US DMU maker fails; SMART looks to Siemens for its DMUs
- Published Tuesday, January 6, 2009, by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Railroad car company stops production but SMART trains on track
By Bob Norberg
The Press Democrat
The Colorado manufacturer of the passenger railcars initially chosen
by transit planners for the Sonoma-Marin commute train service has
gone out of business.
Colorado Railcars, the only U.S. maker of passenger cars to meet
federal crash specifications, shut down its Fort Lupton, Colo.,
manufacturing plant on Dec. 23.
"This doesn't come as a surprise, we have known they have been having
problems for a while," said Chris Coursey, spokesman for the Sonoma
Marin Area Rail Transit district. "We were aware they had serious
Colorado Railcar on its Internet site <http://www.coloradorailcar.com>
says it has ceased operations and is going through liquidation.
The closure may have little effect on SMART, which can choose to run
lighter, European-style, diesel-powered railcars instead.
If it chooses to stay with the heavier cars, however, Siemens
Transportation Inc. of Germany is planning to develop and build such
cars at its Sacramento plant, filling the void left by Colorado
"It is part of our growth strategy and product development plan, we
clearly see a niche market," said Frank Guzzo, business development
director in Sacramento. "We are in the development stage."
Since passing a quarter-cent sales tax in Sonoma and Marin counties
in November, SMART is now looking to start Cloverdale-to-Larkspur
service in 2014.
SMART is planning to issue requests for proposals for its rail cars
within the next two months and award a purchase contract next year.
The transit district has budgeted $88 million for 14 self-propelled,
diesel-powered rail cars. The cars will take two to three years to
SMART had initially specified the Colorado Railcar vehicles, which
are classed as heavy rail, diesel-powered vehicles, in its 2006
environmental impact report.
However, in a 2008 supplemental report, SMART indicated that it could
also use a light-weight, European-style railcars by running freight
train service in off hours.
"The major difference between the two is how they operate in
conjunction with freight on the same corridor," Coursey said. "To
use the light cars, you need to have time separation, they cannot
be operating at the same time as freight."
The most popular light-weight cars available are made by Siemens in
There are 12 of them in use by the North Coast Transit District in
San Diego on its 22-mile Sprinter service from Oceanside to Escondido.
Spokesman Tom Kelleher said to meet the federal rules for running
light-weight cars and freight together, the freight service runs at
SMART believes it can schedule freight service in the mid-morning
and mid-afternoons, when the commute trains are not running.
Coursey said Siemens' plans would likely be taken into account as
SMART decides what to buy.
"I think it is the case with any manufacturer, they have people on-
site when a project starts up, but having the manufacturer 90 miles
away rather than 6,000 miles away is an advantage," Coursey said.
[BATN: See also:
TriMet DMU supplier Colorado Railcar goes out of business
Only US DMU manufacturer Colorado Railcar to liquidate
Colorado Railcar DMU deal cost Portland's TriMet millions
Comment: Light rail the wrong technology for 70-mile SMART corridor
Sprinter DMU opening applauded: "kinda cool... not noisy... sleek"
New SMART report adds weekend service, lighter DMUs & freights
Letter: SMART unacceptable as a heavy rail DMU-based system
Transit officials find Sprinter DMUs "pretty fast" and "quiet"
Siemens unveils first European DMU rail car for US market