How the FRA is Regulating Passenger Rail out Of Existance
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    Default How the FRA is Regulating Passenger Rail out Of Existance

    I thought I would place this one here, it may make for an interesting discussion. How the FRA is Regulating Passenger Rail Out of Existence | East Bay Bicycle Coalition

    I must say as a volunteer on historic railroad preservation I have seen where the FRA has likely prevented a lot of amateurs from blowing themselves up when playing with steam engines, or enacted laws to keep a few people from running themselves over. So the the crowd who seems to think any open minded person of differing opinions to them wants to go back to living in a hut I am not saying the FRA doesn't have a purpose. At the same time I have seen where their one size fits all laws can become ridiculous and overbearing. It is silly stuff like forcing a little 10mile short-line volunteer run road to have to act like northeast corridor in NYC rush hour. I kind of see them as a necessary evil, but the article is rather interesting.

    One would think that if someone showed years of safe operation in Europe and Asia the FRA would tend to be quick to sign off on it but I guess not. Anyhow it is a very interesting read.

    The one thing implied by the article that I am unsure if the FRA actually prohibited is the incredibly safe and effective articulated rail car design;


    I believe the French have pioneered the articulated car and it has taken off in most of the rest of the world. The concept is that not only does the non articulated car add weight and cost, but it also adds one more problem. Non articulated cars are less rigid in a crash and tend to fold up like this;

    Where as the theory is when the articulated cars sharing one common truck get into a crash the train more or less tends to stay rather straight and linked together.

    Looking at the Acela picture below it is clear that Acela couldn't use such technology. I wonder if was the FRA that regulated that they couldn't or why such design wasn't chosen?


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    What would make you think that the FRA is opposed to articulated cars? They are the prevalent configuration for intermodal cars and dirt common for auto racks.
    The problem with articulated rolling stock is that if one section has to go to the shop the whole train goes. Separating them is not just a matter of coupling, it's a major operation requiring jacking up the segments and putting temporary trucks under them. Adding one segment to a train might take half a day as opposed to half an hour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdmidget View Post
    What would make you think that the FRA is opposed to articulated cars? They are the prevalent configuration for intermodal cars and dirt common for auto racks.
    The problem with articulated rolling stock is that if one section has to go to the shop the whole train goes. Separating them is not just a matter of coupling, it's a major operation requiring jacking up the segments and putting temporary trucks under them. Adding one segment to a train might take half a day as opposed to half an hour.
    Sounds like they need a dummy set of wheels that can be wound down just to enable easy maintenance and adding/removing segments?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdmidget View Post
    What would make you think that the FRA is opposed to articulated cars? They are the prevalent configuration for intermodal cars and dirt common for auto racks.
    The problem with articulated rolling stock is that if one section has to go to the shop the whole train goes. Separating them is not just a matter of coupling, it's a major operation requiring jacking up the segments and putting temporary trucks under them. Adding one segment to a train might take half a day as opposed to half an hour.
    tdmidget,

    It wasn't quite clear but the article certainly implied it. If you read the linked GAO report it says the following;
    FRA officials also noted
    that passenger car safety regulations did not exist prior to the mid-1990’s. Developed for safety purposes, these standards had a significant impact on the Acela trainsets. For example, the passenger car safety regulations required a crash energy management system in passenger cars that was designed to increase the strength of both car ends and side posts.
    I have a funny suspicion that if one read farther into the FRA regulations you probably would find that the shared truck set is not acceptable. It is my understanding that as built US rail cars use the front and rear ends as the safety features to absorb the impact of a collision where as I believe the European construction methods have realized that keeping the train together in a crash so it doesn't jackknife is far more important. Just because freight regulations allow for sharing a truck set doesn't mean the passenger car regulations have to require it also.

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    "I have a funny suspicion that if one read farther into the FRA regulations you probably would find that the shared truck set is not acceptable."

    I have a funny feeling that you have an axe to grind here. (Machining related content). I found your source:
    How the FRA is Regulating Passenger Rail Out of Existence | East Bay Bicycle Coalition and:
    The FRA Doesn’t Need Reform – It Needs A Revolution | Pedestrian Observations.

    "Pedestestrian Observations" and the "East Bay Bicycle Cooperative" sound like organizations more interested in walking than riding trains.

    The anti climb and collision post structures are to prevent "telescoping" where one car slides into another, frequent in early day accidents. The carnage was unbelievable.

    The FRA expressly allows articulated cars for passengers" CFR 49 subpart A, 238.107 and 238.209.
    238.209 allows articulated units to have collision posts only at the opposite ends of the articulated segments.
    238.407 says that Tier II ( over 125 MPH) must have the same anticlimbers as coupled cars.

    I don't see any bias there. Or maybe you like this:
    Anger Over China’s High-Speed Train Crash Leads to Murmurs of Dissent - Global Spin - TIME.com

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    I know recently this part of the forum serves little more than to discuss the latest NYC protest and what side is correct however historically this part of the forum has always enjoyed having interesting conversations on how rules and regulations effect fascinating engineering projects so I figured I would post this one here thinking it may be of interest to some.

