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The Trinity Railway Express (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas)

Trinity Railway Express Logo (c. TRE)

Little known outside of the Dallas - Fort Worth Metroplex, the Trinity Railway Express ("TRE") is a quickly growing, efficient, and popular commuter rail system between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth. Kalmbach's Trains magazine recently called it the "passenger rail success story of 2002". So far, the TRE story has been marked by continued expansion combined with grasping opportunities. This has led to what is probably a unique system, running efficient refurbished stock from the 1950s alongside more powerful modern EMD passenger locomotives. And although the main route between Dallas and Fort Worth has been completed, double tracking is in progress with a new crossing over the Trinity River, and plans exist for further expansion in the Fort Worth area, and a possible rail link to DFW Airport.

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Route

Route map for the Trinity Railway Express and DART Light Rail; Click for full size version (c. TRE)
Click for full size map (810KB)

The route of the Trinity Railway Express runs from Dallas Union Station through to Fort Worth's old T&P station. A number of extension proposals are under consideration, although current expansion work is in the form of double-tracking the many single-track sections of the route. Starting from Dallas:

Dallas Union Station
Union Station is the Dallas terminus of the TRE, and is probably its busiest station. As well as being located in Downtown Dallas, it is an interchange for the DART Light Rail system and Amtrak.

Victory Station (American Airlines Center)
Built specially for the American Airlines Center, trains stop here for scheduled events. In the near future, this station will also be served with DART light rail running from the West End and Union Stations.

Medical/Market Center
This station serves the Medical District and Market Center.

South Irving Transit Center
South Irving is a major interchange with DART buses, and is located in the Downtown Irving. South Irving also marks the location of a junction with the BNSF, and the Herzog maintenance yard.
With the large numbers of small industrial spurs and storage sidings in the area, you will often see BNSF switching movements in the vicinity of here.

West Irving
This serves the western end of the surprisingly wide city of Irving.

Centreport / DFW Airport
Centreport marks the fare zone boundary between the Fort Worth and Dallas sides of the TRE. A shuttle bus connects Centreport to DFW International Airport. Proposals exist for a rail extension all the way to the airport.

Hurst / Bell

Richland Hills

Fort Worth Intermodal Transit Center (ITC) Station
Fort Worth ITC is a major interchange between the TRE, Amtrak, and buses operated by The T (Fort Worth Transit Authority). The Fort Worth Convention Center is a short walk away, as is the old Santa Fe station which has now been converted into small shops and restaurants.
With regular Union Pacific and BNSF freight trains coming through the junction near the ITC, this is a popular location for railfans.

Fort Worth Texas & Pacific (T&P) Station
The old T&P station is the current Fort Worth terminus of the TRE.
As with the ITC, this is a busy location for rail-fans.

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Brief History

The Old and the New: Budd RDC and F59phi at the TRE Yard (c. Jim Malone)

The Trinity Railway Express has its genesis back in the mid-1980s, when the assets of the bankrupt Rock Island railroad were being sold off. The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth combined their resources to buy the 34 miles of Rock Island main line between their cities for $34 million, with the long term goal of starting a commuter service. Predicted population growth and limited highway capacity, made this transit corridor potentially very valuable.

The TRE project remained a low priority project for the future until 1994, when the cities passed the project to their transit authorities, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), with instructions to get things started. Just as the first segment of the TRE was getting started, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys (Jerry Jones) attempted to halt the TRE. Jerry Jones tried to get the City of Irving to pay for improvements to the Texas Stadium in 1996, but thought his chances were unlikely unless Irving pulled out of DART and freed its transit sales tax to be used by the Dallas Cowboys. This was some admittedly weird logic: a transit headache (the Texas Stadium) trying to grab the transit taxes which might have helped to alleviate some of the road congestion, but yes he tried it. Jerry Jones managed to get his stadium tax on the ballot, but was voted down with 57% of Irving voters voting for the Trinity Railway Express to go ahead instead.

After three years of planning, the first services finally started in February of 1997 from Dallas Union Station to the South Irving Transit Center. This initial service used equipment rented from Amtrak and the Connecticut Department of Transport for the first few months, whilst the Budd RDCs were being refurbished.

