The new Amtrak regime

2092 views
43 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    November, 2013
  • 1,175 posts
Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Sunday, May 13, 2018 12:48 PM

ROBERT WILLISON
I don't think those first locomotives were bought with the intentions of selling them off if Amtrak disappeared. They were off the shelf freight locomotives, that had a poor safety record and were sold off.

Quote from wikipedia, EMD SDP40F and reference: There were doubts at the time about Amtrak's long-term viability, so the locomotives were designed for easy conversion to freight locomotives should Amtrak cease operation.[1][7]

[1][7] Holland, Kevin J. (Spring–Summer 2009). "Amtrak's F40PH: From dark clouds, a silver lining". Railroad History (200): 56–65.

They weren't of the shelf but were based on EMD's SD40-2 with a 3'-6'' longer frame and a FP45 like full-width hood, and geared for 94 mph.
Regards, Volker

 

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,030 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Sunday, May 13, 2018 12:57 PM

VOLKER LANDWEHR

At that time the US Supreme Court had ruled that a railroad as a common carrier had to provide loss making passenger service when the company as a whole made a profit. 

Could you cite the reference to the Supreme Court decision?

In a 1974 or thereabout decision regarding whether Amtrak could be sued for discontinuing a passenger train, the Court say in effect that the continuance of a passenger train was an administrative decision, which I interpret to mean the Interstate Commerce Commission at the time.

From the middle 50s until the formation of Amtrak the railroads were successful in discontinuing numerous passenger trains through administrative processes, which could be painful, but eventually the passenger trains hosted by the private railroads in the U.S. would have gone the way of the stage coach and canal boats.  

Eventually, irrespective of what the Supreme Court of the United States rules, the Congress can change the law, which is the foundation for the court's decisions.  It too takes a lot of time, but the Congress eventually recognized that over regulation of the railroads was killing them.  Witness the Staggers Act! 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,030 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Sunday, May 13, 2018 1:07 PM

Deggesty
I wonder--what changes would you propose? 

Discontinue the long-distance trains. Scrap the dining and the sleeping cars.  Move the remaining equipment – locomotives, coaches, and lounge cars - to heartland hubs that have the potential to hoist two or more trains a day between large population centers and cover their operating costs in 24 to 36 months.  Convert one coach per train into a business class car or buy new business class cars.  Upgrade the menu in the lounge cars.
 
There probably are numerous heartland hubs that could support two or more trains a day.  San Antonio is one of them. 
 
Run a morning, noon, and evening train between San Antonio and DFW.  Properly scheduled trains could be a viable alternative to I-35, which is rapidly becoming a slow-moving parking lot.  Moreover, the intermediate cities, i.e. Waco, Temple, Austin, and San Marcos are not good candidates for air service. 
 
Run a second train a day between DFW and Oklahoma City – it could be an extension of one of the San Antonio to DFW trains - to determine if another train could boost ridership.  The Heartland Flyer is performing poorly.  It has been steadily losing riders.  In FY12 the Flyer counted 88,000 riders; by FY17 the figure was down to 71,000, which was an improvement over the six years low of 66,000 in FY16.  If a second train does not improve the ridership and the revenues, discontinue the service
 
Run a morning, noon and evening train between San Antonio and Houston.  Again, the service could be a viable alternative to I-10.  Although it is not as crowded as I-35, it is getting there.  Although there are no major population centers between San Antonio and Houston, the end points are among the 10 largest cities in the U.S. 
 
To be truly viable alternatives to driving and/or flying, the tracks would have to be upgraded to 110 to 125 mph.  Moreover, Amtrak or an alternative carrier would have to reimburse the host railroad the full cost of carrying its trains.  If the rights-of-way could be upgraded as per what they are doing between Chicago and St. Louis, with comparable running times, trains could be competitive in the corridors referenced above. 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    November, 2013
  • 1,175 posts
Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Sunday, May 13, 2018 2:00 PM

PJS1
Could you cite the reference to the Supreme Court decision?

I found it again: https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R42512.html

You find it under Abandonments, Discontinuances, Profitability: Does It Provide a Basis for Passenger Access to Freight Tracks? in the 6th passage.

It is more complicated than I remember, sorry for being wrong.

