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is it financially possible to add superliner cars?


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#1 Fred Wis.

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 05:12 PM

Twice in the last week I have read threads that mention sold out long distance trains being the norm in the summer time. I am only an occasional rider so have not seen alot of this, but assuming this is the case for perhads 4 to maybe 5 or 6 months of the year (summer plus holidays), at what point would it make financial sense to purchase more cars for the superliner fleet. I understand that adding new routes, will require more cars that likely congress would need to come up with money to fund, but shouldn't sold out trains adding cars be a financial advantage to covering costs on these routes? My limited business experience says that even private financing or leasing should make sense here, or is Amtrak limited to funding only from federal or state governments? Is the need to place a large order the sticking point? Can anyone shed light on this?



#2 PVD

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 05:24 PM

Building anything new in small quantities generally costs more per unit than a large purchase. All of the costs to design, test, and set up production are spread out over a much smaller number of items. Very costly. Certainly not impossible, but usually not economically sensible. Applies in most areas, not just railcars.



#3 Fred Wis.

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 05:30 PM

So, what historically, has been a number that has been used for car purchases? I know there is a viewliner order out there now (for a long time) that has not yet been filled. And years ago there was a superliner II order. What kind of quantities does history tell us are needed?



#4 west point

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 07:35 PM

Amtrak believes the number is about 100 each. That is 100 Superliner types and 100 V-2 types. Grand total 200 per year/

#5 bcanedy

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 08:02 PM

Both the Viewliner 2 and the Midwest bilevel car orders started at 130 units, so that appears to be the magic number to me. My question is beyond the 6 types of Superliner cars in service now (sleeper, transition sleeper, coach, coach/baggage, diner and sightseer lounge) what other car types should Amtrak consider adding to their fleet with the next order? My suggestion is a baggage-dorm similar to the coach/baggage car on the lower level and all roomettes on the upper level. I imagine these could be useful on the Southwest Chief route for shuttling the Boy Scouts to/from Raton. (Yes, some to take sleepers.) They could also be reserved by large tour groups instead of having them take over the existing sleepers during peak travel times. Any other ideas?

#6 PVD

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 08:16 PM

The key to making a program a success is to try and keep a plant busy for a length of time. That spreads out the cost of gearing up and tooling for fabrication over more units and time. Also, there is a skills acquisition and learning curve on almost any project, the longer you can keep building the same or similar products, the more efficient it usually is. A 100 car order gets things moving, but if you can order, lets say 400 over 5 years, watch the unit costs sink. Any new car builds are likely to include features that will make them some what easier to convert from one type to another, and food service is likely to include some type of set-up that makes it easier to load in and out and set up.



#7 StriderGDM

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 08:54 PM

As mentioned, there was sort of a bilevel order, the state one that among other things would replace a bunch of Horizon cars. But, unfortunately, that order seems completely fubar.

So, it wouldn't have really added to the Superliner fleet per se, but would have given Amtrak more equipment and options to move stuff around a bit.

 

But yes, the sort of unofficial plans seem to suggest 100 or so coaches/cars a year.  The first to replaced will probably be the Amfleet IIs though.

(That said, yeah, 100-200 more Superliners would probably find quite a bit of use :-)



#8 railiner

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 01:33 PM

In reading the various threads on new Amtrak car order's here, it seems that the problem is not only getting the funds for new equipment, but finding a reliable source to construct them...much harder than the days when Budd, Pullman-Standard, and other's could really crank 'em out, on demand.

 

When talking about 'economy of scale', the Amfleet I and II order, developed from the earlier Metroliner design, and also the run of similar SPV-2000's was 703, in total of all types, plus there were about 14 shells built that were never completed, according to the Wiki article...

 

And the two Superliner orders totaled 479.

 

Bombardier built 104 Horizon's, based on the Comet commuter cars.


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#9 KmH

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 02:33 PM

The summer high season runs from about mid June to mid September, or about 1/3 of the year.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to have extra cars sitting and being unproductive for 2/3 of the year.

 

In low season (the winter months) the California Zephyr consist has 1 less coach car and 1 less sleeper car.

Until recent years Amtrak often ran an extra sleeper on the CZ between Chicago and Denver as needed. When the train got to Denver the extra sleeper was unhooked from the #5, and then attached to the #6 that arrived in Denver later that same day for the Denver to Chicago leg.


Edited by KmH, 05 August 2017 - 02:34 PM.

