Viewliner II orders from non-Amtrak customers?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Amfleeter, Jun 6, 2014.

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  1. Jun 6, 2014 #1

    Amfleeter

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    Amfleeter

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    Didn't know where to post this, since it's V-II, I guess this forum is most appropriate.

    Anyways, since some non-Amtrak companies have recently shown interest in operating trains again (IE Rocky Mountaineer), is it a possible notion that in the near future, another customer could become interested in the Viewliner II design in order to operate a sleeper train? Perhaps VIA Rail could show interest in the modular V-II bodyshell, since they could slide in modules alter it from 14-3 to the layout they use in the Budds (Though, after traveling Amtrak and VIA's Canadian, I find Amtrak's layout much better for practical travel - 2 beds in the Roomette is excellent for Amtrak's price)? Is this at all a possible notion?
     
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  2. Jun 6, 2014 #2

    Shortline

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    Wonders the same, either for VIA who probably will never be in a position to buy cars again Im afraid, or for private use. What does it cost for a Viewliners those days? Is it cheaper for operators like Pullman to restore old cars than buy new? At some point, will Superliners or Amfleets be sold, and end up as Private Varnish cars? Wonder how cost equates between a private jet, and private rail car....probably not TOO far off, but just much more limited in its use I suppose. Theoretically someone could buy one, outfit it for personal use maybe.....certainly wont be me!
     
  3. Jun 6, 2014 #3

    Green Maned Lion

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    You'd have to license the design from Amtrak, since they own it.
     
  4. Jun 6, 2014 #4

    WoodyinNYC

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    If you buy 130 assorted versions of a Viewliner II, for the bid price of $298 million, it's about $2.3 million per. I've seen a higher total around $350 million iirc, including other stuff, like maybe Amtrak's project management costs which could have run up considerably. :( So that gets you to about $2.7 million. Then remember that 55 of the 130 are baggage cars, presumably much cheaper to crank out than the module- and plumbing-filled sleepers. Figure $3 million at least. Your price would vary, of course, but I think CAF would like to sell a few more Viewliners before closing down the line.

    Amtrak has an option for another 70 cars, but that doesn't look likely to happen. Buying Acela IIs is helluva lot more important than another 70 Viewliner IIs right now.

    Still, am I crazy? I'm thinking that New York State could buy two or four sleepers, two bag/dorms, and two diners for a second Adirondack to run overnight NYC-Montreal. So $20 million for the costly part of a new service. Where they gonna get coaches? Maybe some Horizons if they don't mind them freezing up on those winter runs. Or if rebuilt Horizons replace Amfleets on the Palmetto or the Crescent, equipment from those trains could go to Montreal.
     
  5. Jun 6, 2014 #5

    cirdan

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    Seeing several states are buying superliners, i don't see why there shouldn't at some point also be states buying single level cars.

    North Carolina, for example, may at some point be thinking about replacing or adding to its present fleet.

    I don't think its likely that anybody other than Amtrak will buy sleeper cars new. People like Iowa Pacific are selling the nostalgia effect and that wouldn't work with modern cars (although nostalgia is relative, and one day people will consider Superliners nostalgic, so I can well imagine somebody like Iowa Pacific picking up a couple when they become surplus). Also, from an economical perspective, modern cars are expensive to buy but have lower maintenance costs whereas older cars are cheap to buy but costly in maintenance. Buying is a CAPEX expense whereas mileage related maintenance is OPEX and for cars seeing infrequent use, it is cheaper to have high mileage related costs and low one off costs whereas for cars running every day the opposite is true.
     
  6. Jun 6, 2014 #6

    Bob Dylan

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    I think you meant that several states are buying bi-levels, there haven't been any Superliners built since the IIs in the 90s!

    And most of us will not live to see Superliners considered Heritage Cars since Amtrak, if it still exists, will still be running them in 2050 unless we elect a New Congress that will properly fund Amtrak!

    Edited to correct typo!
     
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  7. Jun 6, 2014 #7

    jis

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    Actually it is very highly unlikely that NY State would start a second Adirondack before it gets a fourth and fifth Empire West train to Buffalo/Niagara. So we are now talking of a project 10 to 15 years away. The Adirondack is the worst performing train the in the NY State funded set of trains. We'll also get food service back between NYP and ALB before anything is done with the Adirondack. The only changes to the Adirondack will involve moving C&I to Montreal Central, and consequent speedup of schedule within the next 5 years or so.
    As for capital funding from NY State, it will be fully consumed by Empire HSR, such as it is, from whatever is left after taking care of ESA and SAS.
     