The TRE quickly became a success, which kept on growing as the route extended towards Fort Worth. The second leg to Richland Hills was opened at the end of 2000, and the first F59phi hauled Bi-Level trains were purchased to handle the growing traffic.


F59ph & F59phi trains at the TRE Yard, main line is on the far right (c. Jim Malone)

Traffic saw large leaps in 2001 due to the opening of the American Airlines Center in July (with a dedicated TRE station and services starting a few months later), and the opening of the third leg to the Fort Worth ITC and T&P stations.

Today, the TRE is seen as a great passenger train success story. Many people prefer it to get in to the cities of Fort Worth and Dallas, and the DART Light Rail interchange at Union Station allows connections to services throughout the Dallas area.

The TRE is also set to grow. A number of the single track sections are being converted to double track, a new crossing is being built over the Trinity between South Irving and Medical-Market, and plans exist for future extensions on the Fort Worth area.

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Rolling Stock

The Trinity Railway Express operates two main kinds of trains. Low traffic trains are usually handled by refurbished Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs), whilst busier trains are comprised of Bombardier Bi-level cars operated as push-pull sets with motive power provided by either an EMD F59ph or an EMD F59phi.


Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs)

TRE Budd RDCs passing the American Airlines Center (c. TRE)

Budd constructed its Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) in the 1950s for relatively low traffic passenger routes, and they are credited with saving many of the smaller rural and inter-urban passenger services. Most are now out of service, but the TRE has thirteen RDCs which were purchased from the VIA Rail System in Canada. These have been nicely refurbished by AMF Transport. The refurbished cars are equipped with high-back upholstered seats; non-skid rubber flooring; overhead luggage racks; full air condition, heating, and ventilation; as well as wheelchair access and space for four wheelchairs per RDC car.

Manufacturer:Budd
Vehicle Type: Dual-cab, self-propelled rail vehicle/car 
Height:14ft 8in
Width:10ft
Length:85ft
Weight:135,000 pounds
Capacity:88/96 seated passengers
Top speed:79mph
 Average speed: 45mph
Body:Stainless steel

F59ph

TRE F59ph No. 565 pushing an early morning train out of South Irving towards Dallas (c. author)

Growing traffic led to the TRE purchasing four F59ph locomotives in 2000, to haul Bombardier Bi-level cars.

The F59ph was originally designed by EMD and Ontario's GO Transit agency. These incorporated a CN-style comfort cab, 12-cylinder 3000hp engine, and an independent HEP engine-generator to power the passenger cars. Despite reluctance from EMD, these quickly became a big success with GO and were quickly adopted by Metrolink in Los Angeles and other operators. Production of the original F59ph stopped in 1994 with the introduction of the streamlined "California style" F59phi variant.

Manufacturer:EMD (General Motors)
Vehicle Type: Diesel-Electric Locomotive 
Production:1988-1994
Height:15ft 10in
Width:10ft 6in
Length:58ft 2in
Top speed:about 63mph
Weight:260,000 pounds
Power:3000hp
Engine:12-710G3B
Alternator:AR15/CA5
 Traction Motors: D87B

"California" F59phi

TRE F59phi pulling in to Fort Worth ITC Station (c. TRE)

In addition to the F59ph locomotives, the TRE has purchased two of the "California style" variant, the F59phi. Due to the sleeker, more modern look of these locomotives, they tend to be used on all modern TRE publicity material, rather than the more numerous Budd RDCs and F59ph locomotives.

The "California style" F59phi variant of the original F59 was created in 1994 for the California DoT's "Amtrak California" services. The diesel-electric systems were slightly updated, but the most significant change was the streamlined and isolated cab with fibreglass nose. The carbody was extended down with side skirts over the fuel tanks; and the roof profile was amended to blend with bi-level "California cars" specially designed for this service. Although many operators including the TRE did not choose the "California cars", the F59phi became a great success with such diverse operators as the Seattle's Sound Transit "Sounder", Vancouver BC's Translink, and the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation.


