Other People's Rail: Amtrak, commuter rail, rapid transit news & views outside New England

Brattle Loop

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The newest high angle (off center) high density lieflats for narrowbody jets have seat pitches of 38-40in, with typical bed lengths of 78in or so. Given that a train car is approximately the same width as a narrowbody cabin, the Viewliner 2 at 86ft long currently sleeps 28, where the roomette achieves similar density due to the upper berth. (78in long bed, plus 2-3in or so for the walls). Having used one a few months ago on an overnight regional, albeit more private, the things are not significantly roomier or more comfortable than a business class seat on a plane.
Cabin width of an A220 (CSeries) is within a few inches of an Acela car width, though I don't know if any operators have tried stuffing lie-flats in one of those. The 737 (the narrowest of the pure-mainline narrowbodies at least before the CSeries) cabin width is a full foot wider than an Amtrak car width. Probably doesn't preclude lie-flat configuration, but certainly would complicate things a bit.

Acela First is a 2-1 layout with 44 seats, assuming that 60ft of the car space is used for seating, ~34-36 lieflats would fit in a 1-1 layout representing ~19-22% loss of capacity. Given journey times, I think you could sell them for a greater premium, especially BOS and points south of NYP, and given that I've rarely seen Acela First sell out, an "executive first" sub cabin could work.
I could potentially see some interest for BOS-WAS passengers given the trip length, but that makes me wonder how much of the ridership is actually riding the entire route rather than a portion; on all my NEC travels over the years, there's a ton of turnover at NYP, especially on the Acela. If you're talking a more common trip stage length of 3.5-4 hours rather than 6.5+, I think it's less likely that you'd get enough people willing to pay the premium necessary to make up that ~20% loss of seating. (Running an NEC sleeper on a better schedule than the frequently-suspended 66/67 would probably eat the bulk of that market as well.)

Not a terrible idea, but there's a reason beyond simple greed and laziness that we don't usually see lie-flats on domestic narrowbodies (and even JetBlue's Mint is restricted to the premium transcontinental flights in a very competitive market).

I got a sneaky suspicion that the new Amtrak trainsets for the Northeast Corridor may look quite similar to the Brightline trains that operate in Florida, only thing is that the passenger cars will use electric locos! The passenger cars are the exact lookalikes of the Brightline cars & are made by the same co., Siemans. I believe that the locos will probably have the same style. Looks like the new trains will look almost like the Acelas!!
The cars will probably have minor differences, given that there are differences in profile (they're subtle, you really need to look closely to notice) between the Brightline cars and the Amtrak California/Midwest Ventures, but they're all part of the same Siemens product line. I'd be moderately (if pleasantly) surprised if the Amtrak power cars have the nose coupler shroud that the Brightline locos have (that's what gives them the streamlined pointy nose); I'd expect them to have the face of the ALC-42 with the ACS-64-lookalike headlight treatment.
 

Jahvon09

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Cabin width of an A220 (CSeries) is within a few inches of an Acela car width, though I don't know if any operators have tried stuffing lie-flats in one of those. The 737 (the narrowest of the pure-mainline narrowbodies at least before the CSeries) cabin width is a full foot wider than an Amtrak car width. Probably doesn't preclude lie-flat configuration, but certainly would complicate things a bit.



I could potentially see some interest for BOS-WAS passengers given the trip length, but that makes me wonder how much of the ridership is actually riding the entire route rather than a portion; on all my NEC travels over the years, there's a ton of turnover at NYP, especially on the Acela. If you're talking a more common trip stage length of 3.5-4 hours rather than 6.5+, I think it's less likely that you'd get enough people willing to pay the premium necessary to make up that ~20% loss of seating. (Running an NEC sleeper on a better schedule than the frequently-suspended 66/67 would probably eat the bulk of that market as well.)

Not a terrible idea, but there's a reason beyond simple greed and laziness that we don't usually see lie-flats on domestic narrowbodies (and even JetBlue's Mint is restricted to the premium transcontinental flights in a very competitive market).



