Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Viewliners’

Getting Off in Cleveland

September 24, 2021

That’s my suitcase on the platform at the Cleveland Amtrak station. I have just disembarked from the eastbound Lake Shore Limited after a trip to Illinois to visit my Dad.

When this image was made on May 24, 2013, the cost of booking a sleeper room on either the Lake Shore or Capitol Limited was more reasonable than it has been in recent years. It was not something I did often, but I did it on occasion to have the sleeping car experience even if only for a few hours.

It also was the era when passengers boarding sleepers in Chicago on No. 48 received a welcome aboard reception in the dining car of wine and cheese.

However, I was in the Boston sleeper on this trip and thus several cars away from the diner, so the car attendant brought the wine and cheese to our rooms. It wasn’t quite the same as consuming it in the dining car with other passengers.

The welcome aboard reception for sleeper class passengers fell by the wayside years ago, presumably a cost-cutting move.

I have not been aboard a Viewliner sleeper as a traveling passenger since the day I disembarked in Cleveland when this photograph was made.

Amtrak Receives Last of New Baggage-Dorm Viewliners

November 7, 2019

Amtrak took delivery last week of the last of the 10 Viewliner baggage-dorm cars that it ordered from CAF USA.

The carrier also received the second car of an order of 25 new Viewliner sleepers from CAF.

All of the cars were taken to Amtrak’s Hialeah, Florida, maintenance facility for acceptance inspection and testing.

Some Viewliner baggage-dorm cars have already been placed into revenue service on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor in recent weeks.

In a related development, the first Siemens passenger car that is part of an order to be used on corridor trains in the Midwest and California has been sent to Canada for cold weather testing.

Two other prototype Siemens cars have been sent to the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado, for operational testing.

Meet Me at Interstate 90

May 30, 2018

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited meets a westbound CSX auto rack train beneath the bridge carrying Interstate 90 over the CSX Erie West Subdivision at the State Line exit on the border of Pennsylvania and New York just outside North East, Pennsylvania.

The auto rack train has Union Pacific motive power and a cut of manifest freight.

No. 48 was operating 43 minutes late when it left Erie, but the New York section made it to Penn Station in New York less than 10 minutes late.

Viewliner Diner In Revenue Service Testing

December 13, 2016

Revenue service testing began last week of the first Viewliner dining car built by CAF USA.

Amtrak logoNo. 68001, the Annapolis, ran northbound from Miami to New York on the Silver Meteor on Dec. 5.

The testing is part of an Amtrak acceptance program for new cars. If No. 68001 passes the testing program, Amtrak will begin taking delivery of additional Viewliners in January.

Amtrak has one other Viewliner diner, No. 8400, the Indianapolis, which was a prototype diner built in 1988.

The Viewliner diners will be assigned to Eastern single-level long-distance train. Amtrak has ordered 25 Viewliner diners from CAF.

Inside an Amtrak Viewliner Baggage Car

May 16, 2016

The exterior of the Viewliner sleeper on display in Toledo at National Train Day.

The exterior of the Viewliner sleeper on display in Toledo at National Train Day.

Amtrak passengers seldom get an inside look of a baggage car. If you are riding in a coach or sleeper next to a baggage car you might be able to get a glimpse inside the baggage car through the door window of your car.

So it was a rare opportunity during the annual National Train Day festival in Toledo recently to be able to go inside one of the new Viewliner baggage car.

The car has racks to hold luggage but they were locked upright, probably to prevent children from climbing on them.

At one end of the car was a cabinet that can be locked. Someone on a railfan chat list suggested it is or could be used for storing firearms that have been checked as luggage.

The car has the familiar bowed sides of a Viewliner on the inside.

Photographs by Craig Sanders

Looking down the middle of the interior.

Looking down the middle of the interior.

Getting a closer look at the luggage racks that were in the up position.

Getting a closer look at the luggage racks that were in the up position.

A locked cabinet sat at one end of the car.

