Train Weights, Bilevel Version

My previous table of train weights covered single-level trains, with the exception of the ultralight (for a bilevel) TGV Duplex. By request, here is a similar version for bilevels. Note that very light trains such as the E231 or DB’s Class 423 are inherently single-level – though a bilevel Green Car trailer version of the E231 is quite light, even at 50% heavier than a single-level trailer.

Recall that Lng is length in meters, Wt is empty weight in (metric) tons, Width is in meters, Pow is maximum short-term power in megawatts, P/W is power-to-weight in kilowatts per ton, Ld is average load per axle in tons, and Wt/Lng is weight in tons per meter of train length.

Train Lng Wt Width Pow P/W Ld Wt/lng
E231 series Green Car 20 36 2.95 0 0 9 1.79
215 Series 200 368.5* 2.9 1.92 5.2 9.2 1.84
TGV Duplex 200 380 2.9 8.8 23.2 14.6 1.9
Bom. BiLevel Coach 26 50 3 0 0 12.5 1.91
KISS, Regional 150 297 2.8 6 20.2 12.4 1.97
KISS, Interregio 100 212 2.8 6 28.3 13.3 2.11
E4 Series 201 428 3.38 6.72 15.7 13.4 2.13
NS DD-AR (w/ mDDM) 100 221 2.8 2.4 10.86 13.8 2.21
GO Transit MPI hauling 12 Bom. BiLevel Coaches 332 734 3.24 3 4.1 14.1 2.21
Metra Highliner 26 59 3.2? ? ? 14.8 2.28
Caltrain Coradia 213 517 3.2? ? ? 16.2 2.43
X40 (Coradia, Sweden) 81.5 205 2.96 2.4 11.7 17.1 2.52
Caltrain MPI hauling 5 Bom. BiLevel Coaches 150.5 384 3.24 3 7.8 16 2.55
CityRail A-sets 78 201 3.04 ? ? 12.6 2.57
MI 2N 112 288 2.9 4.5 15.6 14.4 2.57
Colorado Railcar, bilevel 26 74 3.2? 0.96 13 18.5 2.86

*Caltrain claims the same weight – see pages 36 (which partially confuses the train with a heavier Shinkansen) and 45 of its document about bilevel EMUs. Japanese Wikipedia claims a much lower weight, coming from substituting 2 for the leading 3. Given everything else, the higher figure seems more likely (with thanks to Miles Bader for pointing the above link out).

The observation here is that FRA compliance no longer neatly separates trains. Part of it comes from the very heavy low-speed trains in France, of which the MI 2N is an example. I do not know whether this is caused by special regulations – on the one hand, the TGV reportedly has 500 tons of buff strength, but on the other hand, Sweden’s X40 is also quite heavy.

The reason for this is that while high buff strength adds weight, its effect is much larger on lightweight frames than on heavyweight frames. A train that is already heavy will become heavier if it is required to be FRA-compliant, but typically only by a few tons. New Jersey Transit’s ALP-46 locomotive is 7 tons heavier than the European locomotive it is based on, of which 4.5 come from FRA regulations. This applies equally well to low-power bilevels. Even lightweight, high-power products such as the KISS would be considered middleweight by single-level standards.

Observe, however, that to achieve acceptable average weight, FRA-compliant products have to sacrifice power (as is done in Toronto or on Caltrain) and also to have a heavy locomotive drag many relatively light coaches, raising axle load. For fast service, one must use a product like the Colorado Railcar, which is the heaviest train per unit of weight on both this table and the single-level table, and which also awkwardly is a high-level train with much greater height than permitted by any European loading gauge, avoiding the low-floor weight penalty.


  1. Miles Bader

    (hmm, posted a comment, didn’t show up; is this blog moderated without mentioning it?)

  2. Miles Bader

    hmm, this site claims 368.5t for the 215系:

    Given that it’s (1) more in line with everything else, and (2) just a little bit more than the green-car design on which it seems to be based, I’d wager that’s the more likely to be the correct figure, and the wikipedia author just typo’d “2” for “3”… :]

  3. ant6n

    So in the context of the ‘urban stops’ mentioned in a recent blog posts, and the possible usage of bilevels, there’s the issue of dwell times that comes up. Does anybody have good numbers relating capacity, numbers of doors, door widths and dwell times?

    • Alon Levy

      Page 12 of the MBTA’s DMU study, though it says nothing about door width (assume standard North American passenger cars), only door placement, at the ends or quarter points. I remember reading that at Back Bay trains take 36 seconds to unload and load, if it means anything.

