A first look at the next-generation Acelas

Alstom tour offers look at construction of Amtrak's next high speed train
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A power car at Alstom's plant in Hornell, N.Y., shows the swooping lines of the next generation of Acela equipment.
Bob Johnston
Another power car, with its outer skin not yet installed, shows elements of the crash energy management system.
Bob Johnston
Carbody shells are made of aluminum and fabricated in Italy, which required a waiver from "Buy America" rules.
Bob Johnston
This cabinet controls two traction motors on one of the trucks. A cabinet on the other side controls the other truck.
Bob Johnston

HORNELL, N.Y. — At first, the arched snout seems to resemble a bird in flight. In a nearby bay at Alstom’s sprawling Hornell, N.Y., manufacturing complex, you see why: a bevy of crash energy management components are concealed under the nose.

We’re looking at a second-generation Acela power car on a shop floor that has also witnessed Erie Railroad steam locomotive maintenance in the 19th Century, and construction of 50 Viewliner sleeping cars by Morrison Knudsen and Amerail in 1995.

Trains News Wire visited the plant Wednesday for a look at the early stages of production that will eventually deliver 28 trainsets beginning in 2021 to replace 20-year-old Acela Express trainsets built by a Bombardier-Alstom consortium.

Those 20 original Acelas created a distinctive Northeast Corridor brand, so Amtrak won’t be adopting Alstom’s “Avelia Liberty” product designation. Exactly what it will label the new equipment is to be determined. Caroline Decker, Amtrak’s vice president of the Northeast Corridor Service Line, says the exact manner in which the transition will be managed continues to be under review.

The new trainsets, derived from a European design that complies with new Federal Railroad Administration structural guidelines, will seat 378 passengers, compared with the 304 of the current Acelas. Features and innovations of Alstom’s new trainsets include:

— Power cars in which all components are housed in the engine compartment rather than on the roof or underneath. “This will improve reliability and give the train a sleeker look,” project director Didier Cuadrado tells Trains News Wire.

— Aluminum passenger car shells manufactured in Italy. Alstom received a waiver from FRA “buy America” requirements to go outside the U.S. for these because, according to Cuadrado, no U.S. facility is available to manufacture aluminum shells of the required length.

— A robust U.S. supply chain. Though the passenger carbodies are built overseas, the steel power-car shells are made in Michigan, the trucks are built in Illinois, and three Alstom locations in Hornell employ about 800 workers to manufacture other key components.  

— Top speed of these trainsets is 186 mph, but the trains will be limited to 160 mph on stretches where Northeast Corridor infrastructure improvements will support them.

The first interior mock-ups are expected to be available this summer, and Trains News Wire will have more “first looks” as details become available.  

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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