RFP issued for Amfleet I replacement

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by keelhauled, Jan 18, 2019.

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  1. Jan 18, 2019 #1

    keelhauled

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    Amtrak news release.  75 trainsets or equivalent in individual cars to replace Amfleet I/Metroliner fleet.  No ETA on delivery.  Apparently the old fleet strategy plan of replacing the Amfleet IIs first is out the window.
     
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  2. Jan 18, 2019 #2

    Acela150

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    Trainsets??? Since when are the Amfleets a trainset? 
     
  3. Jan 19, 2019 #3

    Dutchrailnut

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    read buddy read...
     
  4. Jan 19, 2019 #4

    jis

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    Something like the California or Brightline order would be acceptable, is my reading.
     
  5. Jan 19, 2019 #5

    Seaboard92

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    Something tells me I will benefit financially from this. In full disclosure I own Siemens stock.
     
  6. Jan 19, 2019 #6

    Acela150

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    Thanks for the useless comment Dutch.. Stay humble. 

    That's what I'm thinking. But my major problem with using trainsets is simple. If you need to shop one car, you need to shop the whole thing. Amfleets you drill the car out and put a new one in. Another problem is that if you need say only 6 cars on a train to VA and you have 8 in a trainset those 2 unused cars can go elsewhere. 
     
  7. Jan 19, 2019 #7

    jis

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    Did you witness what happened when a car in a Brightline consist was damaged week before last. They simply switched the car out and ran the trainset one car short until the damage was fixed and car added back to the consist. Maybe it is not as big a delay as is made out by some apparently.

    The California setup makes this even easier since a pair of cars can be removed as a unit even more easily than a single car from a trainset.
     
  8. Jan 19, 2019 #8

    Acela150

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    I'm not as in the loop as I used to be. So no I didn't see that. I'm just hoping that if it is indeed "trainsets", it's not like the HST, semi-permanent. 
     
  9. Jan 19, 2019 #9

    Thirdrail7

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    We'll have to see what the proposal is. I suspect a combination DMU/EMU vehicle, which will minimize engine changes.
     
  10. Jan 19, 2019 #10

    jis

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    The Brightline sets are semi-permanently coupled. My point was that did not stop them from shopping a single car.

    I think one thing that they will go with is sufficient number of cab cars so that they do not need to wye trains. They can then have the freedom to reverse trains at platform like they do with Acelas while continuing to use the existing Sprinters and new diesels for power.

    One oddity that I noticed in the passing is that the diesel engine spec has been slightly modified to allow engines to be 85' long! I wonder why. Even if the want to package it in a carbody like the rest of the cars, it can still be shorter than 85'. Maybe leaving enough room for dual modes without worrying too much about space conservation?
     
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  11. Jan 19, 2019 #11

    LookingGlassTie

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    Maybe it's because the Amfleet II's are going to be "refreshed" instead of "replaced".    Or is that off the table now?
     
  12. Jan 19, 2019 #12

    jis

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    They will be first refreshed and then replaced just like the Amfleet Is. Given the way Amtrak's accounts are laid out, finding adequate collateral for a loan for them may be a somewhat bigger challenge than for the Amfleet Is. Similar issues arise for Superliners, unless of course Congress steps upto the plate beyond just occasionally hyperventilating about it. So far they have not really funded much of any new equipment.
     
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  13. Jan 19, 2019 #13

    Acela150

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    Not like Amtrak bought 70 brand spankin new electric motors about 5 years ago.  :help:

    The problem with Semi Permanent is that it can't be done quickly. Compared to the current Amcans. The one thing I'd like to see is something that has standard knuckles with the Type H Tightlock. I'd be ok with using cab cars on trains in a similar capacity to the current HST. 

    One thing I will say is that I don't predict a 40-45 year running life on the new equipment. Stuff isn't built like it was. ;)  
     
  14. Jan 19, 2019 #14

    jis

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    This is a standard attitude among Americans and yet in the rest of the world railways are moving towards fixed EMU/DMU/DEMU sets to quite an extent, specially in places where passenger railway with extremely frequent service, is run more as a necessity for millions rather than as almost a hobby as in many places in the US (with tongue in the cheek)
     
  15. Jan 19, 2019 #15

    Thirdrail7

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    And that is the difference. It is one thing when you have a lot of equipment and options, such as frequency and support. When you have a sparse network, with trains isolated and at the behest of freight operators and outsourced assistance,  uniformity is a good thing.