But there is the following sentence in the same section, two passages down: The 1958 and 1964 Supreme Court cases suggest that where passenger service is deemed vital, a profitable railroad could in some circumstances be required to provide such service even at a loss.

That made abandonment quite unpredictable I think.

Supreme Court Rulings were based on a different set of laws after 1970. Since 1970 there was the Amtrak-Law: http://ctr.trains.com/~/media/files/pdf/amtrak_law.pdf

In Section 306 the "Applicability of the Interstate Commerce Act and other Laws" is defined. If I understand correctly Amtrak was exempted from ICC abondonment regulations.

The same law required that railroads not participating in Amtrak would have to provide passenger service until January 1st, 1975 and than go throught ICC procedures for abondonment.

In 1970 passenger rail still had losses of $449.5 million. Getting out of passenger transportion immediately saved the railroads about $1.9 billion dollars.
Regards, Volker

  • Member since
    July, 2010
  • From: Louisiana
  • 1,589 posts
Posted by Paul of Covington on Sunday, May 13, 2018 3:50 PM

   PJS1, your plans have some similarities to Fred Frailey's in his blog:

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/archive/2018/05/05/my-big-bad-new-amtrak.aspx

   Wouldn't such drastic changes involve a lot of negotiations with the host railroads, and remember how UP responded when Amtrak suggested converting the Sunset Limited to daily operation?    As for upgrading track for high speed operation, it may be better to lay new track dedicated to the passenger operation.  (I know, $$$.)   By the way, what is the status of the proposed "Bullet Trains"?   I haven't heard anything about them lately.

_____________

   "A stranger is just a friend you ain't met yet."  ___ Dave Gardner

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 1,111 posts
Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Sunday, May 13, 2018 4:30 PM

VOLKER LANDWEHR
Any way you cut it these were off the shelf locomotives that we're stretched to allow  to make room for the steam generator and water tank. What you left out was this streching coupled with hollow booster truck's made the locomotives prone to derailment.  Regardless of how Amtrak and EMD tried to solve the situation, no solution could be found. Amtrak down graded the locomotives, used some in mow, and for switching. Several railroads incuding the C&O banned them from running on thier lines. 

They were never success passenger units because of their inherint design based on a stretch freight locomotive.

They did make better freight units minus the steam generator and sloshing water tanks.

I often wonder why Amtrak didn't order F45's which were highly successful passenger units. The answer might have been it was cheaper to try to convert an existing model  ( hence off the shelve ) into a passenger unit then retooling for the F 45.

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON
I don't think those first locomotives were bought with the intentions of selling them off if Amtrak disappeared. They were off the shelf freight locomotives, that had a poor safety record and were sold off.

 

Quote from wikipedia, EMD SDP40F and reference: There were doubts at the time about Amtrak's long-term viability, so the locomotives were designed for easy conversion to freight locomotives should Amtrak cease operation.[1][7]

[1][7] Holland, Kevin J. (Spring–Summer 2009). "Amtrak's F40PH: From dark clouds, a silver lining". Railroad History (200): 56–65.

They weren't of the shelf but were based on EMD's SD40-2 with a 3'-6'' longer frame and a FP45 like full-width hood, and geared for 94 mph.
Regards, Volker

 

 

  • Member since
    October, 2014
  • 188 posts
Posted by Gramp on Sunday, May 13, 2018 5:01 PM

Re: LD Amtrak trains.  If for political purposes they must exist, why not contract with the railroads to provide the service.  Make it lucrative enough that they want to make it work.  Have an Amtrak unit oversee things.

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 1,111 posts
Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Sunday, May 13, 2018 5:02 PM

I think I read this in train's magazine lol.

But some of Fred's idea make sense. Adpoting some of these  hubs would provide travelers with day light options. Running these injunction with long distance trains would make Amtrak more productive, with better ulitization of terminals, staffing and over head.

Adding additional trains would only enhance and improve long distance train performance.

Unfortunately it would cost trillions of dollars since us railroads can't add a single train to existing routes without holding amtrak ranson too hundreds of million of dollars to improve thier lines.

