Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak motive power’

One Morning in Memphis

January 9, 2020

We were en route to New Orleans aboard the City of New Orleans in March 2011 when No. 59 halted in Memphis for its scheduled stop.

Memphis is a crew change point and 23 minutes is allotted for the stop.

It was pleasant spring morning and trees at the station were blooming.

That was quite a contrast with what we had seen as the Capitol Limited had left Cleveland the previous morning during a snowstorm.

There was enough time to disembark, stretch our legs and snap a few photographs, including the head end with a few of those flowering trees.

No. 59 had a consist on this day that as a little out of the ordinary. There were two P42DC locomotives pulling the train rather than the usual one.

There also was a baggage car, which is not always assigned to Nos. 58 and 59. Instead, checked luggage typically rides in a baggage compartment of a Superliner coach.

Soon it was time to get back on board and continue on to the Crescent City for a spring vacation.

Bring ‘er on Back

January 6, 2020

Every day the Lake Shore Limited engages in a ritual at the Albany-Rensselaer, New York, station that is as old as the train itself.

The Boston and New York sections separate and a new locomotive is put onto No. 48 to take it to New York City.

It is July 1999 and I’m watching that ritual play out as a crew members gives the engineer of P32DMAC No. 712 a signal to back up and couple onto the consist of No. 48.

Soon I’ll be back on board and on my way to the Big Apple.

Westbound Broadway Limited in 1978

December 14, 2019

Although Amtrak’s Broadway Limited was assigned new SDP40F locomotives in the mid 1970s, that assignment proved to be relatively short lived.

The units became embroiled in a controversy over whether they were derailment prone after being implicated in several derailments.

Some railroads banned at least for a while the SDP40F from their tracks while others imposed speed restrictions on them on certain types of curves.

By the late 1970s Amtrak had replaced most of the SDP40Fs on its long-distance eastern trains with E units.

Later these trains began receiving F40PH locomotives although for a time there were still locomotives with steam generators in the motive power consist to provide steam for heating and cooling.

Starting in late 1979 equipment with head-end power capability came onboard, starting with the Lake Shore Limited, was permanently assigned to eastern long-distance trains and the last of the E units in revenue service with steam generators was retired from long-distance service.

But all of that was a few years down the road on June 3, 1978, when Bob Farkas caught a tardy westbound Broadway Limited in Wooster, Ohio, at Prairie Lane.

His notes from that date indicate that the third unit might have been the first unit painted for Amtrak.

Lead E8A No. 447 should feel right at home on these rails. It was built in May 1952 as Pennsylvania Railroad No. 5790A.

During the Penn Central era it carried roster number 4250 and was initially assigned Amtrak roster number 277.

It renumbered to 447 in November 1975 after being rebuilt in March 1974, which was just before the second order of SDP40Fs began rolling out of the EMD shops in LaGrange, Illinois.

Amtrak retired No. 447 in July 1981 along with several other rebuilt E units as they by then had become surplus as F40s and Heritage Fleet equipment had become the norm on eastern long-distance trains such as the Broadway Limited.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

No. 29 Had Locomotive No. 1

November 8, 2019

The westbound Capitol Limited has reached the end of the line at Chicago Union Station.

Passengers and disembarking and the crew is looking forward to going off the clock.

As I made my way toward the station head house I turned to make a photograph of the lead locomotive of No. 29, which on this day was P42DC No. 1.

Not many railroads have a locomotive No. 1 but I have photos of Amtrak No. 1 and CSX No. 1.

On an adjacent track is a Metra commuter train.

One Winter Day in Chicago

September 2, 2019

The winter of 1977-1978 was a brutal one in Chicago and the rest of the Midwest.

Frigid temperatures knocked some of Amtrak’s fleet out of service and some trains were canceled for days if not weeks.

I got a taste of that in February 1978 when I rode the Panama Limited to Chicago on a day trip.

Rather than the usual conventional steam-heated equipment normally assigned to the train, No. 58 had Amfleet equipment.

I made this photo as we were backing into Chicago Union Station.

On a nearby track a train is arriving from St. Louis with a P30CH on the point. That was standard equipment for the corridor trains operating between Chicago and St. Louis at the time.

P30s were a common sight pulling Amtrak trains in the 1970s on routes of host railroad Illinois Central Gulf.

Indeed the train I was riding was being powered by a P30.

Just Like Sunday Mornings With Grandpa

August 18, 2019

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited is more than four hours late as it passes through Olmsted Falls, Ohio, on a Sunday morning in mid May.

It was a sunny and pleasant Sunday morning in Olmsted Falls as I stood next to the tracks of Norfolk Southern at the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern station that is now owned by a model railroad club, the Cuyahoga Valley & West Shore.

I was waiting for a tardy eastbound Lake Shore Limited that Amtrak predicted would arrive in Elyria at 9:12 a.m. and depart two minutes later.

If that held, that would put No. 48 through Olmsted Falls at about 9:25 a.m.

As I waited, my thoughts flashed back to Sunday mornings in the early 1960s when my grandparents on my mother’s side would come to my hometown in east central Illinois from St. Louis for a weekend visit.

On Sunday morning, grandpa would take my sister and I for a walk of about four blocks that we called “going to the trains.”

On the west side of Mattoon not far from our house was an open area that still had tracks leading to a an abandoned shop building once used by the Peoria, Decatur & Evansville, which was absorbed by the Illinois Central in the early 20th century.

The tracks leading into that long-closed shop were still in place, but rusty and covered in weeds. Cinders were plentiful in the ballast.

This area was located between the tracks of the IC – that former PD&E – and the St. Louis line of the New York Central.

We would walk across those tracks to stand near the Central tracks. Two NYC passenger trains were scheduled to pass through Mattoon during the mid to late morning hours.

The eastbound train was the Southwestern and the westbound train the Knickerbocker. They were all that was left of the Central’s service to St. Louis.

In the early 1960s, both of those trains were still quite grand with sleepers, dining cars and coaches, some of which operated through to New York and all of which operated to and from Cleveland.

Sometimes the motive power for the trains were E units still wearing NYC lightning stripes, but at others times the motive power was Geeps in the cigar band look.

I thought about those trains as I waited for Amtrak No. 48, which had lost time starting with a late departure from Chicago Union Station the night before.

But something happened between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, where the bulk of the lost time occurred.

Amtrak equipment, like much of that used by the Central, is silver-colored stainless steel. The Central had some two-tone gray smooth sided passenger cars that were assigned to the St. Louis trains.

There are some parallels to where the Central’s passenger service was in the early 1960s and where Amtrak is today.

NYC management under the leadership of Alfred Perlman was convinced that long-distance trains had no future and throughout the 1950s the Central had aggressively discontinued as many of those trains as regulators would allow.

There might not have been any NYC passenger trains for myself, my sister and my grandpa to watch during our walks “to the trains” had the Illinois Commerce Commission allowed the Central to discontinue all service to St. Louis as it wanted to do in the late 1950s.

Amtrak management under the leadership of Richard Anderson has been signaling that it wants to transform its network into a series of short-haul corridors between urban points.

That strategy would eviscerate Amtrak’s long-distance network and probably spell the end of the Lake Shore Limited, the only daily train between Chicago and New York.

Those walks “to the trains” did not last long. By the middle 1960s my grandparents were no longer traveling from St. Louis to Mattoon to visit us.

In the meantime, the Southwestern and Knickerbocker grew shorter, shrinking to one sleeper and a couple of coaches. The dining car no longer operated west of Indianapolis.

In late 1967 the Central posted notices of its intent to discontinue its last trains to St. Louis. By then the trains only operated between St. Louis and Union City, Indiana, the NYC having used the “Ohio strategy” to discontinue them between Union City and Cleveland.

The “Ohio strategy” was a rule of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that allowed a railroad to discontinue a passenger train within the state of Ohio without PUCO approval provided it was not the last passenger train on that route.

