Superliner (railcar)
The Superliner is a double decker
Bilevel car
The bilevel car or double-decker coach is a type of rail car that has two levels of passenger accommodation, as opposed to one, increasing passenger capacity ....

 passenger car used by Amtrak
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak , is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union...

 on long haul trains that do not use the Northeast Corridor
Northeast Corridor
The Northeast Corridor is a fully electrified railway line owned primarily by Amtrak serving the Northeast megalopolis of the United States from Boston in the north, via New York to Washington, D.C. in the south, with branches serving other cities...

. The initial cars were built by Pullman-Standard in the late 1970s and a second order was built in the mid 1990s by Bombardier Transportation
Bombardier Transportation
Bombardier Transportation is the rail equipment division of the Canadian firm, Bombardier Inc. Bombardier Transportation is one of the world's largest companies in the rail-equipment manufacturing and servicing industry. Its headquarters are in Berlin, Germany....

. As delivered, the cars came in various configurations, including coach, diner
Dining car
A dining car or restaurant carriage , also diner, is a railroad passenger car that serves meals in the manner of a full-service, sit-down restaurant....

, and sleeper
Sleeping car
The sleeping car or sleeper is a railway/railroad passenger car that can accommodate all its passengers in beds of one kind or another, primarily for the purpose of making nighttime travel more restful. The first such cars saw sporadic use on American railroads in the 1830s and could be configured...



When funding became available for Amtrak to acquire new cars, plans were made to acquire bi-level cars based on the 1956 Budd-built El Capitan
El Capitan (passenger train)
El Capitan was one of the named passenger trains of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. It was the only coach, or chair car train to operate the Santa Fe main line from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California on the same fast schedule as the road's premier Pullman Super Chief.This...

 Hi-Levels operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway , often abbreviated as Santa Fe, was one of the larger railroads in the United States. The company was first chartered in February 1859...

 (which were purchased by Amtrak upon formation in 1971). The initial order of 235 Superliner I cars was placed with Chicago coachbuilder Pullman Standard on April 2, 1975, and later increased to 284 cars, totaling $241 million. The first car was delivered in October 1978, and they debuted on the Chicago - Milwaukee service on February 26, 1979. The coaches were the first cars delivered, so it was not until October 28, 1979, that the first Superliner-equipped long-haul train, the westbound Empire Builder, ran from Chicago to Seattle. The last car of the order, a sleeper delivered in July 1981, was also the last car ever built by Pullman, and was named in honor of the company's founder, George Mortimer Pullman.

When the Superliners began to arrive in the late 1970s, many Hi-Level coaches were converted into Coach-Dorms for crew use on Superliner trains. These were replaced in the 1990s by new Superliner II Transition Sleepers. Five El Capitan lounge cars were refurbished as the Coast Starlight's Pacific Parlour first-class lounge cars. These cars have a service bar, booths, and chairs on the upper level, and a theatre on the lower level. All other Hi-Level cars are no longer on the company's active roster.

The Superliner II fleet of 140 cars was built in 1993-94 at a cost of $340 million by Bombardier
Bombardier Transportation
Bombardier Transportation is the rail equipment division of the Canadian firm, Bombardier Inc. Bombardier Transportation is one of the world's largest companies in the rail-equipment manufacturing and servicing industry. Its headquarters are in Berlin, Germany....

 in Barre, Vermont, who acquired the designs and patents from Pullman in 1987. The introduction of these new cars permitted the use of Superliner cars on East Coast routes such as the Capitol Limited and AutoTrain.


The Superliners were the first Amtrak car type to be equipped with an on-board waste treatment and disposal system linked to all toilets. The initial design of this system retained toilet wastes until the train attained a pre-set speed (or a manually operated lever was moved) to dump the waste along the tracks beneath the moving train. Eventually a full-rentention system was installed that stopped this practice. Initially the cars could not be worked east of Chicago due to limited overhead clearances, but by the 1980s many eastern railroads had raised clearances on their tracks to permit tri-level auto-carriers and double stack container trains, which also permitted the operation of the Superliners.