A locked cabinet sat at one end of the car.

The current Amtrak logo on the side of the car.

The current Amtrak logo on the side of the car.

Amtrak to Begin Testing New Viewliners

March 15, 2016

Amtrak expects to begin testing within the next month two each of its new Viewliner dining cars, sleeping cars and baggage-dorm cars.

Amtrak logoThe new cars were constructed by CAF USA at its plant in Elmira Heights, New York.

The cars are expected to be placed into limited revenue service in the coming months.

Amtrak has been taking initial delivery from CAF of new cars at the Amtrak maintenance facility in Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

CAF Production Slowdown Behind Delay in Delivering New Viewliner Cars to Amtrak

March 11, 2016

Delivery of new Amtrak Viewliner cars being built by CAF USA have fallen behind schedule due in part to CAF’s decision to unilaterally slow production of the cars and mechanical defects found in them, a report from the Amtrak Office of Inspector General has found.

The report said that the delivery delays are likely to continue as well as increase the cost of the project beyond the original budget.

Amtrak logo“Through December 2015, the delays have resulted in an estimated $7 million increase in overall project costs and a deferral of about $3.7 million in benefits the company expected to accrue from having the cars in revenue service,” the report said. “Our analysis indicates that cost increases and benefit deferrals will continue as the project falls further behind its original schedule.”

The reduction in production at the CAF factory in Elmira, New York, has meant that delivery of the order of 130 cars will not be completed until March 2017, which is two years beyond the original due date. Even the 2017 due date is subject to further slippage.

Thus far only baggage cars have been completed and placed into revenue service. Among the key findings of the inspector general’s report are:

  • Weaknesses occurred in CAF’s process for identifying a variety of defects in the baggage cars.
  • Quality issues cropped up with the initial construction of the diner, baggage dormitory and sleeping cars, which are more technically difficult to produce than the baggage cars.
  • Amtrak has experienced project management challenges in addressing these issues. While actions taken by the mechanical department and procurement office resulted in improvements in the daily management of the project, other opportunities exist to improve project management and further mitigate risk by clarifying project accountability, enforcing contract terms and developing a risk mitigation plan.

The report said that Amtrak management has agreed with the recommendations made by the inspector general to address the problems.

Amtrak signed a contract with CAF in 2010 to produce the cars, which were intended to replace equipment now assigned to long-distance trains.

Although most of the Viewliner order was intended for eastern single-level trains, the baggage cars have been assigned to trains throughout the country. The cars were originally scheduled to be completed in November 2014.

The budget for the new equipment was $343 million, which included $300 million to purchase the cars, $29 million for spare parts and $14 million in project management costs.

Amtrak had through December spent sent about $195 million on the project.

CAF and Amtrak agreed in June 2014 to change the order to include 70 baggage cars, 25 diners, 10 baggage-dormitory cars and 25 sleepers. The last cars in the order were given a new delivery due date of no later than April 2016.

A revised timetable negotiated in December 2015 and subject to re-negotiation this year has pushed the final delivery date to March 2017.

For its part, CAF contends that it will lose $41 million on the contract due to having to restructure a contract with a key supplier that is having financial difficulties. The complete report can be found at:

Click to access CAF%20Final%20Report%2020160201.pdf

Boardman Sees Hope For Getting New Equipment to Bolster Amtrak’s Aging Long-Distance Fleet

December 11, 2015

Although he didn’t make any promises, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman sees a glimmer of hope that the railroad’s aging Amfleet and Superliner equipment might be replaced or at least supplemented.

In an interview with Trains magazine held a week before he announced that he will retire from Amtrak in September 2016, Boardman said he didn’t expect any difference in the annual appropriations but that the transportation legislation authorizes money for the “Gateway” Hudson River tunnel project might free up funds that can be used to buy equipment for long-distance trains.

Boardman said that means “that there’s going to be capital money that needs to be made available for our national system and to replace and improve the equipment we have out there.”