1963U. S. Congress - underground trolley system • Disneyland train (1968/various other dates) • Old Tucson steam train (1969)

Amtrak: California Zephyr Coast Starlight •  Southwest ChiefSunset LimitedTexas Eagle • Illinois Zephyr

. . . . . . . Amtrak miles - 16,383, so far.

 

 

 

 

 


#10 dogbert617

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 07:27 PM

In reading the various threads on new Amtrak car order's here, it seems that the problem is not only getting the funds for new equipment, but finding a reliable source to construct them...much harder than the days when Budd, Pullman-Standard, and other's could really crank 'em out, on demand.

 

When talking about 'economy of scale', the Amfleet I and II order, developed from the earlier Metroliner design, and also the run of similar SPV-2000's was 703, in total of all types, plus there were about 14 shells built that were never completed, according to the Wiki article...

 

And the two Superliner orders totaled 479.

 

Bombardier built 104 Horizon's, based on the Comet commuter cars.

 

For anyone who may know, how long have the Superliners been in service for anyway? I thought it was since sometime in the 1970s, but am not totally sure myself. And am I right in thinking a few Superliners are assigned to the Heartland Flyer between OKC and Fort Worth?



#11 CCC1007

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 07:35 PM

Superliner 1's date from 1979 mainly, and 2's date from 1993-1995.

#12 west point

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 07:51 PM

You missed other high seasons for Amtrak.

1. Two weeks before Thanksgiving to weekend after New Years day.  Thanksgiving Amtrak actually has extra trains and borrows equipment.

2.  Easter and spring breaks.

3.  Memorial day weekend

 

All These high season demands leave the low season for more cars needing more than routine maintenance



#13 Baralheia

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 09:10 PM

And am I right in thinking a few Superliners are assigned to the Heartland Flyer between OKC and Fort Worth?

 

 

Yes, the Heartland Flyer typically consists of either 2 or 3 Superliner cars - one Superliner I Snack-Coach, and one to two Superliner II Coaches.


Edited by Baralheia, 05 August 2017 - 09:11 PM.


#14 railiner

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 09:34 AM

 

In reading the various threads on new Amtrak car order's here, it seems that the problem is not only getting the funds for new equipment, but finding a reliable source to construct them...much harder than the days when Budd, Pullman-Standard, and other's could really crank 'em out, on demand.

 

When talking about 'economy of scale', the Amfleet I and II order, developed from the earlier Metroliner design, and also the run of similar SPV-2000's was 703, in total of all types, plus there were about 14 shells built that were never completed, according to the Wiki article...

 

And the two Superliner orders totaled 479.

 

Bombardier built 104 Horizon's, based on the Comet commuter cars.

 

For anyone who may know, how long have the Superliners been in service for anyway? I thought it was since sometime in the 1970s, but am not totally sure myself. And am I right in thinking a few Superliners are assigned to the Heartland Flyer between OKC and Fort Worth?

 

 

 

Superliner 1's date from 1979 mainly, and 2's date from 1993-1995.

The Superliner's were first ordered in 1975, and deliveries began a few years later.  They were first 'tested' on some short-haul routes out of Chicago, until a full set of the different types of cars were ready for service.

Since it operated in the extreme winter climate, and the old steam-heated equipment suffered each winter, the Empire Builder was selected as the first all-Superliner train.

 

The Superliner contract was won by the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company, using many patents it obtained from The Budd Company, who built the similarly laid out "Hi-Level" cars built for the Santa Fe Ry.

between 1954 and 1964.  The last example of those cars still in Amtrak service is the "Pacific Parlor Car", used on the Coast Starlight, for sleeping car passenger's...


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#15 jis

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 10:26 AM

Since 1975 is more than 17 years removed from 1954 how many of those patents were still in force in 1975?

#16 Lonestar648

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 11:02 AM

Who manufactured the Superliner II cars? Do they hold all the patents being the last to manufacture or does Budd still hold the patents. It has been a couple decades or so.

Trains Traveled On:
Texas Eagle                                      Sunset Limited                            California Zephyr                                Southwest Chief                Empire Builder            Capitol Limited           Lake Shore limited (NYP & BOS)      Crescent
Kentucky Cardinal                             Cardinal                                       Pere Marquette                                  Wolverines                        Lincoln Service            Empire Service          Keystone Service                               Acelas
NE Regionals                                    Pioneer                                        Desert Wind                                       Broadway Limited             Three Rivers                 Coast Starlight                          
 
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#17 zephyr17

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 11:35 AM

Since 1975 is more than 17 years removed from 1954 how many of those patents were still in force in 1975?

The last order of Hi-Levels by Santa Fe was 1964.  Perhaps there were some new patents?

 

Bombardier built the Superliner 2s and had use of the plans of Pullman-Standard.  Don't know how they acquired the rights.  Plans are still intellectual property even if patents are not involved.  Pullman-Standard went out of business and the Superliners were the last cars they built (they were primarily a freight car builder by that time).  Budd is long out of business as well.


Edited by zephyr17, 06 August 2017 - 11:36 AM.

SP Coast Daylight, AT&SF San Diegan, AT&SF Super Chief, D&RGW Rio Grande Zephyr, Southwest Limited/Chief, San Diegan/Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, Cascades, California/San Francisco Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Sunset Limited (LA-Orlando), Desert Wind, Pioneer, City of New Orleans, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Hoosier State (Amtrak),  Hoosier State (Iowa Pacific), Ann Rutledge, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, NE Regional, Capitol Limited, Via Canadian (CP route), Via Super Continental, Via Atlantic Limited, Via Hudson Bay, Via Skeena, Via Canadian (CN route), Via "Corridor" (Toronto-Montreal), BC Rail Cariboo Dayliner, Eurostar, Thalys, DB, Netherlands Rail, Austrian Railways, BR, Korail (conventional), Korail KTX


#18 WoodyinNYC

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 11:41 AM

Who manufactured the Superliner II cars? Do they hold all the patents being the last to manufacture or does Budd still hold the patents. It has been a couple decades or so.

I'm not sure this would matter. A committee developed new specs for Next Generation equipment. Those specs, including lower weight, were used in the Request for Proposals for short-distance bi-levels. (Nippon Sharyo won the contract but failed to meet the crush test.)

 

Going forward, eventually there could be a new RFP order instead of the Nippon Sharyo order for short distance cars, also based on the Next Generation specs. Then presumably at some point an order for a long distance version to replace, and possibly supplement, the Superliners. I'm not sure that using any patents or other rights from Budd or Pullman-Standard would be required. Meanwhile the term of any such patents would go ticking away with every passing year. At the current rate of progress, LOL, any still-existing rights could well expire before another RFP, or in the worst case would be trivial costs.



#19 neroden

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 01:01 PM

Seasonality is a *problem* for trains.  You can't financially justify buying cars which only run in the peak season.  It would be OK if one train peaked in summer and the other in winter, but no, they nearly all peak in summer.  The only ones with a winter peak are the Silver Service.  So you could buy more Viewliners, and put them on the Silvers in the winter and the LSL in the summer -- that would work.  But ALL the Superliner trains peak in the summer.

 

Somewhere on this board we worked out the seasonality of all the trains.  I can't quite remember the details.  The ones further north were more seasonal, unsurprisingly.  In addition, IIRC the CZ, SWC, and SL were *far* more seasonal than most of the other trains.  This is part of the reason they're the weakest financially.

 

It's basically unjustifiable finanically to order new cars for the western transcons at this point.  Ordering new cars for the Auto Train?  Maybe justifiable financially.  Ordering new cars for the the eastern single-level trains?  Definitely justifiable financially.  The Midwestern bilevel coach order would have allowed cascading of some coaches to other trains, but it has failed AFAICT.

 

On the subject of plans, nobody in their right mind would want to build to the Superliner plans.  The Viewliner plan is relatively modern, amenable to tweaking.  The Superliner plan is truly obsolete, as in "you wouldn't even try to build it that way".  If you based your design on any existing Amtrak plan, you'd start with the Surfliner II.


Edited by neroden, 06 August 2017 - 01:03 PM.

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#20 jis

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 02:36 PM

Since 1975 is more than 17 years removed from 1954 how many of those patents were still in force in 1975?

The last order of Hi-Levels by Santa Fe was 1964.  Perhaps there were some new patents?
 
Bombardier built the Superliner 2s and had use of the plans of Pullman-Standard.  Don't know how they acquired the rights.  Plans are still intellectual property even if patents are not involved.  Pullman-Standard went out of business and the Superliners were the last cars they built (they were primarily a freight car builder by that time).  Budd is long out of business as well.
Protection of "plans" fall under a different set of laws dealing with trade secrets. Those can be protected essentially in perpetuity. Not so with patents. Their protection expires either because the fixed protection period ends or because you fail to pay maintenance fees these days. The third kind of IPR covered by yet another set of laws is Copyright. The three are very different from each other and people perennially conflate them arriving at strange conclusions.




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