      For what it’s worth, there are very few bilevels in Japan, precisely because loading and unloading there is so critical.

      • ant6n

        Many bilevels could be used if they have large collection areas for people around where the doors are. And of course, large doors. I wonder whether doors can be retrofit. My intuition says that it would be a bad idea from a structural point of view to replace a 1m door with a 2m door, but who knows?

        • Alon Levy

          The MBTA indicates that it can retrofit its existing fleet with a new center door in addition to the end doors. I have no idea about door width, though.

          • ant6n

            Well, I was looking at the Bombardier Multilevels (linke) that NJTransit and the AMT just purchased. They’re probably going to be in service for a long time, so would have to be adapted in the context of more urban stops to reduce dwell times.

            They have all their doors on the end-points, the mid-level. Making those areas seatless, and having two sets of wide doors on both sides would probably enable short dwell times.

          • Steve

            The MBTA’s existing fleet is Comets, though. Those were pretty standard coaches of the 1980s and early ’90s–I’ve seen some examples of Comets with center doors as well as the end ones, so I’m pretty sure they were structurally designed for them.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The ones you’ve seen might be Comarrows. Arrow MUs converted to Comet-like cars.

          • anonymouse

            Metro North and NJT have Comet cars with center doors, along with ones without them. The center doors are high-level only. The Comarrows actually don’t have center doors, but theydo have a visible panel in that spot that could in theory be easily removed and replaced with a door, or that may have been a door in the past that got replaced with a window.

    • Max Wyss

      Way back when the SBB specified the rolling stock for the S-Bahn Zürich, they did extensive studies concerning the configuration of the vehicles. I don’t know whether that study is available somewhere online, but the results were (proven using maquettes) that triple-wide doors (around 1.9m) over the bogies with a small platform towards the end of the car, 4 steps down to the lower level and 7 steps up to the upper level proved to be the most efficient for bi-levels). It is not possible to achieve the same short dwelling times with 2 double-width doors on the lower level and level boarding; passing through the door is about as good, but there is not enough space in the car for the people to get away fast enough. But that darn “accessibility” legislation now more or less forbids steps.

      • Alon Levy

        So, if I understand this right, the advantage of bogie doors is that people can go through the doors and then go both up and down?

        I’m asking because on the MBTA (no comparison, I know), the single-level cars with end doors can achieve shorter dwell times than the bilevels with end doors. The bilevels are bottlenecked at the stairs and this raises dwell times. The fact that the doors are literally at the ends of the cars rather than over the bogie centers doesn’t help.

        • Max Wyss

          The crucial point is that the door is triple-wide, and leads to the entrance area from which the stairs go immediately to the upper and lower level. It is therefore easy for people to see quite a bit into the upper and lower level and decide on where to go. From personal observations, people are even kind of pre-sorting where the enter the car, or they go to the level which is most logical for getting in: If the stairs to the upper level are immediately to the left of the door, people going for the upper level get on through the left third of the door, the ones for the lower level through the middle, and the ones for the platform at entrance level through the right third. (on the other side, it is kind of mirrored). But even crossing between the “direct paths” is not a big issue, as there are no further obstacles, and people move at about the same speed as getting in and up/down to the level.

          Having the doors above the bogies is the best compromise if you have stations in curves (and the Zürich S-Bahn has a few important ones, such as Stadelhofen). If the door is above the bogie, the distance between the carbody and the platform is more or less constant, independent of the curve radius, which means that there is no need for additional measures to reduce the gap.

          I have never consciously ridden the MBTA bi-levels, but from the pictures, they have double-wide doors at maximum (they look more like 1.5 wide). Then it is obvious that you don’t get good throughput, if you have to squeeze 60 to 80 people through such a door (as compared to a triple-wide…).

          • Alon Levy

            I think the MBTA doors are single-wide, by comparison with the Metro-North and LIRR doors, and in my experience only allow one person through at a time. See diagram of a hypothetical car with a center-door retrofit on page 11 here; existing cars do not have a center door. What they call a wide door appears to be the same as the existing LIRR doors, which are 1.27 m wide according to specs. Bear in mind that the MBTA doesn’t even open all the doors because they require manual opening (evening and weekend trains often run with most cars closed off to passengers); clearly, minimizing dwell times is not a priority.

            The pre-sorting part is what’s interesting. The standard way people pre-sort with double-wide doors on the same level (either single-level or low-boarding bilevels) is by going off in opposite directions within the car, and this is where you get the move toward quarter-point doors. Next time I’m in Paris I’ll make sure to observe what goes on on the MI 2Ns, which also have very wide doors and a similar split-level configuration.