Much of Amtrak’s current fleet was built in the 1970s or 1980s and is now older than the streamliner era equipment that it inherited when it began operations in 1971.

In the meantime, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles continues to build new Viewliner equipment at its plant in Elmira, New York.

“We’re really working hard to make sure we get the CAF deliveries for long-distance equipment,” Boardman said. “We have all the baggage cars now, the dining cars are in the climate chamber, and then we move on to (the baggage dorms and sleepers).”

Boardman doesn’t expect to see equipment arrive for the Northeast Corridor during his remaining time with Amtrak although he does expect to announce the details about an equipment order within the next three months.

“I don’t expect to be here when they get here, but I want to make sure they get ordered and that gets done before I leave,” he said.

At present, Amtrak doesn’t have “a final figure from the vendor and we don’t yet have approval on a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan but we are doing all the due diligence that we are supposed to do to make that happen.”

During Boardman’s watch, Amtrak began taking delivery of new Siemens electric locomotives with 56 of the 70 ordered having been delivered thus far.

Boardman said he wants to get Amtrak’s Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System version of positive train control installed on all sections of the Northeast Corridor by the end of 2015.

When he steps down next year, Boardman will have served as Amtrak’s president for eight years, which will be the second-longest tenure among Amtrak presidents. Only W. Graham Claytor Jr. at 11 years served in the post longer.

The announcement that Boardman would retire came in a letter to employees that was sent a month after the Amtrak board of directors had voted to extend Boardman’s tenure for another two years.

“When I look back at this time I see so many accomplishments and so many changes we made to make America’s Railroad a stronger, safer and a more important part of our nation’s transportation system,” Boardman said.

“Our debt is lower, our revenues are up, our ridership is up, our labor efficiencies have improved. There’s no question that we’ve got more to do — I think we’re more incremental (recently) because we have so many things to move forward, like Americans with Disabilities Act improvements and implementation of all of the ideas and concepts that came out of the PRIIA legislation. I think we’ve gotten a lot done.”

Viewliner Baggage Cars on Lake Shore Limited

April 6, 2015

Amtrak has begun assigning some of its new Viewliner II baggage cars to the Lake Shore Limited. On Saturday, No. 48 passed through Cleveland en route to New York and Boston with two of the new cars.

No. 48 also had a Viewliner I dining car No. 8400 so that meant that the train operated without any heritage fleet equipment. Indeed, the train had five Viewliner fleet cars.

The Viewliner II cars are being built by CAF USA in Elmira, N.Y. The order includes sleepers and diners as well as baggage cars as Amtrak seeks to phase out the last of its heritage fleet equipment.

Amtrak Changes Viewliner Order

August 25, 2014

Amtrak has altered its new car order, deciding to cut the number of Viewliner II baggage-dormitory cars from 25 to 10 while increasing by 15 the number of baggage cars that it wants. The cars are being built by CAF USA at Elmira Heights, N.Y. The original order for 25 dining cars and 25 sleeping cars is unchanged.

Amtrak declined to explain why the Viewliner order had changed other than to specifiy that it was done “to address business needs.” The current single-level fleet requires about 17 train sets to operate the Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Crescent, and Lake Shore Limited daily and the Cardinal tri-weekly.

The change in the Viewliner order means that baggage-dormitory cars will not operate consistently on every train. Crew members will therefore need to be accommodated in space in regular Viewliner sleepers.

Increasing the number of baggage cars being built will mean that checked baggage and bicycle carriage will be able to be extended to additional trains in the Northeast Corridor and on state-supported routes.

Viewliner II baggage cars will replace cars that are more than 50 years old.

In a related development, California and three Midwest states plan to acquire an additional 45 bi-level cars from Nippon Sharyo.

The states had ordered 130 cars that are being assembled in Rochelle, Ill. That contract provided an add-on options at a slightly increased cost, depending upon car type.

The order will now include 122 cars to be used in Midwest corridor service and 175 cars to be used in California. The first of these cars are expected to enter service by 2016.