Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak P42DC’

The Day the Pennsylvanian Came to Cleveland

November 20, 2021
The first eastbound Pennsylvanian has arrived in Cleveland in November 1998.

It was one of those quintessential November days in Cleveland with gray skies overhead.

But if you were a rail passenger advocate then, metaphorically speaking, the skies could not have been any bluer.

After years of pushing for it, advocates were getting their wish. Amtrak was extending its New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian west of the Steel City.

Finally, Northeast Ohio would see an Amtrak train in daylight hours in circumstances other than an existing scheduled train running several hours late.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s Amtrak would put on show to celebrate the inauguration of new service. On Nov. 7, 1998, it was Cleveland’s turn for that with the Pennsylvanian coming to town.

It was not, though, the first time in the 1990s that an Amtrak publicity train had come to Northeast Ohio.

In fall 1990 Amtrak ran a publicity special through Akron and Cleveland in advance of the rerouting of the Broadway Limited via Akron and the Capitol Limited via Cleveland.

Those publicity trains were greeted by marching bands, speakers and a festive welcoming ceremony.

By contrast, when the Pennsylvanian came to Cleveland the celebration was more subdued.

There was a speaker inside the station and a specially decorated cake. But there were no marching bands and Amtrak did not assign the publicity train an open platform car or a dome car as it had in 1990.

There was a respectable crowd to greet the first No. 44, which arrived on a Saturday from Chicago.

My photographs from that day show people clustered around the vestibules of the Horizon coaches and I’m not sure if they were allowed onboard to tour the train or if some of them were boarding as ticketed passengers.

I struck up a brief conversation with Amtrak conductor George Sanders, noting we shared a last name in common but were otherwise unrelated.

He posed for a photograph and I got his address and later sent him a copy.

The train rolled into the station with two P42DC locomotives, two material handling cars, a Superliner Sightseer lounge, a Superliner transition sleeper, two Horizon fleet coaches, an Amfleet coach, an Amfleet café car and a string of RoadRailers on the rear.

The RoadRailers were a sign of why Amtrak had extended the Pennsylvanian to Chicago.

The Three Rivers, which had replaced the Broadway Limited in 1995 between New York and Pittsburgh and been extended to Chicago in November 1996, had reached its limit of 30 cars, most of which carried mail and express.

To expand its burgeoning head-end business, Amtrak needed another train to Chicago. That would be the Pennsylvanian.

Amtrak had wanted to extend the Pennsylvanian westward before Christmas 1997 but lacked sufficient crews.

Although new operating personnel were hired in spring 1998, Conrail refused to allow the expansion during the summer track work season.

Because the postal service usually dispatched mail around dawn, No. 44 was scheduled to depart Chicago at 6 a.m. while No. 43 left Philadelphia at 6:30 a.m.

The Pennsylvanian reached Cleveland eastbound in early afternoon and westbound in late afternoon.

It was scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 11:59 p.m. and in Philadelphia at 12:25 a.m. That meant no convenient same-day connections in Chicago and few in Philly. 

But passenger traffic was less the objective of the Pennsylvanian extension than head-end revenue.

Then Amtrak president George Warrington said at the time that this would put Amtrak on a glide path to profitability.

Those who understood the realities of passenger train scheduling would have understood that this made the Pennsylvanian’s future in Cleveland rather tenuous.

Nonetheless, there was optimism in the air as Nos. 43 and 44 began serving Cleveland, Elyria and Alliance.

I don’t remember anything the speaker said during the welcome ceremony or even who he was. I was there primarily to make photographs of Amtrak in Cleveland in daylight.

Except during holiday travel periods, ridership of the Pennsylvanian would prove to be light. On many days it had only about a dozen passengers aboard in Ohio and Indiana.

Ridership was stunted by chronic delays that occurred in 1999 following the breakup of Conrail by Norfolk Southern and CSX.

The typical consist for the Pennsylvanian was three coaches and a food service car.

A schedule change on April 29, 2002, moved the Chicago departure back six hours to 11:55 p.m., which made No. 44 the “clean up” train to accommodate those who had missed connections in Chicago from inbound western long distance trains to the eastern long-distance trains.

At the same time, the westbound Pennsylvanian began departing Philadelphia two hours later in order to provide additional connections.

