Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby electricron » Sat Feb 16, 2019 4:11 am

Backshophoss wrote:For now there's NO reserve fleet,should change a little over time along with the end of leasing commuter equipment on the NEC
1 The Acela I's as the Acela II sets go online
2 Amfleet i's and II's,the "best of" cars kept at Bear and some cars at DC and Boston as protect sets,as the new single level cars
come online.
3 Horizon Fleet,for the Gulf Coaster service and intra Florida service along the 2 silver service routes as the new single level cars go online.
4 Superliners released from the midwest and Amtrak Ca Services will help as the the new single level cars go on line in Ca and Midwest services pools

The driving distance between New Orleans and Orlando via Jacksonville is around 687 miles. I believe it is safe to assume the rail distance is further. So lets make it 700 miles as a fair assumption. Most Amtrak long distance trains average speeds between 40 and 45 mph.
Some math follows:
700 miles / 45 mph = 15.5 hours.
700 miles / 40 mph = 17.5 hours.
The route Amtrak uses the Horizons cars on today are:
Pacific Surfliner, at 350 rail miles and 8.25 hours.
Blue Water at 319 miles and 6.66 hours
San Joaquin at 315 miles and 6 hours (Sacramento to Bakersfield)
Illini and Saluki at 310 miles and 5.5 hours
Wolverine at 304 miles and 6.33 hours
Lincoln Services at 284 miles and 5.5 hours
Missouri River Runner at 283 miles and 5.66 hours
Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg at 258 miles and 4.33 hours
Hoosier State at 196 miles and 5 hours
Hiawatha at 86 miles and 1.5 hours

Amtrak Horizon cars will have to be refurbished before they can with comfort carry passengers for twice as long journeys than they do today for potential Gulf Coast services. The longest trip above has downtown Los Angeles in the middle, where around half the passengers embark or alight. Few passengers ride that train all the way.

Some have suggested using the Horizons on Crescent and Cardinal trains too. Why? The Crescent has 1377 rail miles and 30.25 hours while the Cardinal has 1147 rail miles and 29.25 hours.


350 rail miles is far shorter than 700, 1150, or 1400 rail miles. 8 hours is far shorter than 16, 29, and 30 hours.

Stop advocating using Horizon cars "as is" on any route longer than it is used on today. The last thing most business will want to do is introduce a "brand new" service using completely unacceptable equipment. What a way to make a first lousy impression!
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby east point » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:52 am

Some one with time should list the number of times surge fleet cars were needed but not available in the last 3 years. Just the normal rush periods such as Thanksgiving is one of the normal periods. Then the disaster times such as north of Seattle, the fires in California, bridge failures such as the one near PHL., the bridge fire in ATL that took out I-85, any earth quake possibility, etc.
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby Greg Moore » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:39 pm

A surge fleet is a nice idea, but most likely is not going to happen.

Every wheel not turning means revenue not being made. Storing cars is not free. They still need to be maintained against the elements and be inspected before going into service. The last part is more of an issue today than 50 years ago,if only because Amtrak doesn't have the extra labor on hand to do large surges in work. So if you want to surge capacity say for Thanksgiving, great, but that means making sure your surge fleet is ready, which potentially means delaying or at least rescheduling maintenance and inspection on the rest of your fleet.

50 years ago when railroads had a lot larger labor pull, I suspect this was a lot easier. Also, from the accounts I've read, much of their surge fleet then probably wouldn't pass modern inspections, or even rider satisfaction (I've read accounts of the NY&NHH surge fleet basically having holes in the roof, etc. Sure, when you didn't have an alternative, you took it to get home for the holiday, but today, Greyhound is going to win out over that.)
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby Tadman » Sun Feb 17, 2019 2:47 pm

electricron wrote:The last thing most business will want to do is introduce a "brand new" service using completely unacceptable equipment. What a way to make a first lousy impression!


