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Private Rail Cars.....


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#1 RailFanLNK

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 11:50 PM

When a private rail car is being pulled by Amtrak, can the folks in the private car gain access to the Amtrak train? Or is it just hooked up with the folks stuck in their car? Also, how much does Amtrak charge to pull a private rail car? And what does one cost? Anybody here on the forum have one? Ridden in one? Thanks!

Al

I have travelled on the California Zephyr, Lakeshore Limited, Carolinian, Acela, Capital Limited, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Missouri River Runners, Texas Eagle, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service and the Cardinal.


#2 PRR 60

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 07:21 AM

When a private rail car is being pulled by Amtrak, can the folks in the private car gain access to the Amtrak train? Or is it just hooked up with the folks stuck in their car? Also, how much does Amtrak charge to pull a private rail car? And what does one cost? Anybody here on the forum have one? Ridden in one? Thanks!

Al

The occupants of private cars hauled on Amtrak trains do not have access to the Amtrak cars.

The cost of hauling a car is complex. Amtrak assesses an annual charge of $4000 per car just to make your car eligible to be carried. The specific trips are charged on a per-mile basis and also with flat charges for each switching move and other services. The per mile charge is $1.75 subject to a $750 minimum. Amtrak switching is $1200 each time the car is moved on or off a train. Sanitary service is $75 each. Overnight parking on Amtrak property is $75 per night. Running a private car from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and back would cost something like $7000.

Amtrak has to approve every proposed move (just paying the $4000 does not guarantee they will approve your moves). They can pull the plug right up to the eleventh hour of the trip with no reason required.

A private car can cost whatever you want to pay. Buy a car cheap ($100K or so) and expect to put in an additional $250k or more just to get it Amtrak qualified. Then expect to pay $50k or more a year to keep it that way over and above the costs of prepping the car for trips.

I once spoke with a local car owner about the glamour of owning a private rail car. He said he thinks of that every time on a sub-zero winter night he is lying flat on his back under his car at 30th Street trying to free frozen turds from his sanitary pipes. Puts it all in perspective.

#3 printman2000

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 08:44 AM

The occupants of private cars hauled on Amtrak trains do not have access to the Amtrak cars.


I did read on a website a company selling a private car rail trip where Amtrak had agreed to put their private car in front of the transition dorm, allowing occupants to use the dining car for meals. It was either on the SWC or the CZ from California to Chicago.

#4 BillVas

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 09:21 AM

When a private rail car is being pulled by Amtrak, can the folks in the private car gain access to the Amtrak train? Or is it just hooked up with the folks stuck in their car? Also, how much does Amtrak charge to pull a private rail car? And what does one cost? Anybody here on the forum have one? Ridden in one? Thanks!

Al


I rode a private railrcar, which had it's own diner. Amtrak did not allow any of thier passengers to board the private rail cars. Even if the private car passengers had been allowed to use Amtrak diner I would think they paid for the meals themselves just like you do in coach. The trip I was on we had snacks till we picked up added cars and the diner in ST. Louis. Go to American Rail excursions website if you want to ride a private car. They have great trips.
Bill

#5 frj1983

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 09:56 AM

I'm curious?

I just saw a string of about 6-7 private cars in the Amtrak yard here in Chicago. There were two Amtrak locomotives on the front and looked to be a private move(pulling only those cars). Does anyone know if the pricing is different for such a move?

#6 Rafi

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 09:57 AM


The occupants of private cars hauled on Amtrak trains do not have access to the Amtrak cars.


I did read on a website a company selling a private car rail trip where Amtrak had agreed to put their private car in front of the transition dorm, allowing occupants to use the dining car for meals. It was either on the SWC or the CZ from California to Chicago.


I came very close to arranging for a private car excursion for my honeymoon last year. It didn't happen, unfortunately ($$$$$$), but I did get assurances from the various rail car owners I spoke with that if we didn't want to have a chef along in the railcar, that they could arrange for us to eat in Amtrak's dining car. Not sure if that's not officially sanctioned (perhaps it's a matter of sweet-talking the conductor), but the owners seemed to think it wouldn't be a problem.

-Rafi

Edited by Rafi, 27 March 2007 - 09:58 AM.

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#7 ceblack

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 10:04 AM

I did read on a website a company selling a private car rail trip where Amtrak had agreed to put their private car in front of the transition dorm, allowing occupants to use the dining car for meals. It was either on the SWC or the CZ from California to Chicago.


