The next generation of rail passenger cars for long distance travel
is here today. Representing the best in traditional rail car design
and the latest technology for comfort, safety and ease of maintenance,
three prototype cars are being tested on. Amtrak's Eastern route.
They will augment and eventually replace the Heritage Fleet cars,
which were built in the 1950's and rebuilt to modern standards
in the 1970's.
In mid-1982, Amtrak began intial engineering and design of a new
generation of single-level passenger cars- the Viewliner. Designed
for long-distance travel and intended for use primarily east of
the Mississippi, two Viewliner sleeping cars and one Viewliner
dining car have been built as the fleet prototypes.
For the first time, Amtrak had the opportunity to design its own
equipment. Amtrak wrote Viewliner specifications based on a long
"wish list" of features derived from experience with
the operation, maintenance and rebuilding of many other car types.
Manufacturers then built Viewliner components adhering to Amtrak's
The single-level Viewliners are a marked departure from even recent
passenger train design. Their most noticeable features are the
double row of windows and increased overall height. The dimensions
(the cars are 85 feet long, over 13 feet high, and 10 1/2 feet
wide) were calculated to provide maximum interior space while
allowing the cars to clear the low, narrow tunnels in the East.
The heating and the air conditioning systems fit in the drawers
under the car and slide out for easy maintenance. A key design
concept in these cars is "modular construction"-pre-built
sleeping compartments that arrived tegrated units, with electricity
and plumbing fixtures, heatind and air conditioning connections,
insulation and furnishings already installed. This design enables
Amtrak to complete the assembly of the cars with a significant
improvement in productivity over what would be required with traditional
Each of the three deluxe bedrooms and 12 compartments in the sleeping
cars are modular units installed through an exterior panel 84
inches wide and 96 inches high.
From the passenger's perspective, individual modular rooms provide
other advantages. The rooms don't touch each other because there
is no common wall. Rather, the modular rooms sit in the car in
a manner similar to eggs in a carton. As a result, Viewliner sleeping
cars are quiet and thermatically insulated.
Viewliner sleeping cars have 12 compartments, two deluxe bedrooms
and one handicapped-accessible deluxe bedroom. The two adjoining
bedrooms can be opened to form a bedroom suit for four. Each double-occupancy
compartment has a sink with hot and cold water, toilet and ice-water
faucet, as well as an upper and lower berth.
Other improvements include views from the new upper berth windows,
wider upper berths, more in-room luggage storage, redesigned wash
basin modules, showers in the deluxe bedrooms and one shower for
the compartment passengers.
The 48-seat dining car also has upper-level windows, creating
a light and spacious interior offering wide views of the passing
In the view of the novel design features of the cars, the prototypes
will undergo extensive testing on mid-western and eastern Amtrak
routes to identify and work out any unforseen problems.
Amtrak needs to acquire approximately 450 cars, including over
200 Viewliner sleeping cars, coaches, lounge cars, and dining
cars during the next five years to augment the existing fleet
and eventually replace the Heritage equipment.
The first step will be to secure a method of financing this purchase.
Amtrak estimates each new Viewliner car will cost $1.5 million,
or $300 million minimum commitment over five years to build 200
cars. While the Viewliners are being tested, Amtrak will explore
various ways to raise the needed capital funds.
Combining the traditional charm of rail service with today's technology,
the Viewliners will enhance an overnight mode of transportation
that allows passengers to work, enjoy, and relax on the go. Certainly,
those who cares as much about thier journey as they do about thier
destination will welcome this new generation of railway passenger
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