Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak E units’

It Made it to Amfleet

June 30, 2020

Amtrak’s E and F units are not commonly associated with having pulled Amfleet equipment but a handful of them did.

Five Amtrak E8A units were converted by Penn Central shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to be compatible with passenger cars operating with head end power.

No, 499, shown above in Springfield, Massachusetts, on May 3, 1977, was the first conversion to be undertaken and was completed in May 1974.

That was followed by three more conversions that year and one more conversion in August 1975.

Once the program was completed the five HEP compatible E unit were given roster numbers 495-499 but for some reason the sequence does not show the order in which the units were converted.

Like many of Amtrak’s early locomotives, No. 499 had a long history.

It was built in October 1952 for the Pennsylvania Railroad as No. 5711A. It subsequently became Penn Central No. 4311 and Amtrak renumbered it as 317.

It remained on the Amtrak roster until May 1983 when it and No. 498 were retired. The last three E8HEP locomotives, as Amtrak designated them, were retired in October 1985.

Photograph by Joe Snopek


Pretty as a Picture in Joliet

April 13, 2019

Amtrak was nearly two years old when Robert Farkas captured EMD E9A No. 407 leading the southbound Prairie State at Joliet, Illinois, in April 1973.

Train No. 301 had originated in Milwaukee and is en route to St. Louis where it will turn and return this evening as the Abraham Lincoln.

The photographer commented that the paint on No. 407 looked almost new, which it might well have been.

No. 407 was originally Milwaukee Road 31A although it had been built in February 1956 as No. 201A.

Train 301 will operate between Milwaukee and St. Louis until Oct. 1, 1973, when new Turboliner equipment will be assigned to the run.

Engine No. 407 would solider on for Amtrak until being retired in July 1981. Well before then, though, all of Amtrak’s Midwest corridor trains would have received Amfleet equipment and end was in site for steam-heated cars assigned to the long-distance trains.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

The National Limited Takes a Detour

December 19, 2016

The westbound National Limited arrives in the station at Mattoon, Ilinois, in May 1977 on a detour move. The train is using the former New York Central route to St. Louis due to track work on its regular route over the former Pennsylvania Railroad route via Effingham, Illinois.


The National Limited handled mail from New York to Los Angeles that was interchanged to the Southwest Limited in Kansas City. Note that the former NYC passenger platform is still in place at right nine years after the last NYC passenger train here was discontinued.


The Amtrak conductor and two other crew members wait in the vestibule of a coach as the eastbound National Limited arrives in Mattoon, Illinois, in May 1977 on a detour move.


The eastbound National Limited departs from Mattoon, Illinois, on former New York Central rails. It will regain its regular route in Terre Haute, Indiana. A portion of the former NYC passenger station is visible at right.

It was not unusual for Amtrak’s National Limited to detour between Terre Haute, Indiana, and St. Louis.

The scheduled route was via the former Pennsylvania Railroad via Effingham, Illlinois, but the Penn Central dispatcher had the option of running the train over the ex-New York Central route through Mattoon, Illinois.

After Conrail took over Penn Central in 1976, it began rebuilding the ex-Pennsy route used by Amtrak Nos. 30 and 31.

In late April 1977, the National Limited was rescheduled to operate during the afternoon hours between St. Louis and Effingham. That also coincided with the track gang hours.

So, for a good part of May 1977, Nos. 30 and 31 detoured via the ex-NYC route, making the Effingham stop at the former NYC passenger platform in Mattoon

The last NYC passenger train through Mattoon had been discontinued in March 1968, but the platform was still in place on the south side of the tracks.

I was a young reporter for the Mattoon Journal Gazette and I gave myself an assignment one afternoon to cover the detour of the National Limited.

I went down to the tracks, interviewed waiting passengers, and made photographs of both trains using Kodak Tri-X film.

Much has changed since that May 1977 day. The National Limited was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1979, and in March 1982, Conrail abandoned the former NYC tracks through Mattoon. The rails were picked up a year later.

The former NYC station has since been razed. The platforms remained in place for several years after the tracks were pulled up, but were eventually taken out in the early 2000s to make way for a parking lot for the YMCA.

It’s All Gone Now

September 5, 2016


Just about everything  you see in this view is gone. That includes Amtrak E units, the National Limited, the tracks the train is using and the former New York Central passenger station on the right.

It is May 1977 and the New York-Kansas City National Limited is detouring through Mattoon, Illinois, due to track work on its regular route via Effingham.

It is early in the Conrail era and the decision has been made to favor the former Pennsylvania Railroad route to St. Louis via Effingham over the former New York Central route via Mattoon.

But it will be a few more years before Conrail can implement that plan. In the meantime, the ex-NYC route continues to host most of the St. Louis-bound manifest freights and, on occasion, Amtrak Nos. 30 and 31.

At the time, the National Limited was pulled by E units because Conrail had let it be known it didn’t want Amtrak’s SDP40F locomotives on its property.

Amtrak did serve Mattoon with its Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans trains, which used the former Illinois Central, which was Illinois Central Gulf in 1977.

That station was behind me and could be accessed from the former NYC platform via a freight elevator.

Pulling No. 30 is E9A No. 430, a former Union Pacific locomotive that on this day was looking rather tired and shabby. But it got the job done and that was all that counted.

In another hour the eastbound National Limited will pass through Mattoon, but I won’t be around to see it for I will have boarded No. 30 to travel to St. Louis.

The National Limited succumbed to a route restructuring plan that was implemented on Oct. 1, 1979. About a year before that, Nos. 30 and 31 lost their steam-heated equipment in favor of Amfleet and F40PH locomotives.