The Superliner I and Superliner II differ somewhat in interior fittings, primarily in color - the newer cars tend toward gray, aquamarine, and salmon rather than the shades of brown and orange favored on earlier cars. Externally, the two classes differ in a number of subtle respects, but they are readily distinguished by the type of truck (bogie) the car uses: Superliner I cars use a German design originally fitted with an air bag suspension (replaced with springs), while the Superliner II cars use a General Steel Castings truck of the same type used on Horizon, Viewliner
The Viewliner is a single-level car type used by Amtrak on eastern routes. With the exception of a prototype dining car named "Indianapolis" , all cars built so far are sleeping cars and are assigned names that include the word "View."- Early design :...

, and the original self-propelled 1969 Metroliner
Budd Metroliner
The Budd Metroliner car was an electric multiple unit train designed for first-class, high-speed service on the Pennsylvania Railroad's route between New York City and Washington, DC....


Sleeping car

Two configurations exist for Superliner sleeping cars. Of the 125 sleeping cars, 119 are configured as below, and the remaining 6 cars are configured with all Bedrooms on the upper level.
  • Upper level:
    • 5 Bedrooms (formerly known as "Deluxe Bedrooms"), on one side of the car with the corridor on the other; furnished with upper and lower bunks and shower-equipped private toilet
    • 10 Roomette
      A roomette is a type of sleeping car compartment in a railroad passenger train. The term was first used in North America, and was carried over into Australia and New Zealand...

      s (formerly known as "Superliner Standard Bedrooms" and "Economy Bedrooms"), on both sides of the car with a central corridor; with upper and lower bunks
    • 1 shared toilet for Roomette passengers
    • Car-to-car passage
  • Lower level:
    • 1 Family Bedroom (entire width of the car), two adult bunks and two child bunks
    • 1 Accessible Bedroom (entire width of the car), two bunks and private shower/toilet
    • 4 Roomettes
    • 3 shared toilets for Roomette and Family Bedroom passengers
    • 1 shared shower
    • luggage racks
    • vestibule (unlike single-level passenger cars with a vestibule at each end of the car, a Superliner's single lower-level vestibule is in the center of the car)

Dining car

Superliner dining cars have almost the entire upper level available for seating, while the galley (kitchen) occupies the entire lower level. A dumbwaiter
Dumbwaiter (elevator)
Dumbwaiters are small freight elevators intended to carry objects rather than people. Dumbwaiters found within modern structures, including both commercial and private buildings, are often connected between two floors...

 is used to bring food to the dining level, as well as to return dishes and cutlery
Cutlery refers to any hand implement used in preparing, serving, and especially eating food in the Western world. It is more usually known as silverware or flatware in the United States, where cutlery can have the more specific meaning of knives and other cutting instruments. This is probably the...

 for washing. Amtrak operates 69 Superliner dining cars.


When originally delivered starting in 1981, Superliner I lounges were referred to as "Lounge Café" cars. These were fitted with enormous windows that wrapped upward into the ceiling, providing lateral views of scenery along the train's route. With the arrival of Superliner II cars in the 1990s, the nomenclature for all Superliner lounges with large windows became "Sightseer Lounge". In addition to the 50 Sightseer Lounges, five lounge cars were converted from Superliner I dining cars for Auto Train service. These cars, which are only found in that train, lack the larger windows of the Sightseer Lounge cars.

Superliner lounge cars once had an electric piano downstairs (featured briefly in the movie Continental Divide
Continental Divide (film)
Continental Divide is a 1981 American romantic comedy. It was directed by Michael Apted from an original screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and produced by Steven Spielberg and stars John Belushi and Blair Brown; the latter was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.An attempt was made during...

