New Caltrain equipment: more of the same?

The JPB (the agency in charge of CalTrain) is in the process of ordering 18 or 19 new rail cars. Original plans called for as many as 23 cars. Funding constraints have reduced that number. To the disappointment of mobility impaired passengers, the high steps up at entrance doors will be the same as the current equipment. The new cars will include power wheelchair lifts and spacious, disabled-accessible restrooms, however.

The new cars will be like the current ones in most other respects, including suspension and ride quality, considered poor by many. JPB rail operations staffer Jerome Kirzner told Peninsula Rail 2000 president Adrian Brandt that they chose the same truck design as the current cars due to maintenance considerations.

In the near future, the JPB will be taking bids on three new locomotives and mid-life rehabilitation for the existing cars and locomotives. Brandt asked Kirzner if retro-fitting the existing locomotives with improved dynamic braking was included in the planned rehabilitation, and whether the new locomotives would have it. Kirzner replied that this was under consideration, and would depend on funding availability.

The current CalTrain locomotives have only friction braking since Caltrans chose to save on costs when they originally ordered them in the early 80s. The JPB's new Rapid Rail program is aimed at reducing running times. Brandt suggests dynamic braking on locomotives would be a good place to start if the JPB is serious about doing this. Without dynamic braking, trains are slower to stop and locomotive wheel maintenance costs are higher. According to Brandt, this is the main reason why trains now consist of at least four cars rather than three. The additional car provides additional braking, reducing wear and tear on locomotive wheels.

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Last updated: November 18, 1997

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