I would hardly describe the Horizon cars are "completely unacceptable". They are not glamorous or amazing, but they do a very good job of getting people from A to B in day train service with minimal problems or handicaps. With those big comfy seats they have, I'd take one over a Talgo or LRC any day of the week.

dowlingm wrote:A steel sided car in good enough shape to come south is one that can be sent for re-re-rebuild in a politically advantageous riding.


Agreed. I didn't mean to imply that Amtrak would buy them, only that the supply is certainly going up, as many carriers will retire fleets in the next five years across the North American market. Usually that means prices go down, and the bigger buyers with deeper pockets get a better product.
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby mdvle » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:19 pm

Tadman wrote:I would hardly describe the Horizon cars are "completely unacceptable". They are not glamorous or amazing, but they do a very good job of getting people from A to B in day train service with minimal problems or handicaps.

If that was true then the money would not be spent on replacing them.
Tadman wrote:With those big comfy seats they have, I'd take one over a Talgo or LRC any day of the week.

The problem is we, who are enthusiastic about trains, are not the target market.

The unfortunate reality is the Horizon, Amfleet, etc. are all old and to continue in operation, whether working an existing service or a new service or even as a surge fleet, need a top to bottom rebuild that can pretty much be guaranteed to not make economic sense when compared with buying new.
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby Dcell » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:51 pm

What happened to the ex-Clocker coaches when NJT replaced Clocker service with its own equipment?
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby electricron » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:24 pm

Tadman wrote:
electricron wrote:The last thing most business will want to do is introduce a "brand new" service using completely unacceptable equipment. What a way to make a first lousy impression!


I would hardly describe the Horizon cars are "completely unacceptable". They are not glamorous or amazing, but they do a very good job of getting people from A to B in day train service with minimal problems or handicaps. With those big comfy seats they have, I'd take one over a Talgo or LRC any day of the week.

I am sorry you missed the point I was trying to make. I probably did not explain why they would be unacceptable for two to three times longer duration train rides. It all comes down to leg room and seat row pitch. Amfleet IIs have 15 rows of seats, Amfleet Is have 19 rows of seats, and Horizon cars also have 19 rows of seats.
Those 4 missing rows of seats have a big impact on comfort on longer duration trains. The distance the seating area is less than the full length of the car, which is 85 feet. Let’s remove 6 feet for two vestibules, and another 6 feet for restrooms and equipment closets, that leaves around 72 feet for the seats. Amfleet IIs only have a single vestibule, so we will add 3 feet to their seating area.Some math follows:
Amfleet I and Horizon = 72 feet / 19 rows of seats = 45 inches per row. The seat takes 20 inches of that.
Amfleet II = 75 feet / 15 rows of seats = 60 inches per row. Everyone enjoys and extra 15 inches of leg room.

It is the Horizon cars missing 15 inches of leg room for every seat row that makes them unacceptable for train trips that can last up to 30 hours. :)
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby JoeG » Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:08 am

Folks, this topic talks about surge capacity.For that, Amtrak I or Horizon cars are fine since the alternative isn't fancier cars, it's no cars.
I would like ato know if inspection requirements have gotten stricter since 1971. Back in the day, railroads seemed to have plenty of old, sometimes crummy, cars for use in surge situations. Is this still allowed?
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby Tadman » Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:10 pm

mdvle wrote:
Tadman wrote:I would hardly describe the Horizon cars are "completely unacceptable". They are not glamorous or amazing, but they do a very good job of getting people from A to B in day train service with minimal problems or handicaps.

If that was true then the money would not be spent on replacing them.


I disagree, best practices call for replacing assets before they are completely shot. Think about it this way: if one didn't buy a new lawn mower until the old lawn mower was completely unacceptable, one's law would look pretty rough for a few summers. Same thing applies to passengers. Consider the lows of the 1970's with the Lackawanna or South Shore MU's, which were decrepit but rolling. They drove off passengers, perhaps 1/3 of the business or more left. Amtrak is making the smart move to upgrade corridor services before the Horizon car is decrepit or uncomfortable.

mdvle wrote:
Tadman wrote:With those big comfy seats they have, I'd take one over a Talgo or LRC any day of the week.

