We are fortunate in the Pacific Northwest to have some of the only European-style train equipment in the country.
Seven trains built by Talgo operate as the Amtrak Cascades.
Known for its comfort and performance, the train equipment comprising the Amtrak Cascades is made by Spanish train manufacturer Talgo.
Talgo, Inc., is a company that designs and manufactures trains, much like Boeing designs and manufactures airplanes. Talgo trains have been in use throughout Europe for more than 50 years, where they often operate at speeds exceeding 100 mph.
Talgo trains are different from typical passenger trains used in the United States and Canada. Talgo trains are articulated, which means the train cars operate as a set: adjacent cars share axles and wheels and function as a single, complete unit. This increases stability and improves safety and the smoothness of the ride. In addition, a gravity-based tilt system reduces travel times, while also assuring that passengers are comfortable and safe, even when traveling through curves at higher speeds.
Amtrak Cascades trains are well-suited for the Pacific Northwest
The use of Amtrak Cascades trains, which travel quickly around curves, is far less expensive than straightening the Pacific Northwest's curvy tracks through extensive (and expensive) reconstruction. In addition, Amtrak Cascades trains are light, comfortable, safe, reliable and offer amenities local travelers desire. Washington and Oregon have taken the first steps toward fast, frequent Amtrak service on the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor, stretching from Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon. This is a long-term effort that requires substantial reductions in train travel times and increases in train frequency—key factors for people when they decide whether to drive their car or take the train.
Amtrak Cascades trainsets
A typical Amtrak Cascades trainset seats approximately 250 passengers and typically consists of 13 train cars, including one baggage car; two Business Class (first-class) coaches; seven standard coaches; one Bistro (cafe) car; one Lounge car; and one service car that provides onboard electricity for the train. Near the center of the train are four, wheelchair-accessible cars: a Business Class car, a standard coach, the Bistro car, and the Lounge car.
The original fleet of five trainsets was built at a Talgo plant in Spain. The car bodies were then shipped to Seattle where Pacifica Marine, a local company, completed final assembly. This helped Washington obtain world-class trains, while keeping tax dollars and jobs in the local economy. In 2013 two new Talgo-manufactured trainsets joined the fleet. These trains were assembled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and represent the latest version of the Talgo trainsets. These two trainsets include all of the same amenities found on the original five trainsets.
Amtrak Cascades tail fins
The tail fins on the original five trainsets are purely aesthetic. Amtrak Cascades trains are sleek and low-slung. Locomotives are seven feet taller than the train cars. The tail fins were designed and built onto the trains to make a smooth visual transition from the low trains to the taller locomotives. The tail fins make Amtrak Cascades trains look sleek and more attractive. The two new trainsets do not have the tail fins.
Upgrades and modifications
WSDOT began a major interior renovation on all the trainsets used on Amtrak Cascades service in 2008. The first two phases of the $9 million project began with the refurbishment of both the Coach and Business Class cars, which were outfitted with new leather seating, updated interior color schemes and paneling, and new flooring, as well as improvements to the vestibules (sections between cars).
Years ago, in early 2011, WSDOT and Amtrak installed onboard Wi-Fi service on the existing five Amtrak Cascades trainsets and began upgrading the audio/visual equipment.
A major renovation of the Bistro and Lounge cars completed in 2013 upgraded the interiors, improved passenger mobility and seating, and helped Amtrak staff provide more efficient customer service. These renovations are the final phase of the interior upgrades on the entire fleet begun in 2008. After more than a decade of use, the Bistro and Lounge cars received new floors, new paint, new upholstery and re-finished surfaces. While each trainset's Bistro and Lounge cars were out of service for their upgrades, the rest of the trainset luxuriated in a deep-cleaning spa-treatment of its own.
For more information about Amtrak Cascades trains and service and to buy tickets, visit the Amtrak Cascades website.