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After 40-plus years, Amfleet I replacements sought

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Penn Central Metroliner 864 at Princeton Junction, N.J., August 1971. Photo by Roger Puta/Wikimedia Commons.

Amtrak on Jan. 18 released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new fleet of single-level passenger cars to replace its dependable but decades-old, 470-unit stable of Amfleet I and ex-Metroliner cars, which were converted from electric-multiple-units years ago. The Amfleet I cars date to 1975, while the ex-Metroliner equipment entered service in January 1969 for Amtrak predecessor Penn Central (PC predecessor Pennsylvania Railroad ordered this equipment in 1966).

A base order will include “75 trainsets or their railcar equivalents” with options to provide equipment for Washington D.C.-New York-Boston Northeast Corridor Northeast Regional service and adjacent state-supported routes, including Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf, Adirondack, Vermonter, Downeaster, Carolinian, Pennsylvanian, Keystone Service, Virginia Service and New Haven/Springfield Service trains.

The new equipment will have “contemporary rail amenities to better serve Amtrak customers,” Amtrak said. These will include improved Wi-Fi equipment and connectivity, improved seating, weather-tight doors and vestibules, larger windows (larger than the aircraft-style narrow slits that have contributed to the Budd Company-built Amfleet cars being referred to as “AmCans” and “AmTubes”), improved climate control systems and completely new designs for restrooms and passageways between cars. The new equipment will feature bi-directional operating capability that Amtrak says “will minimize endpoint turnaround times and provide operating efficiency.”

Amtrak took over NEC Metroliner service from Penn Central in 1971. The electric-multiple-unit equipment was eventually converted into non-powered cab cars and trailers. Amtrak photo.

The new railcars/trainsets will include all necessary equipment for Positive Train Control technology, meet recently updated federal Tier I safety standards for equipment operating at speeds of up to 125 mph, and adhere to all accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Nearly half of Amtrak’s annual ridership is comprised of trips along the Northeast Corridor and adjoining corridors, and this new state-of-the-art equipment will provide customers with an enjoyable and efficient travel experience,” said Amtrak Vice President of Corporate Planning Byron Comati. “While Amtrak has recently refurbished the interiors of its Amfleet I railcars with new seating upholstery and carpeting, the age of the fleet and industry-standard lead times for new equipment requires that the replacement effort for this work-horse fleet begins now.”

The Amfleet I replacement “is one more step in Amtrak’s plan to upgrade and enhance the passenger experience, complementing other onboard and in-station initiatives including acquiring new, modern locomotives and Acela Express trainsets; ongoing improvements at New York Penn Station; opening the new Moynihan Train Hall in New York; and further development of stations in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.”

Amtrak originally expressed its intent to seek Amfleet I replacements in June 2018 with a Request for Information (RFI).

Amfleet I car, sometime in the 1970s. Amtrak photo.

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