July 17th 2003
Amtrak mailed out its first request for possible suppliers for new rolling stock last week. The program is for 18 Rail Diesel Cars, 8 motors and 6 trailers. The closest design to the Amtrak concept is the Colorado Rail Car demonstration DMU displayed in the past 12 months.
The design is not for a European DMU trainset. The design is more like the original Rail Diesel Cars ("RDC") built by the hundreds during the 1950's and early 1960's by the Budd Company. An RDC is general-purpose rather than built for a specific operation or specific railway. The Amtrak specifications require the RDCs to comply with conventional FRA crash requirement strength and also to comply with AAR couplers and air brake compatibility. Amtrak says the AAR requirement makes it much cheaper to move and deploy. The specifications require the use of many parts and systems that are already in wide use on Amtrak coaches because Amtrak already has inventories and trained mechanics on hand. Amtrak hopes to avoid costly imported sole-source parts. The use of proprietary software is also discouraged by Amtrak's designers.
Amtrak anticipates some resistance from globalized suppliers and consulting firms. The globalized suppliers have been trying to sell to the USA their typical European models for decades without much success. Amtrak is instead working on a design for a rail car that can be built by small firms out of North American parts.
Amtrak also drafted the specification with its own in-house staff of engineers. Top Amtrak officials feel that outsourced consulting and project management efforts related to vehicle design are not always the rightrts related to vehicle design are not always the right way to go.
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