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,030 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Sunday, May 13, 2018 5:08 PM

Paul of Covington
   PJS1, your plans have some similarities to Fred Frailey's in his blog:

Wouldn't such drastic changes involve a lot of negotiations with the host railroads...............?    

I have shared some similar thoughts in Frailey's blog, which now has 161 responses.  

My thoughts are what I would do in the ideal rather than any sense they could be implemented in the foreseeable future.  I was responding to what could be; not what is likely.  

It would be easier to upgrade existing rights-of-way for better passenger train service between Texas three largest cities than to build a new railway.  But for now there is no vision, money, or political will to do it.  

Given the toxic political environment in the United States, I don't believe we will see any major changes in Amtrak or passenger rail service, with the exception of Brightline, for a long time.

Ten years from now, I suspect, the long-distance train system will look pretty much like it does today.  And the nation will have spent another $5 billion to subsidize it.  But maybe not.  I am no more able to see what is likely to unfold tomorrow than the next person. 

Here is a link to Texas Central:  https://www.texascentral.com/blog/  The project is making some headway, although it is difficult to separate the fluff from substantive achievements.  As far as I know nothing has been built yet.

No pro-forma financial statements have been developed.  So, how this project will be financed is unknown.  Based on what I have read, the initial cost estimates for the project, excluding finance charges, were approximately $10 billion.  The latest estimates project the cost to be between $15 and $18 billion.  Does anyone know how to say California High Speed Rail Project? 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    February, 2016
  • From: Texas
  • 1,030 posts
Posted by PJS1 on Sunday, May 13, 2018 5:19 PM

Gramp
 Re: LD Amtrak trains.  If for political purposes they must exist, why not contract with the railroads to provide the service.  Make it lucrative enough that they want to make it work.  Have an Amtrak unit oversee things. 

In retrospect the federal government should have covered the losses on those passenger trains that it deemed vital for the nation's passenger transport system. Most of the railroads knew how to run passenger trains; they just needed to stop hemorrhaging the red ink associated with them. 

Instead, the government in its wisdom - notice the tongue in cheek - created another government bureaucracy with more than 20,000 employees and a Washington based management structure to go with it.  

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

  • Member since
    November, 2013
  • 1,175 posts
Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Sunday, May 13, 2018 5:47 PM

ROBERT WILLISON
Any way you cut it these were off the shelf locomotives that we're stretched to allow to make room for the steam generator and water tank. What you left out was this streching coupled with hollow booster truck's made the locomotives prone to derailment.

If you call a locomotive with a longer frame, different gearing, steam generator, divided tank, and full width hoods off the shelf l don't follow you.

I didn't leave the derailments out. I didn't see a need to repeat what you already said. In addition to your derailment causes, the NTSB saw harmonic vibrations from the baggage cars as main cause.

To make them better freight locomotivesATSF exchanged the hollow bolster HT-C trucks with standard HT-C trucks.

ROBERT WILLISON
I often wonder why Amtrak didn't order F45's which were highly successful passenger units. The answer might have been it was cheaper to try to convert an existing model ( hence off the shelve ) into a passenger unit then retooling for the F 45.

Amtrak had to keep down costs and a 3,000 hp locomotive is less expensive and more reliable than a 3,600 hp locomotive especially if one doesn't need the extra 600 hp .

On the other hand the FP45 was based on the predecessor series, the SD45, while the SDP40F was based on the SD40-2. I think EMD might not have offered the old electrical system anymore, just the new Dash-2 modular system. On the FP45 the electrical system would have needed a redesign, for the SDP40F the passenger train requirement were designed into the SD40-2.

Just my thoughts.
Regards, Volker

 

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 11,094 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Sunday, May 13, 2018 7:00 PM

VOLKER LANDWEHR

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON
Any way you cut it these were off the shelf locomotives that we're stretched to allow to make room for the steam generator and water tank. What you left out was this streching coupled with hollow booster truck's made the locomotives prone to derailment.

 

If you call a locomotive with a longer frame, different gearing, steam generator, divided tank, and full width hoods off the shelf l don't follow you.

I didn't leave the derailments out. I didn't see a need to repeat what you already said. In addition to your derailment causes, the NTSB saw harmonic vibrations from the baggage cars as main cause.

