San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee TAC sees mockup of new Cafe cars (Revised)

Reported by Bruce Jenkins, RailPAC Director

NOTE: Since the original publication of this report new information has been made available to this writer about the mockup of the new Cafe cars. This new info follows, then the original report is repeated. – BJ

From Stanton Hunter, Rail Passenger Car Technology Branch, Caltrans Division of Rail
Here are my comments. Thank you for allowing me to clarify a few things.

1. The mockup and conceptual drawings are still in a very preliminary
stage, and have not been finalized. Caltrans is seeking input from
numerous parties, including Amtrak on-board staff, in order to fine-tune
the design of the new cafe-lounge cars. A formal review is planned for
later in the year.

2. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) currently does not have any
requirements for compartmentalization of on-board luggage, and has no plans at this time to develop regulations regarding on-board luggage. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an advisory board that investigates transportation-related accidents and makes recommendations to improve safety and reduce injuries, has observed in a number of passenger rail accidents that unrestrained luggage was a contributing factor in passenger injuries, and has recommended the development of luggage restraint systems for passenger rail vehicles. Enclosed overhead luggage compartments will enhance passenger safety in the event of an accident.

3. The design criteria for the enclosed luggage bins on the new equipment
will include the ability to accommodate the same size carry-on bag as a
commercial aircraft. Most airlines permit carry-on bags up to 9″ by 16″ x
22″, and the new cars will be designed to handle this size bag (larger if

4. The cafe-lounge car will also have three one-person tables in the
non-revenue end, for a total lounge seating capacity of 21.

Original report:

The SJVRC Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Friday, April 13, at the Amtrak Shops in Oakland, actually in a large shed a block south of the shops where Caltrans Division of Rail (DoR) is doing their mock-up of the new Cafe car.

Concurrently the Committee participated in tasting of new foods to be served in the Cafe cars in the future. Mainly the items tasted were Tuna and Chicken salads for sandwiches. The samples ranged from expensive Albacore Tuna to the ordinary tuna and chicken, and were prepared using three ethnic influences e.g. American, Asian and Mexican. Participants were asked to rate on a scale from 1 to 10 in categories of taste, texture and saleability.

The mock-up of the new car was not complete, but gave a good representation of the proposed configuration. One half of the car will have 28 revenue seats. The serving area will be in the center of the car with a generous curved counter and designed for efficiency (one attendant).

There are 6 tables, three tables for 4 persons and three tables for 2 persons facing the window. The overall layout is conducive to easy traffic flow which now plagues the California Cars.

I was somewhat disturbed to see that the “airliner” overhead luggage racks are still employed. However, Mr. Hoyt of DoR explained that it is a FRA and NTSA requirement. Research has shown that the majority of injuries in railroad accidents result from “flying” luggage. The luggage has to be restrained to the parameters of 8g longitudinal and 4g in the other two axis. However, these cabinets are larger and will accommodate 14x9x19 pieces unlike the current Cal Car cabinets.

The TAC mtg was impaired by the preponderance of noise due to passing UP freight trains and was therefore abbreviated. The main discussion was about the changes to the bylaws to accommodate Mariposa County. Cindy Camara reported on the status of the San Joaquin stations, e.g. physical conditions and staffing, and proposed improvements to be made at them.

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