1970's Amtrak French Turboliner????

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1970's Amtrak French Turboliner????
Posted by 3rd rail on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 11:16 PM

Depending on your age you might not consider this to be a "Classic" train.. But, think about this.. Amtrak came into being on May 1, 1971. That's 47 years ago. In Michigan the first "New" Amtrak equipment was the French "Turboliner" I liked it.(the Turbos showed up in 1973). It had HUGE, CLEAR windows. I also liked the fact that it smelled like there were about 50 charcoal grills being lit up at once.... I miss those things. I saw a photo online some time back of one of the power cars in an Indiana salvage yard. I'm guessing it's been turned into fence posts or Toyotas by now. Back then Amtrak made a big deal that the Turbos were good for 120 MPH. Trouble was, the track wasn't...  Now, we have "High Speed" track in Michigan, but we have 30 year old broken down Amtrak equipment.  Kind of ironic isn't it... 

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 12:10 AM

Not fuel efficient, required more maintenance, lasted only a bit longer in Canada and in France itself.

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 5:43 AM

I travelled from Chicago to Detroit in September 1977 on a French built Turbotrain. I was reasonably impressed. It was quite comfortable, more so than the original French train which I had travelled on on a cross country trip in 1974. The French train was a sort of pale orange and light grey externally, and the Amtrak red white and blue was much more striking if a bit brash by French standards. The couplings between the cars were the original French buffers and screw couplings, which could be seen as you crossed from car to car. I think the American built Turbos had standard knuckle couplers between cars as well as on the cab ends. They were designed before the rapid rise in fuel prices, and the inability to use their high speed meant they were sidelined fairly quickly.

Peter

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Posted by Penny Trains on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 6:38 PM

Are we talking United Aircraft TurboTrain:

or ANF Turboliner:

I just want to be sure.

A waking Lithium Flower just about to bloom

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 9:22 PM

Penny Trains

Are we talking United Aircraft TurboTrain:

or ANF Turboliner:

I just want to be sure.

 
I've always called the French trains "Turbotrains" from the French RTG for " Rame Turbine a Gaz" and I think "Turbotrain" has always been the preferred English translation and sometimes used in French too. Since they were the same trains in the USA (apart from the lights and cab end couplers) I always called them that even though Amtrak preferred Turboliner.
 
I don't think the Amtrak United Aircraft trains were used outside the North East Corridor, although I rode on the CN equivalents a few days later from Toronto to Dorval near Montreal where the passengers were evacuated due to a fire alarm (but no fire that I saw...)
 
Peter
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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, May 31, 2018 10:08 AM

Most Americans use the "Turboliner" name for the French trains since it easily distinguishes them from the UA trains.

Amtrak bought four UA power cars and four UA coaches and reconfigured them in four-car sets to supplement the Turboliners in Chicago-St. Louis service.  One was destroyed in a derailment and fire while being delivered and I'm not sure if the other set ever went into service on Amtrak.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, May 31, 2018 3:14 PM

M636C
I don't think the Amtrak United Aircraft trains were used outside the North East Corridor...

One of the great reasons I think they were unsuccessful is that, just at the point a self-powered Metroliner equivalent from NYP or New Haven east (take your pick of how far a Metroliner could operate at appropriate high speed, given the difficulties with pan following and catenary rigidity of contemporary NH main) one of the TurboTrain sets was sent to West Virginia, of all places, for political reasons.  While there is some appealing specious historical continuity with the C&O Train X, it was certainly beyond a waste of sophisticated UMTA development to run that train to Parkersburg on jointed rail -- at least, in my opinion.

Google 'Harley's Hornet' (and 'Parkersburg Turbo') for an entry point into the timeline and politics.  Perhaps the economics of PT6 power in post-embargo days would never have worked.  In the event, there was nothing like it on the east end of the Corridor, and potential slower-speed alternatives (I'm thinking in particular of the 120mph clone of the SPV2000) never became workable.

The French trainset in question is something I always refer to as a RTG; the Rohr versions (as periodically improved) are what comes to mind when someone says 'Turboliner'.  Someone with more patience than I have can check to see whether, as I suspect, UA trademarked or registered the phrase "TurboTrain" (with the second T capitalized) which is how I always saw it used formally with respect to the Cripe train.

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Posted by M636C on Thursday, May 31, 2018 9:55 PM

In 2011 I was talked into writing a book on High Speed trains for a commercial publisher. The content was directed by the publisher to include countries like the USA and UK (and Australia) where there were not many high speed trains.

Anyway, I included the United Aircraft trains and a friend came up with a 1970s photo of one in Boston South station. It was a old Agfa slide and the colour was odd but it was a clear shot of these strange beasts in Phase 1 Amtrak with the pointless arrow on the side of the nose.

It appears to have at least two trailer cars and possibly three. My text (the souce of which escapes me - the whole thing was written quickly to meet a publishing deadline) suggests they ran as five car sets after getting spare cars from Canada.

There is a nice Kodachrome of mine of a Turboliner (if you insist) departing Chicago from ground level, somewhere around Roosevelt Road in 1977.

While I'm reasonably happy with the book, it didn't sell well and you could all get one in the unlikely event you wanted one, from Rosenberg Publications.....  The production quality was quite good and I took the idea back to the British "races to the North" of the 1880s.

However, owing to the recent idea of payment for copyright, 80 of these are in libraries, and I get $2 each per year paid by the government. I didn't get much more than that for a sale...

Peter 

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Posted by 3rd rail on Saturday, June 23, 2018 10:46 PM

Nice photos guys! In fact, I was talking about the RTG, "aka" French Turbo. They ran through Michigan here for about 8 years or so. I loved them. Don't get me wrong, I REALLY loved the old E-8's and steam heated old cars, but at that time the F-40PH and Amfleet invasion was getting started, and I HATED those. So, the Turbo was OK in my book. As a side note, I mowed a LOT of lawns when I was 12 years old to buy an HO scale Joueff Amtrak Turboliner set. Unfortunately, the drivetrain on those was terrible. I still have the set, and have thought about re-powering it. Bad design though. Motor in the body with a 3 inch long driveshaft going directly to the rear truck, and electrical pickup on only 2 axles. Someday I'll re-do it. Be nice if I could find a proper sound decoder to really bring it to life. As for the "Smell-Effect", I could light a small container of Charcoal lighter fluid under the layout. That would be perfect! 

 

Todd 

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