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  8. Jun 6, 2014 #8

    WoodyinNYC

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    Interesting. So I should put sleepers and diners on an overnight Maple Leaf to Toronto instead? ;)

    The Adirondack is the worst? Well, sorry. They say when you go to buy in a potentially gentrifying neighborhood, grab the worst house on the block, the burned-out building where they used to sell crack. Fix it up and you transform the whole block, raising values in every direction. Buy a better building, you'll still be living on a block with a burned-out building where they used to sell crack. Try to fix the worst problem first, where there's the most upside potential.

    The Adirondack was supposed to benefit from a couple of little stimulus projects north of Schenectady. Someone posted that the work was done but the host hasn't used the free money investment to improve trip times. The route should benefit from the package of projects around Albany: double-tracking to Schenectady, another track at the Albany-Rensselaer station, better signaling, etc.

    But the big problem is that north of Lake George it's empty until you get to Montreal, making the train unusually dependent on end-to-end traffic. Right now it's a long trip up and a long trip back. Both ways in daylight, so "Been there, seen that" sets in after the millionth tree. Adding an overnight allows tourists (business people and others, too) to ride one way in daylight, sleep thru it on the return. I'm thinking that would make the trip seem half as long.

    So I take your points, but I'll keep a couple of Viewliner IIs for the Adirondack on my wish list. Of course, I'm not expecting Governor Tappan Zee to spend any state money on this train.
     
  9. Jun 6, 2014 #9

    Paulus

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    Real estate is not intercity transit.

    Overnight travel is intensely overrated by Amtrak fans; the scenery isn't exactly fantastic while flying, yet red eyes are not much selected for. Meanwhile what ridership there is at intermediate points gets killed because of the terrible timing. Additionally, the air market New York-Montreal is only 300-600,000 per year; there simply isn't that much travel available to go after in the first place.
     
  10. Jun 6, 2014 #10

    jis

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    But when you have exactly one house in the middle of a very scenic but unpopulated field that is kept standing by massive infusion of money year over year from elsewhere there is nothing to gentrify. The rail route between New York and Montreal will not be even remotely time competitive with road without the expenditure of moneys that start looking similar to the numbers being thrown around for the NEC, so that ain't gonna happen (unless for some reason Canada considers it important enough for them to do a very significant part of the funding). And as I said the focus among the upstate folks is on the Empire West and getting start to stop average speeds to better than 60 mph there and getting 6 to 8 RT per day. Many many more votes much greater potential for true ridership capture and growth there. That's the way it works.

    The thing that will get funded at some level is the Adirondack Scenic to eventually open it up all the way from Utica to Lake Placid. The CP Montreal Line will get funded for some speed up work that is already identified. But nothing beyond that. This by the way is already fantastic given the sorry state the line was in 15 years back.

    BTW, even in the heyday of passenger railroading, the flagship service on the D&H was the daytime Laurentian, with fancy Parlor Service. There were two night trains, one to Montreal and the other to Rouses Point. And of course there was no Northway back then.
     
  11. Jun 7, 2014 #11

    neroden

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    ...not on that side of Lake Champlain. The *other* rail routes between New York and Montreal, through Vermont, have a lot more potential.
    We're going to see "Vermonter to Montreal" sometime soon, hopefully. And hopefully eventually "Ethan Allen to Montreal". Either of those routes is straighter, flatter, and easier to upgrade than the Adirondack route. And upgrades to either have more benefit than upgrades to the Adirondack route because there's more online traffic. And the Ethan Allen route is mostly owned by the state of Vermont, which is even better, because there's no risk of any improvements being "stolen" for freight by badly behaved private companies. The Vermonter is on Gennesee & Wyoming track and they've been very friendly to passenger service as well.

    Within Canada, AMT is finally showing signs of taking control of the destiny of its commuter lines by buying railway lines. Eventually it may be possible to piece together an NYC-Montreal route entirely under the control of passenger operators. But New York isn't going to be doing it, it'll be Quebec and Vermont.

    It sure is. It benefits a huge population. People drive from Ithaca (me) and Watertown (people I've met) to catch the train in Syracuse. Think about that for a minute and you realize that the catchment area of "Empire West" is enormous; and the online populations are pretty big too, just in Syracuse/Rochester/Buffalo.
    FWIW, with speed limits on the expressways fairly low in NY, the top priority is not so much higher timetable speeds (the timetable speeds are very competitive) as getting some decent dispatching, which seems to require state-owned track separate from CSX's track.
     
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  12. Jun 7, 2014 #12

    bgiaquin

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    Wrong, the SL IIs were built between 1993 and 1996.
     
  13. Jun 7, 2014 #13

    Bob Dylan

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    Thanks, it was a typo, corrected!
     
  14. Jun 8, 2014 #14

    WoodyinNYC

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    Let me try that again for those who didn't get my meaning the first time.

