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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Orphan Talgo equipment returns to Milwaukee factory (updated) NEWSWIRE

Orphan Talgo equipment returns to Milwaukee factory (updated) NEWSWIRE

By Bob Johnston | December 8, 2019

Amtrak says equipment is being considered for 'interim' use in Pacific Northwest; Talgo, Washington DOT decline comment

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Talgos_Dyer_Byrd
Long-stored Talgo trainsets pass through Dyer, Ind., during Friday’s move from Amtrak’s Beech Grove, Ind., shops to Talgo’s factory in Milwaukee. Amtrak says the equipment may see “interim” use in the Pacific Northwest.
James L. Burd

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Talgo Series 8 trainsets built for but never used by the state of Wisconsin have returned to the Milwaukee factory where they were assembled in 2012, but parties involved in their move or potential use are offering little or no information on plans for the equipment.

Following four days of Trains News Wire inquiries to Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation, or Talgo, only Amtrak released the following statement late Friday: “These trainsets are among the interim equipment options being considered by Amtrak for use in the Pacific Northwest.”

On Monday, a Talgo spokeswoman said, “Talgo is working with Amtrak to place the Series 8 trainsets in service in the Pacific Northwest. They have been moved to Milwaukee for preparation of that service later next year. Some of those enhancements include PTC and features to align with the service provided in the Amtrak Cascades Corridor.”

Three cab cars, three bistro cafes, three baggage-coach end cars and 22 coaches have languished at Amtrak’s Beech Grove Heavy Maintenance Facility since 2014. On Friday, they departed the Indianapolis area as an Amtrak special on the Cardinal and Hiawatha route through Chicago and arrived at Talgo’s Milwaukee plant overnight.  

The Series 8s have been regularly run for short distances on yard tracks at Beech Grove and had all systems tested periodically to keep them ready for use, but recently-discovered head end power faults delayed the move from Wednesday until Friday. The train operated in the same Friday slot formerly utilized by the now-discontinued Hoosier State but encountered freight train interference.    

Until more specifics are revealed, Amtrak’s Friday statement reflects the following:

— Amtrak is on the hook for supplying a replacement for the Talgo Series VI trainset damaged in the Dec. 18, 2017, Cascades wreck at DuPont, Wash., and perhaps at least one of the other two Washington DOT-owned Talgo VI’s. Amtrak also owns two.

— Contract details between Talgo and Amtrak have yet to be worked out. A sticking point is likely the “interim” aspect.

— The replacements could use a new paint job and will require modifications that add business class seating and a different bistro car setup than their as-ordered configuration. Wisconsin ordered the equipment for enhanced Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison Hiawatha service before Republican Gov. Scott Walker turned back $800 million of federal stimulus money for the route after he was elected in 2010.

— If Amtrak reaches a lease or purchase agreement with Talgo, the ex-Wisconsin Talgo 8’s can operate under a waiver issued in 2018 by the Federal Railroad Administration.

— Washington DOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin tells Trains News Wire, “Amtrak is responsible for supplying appropriate interim equipment to replace Talgo Series VI trainsets currently in service for the Amtrak Cascades system,” but the Federal Railroad Administration is not requiring replacement. She recently told the Seattle Times that her agency wants all Talgo VI trainsets removed from service “as soon as possible” based on a National Transportation Board recommendation. The manufacturer has formally disputed that recommendation [see “Talgo challenges NTSB finding in Cascades accident report,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 1, 2019]. The ongoing conflict between the state and Talgo with Amtrak in the middle has delayed the use of the Series 8s and complicated negotiations.

— Oregon intends to keep in service the two Series 8 trainsets it purchased in 2013, despite Washington’s animosity toward the manufacturer (WashDOT recently shortened Talgo’s renewable maintenance contract). A permanent addition of more compatible equipment would help protect Oregon’s investment. Though three shorter trainsets can be created from the red-and-white orphans, it is more likely that they will be configured into two trainsets with an additional spare cab car, baggage, and bistro available to substitute as necessary.

Trains News Wire will continue to seek more details as they become available.    

— Updated on Dec. 10 to include Talgo statement.

25 thoughts on “Orphan Talgo equipment returns to Milwaukee factory (updated) NEWSWIRE

  1. Mister Landey:

    Regarding the snowmobile I have a runny nose and a raging case of the sniffles. Haven’t been able to feel my front teeth in weeks.

  2. Mr. Landey, I believe you are totally correct that a legal “verboten” sign has been put on this equipment. Can you see any rail authority’s legal counsel allowing any authority Board to touch this equipment?