No. 43 now was scheduled to reach Chicago Union Station at 1:44 a.m.

A change of administrations at Amtrak led to the carrier announcing in fall 2002 that it would cease carrying mail and express. As a result the Pennsylvanian would revert to New York-Pittsburgh operation.

On Feb. 8, 2003, I went down to the Cleveland Amtrak station with my camera to make photographs of the Pennsylvanian, the first time I’d done that since the November 1998 inaugural train had arrived.

This time, though, I boarded as a paying passenger, getting off in Pittsburgh and returning on the last westbound No. 43 to run west of Pittsburgh.

There were no crowds, cake or speakers to greet the Pennsylvanian in the Cleveland station on this day.

And that sense of optimism that had hung in the air more than four years earlier had long since dissipated.

Rail passenger advocates in Ohio are still trying to get back that sense of optimism.

Amtrak conductor George Sanders agreed to pose by a Horizon coach vestibule.
Who was that guy who gave the welcome to Cleveland speech? Not only do I not remember his name I also don’t remember anything he said.
What’s a celebration without a cake?
A respectable crowd was on hand to greet the first Pennsylvanian to stop in Cleveland.
Dad is ready to make some photographs but his son is not sure being this close to the tracks is a good idea.
Those RoadRailers on the rear give a hint as to the primary reason why the Pennsylvanian began serving Cleveland. Amtrak expected to make money on mail and express business.

Accelerating in Waterloo

June 27, 2021

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is picking up speed as it accelerates away from its station stop in Waterloo, Indiana, one hour and 15 minutes late.

It is the first image I’ve made of the Capitol in well over a year and getting this photograph took good timing and fast acting.

Before leaving home I had checked the status of Amtrak trains through Waterloo. There wasn’t enough time to get there before the Lake Shore Limited arrived and chances were good I would miss No. 29 by 15 minutes or so.

It had been reported out of Cleveland an hour and 20 minutes but Amtrak’s website projected No. 29 would make up a good chunk of that and arrive in Waterloo 59 minutes late.

If that held, I had no chance. But I also knew Amtrak can get delayed between Waterloo and Toledo.

As I neared Waterloo I checked the Amtrak website again. No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:46 a.m. I figured to miss by that about five minutes.

The exit ramp for Waterloo onto U.S. Route 6 from Interstate 69 is just beyond the bridge over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

As I passed the exit signs for Route 6 it was 7:47 a.m. on my car’s clock. I slowed for the bridge and exit ramp and looked toward the east. No headlight was in sight.

That was a good sign This just might work after all.

Nearly a month earlier as I had driven over that same bridge I had seen the headlight of a fast approaching Amtrak 49. I was going to fast to get to the side of the road in time to try to get a grab shot and a pickup truck also getting off at the exit was right on my tail.

So close and yet so far away.

This time I drove to a road that crosses the Chicago Line at grade shortly after I got onto Route 6. The gates were up. Another good sign.

I checked the Amtrak website and saw No. 29 was now projected to arrive in Waterloo at 7:53 a.m., three minutes from now. Did I have time to get to the station?

I began driving down a road that runs parallel to the tracks. Then there it was up ahead. I immediately pulled to the side of Lincoln Street, grabbed my camera and dashed into the weeds to make this image.

There was no time so think about what I wanted to do. I barely was able to get all of the train in the frame.

Photographing the Capitol Limited is a challenge because much of its journey occurs at night. On the western end of the route the train is always operating in the wrong light. Only on the eastern end can you get 29 or 30 in good light.

In Northeast Ohio, No. 30 is scheduled into Cleveland at 1:45 a.m. and No. 29 at 2:53 a.m.

Still, you can get an interesting image on the western end of the route if you work it right.

The glint off P42DC No. 190 was happenstance but I also knew that this time of year the early morning light would favor the north side of the train.

I’m hoping it won’t be another year before I can photograph the Capitol Limited again.

Two Section Cardinal

June 4, 2021

Amtrak’s Cardinal typically operates with one P42DC locomotive, three Amfleet II coaches, an Amfleet food service car, a Viewliner sleeper and Viewliner baggage-dorm.

But at least once a week it is used to ferry equipment from the Beech Grove shops to Chicago. The equipment being ferried is placed on the head end of No. 51 at Indianapolis Union Station and provides the appearance of two trains having been combined into one.