). In past years, smoking was allowed during set times in the lounge car. At one time, a large mechanical filter designed to clear the air of cigarette smoke was located on the lower level. Most cars retain a small operating wet-bar on the upper level near the centrally located stairs. The operation and stocking of this upper station is coordinated by the Lead Service Attendant operating the primary snack bar on the lower level. When the upper-level station is not staffed it is frequently used for storage of paper stock and supplies. The upper lounge station is often reactivated during seasonal peak periods on long distance trains, but only to serve light snacks like pretzels and cans of soda. This station is often staffed by an extra-board Attendant who turns back short of the full trip. On other routes, this upper bar may be used as a speaking podium for volunteer National Park Service rangers from the Trails and Rails program. The rest of the upper level is filled with a mixture of tables, swiveling chairs and love seats facing the expansive windows located above a full-length drink-holding trough. Video monitors are located on the end walls of the upper lounge and on some overnight trains movies are shown en route. The snack bars are not open all night, and in the late evening, the lights are turned down to allow better outside viewing. Ceiling-mounted spotlights above the seats and tables may be turned on by passengers to permit reading or game playing and socializing into the evening.


102 Superliner I coaches were built, and 48 Superliner I coach-baggage combination cars with a secure baggage hold instead of lower-level seating. 38 Superliner II coaches were added to the roster.

The "normal" Superliner coaches have 12 seats downstairs in addition to the 62 seats upstairs. The lower level coach seating is handicapped accessible (with space for a wheelchair or two) and is a special reservations category (with no additional charge). The coach-baggage combination cars have only upstairs seating. On the lower level in all coaches there are large luggage racks and, typically, four unisex toilets (one with a changing room), an accessible toilet, and a dedicated women's restroom.

Superliner coach seating is highly unlike airplane coach-class seating. Superliner coaches have wide two-and-two reclining seats, with footrests and retractable legrests. The 50 inches (127 cm) "pitch" (distance from one seat-back to the next) of the seats makes for very comfortable and commodious seating, and near lie-flat reclining angles, but puts the footrests out of reach of many passengers. There are overhead open luggage racks but they are not suitable for bulky objects.

Thirty of the coach-baggage combinations were later converted into "smoking coaches" with a smoking lounge replacing the baggage area and the outside baggage door in the side of the car sealed shut. Since all Amtrak trains are now non-smoking throughout (with the exception of Auto Train
Auto Train
Auto Train is an scheduled train service for passengers and their automobiles operated by Amtrak between Lorton, Virginia , and Sanford, Florida . Although there are similar services around the world, the Auto Train is the only one of its kind in the United States...

), all smoking coaches were converted back to coach-baggage cars. At least one train, the Texas Eagle, already uses a coach-baggage car in lieu of a stand-alone baggage car. Another train, the Coast Starlight
Coast Starlight
The Coast Starlight is a passenger train operated by Amtrak on the West Coast of the United States. It runs from King Street Station in Seattle, Washington, to Union Station in Los Angeles, California. The train's name was formed as a merging of two of Southern Pacific's train names, the Coast...

, uses a converted standard coach as a special "Arcade Car" (formerly dubbed the "Kiddie Car"), occupied downstairs by arcade games and token machines and upstairs by coach seats.

Of the 188 coaches of various types originally delivered, 159 are "in service" (as of late 2006), the remainder either wrecked and scrapped or wreck-damaged and awaiting either repairs or scrapping.

Transition Sleeper

Forty-seven "transition sleeper" cars were built for use on Superliner-equipped trains. Transition cars have been used in the past to connect single-level head end power (HEP) equipped cars with Superliner cars or other opposing transition cars on rare occasions. High-level Coach-Dorms had half of the upstairs space devoted to coach seating and were the predecessors to the current Superliner transition dorms. These coach-dorms often had a small table that was used as an office by the conductor and his train crew.