The cars will probably have minor differences, given that there are differences in profile (they're subtle, you really need to look closely to notice) between the Brightline cars and the Amtrak California/Midwest Ventures, but they're all part of the same Siemens product line. I'd be moderately (if pleasantly) surprised if the Amtrak power cars have the nose coupler shroud that the Brightline locos have (that's what gives them the streamlined pointy nose); I'd expect them to have the face of the ALC-42 with the ACS-64-lookalike headlight treatment.
The new locos for the trains will be dual-powered, meaning that if you are going beyond Washington, DC, you will probably remain on the train, like you'd usually do, instead of having to wait so long for the employees to switch engines from electric to fuel. The panagraphs will disengage from the overhead catenary wire & the locos will automatically swith over to fuel, much like the Silverline Buses do after coming out of the tunnel. This method would drastically cut down on the switch-over time, shaving a little time off the wait time there. :)
 
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Jahvon09

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Amtrak expects to have the first new train in service by 2023, if all goes well. :)
 

Riverside

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The new locos for the trains will be dual-powered, meaning that if you are going beyond Washington, DC, you will probably remain on the train, like you'd usually do, instead of having to wait so long for the employees to switch engines from electric to fuel. The panagraphs will disengage from the overhead catenary wire & the locos will automatically swith over to fuel, much like the Silverline Buses do after coming out of the tunnel. This method would drastically cut down on the switch-over time, shaving a little time off the wait time there. :)
Do you have a source for this? I hadn't heard (and am surprised to hear) that Amtrak would be investing in dual-power locos.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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http://www.highspeed-rail.org/Documents/Annual Meetings/2022/9.b. NGEC Annual Mtg 02252022 Ruppert.pdf

p.7. It's a funky design, though. The locos are *very* lightly-modified stock Charger diesels, and then one of the passenger cars has a pantograph and some AC transformers for piping electricity to spin the Charger's traction motors and power the coaches...reducing the need to "unicorn" the locomotive design to get dual-mode capability. Basically, it turns an almost-stock diesel into a type of slug unit to save weight and parts differentiation. This type of setup is used some places in the world to make a diesel generator on the passenger car "dual"-up an electric loco for running in diesel territory, but it's an uncommon arrangement the other way around.
 

Riverside

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Oh that's really interesting. So basically they're taking a diesel locomotive, and reconfiguring it to accept electricity as an alternate power source to diesel? (And providing that electricity via a passenger coach pantograph + transformer?)
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Oh that's really interesting. So basically they're taking a diesel locomotive, and reconfiguring it to accept electricity as an alternate power source to diesel? (And providing that electricity via a passenger coach pantograph + transformer?)
Yes. The only modifications to stock Chargers are the special cabling to pipe that high a voltage into the unit. They can do that because the traction motors and some ancillary electrical guts are exactly the same on a diesel Charger vs. an electric Sprinter.

So far this configuration is only slated to be assigned to trips that utilize the power switch...primarily the Virginia & Springfield Regionals, the Pennsylvanian, Vermonter, future Inland Route service, etc. Long-distance trains will still have to engine-swap a Sprinter for a diesel unless/until their option orders for LD-configured Amfleet replacements spec a similar setup, and the Sprinters are expected to stay on anything turning strictly inside electric territory. But it does mean an enormous enough throughput increase at Washington, D.C. in particular from the shedding of engine swaps that lots more trains on the schedule can be converted to run-thru.
 
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Riverside

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Cool, that makes sense, and yes, those routes -- especially the Virginia ones -- will benefit enormously from through-running.

So here's the silly question: why can't the T use a similar approach as part of an incremental electrification systemwide?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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So here's the silly question: why can't the T use a similar approach as part of an incremental electrification systemwide?
4 different locomotive makes taking a rotation on any given route, and no one power car being able to pipe to them al given that >50% of the fleet has old-school DC-traction power while the other half is newerfangled AC-traction. The locos themselves having to be modified to accept the power input from these, so there's considerable modification cost on an incumbent fleet. The most easily modifiable-to-suit make, the AC traction HSP-46's, being a one-of-a-kind lineage and mass market failure that'll never be produced again unlike the always-active Charger production line (that's going universal across the whole of Amtrak, as well as many other buyers). They'd have to junk/replace a share of their diesels with 1:1 replacements just to have enough of one make to go around for segregated line rotations, and that's not exactly a step forward when they could/should be buying cleansheet electrics for the unit price. It's a wretched overall proposition for an agency that has as much equipment heterogeneity as the T, saddled with a platform as dead-end as the HSP-46. Additionally, the transformer components take up space in a portion of the passenger car, with that being a lot more difficult a value proposition to swing on Commuter Rail where seating density is at a premium across consists.