The NYC and other railroads used that rule to devastating effect in the 1960s.

The Interstate Commerce Commission stayed the discontinuance of the remnants of the Southwestern and Knickerbocker, but after conducting an investigation concluded they were not needed for the public necessity and convenience. They made their last trips in March 1968.

By then they had shrunk to one E unit and one coach.

My grandpa died in 1982, the same year that Conrail won regulatory approval to abandon the former NYC through Mattoon. The tracks were pulled up through town in May 1983.

In the meantime, the IC razed the former shops used by the PD&E. That area where we used to walk remains an open field passed by a handful of trains of Canadian National.

No. 48 was slowly gaining back some of its lost time a minute or two at a time as it made its was east from Toledo. It departed Elyria about when Amtrak predicted it would.

The Lake Shore Limited continues to be an impressive looking train with three sleepers, six coaches, a baggage car, café car, dining car and two locomotives. But the dining car no longer serves meals freshly prepared onboard.

Just like the Central did, Amtrak is slowing chipping away at onboard service in an effort to cut costs.

As the Lake Shore flashed past, I again felt myself going back to the early 1960s and watching the Southwestern rush past also en route to New York City.

I couldn’t think of too many better ways to spend part of a Sunday morning.

Passing the Olmsted Falls depot, now the home of a model railroad club.

All the meals being served in that dining car behind the Amfleet coach were prepared off the train. The chefs were laid off or reassigned to other runs.

My, What a Big Nose You Had

August 17, 2019

Amtrak’s P30CH locomotives last operated on the Auto Train and Sunset Limited and have been gone for more than two decades.

There were just 25 of the units, all of them built in 1975 and 1976. Most of them were retired in 1992.

No. 707 was built in February 1976. It is shown in Cincinnati on April 14, 1978, leading the eastbound Cardinal.

As the blue flag indicates, this is a service stop and I meandered to the front of the train to get this snapshot.

The “Pooches” as some wags called them pulled a few long-distance trains and were for a time regulars on Midwest corridor trains using Illinois Central Gulf tracks.

They had what seemed to be unusually large noses. At the time they were the only General Electric diesels on the Amtrak roster.

Racing Through Hinsdale

July 24, 2019

Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr was not long into its journey to the San Francisco Bay area when I captured it doing track speed through Hinsdale, Illinois, on the BNSF Chicago Raceway.

No. 5 is about to pass the Metra station in Hinsdale.

Retired Amtrak Locomotives Going to LTEX

July 11, 2019

Some retired Amtrak locomotives are reported to be bound for LTEX in Northeast Ohio where they are expected to be used for parts.

They are P40-8 and F40PHR units that had been stored at Amtrak shops in Wilmington and Bear, Delaware.

The locomotives were moved in CSX train CSX train Q389-08.

LTEX has received former Amtrak F40 units previously, but this is thought to be its first experience with GE Genesis series diesels.

Amtrak is retaining possession of P40 No. 828 to use for training purposes in Wilmington. The unit was retired in 2005.

Morning Contrasts

June 16, 2019

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited was running more than two hours late.

By the time it reached Berea, Ohio, in suburban Cleveland the sun had been up for more than an hour but shadows from bridges and building still enveloped the tracks of Norfolk Southern used by Train No. 48.

But much of the rails themselves were in sunlight and that created an interesting effect that I had not planned.

The image shown above was an afterthought. My plan was to use my longest telephoto lens to shoot through the chain link fence of the Front Street overpass to capture the Lake Shore passing the former BE Tower.

I did get that image and it turned out well. But as the train got closer I decided to make one more image just to see how it would turn out.

What I got was a nice contrast between the sunlight illuminating the nose and flanks of lead P42DC No. 129 and the shadows on both sides of the tracks.

I was fortunate that the encroaching shadows did not creep up the side of the train.

There is also some contrast between the silver and blue of the locomotives and the green leaves on the trees on the north side of the tracks.

A two-hour late train is not good news for its passengers and crew, but it worked out well for me.