Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak locomotives’

LSL Along the Hudson

May 1, 2022

The leaves are turning to their fall colors as the New York City section of the Lake Shore Limited rolls along the Hudson River at Breakneck Ridge, New York, in October 1998. On the point is P32DMAC No. 709, which was built by General Electric in August 1995. This segment of the route of Nos. 48 and 49 features some of the best scenery between New York and Chicago that can be viewed from this train.

Amtrak Savior

April 14, 2022

The F40PH has been described as the locomotive that saved Amtrak. The passenger carrier was able to subsist on E and F units for a few years. The SDP40F was expected to become the mainstay of the long-distance fleet, which it was for a few years.

When the F40 was on the drawing board it was seen as a corridor locomotive that would pull the new Amfleet equipment. That did happen, but the F40’s mission expanded as Amtrak gave up on the SDP40F and traded in many of them for orders of new F40s.

Shown above is F40PHR 259 in Joliet, Illinois, on March 31, 1978. The 259 was built in December 1977 with the “R” its model designation indicated that an SDP40F was traded in for it. In this case that was SDP40F No. 591.

The 259 would later be acquired by the Panama Canal Railways in 2001.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Just Another Day on the Corridor

March 16, 2022

Amtrak operates numerous corridor trains but more than likely at Amtrak headquarter there is just one “the corridor” and that would be the Northeast Corridor. It has the highest level of Amtrak service in the country and, some would argue, gets a disproportionate amount of attention from the passenger carrier’s brass. The image above shows a typical NEC train from the 1980s with its AEM-7 locomotive pulling a string of Amfleet cars. It was made on Aug. 9, 1983, in Aberdeen, Maryland.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Not Charging Today

March 13, 2022

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki had a surprise as it ripped through Arcola, Illinois, on Sunday, Feb. 20. A P42DC was on the point of the Chicago-bound train rather than the usual SC-44 Charger. I don’t know the reason for the motive power substitution. Perhaps the assigned Charger had mechanical difficulties and was swapped out the day before when the equipment went south as the Illini. Note that pulling the train is No. 58, which is the road number for the northbound City of New Orleans, which also uses these same former Illinois Central rails. The train is shown passing the former Illinois Central passenger station in Arcola.

What Was That Doing There?

March 7, 2022

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited this past weekend had something a little out of the ordinary. On the point of the westbound train that arrived in Chicago on Saturday morning was the Midnight Blue P42DC No. 100. Also in the motive power consist was Downeaster F40 cab car No. 90213.

It is not clear why the 90213 was along. It left Chicago on Saturday night in the motive power consist of the eastbound Lake Shore, which is shown in the above photograph passing the former New York Central passenger station in Painesville, Ohio, on Sunday morning.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Profile of an F40 Cabbage

February 24, 2022

Amtrak converted 22 F40PH locomotives into what are officially known as non-powered control unit, but which some referred to as “cabbage cars.” The name was a reference to the fact the units had been converted to cab cars and also had a baggage compartment where the primer mover used to be.

The conversion process involved removing the prime mover and all other engine components, including the head-end power equipment, and adding ballast for weight.

An F40 NPCU could only be used in push-pull mode. Typically, these NPCUs were used in corridor service in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and in Downeaster service.

No. 90219 began life as F40PH No. 219 in April 1976. It was converted to a NPCU in December 1997. Amtrak’s practice was to add the prefix “90” in front of an F40’s roster number.

The 90219 is shown on a Hiawatha Service train at Sturtevant, Wisconsin, on May 20, 2006.

An FL9 on the Lake Shore Limited

February 18, 2022

We’re at Breakneck Ridge, New York, to catch the Lake Shore Limited on the Hudson River Line in August 1994 during the waning days of the FL9 era at Amtrak. The 486 was built for the New York, Hartford & New Haven in September 1957 and assigned roster number 2013. Amtrak acquired it from Penn Central and gave it roster number 237.

When the F40s came along the 237 became Amtrak 486. This unit was sold in 2002 to the Morristown & Erie, which rebuilt it.

Are We Really Going to Miss Amtrak P42s?

February 15, 2022

Amtrak P42DC No. 68 awaits its next move outside the engine house in Chicago on May 20, 2013.
The Charger era at Amtrak is just getting underway. Shown are a pair of ALC-42 locomotives in Chicago (Amtrak photo)

The February issue of Trains magazine had a list of things that railfans need to seek out in 2022 because they are endangered.

Among them are Amtrak P42DC locomotives. Yes, they are serious.

