American Car and Foundry's Spanish Talgo Train was the first of
the postwar lightweight streamlines. The Talgo set a standard for
all other manufacturers as the race for new development began in
the 1950s. The radical design concepts of the Talgo gave hope to
the American railroads who wanted to turn the diminishing amount
of passengers into a situation more in their favor.
It all began in 1944 when the American Car and Foundry (ACF) expanded
on the Talgo concept in a joint effort to create the prototype trains
for the Spanish National Railway. The units were manufactured at
ACF's two subassemblies units in Wilmington, Delaware.
In 1949, American Car and Foundry announced its "revolution
on rails." During a time when railroads felt a change in car
design was needed, the American Car and Foundry looked to Talgo
for the answer. In 1950, three Talgo II locomotives and 32 railcars
arrived in Spain, built at the American Car and Foundry in the United
A Talgo demonstration in New Haven was scheduled in 1954 and the
first press run of the Talgo took place June 29th. In its spare
time, when not completing press runs or demonstrations, the Talgo
was placed on display at major passenger stations to prompt ridership.
Talgo history in the US continued in 1988 when Amtrak conducted
test runs with Talgo tilting cars in order to establish the performance
of high cant deficiency operation in the North East Corridor. This
test clearly found that the Talgo passive tilt technology was superior
to all other equipment tested at that time. The Talgo train was
esteemed to be the perfect match for the Boston to New York route
with its many short curves.
Talgo's presence in the United States broadened in 1994. In April,
Renfe-Talgo of America was awarded a contract by the Washington
State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to lease a Talgo trainset
for operation in the Seattle, WA to Portland, OR corridor for six
In October of 1994, showcase runs of the Talgo rolling stock were
performed for railway authorities and technical experts in Oregon,
California, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Haven
and Maine. The contract with the WSDOT was also renewed to continue
the lease of the Talgo TP 200 trainset in the Pacific Northwest
As the project proved to be very successful, in July of 1996, WSDOT
and Amtrak placed an order to buy three new Talgo TPU trains
(two WSDOT and one Amtrak) and to lease one additional train (Amtrak).
These were assembled in Seattle using American workers and skills.
The new Talgo's started service in February 1998 and are operated
by Amtrak under the Amtrak Cascades® brand name.
A fifth trainset was manufactured at the same time as the four
previously mentioned. This trainset was scheduled to enter service
between Los Angeles, CA and Las Vegas, NV in early 2001, but was sold
to WSDOT in 2003 and is currently in use on the Eugene to Portland, Oregon Corridor.
So far, the operation of these trainsets has been a tremendous
success; ridership has grown by more than 150%, travelling times
have been significantly reduced, and the entire corridor has been
revitalized. Furthermore, Amtrak Cascades® North (service
between Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC) and Amtrak Cascades®
South (service between Seattle, WA Portland and Eugene, OR) have
been ranked number 1 and 2 in 1999, according to Amtrak's National
Customer Satisfaction Survey.
The success of the Pacific Northwest Project is the result of a
good partnership experience among Talgo, Amtrak, WSDOT and Burlington
Northern Santa Fe (the owner of the track). From the Talgo side,
the key for success has been the design of the trains, including
the many amenities available, such a individual electric outlets
for laptops, wheelchair lifts on ADA cars, individual audio-video
outlets; the quality of the ride and the great reliability that
is assured by the application of Talgo's Total Logistic CareTM,
an integral maintenance system.
Talgo's Total Logistic Care, or TLC, is a preventative
maintenance program that benefits from over 50 years of Talgo Group
experience maintaining railway vehicles. In the United States, Talgo
provides technical assistance and management services to Amtrak's
personnel in charge of maintenance operations. Talgo is fully responsible
for assuring reliability and availability ratios. Since the service
started in 1994, Talgo has been able to assure both reliability
and availability ration in excess of 99%.