I've seen that trip advertised as well... it's on the SWC from LAX-CHI and back.

The American Association of Private Rail Car Owners web site has a page listing many private rail cars that are available for lease or charter, with links to many of the car owner or charter company sites. Some of them have rough cost estimates for sample itineraries...it certainly ain't cheap. One of the California-based sleepers is running the above trip on the SWC.

#8 RailFanLNK

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 12:48 PM

DANG!!!!! Uh.... :( well..... :blink: I guess I'll just stick to sittin' in coach! :lol:

Al
PS. Kinda reminds me of the luxury box crowds at big stadiums!

I have travelled on the California Zephyr, Lakeshore Limited, Carolinian, Acela, Capital Limited, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Missouri River Runners, Texas Eagle, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service and the Cardinal.


#9 haolerider

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 01:41 PM

DANG!!!!! Uh.... :( well..... :blink: I guess I'll just stick to sittin' in coach! :lol:

Al
PS. Kinda reminds me of the luxury box crowds at big stadiums!

This all reminds me of the often quoted statement: "If you have to ask how much they cost, you can't afford one."

#10 MrFSS

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 02:17 PM

If you want to have a small taste (no pun intended) of a private car, try a nice dinner train. There are a number of them around the country. My wife and I have ridden about 5-6 of them and the best and plushest we encountered was in Vermont. Cafe Lafayette - fine food and experience for about $150 for two in the dome.

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#11 deimos

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 07:58 PM

Wow! I wonder how much Amtrak spends to maintain a typical coach? I can't even imagine how much it would take to keep a locomotive going.

Thanks for all of the info.


Cheers

Deimos

#12 Steve4031

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 08:42 PM

Here is my private car experience. Since I did not know how to link to the previous post, I just copy and pasted. Hope I did not violate protocal.

I rode the private car, Caritas, from Chicago to New York on the back of the Lake Shore Limited. It was operating on a positioning move, and it cost about 300 dollars for that trip. I saw this advertised someplace, like in Trains maagazine, called and booked it. I never even had a ticket. I walked out onto the platform at Union Station, gave them my name and boarded.

The car had an open platform on the back, then a seating area, two dining tables, a kitchen, and three or for bedrooms. When I booked it, they told me not to expect any special food. However, when passed the kitchen to put my bag in my room, I saw the cook making roles from scratch.

We departed Chicago through the south side of Chicago with all of us standing on the platform (2 railfans, and 3 crew members). At one point as we negotiated a slow order, I watcheda pick-up basketball game on a court that was next to the tracks. After we passed, Englewood, we accellerated ont the 4 track mainline. What a sensation. Rocking back in forth, rattling through switches and over the draw bridges.

The Dinner as we passed South Bend. Steak, roles, salad, wine, and key lime pie that was exquisite. The crew traded war stories about working with different railraods to ensure efficient operation of the private car.

After dinner, another ride on the platform out of Toledo. After overtaking a Freight on the lefthand track, we crossed back over. We could see the headling of thie freight for the next 15 minutes until we rounded a curve. As the train crossed the caueeway at Sandusky, the temperature dropped, and a light fog enveloped the train. At the other end of the causeway, the fog disappeared and the temperature increased.

After Elyria, time for bed. I dropped off to sleep while reading Sports Illustrated pro-footballl issue.

About 5 the next morning, I woke up. Initially I hesitated about taking a shower and waking the other up, but the platform called. I showered, and a few minutes later was on the platform. Moments later, the other railfan joined me, greatful that I had gotten up. We stayed on the platform as the sun rose near Buffalo. We were offered coffee, but declined because we had been told that no conainers were allowed on the platform. We were not quite rady to come in, even thought we were both shivering. We got some coffee served to us on the platform. What a life!

Breakfast, Blueberry pancakes that were so light, that they had more hang time than Jordan. The bacon was cooked in the oven. Seconds, and thirds were served.

The rest of the morning was spent on the platform, with views of the Mohawk valley. After Albany, we were served lunch as the train followed the shores of the Hudson. The home stretch in to New York Penn was highlighed by sing sing prison, and suburban stations with passengers taking a second look as the Caritas flashed by on the tail end of 48. I made sure to wave at any foxy chicks that were on the platform.

The trip ended to quickly, but it was certainly one of my best train rding experiences.

Edited by Steve4031, 27 March 2007 - 08:43 PM.


