Charger Era Gets Shaky Start

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.

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