Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Genesis locomotives’

Daylight Capitol Limited in Berea

June 23, 2020

My recollection is that it was late afternoon when I made this photograph of Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited in Berea, Ohio.

That would make Train No. 29 about 12 hours late. I don’t know what happened to cause the delay.

It is July 1996 and the Capitol reflects a transition period for Amtrak motive power.

On the point is a new P40 locomotive wearing the Phase III livery. Behind it is an F40PH.

Between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s the F40 was the primary road locomotive used to pull Amtrak’s long-distance trains. Most corridor trains  outside the Northeast Corridor also F40s on the point.

This mixing of Genesis units and F40s would not last long. The P42DC began to join the fleet and away went Phase III paint and F40s aside from a few that were rebuilt into cab control units without prime movers.

Chargers Pull Test Train on Empire Builder Route

February 3, 2020

Amtrak is operating a test train on three routes that is being pulled by a pair of Siemens Charger locomotives.

The consist included two SC-44 units, a P42DC locomotive, a Horizon Fleet car, three Viewliners baggage cars, a Viewliner passenger car and four Superliner cars.

The train operated from Chicago to Seattle last Tuesday and was designed to simulate the weight and length of a long-distance train.

“The purpose of this trip is to gather data,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari, adding that officials from Amtrak and Siemens were on the train.

Additional tests runs are being made on the routes of the Coast Starlight and California Zephyr.

An online report indicated that the test train departed on the route of the Zephyr on Sunday morning and is due into Chicago on Tuesday afternoon.

Amtrak said in December 2018 that it would purchase 75 Siemens Charger locomotives for long-distance trains to replace its GE-built P40 and P42DC locomotives.

The Genesis series locomotives have been in service for more than 25 years.

The Chargers are expected to begin arriving at Amtrak in mid 2021.

Currently Chargers are in service on corridor trains in the Midwest and West.

Late Day in Jackson

June 1, 2018

It is late afternoon in Jackson, Michigan. Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Cities is making its scheduled stop at the venerable former Michigan Central station en route to Pontiac via Detroit.

To avoid having to turn the motive power in Pontiac, the Lake Cities and other trains on the Chicago-Detroit route at the time operated with a locomotive or cab car on one end.

I don’t recall what No. 353 had on the head end, but on the rear was P42DC No. 34 in the Phase IV livery.

When this image was made on Sept. 12, 2003, the Genesis locomotives had been mainstays on Amtrak corridor and long-distance trains for about a decade.

Some things have changed on the Chicago-Detroit corridor since I made this image. All trains have been renamed Wolverine Service and the trains no longer have locomotives or cab cars on both ends.

The Jackson station no longer has a ticket agent, only a caretaker to open and close the depot at train time.

Yet the P42DC remains the mainstay motive power, at least for now. Amtrak was to begin assigning Charger locomotives to this route, once it gets some positive train control issues worked out.

The F40 is Still Serving as the Face of Amtrak

April 27, 2009

I was looking at the cover of an Amtrak timetable for the Lake Shore Limited while waiting for a photograph to upload to one of my blogs when I came to a startling realization. The timetable, dated October 27, 2008, had an image of an F40PH locomotive on the cover.

Yes, that is an F40PH locomotive adoring the logo that appaears on recent Amtrak timetables and in print advertisements.

Yes, that is an F40PH locomotive adorning the logo that appaears on recent Amtrak timetables and in print advertisements.

Why is that startling? Because it has been more than a decade since the F40 was Amtrak’s primary diesel locomotive. Today members of the Genesis family of locomotives pull most Amtrak trains.

Yet there was no mistaking that the image of the locomotive within the circular logo promoting how Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations is an F40. The square nose and positioning of the headlights are a dead give away. Even the nose markings are suggestive of the three-color band that adorned Amtrak locomotives and rolling stock through the early 1990s.

The locomotive image in the logo probably is an artist rendering, but surely Amtrak could have provided the artist with a photo a P42DC to work from. The P42 plays the role today that the F40 performed during the 1980s and early 1990s. The P42 is ubiquitous on the point of long-distance, medium-distance and Midwest corridor trains.