Transition sleepers feature roomette accommodations for members of the train's service crew (dining car and lounge car staff) on the upper level, and a handicapped bedroom and small crew lounge on the lower level. On the Capitol Limited, the half of the upper level closest to the revenue sleepers is sold for public occupancy. Sanitary facilities (toilets and showers) are on the upper and lower levels, along with the standard center vestibule. The "transition" in the name refers to the fact that these cars have a high-level end door and diaphragm
Diaphragm seal
A diaphragm seal is a flexible membrane that seals and isolates an enclosure. The flexible nature of this seal allows pressure effects to cross the barrier but not the material being contained....

 at only one end; the other end has a short staircase from the upper level leading to an end door at the height of standard single-deck railcar end doors. Theoretically, this could be used to allow passengers passage from single-level to Superliner cars in a single train; in practice, it is only used to allow the crew on-the-road access to the locomotives or the older, single-level baggage car
Baggage car
A baggage car or luggage van is a type of railway vehicle often forming part of the composition of passenger trains and used to carry passengers' checked baggage, as well as parcels . Being typically coupled at the front of the train behind the locomotive, this type of car is sometimes described...

s still used on many Superliner trains. During the initial rollout of Superliner II equipment on the Auto Train in the mid 1990s, these transition cars were located in mid-consist and they allowed Superliner Coaches to be mixed with Amfleet equipment and HEP-equipped Heritage diners, domes and sleepers.

Amtrak California "California Car"

In 1990 California passed Propositions 108 and 116 drastically expanding funding for intercity rail within the state. With this new source of money, the state set out to specify a standardized railcar for the state that would be suitable for both intercity and commuter rail operations. The result of this effort were designs for two variations of the Superliner. While the commuter rail version was never built, 88 cars of the intercity version were built. The most visible difference between the Superliner and the "California Car" is that the California Cars have two doors per side instead of one on the Superliners. The first California Cars (8000 series) were built by Morrison-Knudsen and were delivered in 1996. The remainder (6000 series) were built by Alstom
Alstom is a large multinational conglomerate which holds interests in the power generation and transport markets. According to the company website, in the years 2010-2011 Alstom had annual sales of over €20.9 billion, and employed more than 85,000 people in 70 countries. Alstom's headquarters are...

 and delivered in 2000 and 2001. Since 2007, Caltrans accepted delivery of seven rebuilt Superliners which had been damaged in accidents for use in Amtrak California service. These cars are painted in the Amtrak California
Amtrak California
Amtrak California is a brand name used by the Caltrans Division of Rail for all state-supported Amtrak rail routes within the U.S. State of California...

 or Surfliner schemes and have had their interiors reconfigured with denser seating. Funding has been obligated for a new order of 120 bilevel cars for Amtrak, intended for service in California and the Midwest.


After a 1999 collision with a gravel truck near Limehouse, Ontario
Limehouse, Ontario
Limehouse is a community in the Town of Halton Hills in southern Ontario, Canada. it has a population of about 800 people and its closest neighbours are Georgetown and Acton. Limehouse has many hills, trails and even a small school.-Limehouse Public School:...

 in which 13 passengers and 4 crew members were injured on a joint Amtrak
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak , is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union...

 - Via Rail
VIA Rail
Via Rail Canada is an independent crown corporation offering intercity passenger rail services in Canada. It is headquartered near Montreal Central Station at 3 Place Ville-Marie in Montreal, Quebec....

 route (the International Limited) that was pulling Superliners, the Transportation Safety Board found that many of the injuries could have been prevented if the passengers and baggage in the Superliners were restrained, that emergency equipment was difficult to find and in some cases impossible to access without the proper keys, the wheelchair accessible bathrooms automatically locked when the car doors were opened and could not be opened without a special key and the sidewalls of the cars did not provide sufficient protection in a collision. The latter issue was raised with the Federal Railroad Administration
Federal Railroad Administration
The Federal Railroad Administration is an agency in the United States Department of Transportation. The agency was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966...

. Via Rail and Amtrak withdrew the Superliner from use in Canada, using instead Amfleet
Amfleet is a series of intercity railroad passenger cars built for the operator Amtrak by the manufacturer Budd Company in two series during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, Amfleet cars are used extensively throughout the Amtrak system outside the western United States...

 or Heritage Fleet
Heritage Fleet
Heritage Fleet was a program started by Amtrak in 1977 to convert its older, mainly streamlined, cars from steam heating to head end power. Head end power conversions were performed at Amtrak's heavy repair center in Beech Grove, Indiana, outside of Indianapolis...

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