs to bring back these routes to be a more national passenger rail service:
    The Eastern Sunset Limited
    The International Limited
    The Montrealer
    The National Limited
    The Pioneer
    The Desert Wind
    The Floridian

  16. Woody says:

    Chris —

    Restoring trains is just the start. (And I think you missed a few, with names I can’t recall like the Chicago-Houston train!)

    Population has grown tremendously in the South and Southwest since the glory days of passenger rains. We’ll need some new ones to reflect that growth. Others are suggesting a Front Range route Cheyenne-Ft Collins-Denver-Colorado Springs-Pueblo-Albuquerque-Las Cruces-El Paso. Denver and Albuquerque have probably doubled in population since Amtrak was created. And the West Texas town of El Paso ain’t just Rosa’s Cantina anymore, it’s the desert warfare training center of the US Army. So it would contribute plenty boardings to a new route running Atlanta-Birmingham-Jackson-Shreveport-Dallas Ft Worth-El Paso-L.A. Of course, Dallas itself if bigger than Dallas, and could anchor the proposed line New Orleans-Shreveport-Dallas-Ft Worth.

    Take a look at the National Association of Railroad Passengers Vison map at http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/resources/more/the_map_of_narps_vision/
    It shows a worthy collection of potential restorations and expansions.

  17. Sea Toby says:

    Keep in mind this order is part of stimulus spending. Amtrak didn’t get a bigger operational budget to hire many more employees to run more trains. The 130 Viewliner order is to replace old Heritage cars, and add a sleeper to each train. The optional order for 70 more may bring back the Broadway Limited and Twilight Shoreliner. That is it…

    The stimulus package to refurbish 20 Superliner cars is to return sightseeing lounges to the City of New Orleans, return diners to the Capital Limited, return a sleeper, plus the diner lite cars from the Capital Limited to the Empire Builder, and return a few transition sleepers for the crew to get half of some sleepers for ticket paying passengers. Very modest goals indeed….

  18. Woody says:

    Thanks again, Toby. Your detailed comments are always illuminating.

    It actually looks like Amtrak’s stimulus spending has been well thought through. The first announcement I saw was to make almost all stations A.D.A. compliant. This investment will make Amtrak accessible nationwide.

    Now you point out the equipment side: Repairing damaged cars, ordering new sleepers, diners, and other equipment to replace slow-speed equipment, with the new cars spread over 25 or so long distance trains all across the country.

    Rather than sinking all the stimulus into one or two routes, these steps will improve service across the system. An accessible station becomes more useful the more similar accessible stations there are on the route. No point into getting on a train if you can’t get off and use the station where you need to. So it’s smart to fix them all at once. (And I believe that handicapped travellers are a core constituency of Amtrak and deserve this attention.) Not to mention that it delivers stimulus spending and employment to more than 40 states.

    New sleepers should raise the revenue per mile of the long distance trains. Reports of rising revenues will help to persuade Congress to make further investments in Amtrak. Spreading the new equipment across the system also happens to be politically acceptable. If the money had been put into one route, or even two, the rest of country would have been left out, and some Congesscritter would be screaming about it..

    ———

    You suggest that the optional order would allow restoring two overnight trains. The Twilight Shoreliner Boston-Newport News/bus to Virginia Beach) would use NEC tracks at night that are too congested now for additional daytime service. Virginia has surely been doing more than its share to expand train service.

    The Broadway Limited, well, it could work. I’m not crazy about another Amtrak train making its stops in Ohio in the dead of night. Don’t we have two or three of those already? :-(

    But any incremental improvement is change in the right direction. And the resulting increased ridership and revenue will make it easier to get further improvements down the line.

  19. Fred says:

    Hey everyone.. has ANYTHING changed lately, then, with the new(??) Amfleets/Viewliners/Superliners?? I am taking a trip via the Sunset Limited to Palm Springs.
    Thanks for the feedback. MUCH appreciated!

  20. No public announcement.

  21. John Hill says:

    Bring back the VISTA Dome car! Superliner lounges are good but the Vista Domes were and are superior for viewing the countryside. Why does the Empire Builder pass by Glacier Park in the dark when you can’t see the beauty of the region? Amtrak needs to change that like the California Zephyr passes the Rockies and Sierras by daylight!

  22. DET says:

    It’s my understanding that Vista Dome cars were very expensive to operate. (I believe, for example, it was a challenge to keep their A/C in working order.) In any case, they must be used in trains with single-level equipment, but in the east, where most trains are single-level, there are also issues with tight tunnels, low bridges, and electric catenary to contend with (which is also why Superliners are not used in the NEC).

    During the summer, the EB should pass Glacier Park in both directions during daylight hours (though it may be dark by the time the w/b gets to West Glacier). If the train is a couple of hours late, at least w/b, then it may make Glacier in the dark. OTOH, on-time or late, the e/b EB will always pass Glacier during daylight hours.

  23. Honda says:

    I like the superliner as I am soo tall, it has the exact right amount of legroom

  24. oinonio says:

    Having recently ridden in a viewliner roomette the Silver Meteor to Miami from New York, I sincerely hope that the new cars will not have a toilet IN the roomette itself. Aside from having so many more toilets to clean and maintain, there is nothing less pleasant that riding for 26 hours next to a toilet, even though ours didn’t smell. The Einstein that thought this was a good design idea should e hung by his toes.

  25. Indeed, the new cars will not have toilets in the rooms.

  26. oinonio says:

    Oh thank god for that. We are entering a saner time.

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