Bombardier Comet

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History and design

The Comet car was designed by Pullman-Standard as a lightweight, durable, high-capacity commuter car in the late 1960s for the locomotive-hauled commuter services of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, to be used on their lines radiating from New York.

Boston's MBTA, in need of some new equipment, ordered 60 cars from Pullman-Standard in 1978. Outwardly identical to the original cars built for the E-L, the new MTBA cars formed the backbone of the railroad's new fleet heading into the 1980s.

1981 saw Pullman-Standard spin off its passenger railcar designs and marketing to Pullman Technology, a wholely-owned subsidiary, while P-S continued to focus on freight cars. This was followed up in 1983 with NJ Transit's first order for an updated version of the cars, dubbed the Comet II.

Purchase by Bombardier

In April 1987, Pullman Technology was purchased by Bombardier, primarily for the many railcar designs they owned. This lead to Bombardier building an order placed by Boston's MBTA for 40 coaches.

In 1988 Montréal's STCUM placed an order with Bombardier for 24 Comet II cars. This was the first (and still only) order of Comet cars outside of the U.S.

Bombardier was busy in 1989 and 1990 - Amtrak ordered 104 long-distance versions of the Comet car. Dubbed the Horizon fleet, the cars are used in the Midwest and in California. They also differ from the commuter cars by their heavier outside-bearing GSI trucks and their manual vestibule doors.

1990 saw two other orders being completed - another order from the MBTA for 54 coaches and 52 cab cars, and an NJT order for 35 coaches and 11 cab cars. Both of these were for the updated Comet III - among other differences and improvements were some structural modifications to help strengthen the area around the cabs of the cab cars. As well, NJT's cars were delivered with center doors for use at high-platform stations.

In 1996, NJT began receiving their last order of Comet cars, the Comet IV order. 47 coaches and 21 cab cars were built in total.


The car bodies are welded from aluminum sheets and structural shapes and then rivetted to the steel underframe. This, along with lightweight trucks used under the commuter versions, allowed for a very light car (approximate empty weights of less than 40 tonnes) - and in theory saving on operating costs. The cars are designed to withstand all FRA crashworthiness standards when they were constructed, although due to ever increasing requirements all cab cars starting with the Comet IV no longer have vestibules at the cab position (right side) at that end.

One of the most popular options is to have some cars equipped with a cab. This allows a trainset to be controlled from either end, eliminating the need for turning loops or runaround sidings. Other options that are or have been available include washrooms, high-level doorways and snack counters.

Recent NJ Transit orders

NJT's most recent cars, the Comet V and Comet VI orders are very different from the original Comet concept, and aren't Comet cars in the true sense. The Comet V's are built by Siemens AG, and feature a stainless steel body and considerably larger windows. They aren't built to the traditional Comet envelope, and instead appear closer in shape to the Bombardier M7 car developed for New York's Metro North and Long Island Railroad.

The Comet VI cars are more different still - although they are built by Bombardier, they are built using the stainless steel, low-clearance MultiLevel two-story car design.



Exo - Réseau de transport métropolitain - 16 coaches, 8 cab cars, 24 cars leased from NJT

United States

Frontrunner - 30 cars (purchased from NJT)
Metrolink (leased from NJT)
New Jersey Transit - 279 coaches, 67 cab cars (some ex-Erie-Lackawanna, many being retired)
Metro North
MBTA - 149 coaches, 67 cab cars (some converted to coaches, some retired)
SEPTA - 35 coaches, 10 cab cars
Amtrak - 104 long distance cars


Don Strack's Pullman History
MBTA Roster
Unofficial NJ Transit Page
July 1991 Model Railroader magazine