#13 PerRock

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 08:42 PM

I'm not sure how the arrangement is or peicing; but there is also the American Orient Express (AOE) which Amtrak power moves arround. I have generally seen it as its own train and so there naturally would be no access to the public section (seeing as there isn't one ;) )

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#14 Guest_PV Owner_*

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 11:59 AM

Generally the folks in the private cars are allowed to walk thru into the Amtrak part of the train to utilize the diner and/or purchase snack items in the forward portion of the train (if they want to). There are exceptions to this of course, where high level equipment (Superliners) are butted up against lower level equipment (which all but one currently operating PV's are). Thus, there is no access on the Lake Shore/Crescent/Silver Trains while they are moving, but there is on the Capitol and most of the other Superliner equipped cars. It is possible to talk to the conductor and get permission to walk from the PV's to the diner during one regular station stop, and after dinner, walk back at another station stop. This has a lot to do with lengths of platforms, and Amtrak does not like to make double stops for PV's, although they do make a lot of double spots for their regular trains.

At this time the only Amtrak-certified high level PV is a former Santa Fe El Capitan car, which Amtrak used for many years before selling it to a private owner. The requirements for operation by a private owner are much more stringent than form Amtrak itself. While all of the high level cars are now privately owned, only the one has been upgraded to the point where it can operate on Amtrak. A good example is dump toilets, when Amtrak had them, they could dump to the ground, but when private owners got them, they had to be upgraded to full retention.

It is not that difficult to get a trip set up on a private car, for instance there are at least two Chicago to Washington trips in April that berths are probably still available. It is usually a little more expensive than an Amtrak sleeper, due to the extra amenities involved in such PV trips. To ride on an AAPRCO convention trip, one only need be an associate member of the organization and pay for the convention registration, which is a minor cost compared to the actual cost of the trip.

On the other hand, it is very difficult to actually own and operate a PV on Amtrak. The number of places that a car can add or subtract to a train is vastly limited over what it used to be. The per-mile charge that Amtrak charges the car owner does not include switching fees that freight railroads charge to get the cars to and from Amtrak terminals. Likewise, Amtrak can charge overnight parking fees at terminals, and much of this is fairly arbitrary, it can easily be more or less than what they first told you when you planned the trip. For the last several years, there has been annual surcharges that Amtrak applied in an attempt to balance its budget.

The issue of placement on the train has also been a bone of contention. When Amtrak was courting freight service, roadrailers and mailhandling cars were often placed on the back of passenger trains, usually the spot where the PV's formerly would operate. As a result, for a while the PV's were kicked off entirely, or placed at mid-train or near-Engine positions. While it is not necessarily a bad experience to be at least two car lengths back from the locomotive, it is an ear-shattering experience to try to ride next to an operating locomotive. Anyone who has recently ridden the CNO/Eagle since the put the sleeper back in the front of the train can tell you it is difficult to enjoy the ride with the many road crossings and the constant horn activity.

Finally, Amtrak will sometimes pull the stunt of telling you that your extra car triggers the cost of an extra locomotive and/or conductor. This despite the fact that many trains no longer carry baggage cars, and the length of the train is not a factor. Sometimes this can happen after the train has already been made up, and you find it out at the last minute, which means the trip you thought you were at least going to break even on has now sunk into the red.

Anyway, riding a PV is a great experience, and one that probably will become less and less possible in the future. So, I highly recommend if you ever thunk about doing it, do it soon!



When a private rail car is being pulled by Amtrak, can the folks in the private car gain access to the Amtrak train? Or is it just hooked up with the folks stuck in their car? Also, how much does Amtrak charge to pull a private rail car? And what does one cost? Anybody here on the forum have one? Ridden in one? Thanks!

Al



#15 Guest_PV Owner_*

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 12:07 PM

Forgot to mention that the AOE no longer exists as such, it was sold to another company that, at the present time, only operates in the Pacific Northwest. So, if you missed riding the southern trips during those years they were offered, you are now outta luck.

Also, riding on an open platform while the car is in motion is against Amtrak rules, which is no big deal, because at 79 mph you aren't going to be back there anyway. It's fun to come out at station stops and get some fresh air, but not at track speed. Remember, the holding tanks on the Amtrak cars are probably overstuffed or leaking, so in addition to the ballast and dirt being kicked up, the smoke from the locomotive, and other miscellaneous items being tossed at you by people (used in the broadest definition, as I find these rock throwers and paint sprayers to be among the most vile folks out there), there is quite a bit of offensive stuff in the air back there.

