News & Reviews News Wire More Midwest Venture cars enter service; California still waits

More Midwest Venture cars enter service; California still waits

By Bob Johnston | April 14, 2023

| Last updated on February 5, 2024

Amtrak Midwest availability nears 50 cars; San Joaquin cars promised for summer

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Train with four matching Siemens Venture passenger cars
Northbound Amtrak Hiawatha No. 337 features a matched set of four Siemens Venture coaches — long awaited on the Chicago-Milwaukee route — at CP Morgan in downtown Chicago on April 7, 2023. As of the end of April, 43 Venture cars were in service in the Midwest. David Lassen

Second of two parts

CHICAGO — The introduction of Venture business/coach cars on some state-supported Amtrak routes in the Midwest reflects an increase in availability of the Siemens-built equipment, delayed by a variety of production and acceptance issues.

Interior view of connection between semi-permanently coupled passenger gars
Wide doorways and a sealed vestibule with handle facilitate wheelchair-accessible and weather-free passage between the semi-permanently-coupled 3A and 1B Venture cars. Bob Johnston

Meanwhile, there is still no firm date for the introduction of California’s Venture equipment, although a spokesman for the state’s Department of Transportation says it will come this summer.

Trains News Wire provided a firsthand look at the new Midwest business-class cars in Part One of this report [“Venture business-class cars debut …,” April 13, 2023].

Three Venture business/coach and 40 straight coaches were fully accepted and available for service during the last week in March, Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Speegle tells News Wire.

“Another two business/coach and five coaches are in the queue to be fully accepted and ready to be put into revenue service in the coming weeks, and another six cars (four business/coach and two coaches) are being shipped to Chicago and will be arriving soon,” says Speegle. A café car continues to undergo climate testing in Canada; he says IDOT “hopes to begin introducing the new café cars in revenue service later this year.”

Table showing the three types of Siemens Venture passenger car in service in the Midwest

Other spotting features for the new cars: Aside from “Business class” appearing next to one of the doors, 3A business class/coach cars have side doors at both ends (one contains a wheelchair lift) whereas both the 1A and 1B straight coaches have one of the doors blanked out on each side. This is where trash receptacles are located inside the car.

Where are California’s cars?

String of passenger cars with brightly colored striping sitting in storage
California’s Venture coaches at Stockton, Calif., on June 14, 2021, remain idle while Caltrans works out agreements with the operators and carbuilder. Bob Johnston

Siemens and the California Department of Transportation said last fall that the first seven cars in the state’s 49-car order for San Joaquin service had been accepted by Caltrans [see “California, Siemens say first Venture cars are ready …,” News Wire, Oct. 5, 2022]. But the cars have yet to turn a wheel in service.

Responding to a News Wire question about the reasons for delivery delays, Siemens says in a statement, “It is up to our customers and their operators to determine when cars are deployed into passenger service. Siemens Mobility has implemented several design improvements which will benefit the operators and passengers since the initial IDOT cars entered service.” The carbuilder declined to elaborate on those improvements in a follow-up email.

Caltrans’ Senior Media Officer Edward Barrera says San Joaquin deployment is now set for “Summer 2023.” The state plans on running intact trainsets with cab cars where all equipment is semi-permanently coupled, but California cab cars aren’t expected until the first quarter of 2024. Business class isn’t offered on San Joaquins and there will be no manned cafes either. “We will have vending machines and we are seeking a vending machine operator,” says Barrera.

In a lengthy explanation to Trains News Wire, he adds, “A number of factors go into the decision of when an operator is ready to put a railcar into service: testing, resolution of issues, ability to accept the vehicle, crew comfort with the vehicle operations, and maintenance agreements. Caltrans and [the Illinois Department of Transportation] have separate processes and timelines to meet our own operating needs. In California, some third-party operation/maintenance agreements need to be resolved; Venture railcars in the California fleet [also] had some open items remaining. Both — agreements and open items — are being worked out, and we are working to place cars in the revenue service in the near future.”

15 thoughts on “More Midwest Venture cars enter service; California still waits

  1. Notice little attention as possible is being drawn to the plans to eliminate Cafe Car service on the San Joaquins. Caltrans has mandated that vending machines in one end of a coach are to be used. This, of course, will be a disaster. I have looked into the plans for the vending machines. No attendant is anticipated. Who will clean up the inevitable food messes and spills? Who will take of the jammed machines? Who will manage long lines of people crowding the coach aisle waiting to use the machines. The train crew (conductors) won’t. This all sounds like some Caltrans administrator’s fevered cost-cutting vision.

    1. Locomotive graphics were designed to match the third generation of bilevel coaches. The third generation of bilevel coaches were designed to pass the crashworthy specs of 49CFR238 by a builder who had never built a split center sill vehicle before. The low bidder didn’t pass the test, deadlines were blown out of the water, assets were stranded and a bunch of bureaucrats panicked. Mismatched graphics are the least of their concerns.

  2. Everyone agrees the seats on the Midwest Amtrak Venture cars are uncomfortable. Even the new business class seats have gotten poor reviews.

    So have other systems like California ordered these cheap horrible seats or will those only be on the Midwest Amtrak cars?

    1. So Amtrak is held to a higher standard than the airlines? Airliners are the worst of THREE CONDITIONS — narrow aisles, narrow seats, and lavatories about as handicapped accessible as the average broom closet.

  3. I’m sure Brightline had no choice but to take the cars “as is” to start service to meet their startup & appease the investors.

    1. The preproduction Venture cars were gone over with a fine tooth comb. The production Venture cars went in service almost immediately upon delivery. To be sure the customer was/is very particular.

  4. Wondering why the “third party agreements” wouldn’t have already been resolved and in place by the time the long delayed “vehicles” were delivered.
    Poor foresight and planning imho.

  5. With those tight seats and wide aisles to accomodate disabled passengers, it made me wonder how the Brits would have handled this issue, with their much more restrictive loading gauge.

  6. Meanwhile the production Venture sets for Brightline show up in Florida and almost immediately go into service. Things that make one go: Hmmm?😁

  7. Perhaps a reader has an answer for me. Did the Budd Amfleet cars or the Pullman Superliners have these sorts of problems on introduction?

    1. From what I remember, th Amfleets had little or no problems being delivered.
      Superliners were delayed because of design issues and a prolonged strike at Pullman.
      I saw my first Superliners at the ex Santa Fe yards in Chicago in 77. They first went into service (coaches) on a couple of Chicago to Milwaukee runs in early 79 I saw my first Superliner diner on the Illini whi h only ran to Champaign at the time in July 79 riding from Homewood to Kankakee. Saw my first Superliner sleeper running on the Illini while working for Amtrak in Kankakee in September of 79. They made their official debut on the Builder late October of 79.
      How sad it is that in 23, Superliners of all kinds are running on the Illini and Saluki for CN’s axle count instead of making money.

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