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Florida's new Double Decker DMUs

Well, you know me by now. I took a much-needed vacation to Durango, Col. in mid-August 2004. I knew I was going to be on the same general side of the planet as Colorado Railcar's plant, so I arranged to pay a visit to Ft. Lupton and see what was up. First and foremost on my mind was getting a sneak preview of the new DMUs under construction for Florida DOT to test on Tri-Rail. As a bonus, I also photographed Alaska Railroad's new cars, and the former Marlboro SPA car, which are covered in the linked pages.

The above illustration depicts the new DMU set at Tri-Rail's Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport station in Dana Beach, Fla., and gives good idea (with one key exception that we will cover later on) of what the finished products will look like. The lead unit is the new double decker DMU, followed by the unpowered coach and the original DMU prototype. The illustration was prepared and generously provided by Colorado Railcar.

Tom Janaky, Colorado Railcar's VP of Sales, was my guide for this tour. If there is one person on the planet that could be labeled as the DMU's biggest fan, I think he would be the guy. It's pretty obvious if you spend any kind of time at all talking to him that the DMUs are a source of the pride for the company, starting right at the top. With the prototype sitting beside the shop to receive a little TLC, Mr. Janaky was more than happy to pose for a quick portrait.

Since being sold to the FRA and Florida DOT, the car's exterior was temporarily changed to reflect the project. Prominent RTA logos now adorn her flanks and nose, along with some other lettering. As part of it's visit back to Ft. Lupton, the 2002 will receive a new coat of white and blue paint to match the rest of the Tri-Rail equipment that it will be running with.

As built, CRMX 2002 was designed to be a show-and-tell, everything to everybody car. Even so, the transformation to a working revenue car has been remarkably subtle. Since I last saw the 2002, the interior has changed only slightly. Most obvious is the removal of the carpet in favor of more utilitarian vinyl flooring. The silver backed "no frills" seating isn't long for the car either, and is slated to be replaced by more of the cushier business class seating. Also, the small service bar in the back half of the cars is being removed to allow for another group of booth seats. The dome type windows will stay.

Mr. Janaky used the term "spatial concept" several times, and here's a good example of what he meant. The proof is in the pudding - or in this case, a full size mock up of one entrance, the lower level with windows, stairs, and the upper level of the double Decker DMU. Before committing it to more expensive sheet metal, several key measurements needed to be tested. Much more effective to make mistakes before it takes a welder to fix them.

Talk about your models. This 1:1 scale job was intended mainly to prove one point: that the headroom would be sufficient at the top of the stairs. If you think about it, the double deckers are the first cars built by CRM with straight staircases. The more elegant spiral staircases that the luxury domes have would be out out place on a car where moving volumes of people in and out in a hurry is a priority. So the concept had to be tested.

As Mr. Janaky put it (and I'm paraphrasing) "you can make lines on paper and have it look good, but nothing beats actually trying it in three dimensions." In keeping, this mock up was built to exact specifications (that's the DMU's plans taped to the wall) so people could come outside and walk up and down it. And if even one change was made as a result of this test, then it more than paid for itself. And even if it was perfect the first time around, a little peace of mind goes a long way.

Inside the shop, we found the top of the double Decker coach on the assembly jig. This car wasn't quite as far along as the double Decker DMU, so it was still more or less spread out across the back half of the shop in several different assemblies. The car's center sill was right next to the double Decker, but was not photographed.

Despite being an unpowered trailer coach, the car will still the DMU-type roof fans, etc. to accommodate the air conditioners and other comfort appliances. After looking at the top of the coach, we headed over to look a the star attraction, the double decker DMU...

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