Like many railroad photographers I can’t wait for the day when Amtrak trains are no longer dominated by the ubiquitous P42s in their blue and silver Phase V livery.

It seems as though those locomotives have been around for about as long as Amtrak has even though they actually date to the 1990s. I have hundreds of photographs of the P42s, particularly those in the Phase V livery. I am more than ready for a new look to Amtrak’s motive power.

Well, it’s true the P42 is endangered although it is far from being on the verge of extinction.

Amtrak in 2019 placed an $850 million order with Siemens Mobility for 75 ALC-42 Charger locomotives and last week announced it would buy 25 more.

The plan is to use the Chargers to replace P42s and P40s in the national network. That means primarily long-distance trains but some corridor trains will also see ALC-42 Chargers on the point, including the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

The ALC-42 Chargers are similar to the SC-44 Chargers used to pull Midwest corridor trains. They have similar appearances but the specifications of the two models are different.

The Charger era at Amtrak got off to a less than auspicious start on Feb. 8. ALC-42 Nos. 301 and 302 were assigned to pull the Empire Builder out of Chicago that day but when No. 7 departed Chicago Union Station a P42DC was on the point and Nos. 301 and 302 were relegated to trailing unit duty. The explanation given was the 301 had technical issues with its positive train control system.

That hiccup notwithstanding, the Charger era is here although it will be more than a year and maybe two years before the ALC-42 becomes the dominant everyday motive power.

In the Trains article, author Chris Guss argued it is time to document the P42 because although they may seem mundane now they will be appreciated later.

He wrote that he heard friends say decades ago that they wouldn’t photograph another train led by a pair of green Burlington Northern SD40-2s because they seemed to be on every train.

Guss said those sentiments made sense at the time, but now those BN “green machines” have given way to BNSF wide-cab “pumpkins” and some photographers – himself included – regret not documenting the green SD40-2s more often.

It’s a valid point. By the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the boxy-looking F40PH locomotive was the Amtrak standard and many photographers tired of them, too.

The EMD-built F40 gave way to the Genesis line of GE-built passenger locomotives. The first of those was a class of 40 P40 locomotives that began arriving in 1993.

The Genesis family expanded with P32DMAC units that were ordered to replace FL9s in New York. The P42DC came along in 1996.

Altogether Amtrak has had 207 P42s (roster numbers 1 to 207), 17 P32s (roster series 700), and 43 P40s (roster series 800). Those figures include units “retired” due to wreck damage or sidelined for other reasons.

All models in the Genesis family were introduced in the Phase III livery. That gave way to Phase IV starting in 1997, which lasted only a few years until Phase V arrived in 1999. 

If I have any regrets, it is that I didn’t photograph more of the Phase III and Phase IV Genesis units.

The dominance of the Phase V era coincided with my interest in railroad photography intensifying, something that began to happen about 2004.

The F40 era didn’t vanish overnight and neither will the P42/P40 epoch. During the 1990s it was common to see a P40 working in tandem with an F40. Similar mixed motive power consists can be expected to occur with combinations of ACL-42 and P42/P40 units.

What you are unlikely to see, though, are ACL-42s mixed with SC-44s. The latter units are owned by state departments of transportation and were bought by those agencies for the express purpose of pulling corridor trains that they fund.

The Chargers in Midwest corridor service carry Illinois Department of Transportation reporting marks.

The Genesis era is likely to last through at least 2024 when Amtrak expects to take delivery of the last of the original 75 ALC-42s ordered in 2019.

Officials have not said how long it will be before the next batch of 25 ALC-42’s begin to arrive.

The first ALC-42s have arrived wearing a Phase VI livery that is intended to be used by only a handful of the units. Amtrak plans to introduce this spring its Phase VII livery that will adorn the bulk of the Charger fleet.

If there is anything to be excited about with the changes coming in Amtrak’s motive power fleet it is the prospect of documenting locomotives in something other than Phase V.

It is not so much that I have grown bored with the P42 as such but I’m tired of the Phase V look.

The next two to three years will present opportunities for railfan photographers to document some interesting views including likely to be short-lived combinations. That will include combinations of P42s and ALC-42s with mixed liveries.

Amtrak also released last year a few P42s in one-off liveries including the Midnight Blue look for No. 100. No. 46 wears the Phase V scheme but with a gold 50th anniversary herald. No. 160 has the modified Phase III livery used to introduce the P32-8 locomotives in 1991. Earlier this year P42 No. 203 received a tribute livery to Operation Lifesaver.