The problem is we, who are enthusiastic about trains, are not the target market.


You make an interesting point, but its worth noting I straddle the fan/rider line here. I've spent a fair amount of time on the Cascades as a business traveler, and the Talgo is interesting but doesn't sell the service to me. The only thing I care about is getting there on time in a clean and comfy train. The early Talgos have American passenger seats and they're decent, the newer ones have Euro seats and they are not the best for a four hour ride.
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby east point » Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:57 pm

Surge fleets should not be considered to be the cream of the crop. They may even be held in reserve to be sold as 2nd class seats when the regular cars are sold out? If they get used enough then demand for more regular cars will become apparent! If not use that much then they are still there for the possible event causing demand for many cars!
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:40 pm

American passengers won’t accept anything less than individual, four-across, comfortable seats and a clean (including odor-free) interior on any Amtrak train, so that’s the minimum standard to which a surge fleet must be maintained. Anything less and train riders go to buses, or to their own cars. For long-distance service, that requirement also must include reasonable leg room, tray tables, reclining seats, and better lighting than direct fluorescent.
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby JoeG » Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:40 pm

Amtrak has long used borrowed commuter cars for surge over the Thanksgiving period on the NEC. These, usually 5 across seats without generous legroom, are accepted because everyone knows that the alternative is no seat.
I might add that for me a crummy train is better than a fancy bus. For one thing I have trouble reading on buses. For another, bus seats are more cramped than any train seat. I remember having to take a bus from Pittsburgh to NY. It was full and I was seated next to a large person. Never again!
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:18 am

JoeG wrote:Amtrak has long used borrowed commuter cars for surge over the Thanksgiving period on the NEC. These, usually 5 across seats without generous legroom, are accepted because everyone knows that the alternative is no seat.
I might add that for me a crummy train is better than a fancy bus. For one thing I have trouble reading on buses. For another, bus seats are more cramped than any train seat. I remember having to take a bus from Pittsburgh to NY. It was full and I was seated next to a large person. Never again!

Fair, that is the big exception when anything on four or eight wheels is fair game. Still, Amtrak needs to maintain a surge fleet to a higher standard because commuter cars are out there. If you’re content offering a lower level of service and can get that from a commuter car borrowed for the occasion (which you probably didn’t pay money to rent, but instead lowered a tenant railroad’s electric bill), why bother keeping your own expansion fleet in the first place?

An expansion fleet also makes sense for peak season LD trips, and you can’t just take a commuter set out of service for a round-trip to Miami and back, nor could you get away with walkover five-across bench seats.
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby east point » Tue Feb 19, 2019 9:52 pm

Point well taken. This is a surge fleet proposal. It would only be used when the regular fleet is full and extra seats are needed. Times such as Thanksgiving. Remember commuter equipment is not available on the Wednesday before which has limited available seats that day causing sell outs. Week days commuter equipment just is not available. Then again for some reason is some commuter agency needs some of the surge fleet?o The ever present possibility of a natural disaster or man made requiring immediate rail seats . So Cal could only borrow one train set from No Cal which then had capacity problems until equipment was returned.

It would be up to Congress to pay for more equipment if surge fleet starts being used for regular service!
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Re: Amtrak Surge Capacity & Reserve Fleet

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Feb 20, 2019 1:41 am

Maybe I’m overthinking this, and Amtrak should (if it deems it necessary) contract with third-party railcar suppliers for wet-lease cars for LD travel. That would mean Heritage cars until Amtrak or another operator sheds some newer cars, but those cars would otherwise be equipped and appointed similarly to a standard Amfleet.

Short-distance surge travel can still be a commuter car lease when available, as you said.
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