Basically, Amtrak can only afford to do this because they still had a bunch of diesel loco options to drain before they had replaced all the old GE Genesis units, and they already committed to going single-source for their national power. They're basically just doing the lightly modified ALC-42E's as part of those options-drainings they already needed to do on the mainline ALC-42/SC-44 orders, mashed it up a bit with the passenger coach order because it's all vendor single-source from Siemens, and made the finances work by how significantly they're able to slash down their engine-swap pool for these expanded run-thru schedules. And Siemens offered them a hell of a lifetime service-and-support package to defray some of the risk, which helped get them to bite. In spite of its high concept it's a controversial move regardless, because it's such an unorthodox and unproven setup (the Pedestrian Observationses of the interwebs are going to HATE it).
 

Jahvon09

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Jahvon09

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The Charger Dual-Power Loco will probably look similar to the othe new locos by Siemans, except that the word Charger will be printed on the sides. None of the machines have been made yet. :)
753x0_Amtrak-Venture-ridicak-Siemens.jpg
 
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Wash

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If the plan is to eliminate engine changes, why not extend wires to Richmond? Or Albany?

The dual-modes are Amtrak waving the white flag, and saying that they don't believe the NEC electrified zone will expand for the next fifty years. I'm in my early 20s now; by the time the last of those trainsets leave the rails (assuming they work) I'll be old enough to have grandchildren. They represent Amtrak caving to political pressures instead of pushing for broader changes that would allow it to be the best possible version of itself.
 

Brattle Loop

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If the plan is to eliminate engine changes, why not extend wires to Richmond? Or Albany?

The dual-modes are Amtrak waving the white flag, and saying that they don't believe the NEC electrified zone will expand for the next fifty years. I'm in my early 20s now; by the time the last of those trainsets leave the rails (assuming they work) I'll be old enough to have grandchildren. They represent Amtrak caving to political pressures instead of pushing for broader changes that would allow it to be the best possible version of itself.
Extending the wires to Richmond would require electrifying the entire RF&P; I'd imagine that Virginia, having just bought a giant chunk of that corridor, would rather spend on the upgrades necessary for more and better service sooner (even if it's diesel). Ideally they'd do that with aims of future electrification. Albany is more of a head-scratcher given that Amtrak basically controls that line these days (though CSX still owns it).

I'd argue that, rather than being a cave to alleged political pressures, Amtrak's planning is more likely based on the fact that they (and their state partners) have limited money, and see better value-for-money in expanding service (which can always be electrified in the future) than in spending the up-front cost on electrification now with service levels that may not make sense from a cost-benefit standpoint (and if service expansion is limited or precluded by all of the budget being blown on the wires, then that's a net-negative).

Moreover, I'd disagree on the implications, or at least the time horizons. The Venture cars themselves are basically Amtrak's wholesale new single-level stock; if in the future the dual-mode cars (if I'm understanding F-Line's description of how this works) are no longer necessary, either those cars could be retired or converted to normal cars, while the remainder of the cars would be perfectly functional trailing behind a pure electric locomotive. Forget fifty-year time horizons, the Amfleet Is are approaching 50 and the P42s are falling apart; Amtrak needs new equipment now and doesn't exactly have the luxury of waiting the indeterminate amount of time it could take NY and VA to even get moving on wiring up the Empire and RF&P. Amtrak simply doesn't have the ability to force them or the funds to do it alone, and has to act according to that reality. It's not the best God Mode version of themselves, but it's certainly the best version of themselves that they can actually do on their own without miracles from Richmond, Albany, or Congress.
 

ceo

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In addition to what F-Line to Dudley posted, the new locos are also discussed in THIS link as well. :)

From the above link, wtf?
The hybrid battery units designed for the Empire Corridor will utilize a diesel-electric ALC-42E locomotive, but rather than rely on third rail power they will be battery-powered. Instead of distributing battery power throughout the passenger coaches, a single dense battery auxiliary trailer will be coupled to the ALC-42E, a first of its kind in the United States.
When pressed as to why such a complex and technically challenging option was selected over the tried and tested third rail, Amtrak noted that the battery car will provide operational and performance improvements during typical operations along with increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Amtrak was unable to provide information about the expected range for battery-only operations, but Empire Corridor trains will only need to operate solely on battery power in and out of Penn Station.
In what universe does this ridiculous kludge even make sense, when the Empire Connection is already equipped with third rail? If anything they should extend the third rail to the junction with the Hudson Line, so they only have to run diesel north of Croton-Harmon.
 

