You have 2 views remaining. Click here to learn about the Unlimited Membership!

Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / California, Siemens say first Venture cars are ready, but debut on San Joaquins remains in limbo

California, Siemens say first Venture cars are ready, but debut on San Joaquins remains in limbo

By Bob Johnston | October 5, 2022

Introduction of vending-machine cars pushed back to 2023

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Passenger cars with multicolored striping on siding
Passenger cars with multicolored striping on siding
California Venture cars are stored at the Altamont Commuter Express facility in Stockton, Calif., on June 14, 2021. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and ACE share management and maintenance functions, and Herzog Contract Services, Inc., has been tapped to maintain the new Siemens fleet at Stockton and at Amtrak’s Oakland, Calif., maintenance shop. Bob Johnston

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Department of Transportation and Siemens Mobility said last week that Caltrans has accepted the first seven of 49 Venture cars destined for Bakersfield-Oakland/Sacramento San Joaquin trains.

No date is set for the cars’ entry into revenue service, however — in part because Amtrak must also make final inspections and formally accept the equipment — and is likely still months away, with other hurdles beyond that acceptance also delaying their deployment.

These include completion by all parties of maintenance and very specific insurance liability agreements. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, operator of the San Joaquins, tapped Herzog Contracting Corp. to service the new equipment at Stockton, Calif., where Herzog currently maintains Altamont Commuter Express trainsets, and at Amtrak’s Oakland Maintenance Facility. Contracts must specify the scope of work for which each entity is responsible.

Caltrans spokesman Will Arnold tells Trains News Wire that the state agency and the San Joaquin authority “are working through the final agreements and vehicle modifications necessary to put the Venture cars into revenue service in the coming months.” Amtrak declined comment on the status of its acceptance.

Passengers board train with silver and red cars
A conductor directs passengers boarding Missouri River Runner train 318 at Jefferson City, Mo., July 18, 2022, to another door during a time when Amtrak banned use of the Midwest Venture cars’ doors. A problem involving defective fastening of a door handle at the vestibule has apparently been resolved. Bob Johnston

The cars are part of a 137-car order for California, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri state-supported Amtrak service. They began arriving in the summer of 2020 for route-specific testing. However, the first Midwest coaches didn’t begin carrying passengers on their initial Chicago-St. Louis assignment until early this year [see “First look: Siemens Venture coaches debut for Amtrak,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 2, 2022] following a cascading series of manufacturing missteps and inspections that failed to catch those issues. Testing and supply-chain challenges, as well as change orders requested by the states, have added to delivery delays.

Since then, the Midwest cars have been withdrawn sporadically, then returned to service. Issues have included too-strong tray table magnets, trap-door handles that fall off, bathroom-door malfunctions, and sliding step extenders getting jammed in snow. Those problems have apparently been resolved, since Venture coaches are now assigned regularly to round trips out of Chicago on Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri routes. Business-class and cafe service is still being handled by Horizon and Amfleet I cars on those trains.

Eventually, California deployment of Venture cars will include 28 coaches, 14 vending food-service cars, and seven cab coaches. “The first Vending Cars are expected to go into revenue service in 2023,” Arnold says. Prior to that, passengers are being offered “snack box service with food items from California businesses.” The cab coaches, similar to those now undergoing tests on VIA Rail Canada, are expected to enter service by 2024.

The state had originally specified a cafe configuration similar to what was designed in food-service cars manufactured for the Midwest (though the California versions never had a business-class section), but the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority decided to go with an alternative that is less expensive to operate.

5 thoughts on “California, Siemens say first Venture cars are ready, but debut on San Joaquins remains in limbo

  1. Steps that get jammed in snow. Should be interesting come this upcoming Midwest winter. We’ll see how well that problem’s been solved.

  2. Vending cars ala SP automat cars. Technology has definitely advanced but we shall see. On other had possibly a good move

  3. NCDOT has been operating their heritage lounge cars with vending machines for quite sometime. Nothing fancy just your typical snack and soda machines. My experience was positive but at the time they were still just accepting cash. The renovation on the combine cars on the other hand was absolutely stunning.

  4. Siemens Venture is a type of locomotive-hauled passenger railroad car built by Siemens Mobility in Florin- California for the North American market.
    The cars are derived from the Siemens Viaggio Comfort cars used in Europe, with adaptations for North American operations. They entered service with Brightline in 2018 and have since been ordered by Amtrak for national and state-supported routes (including those in California, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Washington) and Canada’s Via Rail for its Quebec City–Windsor Corridor.
    Most Siemens Venture cars (except those for Amtrak Midwest) are configured as semi-permanently coupled trainsets with open gangways between cars and standard couplers on the ends for connecting the trainset to locomotives or other railway equipment.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

You must login to submit a comment