Cost of Installing PTC May Sideline PRR E8A Locomotives from Mainline Excursion Service

Two former Pennsylvania Railroad E8A passenger locomotives are likely to be sidelined once positive train control systems are switched on.

Bennett Levin, who owns Tuscan red Nos. 5711 and 5809 told Trains magazine that the cost of PTC to prohibitive for two diesels that are used only about twice a year.

“Based on what we know at this time, there’s no practical way to continue,” he said.

Levin estimated the cost of installing PTC at six figures per unit. “Nobody is going to spend that kind of money,” Levin said in reference to mainline passenger excursions.

He also said another potential stumbling block is uncertainty about the future of private car operations on Amtrak.

The last road trip for the Pennsy units may be this May when they pull an excursion being sponsored by the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society.

That trip will run from Philadelphia to Altoona, Pennsylvania, on May 9 for the group’s 50th annual convention. The train of parlor cars will return on May 13.

Congress in 2008 mandated that railroad lines hosting passengers service and/or hazardous cargo must have a PTC system. The deadline for installing the systems is Dec. 31.

Levin described that mandate as “unfortunate and untimely.”

Calling it an unfunded Congressional mandate, Levin said it would not exist had the locomotive engineer of a California commuter train that collided with a Union Pacific locomotive been doing his job and not using his cell phone just before the collision. That crash helped to prompt the 2008 legislation mandating PTC installation.

The PRR E8A units have passed through Northeast Ohio a handful of times in the past decade and pulled a private car train on the Ohio Central on July 31, 2004, from Dennison to Sugar Creek and return.

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