Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak P30 locomotives’

A Pooch in Joliet

January 13, 2021

Amtrak purchased 25 P30CH locomotives from General Electric in the 1970s. Although the thinking at the time was that the units could be used for long-distance service once new equipment with head-end power capability arrived, that plan didn’t quite work out that way.

The P30s, known by some as “pooches,” did haul some long-distance trains on a regular basis, including the Cardinal, Panama Limited, Sunset Limited and Auto Train.

They saw spot duty on other long-distance trains and based on photographs I’ve seen from the late 1970s were assigned to the San Francisco Zephyr between Chicago and Denver for a time.

If you lived in the Midwest, though, you probably saw P30s on the point of corridor trains using Illinois Central Gulf tracks.

Shown above is No. 724 leading the Ann Rutledge southbound at Joliet, Illinois, on Aug. 13, 1976. At the time it was a Chicago-St. Louis train.

In the background is Joliet Union Station.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

End of the Line in Carbondale

January 11, 2020

It is a Saturday in June 1979 and just for the fun of it I bought a round-trip ticket to ride Nos. 391 and 392 between Mattoon and Carbondale, Illinois.

Carbondale was the southern terminus for Amtrak’s Shawnee.

I’ve just disembarked from No. 391 in Carbondale. An Illinois Central Gulf locomotive will attach to the rear of the Amtrak train and pull it north to turn on a wye in preparation for its return to Chicago at 4 p.m.

In retrospect I wish I had made this photograph on the other side of the grade crossing.

But then again I can appreciate now the view of the wooden arms that railroads once used on crossing gates and how they were painted black and white. Note that this set of crossing arms is partly painted red and white.

Also note in the photograph a passing northbound ICG freight train and the approaching ICG locomotive that will attach to the rear of No. 391.

Also on this day the Shawnee had a baggage car, which it typically did not except during peak travel periods.

Looks Like Amtrak But it Isn’t

September 5, 2019

It is September 1984 and the Chessie System has borrowed an Amtrak P30CH locomotive and a sleeper to pair with its track inspection train.

This was taken at Ohio Route 91 in Munroe Falls, Ohio, and the train may have been stopped.

I believe Chessie leased the P30 and a 10 roomette, six double bedroom sleeper from Amtrak for their track inspection train for a season for some reason. Maybe they needed the HEP capability, but I’m not sure).

I’m not sure if this was the earlier version of today’s two car geometry train, or a more general inspection train.

Article and Photograph by Paul Woodring

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.

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.

That Late 1970s Look

July 12, 2019

Amtrak was in the midst of rebuilding its Chicago infrastructure when I made this image in September 1978.

My recollection is that I was part of a group making a tour of Amtrak facilities at the time, but I don’t remember much about. it.

Amtrak was well into its transition from steam heated equipment to head end power and its general of P30CH and F40PH locomotives were rapidly overtaking EMD E and F units inherited from the freight railroads and the ill-fated SDP40F locomotives that Amtrak itself ordered.

Not also that this motive power set of a P30 and two F40s is wearing the then new Phase III livery.

These units had helped to introduce Phase II, but it didn’t last long.

Keeping a Watch on the Platform in Joliet

January 25, 2017

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Amtrak operating crew members have always had radios to communicate with each other. A conductor can tell the engineer by radio that boarding is complete and it is time to leave.

But engine crew members still like to do things the old fashioned way and look in the side mirror to see how the boarding process is going.

It is June 25, 1977, in Joliet, Illinois. The St. Louis-bound Statehouse has arrived and is boarding passengers.

At the time, it was the only train on the Chicago-St. Louis route funded by the State of Illinois.

The engineer is at the throttle of a P30PH locomotive. Known as “Pooches,” the P30s were a common sight on Midwest corridor trains in the 1970s, particularly on Illinois Central Gulf routes.

It was an era when the Statehouse and other corridor trains might be pull into the station behind a P30 or an F40PH. You just never knew.

Moment in Time on the Panama Limited

October 19, 2016

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Amtrak dropped the Panama Limited name from its timetables in early 1981. It was time. Amtrak trains 58 and 59 hardly came close to offering the level of service that the Illinois Central had offered aboard its flagship Chicago-New Orleans passenger train.

Amtrak’s Chicago-New Orleans trains have never come close to offering the elite level of service that the IC offered. Then again, Amtrak didn’t need to offer that type of service, which it is ill suited to provide.

Shown is the northbound Panama Limited arriving in Mattoon, Illinois, in September 1977.

It is a low point in the train’s Amtrak history. Sleeping cars were removed in January 1977 when the train received Amfleet equipment. Also removed was the full-service diner. Passengers on this day had to be content with an Amcafe offering.

But the train had checked baggage service and sleepers would return in a few months.

It was common in the late 1970s for Nos. 58 and 59 to be pulled by a lone P30CH. Class unit No. 700 is doing the honors today as the baggage man watches the platform.

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.