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Thread: Superliners and Material Handling cars (MHC)

  1. #1

    Default Superliners and Material Handling cars (MHC)

    I’ll stipulate from the beginning that I’m an Amtrak fan, and looked forward to the release of the Run8 Amtrak train-set. In general I think they produced a good product. There are a few particular details that I wish were included. For example, the Superliner truck detail is from the Superliner I car production, and is applied to all car Phases (see picture). Additionally, the sound- set for the cars, including the coupler sounds, are not accurate; they appear to be recycled from the freight set. On a positive note, the interior night lighting and the brake indication lights are well executed. Additionally, the P42 does sound very good.

    Top: German-designed truck from Superliner I car. Bottom: General Steel Castings truck from Superliner II car.

    Attachment 58433

    Run 8 chose to model the 1400 series Material Handling Car (without secondary vertical suspension friction dampers mounted to the side sill, as on the 1500 series MHC). The cars are well rendered and should provide some operational variety. The 1400-1479 series were built in 1986 by Thrall - reused old REA Express Mail trucks (see pictures).

    Attachment 58434

    Attachment 58436

    The 1500-1569 series were built in 1988 by Thrall. These Mail Handling Cars were embargoed and taken out of service on Feb 11, 2003. The 1500-series were restored to service on the NEC on November 15, 2003.
    Some of you may remember a series of derailments, putatively attributed to the MHC’s. After several incidents and subsequent investigations (link to one FRA analysis, the cars were cleared to return to service, but many railroads placed speed restrictions on their operation. The demise of the MHC for Amtrak was not due to its operational deficiencies, but rather, Amtrak’s inability to secure an agreement with the USPS to carry mail. The cars were expensive to operate, and without postal and express service revenue, Amtrak could no longer afford to operate them.

    This is arcane. I apologize in advance.

    What does this have to do with Run 8? Conceivably nothing. Perhaps this brief and incomplete historical example will stimulate a productive conversation, possibly enabling a more prototypical multi-player operational session when the Needles Subdivision is released. Recall,on the Needles Sub, Amtrak is allowed to run at speeds of 90mph. If Amtrak still operated trains today with the MHC in consist, would BNSF allow a 90mph track speed? No. Is it because of the the MHC's propensity(?) to derail at speed - lightly loaded? A plausible pretext? Recall, at the time Amtrak was using the MHC's, Express Box Cars and Roadrailers to generate revenue from mail and time sensitive material. This was viewed by UP and BNSF as direct competition - as if Amtrak was in the freight business. Why should the freight railroads allow Amtrak priority status (tax payer subsidized) on their track to directly compete with them and erode their market share? For numerous reasons, Amtrak's foray into freight hauling didn't last long.
    Sorry for the rant. Attack mode on. Feel free to expand on any detail.

    Last edited by histrionics; 05-23-2013 at 06:59 AM.

  2. #2


    I have to agree with you about the coupler sounds. We should not be able to hear run in and run out sounds on a passenger train. I hope John will provide a method to turn it off if we desire.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Eugene, Oregon


    It would be my guess that John will make improvements in the coming months, if not weeks to make things more accurate in the sim as far as operational and sound issues go. I was noticing the coupler sound myself the other night but, just like the lack of shadows, I am too busy driving my train to care about it.
    Doug B.
    Eugene, Oregon, USA - Pacific Standard Time ( - 8:00 UTC )
    3.4 ghz Intel i7-3770 quad core processor, 8 gigs RAM, 2 gig AMD Radeon HD 7850

  4. #4


    Doesn't seem arcane to me at all. I think a big part of Run8 as a simulation and not a game is knowing what you're doing and why, and this certainly extends to the locomotives, cars, routes, rules, procedures and all the rest of it. I've spent hours with the BNSF GE44DC manual and the GCORs, airbrake handling rules, route maps and all the real-world information users like you have provided over the months. All this brings the sim to life for me. Otherwise I'd still be running Microsoft Train Simulator, Trainz or Rail Works.

    As far as I can see, the only thing missing is the ability to hump the cars, and with the SDs even that may change, and as new routes are developed.

    Thanks to all of you who have added the arcana. Keep it coming!

  5. #5


    While UP may have viewed Amtrak's express initiative as competition, for the most part UP was not serving nor was pursuing that market. The bulk of Amtrak's cargo was mail anyway and it's all now being trucked (not even using intermodal).

  6. #6



    I agree with you that Amtrak's mail and express initiative, the cornerstone of its Network Growth Strategy (ca. 2002), was designed as a way to enhance revenue. Amtrak's analysis projected (incorrectly) that it would earn the railroad 66 million a year in net financial benefits. And, you are also correct that UP was not exploiting this particular market niche. Although UP and BNSF weren't directly pursuing that market, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests they (UP/BNSF) didn't want Amtrak to pursue it either. Below is a quote from the GAO and link to the full text.

    "For the most part, Amtrak was not able to reach agreement with freight
    railroads over whose tracks it would operate. Amtrak told us (GAO) that it
    expected that freight railroads would provide capital funds needed to
    implement some routes, which the freight railroads were not inclined
    to do. Freight railroads were also concerned about (1) Amtrak’s plans
    to operate additional trains in areas that were already congested, (2)
    Amtrak’s plans to carry express merchandise that might compete with
    their own business, and (3) compensation that Amtrak would pay them
    for use of their tracks. Even though operating over freight railroad
    tracks was a crucial component to the Network Growth Strategy’s
    success, Amtrak did not obtain a full understanding of freight
    railroad concerns before deciding to implement the strategy and before
    announcing it to Congress. Amtrak canceled six routes, in part,
    because it could not reach agreement with freight railroads over these
    issues (including four routes that were canceled in part because of
    the overestimation of mail and express revenues). We are making a
    recommendation to improve Amtrak’s process for making future route and
    service decisions."
    It was not until after Amtrak decided to implement the Network Growth
    Strategy in December 1999 and announced it to Congress that it began
    to develop an understanding of the capital investments needed to
    implement the route and service actions and other implementation
    issues critical to gaining freight railroad agreement. For example, it
    was not until spring 2000 that Amtrak learned from the Union Pacific
    Railroad that it might cost about $40 million to implement the
    Crescent Star (service between Meridian, Mississippi, and Dallas/Fort
    Worth, Texas).[Footnote 13] A Union Pacific official told us that his
    railroad was not willing to share the costs of this investment with
    Amtrak, nor was it willing to help Amtrak finance it over time. He
    said that capital investment had not been discussed with his railroad
    prior to this time.

    "Freight railroads were also concerned about having a competitor on
    their tracks. All four of the freight railroads we contacted that
    would have been affected by the Network Growth Strategy generally
    acknowledged Amtrak’s statutory authority to operate mail and express
    business. However, all expressed concern about Amtrak’s becoming a
    competitor for their freight business. This concern was heightened by
    Amtrak’s plans to begin running large numbers of express cars on their
    trains as it expanded its mail and express business. This concern
    contributed to Amtrak’s decision to cancel the Skyline service. A
    Norfolk Southern official said his company did not want Amtrak to
    solicit business on this route that was similar to its own freight
    business. Other freight railroads we contacted were similarly wary of
    Amtrak’s plans to use its route and service expansion to increase
    express business that could potentially compete with their own."

    Last edited by histrionics; 05-25-2013 at 08:11 AM.

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