To make them better freight locomotivesATSF exchanged the hollow bolster HT-C trucks with standard HT-C trucks.

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON
I often wonder why Amtrak didn't order F45's which were highly successful passenger units. The answer might have been it was cheaper to try to convert an existing model ( hence off the shelve ) into a passenger unit then retooling for the F 45.

 

Amtrak had to keep down costs and a 3,000 hp locomotive is less expensive and more reliable than a 3,600 hp locomotive especially if one doesn't need the extra 600 hp .

On the other hand the FP45 was based on the predecessor series, the SD45, while the SDP40F was based on the SD40-2. I think EMD might not have offered the old electrical system anymore, just the new Dash-2 modular system. On the FP45 the electrical system would have needed a redesign, for the SDP40F the passenger train requirement were designed into the SD40-2.

Just my thoughts.
Regards, Volker

 

 

So, the newest passenger locomotive in the country at the time of Amtrak's order was the ATSF FP45.  Amtrak could have just sprung for a bunch of Dash 2 versions of these.  Except.... I suspect there were weight issues elsewhere on the system, so cutting the weight was probably a goal.  

Also, 3000 HP rather than 3600 allows you to keep full HP at high traction motor RPM and HP without needing any field shunting.  Makes for more reliable locomotive.  The SD45-2s needed field shunting.  The SD40-2s did not.

I really don't think Amtrak was thinking too much about selling them if Amtrak went under.  There was no thinking along those lines with the Amfleet order.  Amtrak was too busy trying to get their feet under themselves a that point.  What other locomotive could they have specified for quick delivery in 1972?

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 1,111 posts
Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Sunday, May 13, 2018 7:02 PM

VOLKER LANDWEHR

 My thoughts on the sdp40f are they were pretty much of the off the shelf. Streching a car or truck is pretty common in thier respective industries. Changing gear ratios and adding cowling, not  ground breaking either.  Apparently, adding steam generators and water tanks with the benefits of hind sight should have had a little more engineering work done before the design went to the field. 

Sometimes refining a model like the F 45 might have made more sense than the sdp40f. I'm sure EMD made improvement on thier line of e units. The last E 9's were certainly an improvement  over the EA 1.  Could' an uograded  f 46 ( f 45) be the same.  These are my thoughts. I see some of your points We can certainly agree to disagree.

 
ROBERT WILLISON
Any way you cut it these were off the shelf locomotives that we're stretched to allow to make room for the steam generator and water tank. What you left out was this streching coupled with hollow booster truck's made the locomotives prone to derailment.

 

If you call a locomotive with a longer frame, different gearing, steam generator, divided tank, and full width hoods off the shelf l don't follow you.

I didn't leave the derailments out. I didn't see a need to repeat what you already said. In addition to your derailment causes, the NTSB saw harmonic vibrations from the baggage cars as main cause.

To make them better freight locomotivesATSF exchanged the hollow bolster HT-C trucks with standard HT-C trucks.

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON
I often wonder why Amtrak didn't order F45's which were highly successful passenger units. The answer might have been it was cheaper to try to convert an existing model ( hence off the shelve ) into a passenger unit then retooling for the F 45.

 

Amtrak had to keep down costs and a 3,000 hp locomotive is less expensive and more reliable than a 3,600 hp locomotive especially if one doesn't need the extra 600 hp .

On the other hand the FP45 was based on the predecessor series, the SD45, while the SDP40F was based on the SD40-2. I think EMD might not have offered the old electrical system anymore, just the new Dash-2 modular system. On the FP45 the electrical system would have needed a redesign, for the SDP40F the passenger train requirement were designed into the SD40-2.

Just my thoughts.
Regards, Volker

 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2014
  • 1,111 posts
Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Sunday, May 13, 2018 7:27 PM

One last thought, I would also consider an fl9 A an off the shelf model as well.  A typical f9 came in at 50'.0, where the fl 9 was 59'. In 1960 EMD did not consider adding 9' to the car body, a different rear truck and electrical euiptment ground breaking either. It was thier attempt to devise a solution for a customer as quickly and cheaply as possible. Jump to 1973, and Amtrak's need for a passenger unit. Same situation, same solution, except the sdp40f was not designed properly  for thier assignment.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy