Trains News Wire EXCLUSIVE: States add to bilevel order, Amtrak opts for more baggage cars

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A café car mock-up in Nippon Sharyo’s stainless steel shop in May 2014.
Bob Johnston
CHICAGO – Carbuilder Nippon Sharyo confirms to Trains News Wire that California and three Midwest states have signified their intent to exercise an option to purchase an additional 45 bilevel cars. The transaction must obtain Federal Railroad Administration approval before it is finalized because the money comes from a yet-unspent portion of a $551 million 2009 stimulus grant administered by the FRA.

The carbuilder had bid $352 million to build the initial order of 130 cars at its Rochelle plant, where a new stainless steel shell fabrication building was formally dedicated on July 30. The original contract, executed on Nov. 27, 2012, provides for add-on options at a slightly increased cost, depending upon car type, but pricing will not be made public until details are finalized. The split between California and the states of Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri looks like this:

  Original order

Procurement representatives from the state departments of transportation have visited Rochelle in the last several months to view a bilevel shell, where Nippon Sharyo has applied interior elements of coach, café, business class, and cab car configurations. The process allows the state customers to alter specified details, if necessary, before production begins. The exact number of each type of car going to each state’s service is still being determined. The first bilevels are expected to enter service by 2016.
A Viewliner II baggage car under construction at the CAF plant in October 2013.
Bob Johnston
Meanwhile, Amtrak tells Trains News Wire that it has added 15 baggage cars and dropped 15 baggage-dormitory cars from its order of 130 Viewliner II single-level cars now being built by CAF USA in Elmira, N.Y., “to address business needs.” The company has declined to elaborate. That puts the new Viewliner totals at 70 baggage cars, 25 dining cars, 25 full sleepers, and 10 baggage-dormitory cars.

Because the current Eastern single-level fleet requires about 17 sets to operate the Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Crescent, and Lake Shore Limited daily and the Cardinal tri-weekly, the change means that baggage-dormitory cars would not be able to operate consistently on every train. The 9 baggage-dorm roomettes will house on board service crew members who now occupy revenue space in regular Viewliner sleepers. On the other hand, producing more baggage cars could help extend checked baggage and bicycle carriage to more frequencies on the Northeast Corridor and state-supported routes. The Viewliner II baggage cars will replace a fleet more than 50 years old, so the new cars could be viewed as a valuable commodity used by a variety of services.

The October 2014 issue of Trains Magazine gives readers a behind-the-scenes look inside the Nippon Sharyo and CAF USA factories, showcasing how each builder is meeting the challenge of building the first major fleets of intercity passenger cars in decades.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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