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Amtrak puts balky dining car back in service
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BACK IN SERVICE

Amtrak puts balky dining car back in service

It stranded entire train 14 hours near station here earlier in month

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Amtrak has put back in service the nearly 67-year-old dining car whose wheel problems delayed a train and its passengers almost 14 hours July 7-8 in Henrico County, according to the national passenger rail service corporation.

However, Amtrak says its some of its aging cars will be replaced soon.

Dining car C/8558 was built in 1946, Amtrak said, making it more than twice as old as the average age of its equipment.

“The car is on our list of equipment that needs replacing,” said railroad spokeswoman Kimberly Woods.

In 2010, Amtrak awarded a $298.1 million contract to Elmira, N.Y.-based CAF USA to build 130 passenger cars, including 25 diners.

“The first cars are to be delivered to Amtrak at the end of 2013 and will continue to be delivered through 2015,” Woods said. “They will replace and supplement the existing fleet, improve financial and on-time performance, and foster a more modern, positive image of Amtrak.”

Amtrak’s Train 91, with 261 passengers aboard, pulled into the Staples Mill station nearly 14 hours late July 8 after the dining car became disabled.

Though the Silver Star, running from New York to Miami, broke down about 2 miles from the station, Amtrak kept the travelers on board for safety reasons.

Train 91 was made up of two locomotives and nine cars, including the dining car. “The brake shoe residue built up and resulted in the need to replace wheels,” Woods said.

The tracks were greased, which allowed the train to begin a very slow move, which started around 3:45 a.m. on July 8, to a siding in Richmond, Amtrak said.

The incident came at a time when Amtrak has been carrying record numbers of travelers.

During the 2012 fiscal year, ended in September, Amtrak carried more than 31.2 million passengers, the largest annual total in its history, and the ninth annual ridership record in the last 10 years, the rail service said. That year,  Amtrak covered 88 percent of its operating costs with ticket sales and other revenue. On average, more than 85,000 passengers a day ride Amtrak trains.

The average age of Amtrak’s equipment is older than 28 years. “As that equipment has progressively aged, the demands on our maintenance organization have grown and service delivery has become more challenging and expensive,” the rail service said in its Fleet Strategy Plan.

“Aging components and a steadily higher level of obsolescence are growing problems, often compounded when parts suppliers exit the supply chain,” the plan notes.

Besides the 25 diners, Amtrak’s new-car contract calls for CAF USA to build 55 baggage cars, 25 sleeping cars and 25 baggage-dormitory cars for use on long-distance trains.

pbacque@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6813

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