    Can you imagine the media firestorm that would break out if a regional rail authority were to roll out this equipment. Comparisons to the disgraced Boeing 737-MAX 8 airplanes would quickly capture headlines. Editorial cartoonists would have a field day. Drum rolls and trumpet flourishes would quickly fade to Bronx cheers, or worse.

  3. If Walker not succeeded winning an election based upon the promise to “stop that train in its tracks” Wisconsin by now would have had an almost billion dollar infusion, money that went elsewhere, underwriting well established conventional speed rail service between Madison and Milw., which would have also provided incipient commuter service between Milw. and Watertown, as well as additional Hiawatha service. Also added would have been train service jobs and at the Talgo facility all these years, plus tax revenue. Wisconsin taxpayers paid millions to Talgo for Walker’s idea to breach the contract. A mixture of arrogance and stupidity then has lead to Wisconsin’s indifference now to the fate of the equipment.

  4. @Curtis Larson: Wisconsin wasn’t the only state to see “indifference”. Florida did as well, and for that it spawned Brightline.

    @Arthur J Miller: The idea of the State of Washington rejecting any Talgo trainset is akin to the world rejecting Renton made 737-MAX8 is the ultimate of ironies, even if you didn’t intend it that way.

    As for Talgo, who would want anyone who is currently in the act of be sued want their equipment running on the rails of the litigant?

    The only way this “deal” will work is if Amtrak takes on all liabilities of Talgo in the lease so they can meet the service agreements. If this doesn’t work out then this Talgo set is destined for a tourist line or a museum.

  5. CURTIS – Are we still beating up on Scott Walker? I think I voted for him more times than anybody. (Wisconsin state assembly from Wauwatosa, Milwaukee County Executive, Governor). The Madison train proposal was a loser and Walker was right to kill it. As for commuter service to Watertown, are you joking? No one ever proposed that until you did 52 minutes ago. As a Wauwatosa resident Scott Walker needed only to look at the CP Rail tracks through Wauwatosa to know that the route is too indirect and the speed limit is too low for any successful passenger train service, let alone the mendacious label “high speed rail”.

    The meme was that “Scott Walker hates trains.” Actually Scott Walker didn’t give a rat’s rear end about trains pro or con, it just wasn’t on his radar. I don’t think Scott Walker ever hated anybody or anything, except throwing away money ad infinitum. Bear in mind Walker supported the Hiawatha, as did every governor before him (both parties) and the governor since.

  6. Washington State is not acting rationally. they are saying series 6 Talgo Trainsets are potentially dangerous, and must be replaced. Yet they continue to run series 6 Talgo Trainsets. What’s their legal position if there is a crash in the meantime?

  7. @Mark Reiter: Walker was clear on why he rejected the Talgo deal. The same reason Florida Gov Rick Scott rejected the deal. While the Feds were paying most of the upfront capital costs, the operational costs were going to be fully reliant on state funding. Studies were showing that in the Florida and the Wisconsin deal, the subsidies to keep the system operational was going to grow so far beyond the farebox that it wasn’t sustainable in their local tax climates.

    This is what many local legislators found intolerable.

    California loved it because they have a higher tolerance in taxing their citizens and their propositions have proven they will support high taxes to fund transportation.

    The Feds assumed it would be one size fits all, and some of the states came back and said “no”.

  8. Of course, the issue some would ignore is what used to be called the economic “multiplier” effect, now currently labeled the “velocity of money”, which posits, simply put, that the faster a dollar is spent, the greater its impact. Thus, consider the fate of the foregone $800 million, plus revenue, tax dollars, etc. etc. And the millions squandered losing the contract breached.

  9. CURTIS – All so simple, is it not, your microeconomic model. Pour money down a rathole and it will multiply. The rats will get fat by eating the money and so will multiply and have more mice who will eat more money.

    Seriously, CURTIS, could you name one rail expert who thought the “high seed” (laugh, laugh, laugh) Madison train would work out? No, not a politician, a rail expert. Let’s you and I walk CP Rail from Brookfield Road in Brookfield to the Amtrak station in Milwaukee (via Elm Grove and Wauwatosa) and figure out how to get a train through there at “high speed”.

    I think the current speed limit of this oversized corkscrew is something like 50 for passenger, maybe even 60, but no amount of money would make it safe for higher speed. Curves, grade crossings, more curves, more grade crossings, and along State Street in Wauwatosa it’s one tick above street running.