    When you look at a range of problems, try to fix the worst problem first. If you make appliances, and your refrigerators, washing machines and dryers, and air conditioners get fairly good marks from Consumer Reports, but your freezers get black marks, you better tackle the freezer manufacturing first. It won't matter if you raise the CR score on the fridges from 82 to 84, your lousy freezers scoring 58 will damage the image of your whole product line. If you are a carmaker, and sales are falling in one division or product line, say, down 50% in your near luxury cars, you don't concentrate on building better pick-ups, or eliminating costs on your economy compacts or risk eroding the whole brand. You try hard to fix what's broken.

    So if the Adirondack is the worst performing train in the New York portfolio, I'd have a PRIIA-style study to figure out how to make it better. Maybe the big problems are beyond our control, Immigration delays at the border, do we just give up? Would it help to distribute chocolates before the train stops for Immigration? Probably not. ;) Would it help to improve food services or add to the choice of beverages? If the Province of Quebec won't help with the subsidy, can we get them to take over advertising and marketing the train, hiding the possibly controversial spending as part of the tourism promotion budget? How about a quiet car? Or offer Wi-Fi from NYC at least up to Glen Falls (where the Ethan Allen goes its own way) if not to Plattsburgh with its SUNY campus? And next time Washington decides to spend again -- its normal historical trend line -- have ready a list of almost-sort-of-shovel-ready improvements, from better tracks and a new bridge over the Hudson to new equipment.

    The big downside of doing nothing about lousy freezers or disappointing upmarket sedans or one loser train is that their unhappy customers will tell everyone they know about their bad experience.

    Of course, after studying the problem you may decide that fixing it would cost too much. So you stop marketing Oldsmobiles or Mercurys. Drop freezers from the product line. And use your money to grow another product to offset the one you are cutting loose. So yeah, I could see putting all the money into the main Empire line NYC-ALB-BUF.

    But damn. Double-tracking Albany-Schenectedy should improve that section. But it's slow all the way. To go 128 miles from Albany to Westport (Lake Placid) in 3 hours, it's not going 45 mph. No wonder Neroden is pissed that the host railroad took the 'free money' track improvements but didn't improve the train's run time. How hard should it be to get that stretch up to the "Amtrak average" of 55 mph?
     
  15. Jun 8, 2014 #15

    neroden

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    Over here, the worst problem is the bipartisan gerrymandering of the state legislature.
    If we solved that, a lot of other problems would solve themselves. There is a reason why prior to this year, the Adirondack was state-supported, the Empire Corridor and Maple Leaf were not, and there was nothing in the Southern Tier. It wasn't just history; it was partly a weird side-effect of the distribution of political power in the state legislature. The gerrymandering of the State Senate, designed to prevent contested seats, was unable to avoid having contested seats in the North Country, making it a region where extra effort was given to handing out pork.

    They're already working on it: the plan is pre-clearance at Montreal. I don't know the status of the project; last I heard it required an international treaty. VIA and AMT and Quebec seem cooperative. Nobody seems to mind about the stop at St. Lambert being deleted.
    Second largest operational problem right now seems to simply be bad dispatching from CP. File an STB complaint?

    That's being done as part of the "HSR" planning for "Empire West". The line from Schenectady (where the Adirondack splits off from the Empire Corridor) to Saratoga Springs was supposedly improved (with extra sidings, etc.) in the LAST round of HSR money. But CP doesn't seem to have given the train the improved dispatching which that was supposed to achieve. So the next step is to buy the track. But if you're buying or building your own track, you want to do the track to Buffalo first, because it's more bang for the buck...

    North of Whitehall, the track is inherently slow (twisting route tucked between mountains and river/lake).
    However, it should be possible to make it pretty fast from Schenectady to Whitehall (where the Ethan Allen splits off). But instead, it's still slow, and frequently delayed. Unfortunately CP is unlikely to sell a chunk out of the middle of its route. There has been talk of Norfolk Southern buying the CP line from Pennsylvania to Schenectady, and if that happens maybe the state would be able to buy the Schenectady to Whitehall segment.
     
  16. Jun 8, 2014 #16

    Anderson

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    The Adirondack's problems seem to mostly be either CP or MNRR. There are an awful lot of holds south of Albany heading to NYP; I can count at least three times when a train "should" have connected with the last Acela but would have lost that connection due to a delay at either Hudson or Rhinecliff.
     
  17. Jun 8, 2014 #17

    neroden

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    Yeah. MNRR dispatching now seems to be on an improving trend though, while CP is getting much worse quite quickly.
     
  18. Jun 9, 2014 #18

    Green Maned Lion

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    MNRR is not going to improve with that dunderhead O'Connor running rail ops.
     
  19. Jun 9, 2014 #19

    jis

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    Even if all these operational issues can be resolved, there is nothing that can be done about the basic geographical problems, without spending some phenomenal amount of money, to make that route competitive with Northway in travel time.
     

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