• Private passenger car ownership: profitable?

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by SouthernRailway
 
I see that there are many individuals who own private railcars; do many of these people buy the cars with the intent to use them as investments for profit, or are they generally financial drains on the owners, who own them just because they like railroads and are prepared to spend money?

Further, are there groups of owners who own private passenger cars and, further, are those people investors who aim to make a profit?

I'd love to own my own sleeping car or the like, but I'm not prepared to incur significant losses on it.

Thanks!
  by DutchRailnut
 
Most of these cars are for rent, not to make profit but to offset their losses.
  by John_Perkowski
 
Moderator's Note: I'm going to move this to the Passenger Forums, and hope Jack Deasy, owner of at least two cars, sees it.
  by Patrick Boylan
 
The one private car I've been on I've ridden 3 times.
Once daytime railfan only Trenton-Norristown via Philly, Chestnut Hill West and back to 30th St, it had come from Boston, and was going somewhere else the next day from Philly, presumably with normal passengers.
The other times were overnight, New Orleans-Jacksonville, car continuing to Miami, that was the Sunset Limited's eastern extension inauguration, and a year ago Philly-DC-Chicago. On both of those overnight rides, more than 15 years apart, the owners were part of the crew. Does that give you an idea how profitable it is? :)
  by mtuandrew
 
There are a few groups (Friends of the 261, for example) that make cash on the side by maintaining rental fleets and making sure they are in use fairly often. They have even been known to rent to governments for regular service - North Carolina's fleet was partially supplied by the 261 group for a while.

Single cars don't make money as easily, but again, member jhdeasy is our local authority on the subject.
  by jhdeasy
 
As a private car owner (three different cars) since 1987, I can assure you that private car ownership is usually NOT profitable. The fixed and variable costs are simply too high.

I am describing a situation where one or more people has established a business organization, owning one or a few cars, and seeks passenger revenue, be it from using the car(s) in shortline dinner/excursion train service, or from using the car(s) in mainline (Amtrak & Via Rail Canada) charter and public trip service.

If you want to know more, then read this document: http://www.aaprco.com/ownership/AAPRCO_intro_v26.pdf
  by Greg Moore
 
jhdeasy wrote:As a private car owner (three different cars) since 1987, I can assure you that private car ownership is usually NOT profitable. The fixed and variable costs are simply too high.

I am describing a situation where one or more people has established a business organization, owning one or a few cars, and seeks passenger revenue, be it from using the car(s) in shortline dinner/excursion train service, or from using the car(s) in mainline (Amtrak & Via Rail Canada) charter and public trip service.

If you want to know more, then read this document: http://www.aaprco.com/ownership/AAPRCO_intro_v26.pdf
So I can understand not profitable, but any tips on perhaps trying to keep losses to a minimum?

Is it really worth renting out at all?
  by jhdeasy
 
The first suggestion would be to not invest the large sum of money that is required to achieve and maintain Amtrak certification for a car. Instead, you would be limited to low speed operations of a car that meets FRA standards on a shortline/regional railroad or dinner/tourist train that is passenger-friendly. The step upward from meeting FRA standards to meeting Amtrak standards is a large and costly step.

The term "rent" is never used with privately owned passenger cars. The industry terms used are always "charter" or "lease."

If you own a car and operate a profitable (revenue exceeds costs) charter trip or a profitable lease, then you are earning money to help defray your other costs of ownership. A sufficient number of profitable charter trips and/or lease days would produce a net profit for the year.
  by mtuandrew
 
jhdeasy wrote:The first suggestion would be to not invest the large sum of money that is required to achieve and maintain Amtrak certification for a car. Instead, you would be limited to low speed operations of a car that meets FRA standards on a shortline/regional railroad or dinner/tourist train that is passenger-friendly. The step upward from meeting FRA standards to meeting Amtrak standards is a large and costly step.
A few questions on this topic:

-Does it cost less to maintain a car to VIA standards, for our north-of-the-border posters?
-Is there a list of charter-friendly shortlines and regionals, and can you give us any insight to which ones might be friendly?
-How would one get a private car between passenger-friendly shortlines? Would Amtrak or Class 1s take FRA-compliant passenger cars in regular and/or special trains?
  by jhdeasy
 
mtuandrew wrote: A few questions on this topic:

-Does it cost less to maintain a car to VIA standards, for our north-of-the-border posters?
-Is there a list of charter-friendly shortlines and regionals, and can you give us any insight to which ones might be friendly?
-How would one get a private car between passenger-friendly shortlines? Would Amtrak or Class 1s take FRA-compliant passenger cars in regular and/or special trains?
(1) In accordance with Via's private car tariff, Via requires compliance with Amtrak, FRA and industry interchange standards. If you meet those standards, Via will handle your car. Thus the cost of Via certification is equal to the cost of Amtrak certification.

(2) That information is known to car owner members of AAPRCO and RPCA.

(3) The only way to move a private car that is not Amtrak certified between passenger-friendly shortlines is to move it unoccupied in freight service on class I and other carriers. That can be expensive, and is fraught more significantly more risk than moving a car on Amtrak. In some cases, it may be more expensive. CSX will not move passenger cars with oil lubricated roller bearings; they will only move passengers cars with grease lubricated non-rotating end cap roller bearings after the owner provides extensive documentation and CSX inspects/accepts the car.

Amtrak will consider a one time one-way move to a shop for a car that is not Amtrak certified, provided an Amtrak inspector approves it as safe for movement. That means it meets all FRA requirements plus various essential items on Amtrak's PC-1 annual inspection.