Perhaps using the F40 as the model for the logo was purely happenstance. I don’t assume that those who work in Amtrak’s marketing department are train enthusiasts who make it their business to know all of the locomotive models that Amtrak operates or once operated, let alone what they look like and how they differ.

They probably do not remember, know or care that when the first batch of F40 locomotives arrived at Amtrak in early 1976 they were intended to work only in corridor service. But problems with the SDP40F locomotive resulted in the F40 becoming the backbone of the diesel motive power fleet for more than a decade.

By 2000, P40s and P42s had relegated most Amtrak’s F40s to the sidelines. Many of them were sold and since have gone on to have productive second lives. Others were rebuilt into cab units with a baggage compartment where the prime mover used to be. You can still see some of these “cabbages” working in push-pull service. Some even have the current blue and silver livery. But no Amtrak trains today are pulled by honest to goodness F40s.

To the public, a locomotive is a locomotive. Maybe that is the way a lot of the folks at Amtrak think, too, outside of the operating department. So long as the engine gets the train to where it is going what difference does it make what make or model it is or what it looks like? Well, it must make some difference because the Genesis locomotives have worn three different liveries since entering service beginning in 1993.

What’s in an image? Plenty. It is the face of your product, both to your customers and to those who just happen to see one of your trains go by. It defines who you are and says something about how you got there and where you want to go next.

Amtrak approved a design for the Genesis locomotives that was decidedly different from the boxy, compact F40. The wedge-shaped Genesis locomotive was designed to suggest something sleek, fast and contemporary. In that regard, the Genesis locomotive somewhat resemble high-speed equipment found in Japan, Western Europe and even on Amtrak’s Acela Express.

A lot of railroad enthusiasts who do make it their business to keep track of the intricacies of the Amtrak motive fleet disliked the design of the Genesis units. I was one of them. It looked like someone had chopped off part of the nose on an angle.

I’ve since gotten over my initial dislike of the Genesis, not because I think it looks great, but because I’ve seen it so many times that it now looks familiar. Interestingly, many railroad enthusiasts went through a similar progression with the F40. The knock on the F40s was that it didn’t have the style and grace of an E or F unit. It looked like a junior version of a freight locomotive, which is probably why Amtrak wanted its Genesis locomotives to look like something other than the engines that freight railroads have.

It’s funny how certain locomotives have come to represent the image of railroads. Most E and F units have long since been scrapped, sent out to pasture in railroad museums or been limited to tourist train duty, yet you still see the familiar shape of their streamlined noses in many places where someone needed a “railroad” image. To some extent this occurs because these images are available in clip art, which are generic images used by graphic artists and others to design all kinds of products.

But it also occurs because the design worked its way into the public consciousness to the point that people associated the image with railroads. In the case of the E and F units, it was the first thing that many passengers saw when a passenger train pulled into a station or if you saw a passenger train pass by while going about your business. Railroads placed images of E and F units in countless advertisements, and marketing and public relations products.

The F40 has managed to attain a level of “clip art” fame, which assures that its profile will continue for many years to come. It also has worked its way into the public consciousness, although probably to a lesser degree than was the case with E and F units. Still, there will come a day where the number of people alive who remember seeing or knowing what an E or F unit was will lose critical mass status. At that point, perhaps the F40 will become the dominant image of railroads.

The F40 is, of course, far from dead. It continues to play a major role in pulling commuter trains, VIA Rail Canada passenger trains, a few freight trains, some excursion trains and the CSX executive train fleet.

Aside from timetables, the “over 500 destinations” logo also appears in Amtrak advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Some day that logo will give way to another image. Some day Amtrak will permanently retire its F40 cab cars. By then the F40 will have served Amtrak for more than three decades.

Will the contemporary design of the Genesis locomotive serve Amtrak that long? Will it come to define the image of railroads? It’s hard to say. It all depends on how well the Genesis units age both physically and perceptually.

The F40 managed to age gracefully and with style and class. It may not have won any design awards, as the Genesis design did, but it set a high standard for its successor to meet both on and off the rails.