AMTK Crescent plus ATIP car on the #backbelt in New Orleans.

amtk crescent plus atip

cross-posted to New Orleans Railroads.

AMTK Crescent plus ATIP

Amtrak Crescent #20 Northbound on the NS #BackBelt, 15 minutes out of Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans (NOL). The red car directly behind the engines is DOTX 221, a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Automatic Track Inspection Program (ATIP) car. DOTX 221 was originally a VIA Rail (Canada) sleeper-lounge-buffet car. It was later sold to Hartwell Lowe Corporation, who operated it as private car, “Belle McKee.”

DOTX 221 uses the classic Tuscan Red livery of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Norfolk Southern absorbed PRR. So, it’s good to see a bit of a shout-out to a classic livery.

Special Cars

Amtrak restricted special cars prior to the pandemic. The rules for hitching along on scheduled trains present challenges for most “private varnish” cars. Additionally, cars with open observation decks don’t fit the requirements at all. So, the number of special cars coming and going from New Orleans is limited. AMTK Crescent plus ATIP is a treat.

While the private cars aren’t rolling, DOTX 221 continues its job. This car belongs to the Federal Railroad Administration. So, it’s not restricted.


The Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP) cars operate as part of regularly scheduled trains. Rather than running special consists for track inspection, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) hitches rides. So, track inspection happens on a consistent basis. Trains run normally.

FRA hitches ATIP cars to Amtrak trains because they (usually) stick to schedule. They also move at a faster clip than freight consists. The FRA gets their data with minimal disruption.

Crescent #20

Amtrak currently operates the following consist on the Northbound Crescent out of NOL:

  • 2 Genesis engines
  • 3 Coach cars
  • 1 Cafe car
  • 2 Sleepers
  • 1 Bag-dorm car

Additionally, the Crescent still operates on a 3-trains-a-week schedule, cut back from daily, due to the pandemic. So, #20 departs NOL on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. It returns to NOL on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Hopefully we’ll see more “special” trains like AMTK Crescent plus ATIP.



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