          • Max Wyss

            The LIRR doors are definitely double-wide (experienced by yours truly).

            It looks as if operational efficiency is not very high up on the priority list at MBTA… (or there are archaic regulations preventing things; I don’t know).

            The pre-sorting is just an effect I noticed, and it happens without any external order or so (there were no brochures “how to get onto an S-Bahn train”, or signs (as opposed to the “stand right, walk left” campaign for the escalators). But because of the rather intelligent design (IMHO), it occurs naturally.

            I guess that same effect will happen in Paris with the MI 2N (although we have to be aware that there are Parisians 🙂 ).

          • Alon Levy

            There are archaic regulations, but the MBTA’s problems come out of poor operating practices. The LIRR, which is subject to the same regulations, has level boarding for the entire train, opens all doors automatically, and has rolling stock that’s surprisingly decent for being FRA-compliant. SEPTA has all of these, plus its off-peak schedules are sometimes clockface, and the Airport Line runs on a 30-minute takt (in the US, that’s considered good; the Providence Line runs every two hours off- and reverse-peak, on nothing even resembling a takt).

  4. anonymouse

    So basically, what this demonstrates is that the weight penalty is least severe on big long trains, which are only cost effective when run in commuter-oriented service serving large peak flows to the CBD, and that the FRA weight penalty is biggest for the kind of rolling stock needed to provide European-style frequent regional service across broad regions. This goes some way to explaining why US rail service works the way it does (although I think other factors are more important there), and also why the rules are not changing much: they actually aren’t too bad for the kind of service the US does have, and only really a huge impediment to the kind that doesn’t really exist, outside of a few special cases (really, only the River Line and Sprinter). I’m surprised, though, that the Northeastern railroads that can’t use double deckers (Metro North, mostly) haven’t been pushing harder for FRA to change the rules to let them run the kind of rolling stock they need (lighter single-level high-floor MUs). Perhaps they didn’t even realize how bad the rules are, until they went through the experience of the M-7s and M-8s, and are now quietly planning how to deal with that when it comes time to order the next round of rolling stock in a decade or two.

  5. Zmapper

    Alon, how do Amtrak Long Distance trains compare to European or Asian Long Distance trains of similar design (loco hauled, diesel, bi-level, long). Is the weight penalty less or negligible in that case?

    • Alon Levy

      The locos are generally lighter in Europe. The cars probably weigh less than Superliners, but I don’t know how much less. The weight per unit of capacity difference is probably negligible – for locomotives, the problem is that track wear is more than linear in axle load. It’s not too relevant for passenger EMUs because at EMU axle load the track wear is linear, but at the axle load range of freight, which includes heavy locomotives, track wear is superlinear.

    • Max Wyss

      Take this as rough numbers:

      A single-level intercity coach, seating around 70 in second class weighs about 40 t net. Special cars (diner, cab cars) can get up to 45 t.

      The SBB IC 2000 bi-level, seating 128 in second class is rated at 46 t net; the cab car comes 50 t net. The SBB operates the bi-levels with a Class 460 locomotive (Bo’Bo’, 84 t, 6100 kW, vmax 220 km/h) in various consists, from 5 to 10 (even 11) cars, in many cases expanded with a 2- to 4-car “module” (cab car plus one to three first and second class cars, coupled to the train at whatever end the module is pointing).

      So, a typical “IC” St.Gallen – Zürich – Bern – Fribourg – Lausanne – Genève consists of a Class 460 and 8 bi-levels, totalling 84 t for the locomotive and 370 t for the cars, offering around 700 seats, doing 200 km/h on the new line, and 100 km/h on 2.5% grades.

      To be a little bit more comparable with Amtrak long-distance, the CityNightLine bi-level sleeping car weighs around 55 t net.

      Now, you can dig up the Amtrak long distance numbers.

      • Max Wyss

        An afterthought: because bi-level cars have a high seat capacity, it might be useful to compare not only the net weights, but also the fully loaded weight, as the payload can make up to 25% of the net weight.

      • Max Wyss

        And one more, the numbers of an 8-car IC2000 train, to be compared with the table above:

        Lg: 232 m

        Wt: 455 t

        Width: 2.8 m

        Pow: 6.1 kW (cont)

        P/W: 13.4 kW/t

        Ld: 21 t (locomotive) ; 12.5 t (cars)

        Wt/len: 1.96

        Note that this consist is loco-hauled

  6. Pingback: Train Weight and Safety | Pedestrian Observations

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