That was the case on Memorial Day this week when No. 51 passed through Brownsburg, an Indianapolis suburb, with one section consisting of two P42DC locomotives, two Viewliner baggage cars and a Superliner coach. The second section had the consist that No. 51 operated with from Washington to Indianapolis.

The train on this day was operating one hour, 50 minutes late out of Indianapolis.

Equipment bound for Beech Grove is ferried to Indianapolis in combination with Train 50 in the same manner.

1st 50th Anniversary Unit Out of Shop

March 19, 2021

The first of the special livery locomotives that Amtrak is rolling out to celebrate its 50th anniversary is out of the shop and ready for revenue service.

P42DC No. 46 will feature the blue and silver Phase V livery that has been standard for the past 20 years but with the company’s 50th anniversary livery on its flanks.

The herald contains a large golden “50” and the slogan “Connecting America for 50 Years.”

Amtrak this week released artist renditions of the designs that will grace P42 and new Siemens ALC-42 locomotives being built that will be released this year.

No dates have been announced for when the special tribute locomotives will begin revenue service other than Amtrak saying in a news release that it will be “over the coming months.”

Amtrak also said its is working to design a Phase VII look that will be standard on most of the new Chargers that eventually will replace General Electric-built P42 and P40 locomotives assigned to the national network.

The first new ALC-42 is expected to arrive at Amtrak next month and undergo testing before being assigned to revenue service.

That unit, No. 301 will wear Amtrak’s Day 1 livery, which was a one-time design created by New York advertising agency Lippincott and Margulies.

The livery was applied to Penn Central E8A No. 4316 for a press event on Amtrak’s inauguration day.

It featured a broad blue stripe with white accent slashes on the locomotive nose that was an extension of Amtrak’s “pointless arrow” herald that was applied on the flanks of No. 4316.

The unit ran in revenue service for a year before being repainted into Amtrak’s Phase I livery and being given roster number 322.

Dubbed the Day 1 livery, it will be applied to ALC-42 No. 301 currently being built by Siemens in Sacramento, California.

No. 301 will duplicate No. 4316 complete with a black carbody. It also will carry the 50th anniversary herald.

Amtrak last year had announced that the ALC-42 Chargers would wear a Phase VI livery.

As it turns out, just eight Chargers will have that livery: Nos. 300 and 302 through 308.

The remaining Chargers will have the yet to be revealed Phase VII look.

The Phase VI livery has a largely dark blue carbody with white stripes along the top and bottom of the unit and a largely red nose.

One P42DC is slated to receive a one of a kind scheme known as midnight blue.

The livery is intended to be a tribute to Amtrak employees running trains overnight.

It has a dark blue carbody with white accent stripes and the 50th anniversary herald prominently displayed on the flanks.

Two more P42DC units will receive heritage liveries when they are repainted.

One unit will feature the modified “Dash 8 Phase III” livery that was applied to Amtrak’s P32-8BWH fleet when built by GE.

The Dash 8 scheme was designed by Amtrak’s Blair Slaughter and Cesar Vergara in 1991. All of the P32 fleet has since been repainted.

Another P42 will receive the Phase I livery. Amtrak has a P42, No. 156, in this livery, but it has been sidelined with collision damage.

Amtrak’s Matt Donnelly, the carrier’s lead brand communications specialist, said the Phase III and Phase I liveries will be applied to locomotives as part of their scheduled overhaul at the Beech Grove shops in Indianapolis.

Donnelly said Amtrak decided to celebrate its 50th anniversary with special tribute locomotives rather than events because the COVID-19 pandemic made the latter impractical.

“If you’re planning for a 50th anniversary, you’ve got to look at where you came from to see how far you’ve gone,” he told Trains magazine.

Donnelly said special tribute locomotives would be a good way to get the anniversary message out to all parts of the network.

Amtrak did something similar in 2011 for its 40th anniversary and some of the heritage units created then are still in revenue service today.

Even though the P42s will be replaced by Chargers, Donnelly said the special tribute P42 units should remain in service for several more years.

