With the sudden end to Colorado Railcar Manufacturing LLC, announced on December 23rd, 2008, left a huge hole in a unique market; The end of the only Ultra Dome passenger cars and the end of the only known FRA-Compliant Diesel-Multiple-Unit.
The rest after the jump
The last DMU’s under CRM was the last DMU for Tri-Rail and a joint venture between Alaska Railroad and the U.S. Forest Service’s bi-level DMU, which is sitting at Denver, Colorado’s Union Station, awaiting the final decision of whom will deliver the car to Seattle for its barge ride to Alaska.
Several agencies who won voter approval in November 2008, such as Hawaii, SMART in Somona - Marlin, CA, Amtrak in Vermont, and various other agencies were seeking use of the CRM DMU’s. With no FRA-compliant DMU available this leaves the door open to a small market that seemed to be growing rapidly. Bombardier, Siemens, Stadler Bussnang AG, and Alstom offer DMU’s but are not available for the U.S. Market due to the strict FRA rules. If these rules were to lessen or to be changed with the Obama Administration to allow these light passenger rail vehicles to operate with freight traffic, they could very well change the foundation of how we commute and travel, and how railroads can save money.
There are several things that could happen that probably won’t due to the economy at its current point.
1. CRM could sell it’s DMU rights and design to a company who would have the capability to mass produce the vehicles.
2. One of the mentioned companies above could begin work on a U.S. model.
3. The transit agencies also mentioned above could seek an FRA wavier to operate the vehicles but at the risk of being turned into a light-rail corridor and thus restricted to 55mph by the FTA.
4. Nothing will be done and those voter approved corridors will have to seek a much more expensive option.
The Eastside Rail Corridor as a good example was going to use the CRM vehicles. The demise of the company will no longer be able to use those vehicles. The only few options remain, all of which have a very slim chance. If the operating freight company would allow a non-compliant DMU to run on their rails after obtaining a waiver from the FRA. The other blow to this is no connection to Monroe, Everett, or Tukwila which would all require to run on BNSF, unless they were to buy their own right of way, which is just simply to expensive for a meager company to risk.
Until more details of the demise of CRM comes out, we can only speculate what the outcome of this huge lost to a unique company will be but now lays the question of just how long until something new and unique is available to agencies whom wish to start a small to moderate rail service, cheaper, but efficiently and effectively.
I’ll keep an eye out on more details and will update this post accordingly.