Sunday, May 5, 2013

Amtrak Comet trains now testing in California

Back in September, I posted about Amtrak California buying trains built in 1968 from New Jersey transit to be used in California. The purpose of the move is to bring needed rolling stock to lines that have seen large gains in ridership. Amtrak has an order in for brand new trains, but deliveries take years.

The "new" single -level train-sets will be used exclusively on the San Joaquin line, and two of the existing trains will be broken up and used to add capacity on the Capital Corridor and and Pacific Surfliner. The "new" trains are expected to run on the San Joaquin line early morning and late nights - mid-day trains will continue to see higher-capacity two floor trains.

According to reports, the trains have arrived in California and are being tested. If you ride the San Joaquin or pass by the BNSF tracks, keep an eye out, you might see them. No date has yet been given for when they will enter service.

The trains were fully renovated and are supposed to feature standard Amtrak interiors, but I haven't seen any photos posted yet. However, they are high level trains on a low-level line, so it will be interesting to see if these vehicles cause delays since boarding will take longer. Also, it's unknown how bicycles and wheelchair accessibility will be handled on them.

So far, Amtrak hasn't revealed the long-term plan for the trains, as it's assumed they won't be needed once the new orders begin arriving in two years. Theoretically, they could them be shipped to the proposed "Coast Daylight", a day running version of the "Coast Starlight". That line may be better suited for trains that aren't as quick and easy to board as the San Joaquin, which is a quasi-commuter line.


If you see the train, make sure to take a picture and I'd appreciate it if you shared it.

6 comments:

  1. Am I the only one who thinks the Coast Starlight is misnamed? The Coast Starlight travels the coast in daylight. At night in runs well inland. Hopefully, we will soon have a Coast Daylight running between L.A. and S.F. Both the planned Coast Daylight and the Coast Starlight will travel the California coast during the day. I would suggest renaming the Starlight something like the "The West Coaster" as it travels almost the full length of the west coast. Save the name "Coast Starlight" for a coastal overnight L.A. to S.F. train which will surely be needed someday.

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    1. Youre right the name doesnt make much sense

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  2. I'm a nearly daily commuter on the San Joaquin, and are already getting warnings from staff on the new cars. Baggage policy will be different, for one thing. Also, the access issues may cause them fits, especially if it slows down the regiments of smokers ducking off at every stop for a quick one. (The train is non-smoking, but the other side is that debarking means walking through a very thick cloud of cigarette smoke -- the 20 foot rule is a polite fiction.) I don't know how they will handle the growing number of mobility restricted travelers -- the lower level of the current cars is amost always full now.

    So far, the regular riders are a bit dubious of the change, but it would be nice to have Oakland leave the trainset alone instead of stealing a car on the busiest days for another line and cutting the seats on a San Joaquin by a quarter. It is typical to wait on a Friday to see a short train pull up that is already nearly full. Another issue is the length of platforms on the San Joaquin line -- there are some limits at some stations that might cause problems.

    I hate to sound cynical, as I do love commuting by rail instead of driving. But the 40+ new cars due in 2015 are just enough to let them pull the SuperLiner cars, replace some of the Amtrak California Bi-levels and allow for some additional Surfliner and Capitol Corridor runs. A key limitation on San Joaquin expansion has always been competing unsuccessfully with the rest of California for resources. We may be stuck with cars older than many of their passengers until high-speed rail starts up.

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    1. If you get to ride one soon, take pictures!

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  3. The people on Amtrak Unlimited say to expect the trains by the end of June.

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