First Look: Amtrak/Alstom Acela II

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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On May 23, Railway Age Publisher Jon Chalon and Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono toured Amtrak’s new Alstom-built Acela II high-speed Northeast Corridor trainset at Philadelphia 30th Street Station. Three of the 28-unit order are on the property.

The TGV-based “Avelia Liberty” articulated transits are expected to enter NEC revenue service in early 2023. They have two compact power cars eight articulated intermediate trailer coaches and one centrally located non-articulated café car Certified for operations at up to 186 mph (300 kph), they will operate at a maximum speed of 160 mph on the NEC. Railway Age has covered the trainsets’ manufacturing at Alstom’s Hornell, N.Y. plant and toured an interior mockup in previous articles; this was the first time we’ve seen a completed unit. Suffice to say the overall design and amenities are a vast improvement over the existing Acela trainsets.

Alstom trainset project manager Noah Heulitt, one of Railway Age’s 2018 “10 Under 40” honorees. Heulitt, previously General Manager of NJ Transit’s Bombardier-operated RiverLINE light rail in 2015, joined Alstom prior to the acquisition of Bombardier.
Jon Chalon tries out the First Class section facing tables. Each spot has an individual fold-down section. Tables in Business Class are of the same design.
The ADA section in each car has its own table position with a fold-down section.
Amtrak Acela II project lead Michelle Tortolani shows off the café car.
First Class is 1-2 seating with slightly wider seats than Business Class. Lightweight fold-down tray tables with independent fold-down cupholders (see following photos) are a much-improved design.
In addition to traditional railcar overhead luggage racks, each car features extra storage near the doors.
The gangways between the articulated cars feature touch-control automatic glass doors.
All restrooms are fully ADA-accessible and feature changing tables for passengers with infants.
Conductor’s office is located in the café car at the center of the trainset.
Each door is equipped with an automatic retractable bridge plate.
Like a traditional railroad dining car, the café car features a separate door for loading supplies.
The café car features all-stainless-steel equipment, including a Waring toaster (below).
If you know a bit about very old popular music, Fred Waring of “Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians” fame was the financial backer behind the Waring Blender in the 1930s. The company manufactures high-end commercial appliances.
2-2 Business Class section.
The First Class car has its own galley.
The café car features a “grab ’n go” section. The menu (below) is on a digital display.
Buffers between the independent non-tilting power cars and active-tilt articulated coaches.
All 8 passenger coaches and the café car have longitudinal dampers and air suspension (below). The café is located in the center of the trainset and is independent (non-articulated).
Overall, very impressive (not me, the trainset!).
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