New trains making first runs

By Steve Lathrop / Albany Democrat-Herald

Published Jan 10, 2014 at 12:06AM

Two new trains that will be part of the Amtrak Cascades Corridor schedule are running this week for the first time with stops scheduled for Albany.

According to Kathy Holmes of the Oregon Department of Transportation, the new Talgo Series 8 trains were purchased by Oregon with funds from federal stimulus programs. They will run the route from Eugene to Vancouver, B.C.

“Amtrak is still trying to get the schedule updated, so people will need to check online to see when trains run,” Holmes said. “A lot of people are interested in riding these trains.”

The two trains, dubbed Mount Jefferson and Mount Bachelor following a contest to name them earlier this year, are the latest in passenger trains. They are the only ones of their kind operating in the country. The trains will be making several stops in Albany this week, but arrival times have not yet been set.

ODOT plans to publish the routes of the new trains as far ahead of time as possible. People can link to the ODOT’s rail website at http://1.usa.gov/1iVQrgw.

The other trains operating on the Cascade route are Talgo Series 6 units and were built in the 1980s. The Series 8 trains originally were commissioned three years ago, and Holmes said the differences between the models are obvious.

“The design is sleeker and the trains are brighter inside and out,” she said. “The interiors are all new accessories.”

Both trains are designed to travel at high speeds so they will be able to adjust if tracks along the route are upgraded for the faster rail travel that ODOT is working to develop between Portland and Eugene.

Oregon made the move to get the new trains after Washington bought two trains to assure service for additional routes between Seattle and Tacoma that are scheduled to begin in 2017. That included additional daily service between Portland and Seattle.

ODOT officials worried that the additional service could have meant putting too much pressure on the capacity of the available trains. So, Holmes said, Oregon purchased the trains to meet those demands and assure that the state isn’t left without service.

Each train will seat 286 passengers and will have catering facilities, a bicycle storage car, business class accommodations, electrical outlets and 4G Wi-Fi.

The trains were purchased for a total price of $38.4 million plus additional costs for upgrades like the Wi-Fi.

“It’s amazing how many people are fans of passenger trains and just want to take one of the first rides,” Holmes said.

A new bus and train schedule for the Amtrak Cascades Corridor goes into effect with the addition of the trains. Schedules and fare information are available at www.amtrakcascades.com.

Oregon’s two new trains join the current fleet of five. Three are owned by the Washington Department of Transportation and two are owned by Amtrak.

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