New ‘Amtrak Midwest’ passenger cars begin arriving
The first of 88 new passenger cars will arrive in the Midwest in August to begin their testing phase. They should be in revenue service on state-supported routes in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin by the end of 2020, Illinois Department of Transportation officials said.
The initial four cars are due to arrive in Chicago in the mid-to-late August from the Siemens factory in Sacramento, Calif., for testing on the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service.
Scott Speegle, IDOT’s passenger rail and transit communications manager, said cars are scheduled to arrive at a rate of four per month with business/coach cars arriving in late summer 2021, and café cars in the summer of 2022. All new cars should be in service by 2023, he said. The new cars will be trained with existing business and café cars, but not with existing coaches, he added.
They will operate with Siemens-built “Charger” locomotives already in service and be painted in “Amtrak Midwest” livery.
Their appearance will be the end stage of a saga that began in 2012, when the four Midwestern states plus California placed a $551 million order for 130 bi-level cars with Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (Sumitomo). That order was held up after a prototype car built by Sumitomo subcontractor Nippon Sharyo failed a crucial safety test in September 2015.
Sumitomo then re-subcontracted the order to Siemens, which by then was already building cars for Florida’s Brightline service (now Virgin Trains USA), which launched in January 2018 between Miami and West Palm Beach.
Unlike Brightline’s articulated train sets, the new Midwestern cars will be individual, but interiors will be similar, featuring spacious, modern interiors focused on passenger comfort and convenience, such as Wi-Fi, spacious seats with convenient power outlets and USB ports, large windows with great views for all passengers, overhead luggage storage, work tables, state-of-the-art restrooms with touchless controls and full ADA accessibility, and modern information and route map displays. Bicycle racks will also be built into the coach cars.
John Oimoen, IDOT’s deputy director of Rails, shared information about the new cars at MIPRC’s Annual Meeting in 2019.