Conrail abandoned the former NYC through Mattoon in March 1982 and pulled up the tracks in May 1983.

The former NYC station and platform remained in place for more than 20 years after the tracks were removed. The station was razed on April 9, 2004.

Today this scene is a parking lot for a YMCA that was built north of where the NYC tracks used to run.

Happy 45th Anniversary, Amtrak

May 1, 2016

45 year Amtrak TT

Amtrak 1st day loco

Today (May 1) marks the 45th anniversary since the startup of Amtrak. Shown in the top image is a comparison of the passenger carrier’s first timetable and, as turns out, what will be the last system timetable that it plans to print.

A lot of changed in 45 years and not just the front covers of the system timetables. In 1971, Amtrak was just a name. It had only a handful of employees and relied on its contract railroads to perform nearly every task involved in getting the trains over the road as well as serviced and stocked.

For a first day ceremony, Amtrak had Penn Central E8A No. 4316 painted in a one-of-a-kind livery. The Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive continued to work in Amtrak service in this livery for several months.

In the photograph above, it is shown in Chicago. It would later become Amtrak No. 322 and, in 1977, Amtrak No. 461, the second locomotive to wear that number. It was retired from the Amtrak roster in July 1981.

Encounter with an old ‘Friend’

April 19, 2009
Amtrak No. 470 reposed on the dead line at Beech Grove Shops on August 11, 1991. It was rare to see a locomotive at this late date still wearing the Phase 1 livery that Amtrak created in 1972.

Amtrak No. 470 reposes on the dead line at Beech Grove Shops on August 11, 1991. It was rare to see a locomotive at this late date still wearing the Phase 1 livery that Amtrak created in 1972.

While looking through my collection of photographs of Amtrak trains recently I ran across the photo shown above of E unit No. 470. This image was made on August 11, 1991, at the Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis.

Seeing this photo of No. 470 brought back some memories and reminded me of how my thinking about Amtrak’s early locomotive power has changed. But more about that later.

Look at this image and what do you see? Most would probably see a locomotive that is clearly past its prime. The peeling paint suggests that No. 470 had received little attention from Amtrak maintenance forces for some time.

Indeed it was a wonder that No. 470 was still at Beech Grove. It had been nearly eight years since Amtrak had used E units. That No. 470 is still wearing the Phase I livery suggests that it had not seen service for an even longer period of time.

But No. 470 was no ordinary E unit. Built by EMD in May 1955 for the Baltimore & Ohio, it wore number 1454 when it was conveyed to Amtrak. Its original Amtrak number was 400 and the limited roster information that I have indicates that it spent a good portion of its time assigned to Cumberland, Maryland, working on such trains as the Blue Ridge and James Whitcomb Riley.

In 1978 No. 400 was rebuilt into a prototype fuel tender, its traction motors and engine removed and replaced with fuel tanks. The idea was to place it between two F40PH locomotives on long-distance trains so as to avoid having to refuel en route.

Environmental regulations set to take effect in 1983 would mean that Amtrak would have to refurbish its refueling stations, something that might cost $20 million. Hence, a fuel tender was tried as a way to get around having to do that.

The test ruins using No. 400 as a fuel tender were successful. It was renumbered No. 470, the second E-unit to carry that number. The original No. 470 had been a former Union Pacific E9A.

The fuel tender idea failed to catch on, although I do not know why. Maybe the environmental regulations changed, but I suspect that Amtrak decided that instead of using fuel tenders it would refuel locomotives with trucks or refueling facilities owned by its contract railroads.

At the time that I photographed No. 470 on this humid August Sunday I paid little attention to it. I was at Beech Grove courtesy of a friend who was permitted to come in and look around on weekends when no one was working. My primary objective was to photograph the F40s, particularly to get some cab interior shots.

There were a lot of F40s parked outside the diesel shop and a few retired P30CHs. I only grabbed this snap snot of No. 470 because it has been years since I had seen an Amtrak E unit, let along one painted in the Phase I livery.

I wish I had spent more time examining No. 470. I see that the door on the engineer’s side is open and I wish I would have climbed up there and had a look around. The control stand may have been gone by then, but maybe not. But I didn’t have time for an old, ratty-looking E unit. And that was the way it was when the E units were still working Amtrak trains in the late 1970s.

In those days I was disappointed when I saw that the Amtrak train that I was ticketed to ride was being pulled by an E unit. E units were has-beens. I was enamored with the SDP40Fs, the F40s and the P30s because those locomotives represented progress.

Never mind that E units were classics. Their time had come and gone and I didn’t care for them all that much. They were another generation’s locomotive. They did not belong to my generation.

As I write this in 2009, I’m a lot older and a little wiser. I wish that I had not been so dismissive of the E and F units that I once disdained. There aren’t many of them left now except on tourist railroads, in museums and at the head of the Norfolk Southern executive train. I spent most of a day last year traveling to Bellevue just to see the NS executive train so I could see something that was once commonplace.

The SDP40s and P30s are gone now as are many of Amtrak’s F40s. Some F40s still live in commuter train service, on VIA Rail Canada and in other assignments here and there. A few survive on Amtrak as non-powered “cabbage cars” used in push-pull service.

I still have a lot of fondness for SDP40s, P30s and F40s. They remind me of a formative time in my life. It’s funny how things that impressed you at a young age tend to stick with you. Things just seem to make more of an impression when you are in you early 20s. I like that blue and silver Genesis units that are ubiquitous at the head of Amtrak trains today, but I can’t say that I love them as much as I did the aforementioned three models that came out in the 1970s.

To be sure, there are a lot of guys around my age who have always loved E units. It just took me a long time to understand that I should have respected and appreciated them a lot more when I had the chance to see them and ride behind them.