    I didn't realize that articulated cars were ok, but the bigger question I have is that if a country like Europe has proven a technology and the industry standards that they have developed to be as safe as they are, why do we feel the need to reinvent the wheel?

    At the end of the day what technical reason prevented Amtrak from going out and buying the latest and greatest in European technology that has proven so successful over there?

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    Funny...

    I often see the Cascades train pulling into Portland on my way to work in the morning.

    Those trainsets are two US locos with a bunch of articulated, shared-truck passenger cars between:
    Talgo America
    Amtrak Cascades - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The FRA seems quite happy to let those 5 trainsets keep chugging away...

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    Not only articulated but they tilt in curves. Articulated rolling stock was first tried in the 1930s. Think Zephyrs as in Rock Island. They survived into the fifties but the problems I mentioned above did them in There is not much room in railroading for rolling stock that is difficult to service and not interchangeable ( as in from train to train).
    European railroads have very little to offer U.S. railroads. Distances are short and loads are light. A European freight car carries little more than one of our highway trucks in many cases. And even more significant, their highway loads are heavier than ours. Consequently passenger traffic is a much bigger part of the mix. It doesn't have to worry about about 13,000 ton train composed of 286,000 lb cars, or in some case, 315,000 lb.
    Light weight rolling stock could be used on light rail systems where standards are lower. But the latest fad is to make these things look like loaves of bread on rails and not compatible with anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdmidget View Post
    Not only articulated but they tilt in curves. Articulated rolling stock was first tried in the 1930s. Think Zephyrs as in Rock Island. They survived into the fifties but the problems I mentioned above did them in There is not much room in railroading for rolling stock that is difficult to service and not interchangeable ( as in from train to train).
    European railroads have very little to offer U.S. railroads. Distances are short and loads are light. A European freight car carries little more than one of our highway trucks in many cases. And even more significant, their highway loads are heavier than ours. Consequently passenger traffic is a much bigger part of the mix. It doesn't have to worry about about 13,000 ton train composed of 286,000 lb cars, or in some case, 315,000 lb.
    Light weight rolling stock could be used on light rail systems where standards are lower. But the latest fad is to make these things look like loaves of bread on rails and not compatible with anything.
    tdmidget, no doubt about it that our freight rail is far superior to theirs, however the question is why couldn't Amtrak have gone out and purchased for the Northeast corridor a few Alstom units or the likes for the few areas in this country conducive to high speed rail?

    When it comes to the weaknesses of articulated train sets, sure you can't interchange them nearly as easily however it seems that on the high speed passenger trains they more or less keep them as a unit train anyways, so where is the weakness?

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    I think the roadbed was a problem for high speed passenger service between Boston and New York. The Acela had initial supply problems from Bombardier in
    Canada but the switchover to electric in New Haven for New York city had to be extended to Boston. Welded rails and concrete ties were in place but slow sharp curve sections added headaches...... you couldn't use the speed the Acela was capable of. I worked for the New Haven RR during the summer in the 60's... when I was going to college. I worked on the Rip track in Boston. My boss was the Wreck Master.
    The cars came in, lift them with Duff norton air jacks, pull the trucks out, take the wheels out and one of my jobs was to run a small gas over electric yard crane. I took the wheels to the wheel house and a huge lathe turned them. The wreck crane was an old Bay City converted from steam to diesel (I think), could pull 200 on the main and 75 on the jib. The whole place was incredible.... everything was heavy and dangerous,
    but I loved it. They could rebuild Bud cars, etc. We had a carpenter shop, glass shop, battery shop, machine shop, blacksmith shop and more..... all long gone. All new MBTA maintenance facilities now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by adammil1 View Post
    tdmidget, no doubt about it that our freight rail is far superior to theirs, however the question is why couldn't Amtrak have gone out and purchased for the Northeast corridor a few Alstom units or the likes for the few areas in this country conducive to high speed rail?

    A good question. As far as I know there is no freight service on those rails and no grade crossings. There is , I suspect, a buy american aspect that prompted the design of this deficient concept. The bugs may be out now but it was a rough beginning. I am curious about the ride qualities of articulated rolling stock. Any one with experience in that area?

    When it comes to the weaknesses of articulated train sets, sure you can't interchange them nearly as easily however it seems that on the high speed passenger trains they more or less keep them as a unit train anyways, so where is the weakness?
    Acela is basically a commuter train and so its trainset rarely needs to increase or decrease capacity. Intercity rolling stock must be more versatile.
    If Amtrak had decent ontime performance and capacity ( they have lately been selling out and don't have additional rolling stock to increase ridership) they could give the airlines hell. Anyone would rather relax on a train with legroom and decent service if he knew that he would arrive on the advertised for similar money.

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    My brother rode the Acela from Boston to Providence last night and said the ride was a little rough. He's ridden articulated trains in Europe (which I don't believe the Acela is) and said the ride was quite a bit smoother. I agree with you..... I'd still rather ride the Acela to NYC than fly Southwest, they pack you in like sardines.


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