Closeup of the Cab of F59phi No. 569, South Irving (c. author)
Manufacturer:EMD (General Motors)
Vehicle Type: Diesel-Electric Locomotive 
Production:1994 - current
Height:15ft 10in
Width:10ft 6in
Length:58ft 7in
Top speed:about 63mph
Weight:268,000 pounds
Power:3000hp
Engine:12-710G3B-EC
Alternator:AR15/CA6
 Traction Motors: D87BTR

Bombardier Cars

An early morning Bombadier Cab Car pulling into South Irving Station (c. author)

The F59ph and F59phi diesel-electric locomotives haul Bombardier Bi-level passenger cars. These are operated as push-pull sets, with the locomotive situated on the Fort Worth side of each train. The train is controlled from the locomotive cab for services towards Fort Worth, and from special Bombardier cab cars for services towards Dallas. The cab car is always positioned at the rear (Dallas end) of the train and has a cab and controls for controlling the "pushing" locomotive. It is also equipped with the correct lights and horns.

The TRE's regular passenger cars were refurbished by Amtrak at Beech Grove, IN in 2000. The cab cars were purchased new directly from Bombardier.

 Vehicle Type:  Bi-Level Passenger Coach  Bi-Level Cab Car 
Manufacturer:BombardierBombardier
Height:15ft 11in15ft 11in
Width:9ft 10in9ft 10in
Length:84ft 4in84ft 4in
Weight:109,000lb110,500lb
Body:AluminiumAluminium
Capacity:148142

Both the passenger cars and the control cabs have full heating, air conditioning, and ventilation. They also have wheelchair access, workstation tables, bicycle racks, and luggage racks. The cab cars are also fitted with restrooms which are wheelchair accessible.

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Maintenance

The Federal Railroad Administration's Geometry Car at the TRE Yard (c. Jim Malone)

Originally, the TRE contracted with both the Union Pacific (UP) and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) for maintenance and centralised traffic control. Herzog Transportation has since taken over these duties, although both the UP and the BNSF operate freight trains over parts of the TRE-owned line.

Herzog own two locomotives for maintenance operations, and these are kept at the TRE Rock Island Yard in west Irving. Maintenance rolling stock such as ballast gondolas and track tampers are stored at the South Irving TRE station, and are usually visible from the public platform.

Current construction is focused on the line between South Irving and Medical-Market stations, where double-tracking and construction of a new crossing over the Trinity River are in progress.

Further maintenance information to be added as I find it. Can you help?

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Models

N scale Athearn F59phi No. 569 with one Bombardier passenger car (c. author)

Athearn have recently produced HO and N scale models of both the F59phi and Bombardier bi-level cars. These are available in a variety of liveries, including the TRE "Lone Star" livery. However in 2004 TRE prohibited Athearn from selling any further TRE-liveried rolling stock, after a disagreement over licensing. The exact nature of the disagreement is unclear and muddied by conflicting rumours. A lawyer for DART has been reported as saying that other model manufacturers are interested in licensing the TRE livery.

I have a set of the N scale models, and they have already proven to be popular at local train shows. Generally these are good models, and the Bombardier cars particularly show some excellent printing. My F59phi runs well but can be a bit noisy. This is not a problem in an exhibition hall, but is very noticeable in the quiet of your house. I have heard some reports of less-than-smooth running. As ever, it is a good idea to get the dealer to test run the locomotive before you purchase it.


N scale Athearn Bombardier cab car (c. author)

The locomotive has working headlights for both the front and the rear. Unfortunately, none of the rear lights work, the ditch lights do not flash, and none of the lights on the Bombardier cab car work. This latter absence is a little odd, considering that the headlight on the rear of the F59phi works - even though you would very rarely see it on the prototype! I hope to fix this problem with the lights using the products of Richmond Controls, and will report any progress that I make.


N scale Athearn F59phi No. 569 (c. author)

I am not aware of any models of the F59ph in any scale. It should be possible to kit-bash an F59ph using a chassis from an Athearn F59phi and using body shell components from other modern EMD diesels.

Kato sell N scale models of the Budd RDCs. This model has received some great reviews, but Kato are yet to produce an RDC with either of the TRE liveries that have been used on the RDCs. As the TRE is one of the few organisations which still operates Budd RDCs, there is a good change that Kato may eventually produce a model of the Budd RDC with the newer TRE "Lone Star" livery.

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Further Reading

The following resources were used in the writing of this page, and are recommended for people looking for further information.

Online


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Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements are in brackets at the end of each picture caption.


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