Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby electricron » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:58 pm

Do the Comets in MBTA's roster have just as bad a reputation with winter conditions?
Is it the car, or it's doors that have the bad rep? Doors can be replaced.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby east point » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:53 pm

Some one who knows the history. Did Down Easter have to pay Amtrak to overhaul and wreck repair some Amfleets for the service to start ? If Amtrak wanted to foist the Horizons on Maine could Down Easter demand a partial refund ?
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:02 pm

DE equipment at time of startup was ex-Metroliners, made semi-surplus by the arrival of Acela. I'm not entirely sure if they had been passed thru Warrington's Capstone program. Doubtful we'll see any horizons b/c they're all out in the Midwest.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:05 pm

Horizons are headed south or west,believe there was thinking of buying the MARC II coaches for a dedicated DE fleet,
after getting rebuilt at Bear or a contract shop for DE service.
It might be their "thinking" of "tack on" order with Amtrak's single level coach/food service car (a View II design or Seimen's
"Brightline" design)order.

By "food service" car; along the lines of the current "Amcafe"" design.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby The EGE » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:34 pm

A perspective I was surprised to hear: At a conference I attended today, Gene Skoropowski, Senior Vice President of Passenger Rail Development for Brightline, specifically praised the Downeaster service as a corridor that runs frequent service despite relatively small endpoints. He noted that the Downeaster carries as many passengers as the Lincoln Service on the same number of round trips, despite city populations about 4 times smaller.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:38 pm

He said much the same when he came to Maine on the 15th of December.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Renegade334 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:28 am

The EGE wrote:...At a conference I attended today, Gene Skoropowski, Senior Vice President of Passenger Rail Development for Brightline, specifically praised the Downeaster service as a corridor that runs frequent service despite relatively small endpoints. He noted that the Downeaster carries as many passengers as the Lincoln Service on the same number of round trips, despite city populations about 4 times smaller.


Do you know if there is video of this online? I would love to watch this.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby TomNelligan » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:30 am

The EGE wrote: He noted that the Downeaster carries as many passengers as the Lincoln Service on the same number of round trips, despite city populations about 4 times smaller.


I'm all for promoting the Downeaster service, but that particular comparison is a bit of a stretch. Chicago and St. Louis are obviously big cities, but they're 284 miles apart by rail versus 116 miles for Boston-Portland. It's a five and a half hour ride by train between endpoints on a route with frequent air service as competition, in a part of the country where train riding just isn't as familiar to the teeming masses as it is in the Northeast and California. That's a different sort of market than Boston-Portland. Additionally, there's no daily commuter business to speak of since the first train of the morning doesn't get to Chicago until 10 AM. This doesn't diminish the fact that the Downeasters carry a lot of people, but it explains why the Lincoln Service trains carry proportionally fewer.

The Lincoln Service does, however, offer great scenery if you like cornfields. :-)
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:46 am

Renegade334 wrote:
FCM2829 wrote: The DE's unique in that it's not really connected to the contiguous Amtrak system.


Granted this is a small subset of what you said and F Line already responded to most of it...but the hope is that for a NSRL that would in fact connect DE to the Amtrak System.


1)I would characterize the proposal for the North-South Rail link to be somewhere in the vicinity of Highly Unlikely to DOA.
Unless you have a minimum of $5B lying around. Then maybe we could talk...

2)Best chance of getting the DE actually connected to NEC/B&A inland rte(IMHO), would be through the Grand Junction, which the DE & MBTA uses for equipment moves. It runs from Somerville to Beacon Park yard remnant thru Cambridge/MIT campus, 1-2 miles. The idea would be to run into North Station as a regular Portland-Boston DE train, and make a reverse move (not really a reverse b/c push pull) over the GJ, and continue on to NY via Springfield and down the Hartford line. This would involve some serious community outreach & incentivising as MIT is not too keen on the idea of regularly scheduled intercity +/or increased commuter rail. But still doable.

3)There is a proposal (TRNE) to run trains directly to NYPenn from the Portland Trans Center, but it does not involve the Grand Jct, it would be via Pan Am Railways Worcester Branch via Lowell JCT/Ayer (future MBTA ownership maybe?), and thus bypassing Boston. This would require the rehab/rebuild of approx 47 miles of Class I railroad (~10mph, maybe 25 in a coupla spots). Also doable, but more money, and it's somewhat unclear how much support there is for this proposal within MASSDOT, if any, what with it bypassing the hub of Boston.

All three are speculation. The most expensive (1) is the only one to directly involve a South Station connection.
(2) SS stop would involve moving against a contiuous flow of train traffic (plus some funky interchange routings)from the already at-capacity terminal zone of South Station. Plus there is already ample NYC-Bos service via the NEC, Passengers seeking Hartford/Springfield would/could board at North Station.
(3) No South Station stop. thru train to NYP.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Wed Jan 11, 2017 10:40 am

The size of the Trump infrastructure proposal has given me (and others) reason to seriously question if the North-South Rail Link may be viable again. The current cost-estimate ballpark is $2 billion (which has come way down from the original $8 billion).

That possibility aside Grand Junction is not the favored option by any of the government agencies looking at service between Maine and points beyond Boston. NNEPRA has made public statements to this effect multiple times. They favor consideration of Worcester as well.

The Worcester Branch has seen some significant (self-funded no less ...) investment by Pan Am Railways in the past five years. It is probably closer to Class II than it is to Class I. That doesn't by any means indicate that it would be suitable for passenger service, merely that it is not as far gone as one would reasonably believe based on past history.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:22 pm

Interesting.
I was unaware the GJ was so far off the table. Guess that gaff of announcing potential CR thru Cambridge w/o any community notification a few years back really stung.

How much work does the Worcester branch need for class III?
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:47 pm

Some parts probably nothing more than additional ties, ballast and a pass for surfacing and lining. Other areas have drainage problems and need crossing rebuilds. Some grade crossings have been rebuilt very recently. I think there is room for debate whether or not CWR would be advisable. For low frequency initial service I think it's a close call just how much would have to be done.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby electricron » Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:56 pm

What would be nice to have is some more information and data. How many existing Downeaster passengers transfer to or from other Amtrak trains today, 10%, 50%, or 90%? And where are those that do come from, New York City, Chicago, Miami, or Los Angeles? Only then can we make a determination if a train bypassing downtown Boston will be worth its expense.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Wed Jan 11, 2017 1:38 pm

Worth noting that the real ridership density is actually directly at Worcester and Ayer with travel to and from these points, especially from Southern Maine and New Hampshire.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:04 pm

electricron wrote:Do the Comets in MBTA's roster have just as bad a reputation with winter conditions?
Is it the car, or it's doors that have the bad rep? Doors can be replaced.


"Comet" (when speaking of the whole class of similar coaches and not simply the NJT-branded fleet) is a heterogeneous designation. Basically it means everything derived from Pullman's original early-70's single-level design that was the first generationally "modern" commuter rail coach after the Postwar Budd, etc. stainless steel units. They sprouted 30 years of variants with different livery, door, and technological configurations that aren't spot-on 100% the same. The analogue to loosely apply here is that the Comet is like the PCC trolley of commuter rail; many, many broadly parts-compatible makes sprung off of the generic template, but each generation contributed its own customizations that at very advanced age made some classes easier to maintain than others.

Even the MBTA's Pullman, Bombardier, and MBB generations of the car aren't rote-exact, despite being about as close as one can get to carbon copies. The MBB's were ordered with cheaper frame construction than the Bombers and Pullmans since they were a purely supplemental order done on limited budget, and thus they were retired earlier because their material lifespan was never intended to be as long or full-rebuild worthy as the previous orders. The indestructible 1978 Pullmans, on the other hand, were completely remanufactured like-new in 1996 to outstanding results. While you could do the exact same-quality reman job with the MBB's, it would cost more per unit than the Pullmans because of the additional overhead of rehabbing the cheaper materials and probably not check out on $$$ as a deal worth pursuing. Bi-level cars are the same way. The T's Rotem stinkers are copies of the 3 prior generations of bulletproof Kawasakis that originated that particular 15.5 ft. tall East Coast bi-level design, but have some derivations and are a very different story on construction quality. Ditto Metrolink's and Tri-Rail's Rotems copies of the Bombardier BLV, which are substandard-quality to the "it just works" BBD originals now in their 4th-plus generation of ongoing production.

So there ends up being little things like that which informed the original buying decisions which diverge the cars' readiness for rebuild 25 years later. Components may be very portable, but all these itty-bitty variables factored together give each manufacturing class slightly different prospects for longevity...much like it did for a lot of the 90% similar but not exact Heritage bags. Horizons slot into this little snag because they were another MBB-like quick and cheap order of supplementals from a very budget-constrained Amtrak era where more forward-thinking orders just weren't politically or financially in the cards. They have slightly different trucks from their Comet II-derived commuter rail cousins, and stuff like the wonky doors are specific to that batch. Those minor derivations have to get factored into the rebuild cost, and given the small size of the H fleet relative to the commuter rail Comet II derivatives (NJT II/III/IV's, MNRR Shoreliner I/I/III's, MBTA Bombardiers) their per-unit rebuild cost is going to be a bit worse than average because of their derivations. Again, Iowa Pacific would probably lust after the H's when Amtrak is done because they won't be in such heavy-duty use under a private niche player to require a full rebuild...just some light-refresh TLC like the MBTA's periodic "CRASP" reliability-refresh program for its single-levels. But it's an entirely different cost calculation for any use requiring fuller rebuild like medium-term repurposement in-house at Amtrak, going off to VIA as supplementals, or some completely off-script PRIAA usage like an NCDOT.
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