  10. Anna,

    One thing I don’t need to do is read the NTSB report, nor Talgo’s response…the only thing I need to look at is existing service records of equipment around the world, that is a far superior recommendation then any testing or reports can give you. Secondly, 3 deaths, for a train that was going double the speed limit through a curve and basically jackknifed itself…did the NTSB do a computer model on what the result would’ve been with conventional Amfleet or Horizon equipment, because that’s what you actually need to consider in issuing a rebuke against the Talgo’s. As for the current owners of the 2 Series 8’s, the State of Wisconsin no longer has any title to them, they belong to Talgo but Amtrak has been storing them because they had been purchased for Amtrak service. Why the State of Oregon just didn’t up and buy them I’ll never know, it would’ve been a simple matter to acquire them and expand the Oregon portion of the Cascade service fleet. WDoT stupidity not withstanding.

  11. All studies showed that Madison would have been the most successful route that Amtrak could implement. It had long term, bipartisan support. Republican Tommy Thompson, was 100% behind it. You’re right about Walker; he knew nothing about trains. But he knew how to score cheap political points on behalf of his political masters, the Koch Brothers whose anti-transit record is indisputable. I’m totally baffled by your comments on the CP main. The same line that hosted 100 mph Hiawatha’s in the 1930’s? Commuter service makes good sense, but Madison service is a no brainer. It would be Amtrak’s strongest and a huge economic engine for southern Wisconsin. As for Walker, how’s Foxconn working out?

  12. You’re spot on Curtis. Walker’s partisan, political decision to kill a bipartisan project was stupid and short sighted. It directly cost the taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin $60 million and indirectly exponentially more.

  13. TODD _ you’re right about Walker and Foxconn. I totally agree with you (and then some).

    You couldn’t be more wrong about Walker and trains.

    Milwaukee to Madison? According to the December 1957 Official Guide, the Milwaukee Road had already given up on that route, substituting a bus west of Watertown. With the bus, it took three and a half hours. Today’s IH 94 (a much more direct route) it takes an hour and a half. Bear in mind, in these days of so-called HSR (i.e., anything faster than a turtle) trains typically run slower, and the former double-track Milwaukee Road is now single iron west of Forestgrove Avenue in Pewaukee.

    Bipartisan support for the Madison train? Most successful route Amtrak could implement? A no-brainer? A former 100 mph route? That’s four things you say in support of the Madison train that are absolutely wrong – none of the four even close to the truth. The truth is that the train had zero support in the Republican three of the five counties en route – Jefferson Dodge and Waukesha – and even less than zero support from the Republican party elsewhere in the state.

  14. I WILL GIVE FIFTY DOLLARS CASH US CURRENCY TO TALGO FOR CLEAR TITLE TO BOTH TRAINSETS AS IS FOB MILWAUKEE.

    AH

  15. Snot Walker will never say exactly why he killed it. Yet I wouldn’t mind seeing him pushing a broom at that Talgo plant.

  16. MARK – You say Gov. Walker never said exactly why he killed the train? I guess you weren’t listening. In any way of thinking, be that as it may, the Governor of the State of Wisconsin does NOT need a reason to REFRAIN from spending money. It is the advocates of spending money (i.e. the previous governor) who needed to make the case. The case for that slow, expensive, indirect train was never made.

    The fact is, Madison has thrived with no passenger train service since 1971 and very little before then. Madison is a boom town without Amtrak. Madison is a mini-Nashville, another city without Amtrak. Booming population, both metro areas. State government, both cities. Superb university, both cities. Thriving and growing private sector businesses, both cities and their suburbs. So what’s the case for a slow, indirect train no one would ride.

    PS MARK – Read above. It says “Please keep your feedback … respectful.” The gentleman’s name is Scott Kevin Walker. He is a Christian, a husband, and a father who worked himself up from nothing (not even a college education) to distinguish himself in three public offices. He does not go by the pejorative name by which you called him.

  17. I WILL GIVE ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS CASH US CURRENCY TO TALGO FOR CLEAR TITLE TO ALL 57 CARS AS IS FOB MILWAUKEE.

    AH

  18. Arthur J Miller sez;

    “Is there a railroad equivalent of the airline graveyards in Victorville or Roswell?”

    Yes. Its called the Amtrak Shops in Beech Grove, Indiana.

  19. If you take all four of the TALGO VIII trainsets and the three spare cars, you would have 57 available cars, from which you could create five sets, Each one would have 11 cars – cab/power car, end car, bistro, business class car and six coaches. This would involve taking a business class car from each of the two Oregon sets and converting one coach to business class configuration. The two extra cars would be the lounge cars from the two Oregon sets.

  20. Of course there WAS commuter service from Watertown to Milwaukee (and onward) for a couple months in 1998, intended to reduce pressure on I-94 repairs. It included weekends so we rode it to Chicago once. Somewhere I have my handwritten ticket from WTW.

  21. @Charles: I’m not sure I would count attending Marquette University for over 3 years as accurately describing someone bereft of a college education. There had to be some learning—and other life advantages—behind such a tenure.

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