Amtrak is in the business of ordering more new rolling stock and locomotives in 2019. Hard on the heels of that $850 million contract for 75 new Tier 4 locomotives from Siemens Mobility in December 2018, Amtrak issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) in January 2019 for a new fleet of single-level passenger cars. These are to be replacements for the 40+ years old Amfleet I and ex-Metroliner cars, with an initial order/orders to include “75 trainsets or their railcar equivalents”. The responders to this RFP will be required to provide options for equipment for Washington D.C.-New York-Boston Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional services, and adjacent state-supported routes.
The original Amfleet vehicles, with their stainless steel, corrugated sides and what some have described as “slit like” windows, were awarded the dubious nicknames of “AmTubes” or “AmCans” in some quarters. The fleet has recently refurbished the interiors of its Amfleet I railcars with new seating upholstery and carpeting, but now they are to be replaced – and there are quite a lot to replace! – over 400 in total, including the re-engineered “Metroliners”. The Amfleet cars are described as the workhorses of Amtrak’s passenger rolling stock, and Corporation states their replacements are to include:
- Improved Wi-Fi equipment and connectivity,
- Improved seating,
- Weather-tight doors and vestibules as well as freedom to move throughout the train conveniently.
- The modernized fleet will also feature large picture windows, improved climate control systems for passenger comfort and completely new designs for restrooms and passageways between cars.
What might be known as Amfleet III will feature bi-directional operating capability, to minimize turn round times and improve operating efficiency. In addition, the new railcars and trainsets will include all necessary equipment for Positive Train Control technology. This technology follows from the 2008 tragedy, when a Metrolink commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train, with 25 fatalities. In the same year, the US Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which decreed that Positive Train Control (PTC) systems be installed on all main-line tracks. PTC is a safety system that automatically slows down or breaks the train if the engineer misses a signal or goes over the speed limit, thus eliminating the possibility of human error.
The original Amfleet cars were purchased in 2 series by Amtrak, initially in the 1970s for the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP), with Amfleet II appearing later in the 70s and early 1980s on longer distance runs. Locomotive hauled passenger cars were being replaced by Amfleet equipment, designed for 120 mph running. By 1979 there were over 300 such cars in use on the NEC. Fixed formations of mainly six Amfleet cars were planned, hauled by AEM7 type locomotives, reducing the operating cost by avoiding the need to break up and re-form consists at stations or yards. To provide the hourly interval service that was proposed, nine of these train sets were required, five made up from the 34 upgraded Metroliner cars, and the remaining four, of Amfleet and AEM7 locos. Three sets are kept in reserve, in the event of a failure of any of the others used on the New York to Washington workings. There was some difference in capacity between Metroliner and Amfleet equipped trains, since the former had only 398 revenue earning seats per train, as compared with the 493 of the Amfleet consists.
Three orders to the Budd organization in 1973, 1974 and 1975 were for six different designs totalling 492 of the new Amfleet cars. They were initially intended fror short haul services in the North East, but were soon put to work on medium and long haul routes, substituting for the older heavyweight cars, by then described as the “Heritage Fleet”. Unlike the new generation of passenger cars, these were only equipped with steam heating – a factor that was remedied by Amtrak a few years later, when many of the older designs were re-equipped with electric heating systems.
Budd actually manufactured a total of 642 Amfleet I cars from 1975-77, and by the early 1980s, the vehicles in the table below were in active service with the NRPC:
Amfleet Stock Active in 1983
The idea was to improve passenger comfort beyond the ageing “Heritage” fleet, and they appeared at the same time as the long distance “Superliner” cars. These started life in 1973, when Amtrak put out a tender for 235 (283 in service by 1983) multi-use bi-level, multi use passenger cars, from a design by Louis T. Klauder Associates. In contrast to the Metroliner cars used on the Northeast Corridor, these new cars were built by Pullman Standard, with the order placed in February 1975, for delivery between December 1976 and June 1978.
In 1980, Amtrak ordered its new Amfleet II cars from Budd for long-haul passenger services, for which the Corporation had previously converted a number of the ageing ‘Heritage Fleet’ cars. Amfleet II was based on the 85ft long ‘Metroliner’ design, just as the first generation, but provided a single level car for those long-haul routes, at about 70% of the cost of the huge new “Superliner” vehicles.
Alongside these locomotive hauled passenger cars, Amtrak had embraced both a major electrification project, with European style motive power, and revisited turbine propulsion with the ANF Industrie design of ‘Turbotrain’ for high speed passenger workings.
These latest orders, and the RFP for new Amfleet stock is another step along the upgrade path for Amtrak, its motive power, rolling stock, and infrastructure, across the network. It will be interesting to see what the new designs look like, and how they perform in service.
Interesting & Useful links: