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Acela replacement makes first trip to Boston

Avelia

New train pases through Readville.

One of the first of the 28 new trains that Amtrak plans to replace the current Acela trains with made it to the end of the Northeast Corridor at South Station today.

Around 4:10 p.m., the train, made by the French company Alstom, passed through Readville station - at a much slower pace than Acela trains normally do - as a half dozen or so railfans stood on either side of the tracks taking photos.

Until a few days ago, it had never gotten further north on the tracks between Washington and Boston than New Jersey.

Unlike the current pastel-accented silver first-generation Acela trains, the new cars feature a red, white and blue motif:

New Acela cars

The 28 new trains will ultimately replace the current 20 Acela trains, which the railroad says will let it offer more frequent service. Plans call for the first new trains to go into service next year, with all of the current Acela trains replaced by 2022.

Like the current Acela trains, the new ones have an electric engine at both ends:

New Acela train
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Comments

I thought we can’t have more frequent trains of any type between Boston and NYC because of boat-owning Connecticut NIMBYs who lobbied for restrictions on how often the drawbridges can be down.

In any case, the Acela will maintain its place as the world’s most expensive train that calls itself high-speed rail but isn’t.

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Voting closed 31

We need a dedicated track. Drop on part of the Interstate Highway right-of-way.

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Voting closed 9

That doesn't solve the bridge problem. Trains can't climb the steep grades of the highway bridges. That's why highways get fixed bridges high up in the air, and trains get low-level drawbridges. https://goo.gl/maps/Peg8zH7Lwt1FyM5A8

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Voting closed 7

Let's look at the entire right of way situation from Washington to New York and then to Boston.

Washington to New York is 100% Amtrak Owned. Much of the right of way is designed and fully capable of supporting 125mph + speeds. Certain very problematic curves, like Elizabeth NJ and Frankford Junction PA, for example, could be realigned to allow for even longer segments of high speed operation. You can even get a few segments of 160mph+ (NJ, Del/MD) if they fix up the overhead wires. In short, mostly using the current tracks between NY-WAS is ideal.

NY-BOS is a mess because of Connecticut! A new right of way would be needed through much of the state to even begin talking about "High Speeds". Then, Rhode Island and MA are very straight alignments as it is and this wouldn't be a problem the rest of the way to Boston.

As usual, traveling through Connecticut by any means is and always will be a nightmare. This one state bottles up the whole thing.

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Voting closed 13

Looks slick. Now can the MBTA get out of the 1900s and get some electric trains too?

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It took 95 years to get New Haven to Boston electrified and only then because the alternative was a second airport in the Greater Boston area.

Hanscom would have been great, but you know them rich folks ain't allowing any dang bigger airport that would have a detrimental affect on the historic nature of the area, not that planes from Logan fly over anything historic (sarcasm).

It would be great to see numbers on full T electrification. Anyone got any?

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Voting closed 14

This is 1980s Swedish Technology.

https://history.amtrak.com/archives/x2000-and-ice-trains-on-display-at-n...

(I rode the X2000 about this time last year btw..it feels very acela, but with a 1980s color scheme vs 1990s United Airlines)

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The idea is that Japan had similar-looking, similar-speed bullet trains in service in 1964.

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More like the one at the link below I believe -it's also mentioned in the article. Made its debuts in France in 1981, and now carrying 110 millions passenger a year in that country alone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV

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In fairness, it's not like the Northeast Corridor right of way can be readily remade to facilitate the currently as fast as 199 mph Japanese Bullet Trains, much less the 225 to 250 mph ones that are in the process of implementation.

That and don't me started about the Charlie Foxtrot that is California High Speed Rail where overdeveloping considerable runs of high speed right of way is readily possible.

Pie in the sky dreamers can believe what they may, but intercity passenger rail in the US faces hard limits and which is likely best served by mid-tech rolling stock operating in dense population corridors (e.g, DC to NYC, NYC to Boston, San Diego to LA, perhaps south of San Jose to Sacramento, etc.) at the highest and steadiest speeds realistically possible.

Short flight times on such trips notwithstanding, actual start to final destination travel times are comparable with train service, especially if one factors in less wear and tear on train travelers and the possibility to ready be able to do things on a train while underway.

Simply put, perfection is the enemy of good enough, including undermining seeing good enough actually happen.

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Mr Costello. Not being critical and hopefully keeping it respectful. I do need to offer a correction. This is actually a 5th generation French design similar to the TGV and Pendolino. It’s max possible speed is 220mph on straight level track of sufficient grade quality level. Unfortunately sharing tracks with old freight lines makes track quality the issue not the train. That being said we need to invest more in HS trains in this country and that includes the manufacturing base.

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Voting closed 14

According to the TransitMatters blog and the MBTA’s Rail Vision page, they have sent out an RFI to EMU manufacturers, as one of several options for the commuter rail.

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Voting closed 6

Hybrid or battery EMUs make a lot more sense then retrofitting entire lines for electric. It's cheaper, faster, and more environmentally sound.

Even diesel EMUs would be preferable for most lines, particularly if the reduction in 9-5 commuters is a long term trend.

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Everything I have read shows hybrid EMUs aren't great and the performance trade offs make them less than ideal. Battery EMUs aren't really there yet.

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Hydrogen cell electric is an option to electrified catenary systems

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Voting closed 17

Will the old trainsets be sold off? Could the MBTA pick some up, paint 'em purple, and use them on the Providence line?

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They are leased and maintence nightmares. Maybe one goes to a museum, the rest are scrap.

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Are they more of a maintenance nightmare than the MBTA's diesels?

When you want to get discouraged, check out the Commuter Rail's Mean Distance Between Failure stats.

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Will they still stop and go dark for fifteen minutes at New Rochelle?

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Voting closed 31

Did they fix the design error (attributed by some to a faulty conversion-to-metric) that causes the Acela trains to be a few inches too wide, which means that south of New Haven where the clearances are tighter the cars need to be locked upright rather than allowed to tilt, which in turn is one of the factors limiting their speed south of New Haven?

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Yes. That's one of the under the radar improvements. The passenger cars are slightly more slanted so as to allow them to tilt more around the bends.

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Voting closed 17

The tracks and infrastructure between New Rochelle NY and New Haven CT are owned by the MTA of New York and the State of Connecticut. The New Haven line has the highest passenger count in the entire Northeast Corridor (39 million passengers a year) and because of the frequent MetroNorth trains stopping in that area, there is a strict 90 mph speed limit.

Even if Amtrak corrected the design to allow tilting with tight clearances, MetroNorth and/or the state of Connecticut have the final say on Amtrak's operations on that line.

Post edited due to additional information from other posters - thanks :-)

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Voting closed 14

The whole point of tilting is so that THESE trains get somewhat relaxed speed restrictions.

Even if the absolute limit of 90 remains, the original Acela were supposed to be able to take curves faster. If they fix the 4 inches too wide problem, maybe these trains could go closer to 90 on the curves.

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I've corrected my original post above and added some information to it from other posters. Thank you for the additional information!

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The MTA owns the tracks from New Rochelle to the NY-CT border. The State of CT owns the tracks from there to New Haven. Metro-North is CT's contract carrier on CT's tracks.B

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MetroNorth doesn't want the Acela blasting past their commuter trains as they think it would steal ridership.

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I'm not sure how much of an issue that actually is, although I'm sure there's some truth to it.
There's some amount of public interest and regulatory backbone to NOT having subsidized federal intercity rail agency competing/duplicating subsidized state/regional commuter rail agencies.
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Acela overlaps M-N at only two stations (New Haven and Stamford) and serves a different endpoint (Penn Station instead of 125th St & Grand Central). M-N has express service between NYC and Stamford. Also, Acela is a reservation-only service (all of Amtrak Northeast is, unlike decades ago) while M-N is not.
One "competition" point that you might be able to argue is that M-N doesn't have New Haven-Stamford-NYC express while Acela does.
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One blurring of the commuter/intercity line was the old Clocker service that was a relic of the Pennsylvania Railroad. One-seat service from New York City to Philadelphia.
Amtrak ran it for decades, honoring NJTransit commuter tickets. Amtrak discontinued that about 15 years ago. There is no one-seat commuter service on that route now - you have to change between NJTransit and SEPTA at Trenton.

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So tilting actually has nothing to do with increasing the allowable speeds for a given trainset. The only thing tilting does is keep passengers comfortable when going around curves at high speed by cancelling out some of the G's.

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Tilting will also change the center of gravity, which should make it less likely for the train to topple when negotiating a curve at high speed.

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Then shouldn't a tilting train be able to go faster around curves, at speeds that would make passengers uncomfortable on a non-tilting train?

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I've taken the regional and the Acela, and the only appreciable difference is that the Acela skips a lot of stops, so it travels between NYC and Boston somewhat faster. Well, and the price difference. Acela is quite a bit more, generally twice as much, depending on days and times. Both have comfortable seats, free wifi, a dining car that serves food that could come out of a vending machine, and crucially, a quiet car.

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Voting closed 14

Acela v Regional, Boston<>NYC, 3.5 hours instead of four. Allowing for fewer stops, let's say 3:30 instead of 3:45.
So... maybe 12% quicker for the distance, but really just 6% quicker when adjusting for the tasks?

A lot of people don't bother paying for the difference IF they're only going as far as NYC.
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Speed - both average and peak - comes into other considerations for some people. My mother - in her early 80s - found Regional was tolerable for getting up from seat and walking to restroom or cafe car, while on Acela that little bit faster turned any excursion from seat into a white-knuckle experience.

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A constant speed in a moving vehicle is something you shouldn't perceive at all, other than by looking out the window. Acceleration or deceleration, on the other hand, will definitely affect you if you are trying to walk inside the train.

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Trains between Boston and NYC are accelerating almost all the time, since taking any curve is an acceleration. That's what throws people around, even on the Acela.

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And higher speed magnifies the acceleration you feel on curves.

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A lot of people don't bother paying for the difference IF they're only going as far as NYC.

The Acela was consistently sold out between Boston and NYC (and NYC/DC). So much so that the new trainsets will both greatly increase capacity of each train, but, also allow them to run more trains each day as they project ridership to still saturate the Acela line. So, yeah, there seems to be more people willing to pay 2-3x+ the cost of a regional to get on the Acela.

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That, or there aren't enough seats, since there are effectively only 4 cars on an Acela. The cafe car has no seating (unlike regular Amtrak), and First Class has even fewer seats and is even more obscenely overpriced.

A train should never be sold out. It should have as many cars as necessary. In Switzerland, nobody bothers with a reservation. Trains run at least once an hour, your ticket is valid for any train that day, and you can show up whenever and find plenty of seats.

Could you imagine if driving to NYC required a Mass Pike reservation weeks in advance, at the risk of it selling out? And if you show up a minute late you're out of luck? That's a major reason why more people don't take the train.

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"the new ones have an electric engine at both ends"

Very technically, they do not have an electric engine at both ends, or either end, or at all, because an electric train doesn't have an engine, which would imply the mechanical conversion of a fuel to motive power. Because the electricity is generated elsewhere, the electric train has only a motor. If it were an EMU (and it isn't because … reasons?) then the motors would be distributed between cars and it wouldn't have a power car at all (think … the Red/Orange/Blue lines). A diesel-electric locomotive is both an engine and a motor: the engine converts the diesel fuel to electric power, and that power runs the motor which provides traction power to the wheels. So a more correct term to use here is "power car" or simply "motor" (although the latter may be confusing) but this is super esoteric and nitpicky. Here are some nerds (NERDS!) at MIT talking about the difference between an engine and motor.

I'll now return you to your regular comments yelling about how Trump caused Storrowings or whatever.

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Voting closed 19

Would you have been less nit-picky if Adam had said "the new ones have an electric locomotive at both ends"? Many people call a locomotive an engine. Or is the term locomotive also too restrictive, in your opinion, to be applied to the movement-supplying structure attached to each end of the new Acela trains?

Next thing you know, you'll be chiding us for still calling it a choo-choo.

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Well, yeah. A "choo-choo" is a coal-fired steam engine. Seesh.

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"Parovoz" = "steam locomotive"

"Teplovoz" = "diesel locomotive"

"Elektrovoz" = "electric locomotive".

It continues to amaze me that the longest railroad line in the world, from Moscow to Vladivostok, is 100% electrified. In this country we can't electrify our way out of the proverbial paper bag.

In fact, you can probably ride from London all the way across Europe and Asia to Vladivostok, which is on the Sea of Japan, without ever leaving electrified territory.

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