Jahvon09

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Some locos are also featuring part passenger car as well. Things could change. We don't really know what the thing is gonna look like.That's just a rendering. The true design is not really known yet. :unsure:
 

Jahvon09

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Yes...yes we do know what it looks like:


The "E" variant fits in the same body.
Thanks. In fact, ALL of the new locos will feature the same look. I think to get away from what the locos in the past had looked like. Amtrak has embarked on a new look & image!! To celebrate their 50th year in the business. Are they by any chance longer than the previous ones? They look like it!! I think also, that there will be TWO locos per train, one at each end. This feature would make for easy turn-around at South Station & Union Station in Washington, DC The question is will the sets work similar to the Acelas with the push & pull format? :)
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Thanks. In fact, ALL of the new locos will feature the same look. I think to get away from what the locos in the past had looked like. Amtrak has embarked on a new look & image!! To celebrate their 50th year in the business. Are they by any chance longer than the previous ones? They look like it!! I think also, that there will be TWO locos per train, one at each end. This feature would make for easy turn-around at South Station & Union Station in Washington, DC The question is will the sets work similar to the Acelas with the push & pull format? :)
No...they will not be double-ended with 2 locos. The cab car whose illustration you linked to earlier is what goes at the other end. It will enable more push-pull ops than today, where only a couple of routes (Keystone/Pennsylvanian, Springfield Shuttle/Valley Flyer) currently use cabs and all others including all Regionals are single-ended and currently need to wye/loop at each end of their runs. But one loco will be doing all the work, same as it ever was.
 

Stlin

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Cabin width of an A220 (CSeries) is within a few inches of an Acela car width, though I don't know if any operators have tried stuffing lie-flats in one of those. The 737 (the narrowest of the pure-mainline narrowbodies at least before the CSeries) cabin width is a full foot wider than an Amtrak car width. Probably doesn't preclude lie-flat configuration, but certainly would complicate things a bit.

I could potentially see some interest for BOS-WAS passengers given the trip length, but that makes me wonder how much of the ridership is actually riding the entire route rather than a portion; on all my NEC travels over the years, there's a ton of turnover at NYP, especially on the Acela. If you're talking a more common trip stage length of 3.5-4 hours rather than 6.5+, I think it's less likely that you'd get enough people willing to pay the premium necessary to make up that ~20% loss of seating. (Running an NEC sleeper on a better schedule than the frequently-suspended 66/67 would probably eat the bulk of that market as well.)

Not a terrible idea, but there's a reason beyond simple greed and laziness that we don't usually see lie-flats on domestic narrowbodies (and even JetBlue's Mint is restricted to the premium transcontinental flights in a very competitive market).
Honestly you're probably right as far as the Acela / NEC is concerned. (And the 66/67 no longer appears to be part of the NEC schedule) Half the appeal to me is the fact that you could probably do it within standard passenger coaches, without needing to touch the dedicated sleeper fleet. (Though expanded sleeper capacity would have the same functional result, I feel that a roomette is less "short ride" friendly, and isn't well set up for a singleton.) The Acela may not be the best service for it, but once the National venture fleet comes along, refitting some of the amfleets could give the longer corridor services / shorter LD trains a sleeper / premium option where one doesn't currently exist, such as the Adirondack or Niagara Empire services, or the VA regionals. Apparently Breeze is looking at lieflats for the 220, so it's probably possible. And unlike planes, trains are relatively length unconstrained, given 14 car regionals are a thing.

As an additional aside, why are Amtrak roomettes longitudally oriented anyways? Every international sleeper I've been on had them transversely, and so are the Amtrak Bedrooms.
 
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