The End is Beginning to be in Sight

Posted by George Hamlin
on Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Bob Johnston’s report today on TRAINS’ Newswire (“First Look: Siemens Venture Coaches debut for Amtrak”, February 2, 2022) about the new equipment’s first use in revenue service, on a “Lincoln Service” Chicago-St. Louis round trip, is a reminder that the new equipment will eventually be supplanting older cars, including the original Budd Amfleet cars, which commenced service in 1975.

Coming in 2024 (Newswire, July 7, 2021) will be the first of up to up to 83 new trainsets of equipment to “replace Amfleet I and related equipment on Northeast Corridor and state-supported services”.  As noted therein, “The new Amtrak order is based on Venture equipment”; thus, the advent of the regular service use of this type of passenger car is a visceral reminder of the forthcoming changeover in the Northeast and elsewhere.

As a result, scenes such as that above, which are routine today, will become history in the not distant future.  This photo was taken October 28, 2016 during the stop at Washington, DC’s Union Station on Northeast Regional train 176, operating between Virginia points and Boston, Massachusetts.  Another set of Amfleet cars is on the right side of the platform awaiting its next assignment.

Train 176 was powered by a GE P42 “Genesis” diesel this far north, where it arrived on the lower level of WUS.  The diesel was replaced by a Siemens ACS-64 “Sprinter” electric locomotive for the balance of the trip, which required a longer dwell time than would than would be needed just to disembark arriving passengers, and board those getting on in Washington.

The forthcoming new trainsets will include some with dual-power (both diesel and electric capabilities, such as used on NJ Transit) which will obviate the need for an engine change in Washington, and likely, reduce the duration of the stop there in the process. 

While the Amfleet cars have performed very well in service, and proved to be a very good investment, not everyone was enthralled by them at first, particularly those acquainted with the relatively luxurious postwar long-haul coaches acquired by the private-sector railroads following World War II.  A particular complaint involved the 1970s Budd equipment’s “rifle-slot” windows, versus the expansive “picture” windows on the postwar streamliners.

However, while this equipment was nice when new, much of it, and particularly that on the Penn Central’s roster, often fit the description of “ridden hard and put away wet” by the time of Amfleet’s entry into service, making the newly-built Budds a welcome sight for most corridor passengers when they began to arrive.

I recall former TRAINS’ editor David P. Morgan describing the advent of the streamliners in the 1930s as seemingly “visitors from another planet” versus the equipment then being used, so radically different, and better, were the new lightweights.  This time, however, while the new Venture equipment will be nice, new and likely have attractive features not present now, the cars being replaced, some approaching fifty years in service, have nothing to be ashamed of.  Amfleet, you’ve stood the test to time, and performed well in the process; we’ll have to wait another four decades to see if the Venture equipment is able to equal the marker laid down by the Budd products.

Photo: George W. Hamlin

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