    When there is a problem with an Acela due to a problem with a coach, the whole set is shopped.  Setting out a car should be a quick and easy process. Being able to add equipment (if necessary) should be a quick and easy process, particularly when you don't have an extensive network.

    I hope it is.
     
  16. Jan 19, 2019 #16

    Brian_tampa

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    The RFP is to replace equipment used on NEC and other regional trains that use the NEC corridor. This appears to not be a LD equipment order, only for the east coast from VA to ME. So the issues of infrequent service and being subject to running on host railroads are minimized since this equipment will stay close to their home base. 

    And if Amtrak takes a whole Acela trainset out of service because of an issue on 1 car, all I can say is that seems really inefficient. Like jis said, if Brightline can do it why can't Amtrak? 

    Having semi-permanent trainsets will force Amtrak to maintain their equipment properly. That can only be a good thing! I do not know of many, if any at all, equipment failures on Brightline that caused cancelled or delayed trains. They seem to have their maintenance plan set up so that equipment availability and reliability is extremely good. Why can't Amtrak, after almost 50 years of experience, get this right?
     
  17. Jan 20, 2019 #17

    cpotisch

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    Or, since equipment will pretty much inevitably have issue(s) at some point, it can very well be a bad thing. I highly doubt Amtrak has been spending decades saying "Hey! What's the point in maintaining equipment? If a car is bad-ordered, we won't necessarily have to take a whole train set out of service!" Problems occur, and making those problems 10x as problematic is not going to magically keep them from occurring.

    That's like saying we should get rid of crumple zones in cars because it will incentivize people to not get into crashes.
     
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  18. Jan 20, 2019 #18

    NSC1109

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    Remember, the Acela trainsets have been in service since 2000. The Brightline trainsets entered service in 2018. That's nearly a 20-year difference. Granted, I'm far from an expert on semi-permanently coupled trainsets and what exactly was doable in those days, but I doubt that Amtrak would take an entire Acela trainset OOS for one car unless they had no other option. They may not always be the most efficient, but I find it difficult to believe that the transportation and mechanical departments would be that idiotic. 

    As for the idea of fixed trainsets in general, I certainly see the appeal. There's always a risk when going over the couplers, especially with the moving footplates and various hard edges to fall on. At the same time, it can potentially be a nightmare if a trainset or even a pair of cars (like what Illinois is doing) have to be taken out of service because of an issue on just one car. Granted, Illinois ordered some individual coaches in an apparent attempt to help mitigate the issue, but the cafe and business class cars are still in pairs with coaches. If you lose that pair, you better hope you have another handy. 

    Below is the planned setup for the Siemens cars operating out of Chicago. Please note that the " - " indicates a Type H coupler while a " / " indicates a semi-permanently coupled married pair:

    Locomotive - Individual Coach - Individual Coach - Coach/Cafe - Coach/BusEcon - Locomotive

    This is the CalTrans setup: 

    Locomotive - Coach/Coach/Coach/Cafe/Coach/Coach/Cab Car 

    Here's a breakdown of who ordered what: 


    Customer


    Car Type


    Quantity


    Description


    # Doors


    Coupler

    Configuration


    Caltrans


    CT-1A


    21


    Mid coach car


    2


    S-S


    Caltrans


    CT-1B


    7


    End coach car coupled to locomotive


    4


    H-S


    Caltrans


    CT-1C


    7


    Mid coach car with wheelchair lifts


    4


    S-S


    Caltrans


    CT-4A


    7


    Cab Car


    2


    S-H


    Caltrans


    CT-5A


    7


    Café Car


    4


    S-S


    IDOT


    ID-1A


    20


    Individual coach car


    2


    H-H


    IDOT


    ID-1B


    34


    Coach car for business or café married pair


    2


    S-H


    IDOT


    ID-3A


    17


    Business/ economy car


    4


    S-H


    IDOT


    ID-5A


    17


    Café Car


    4


    S-H





    As you can see above, only IDOT has taken steps to have spare equipment available to mitigate any sort of impact from a bad ordered car. All of CalTrans' cars will be semi-permanently coupled. Now, I don't have any sort of data that would indicate the primary causes of bad-ordering, but I figure that if CalTrans didn't feel the need to have individual replacements on hand, a large part of the concern could be weather-related, as we tend to have worse weather (the current snowstorm, for example) than California does. 
     
  19. Jan 20, 2019 #19

    Thirdrail7

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    Everyone else addressed the shrill and uninformed nature of the rest or your post so I'll take this point.

    Very few trains and the equipment are  confined to the NEC corridor. Just about every set leaves the NEC proper and run on the host railroads.  This equipment may run Boston to Roanoke, Virginia (which approaches almost three trips on Brightline) over 4 railroads and then become a train to Norfolk, Virginia...again, traversing 4 railroads.  The Virginia outlying points are NOWHERE near their base and often represent the only train in the area.

    Two trains (Adirondack and Maple Leaf) aren't even in the United States when they finish so I;m not sure how you consider a train that is 544 miles away from its start "close to their home base."

    There are also more than mechanical difficulties that plague trains. What about trees or the many, many grade crossing incidents as people continue to challenge trains to a joust? That wrecks havoc on the equipment.

    While Jis mentioned brightline switching out a car, he never mentioned where. Was this in a facility or did the crew perform this along the right away, after it was broadsided by a car that ran a grade crossing and damaged the brake system?
     
  20. Jan 20, 2019 #20

    Brian_tampa

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    Thirdrail7, I would politely disagree with your description of my post. That said, I did not mean to imply that Amtrak does not maintain their equipment to the point that it can't run. I was mostly referring to minor issues that impact the experience of the customer yet are allowed to go back in service without being fixed. Having a fixed trainset consist IMO will help focus on keeping the whole train in good order versus treating each car as a separate piece that is not critical to getting the train over the road. I think having trainsets that cant be easily modified will lead to improved maintenance procedures. That being said, things will happen that require cars to be removed from service from time to time.

    As far as the Acela trainsets, I was repeating what I have heard over the years. It could be a design feature that causes this to be the case. 

    In the RFP, Amtrak mentioned corridor services. That would seem to exclude the two trains to Canada that you specifically mentioned. I know that NEC regional trains do operate off of the NEC and onto other railroad's tracks. Yet in the big picture, most NEC and regional trains do not stray that far from where ever their home base would be on the NEC. 

    What I am trying to say, however shrill or uninformed it might seem, is that the current situation is not sustainable long term. To grow the system and attract new riders who would not otherwise consider taking the train, Amtrak needs to consider new ideas such as Brightline style trainsets and their maintenance program they have with Siemens.
     
  21. Jan 20, 2019 #21

    jis

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    Actually, it is the Acela IIs which will be truly articulated like the TGVs using Jacobs Trucks.

    I think you are quite correct in your observation that Amtrak operates on thin margins of equipment, unlike the much much larger passenger systems elsewhere. In a manner of speaking, they have a much deeper equipment bench for all sorts of equipment than Amtrak does.

    There are two more observations I'd make based on what I observe in Europe and India.

    1. Even when articulated sets are used the drawbars connecting the individual cars within a set together are relatively easy to couple and decouple, so changing out cars within a consist often is not much harder than if they had standard couplers, and are similar in complexity to chain and screw couplers which is still not that uncommon in the rest of the world anyway. Of course, the more permanent and hence harder to separate the coupling is the more seamless is the customer experience of passing from one car to another. It is a tradeoff, and a decision to be made based on what factors are more important to the operator.

    2. Typically EMU and DMU sets are three or four cars long, and trains are built stringing together two to five such sets. So even if cars cannot be replaced, all that happens is things are taken out of service in units of say, 225 seats instead of 75 seats, and that together with availability of spares in units of 225 seats instead of 75 as standard units for example, works out just fine. And the 3 or 4 car units then can have full width vestibules giving a sense of airy spaciousness to the customer, with only inter-unit vestibules being narrower.

    In India so far even when cars are connected by drawbars within a set, no advantage is taken to provide a more seamless experience to the customer. That is changing with the recent T-18 distributed power prototype, which supposedly will be deployed on Premier trains, both regional and overnight. The claim is doing so will allow lopping off full two hours from the current 16 hour schedule between Mumbai and New Delhi or Kolkata and New Delhi.

    As far as I can see, at least in India, the argument for going with EMU/DMU for regional service is the significantly superior timetable performance of the DMU/EMUs over loco hauled trains. In general they report immediate 10% to 20% overall running time reduction for services that have frequent stops. That really is a big deal if achieved without requiring major track/signal overhaul. This is the publicly stated primary reason for converting regional passenger and express trains to DMU/EMU, and it clearly shows in time tables and customer experience.