“A key part of the reason we’ve been able to do this is to take advantage of pre-budgeted life cycle maintenance for locomotives that were already slated to come out of revenue service to go through a programmed overhaul,” Donnelly said. “The P42’s that were going to get repainted anyway will be around at least for the next four or five years.”

One challenge facing Amtrak in designing a new look for its Charger locomotives is that although stripes have been a part of most of its earlier passenger car and locomotive schemes, the vents, grills, and doors of the Chargers preclude the use of stripes on those units.

Another facet of the 50th anniversary celebration is the offering of 17 merchandise items that are being sold at the Amtrak store at its website. The merchandise includes such things as tee shirts wine glasses, mixing glasses, luggage tags, an anniversary coin, 24-inch wall calendar, an 11-inch wall calendar and a set of 50th anniversary pins.

Out of the Fog

March 2, 2021

Last Saturday’s weather forecast called for high temperatures in the 50s and mostly sunny skies so I ventured over to east central Illinois for my first railfan foray of 2021.

The day began, though, in heavy fog caused by a temperature inversion. When I arrived in Rantoul, Illinois, the temperatures were in the low 30s.

Those conditions wouldn’t last long, but while they did I was able to get this image of Amtrak’s northbound City of New Orleans cutting through the fog at the Rantoul station.

Although this is an Amtrak stop, the City is not scheduled to stop here. The train was operating as No. 1158 on a schedule 90 minutes than usual.

That was due to track work by host railroad Canadian Pacific in the South that has the northbound CONO running later than normal two days a week.

Waiting to Highball Memphis

February 9, 2021

Amtrak P42DC No. 60 is on the point tonight as the northbound City of New Orleans does its station work in Memphis.

This is a crew change point so a new locomotive engineer will board here to take Train 58 to Carbondale, Illinois, where another engineer will board for the final leg into Chicago.

The station here was built by the Illinois Central and was once known as Grand Central Station.

Amtrak 50th Anniversary Engine Low Key Affair

January 27, 2021

When Amtrak celebrated its 40th anniversary it repainted several locomotives in previous liveries.

Perhaps reflective of it financial issues as a result of plunging ridership and revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is taking a lower key approach to marking its 50th anniversary.

It has applied marking to P42DC No. 46 commemorating the occasion, but they are nothing more than the slogan “connecting America for 50 years.”

The numeral 50 is oversized on the flanks of the locomotive to the left of the Amtrak herald. Otherwise the locomotive retains its blue and silver Phase VI livery.

No. 46 recently passed through Northeast Ohio leading the Capitol Limited. Reportedly, the unit would have led the train that president-elect Joseph Biden had planned to ride to Washington for his Jan. 20 inauguration.

However, those plans were canceled for security reason. Instead No. 46 left the nation’s capital leading Train 29.

Amtrak does plan to introduce a new locomotive livery that will be applied to its new Siemens ALC-42 locomotives that will be assigned to pull national network trains.

Those locomotives are being built in California and are expected to be delivered in phases through 2024.

An Amtrak Birthday Treat

October 28, 2020

It is Nov. 13, 1998. The eastbound Pennsylvanian is stopped in the Cleveland Amtrak station, having begun service a week earlier.

The photographer is standing in a parking garage overlooking Conrail’s Lakefront Line.

In the background the stadium that will host the expansion Cleveland Browns franchise is under construction.

He said getting this photo of Amtrak train No. 44 was a birthday present that he gave himself.

Photograph by Edward Ribinskas

Look What We Found on the Pennsylvanian

August 19, 2020

Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian passes Hunt Tower in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

On the rear of the Pennsylvania was a passenger car once used on the PRR’s Broadway Limited.

On returning from the East Broad Top’s 60th Anniversary we stopped at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, to catch the Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian.

To my surprise former Pennsylvania Railroad sleeper lounge Catalpa Falls, which ran on the Broadway Limited in 1949 trailed the consist.

It was a nice way to finish the day.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Mission Accomplished

August 15, 2020

I had had my eye on photographing Amtrak’s westbound Cardinal from this bridge carrying U.S. Route 231 over the CSX Monon Subdivision for several weeks.

But a road construction project had reduced traffic over the bridge to one lane.

The work was completed in early August and that gave me an opportunity.

No. 51 had left Crawfordsville, Indiana, on time but lost about 12 minutes in a CSX work zone before it reached my position.