Riding a dome car is my favorite experience, and except for VIA which still runs them on the Canadian, the Skena, and sometimes still on the Ocean/Chaleur, the only way you can ride in one now is on a PV trip. Alas, on the Northeast Corridor, you cannot sit in a dome even if you can find one, because it is against Amtrak rules (too close to the caternary they say...might cause brain damage).

#16 printman2000

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 01:36 PM

While all of the high level cars are now privately owned, only the one has been upgraded to the point where it can operate on Amtrak.


Thanks for all that great info.

Concerning the Hi-level cars, Amtrak is still using many of them. They have three or four being used as Pacific Parlour cars on the west coast and the Heartland Flyer uses 3 or 4 coaches.

#17 Guest_PV Owner_*

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 09:49 PM

Yes, I forgot about that, sorry. At least one of the Pacific Parlour cars was sold, but it was a great idea for the Starlight (usually credited to Brian Rosenbaum, a great gentleman!). Three or four coaches were redone for the Heartland Flyer, but one of them burned up due to a careless smoker. So are there three left in Oklahoma?

The historyof the El Cap cars is fascinating. As you know if you stepped from superliners into an el cap car when Amtrak combined them in the same train, there was a slight height difference. Many a head was conked. The El Cap cars were a little shorter, but the served as the pattern for the Superliner when it was designed in the 1970's.

Santa Fe's El Cap was all coach, and a very popular budget way of travel for the time. When it was upgraded in 1956 it became even more popular. People liked the mid-train boarding (no vestibule). But the stairway up top could be difficult to traverse for the elderly. Originally there were coaches, diners (with six axle trucks) and lounge cars with the VW microbus windows. There were no sleepers, but the crew dorms had very spartan bunks at one end, so you might call them semi-sleepers. The dorm cars had low level ends on one with a stairway down, and high level on the other. Some coaches were convertible, with sliding vestibules, and a hidden staircase that had a metal door that flopped down to cover it. Originally, the cars had gensets and fuel tanks, which allowed electrical power to run the lights and air conditioning. Quite an improvement over the old wheel-driven generators that would not work except when the train was moving.

During the later days, a few more cars were ordered in 1964 to flesh out the trains, but eventually the El Cap was combined with the Super Chief. A very special faring car was built to streamline the point where the two trains joined. It ran that way until Amtrak.

Santa Fe was very proud of its names, and would not allow Amtrak to use the names, even though it got the equipment, and kept most of it on former Santa Fe routes for many years. A compromise was finally reached, and Amtrak was allowed to have a "Southwest Chief," not a former Santa Fe name, but still reminiscent of some of the allure and high standards of service that brought people to the Santa Fe railroad for many years after other lines had given up.


While all of the high level cars are now privately owned, only the one has been upgraded to the point where it can operate on Amtrak.


Thanks for all that great info.

Concerning the Hi-level cars, Amtrak is still using many of them. They have three or four being used as Pacific Parlour cars on the west coast and the Heartland Flyer uses 3 or 4 coaches.



#18 AlanB

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 09:55 PM

Yes, I forgot about that, sorry. At least one of the Pacific Parlour cars was sold, but it was a great idea for the Starlight (usually credited to Brian Rosenbaum, a great gentleman!). Three or four coaches were redone for the Heartland Flyer, but one of them burned up due to a careless smoker. So are there three left in Oklahoma?


Correct, Amtrak still lists three as active, and they are assigned to the Heartland Flyer.
Alan,

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#19 Trogdor

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Posted 29 March 2007 - 06:55 AM

Amtrak's daily fleet status report has listed six "active" Hi-Levels for some time (for a while, it was showing eight). However, that particular report doesn't differentiate between Parlours or Hi-Level coaches, so I don't know how many of which are still considered active.

("Active" doesn't necessarily mean in-service, as one could be on the active roster but out of service for repairs. It also doesn't mean that something that isn't active can't return to service.)
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#20 AlanB

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Posted 29 March 2007 - 11:00 AM

Well while it doesn't change daily, OTOL's report which does differentiate between types, show 3 Hi-Level and 4 Parlours. It is of course quite possible that one of those 4 Parlours is currently down for maintenance. The fifth Parlour car still on Amtrak property is sitting at BG totally stripped to the core and there is no word on whether it will ever see workers again.
Alan,

Take care and take trains!



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