    I saw a living illustration of it the other day when the train I was on, an extremely capable loco hauled train of 10 cars with 5+kHP Co-Co TRAXX electric engine, was routinely beaten handily in acceleration out of a station stop by an EMU. Of course eventually we caught up with and overtook the EMU since we did not have to stop everywhere, which it did (and our APS was 30kph faster than the EMU's), but the illustration was stark. And it is not like these EMU sets are drastically overpowered. It is just that the power is distributed in 1 in 4 (16 axles in 64 in a 4 unit 16 car train) instead of 6 axles in 46 to 66 (10-15 car trains). There are no trains in India that operate with more than one electric engine (except the few mountain segments where bankers are used just for the climb), or for that matter more than one EMD dual cab ~5kHP Co-Co AC drive diesel engine. There are some that operate with twin single cab ALCO derivative 3kHP DC drive engines.

    But bottom line is, the operating conditions and imperatives are different in different environments. US passenger service except in the NEC is very different from the more intensive passenger ops elsewhere in the world.

    On the NEC 3 or 4 car sets with one power car coupled together using AAR-H couplers as proposed by NJT is likely to address the distributed power issue without compromising on replaceability of individual cars, and indeed that is what Amtrak might go for. If experience elsewhere holds true in American, which is always a big if, then this could improve timetable performance considerably without massive investment in tracks and signals. So we shall see.

    As far as I can see, the two features to go for primarily are:

    1. Distributed power - spread the power transmission among a larger proportion of axles to get significantly better performance.

    2. Operating Cabs at both ends - to eliminate the need for turning trains on Wyes or Balloon Tracks or unhooking and hooking locomotives at the end of each run.

    The rest is just arguing about who calls which configuration by what name.
     
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  22. Jan 20, 2019 #22

    Thirdrail7

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    From the VERY TWO FIRST paragraphs from the press release:

    So, the two border crossing trains are specifically mentioned. Secondly, you are WRONG about about most regionals not straying from the NEC. At this point, most of the Virginia service trains stray 200+ miles away from the NEC.  Trains like the Carolinian, The Pennsylvanian, the Vermonter, the NYS Empire service to Upstate New York do not end anywhere near the NEC when they finish or begin their trip...and they DEFINITELY end up on the host railroads territory. 

    Brightline's sealed service model (which hasn't even made it to its forth stop yet, let alone crosses state lines) would be great IF the train remained on a sealed corridor (like the Acela.)  Again, this is not as much about maintenance. I'm speaking about operational realities.

    When a train hits a tree in a storm(like 92 a few days ago) and ALL of the headlights and ditch lights  go dark and you are 400 miles deep into freight territory, heading AWAY from your base, I'd like a better option than stopping to protect every single grade crossing along the route. I'd like to know that it is compatible with the something else out there so the train can be rescued and there is a way to make repairs at the outlying points. In 92's case, a train coupled up to it and continued along its way. When 79 hit a car and the engine was damaged, a freight engine coupled up, took it to CLT and stayed with it for train 80 the next day. Cars and equipment have been set off for other train en route.

    Additionally, if operation conditions warrant it,  I want this to be an option:



    I'm pretty sure this would be considered "away from their base."

    So, if they aren't compatible, you have taken away operational flexibility....or do you think Amtrak and Siemens is  seriously going to establish a facility at every single outlying point and turnaround location on the eastern system?
     
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  23. Jan 20, 2019 #23

    NSC1109

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    I can tell you that Amfleets are commonly utilized on almost every corridor train out of Chicago, save for possibly the Hiawatha. A good chunk of them are lettered “Illinois HSR”. Occasionally an NER café will show up on a Wolverine. 
     
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  24. Jan 20, 2019 #24

    PVD

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    I'm most curious about some of the details not yet "out here" Presently, The routes mentioned, for the most part, use 2 different types of cars to provide food service, as well as 2 different types for business class (using 3 car types)  Empire Service  trains are shorter, but cars on certain trains are added or dropped at Albany for capacity to/from NYP, the ability to add to an NER around certain holidays is useful, and presently, the overnight NER gets a bag. I'm curious as to how that is looked at moving forward.....
     
  25. Jan 20, 2019 #25

    cpotisch

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    But if it's a minor issue that doesn't prohibit a car from keeping kept in service, then what difference does it make that it's a semi-permanently coupled trainset? They can still send that car into service and it wouldn't affect the other cars.

    If it's a serious issue that prohibits the car from going into service, now you have to take the trainset out of service, which is bad.

    If it's a minor issue that just affects the passenger experience, it makes no difference that it's one trainset.

    Either way, I don't see how it being one trainset results in Amtrak being much better about maintenance.
     

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