But perhaps the most sought after one-off livery is the “Day One” scheme applied to ALC-42 No. 301, which mimics a look applied to Penn Central E8A No. 4316 for ceremonies held on May 1, 1971, to trumpet the arrival of Amtrak.

Of course a handful of P42s are still out there in retro Phase I, Phase II, Phase III and Phase IV liveries that were brought back to celebrate Amtrak anniversaries.

Among the interesting factoids about the new Chargers is that the initials denote Amtrak Long-Distance Charger.

The Chargers have 4,200 horsepower capability, which is less than the SC-44, but the ALC-42 has larger fuel tanks and increased head-end power.

Amtrak and Siemens have touted how the Cummins QSK95 prime mover of the ACL-42, which is built in Seymour, Indiana, is Tier 4-compliant. The locomotives themselves are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

I’ve photographed the SC-44 Chargers numerous times and one characteristic I’ve noticed about them is how bright their headlights are.

They are brighter than any freight locomotive headlight I’ve seen coming down the tracks. I also have noticed the ditch lights of the SC-44 flash in a slower sequence than those of freight locomotives.

I’m looking forward to documenting the transition era between the Genesis and Charger eras but I’m still not sure I’m going to pine for the days when every Amtrak train had a Phase V livery P42 on the point.

Simply put, I have enough photographs of those locomotives and I don’t think I will miss them all that much once they’re gone.

Article by Craig Sanders

Tough Luck Continues to Shadow Chargers

February 14, 2022

Amtrak’s tough luck with operating ALC-42 Charger locomotives in long-distance service continued last weekend.

Nos. 302 and 301 led the eastbound Empire Builder out of Seattle on Saturday, but were involved in a grade crossing collision in Sultan, Washington.

Train 8 struck a pickup truck and wound up losing more than an hour. Trains magazine reported that by the time No. 8 reached Havre, Montana, on Sunday night it was nearly eight hours down.

The two Chargers had been assigned to led the westbound Empire Builder from Chicago on Feb. 8, but positive train control issues with No. 301 led to a P42DC being put on the point of the train.

That delayed the departure of No. 7 by more than an hour. No. 7 was further delayed when the Sightseer Lounge was removed in Milwaukee due to a fire.

Charger Era Off to Shaky Start

February 9, 2022

Amtrak ALC-42 No. 301 in the “First Day” livery poses with No. 300 in an Amtrak photo. The 300 wears the Phase VI livery that will be replaced soon by a yet to be revealed Phase VII scheme that will be applied to most ALC-42 locomotives

Amtrak’s first revenue service run with a Siemens ALC-42 Charger on the point didn’t get very far.

No. 301 with its “Day One” heritage livery was posed with ALC-42 No. 302 and Phase I heritage unit P42DC No. 161 at Chicago Union Station on Tuesday afternoon as the motive power to lead the westbound Empire Builder.

After the media event ended, a fourth unit, P42DC No. 84, was placed on the point and that four-locomotive consist pulled No. 7 out of the station.

Trains magazine reported that Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the addition of No. 84 was made for technical reasons related to positive train control.

As it was, No. 7 was 34 minutes late arriving at Glenview in suburban Chicago, the first scheduled stop en route to Seattle and Portland.

The Empire Builder lost another 32 minutes while making its Glenview stop, which is 18 miles from Chicago Union Station.

During the media event, Amtrak’s George Hull, vice president and chief mechanical officer, said the passenger carrier will increase its order of new Chargers for the national network by 50 units.

Amtrak had in 2018 ordered 75 ALC-42 locomotives with the first of those arriving earlier this year.

The new Charges have been undergoing testing since then and Tuesday’s run of the westbound Empire Builder was to be the first revenue service operation in which a Charger was leading a train.

Until now, Chargers have been trailing units, usually the second or third locomotive, in motive power consists on national network trains.

Amtrak plans to use the Chargers to replace its aging P42DC fleet, which dates to the early 1990s.

The ALC-42 chargers are being built in Sacramento, California, and are similar in design to Chargers used now to pull Amtrak Midwest corridor trains.

The Trains report noted that Nos. 7 and 8 normally operate with three locomotives during the winter.

Aside from No. 301, the Chargers have been leaving the factory with a Phase VI livery that Amtrak has said will be limited.

A new Phase VII look will adorn most of the 100 Chargers although that scheme has yet to be released to the public.

“Later this spring you will see new looks on these locomotives as they come from the factory,” Hull said on Tuesday.